Friday, October 31, 2014

Pumpkin Cheese Ball

Any Autumn party is improved by the introduction of a cannonball of mixed cheese and salsa. Even better when it contributes to the theme and decor of the season.

Recipe from The Food Network.

8 ounces room-temperature cream cheese
3/4 cups shredded cheddar
1 or 2 dashes of onion powder
1 tablespoon medium salsa
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 handfuls crushed nacho-cheese flavored tortilla chips
1 green pepper, with attractive stem intact
1 sleeve snack crackers

Mix together both cheeses, onion powder, salsa, and cumin. Take care to distribute ingredients uniformly throughout the mixture. Center the cheese mixture on a piece of plastic wrap, fold up carefully, and roll into a sphere. Put the plastic wrap in the freezer for quicker preparation-to-service, or in the refrigerator if you have more time. Once the cheese firms, unwrap the plastic and roll the cheese cannonball on a surface covered in crushed nacho-cheese flavored tortilla chips, I used more plastic wrap. Once the sphere is fully coated in broken chip fragments, plate it, and top with a handsome green pepper stem.

Serve with green pepper slices and snack crackers.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spooky Black Bean Hummus

This hummus is made from black beans rather than chickpeas, giving it the thematic and spooky dark lavender color perfect for the season. Add a creepy touch with a spider and web design.

-1 can black beans
-1 T tahini
-4 T lemon juice
-1 t garlic
-1/2 t cumin
-1/2 t salt

Blend all ingredients, adding additional liquid as needed. Serve in a dipping bowl, and get creative with a spider and web. I tried a number of different ingredients, from corn starch to flour, to make it look good and stay in form, I settled on a fried egg-white web with an olive and yolk spider. Note the red sugar crystals placed on the head with tweezers - have fun with it! Alternatively, you could hard boil and slice an egg for a floating "eye."

The hummus was alright, it mainly gets value for its unusual and thematic color. Go ahead and experiment with adding hot pepper or anything else you like to liven the dish up or make it something for friends and family to truly fear.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cabernet Portabella Sliders

How cute are these portabella sliders? They are full of flavor and such a great size if you're having company over, because you could serve a wide variety of side dishes with them and everyone would leave the table satisfied.

Other Sandwich Wednesday Posts: Mushroom & Brie Sausage SandwichGeneral Tso's Tofu SubPoached Egg and Avocado on a CroissantEggplant Sandwich with White Bean and Blue Cheese SpreadStoplight BLTBuffalo Blue Cheese and Crispy Black Bean Burgers Mushroom Philly "Cheesesteaks" and Vegetable Sandwich with Dill Sauce.

Recipe adapted from Oh My Veggies.

1 cups Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoons packed brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
6 mini portabella mushrooms, stems and gills removed
4 slices provolone
6 whole-wheat slider buns
A pinch of dried rosemary
6 tomato slices
1 cup lettuce

In a medium sauce pan, heat the wine to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes until reduced. Then add the butter and sugar. Season with salt and pepper, then remove from the heat.

In a large skillet of hot olive oil saute the mushroom caps until tender on each side. Spoon the wine sauce over the caps in the skillet until coated, once one side is coated, flip to the other side and spoon additional sauce over them.

Top each slider bun with tomato, a mushroom cap, lettuce and cheese.

These tasted like a nice veggie sandwich. The mushroom flavor was pretty strong, the wine added subtle undertones of flavor. Dave added ketchup and mustard to some of his, you could add any additional sauces that you'd like.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Maple Chili Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Here's one more pumpkin seed recipe. You likely have all of the ingredients in your pantry. This one takes a little more time to roast than the recipe from yesterday (Honey Roasted Pumpkin Seeds).

Recipe from Swanky Recipes.

-2 cups pumpkin seeds
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
-½ tsp chili powder
-½ tsp salt

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Spread in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes at 300 degrees, shaking the pan every 10 minutes to redistribute the seeds.  

