One of my (and my daughter Lily's) favorite muffins of all time is a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin from a small cookbook simply called 'Muffins'. I am in Mexico visiting friends and when I saw a small sugar pumpkin on the counter in their kitchen, I decided to make these tasty treats for them to try. I cut the pumpkin in half and scooped out the seeds, roasted it on a sheet pan at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes until it was soft, scraped out the pulp and pureed it in a food processor.
(Don't worry, you can buy pumpkin in a can, they just don't have any canned pumpkin down here in Mexico). Just for fun, I changed some of the original ingredients from the recipe and added a bit of chile powder to get a 'south of the border' flavor. They turned out great and my friends loved them! Perfect with coffee, hot tea or hot chocolate, anytime, anywhere. Viva la muffin Mexicana!
Mexican Chocolate, Toasted Pepita and Pumpkin Muffins
1/2 c toasted salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 T *pumpkin pie spice
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 t chile powder (optional)
2 large eggs
1 c plain pumpkin (half of a one pound can)
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 c (6 ounces) Mexican chocolate (such as Abuelita) cut into chunks
Grease muffin cups, or use foil or paper baking cups. Thoroughly mix flour, sugars, pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, chile powder and salt in a large bowl. Break eggs into another bowl, add pumpkin and butter, and whisk until well blended. Stir in chocolate chunks and pepitas. Pour over dry ingredients and fold in with a rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened. Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and springy to the touch in the center. Turn out onto a rack to cool. Wrap in a plastic bag and keep for 1 or 2 days or freeze. Reheat before serving. Makes about 12 muffins.
*Wrens recipe for all spice (pumpkin pie spice):
1 t cinnamon, 1/2 t each of cloves, ginger, nutmeg, allspice.
You can also make the recipe the original way by using all granulated sugar (no brown), toasted almonds (or no nuts at all) instead of pepitas and regular semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of the Mexican chocolate—oh, and no chile! They are equally delicious.
Just about every year I take a trip to Mexico. I love everything about it, the people, the culture, the architecture, the folk art and especially the FOOD! My friends, Peter and Tari Bowman, moved down to Puerto Vallarta and bought a beach front restaurant called Daiquiri Dick's 35 years ago and about 10 years ago they opened a home furnishings/design store, Banderas Bay Trading Company. This year, they invited me to join them on a buying trip to Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque, Patzcuaro and San Miguel de Allende to stock the store, I couldn't say no. My plan is to take notes on the food while we are on the road and then share my version of my favorite bites with you, here on the bird blog.
I arrived in PV last Sunday and yesterday, after hiking all over town in the heat and humidity trying to find a 'cute little café' that I had eaten in a couple of years ago and finding it gone (aargh), I headed for the nearest ice cold Negra Modelo. I ended up at a small fish restaurant next to the vegetable market. On their menu they offer a shrimp aguachile
(a type of ceviche from the Sinaloa region of Mexico). I LOVE aguachile so I ordered one. WOW, what a great idea that was! I immediately (well. after one more cerveza fria) went next door and purchased the ingredients to make my own agauchile for an easy appetizer for dinner, it goes together in minutes. Here is my version.
1 lb shrimp, 20-25 size, raw, deveined (be sure to remove both veins by cutting all the way through but leaving both ends attached)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 - 2 serrano chilies or jalapenos (or one of each) stemmed, seeded and cut into chunks
1 bunch of cilantro, washed, dried, stems cut away, no need to be too fussy
2 T water (the agua part of aguachile)
1 lime, zested
4 limes, juiced
1 small mandarin orange, juiced (optional)
1 large cucumber, peeled cut in half lengthwise and sliced in 1/2" slices or diced
1 avocado, sliced or diced depending on the presentation
tostada chips for serving (I use the big ones intended for tostadas)
Place the shrimp on a plate and sprinkle all over with salt, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine chilies with a pinch of salt, the water, lime zest and juice and the cilantro (add the mandarin juice now too, if using) and process until thoroughly blended. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Pull the shrimp from the refrigerator and in a mixing bowl, toss shrimp with chili-lime marinade, onion, and cucumber. Serve right away with tostadas and avocado.
The small inset picture is the actual plating from the restaurant in PV. I thought it would be fun to show you the original inspiration. Very authentic but a bit 'heavy handed'. You get the idea.
You can present as a first course, plated and even put some greens underneath or serve as an appetizer in a small asian style spoon as pictured above. Be sure to use all of the sauce, that's what makes it great!
I have been making this polenta recipe for over 35 years, the entire life of my catering career. My one time partner, Julie Girard Miller, swore me to secrecy when she gave up this rendition way back when we were cooking out of her Lafayette, California kitchen. I have never given the recipe out, until now. Forgive me Julie but it's just too good to keep quiet about any longer. It is easy to make for a few or a crowd and I have never come across anyone who does not love it. It is not the normal stand over the stove and stir for hours, kind of polenta, it cooks up in only a few minutes! In my catering, I typically pour the polenta into individual ramekins to form timbales, removing them when they firm up and then re-heating them for the event. Cooked in milk with a bit of butter, cream and cheese, well you get the picture...this polenta is warm, creamy and delicious. Served as a side dish in timbale form or in a large, wide bowl covered with homemade meatballs in Marinara, this recipe is going to be your new favorite comfort food dish.
