December 31, 2012

A look back at 2012

2012 is just about over and it's time to reflect upon the year... Last year was the first time I did a "best-of" post and I really enjoyed it. This is the list of my favorite recipes for each month in 2012. I've challenged myself this past year to make many new things and have started to delve a little bit more into regional cuisines. I'm excited to have received some great cookbooks for Christmas and am looking forward to all the new ingredients, recipes, and techniques I'm going to continue to learn in 2013. Thanks to everyone who takes to time to read and comment on my journey to learn more and more about food and cooking.

Potato and cheddar pierogi: I chose these for January because it was the first time I ever made pierogi. It was a completely new technique for me and I enjoyed it a lot. Now I have made these same pierogis again and even one filled with kabocha squash. They are definitely worth the time and effort.

December 27, 2012

Spelt eggnog pancakes

Do you have a container of eggnog still hanging out in your refrigerator? Don't waste it - use it to make some pancakes! Readers of this blog know that I enjoy making pancakes and when I saw this post featuring eggnog pancakes I was kicking myself for not thinking of it on my own! We are lucky to have access to a really tasty eggnog from a local dairy farm that doesn't contain artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, and other nasty ingredients that lurk in many commercial eggnogs. I was going to make some homemade eggnog this Christmas, but never got around to it (next year!). When I see this yummy eggnog in the store, I always end up buying a few containers - probably more than we will drink - so this recipe is a great way to use up some (last year I made some eggnog glazed nutmeg cookies).

These pancakes are perfect for a lazy snowy (we finally have snow!) weekend morning or New Year's brunch. They have a hint of eggnog flavor with cinnamon and nutmeg coming through. I used spelt flour, but you can use whole wheat or even all-purpose flour if that's what you have around. This recipe will make about 10-12 pancakes and serve about four people.

December 24, 2012

Chocolate-ginger cookies

I really love ginger, especially around the holidays. I always try to incorporate a ginger/spice type of cookie in my Christmas baking. I also try to include some sort of chocolate cookie. This year I went to a cookie swap and someone had made these cookies that combined ginger and chocolate. Needless to say, I really liked them a lot. She sent me the recipe, which came from The Sweet Chick. I put them on my baking list right away and finally made them. You are probably all finished with your Christmas cookie baking this year, but pin these for next year, especially if you are a fan of spice cookies. They are a very soft and moist cookie, with a nice crunch on the outside from the sugar. I adapted the recipe a little and it is below. It will make about three dozen cookies (perfect for a swap). 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 

December 21, 2012

Honey-cinnamon coconut snowballs

Today is the Winter Solstice and, luckily, we are just starting to get our first real snow of the season. I suppose the Solstice is a good day for the snow to pick. To celebrate the first snow of the season, I've made some coconut snowballs. These little treats are simple to make and they don't require you to turn on your oven. They are full of coconut goodness. I found this recipe on The Kitchn and wanted to make it almost immediately. I changed the recipe to use honey instead of maple syrup, but otherwise kept it about the same. A lot of people were commenting that the recipe didn't work for them, or that they didn't get enough balls out the the mixture. I think that you have to be careful to get shredded coconut that is small like in the photo - not the longer strips that you often see in coconut desserts.

These little balls are really delicious. I made 13 balls from my batch and will be making another batch before Christmas comes. 

December 13, 2012

Dates stuffed with cardamom goat cheese and salted pistachios

Dates are something I love, but only usually find and eat around the holidays. This time of year I find packs of dried organic Medjool dates packed up in the produce section. They tend to be a bit pricey, but they are so sweet and chewy and completely delicious. What makes these little appetizers great is that the creamy goat cheese and the salty pistachios pair perfectly with the dates. The combination of all the flavors compliment each other so well and make the perfect one-bite snack. Pistachio and cardamom are such a great flavor pairing and I've been using it more and more lately. They are great to take to a holiday pot luck, work celebration, or put out as an appetizer for your holiday meal. They are easy and only require a few ingredients!