Dave didn't like these as much the seeds from yesterday. These had a nice sweet and spicy flavor mix, but the classic maple flavor wasn't too prominent. They took longer to roast than the others due to the extra liquid that was on them, but overall they turned out well.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Honey Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

If you're carving pumpkins a little late like we did, save some of the seeds for a quick and easy snack. Thoroughly rinse the pumpkin seeds once you're done carving your pumpkin. You'll need about two cups for this recipe, they're also good roasted plain with a little salt.

Recipe from Swanky Recipes.


-2 cups pumpkin seeds
-1 tablespoon butter, melted
-1 1/2 tablespoons honey
-1 teaspoon brown sugar
-1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, pour the pumpkin seeds onto a baking sheet and roast at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. You will want to shake the pan halfway through the cook time to redistribute the seeds so that they will get crispy on all sides. 

As I mentioned above, these are a great snack. The pumpkin seeds get crispy (a little reminiscent of sunflower seeds). The honey flavor was very apparent in these. Dave was happily snacking on them all evening after we made them. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Spicy Rainbow Chard with Bacon and Polenta

Dave and I spend a large portion of our weekly grocery store trip in the produce aisle. While debating the price differences between regular and organic carrots, I happened to glance over and see these beautiful bunches of rainbow chard. One impulse buy later, those colorful stems were all ours.

Recipe from My Recipes.

-1 cup polenta
-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
-4 slices vegan bacon, cooked
-2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
-2 large shallots, chopped
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2 large bunches (1 1/2 lbs. total) rainbow chard, ribs cut into 1/4-in. pieces and leaves roughly chopped
-1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red chile flakes
-1 tablespoon unsalted butter
-1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the chard stems, garlic and shallots until tender.
Add the leaves with the water and cover until wilted.

Meanwhile make the polenta according to package directions, I recommend substituting the water for vegetable broth for added flavor. Once finished, stir in the cheese.

Once the chard is wilted, remove from the heat and stir in the seasoning and toss the chard with balsamic vinegar.

Serve the chard over the polenta with the vegan bacon crumbled on top.

I loved working with the rainbow chard, the color was so beautiful. Overall this was incredibly easy to make, overall it took fifteen minutes. This was a little spicy, however, you can adjust the seasoning to your liking.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad with Grapes

This salad combines several root vegetables with some fruit to create a nice fall side dish. I really enjoy roasted grapes, they add a nice pop of sweetness to dishes like this.

Recipe from Martha Stewart.

-1 1/2 pounds parsnips, cut into 3-inch-long, 1/2-inch thick wedges
-1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
-1 pound seedless red grapes
-8 large shallots, cut into eight wedges each
-2 baking apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
-1/2 bunch fresh thyme, plus 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, for garnish
-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
-Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine parsnips, brussels sprouts, grapes, shallots, apples, and thyme. Add olive oil and season with coarse salt and pepper; toss to combine.
Spread the mixture in an even layer on two baking sheets and roast for 35 minutes stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

I really liked this recipe as a side dish. The carrots and brussels had a nice savory flavor. The shallots were mild. The parsnips, apples and grapes all added a sweetness to the dish. The best bite of this had a mixture of sweet and savory ingredients.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sauce

A continued effort to use pureed pumpkin, for fun, in food that isn't pie, try this pumpkin gnocchi. We weren't too hungry for this because I cooked them too late at night, hence the tasting portions; still, these gnocchi were gone in seconds - we liked them, and now we have a couple lunch portions for next week.

Guest post from Dave.

Recipe from the Food Network.

-~3 potatoes
-1/2 c pumpkin puree
-1/4 c Parmesan cheese
-1 egg
-1/4 t cinnamon
-pinch nutmeg
-black pepper, salt
-1 c flour
-2 T butter
-2 sage leaves, chopped

Peel all potatoes and cut into chunks. Boil the potatoes, remove and mash as well as possible, then set aside to cool. I'm not sure, but if it's too warm it might interact with some of the other dough ingredients prematurely.

Set another pot of water on to boil, and prepare a floured surface, I used waxed paper. To the potatoes add pumpkin, cheese, the egg, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix. Into this mixture work divided quantities of the flour until it is the proper consistency. The desire is for a workable dough that's not too dense or sticky.

