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Carrie's Kitchen: Savory apple, pumpkin recipes

Have you noticed how restrained I have been so far this season?
I think you all know how much I love fall desserts, but I think I've done a good job of holding back on the sweets and offering more dinner recipes than I usually do this time of year. A week ago I told myself that this week I could start to indulge in apple and pumpkin dessert recipes, but then I found two more savory recipes using these autumn stars that I wanted to share, so I'm waiting one more week.
The first recipe today is for an apple fennel slaw, though that's not what I call it when I'm giving it to picky eaters. A lot of people aren't familiar with fennel (including the checkout people at the grocery store who often ask what I use it for), and in this slaw, where everything is grated, you can't see it, so I find it is better to wait until tasters ask "what's that licorice flavor?" And then that's when you tell them it's the fennel.
I found a recipe for the apple fennel slaw on the Mayo Clinic's website, but I've adapted it a little bit, so here is my version. I've made this three times in the past three weeks, and even double it sometimes so I will have extra to eat as a snack once the main meal I'm serving it with is gone.
The second recipe is for baked ziti using a pumpkin-based sauce. To some, this might sound off-putting, but then you just have to remember that pumpkin is just another type of squash, and without adding sugar, it's not that different from butternut squash. I haven't tried this one yet, but it's on my list for this week.
And by the way, I made my first apple chips last week. I used a mandoline slicer to cut the apples 3/16 of an inch, soaked them in water for 30 minutes, dried them off and then baked them in a 200-degree oven for about 4 hours. But they turned out crispy the way I wanted, so I'm very excited to be able to use them in salads and maybe in my homemade granola too.
Anyway, enough of these savory uses of apples and pumpkins - be ready for some dessert recipes next week.
Enjoy!

Apple fennel slaw
1 medium-sized fennel bulb, top removed and bottom 1/8 inch cut off
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored
2 carrots, scraped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup apple juice
¼ cup raisins
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Use a food processor or hand grater to grate the fennel, apple and carrots. Drizzle with olive oil, stir, and then cover and refrigerate.
In a small saucepan, combine the apple juice and raisins. Place over medium heat and cook until the juice is reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Stir in the cider vinegar.
Pour the apple juice mixture over the slaw and stir to combine well. Chill thoroughly. Makes a good side dish or a healthy snack.

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Pumpkin and spinach baked ziti
Non-stick cooking spray
4 cups dry regular or whole wheat ziti
4 links sausage
1 can pumpkin
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 can evaporated milk
1 package frozen spinach
1 cup mozzarella
½ cup Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Prepare pasta according to box instructions.
While pasta is cooking, cut sausage into ¼-inch pieces and cook in a medium sized skillet.
When pasta is finished drain, set aside ½ cup pasta water.
While sausage is cooking, in a separate skillet, combine pumpkin, flour, garlic, salt, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Slowly add milk, stirring until smooth. Cook 2 to 3 minutes stirring occasionally.
Pour pumpkin over pasta in pot and add in sausage and ½ cup pasta water. Stir well.
Spread half of pasta mixture into baking dish, top with spinach. Cover spinach with remaining pasta mixture. Top pasta with cheese, put in oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Source: http://rubyalicedesigns.wordpress.com

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