I made these for the Veggie/Fruit a Month event that I am guest hosting this month. There's still plenty of time to participate and send my your date recipes! 

December 9, 2012

Celery root and parsnip latkes with horseradish sour cream

What's not to love about little fritters filled with root vegetables and/or tubers that are lightly fried until golden and crispy? In my world, absolutely nothing. Latkes are a shallow fried pancake, traditionally made with potatoes and are eaten during the Hanukkah season. However, there are many cultures that have some sort of potato pancake. This recipe doesn't include any potatoes, but rather features mild and slightly sweet celery root (celeriac) and mildly spicy parsnips. It is adapted from the parsnip latke recipe in Cook This Now by Melissa Clarke. I had a bag of parsnips already and we visited a winter farmers' market recently that had fresh lovely celery root that I couldn't resist. And, just in case that wasn't enough root vegetables (I think I've stated my love or root vegetables before), I added horseradish into the sour cream. Delicious. I also served them with some homemade applesauce

Also, December 9th is my THIRD blogging anniversary. I can't believe it. I'm still enjoying the process and the challenge of always trying out new foods and recipes. Most of all, I'm thankful to have "met" so many great people in the food blogging community. It really makes it all worthwhile and I enjoy reading all of your posts, viewing your photos, and being inspired by your creativity!

Back to these latkes.... the below recipe will make about 15 to 18 or so latkes, depending on size. The weights of the roots are approximate, especially the celery root because I weighed it pre-peeling and you have to take off quite a bit. I ended up with about 4 cups of shredded celery root, parsnip, and onion combined (post-squeezing) - that should help you judge how much vegetable you'll need.

December 7, 2012

Clementine and anise seed cookies

My first cookie of the Christmas season has been baked! Plus, it was a new recipe for me. As a kid, I did not enjoy anise cookies at all - especially the ones made with seeds. But now, I love the flavor of anise and the idea of putting all the little tasty seeds inside my cookies. To me, it feels old-fashioned, and I like that. This year I was set on making a Christmas cookie that featured anise seeds. I used this recipe on the Penzeys Spices website as a guide. But, I wanted to add a little something else besides the anise seeds to provide more flavor. After some thought, I decided to incorporate some clementine zest into the cookies because I love fennel and citrus together and thought it would add a nice extra touch to the cookies. It definitely did add a nice fresh touch and another layer of holiday flavors.

These cookies are pretty easy to make. You could probably frost them if you wanted, but I figure I'm going to be eating more than enough sugar this month. This recipe will make approximately three dozen cookies (if you are using about a 2-3 inch cookie cutter).

December 4, 2012

West African chicken and peanut stew

I don't like to complain about the weather, but 55 to 60 degrees in December with rain? Really? We got our Christmas tree the other day and it was pouring rain. I'm sitting here with the window wide open. We live in Buffalo, NY folks - the place where everyone thinks has crazy amounts of snow. Last winter I wasn't even able to use my snowshoes once. It's weird and makes it really difficult to get into the Christmas mood! We are used to snow and cold. I don't want any blizzards or anything, but I also feel like it's spring.... It makes baking cookies or knitting gifts feel.... I don't know..... just not right....

It also makes dinners a little more difficult. Usually we are craving stews, soups, and other cold-weather dishes, but not so much when it is this warm. But, that's not going to stop me from making wintery meals. I'm hopeful that we will see some winter this year. It's still early..... and, I'm hopeful that we will have at least a covering of snow as we get closer to the holidays. This stew is a stick-to-your-bones kind of meal that is perfect for a cold evening. I've been wanting to make a version of this dish for quite a while and finally used this recipe to do so (I modified it slightly). The combination of ingredients sound strange -- the flavor is unlike anything I've eaten before, but after a couple bites, we both agreed that we liked it a lot! This dish will easily serve four hungry people. It's a simple dish to put together, but does take some time to simmer. It's a perfect stew to warm you up after coming in from the cold (if it's cold where you are).

