Brunch was a success. I only regret that I didn’t take pictures of all the food (how did this escape my attention?!?). The theme of the menu? Fall. And I’m not sure whether this was deliberate on our part, but since I’m unsure, and I was one of the cooks, I’d say it probably just went that way. Pumpkin just screams Fall.
Anyway, there was pumpkin mac and cheese, regular mac and cheese, pulled pork, chicken francese, crab quiche, a spinach/couscous salad, sweet carrots (not sure how it was prepared), and an interesting dish with broccoli in a cream sauce with Fritos sprinkled on top. For dessert there was pumpkin cheesecake and carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese filling.
The thought of working in someone else’s kitchen always fills me with a little bit of anxiety and trepidation, as I do not know the lay of the land, and what tools they may or may not have — I have learned a long time ago that one cannot assume that other people’s kitchens are as well-stocked and well-equipped as your mother’s. If your mother is anything like mine, she probably has at least two of everything you could possibly think of, and this not only includes utensils/gadgets, but also ingredients. I frequently have to draw up a shopping list everytime I think to bake something, but when baking/cooking at my parents’, you could be stuck indoors in a blizzard and have everything you need for, say, a chocolate cheesecake.
I arrived at G’s around 11:30AM, and got to work preparing my dishes as he went out to run some errands. To be honest, I thought about bringing some of my own utensils to G’s, but I figured, his roommate is a chef and G does a lot of cooking, so his kitchen must be decently equipped. As I was left alone in his kitchen, that feeling of being in a foreign land came over me, as I opened every drawer that would open to see where things were. There was really no need for my initial worry, since G’s kitchen had everything I needed. Until I looked for a cup for liquid measures and G told me he didn’t own one. He explained that he used the measuring cups for solids when a recipe called for measurements of liquid ingredients. The baker in me gasped in shock (well, actually the first thought was, “Boys!” — I’m not really sure why though), but in a pinch, I used a coffee mug to approximate 1 cup of water. Overall, it was actually pretty easy to make myself at home in his kitchen and it wasn’t a scary experience at all — I prepared my crab quiche (the batter for which I made before leaving home) and the sauce for the chicken francese with great ease and no bumps in the road whatsoever.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.
Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Prep Time – 15 minutes Inactive Prep Time – 4 hours 15 minutes Cook Time – 1 hour Yield – 8 servings Difficulty – Easy
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
Adapted from this recipe
Makes approximately 5-6 servings
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan
1 1/2 tsp. butter, melted
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 c. grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. crushed red pepper (Optional: adds a hint of kick)
salt and pepper, to taste
10 oz. your favorite small pasta (approximately 4 c. uncooked pasta) (G used whole wheat rotini)
1/3 c. bread crumbs (G used panko instead)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Boil pasta according to package directions until al dente.
3. Heat pumpkin puree in medium saucepan over medium to high heat. Add milk and thoroughly combine.
4. Reduce heat to low. Add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, and the mozzarella cheese. Stir until melted into pumpkin mixture.
5. Add mustard, nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper (if using), salt, and pepper.
6. Mix pumpkin sauce with drained pasta until thoroughly combined. Mix in rest of cheddar cheese.
7. Place pasta mixture in 9×9-inch casserole dish, or separate into ramekins for individual servings.
8. Mix breadcrumbs with 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese. Add melted butter and mix well. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top of pasta and place in oven.
9. Bake for 10 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown.
G says he wants to do this again around December. I should start planning my part of the menu now… Just kidding. Actually, I might just make the pumpkin cheesecake for our family Thanksgiving potluck this year.
Just as I was about to end this post, my mom called to ask a question. Before we ended the conversation, she asked me what I was doing, and I promptly answered, “Blogging.” She then noted that she didn’t see a new post today. She says she’s become a “fan” (“I kept checking and checking and didn’t see a post!”) — it’s the best form of encouragement and yes, a source of the warm n fuzzies when your mother, the main reason why you’re even inspired to do any of this in the first place, becomes a fan of your blog.