Archive | October, 2011

Pumpkin Joy

28 Oct

Right when I think I have exhausted my pumpkin recipes for the year, I come across a recipe for pumpkin chia pudding here and the next thing I know I am sneaking off to the food store in a sweatshirt, with the hood up, and big sunglasses to hide my face to buy one more can of pumpkin (there may or may not have been a struggle with an old lady over the last can).  I stick it in my bag and sneak into the house.  Steve isn’t home yet.  Score.  I make the pudding – which takes all of 2 minutes, cover the remaining pumpkin and stick it in the back of my fridge behind the mayo so it will not be spotted.  I also cover the pudding with tin foil and stick it in the fridge – I’ll never get caught!  My skin is now turning a light, orange, snooki-like hue.  I am also starting to grow a stem on the top of my head.  My cover is blown. 
 
So here it is, folks, one last hurrah with pumpkin for 2011.  <– That’s just a lie

Pumpkin Chia Pudding
Yield: 2 serving
 
Ingredients:
½ cup canned pumpkin
½ cup milk of your choice
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp chia seeds
cinnamon and ginger to taste
 
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.


You can layer ginger cookies like a triffle

 


I was at Bed Bath and Beyond over the weekend, and noticed that they have a huge new section called The Marketplace (or The Market – something along those lines) with all specialty foods!  I bought special chocolate peanut butter and these soft ginger/dark chocolate cookies.  They are *so* good!  If you see them, buy them – trust me they are awesome!  They look like this:


 
 
Crumble some of these bad boys over your pumpkin chia pudding and you’ve got yourself a serious dessert that is good for you (depending how many cookies you eat with it 😉 )!
 
Have a good Friday!!

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Pumpkin-Nutella Phyllo Cups

24 Oct

If there is one thing on this planet that I love more than pumpkin, it has to be Nutella.  I’m pretty sure there is no dessert on the planet that Nutella won’t make 1,000 times better.  Yesterday was a pretty crazy day.  Good, but busy.  We started off doing a 4.5 mile hike with Dakota, which was awesome because it was such a perfect day.  I was also introduced to the world of white hot chocolate.  Now, white chocolate is typically not my cup of tea, but this was one of the best hot drinks I’ve ever had.  Maybe it had something to do with the gigantic, fluffy, homemade pumpkin marshmallow that was slowly melting as I drank it.  Pumpkin marshmallow!  What?!  Joy.  Anyway, I ate a healthy lunch to make up for it 😉 

So, I have had a little something plotting in my head for the past few days, and later in the evening seemed like the perfect time to give it a go.  After all, weeknights are not the time for trial and error kind of recipes.  Luckily, this one was a homerun first time out (that happens about 0.00001% of the time).  This coudn’t be easier, and is the perfect recipe if you have leftover phyllo dough from your spinach, feta, sun-dried tomato phyllo rolls.  You also know how I love recipes that make you look like you are a way better cook than you actually are.  Fancy shmancy.

Pumpkin-Nutella Phyllo Cups

Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:

phyllo dough, cut into 10 – 4 inch squares 

1/3 cup nutella, microwaved for about 15 seconds to soften it a bit

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 tsp molasses

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp margarine (or earth balance), melted

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray large custard cup and set aside.  In a small bowl, mix pumpkin puree, molasses, cinnamon, and ground ginger until well blended.  Place 2 of your phyllo squares at the bottom of your custard cup.  Take 1 1/2 tsp of your pumpkin mixture and spred it across the dough.  Place 2 more pieces of the phyllo dough over your pumpkin mixture and add 1 1/2 tsp of nutella.  Repeat layers again, ending with 2 pieces of phyllo dough on top.  Brush the top with the melted earth balance.  Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes. 

Do you see the smiley face?  Ok, that’s a stretch..

 

This came out so good, I can’t wait to make it again!  Steve and I just split this one because it was only an experiment after all, but this will be made again later tonight when I sneak in my kitchen while Steve is sleeping very soon.  Oh yeah, one more thing.  It’s kind of important.  Make sure you let your phyllo defrost competely before using it.  I was very impatient and tried warming it with my hands.  I know, I know.  It’s embarrassing to even type, but I promised to share the good, bad, the ugly, and apparently the stupid 😉

I can’t be the only one out there to do something stupid in the kitchen.  Any of you brave enough to share?