November 29, 2012

Old fashioned pumpkin pie

Well, maybe it's not completely old fashioned because it's my slightly adapted recipe from the classic pumpkin pie... But it is a regular ole pumpkin pie - no fancy add-ins or anything. I really like this version because it uses slightly more pumpkin puree and a bit less cream and sugar. I also like to keep the spices on the lower end so that the pumpkin flavor really shines through. I made the crust, the pumpkin puree, and freshly whipped up some unsweetened heavy whipping cream to top this pie. It was absolutely fantastic.

We bought a sugar pumpkin back in October and have used it as one of our decorations through the fall season. But when we bought it, the understanding was that it was to become a pie once its decorating duties were complete, as requested by my husband. He waited patiently until after Thanksgiving -- I wasn't going to post it because I figured that most people have had their fill of pumpkin by now and have moved on to more Christmas-like treats. But while I was making this pie, I was listening to some Christmas music and realized that many of these songs reference pumpkin pie (think: There's No Place like Home for the Holidays or Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree or Sleigh Ride). It made me wonder why pumpkin pie seems to have been relegated to Thanksgiving. I think that pumpkin pie is a completely appropriate dessert all through the fall and winter. After all, winter squash is stored away for the winter and would be the perfect thing to make into a pie when the mood strikes.

November 27, 2012

Shredded brussels sprouts with chestnuts and pomegranate

Around here, we love our brussels sprouts. I made this dish as a side for Thanksgiving dinner this year. Some people (like my mom and grandma) were a bit skeptical about the idea of shredding brussels sprouts, but I proved them wrong. While shredding may take some time on the front end, it allows them to cook up in a snap. This was the only part of the main meal at Thanksgiving that was completely gone after dinner. My husband requested to have it again soon -- so we did. I think this dish would be great for the holidays because of its green and red colors, plus chestnuts always feel festive to me. You can find them already roasted and shelled this time of year, usually in the produce section.

Seeing that my husband just brought home two large stalks full of brussels sprouts from his dad's garden this weekend, I am sure this dish will be making its way onto our table a couple more times this season. This recipe will make a side dish for about four people. 

November 23, 2012

Maple pecan pie

I think this pecan pie was the star of our Thanksgiving dinner this year. I know that I had a very difficult time resisting the temptation to eat a slice on Wednesday when I baked it. I've made a regular pecan pie before that uses corn syrup (it was one of my first posts ever on this blog. The photo is absolutely awful and the post isn't so great either. What a learning process this has been in terms of photography and writing. Certainly, I'm still not perfect at either of these, but definitely better than that pecan pie post and others from that time period.....) - Anyways, this time I wanted to try to infuse the pie with maple flavor to make it a bit more festive. The maple flavor is not strong, but subtle. The maple aroma, however, is really wonderful. It makes it extra special.

Now I make a lot of things for people, and I knew that my mom loves pecan pie, but I've never had so many people swoon over my food as they did when I presented them with this maple pecan pie. It's a good thing I took these photos the day I baked the pie, because there was no opportunity for me to even attempt snapping a decent photo of a piece - it was gone in no-time flat. This recipe will make one 9-inch pie and is a perfect addition to any holiday table or for any special occasion.

November 21, 2012

Smoked paprika and maple-glazed delicata squash

The Thanksgiving clock is ticking and I am ready to make and enjoy a wonderful meal. This will be my third time cooking Thanksgiving dinner. It's a tradition that I was more than happy to take over (and have not-so-secretly wanted to do so for a while). I only hope that next year we have a house to have it in... hosting Thanksgiving dinner in an apartment just isn't all that convenient sometimes. One of my favorite things is that I like to try to convert my guests to lovers of things like turnips, squash, brussel sprouts, parsnips, etc. Some of them already like these things, but some are still not sure... I try to "jazz" up some of these less-loved vegetables to get people as excited about them as I am. Sometimes it works, and other times, not so much. But, hey, you can't blame me for trying - there was I time when I thought I didn't like these vegetables, too.

