Skillet Roasted Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

Skillet Roasted Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

Carving pumpkins at Halloween is fun, but I especially love cleaning out the goopy innards and turning them into this delicious treat. I don’t particularly have a sweet tooth (I’m more of a salty snacker) but these skillet roasted pumpkin seeds are that perfect combination of sweet and spicy that is especially hard to resist.

While my husband and daughter were deciding on the looks of their jack-o-lanterns (my daughter decided to go with “evil Grandpa”), I took a short break to make these. This is a very easy recipe to whip up, with the most labor intensive part being retrieving the seeds themselves. ;)

Skillet Roasted Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds Recipe
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INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup unsalted pumpkinseed kernels
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground red pepper
Instructions
  1. Place 1 cup pumpkinseeds in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook for 4 minutes or until toasted, stirring constantly (seeds will pop slightly).
  2. Combine canola oil and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; add seeds, tossing to coat. Arrange seeds in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Cool 10 minutes.
  3. Stick in oven at 350, for 10 minutes if seeds aren’t to the crunchiness of your liking.
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iphone image by me, Recipe via Cooking Light

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Spicy Thai Chicken Coconut Soup Recipe, Tom Kha Gai

Spicy Thai Chicken Coconut Soup Recipe

I’m a big fan of soups in the fall and winter. My husband not as much, but I think they are growing on him, especially, with soups as good as this one that is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. I tend to be hyper focused during the day when I’m working and usually want something quick and easy for lunch. Soup is great because even after reheating it doesn’t lose its essence like a lot of other leftovers tend to do. This soup, a Thai staple, is also great when you are sick because the spiciness of the chili helps clear your sinuses.

Spicy Thai Chicken Coconut Soup Recipe, Tom Kha Gai
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INGREDIENTS
  • 1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
  • 1 can (14 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 quarter-size slices fresh ginger
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut in 1-in. pieces
  • 1 pound boned, skinned chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-in. chunks $
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Thai chili paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine coconut milk, broth, ginger, and lemongrass and bring to boil over high heat. Add chicken, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and chili paste. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is firm and opaque, 5 to 10 minutes. Discard lemongrass. Garnish servings with basil and cilantro.
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iphone photo by me, Recipe via Sunset

 

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Photo Styling Work for Southern Season, Brunch

Here are some photos from one of a number of food & prop styling jobs I worked on for Southern Season this past Spring/Summer. This shoot had a brunch theme.

Food Photography by Lissa Gotwals, Food & Prop Styling by Michelle Smith

 

Food Photography by Lissa Gotwals, Food & Prop Styling by Michelle Smith

Food Photography by Lissa Gotwals, Food & Prop Styling by Michelle Smith

Food Photography by Lissa Gotwals, Food & Prop Styling by Michelle Smith

Food Photography by Lissa Gotwals, Food & Prop Styling by Michelle Smith

Food Photography by Lissa Gotwals, Food & Prop Styling by Michelle Smith

Food Photography by Lissa Gotwals, Food & Prop Styling by Michelle Smith

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Cedar Creek Gallery, Creedmoor, North Carolina

Cedar Creek Gallery, North Carolina - Photo by Michelle Smith

This past summer my friend Amanda and I were out for a drive on a business errand. On the way back, a little under an hour from being back home, I noticed a sign on the highway for a spot I had seen a picture of and had saved as something to check out at a later date. I’m a sucker for a long rambling drive into parts unknown and happening upon new and notable things along the way.

Cedar Creek Gallery, North Carolina - Photo by Michelle Smith

So I asked Amanda, the driver, if she would take a slight detour from our errand and check out this unknown spot with me. It turned out to be a great discovery and with the right person – I love it when that happens! Both of us are absolutely smitten with gardens and plants and outdoor spaces and just being in them without much of an agenda. We are both the same type of introverted, slightly loner, creatives who soak up spaces that pique the imaginations of our inner world. And anything that is slightly overgrown, feels unspoiled and a little like a secret garden that we just happened upon, is even better.

Cedar Creek Gallery, North Carolina - Photo by Michelle Smith

This is what it felt like when we found Cedar Creek Gallery in Creedmoor, North Carolina. The grounds were landscaped but slightly wild, obviously planted with intention years ago but left slightly neglected for a while and allowed to grow out naturally in a beautiful way. Small wooden barns covered in ivy and lush green leaves, wild and native flowers, and bulbs intermixed with a picnic table, small sculptures and even a porch swing.

