Sunday, October 31, 2010

There's pumpkin spice everywhere...must be time for Fall!

I think if I were to survey my friends, fall would most likely be the favorite season. Back home in Tucson, fall lasts about a week. The weather is gorgeous and you temporarily forget the heat you endured for the past several months. There's no environmental/visual cues that say "hey, it's fall!" One of my favorite things to happen with it's fall pumpkin spice EVERYTHING!
So here in Austin, it's been gorgeous. The weather is similar to back home, except it's not as hot during the day and when the sun goes away it is really cold. It's been going back and forth between warm weeks and brisk weeks, and I've been enjoying it. Walking around the neighborhood there are acorns of all shapes and sizes on the ground. Leaves are somewhat dropping, although it seems the trees are as confused as the weather is switching at a whim.
Fall, pumpkin spice, night = cold, all these things get me excited and leave me in anticipation for the holidays.
I figure what better way than to test out some desserts using fall ingredients. I chose to play with pumpkin and cranberry.

I'll start the first off with my flop...the Pumpkin Fudge.

Pumpkin Fudge
I haven't made fudge in years, and I have never tried or heard of Pumpkin Fudge. Finding this recipe made me want to attempt it immediately! Of course, I had to find the right day to squeeze in a bakefest, so I have already purchased the mini Wilton fall cookie cutouts in anticipation of making leaf and acorn shaped pumpkin fudge.
So I gave this a go last night. The recipe seemed easy enough. I even added some nutmeg, cloves, and ginger to the recipe to spice it up a little bit more than just the cinnamon it called for. Started cooking, and it smelled great. It seemed to reduce down to something recognizable as fudge. Put it on my cookie sheet and tried to flatten it out. Watched something on TV for 10 mins, came back to it...and it was hard as a rock! I think I used too much heat for the time it called for. It was fine as Pumpkin Brittle, I suppose. After breaking off a corner and nearly breaking my teeth, I decided to scrap the whole thing. I really should have taken a picture, but I'm sure no one wants to see the contents of my trash bin. It'd be pretty funny though.
Guess my mini Wiltons are going to be cutting acorn and leaf shaped cheese instead. mmmm.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I miss Shishkabab, Chicken Shawarma

It's been almost three months since I've had my last shawarma fix at Shishkabab House in Tucson, AZ. Chicken Shawarma with seasoned sliced red onion, hummus to die for, warm pita bread, and a fragrant yellow rice - to be exact. I have yet to find a Mediterranean food place here in Austin that I can run to when I am craving Mediterranean goodness. So, of course...I went in search for a recipe.
I've never attempted shawarma before, so I was really excited to try it out!

I found this recipe on AllRecipes: Chicken Shawarma

The recipe was really easy to follow and I broke it down to a few steps at a time rather than doing everything all at once. An observant reviewer was also kind enough to leave a recipe on how to make the Mixed Spice that is noted as an ingredient in the recipe.

Mixed Spice

1/4 tsp. powdered allspice
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. fenugreek
2 tsp. powdered ginger

Combine all spices together in a small bowl. He recommends using a mortar and pestle. I kind of mushed everything together with my spoon. It obviously makes more than the teaspoon necessary for the recipe - but save it for the next time! (Which trust me, you'll want to make this again!)

The only other things I've used differently were using boneless skinless chicken breast and simply marinating the chicken overnight in a ziploc bag.

First night, I made the Tahini Yogurt Sauce. I like to use fresh pressed garlic in my yogurt mix recipes, and I find they "ripen" beautifully the longer you allow them to sit in (mixed) in the refrigerator.

The next morning after my chicken had thawed, I mixed the marinade ingredients in a bowl, then put the chicken and the marinade in a large ziploc bag. Folded the bag over, pressed out excess air, and placed on a plate to go into the refrigerator.

With marinades, I like to have the meat marinading overnight. In this case, I had it sit there until the following evening.

Next, I emptied the marinade bag into a glass baking dish, and followed the recipe on cooking instructions.

The recipe came out fantastic! I just sliced up all the chicken I baked and put it into a bowl. The Tahini Yogurt Sauce that I had prepared had a thick consistency, so I had thought about quickly pan frying the chicken with the sauce just to warm it up a little. I didn't do this - but will try with leftovers!

I wanted to make the Yellow Rice, but darn it - with my entire cabinet of spices, I do not have turmeric!! Had to settle for brown rice and was happy.