This delicata squash dish could be an interesting addition to your Thanksgiving table, or any fall/winter meal. The squash is sticky, smoky, sweet and all-around yummy. I do love delicata squash simply halved and baked with some butter and salt. It's think it has the most complex flavor of the winter squash. I also love that you can cut it up into rings and eat the skin. The below recipe uses one squash, which will serve two people as a side dish. You can easily adjust it to make a lot more if you want to feed a crowd. 

November 16, 2012

Turnip and Yukon gold potato gratin

In my experience, most people don't get very excited about turnips. But, I'm not one of those people. In fact, I get pretty excited for all root vegetables and root vegetable season. Look at those lovely large pink turnips in the photo (I used much smaller ones in this dish). This time of year the food blogs are filled with recipes featuring pumpkins, other winter squash, and apples - rightfully so... but you don't see as many featuring turnips, rutabagas, beets, celeriac, parsnips, radishes, etc... Maybe next fall/winter I'll start a "roots" event because I want to try to use these vegetables in more creative ways as well. I almost start to squeal with delight when we are walking through the farmers' market and cute little white baby turnips begin to make their first appearance. I dream of the day when we have land for a garden and in my mind, my garden is almost exclusively full of root vegetables, winter squash, and herbs.

I never even had turnips until the first Thanksgiving I was dating my husband. We were going to a dinner at his aunt and uncle's and she told him that we could "bring the turnips." I was in shock. Tunips?! I had never even tasted a turnip before, let alone cooked one. So, I searched the internet and found a recipe for roasted turnips. After searching the grocery store for turnips, I bought some, made the recipe, and hoped for the best. Well, they were delicious and everyone enjoyed them. Now that I make Thanksgiving dinner, I almost always have a turnip side dish to try to convert more people to turnip lovers. This gratin is lightened up because it doesn't contain any cream - although this dish is probably still a little heavy for a Thanksgiving side dish for me.

November 13, 2012

Kabocha squash and ricotta pierogi

One thing I don't like about the fall and winter is that by the time I'm able to cook and take photographs on most days, it's dark. That makes photography really difficult. We don't have a lot of lights in our apartment. Even though I have a couple good flashes for my camera, I'm not overly skilled in their use yet... So, I am feeling more disappointed in my food photos as the season changes. It's amazing the difference natural light makes. Anyways, that is my apology for the photos here and probably to come as we move through the autumn and winter. However, one of my favorite things - winter squash -  makes up for it a little. I've been participating in 12 Weeks of Winter Squash hosted by Eats Well With Others and Girlichef. Anyone familiar with my blog knows that I adore winter squash in both sweet and savory dishes. So this event is a perfect way for me to try even more winter squash recipes

At the beginning of this year, I made pierogi for the first time. I loved how delicious they were and how easy they were to make. I've made the potato and cheddar ones a couple times now, but have been wanting to experiment with other fillings. Winter squash stuffed into a slightly chewy and lighty golden pierogi seemed like a no-brainer to me. I chose kabocha squash because not only are they really delicious, but they have a smooth texture and tend to be denser and drier that other winter squash (so they don't let off a much liquid with you are trying to fill the pierogi). The result was a creamy and super delicious filling with only a few simple ingredients. The dough recipe comes from Closet Cooking. This recipe will make approximately 20 pierogi.

November 9, 2012

An Edible Mosiac Virtual Book Launch Party {with a recipe for Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts}

Today I have something a little different to post. My friend Faith Gorsky from An Edible Mosiac just had her first cookbook released: An Edible Mosiac: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair. I'm excited to be participating in her virtual book launch party and sharing a recipe from the book! Thanks to Faith for asking me to participate - one of the best things about food blogging is the great community.

