chai blondies with pumpkin cream cheese frosting.

would you like a bite of fall?

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these blondies are exploding with fall flavor. they taste and smell like the months of october, november, and december combined.

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make your own chai blend! this has been so cozy to have extra around for sprinkling on various thangs. it smells amazing, and it’s pretty to boot.

adding the chai spice to hot water with some raw sugar is a super easy instant chai tea and is super spicy and flavorful. it would also be amahzing in hot apple cider, on ice creams, on oatmeal, yogurt, etc etc etc!

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the blondies are made with olive oil, which is pritty kewl. you can make them with butter if you prefer. the texture will be delightful either way.

i know there are two very serious camps of pro-nut and anti-nut in dessert people - but i just think these are sooo great with chopped walnuts within. they’d also be delicious with hazelnuts or macadamia nuts. if you’re an anti-nut, leave em out. wahhhhh. :(

boy. i had no idea how tricky this frosting would be when i decided to make it pumpkin cream cheese. sounds simple, yeah? whell, it took me 3 tries to get it right.

i’m super glad i didn’t throw in the towel, because the final product turned out mega deliciouuuus.

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i was getting way confident in how much pumpkin purée i could throw into the frosting……turns out, that just ain’t allowed. unless you fancy grainy glop on your brownies and/or cakes.

never fear, failed frosting #1 actually ended up becoming a pumpkin sweet bread recipe the next day with a bit of tweaking, haha. i do not like to waste.

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you can only add barely TWO TABLESPOONS of pumpkin to the frosting. or else, grainsville. my first attempt - i put in 1 CUP of pumpkin. lololol. what a mess. also, sifting the powdered sugar is very important.

then use pumpkin pie spice and the chai spice blend to bring out that pumpkin flavor without adding any extra liquid to the frosting.

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the bars are perfectly chewy and spiced like chai - with some bits of walnut, which i love. and the frosting has a combination of sweet and sour(ish) flavors with the pumpkin, powdered suga and cream cheese.

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these are an all around fall’s delight.

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Chai Blondies with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 9 Bars (8 x 4 pan for 1” thick blondies)

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

Blondies - (slightly adapted from Molly Yeh!)

  • 1 cup all purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar

  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  • 1 1/2 tsp. chai spice blend (make the spice blend separately, then add 1 1/2 total tsp. of the combined spices)

Chai Spice Blend - (easily multiplied or halved - store in airtight container)

  • 2 tsp. ground ginger

  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves

  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice

  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting -

  • 6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (half stick), room temperature

  • 2 1/2 TB. pumpkin purée

  • 1/2 tsp. chai spice blend

  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted!

  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • pinch of fine sea salt

Instructions -

Make the blondies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 x 4 inch (for 1” thick bars) or 4 x 4 inch pan (for 2” thick bars) with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. If doubling the recipe, use an 8 x 8 inch square pan and also about double the bake time.

In a large bowl, combine the dry base ingredients for the blondies. In a medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Make the chai spice blend in a completely separate bowl or container to store for later. Chop the walnuts.

Add 1 1/2 tsp. of the chai spice blend to the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients bowl and stir to combine. Fold in the chopped walnuts.

Spread batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of the blondies comes clean. Allow them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully lift the parchment to set blondies on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting:

In a stand mixer or using an electric hand mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add the pumpkin purée and mix again (DO NOT add more pumpkin than the recipe calls for - frosting will turn very grainy as a result). Add the chai blend and pumpkin pie spice to bring out the pumpkin flavor.

SIFT the powdered sugar before slowly adding to the mixing bowl. Sifting is key to keeping the frosting smooth. Continue to mix/whisk on medium speed until all the powdered sugar is added and frosting is fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Add vanilla extract and a pinch of salt and mix for a couple more minutes.

Lift the cooled blondies onto a large cutting board. Use spatula, butter knife, or offset spatula to spread the frosting onto the blondies. Carefully cut into squares with a large knife. Serve same-day!

