Pumpkin Mac and Cheese and Pilates

It’s been a minute! If you been following on my Instagram(the social media I post on the most, find me @cookinwithcarmel), you know I can now call myself a FITNESS INSTRUCTOR! It was this time one year ago I started out my own transformation, and what a year it’s been! SO much sweat, a few tears, lots of doubt, but I can say I am in a VERY happy place since I made the choice to give my life a makeover. And now I’m helping people with their own transformation!

Since moving into fitness I get asked A LOT if I’ll ever become a chef again, and this was a question brought up many times at my high school reunion this past weekend. I’d still call myself a chef, just a former commercial kitchen chef/at home healthy chef. I’m focusing more of the nutritional side of food when it comes to eating and cooking, how we can use food as fuel. So if you need a little help in what to eat to help you get through a workout, I’m here to help! And that might actually be my next blog post!

Anyways, this past weekend was Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday! Not just because of all the food, but because it’s a time for family. And with my large family, the holidays are always a blast! Back to the food, we had a SPREAD: pumpkin donuts for breakfast; dinner was turkey, ham, two bowls of stuffing, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, more veg, and PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE!

The recipe was highly requested, and I highly recommend it this time of year! Such a cozy dish! It’s really easy and quick! There is dairy in it, those following me for a while know I cut dairy out for a little bit. But this is a HOLIDAY dish, and during the holidays you’re allowed to indulge a little! I cut back on cheese and added nutritional yeast. That way I was going even a small amount of benefits, without losing that cheesey flavor. I used 3/4 of a cup of cheese, but you can even experiment and cut it down o 1/2 of a cup and add 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast.

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c.hall 2017

Here’s what you’ll need: 

1 can of pureed pumpkin

1 cup of milk (I used dairy; alternative: use unsweetened/unflavored almond or soy milk)

2 tablespoons butter (alternative: Smart Balance vegan butter)

1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

3/4  of a cup cheddar cheese

1/4 cup of nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Pinch of salt and pepper

Elbow/macaroni pasta or spiralized zuchinni

Method:

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally, bring to the boil. Stir until cheddar has melted and ingredients are combined through. Add a little more salt and pepper to adjust. Cook your choice of pasta and mix it with your sauce!

This recipe makes about 3 1/2 cups of sauce. Store in a mason jar and use within three weeks!

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Let them Eat Cake!

It’s been birthday season in my family-my Dad’s birthday was earlier this month; my Mom’s birthday was exactly a week prior to his(Halloween); and my brother’s was exactly a week prior to hers. It’s great being around family after these last couple of years abroad. Dinner is our household (about 12 adults and 6 grandchildren!) is a time to: catch up, reminisce, gossip, celebrate; it’s loud; chaotic…BUT I really wouldn’t have it ANY other way! And there’s no shortage of food or wine…ever!

I’m really looking forward to cooking Thanksgiving dinner this month. I’ll be in charge of the main bird itself, as well as the stuffing, the gravy, and the pumpkin pie…but I also have two little recipes up my sleeve for the Day. Last Christmas I cooked the turkey and a few good sides, so I’m not feeling too nervous about cooking the turkey…it’s just deciding what flavors I want to include…

While I brainstorm new recipes, here’s a look at some of the cakes I’ve been making in the San Francisco/family home test kitchen: (Who needs/wants a cake in San Francisco??)

 

 

 

Chestnut, Italian sausage and sage stuffing

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c.hall 2015

 

Growing up in a house of seven kids meant the holidays were bound to be chaotic, exciting, noisey, and gift wrapping everywhere! Looking back I appreciate those somewhat wild Thanksgiving Christmas mornings. This year I’ll be spending Christmas Eve working but hopefully I’ll make it down to Bere Island for a feast with my sister, aunts, uncles and cousins. I’m missing my parents, siblings, and friends so much this season-homesickness pulled on my heart strings hugely last week on Thanksgiving-but I’ll be seeing everyone in SF soon enough!

Let’s get to the food now! Stuffing has to be on the top of my favorite sides. My Mom has always made the best stuffing, and it was always the side that was piled high and deep(I’m lookin’ at you Dave!). I decided to play around with a stuffing of my own, using a flavor that is sung about and roasted-CHESTNUTS. I picked up my appreciation for the flavor when I did my work experience last year in Italy. It was everywhere: sweet and savory. It’s such a seasonal treat, and your dinner guests will be wowed!

Here is my Chestnut, Italian sausage and sage stuffing: (Serves about 7-8)

1 and about a half cups butter

2 tablepoons seaweed oil (I LOVE this Wild Atlantic product)

1 large white onion roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, diced

3 stalks of celery sliced about half an inch

1/4 cup sage chopped

2 large sourdough loaves (pulse these 2 into breadcrumbs, and it should make about 9 cups of breadcrumbs)

1 pound Italian sausage (remove casings) roughly sliced and chopped

1/2 cup chestnuts roasted

2 large eggs

3 cups hot stock

Salt and pepper

To roast the chestnuts: Preheat oven to 200C. Using a small knife cut an X into the skin of each chestnut. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or foil, and bake chestnuts for 30 minutes, or until skins open. You can then peel the skin off the chestnut.

While the chestnuts are roasting, prep all your other other ingredients, pulse your loaves of bread into crumbs, chop, dice etc. Preheat oven to 175C. Put bread crumbs in a big mixing bowl. Have a deep baking dish set to the side.

Heat 1 cup of the butter (set aside the other half) and a drop of oil in a sauce pan, and saute onions and garlic(season with salt and pepper) until soft and just golden brown, then add the chopped celery until just soft, remove and put in the mixing bowl with the bread. In that same saucepan, cook off sausages until brown. When they’re brown, should  take about 8-9 minutes, add the sausage to the mixing bowl.

Melt that extra half cup of butter, add to breadcrumb mixture. Whisk the eggs, and pour over the breadcrumb mixture. Then add the stock. Season well with salt and pepper. Give the breadcrumb mixture a really good mix. Pour into a deep baking, cover with foil, and baking for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, uncover, and bake for another 20. Let the stuffing sit for 10 minutes before serving, and dig in!

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c.hall2015

 

 

 

 

Hot Toddy Cake with buttercream and caramelized apples

c.hall 2015
c.hall 2015

 

Cold winter nights call for hot toddies and Irish coffees. My parents recently visited and a made this cake minus the booze, so when I made it a second time I decided to throw a little Irish whiskey in it-it is the season after all!

This cake is a plate of warmness. It’s really easy, festive, and it’s a show stopper when you pile of the caramelized apples. Plus, it’s also really quick and easy; a simple loaf cake with an adult party twist.

Hot toddy cake:

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

3 tablespoons butter softened

2 eggs

3/4 greek yogurt cup greek yogurt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons whiskey

 

I used my Whiskey frosting from my Chocolate Stout Cake, but just cut back on the ingredients

 

To caramelize apples: Melt butter in a sillet or frying pan, add about 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar. Stir until sugar has melted (this takes about a minute). Add sliced apples and saute until golden.

c.hall 2015
c.hall 2015

 

In a mixing bowl, soften the butter with your mixer until pale. Add the sugar and beat until combined. Then add the eggs ONE AT A TIME. Then add the vanilla extract and Greek yogurt. Now you’ll sift in the flour and baking powder. Add in the cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Once cool, spread on the buttercream and pile on the caramelized apples. Yummmay!