The book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East. Faith has a pretty unique story....after getting married she spent six months living in the Middle East, where she fell in love with the culture and cuisine. Subsequently, she returned four more times for visits, each time delving deeper into the cuisine and deepening her passion for and appreciation of the region. Recipes in her book are authentic Middle Eastern (taught to Faith mostly by her mother-in-law, Sahar), but streamlined just a bit for the way we cook today, with unique ingredients demystified and cooking techniques anyone can follow. The book is available to order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

November 6, 2012

Pumpkin pie ice cream

I had my first taste of pumpkin ice cream a few years ago at a local ice cream shop. Ever since then, we go there each year in early October when they first have it available and get a dish. When I got my ice cream maker this year, pumpkin pie ice cream was at the top of my list, even though it was only spring. I've waited patiently until now and finally made my own. This ice cream is fall in a dish - it's basically like frozen pumpkin pie filling without the crust. Surprisingly, even our four-year old nephew liked this ice cream (which I was unsure about, but he ate two bowls while watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown). I read a few recipes and found that they were all really low on the pumpkin for my liking and all contained a lot of egg yolks. I decided to forgo the eggs and really pack in the pumpkin so I could taste it. The pumpkin is already creamy, and the end product was perfect for me in terms of pumpkin flavor. This ice cream is not super sweet, so taste the base before you freeze it and add more brown sugar or even a tablespoon of molasses if you want it sweeter.

I'm so glad to know that I can make ice cream now with only a few simple ingredients and not all the additives and artificial flavors that are in most commercial ice creams. I've been loving my ice cream maker this year and even have a wintery ice cream flavor or two that I'm hoping to try near the holidays. This recipe will make a bit more than a quart of ice cream. It's great topped with chocolate sauce (we had ours with a homemade chocolate sauce, not pictured) or caramel. I think that some ginger snap cookies broken up into it or on top would also be delicious (and act like a crust). 

November 2, 2012


Honestly, I didn't become friends with beets until the past few years. As a kid, I couldn't stand an adult, I love them. We were given a large bag of beets and for some reason I became determined that I must make borscht. Why? I'm not sure - other than the fact that I like to try cuisine from all over the world. I've never eaten borscht, but for some reason I felt like it was my duty to turn some of these beets into it. There seem to be numerous spellings of borscht and even more ways that you can make it. I read a bunch of different recipes, surveyed my fridge and freezer, and this is what I came up with. I must say that both my husband and I were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed it.

This recipe is a bit time consuming, but it's worth it to get the best flavored broth and to get a lot of the excess fat skimmed off the top. This photo is from right before we ate it, but, like pretty much any soup or stew, it gets better the next day. It's a nice meal for these cold and rainy days we are having and it will easily serve four to six people.

October 30, 2012

Delicata squash and hazelnut shortbread bars

I swear that we are eating real food that isn't desserts, even though my recent blog posts don't seem to reflect that... I've been making a lot of desserts lately for family gatherings and different dinners. We currently have 36 winter squash in our basement as part of our winter stock-up. Delicata squash are one of my favorite winter squash. They have such a different flavor that reminds me of butternut squash combined with sweet potatoes and corn. In addition to its unique flavor, it has a texture that is drier than most winter squash. I almost always use and see sugar pumpkins and/or butternut squash in sweet treats, so I wanted to try incorporating delicatas into a dessert. I found a recipe for pumpkin bars that I used as a guide. I was hoping that the unique flavor of delicata squash would stand-up in a dessert and not just taste like a pumpkin pie. These bars were delicious, and while I did taste a bit of sweet potato flavor, most people probably wouldn't taste a difference between this and pumpkin... Oh well...

This recipe will make about 16 bars depending on how small/large you cut them. They are really a lovely fall dessert and would be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving dinner or as a Halloween treat. As I'm writing this, we are beginning to get our portion of the "Frankenstorm" and I think it's the perfect time to snack on one of these with a hot cup of tea and hunker down for the night...