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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homemade pumpkin purée.

my first post on squarespace!  still trying to figure this all out after having used blogger for 4 1/2 years.  thank heeeavens for my friend sara at work who figured out how to move her blog to squarespace all on her very own. i would have been so lost without her help.

so, is it too late to talk about pumpkins?  

this was my first time making my own purée; i gotta say, it was super easy.

i was at the store a few weeks ago holding a can of libby's pumpkin purée.  this old man walks by and says, "with all the pumpkin shortages, you're going to buy that can?!?"  i just stared at the can for like 10 seconds and then was like, "ah man, you're right.  i can make my own."  he just cackled and looked real proud of himself as he walked away.  

thanks, mister old man at the store, for making me learn something new.

see? just a whole bunch of pictures in a row and i don't know how to put words in between.  i'll figure this thang out soon.

pumpkin purée!  i had a couple of pumpkins still sitting around the house and just chopped em up, roasted em up, and puréed it up!  after the fact, i was wondering if i'd even used a sugar pie pumpkin like you're supposed to.  the purée didn't seem as smooth as can be.  oh well.  i'll have to make something with it and see if it works.  if not, then i'll know for sure that those sugar pie pumpkins are a vital step in this pumpkin purée making process. 

just be so careful when cutting open the pumpkins. eeek.  gut it just like you would when carving a pumpkin.  i found it most useful to use a grapefruit spoon to scrape off all of the stringy parts, but you could use a serrated knife too.  i was going to rub the punkins with olive oil, but then decided on coconut oil instead :)  i roasted them in a baking dish with maybe 1/2 cup of water in the bottom.   roast those babies for about an hour at 375 degrees F and let em cool.  peel the skin of the pumpkin off of the flesh.  then purée the flesh up with as much water as needed to make the purée smooth.  i used a food processor, but i think this could be done in a blender as well.

will report back on the outcome of an actual food item prepared with this first-timer's purée!

 

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winter squash red thai curry.

when i make meals like this, peter alllllllways says, "are we vegetarian now??"

i don't even mean to do it, and i sometimes don't even notice that the meal has no meat.  when there are so many good flavors happening, meat is not [always] missed.

i heard many a "yummm" "mmmMmMMM" from pete during this meal, so take that, meat.

[although i totally would have put chicken in this.  i think we just didn't have any at the time, ha!]

behold, the acorn squash.  or winter squash, if you will.  i think there are a bunch of winter squash varieties, and this is specifically called the "acorn squash," but it still falls under the winter squash category. 

you can do so many things with this little beauty.  

just cut it and gut it like a pumpkin, roast it up with a little butter, stuff it with delicious toppings, chop it up, or purée it up.

it adds such a hearty texture when puréed.  you can definitely just fashion a squash soup out of this, but i wanted to purée it up and add it to my beloved panang/red curry.

i loOoOoOooOve thai curries.  i always thought i didn't like curry, because i do not really like the taste or smell of indian curries.  good thing my friends and i ate a butt load of thai food in college, or i never would have discovered that i do, in fact, LooOoOove thai curries.

 if you have the thai red curry paste, a can of coconut milk, garlic, and fresh ginger, you can take your homemade thai curries in a lot of directions.

i've made this several times before at home, but never with the added squash factor.  

and we were so pleasantly surprised by the results!  

[yeah i also thought that i dreamt up putting puréed squash in a curry, but that is so totally already a thing. damn you, ever evolving internet full of creative thinkers! actually, i love you.]

for this one i used a lot of minced white onion, garlic, a good amount of freshly chopped ginger, thai red curry paste, and coconut milk as the base.

the red curry paste is somewhat expensive for the size of the jar (around $5), but i've found it goes pretty far and you can make a big helping of curry maybe 3-5 times with this little jar.

i like to use a lot of it, so maybe closer to 3 different meals :)

just sautée your onion and garlic til its slightly translucent.  add the fresh ginger and let it do its thang for about 5 minutes until fragrant.

add one whole can of coconut milk.  i usually use the light version in the green can from trader joe's...did they get a new label??? did the light version go away??? why does tj's do these weird things to us....like the dried mangoes.  where do those go off to for weeks/months at a time???

  this is an imposter green can of light coconut milk from who knows where. 

but its organic. heyyyooooooooooooo.

oh by the way, this whole time you should be roasting your squash in the oven.  do you know how to do that?  i'll tell ya later.