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies.. and a quick side-note

22 Oct

Hi!  I’m back after a few days off from blogging.  Why you ask?  Well, we decided to take off to Paris on our private jet for a few days of shopping and dining School, work, and a migraine.  Sorry it’s nothing more exciting!  So, this migraine I speak of came out of the blue on Wednesday and lasted all. Day. Long.  Really brain?  I thought we were friends?  I can’t take the typical migraine medicines because they have caffeine and me + caffeine= jittery, anxious, nightmare.  I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating anything all day.  That is until I got home from work, hit the couch in sweats with the lights dimmed, and suddenly a chocolate chip cookie popped in my head.  When Steve was insisting that I eat something, I told him the only thing I could possibly eat was chocolate chip cookie.  Then I got the look.  That’s why I was shocked when he said that because I always cook for him, he wanted to make cookies for me!  I knew the recipe I wanted him to try, and gave him a few modifications to make it a quicker and easier process.  They came out amazing.  I’ve had some good chocolate chip cookies in my day, but I think these might take the cake.  They have the perfect consistency.  Flat, chewy, with a bit of crispiness around the edges.  I adapted these from Angela who messed around with many different recipes before she found the perfect cookie.  Well done, Angela, well done.
 

Thin and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 12-14 large cookies
Ingredients Bold Underline is what we did:
7 tbsp Earth Balance + 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or 1/2 cup Earth Balance- see note) ½ cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cane sugar (or use white) turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)
1 flax egg: (1 tbsp ground flaxed mixed with 3 tbsp water) 1 regular egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour 1 ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour didn’t use
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp molasses (optional)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
 Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray cookie sheet and set aside.  In a medium bowl, beat the earth balance until fluffy.  Add brown sugar, turbinado sugar, and egg and beat until well blended.  Mix in the remaining ingredients, adding the chocolate chips last.  Using a spoon or cookie scooper, place balls of dough on your cookie sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes.

This is what happens when boys take baked goods out of the oven..

Thanks Steve, these really hit the spot!  Quick side note:  While these cookies are awesome right out of the oven, these are even better the next day, so if you want to bring them with you to a party or get together, I would make them the night before.

Next item of business, New Jersey.  This is for the NJ haters of the world out there.  If you are not a NJ hater, you are free to go for the day if you choose.  I realize that most people hear the words “New Jersey” and suddenly have horrific images like these flash through your brain at an uncontrollable rate:

                                                                Source

                                                                Source

I get it, I really do.  And I would be lying if I said that there aren’t certain towns, bars, and clubs that you will definitely have these nightmarish images come to a terrifying reality.  I myself have tried going to a friendly happy hour at a new bar/restaurant with some co-workers, only to be found later on that night, in the corner of my room, balled up in fetal position rocking back and forth with images of crazy haired, orange monsters dancing through my head.  However, the majority of these people, and the majority of gross areas make up a very small percentage of the state.  In fact, 99% of New Jersians (it’s a technical term) are surprisingly normal, and 99% of NJ (ok, maybe 85% – but don’t all states have their bad areas?) is actually really nice.  Farms, fresh produce, the best bagels in the world (yeah I went there 🙂 ),  rolling hills.  And goats.  Lots of goats. 


 

Yeah, he knows he’s good looking

Doesn’t get better than this!

OK.. So that last one is from our honeymoon in the Canadian Rockies..  I think you get the picture!
While I don’t doubt that there are better places to live in the world, having access to NYC, beaches, farms, some of the best restaurants in the world, and mountainous regions like the Catskills and the Adirondack’s, is pretty cool.  So haters, please leave us alone you big bullies.  I’m not Snookie.  Steve is not Pauly D.  My family is not the Saprano’s.  The end 😉

*I’ve been reading a lot of negative things about NJ, and I just wanted to share my side, being that I’ve lived here my whole life