October 25, 2012

Brown butter blondies with apple, pecans, and white chocolate

Don't make these blondies unless you have a few people with whom to share them. They are very decadent, rich, and delicious -- from all the nutty brown butter. These were dessert at our Oktoberfest dinner that I talked about recently. But, let's get back to the brown butter. This was my first experience with brown butter and I have no idea what took me so long. I see brown butter recipes all over the food blog world and have always been intrigued by it, but now I understand why it is so special. Browning butter turns it a golden color and caramelizes the milk solids so that you end up with a extra rich, nutty flavor. This process of browning the butter for these blondies really made them extra special because it heightened the fall flavors I added to them. I'm looking forward to trying out more brown butter recipes now.

This dessert will make about 12-16 blondies, depending on how you cut them. I suggest cutting them small. Usually I love to eat my baked goods while they are still warm from the oven, but I think these were even better the next day because all of the flavors, especially the apple, were more noticeable. These blondies get a nice crisp top and a super soft and chewy center. They were inspired by a Martha Steward recipe.

October 21, 2012

German sweet and sour red cabbage

My husband and I both have a fair amount of German heritage, but neither of us grew up eating a lot of traditional cuisine. We both really love German food though, so I'm on a mission to learn how to cook more of it. Recently, we had some people over for an Oktoberfest dinner. I was looking all over the web for a recipe to make traditional German cabbage that was similar to one that we enjoy at our favorite German/Polish restaurant. I found this recipe for German red cabbage and went from there. I adjusted some of the ingredients to taste and it really probably varies depending on how large your head of cabbage is. Lucky for us, there was one lone red cabbage at the farmers' market that morning - I scooped it right up and took it home to make this tasty side dish.

The cabbage is best if you make it a few hours, or even a day ahead of time and then reheat it. This way, all of the flavors will penetrate the cabbage even more. We served this with some fresh German brats from a local European sausage shop, some homemade potato and cheddar pierogi, sauteed onions, and, of course, some great fall beers. While the whole meal was delicious, the cabbage was an unexpected hit with everyone. Plus, the color was really pretty and it added a punch of color to each plate. This recipe will serve six to eight people as a side dish. 

October 18, 2012

Apple-turkey burgers with cranberry-apple relish

My bushel of apples is slowly dwindling down... We've picked out a bunch of small ones and put them away in the refrigerator for snacks. I still have quite a few for cooking though. I've made some of my standbys like applesauce and autumn pork roast, and new recipes like apple crisp pie and these burgers that were inspired by this recipe. I like incorporating fruits into savory dishes, so I was pretty excited to try out these burgers, plus they used up two more of my apples! These burgers were really moist from the addition of grated apple into the turkey and the topping was a nice mix of sweet, tart, and a touch of heat.

This recipe will make four burgers. I served them with some simple roasted purple cauliflower (we got a beautiful head at the farmers' market last weekend). It was a great weeknight autumn meal and unlike any burger I've had before.

October 12, 2012

Apple crisp pie

Apple pie is one the the quintessential desserts (and baking smells) of fall. I love a good apple pie. Since we have a bushel of apples to use from apple picking, I had the perfect excuse to make one. While I love a classic apple pie with a double crust, I do really enjoy a crumb top. Last year I made an apple crumb tart - regular crust with a crumb top. This time I found a recipe at Taste of Home that used the same crumb topping for the crust - pretty genius if you ask me. No chilling or rolling of a crust! I had to give it a try! I adjusted the filling a lot because it seemed pretty bland to me (an apple pie with no cinnamon? I don't think so). This easy press-in pie crust that doubles as a topping is such an easy way to make a pie and really cuts the time down. It reminds me a lot of apple crisp and I think it would work well with so many other fruit pies as well.

October 8, 2012

Chocolate chip pumpkin blondies

Over the weekend we went on our annual apple picking day. My husband and I go every year, usually with various members of our family. I think apple picking is a great autumn activity (especially in NY where we have apple farms all over the place). It's a fun way to get outside, pick your own food, get kids involved, and then you end up having to make at least one pie. We ended up with a bushel of apples (so expect apple recipes coming soon). 