2 c whole milk
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 c yellow cornmeal or polenta
1/4 c heavy cream
3 oz grated jack cheese
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
Have everything ready to add before you start to heat the milk. You won't have time later.
I told you this was fast!
Heat milk and butter until butter has melted. Add the cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking to avoid lumps. Stir for a few minutes until the cornmeal starts to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the cream, cheese and salt and pepper. Pour into buttered ramekins to un-mold and serve later, serve immediately or keep warm over a pot of simmering water until ready to serve. (you will need to add a bit more milk or a little water to smooth out the polenta if you let it cool in the pan. Just whisk in either until warm and smooth.)
Roasted Meatballs in (store bought) Marinara
1 lb ground turkey (or beef sirloin)
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground pork sausage (such as Jimmy Dean's)
1 3/4 c dry seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 c freshly ground Asiago cheese (2 ounces)
1/2 c freshly ground Italian Parmesan cheese (2 ounces), plus extra for serving
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 t Kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c dry red wine, Chianti is good
1/4 c good olive oil
2 (32-ounce) jars good marinara sauce, such as Rao's
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
Place the turkey, pork and sausage in a large mixing bowl and lightly break up the meats with a fork. Add the bread crumbs, Asiago, Parmesan, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Add the eggs, wine and 1/4 c water, combine lightly but thoroughly.
Measure out 2 oz portions of the mixture (a 1/4 c dry measure works great) and roll each lightly into a ball. Place one inch apart on the prepared sheet pans. Brush the meatballs with the olive oil. Bake the meatballs for 25 to 30 minutes until lightly browned. Pour the marinara into a large pot and bring to a simmer. Carefully add the meatballs and simmer for 10 minutes, until heated through. Spoon a puddle of creamy polenta to one side of a shallow pasta bowl then top with a few meatballs and tomato sauce. These meatballs are great over spaghetti too, just toss cooked spaghetti with olive oil, salt and pepper, put in a shallow pasta bowl and spoon the meatballs and sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan and serve hot. Serves 8
‘Instant’ Pumpkin Soup with Fall Greens & Apple Salad with Spiced Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
Sometimes you just feel like a nice, warm bowl of homemade soup but haven't at all prepared for this craving. That is exactly what happened to my daughter Lily one night last week. It was too late to go to the store so she went to the pantry instead. She found a can of pumpkin and a can of chicken stock... soup perhaps? She started to work with an onion and some spices and in a few minutes she had what she wanted, a nice, steaming hot bowl of comfort that tasted like it had been simmering all day. Best of all there's no need to pull out the food processor!
I was lucky enough to consume a bowl of this wonderful orange yumminess first hand and I couldn't wait to share this recipe with you. This soup is so simple and requires only a few 'on hand' items. Best of all you can switch it up for a bunch of different flavor profiles. Try Thai coconut milk and a squeeze of lime or heavy cream with a few tablespoons of peanut butter and a chopped bacon garnish. I garnished mine with a dollop of plain yogurt and some crumbled, fried sage leaves. Get creative and have fun. Serve next to this delicious seasonal fall salad, it's the perfect accompaniment for a light but hearty dinner by the fire. You could sub sliced Fuyu persimmons for the apple as we get closer to winter or add already cooked chicken breast for some good protein. Enjoy!
‘Instant’ Pumpkin Soup
4 T butter
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely (no blending so make it a small dice, or use onion powder if you're lazy!)
1 t each (more or less depending on taste) curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, garlic powder
1/2 tsp (more or less depending on taste) nutmeg
3 14-oz cans of pumpkin purée (I love Trader Joe's organic)
4 c chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 c. real maple syrup + 1 Tbsp organic sugar
1/2 c. heavy cream (or almond milk, coconut milk)
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t black pepper
Melt butter and sauté onion in a heavy-bottomed soup pot until lightly browned. Add spices and cook for 1 minute. Add pumpkin purée and cook 2-3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Add maple syrup, sugar, salt and pepper. Taste for spices, salt and sugar and add more if needed (spices intensify as they sit so don't be too heavy handed right away). Stir in cream, coconut milk or almond milk, keep warm. The key to this recipe is to adjust proportions as needed according to your own preferences. If it seems like it's lacking something, it's probably either sugar or salt.
Fall Greens Salad
3 c mixed hearty salad greens
1 c arugula leaves
1/2 head radicchio (about a cup when sliced thinly)
1 lg Honeycrisp or Braeburn apple, sliced into matchsticks
toasted pepitas or walnuts
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp each cinnamon, curry,
cumin, black pepper
1 T dijon mustard
1 t salt
1/2 c. oil (I often use olive
but walnut oil would be delicious)
Whisk everything but the oil together to blend then the oil slowly, in a steady stream to emulsify. Toss the greens and apple together in a salad bowl with the dressing as needed, top with the nuts and serve. Add some good crumbled blue cheese such as Pt. Reyes on top too if you like, or any other cheese for that matter! This makes more dressing than you will need so just store the unused portion in a jar on the counter and use within a week or so.
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"