Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Girls' Night In

Several weeks ago some girlfriends and I decided to have scheduled girls' nights in to relax and catch up. I leaped at the chance to be the first hostess and set about planning a nice fall feast. Finally, I found the perfect recipe on a blog I'd stumbled upon. Admittedly, I took the inspirational photo a bit literally, but it worked with items already on hand and after two last-minute trips to the market simple presentation sounded fantastic! Risotto has a reputation for being difficult to prepare so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's quite easy, and almost meditative. Even better, I got to use my fun pumpkin pot!

We finished dinner with a couple slices each of this scrumptious (and lowfat!) Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread found on another blog. One friend rated it better than Starbucks'! I haven't tried theirs, but agree that this particular recipe is sticking around for a long long time.

Drinks were a little more challenging. I landed on an apple wine and Sam Adams Oktoberfest. The apple wine was unexpected and a bit confounding. We decided that it tasted a bit like a flat sauvignon blanc, or a pear, or that a couple splashes of seltzer could help it make sense.All in all it was a really nice evening, and it reminded me (yet again) of how calming cooking and serving a meal is.

Pumpkin Risotto (A Year In the Kitchen)
1 tbsp. butter
1 small yellow onion, minced
salt and ground black pepper
1 c. arborio rice
1/4 c. dry white wine
2 c. warmed chicken stock
3/4 c. canned pumpkin puree
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar reduction

In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper. Toss to begin cooking. Add rice, toast for 2 minutes. Add white wine and cook until the liquid is evaporated. Add 1/3 c. chicken stock, stirring in between additions, about every 3 minutes. After all of the stock is absorbed, add the canned pumpkin. Turn heat to low and let the rice cook and pumpkin absorb into the rice. Add parmesan cheese, stir, and plate with balsamic reduction.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread (Erin's Eats)
2 cups sugar (I only used 1.5 cups)
2 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup fat-free vanilla pudding (I used fat-free vanilla yogurt)
4 large egg whites
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in chocolate chips.
Spoon batter into 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

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