Monday, November 8, 2010

FALLing behind....

Come Halloween, things start to get busier for some reason. With the holidays almost upon us, I guess its inevitable.  This is my favorite time of year. I love autumn and the flavors and smells that come with it. The crisp fresh air, the smell of the leaves falling from the trees, fire places starting to be used. Pumpkin spice lattes, Pumkin loaf, Cranberry this, Apple that..... I love getting ready for the holiday season, and most of all I love cooking and baking. Because I want to enjoy the season, I tend to be more organized this time of year. I dont like falling behind and I most certainly dont like being stressed. Lists are made, food is being labeled, gift bags are being organized....and it all seems to be done in a shorter than usual day. Ahhh the old Daylight savings time! I am vowing to NOT be ready for bed at to help with that, I am now preparing dinner for a bit later than we normally eat. Maybe this will help. I figure maybe something can compensate for the fact we seem to have less daylight in the afternoon. We will see. As for cooking, I am trying out new things and revising some old favorites. Sugar free or substituting Splenda for sugar, healthy for non healthy....Today I have decided to use the autumn flavors for dinner tonite. Grilled Chicken with a Sugar free Cranberry Orange glaze,  Roasted Mini Butternut squash, and a sort of Risotto made with some Autumn harvest orzo and canned pumpkin. Carot Cakes are in the oven. First thing I did was make the Cranberry Sauce. I did this yesterday so it would be extra yummy today from the flavors sitting together.
Cranberry sauce:
1/2 bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Granulated Splenda
Cook in saucepan until berries burst and sauce thickens. About 20 minutes.
Let cool. Add 1 Teaspoon Olive oil, 1/2 orange  juiced, 1tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, zest of 1 orange. Mix and set aside or refrigerate.
I grilled up 4 chicken breasts without skin or bone, just to sear off the chicken and put some nice grill marks on it. Place seared chicken in covered casserole dish. ( this will keep chicken moist) cook for about 40 min. Uncover and put some of your cranberry sauce on each peice and continue cooking for another 15 minutes until you reach internal temp of 160 degrees.
While the chicken is cooking, I took my mini Butternut Squash and cut in half, legnthwise. Scooped out the seeds, brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt, black pepper, nutmeg and chili powder. Turn over and bake skin side up for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
Heat up 1 cup of vegetable broth ( use chicken if necessary ) and add 1 cup of orzo. I bought a lovely autumn orzo mix so I used that. You want to cook the orzo slow like you would a risotto. Adding more broth as needed. The orzo will absorb the liquid slowly. When the orzo was al dente I added about 1 cup of canned pumpkin, cracked black pepper, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Stir until completely mixed. I then added 1 tbs of butter and 1 tbs of grated parmesan cheese to finish. Everything should be about finished the same time for service. I like serving everything, I found it definitely helps with portion control. The comments at the table tonite were...." I would pay for this in a restaurant"  and " If I ordered this out, I would not have been disappointed" LOL I guess it was good! It was definitely an Autumn Meal. Dessert will be later, a yummy carrot cake with some cream cheese frosting. ( sorry I cheated and used a mix for the cake )

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