Pulled Pork Pizza

18 Oct

What a weekend!  Here in the northeast it was absolutely beautiful outside.  I’m talking sunny with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s.  Perfection.  Friday night, we had our pizza party part deux with two of our close friends – this time at their place.  After that, we met up with two friends from out of state and we all went to a haunted house.  I am not the haunted house kind of gal – I don’t like people jumping out on me, following me, harassing me, and I usually just find those things tacky and silly.  Bah Humbug!  The one we went to was called BANE and it was actually pretty good… for a haunted house.  They did a few things that were different, and definitely not run of the mill, which I can respect.  And proceeds go to the Make A Wish Foundation, which I definitely liked.  This was supposed to be a glowing review, but reading what I just wrote doesn’t sounds very selling!  Oh well, I tried 😉 
Onto the pizza!  This time, they made a delicious Greek pizza with spinach, feta, parmesan, bell peppers, and hot pepper flakes. 

So good!  Next up was the main course which was pulled pork BBQ pizza.  I made the pulled pork in the slow cooker earlier that day, and set it on low for 10 hours.  We already decided that it is going to be made again at some point this week again.  The pork was just perfect – the flavors, consistency, and juiciness would lead one to believe that they were eating pork that was slow cooked all day in a smoker down in Tennessee.  I guarantee you will not be disappointed if you make this – whether it be for pizza or sandwiches.  The best part is that it was so incredibly easy to make.  This is a must for BBQ lovers!
 
Pulled Pork Pizza
Yield:  1 pie, with enough pulled pork leftover for about 2 sandwiches
 
Ingredients for Pulled Pork:
3 lb pork shoulder, bone in
1 bottle Sam Adams Oktoberfest
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tbsp poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper
1 bottle Guy Fieri’s Carolina Mop and Slop BBQ Sauce
 
Ingredients for Pizza:
Pulled Pork (about 3 cups worth, but you can eyeball it depending on how big your pizza is)
¼  lb prepared cole slaw
1 ball of pizza dough
BBQ sauce
 
Cut any large pieces of fat off your meat.  Place in slow cooker, pour bottle of beer over the meat, and sprinkle with seasonings.  Place slow cooker on low for 10 hours.  Using tongs, remove pork and place in a large mixing bowl (the meat is going to come out in pieces and will fall right off the bone, so you don’t have to worry about that).  Pull apart the pork by using two forks – you will be surprised what little effort this takes!  Add about 2 ladlefuls of the juices leftover in the slow cooker  to your pulled pork.  Pour half of the bottle of your BBQ sauce in with the meat as well, and mix thoroughly.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Prepare the pizza dough and cook it in the oven, either on a pizza stone or cookie sheet, for about 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and place pulled pork on top and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Place cole slaw on top of the pork and spread evenly.  Drizzle remaining BBQ sauce on top and serve immediately.


 


I knew that there was no way I was going to have time to make my own BBQ sauce on Friday, so when we were food shopping the other day, we wanted to be sure to pick a really good one.  When I saw Guy Fieri’s new line of BBQ sauces, I was a little skeptical.  A lot of times these celebrity chef’s just throw their names on anything to make money.  However, the ingredient list looked really good and the consistency was that of a real BBQ joint.  Not your typical thick BBQ sauce, but much thinner than the others, which I really liked.  Well, I cannot put into words how good this BBQ sauce was.  It was perfect for pulled pork, and tasted so homemade that I told Steve I probably won’t make BBQ sauce anymore, because it can’t compare to how good this was.  Now that is how you endorse something!  Sorry haunted house..

 

*I purchased Guy Fieri’s BBQ sauce on my own and was not compensated to review it

Arthur Avenue

14 Oct

*Warning – this is in no way a healthy eating post.  However, being balanced and letting yourself go a little crazy now and then is part of a healthy lifestyle, in my opinion 😉 
Last Saturday we celebrated my mom’s birthday.  When we asked her a few weeks back what she wanted to do, she said that she want to go to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, walk around the different marketplaces, and basically buy a ton of food that we could come back to her house and cook.  Sign me up!  I was so excited until I remembered that I have my bowling class on Saturday mornings and I wouldn’t be able to make it.  For some reason, my professor is super strict with attendance.  Bummer.  Steve was going to just go with everyone, but woke up not feeling well.  Darn weather is getting everyone lately!  Maybe it has something to do with it being 50 and raining one day and 85 and sunny with 90% humidity the next.  Northeastern nonsense this year!  So, we had to sit out the trip to the Bronx, but met everyone at my mom’s later in the day for the binging dinner.  We’re so fortunate to live within 10 minutes of my brother and my mom, and 30 minutes from my sister.  So folks, here it is.