Cedar Creek Gallery, North Carolina - Photo by Michelle Smith

When I was in high school I would go on treks by myself a lot. There was a nearby graveyard that I would walk through often. It wasn’t spooky, but it was quiet and isolated and scenic and I could be alone with my thoughts. Near to the graveyard was a large tree in a great big field, just far enough from civilization that I could again, escape into my head, and on separate occasions I would go here too to ponder and just be. The grounds of Cedar Creek Gallery feel like the kind of place I could spend hours like that if I lived closer. The slightly hippie vibe of the space appeals to me as well. I think that too comes from growing up in the valley of a nearby mountain where barefooted, musical, and artistic people were plenty.

Cedar Creek Gallery, North Carolina - Photo by Michelle Smith

While I was distinctly more taken with the grounds on this first trip, the actual gallery features a large number of fine art crafts and pottery and is worth a look. Dotted on the grounds are kilns and ovens, pottery and glass making studios that are occupied by working artists.

Cedar Creek Gallery, North Carolina - Photo by Michelle Smith

Cedar Creek Gallery, North Carolina - Photo by Michelle Smith

Near the parking lot is a plant nursery with rows of plants in flats for purchase. This weekend they host their annual pottery and glass festival with pottery, wood turning and fiber dying demonstrations. For me though, being there with no one around except my friend, quietly discovering alongside each other, it was perfect.

Cedar Creek Gallery, North Carolina - Photo by Michelle Smith

iphone images by me, Michelle Smith

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Gather, One Year Anniversary, Party

It’s been a big year with so much forward propelling movement that I’ve hardly had time to pause, let alone blog. That said, I’ve learned a lot, built a lot, and connected with countless fabulous individuals through Gather, my gift shop/coffee shop/coworking hybrid space in downtown Cary, North Carolina. The pop-up retail space at Gather expanded into a full-time shop,the majority of which is filled with gift products and goods made by North Carolina makers, but also including great products from other regions too. The pop-up coffee portion also morphed into a full-time facet of the shop as well that I brought in-house. Gather now has over thirteen coworkers, the majority of which are women, who utilize the space as a communal office away from home, and the space has curated and hosted dozens of classes in the past year to over 100 attendees. In addition, the space and back patio garden has been rented out for a number of baby showers, parties and other gatherings.

It’s a lot to manage and daily I am contemplating the benefits versus the risks, especially since I foresee at least a few more years of having to hustle hard. I am quite passionate about the space and what it means to the community and entrepreneurs like myself, but it is challenging work and not for the faint of heart.

Gather, Cary, NC

This Friday, August 29th from 5pm-9pm, I am hosting a one year anniversary to celebrate the space. There will be free beer and wine from my soon to be downtown Cary neighbors, Pharmacy Bottle and Beverage, free chair massages by two of our private studio coworkers who have a massage practice in one of our private studios, BBQ by the food truck The Humble Pig, and 20% off everything in the shop. If you are local to the Triangle, North Carolina area I hope you can attend!

Gather is located at 111 West Chatham Street, downtown Cary, NC 27511. And if you can’t make it to the party Gather is open every Tues. 10am-6pm, Wed-Fri. 10am-3pm, Sat. 9am-6pm & Sun. 1pm-5pm. You can also follow along on Instagram or Facebook as those pages get updated daily with Gather news. Hope to see you there!

 

 

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Food Photography & Photo Styling Work

Some photos I styled from a photo shoot a few months ago for Southern Season. What a joy it is to work on these projects.

Prop Styling by Michelle Smith, Photography by Lissa Gotwals Prop Styling by Michelle Smith, Photography by Lissa Gotwals Food Styling by Michelle Smith, Photo by Lissa Gotwals

Photo Styling by me, Michelle Smith, Photography by Lissa Gotwals

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How to Make A Succulent Wreath Class at Gather in Downtown Cary, this Saturday

I’m really excited about this upcoming class at Gather on Saturday. It finally feels like Spring here in North Carolina and I am definitely in gardening mode. In the class on Saturday you will make and take home this DIY Succulent Wreath full of over 30 different succulents. Not only do these plants look gorgeous but they are super easy to maintain. This wreath just needs to be spritzed with water twice a week to stay looking so green and lovely.

DIY Succulent Wreath Class at Gather in Cary, North Carolina

I think this would be really fun to take this class with your Mom or give her the finished piece for her gift. Space is limited. Register and see the list of other upcoming food, craft, gardening and business classes at Gather here. Hope you can join me!

PS – tonight I am teaching a class on product photography. There are a few spots available for that too. You can sign up for that class here.