Before we went out, I got up a bit early, grabbed a cup of coffee, and whipped up these treats to take along with us so that we would have a non-apple snack when we were all finished picking. I took my time and creamed/mixed everything by hand, but feel free to use a hand or stand mixer. I sometimes like to take the old-fashioned route. Everyone liked these pumpkin squares, even the kiddos. They reminded me a lot of one of our favorite fall snacks - chocolate chip pumpkin bread. I was originally going to use white chocolate chips or butterscotch chips in these bars, but I couldn't find any without things like hydrogenated soy oil and/or palm oil in them (this is why we don't use palm oil products), so I went with mini-chocolate chips. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart

October 3, 2012

Creamed collard greens with crispy shallots

My mom joined a CSA this year for the first time and has been getting a lot of great stuff. Recently, she was getting a little more than she could eat and gave me a bunch of "Swiss chard." I knew that it wasn't chard and when I looked at the list I realized that it was collard greens, which are something I had never eaten before! So I was pretty happy to have a new veg to try out, especially when I've been craving greens lately. 

I realize that this probably isn't the most exciting dish, but as I've said before, I like to post vegetable side dish recipes (check out the "side dishes" category in the Recipe Index). While I certainly eat my fair share of streamed vegetables, an extra delicious and interesting side dish is a great thing. It encourages you to try and eat more vegetables. These collard greens were good, the greens were slightly bitter and complimented by the creamy sauce with a touch of nutmeg. You could make this with other greens like spinach or Swiss chard. The harvest time is a great time to get to know all your different veggies. Pick up a new one this weekend at the farmers' market or grocery store and give it a try. For me, I've never met a vegetable I didn't like. 

September 27, 2012

Smoky pumpkin macaroni and cheese

Pumpkin season is here and I couldn't be happier. Fall is my favorite time of year and one of the main reasons for that is the abundance of wonderful produce: winter squash, apples, turnips, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, grapes, and more. Last year I started making macaroni and cheese with butternut squash puree. I never posted the recipe for some reason, but it became one of our favorite fall meals. On a recent cold and rainy day, I really felt like a macaroni and cheese for dinner. This time, I decided to make it with pumpkin puree and lots of smoky mozzarella, smoked paprika, and cheddar. It was perfect for a cold autumn day. I think you could also use regular mozzarella and smoked cheddar if you wanted - as long as one of these cheeses is smoked so you get that smoky flavor. 

This dish is going to join my other macaroni and cheese creations: classic, Mexican, summer squash, butternut squash, broccoli, and I'm sure others that are yet to come. The great thing about the use of pumpkin puree is that it provides creamy sauce so you can cut down on the use of milk. This recipe makes a great main dish with a green salad or a side dish.

September 24, 2012

Jalapeno-cheddar beer bread

Homemade bread is always a treat, but it can be a long process to make and requires a lot of forethought. Recently, I tried to make a sourdough starter. It was doing really well for the first three days, but then on day four it fell flat and never came back to life.... I haven't tried to make a new one yet, but I will soon. Anyone have any suggestions for making and keeping sourdough starter alive?

This bread came along because we have so many peppers of all varieties (green, purple, jalapeno, poblano, etc.) and so many tomatoes from our family's large crops this year. I was making a pot of chili with lots of peppers and fresh tomatoes and wanted some sort of bread to go with it (but didn't have the time to make a yeast bread before dinner). I saw this recipe on Sumptuous Spoonfuls and knew that the combination of jalapenos, cheese, and beer would be absolutely perfect with the chili. I adjusted the recipe a bit and below is the recipe I used. The jalapenos we've had have been on the mild side, so I didn't find the bread to have much heat. However, you can adjust the amount to your taste. I used Saranac pumpkin ale in my bread because we LOVE our fall beers around here. The beer went well in the bread, but you can use any kind of light to medium beer you have on hand (but make sure you like the flavor).