On your surface, split the dough into segments. Each segment press and roll out into a log, roughly one inch thick.

Using a fork make tine marks on the dough, I think for visual effect, and cut into inch pieces. Plonk them into the boiling water, once they rise, they are just about done.

While the gnocchi boil, start to heat the butter in a skillet. It will melt and start to bubble, then brown. When it is hot and bubbly, add the chopped sage. After it gets browned, remove from heat and top a portion of gnocchi.

We didn't make as much browned butter as the recipe calls for, it's some ridiculous two sticks of butter that goes over all the gnocchi. Thanks, Emeril, but no. We'll just make it in smaller portions.

The gnocchi were a perfectly satisfying taste of pumpkin and potato, sage and browned butter. We also prefer when pumpkin is used in a savory way, like this, rather than always so sweet.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Apple Sage Biscuits

Apple sage biscuits are an interesting and delightful balance of fluffy biscuit, aromatic sage, sweet apple, and salty, sharp cheddar. I made and enjoyed these by themselves over several days, but they would be an excellent complement to a soup or stew.

Guest post from Dave.

Recipe from A Thought for Food.

-2 C flour
-1/4 C sugar
-1 1/4 t baking powder
-1/4 t baking soda
-1/2 t salt
-1 t black pepper
-1/2 C butter, cold and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
-1/2 C milk
-2 Gala apples, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch cubes
-1 T sage, chopped
-2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded

Cut the butter into pieces first and stick back in the refrigerator. The butter is supposed to be cold when you use it in the recipe, and it can be tricky to combine without a pastry cutter, especially when it started melting on your cutting surface and re-forming into patties, so try not to get too frustrated with it, and handle this part ahead of time.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, then mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and black pepper.

Peel and dice apples, and chop sage, and set aside. Do this now so you can add it to the recipe when called for but it's not so soon that the apple chunks oxidize.

Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture as best you can, so that you end up with uniform little buttery particles. Add milk and knead until, again, uniform.

Then fold in the apple pieces and chopped sage.

Place dough on a floured work surface, say a piece of waxed paper. Roll the dough to approximately 1 1/2 inches thick.

Cut cylindrical biscuits with a biscuit-cutter, a tuna can (throw away the tuna), or something else, I improvised with an empty, plastic, single-portion Greek yogurt cup.

My arrangement made 11 biscuits, the re-combined dough-piece biscuits at the end were of lesser quality, but the first 8-9 were awesome. Shred cheddar cheese on top of each biscuit and bake for 20 minutes.

The biscuits fluff up nicely and look great. This could be part of an impressive and easy dinner for company, and the baked biscuits last a good while and reheat well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Vegetable Sandwich with Dill Sauce

I love creating really complicated recipes, but sometimes it's nice to enjoy incredibly fresh ingredients simply prepared.

Other Sandwich Wednesday Posts: Mushroom & Brie Sausage Sandwich; General Tso's Tofu Sub; Poached Egg and Avocado on a Croissant; Eggplant Sandwich with White Bean and Blue Cheese Spread; Stoplight BLT; Buffalo Blue Cheese and Crispy Black Bean Burgers and Mushroom Philly "Cheesesteaks".

This recipes makes four sandwiches, adjust accordingly.
Recipe from Food and Wine.

-1/2 cup mayo
-3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
-1 1/2 teaspoons mustard
-1 tablespoon cooking oil
-1 teaspoon wine vinegar
-Fresh-ground black pepper

-8 thick slices multigrain bread, toasted
-8 lettuce leaves
-1/2 pound sliced provolone
-2 tomatoes, sliced
-1 small red onion, sliced very thin
-1 ripe avocado, sliced
-1 cup alfalfa sprouts

To make the dill sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

To build the sandwich, spread dill sauce on one slice of bread, stack all of the veggies and cheese. Top with the other slice of bread and enjoy.