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Recipe: Homemade Pizza with brussels sprouts, mushrooms & fontina

Fontina and Brussels Sprouts Pizza Recipe

Brussels sprouts have become my new food obsession. I was a little late to the party, just not having been exposed to them, I guess. About a year ago, I had them as a side at a BBQ restaurant, and from that point on I was a convert. They taste a little meaty and have a unique flavor that you’ll probably either like or not. I could eat vegetables all day, fruit on the other hand is a chore for me.

Yesterday, because of sleet, my husband and daughter were home a little earlier than usual so they whipped up this pizza. It was great, one of the best homemade pizzas we’ve ever made.

Recipe: Homemade Pizza with brussels sprouts, mushrooms & fontina
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INGREDIENTS
  • Crust
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • tbsp honey
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • Pizza toppings
  • frozen garlic cube (or 1 clove of garlic smashed)
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mozzarella
  • handful of brussels sprouts
  • handful of mushrooms
Instructions
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a mixer.
  2. Add the oil and water and honey.
  3. Knead for at least five minutes.
  4. Remove from mixer, divide into 4 equal sized balls of dough.
  5. Cover with saran wrap
  6. Refrigerate until about 1 1/2 hours before you plan to make pizzas.
  7. Let sit at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.
  8. Roll out, spread olive oil and crushed garlic on top.
  9. Top with cheeses.
  10. Top with vegetables.
  11. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 475 on a pre-heated pizza stone.
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(iphone) Food Photography & Styling by me, Michelle Smith. I’m available for freelance, hire me for your next project. Contact me here.

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Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Florida

The Oxford Exchange is a 24,000 square foot coffee & tea shop/restaurant/bookstore/gift shop/interior design studio & coworking hybrid space located in Tampa, Florida.

Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Florida

The restaurant focuses on simple meals using seasonal and local ingredients. It has expansive white diamond patterned brick walls, black and white checkered floor tiles and an abundance of tropical plants.

Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Florida

In addition to the restaurant, The Oxford Exchange houses both a tea bar & a separate coffee bar with rich architectural details that harken to a more glamorous era, like many modern commercial spaces these days.

Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Florida

Their gift shop is filled with specialty artisan made items, vintage gifts and home decor pieces and their bookstore is well stocked.

Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Florida

The coworking space includes a couple of conference rooms and private desks where members can work.

Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Florida

What do you think? I spot a trend here, don’t you? Maybe I’m on to something with Gather after all … ;)

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Lemon Ricotta Beignets Recipe

Lemon Ricotta Beignets Recipe - Photo by Michelle Smith

This past Sunday my husband decided to whip up these Lemon Ricotta Beignets, which are basically fried dough with ricotta in the center and cinnamon sugar on the outside. They didn’t look pretty but they sure were good. Here’s the recipe for making at home:

Lemon Ricotta Beignets Recipe
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Author: From The Craft of Baking Cookbook
INGREDIENTS
  • Filling
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese, drained overnight
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • Dough
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon purse vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • peanut oil, for frying
Instructions
  1. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the ricotta, sugar and lemon zest. Cover a plate with a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Drop 15 separate heaping teaspoonfuls of the ricotta mixture onto the plate. Freeze until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, lemon zest, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, honey, butter, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the egg mixture into it. Using a rubber spatula, fold the two together. Then fold in the ricotta until well-combined.
  4. Transfer the dough to a 12×16 inch sheet of waxed paper. Place a second sheet of waxed paper on top, and roll out the dough into an 11×14 inch oval, about 1/4 inch thick. Set the dough, still between the sheets of waxed paper, on a baking sheet and freeze until it is firm enough to cut, about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the dough from the freezer and remove the top sheet of waxed paper. Dust the dough with flour and replace the waxed paper. Flop the dough over; remove and discard the top sheet of waxed paper. Now the dough is lessened from the paper and is easy to cut.
  6. Using a floured 2-inch round cutter or inverted drinking glass, cut out 30 rounds of dough. Line the baking sheet with a clean piece of waxed paper, place the rounds on the baking sheet, and put the sheet in the refrigerator to keep the dough cold as you work.
  7. Removing 4 rounds at a time to work with, sandwich 1 teaspoon of the ricotta mixture between 2 rounds of dough and pinch the edges together to seal them. With lightly floured hands roll each beignet into a ball. Repeat until all of the beignets are complete. (The beignets can be kept, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 1 day before frying.)
  8. Fill a heavy medium saucepan with 2 1/2 inches of oil and heat it over moderately high heat until a deep-frying thermometer registers 350F. Fry the beignets in batches of three, gently turning them over once with a slotted spoon, until dark golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer them with the slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Toss the warm beignets in the cinnamon-sugar and serve immediately.
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Recipe via The Craft of Baking. Food Photography & Styling by me, Michelle Smith. I’m available for freelance, hire me for your next project. Contact me here.

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