simmer your coconut milk down a little bit and let all those flavors jive.  while this is happening, chop up some delicious fresh veggies.  like red bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, limes (not pictured, but SOOOO necessary. i repeat, sooo necessary!), and don't forget the thai basil.  

the thai basil and lime are really what bring this together, so don't skimp on those two ingredients.  otherwise, you can be a little more free with the veggies you'd like to add to this.

oh look its all coming together so nicely.  and its really so easy.

sidenote, this was what was happening out the kitchen window while cooking this.  we are so so lucky to have any sort of water view, let alone water + mountain view.  the powerlines are so hideous, but we don't even care.

 at some point you should be scraping the squash out of its skin and into the food processor to purée it up.  or if you have an immersion blender, use that!  you fancy!

lalala pretty colors.

oh there she is.  puréed squash.  i just added a pinch of salt and pepper to it.

i think that medium/large acorn squash yielded about 1.5-2 cups of puréed squash.

back to the window, i go.  you can only imagine how many photos i have taken of this view in the last year and a half we've lived here.....

also, aren't underground powerlines a thing?  what gives, good people of west seattle?!

okay!  now we have the almost finished product!  the puréed squash is mixed in there and you're ready to add your final touches aka LIME and fresh tomatoes, if you please. also, more THAI BASIL.

very important.

i didn't make rice alongside this this time, and found that a serving of the curry alone was pretty dang filling.  that squash really adds a lot of body to it.

okay just one more of these views, and it is lights out on this photo sesh! i made this curry probably a month ago after work one night.  now that we are in full blown daylight savings time, this is simply not possible for me to do in the evening anymore. wahhh.  

..........because the kitchen light looks like this yellow Barf-o-rama-ville, USA! ^^^

woe is me.

here's me illustrating to you the importance of LIME.  squeeze squeeze squeeze!  zing zing zing!

Winter Squash Red Thai Curry

Serves 2-4

Store in airtight container in refrigerator

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium/large acorn squash, cut in half and seeds removed
  • 1/2 a large white onion, minced
  • 2 TB fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 TB garlic, chopped
  • 2 TB Thai red curry paste
  • 1 can (14 fl. oz) coconut milk
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced (seeds removed)
  • Thai basil leaves (I buy an organic pack at the store for about $3 and use it all for this dish)
  • 4-6 large crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1-2 limes

Instructions-

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  CAREFULLY (oh so carefully, this actually scares me) cut the acorn squash in half around its equator with a large knife.  phew.  That was the hardest part.  

Remove all seeds and any excess string/pulp from the squash and discard.  Rub the surface of the squash with a pat of butter, olive oil, or coconut oil.  Place squash face up in a baking dish and roast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until it is tender when poked with a fork.  You can also start to hear the squash squealing in the oven a little bit when its done.  (just writing that reminded me of this freaky hansel & gretel movie i watched all the time as a kid and they pushed the witch into the oven and shut the door and she was screaming.  what the hell man?!!)

Once the squash is tender, remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. You can roast the squash a couple of days in advance.

Chop up your onion, garlic, and ginger.  Heat a large pan on medium with a drizzle of olive oil and toss in the onion and garlic.  Let cook until onion is slightly translucent.   Add fresh ginger.  Stir and let cook about 5 more minutes, until fragrant. 

Add the Thai red curry paste and mix until the onions are coated well and the entire mixture begins to sizzle a bit.  Pour in the whole can of coconut milk, stir, and reduce heat to medium/low.  Let the coconut milk simmer down for about 10-15 minutes while you're chopping your other veggies and puréeing the squash.

Scrape the squash out of its skin with a fork (or grapefruit spoon!!).  Place in the food processor and purée with a drizzle of olive oil until smooth.  Add a pinch of  salt and pepper and pulse again.

Chop all other veggies, and add them to the coconut milk mixture on the stove.  Let the more firm/heartier veggies go in first (like bell peppers).  Add the more delicate veggies like mushrooms and Thai basil a little later. Simmer it all together on medium/low heat until the veggies are tenderized to your liking. 

Gently stir in the amount of puréed squash that you'd prefer.  I think I used about 1 1/2 cups.  

Garnish with extra Thai basil, tomato slices, and lots of fresh squeezed lime.  

Serve with rice, or on its own!

enjoy!

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