Dave and I ate this sandwich two days in a row. The sauce has great flavor to it, the dill can be too powerful if you spread the sauce on both slices of your sandwich, but on one piece of bread it tastes very good. All of the fresh veggies work together and make for a beautifully simple presentation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hot Dogs with Cheddar and Sautéed Apples

Dave despises my vegan bacon, he tolerates my frozen veggie burgers, but vegetarian hot dogs? It turns out that he's all about those. I found these in the refrigerated vegetarian section of my grocery store (sometimes they are in the frozen section).

Recipe from Food and Wine.

-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
-3 large Granny Smith apples—peeled, halved, cored and cut into scant 1/2-inch wedges
-3 tablespoons light brown sugar
-Pinch of cinnamon
-6 vegetarian (or vegan) hot dogs, cooked according to package directions
-6 hot dog buns
-3 ounces thinly sliced sharp cheddar cheese

In a small skillet melt the butter.
Saute the apples until softened, stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Put the hot dogs on the buns, surround with cheese and top with apples. Place in a preheated oven (doesn't really matter what temp, you just want to melt the cheese) and serve once the cheese is melted.

Dave and I both really liked this recipe. It's been a long time since I ate regular hot dogs, but Dave seemed to think that the veggie ones stacked up pretty good. The sweetness of the apples paired well with the savory flavors of the cheese and hot dog. The original post suggested serving these on pretzel buns, however, I have a difficult time finding those at my grocery stores -- I think it would have been very good with this though. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hard Cider Fondue

As I was flipping through this month's issue of Food Network magazine I saw this recipe suggestion in the monthly calendar. Dave likes the hard cider drinks and it seemed like a nice fall snack.

Inspired by Food Network Magazine October 2014.

-1 cup of hard cider
-6 cups of cheese (I used Swiss)
-2 tablespoons cornstarch
-Green onions, optional
-Baguette, cubed

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and cheese. In a small saucepan heat the hard cider until it's boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the Swiss cheese. Garnish with green onion and serve with the baguette pieces (would be good with green apple too).

This was eaten by the two of us pretty quickly. We intended this to be a snack, but it ended up being dinner. I think the hard cider added a nicer flavor to the fondue than some wines do and this made the perfect amount for two people. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Cakes

I currently have more spaghetti squash than I know what to do with. I recommend roasting a spaghetti squash and then freezing half for another recipe. It seems to hold up pretty well in the freezer and this allows me to make a nice dinner for two. It also gives me a chance to make additional recipes easily.

Recipe from Vegetarian Times Magazine October 2014 p.69

-1 spaghetti squash (1½–2 lb.) 
-2 cups packed baby spinach
-½ cup diced red bell pepper
-1 large egg, lightly beaten
-¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
-¼ cup all-purpose flour
-¼ tsp. ground chile powder

As I mentioned above I often cook my spaghetti squash by cutting it lengthwise and then roasting it for 30 minutes in a pan of water. Once cooled you can remove the strands. There are many other ways to do this, use whatever method you want.

Bake the spinach on a baking sheet at 375 for 2 minutes. Remove and squeeze as much water out of the spinach as you can.

In a large bowl mix all ingredients.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. 

Form 16 two inch disks.
Bake at 425 for 18-20 minutes (turn once).
I liked the idea of these, but I think they needed a little something extra. They would have been good with some sort of sauce or maybe served alongside breakfast potatoes and some over easy eggs. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Brie & Cheddar Apple Beer Soup

Soup season is upon us (maybe). The temperatures here have ranged from unseasonably warm to downright uncomfortably cold. This soup is easy to make, the crumble add a little something extra, however, it was ridiculously good mixed into yogurt for breakfast. By virtue of that I recommend making the full crumble for the soup and then saving the leftovers for soup.

Recipe slightly adapted from Half Baked Harvest.

-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 sweet onion, chopped
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-2/3 cup apple cider
-2 apples, chopped
-1 (12 ounce) beer (I used a pale ale)
-2 cups low-sodium vegetable
-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-1/4 cup flour 
-1 cup milk 
-16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
-8 ounces brie, rind removed + cubed
Cinnamon Pecan Oat Crumble
-1 cup old fashioned oats
-1 1/2 cups whole raw pecans
-2 tablespoons flour
-2 tablespoons brown sugar
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-6 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a greased 8x8  add the oats, pecans, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Using your fingers mix in the softened butter to form a crumble until everything is moist and the butter is evenly distributed. Bake for 20-25 minutes. I made this while the soup was cooking. 

Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat.
Once hot, add the onions and a pinch of brown sugar.
Season with a little salt and pepper.
Cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened.
At this point, slowly add in the apple cider 1/3 cup at a time, let it cook into the onions, add more and continue to cook.
Add the apples to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened, 8 minutes.
Add in any remaining apple cider, the beer, vegetable broth and cayenne.
Bring to a simmer and cook 5-10 minutes or until the apples are tender. 

Whisk the milk and flour together until smooth.

Using an immersion blender puree until smooth.
Return to the stove and bring to a boil.
Stir in the milk + flour mixture.
Stir in the cheddar cheese until smooth. Add the brie cheese and stir until melted.

Serve with the crumble.
This was one of those recipes that Dave and I had mixed feelings about. It was good, but I don't know if I would want to make it again. I really like brie, but I think it got a little lost in the mix of ingredients. I really enjoyed the cheddar + beer + apple combo though.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Food Tour of Pittsburgh

Last weekend Dave and I headed to Pittsburgh to spend some time with my youngest brother who is attending college near there. We were there for four meals and tried to go to restaurants that we heard good recommendations about from friends and some which were rated highly in a local magazine.

Check out my other food tours: Food Tour of New Hampshire; Food Tour of England; Food Tour of Augusta with a Trip to Columbia, SC; Food Tour of Savannah, GA.

Our first night in town we stopped at the Primanti Bros. A chain in Pittsburgh which serves a wide variety of sandwiches with fries and slaw on top.

Dave and I weren't too hungry so we split this side salad. The homemade croutons were great. 

We also split the three cheese sandwich which included slaw, fries and tomatoes.

This would have been a little too filling for me to eat on my own, but splitting the salad and sandwich made for a perfect meal for the two of us.

The next morning we were in downtown Pittsburgh and walked over to a location of Pamela's. This restaurant was highly recommended by several Facebook friends.

I enjoyed a veggie omelette with wheat toast and their famous Lyonnaise potatoes.

Dave had an order of caramel apple pancakes which was the special of the day.

Both meals were really good, the perfect meal would have been a side of the potatoes with the caramel apple pancakes. I enjoy sweet stuff for breakfast, but the pancakes weren't overly sweet. The potatoes were well seasoned and flavored with green onions.

For dinner we headed to Burgatory which was voted the best burger place in Pittsburgh. Although it sounds strange that two vegetarians headed to Burgatory, but they had a ton of vegetarian options.

One of the highlights of Burgatory was their decadent milkshakes.

Dave had one with coffee and doughnuts in it.

I had a Salted Nutella Crunch.

My brother had a Peanut Butter Fluff milkshake.

Dave and I both enjoyed a build your own veggie burger.

Mine had: a black pepper rub, roasted garlic mayo, focaccia bread, gouda, red onion, lettuce and tomato.

Dave's had: a Kona crust, farmhouse cheddar, a brioche bun, horseradish cream, romaine lettuce, poblano peppers and tomato.

That evening Dave and I headed back to Pittsburgh for date night. 

I had a caramel apple martini, sometimes apple martinis are either too sweet or too sour, but this one had a nice balance. 

Dave had a Maple Old Fashioned which is made with Maple Crown Royal. I think I liked this drink better than both of mine and I don't even like whiskey. This had an incredibly smooth taste and the right amount of sweetness.

We split a plate of nachos. Dave was concerned about that fact that sometimes restaurant nachos are a let down, these however had a good mix of ingredients and good flavor.   

For dessert we split a cake batter martini. Like apple martinis, I find cake batter martinis to be flawed, usually there is a bitter after taste. This cake batter martini went down smooth and was cute due to the sprinkled rim. 

It's difficult for me to determine what my favorite item was, I think my favorite restaurant was Burgatory. However, Olive or Twist was a great place for date night and was a close second. Dave thought the Primanti Brother's was best because half a sandwich and half a salad made for a good meal at a nice price.