 
Started with bread, then had some bread dipped in bread, followed by bread sandwiches.  In all seriousness, there was a lot of bread – and it was hands down the best bread I have ever had in my entire life.  Coming from this part of the country, that is not a statement to be taken lightly.


 
I’m usually not a big olive fan, but the olive loaf was the softest, doughiest, bread ever.  I think we all averaged around 5 pieces each!  Including my niece..


 
I’m actually not a big sausage person either, but this sausage was outrageously good.


 
This pasta was hands down the best part of the meal.  The spinach angel hair in particular was so fresh, you could actually taste the spinach in it.  It was the perfect consistency.  They make it fresh every single morning, and you can really tell.

                                                      See?  It wasn’t all bad..


 
After dinner, my nephew was showing off the yoga moves he learned at school, and my little niece shadowed his every move.  At least some of us ended the night with a workout.  Check out that form – it’s better than mine!


  
So as you can see, we’re obviously on low carb diets so a huge birthday cake and 2 trays of Italian cookies pumpkin pie soft serve was the dessert of choice 😉
If you are fortunate enough to live anywhere close to Arthur Avenue, you have to get over there one day.  We’re already talking about our next trip back.

The Best Stew in the World!

12 Oct

Is this not the most perfect apple you’ve ever seen?  I actually bought him (yes, it’s a boy) because he was so photogenic!

Anyway, this post has nothing to do with apples, I just wanted to share.  Did you ever have one of those days where you wake up with a wave of relief that it is Friday only to be reminded by the news that it is only Tuesday?  Yeah, that happened to me yesterday.  And again this morning.  That’s just not nice, brain, playing tricks like that.  We have an awesome weekend coming up with some really fun activities like: pizza party part deux, haunted houses, fancy shmancy dinner in the city, and visiting farms.  Since 3 out of the 4 things I just mentioned involve food, I’m sure I won’t be lacking on things to write about next week.  I guess this is why my brain is determined to make everyday be Friday this week.  But then again, we shouldn’t be wishing our lives away, so I’m still planning on enjoying the next few days.  At least the hours that I’m not at work 😉
On Monday I made my favorite stew.  The recipe is from my mom, and it is so easy and straight forward, but so incredibly good that I make it every single year without changing anything about it.  I chopped up the carrots, bell pepper, and meat on Sunday night, so the only thing I had to do was cut up some potatoes in the morning and throw everything in the slow cooker.  It is so nice to stop home before class and have a hot, filling meal just waiting.  And we have enough leftovers for the rest of the week!  And we all know how stew gets better every day it sits and marinates in itself..
 
Moms Stew
Yield: about 6 big servings
 
Ingredients:

2 lbs round steak, chopped into bite sized pieces

1 lb carrots chopped into 1 inch pieces (1 bag of baby carrots is typically 1 lb)

5-6 red potatoes, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ cup flour

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

½ cup low sodium beef broth

½ cup red wine (good enough to drink)

1 ½ tsp salt

½ tsp dried thyme

Pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in slow cooker and mix well.  Cook for 7 ½ hours on low heat.

All chopped up the night before. Sorry, I know this is gross.


Before..

After..

It really doesn’t get any easier than that, so there are no excuses .  For the non-cooks: You are not cooking, just chopping a few thing and dumping it in a slow cooker.  For the “I don’t have time-ers”:  You can chop everything up the night before.  It takes 10 minutes.  For the vegetarians:  Use beans instead of meat?  Mushrooms?  I’m not sure.  And I forgot to mention the most important part!  This is magical stew.  Steve was sick, ate a bowl and now he is better!
 
*Disclaimer:  This is not actually magical stew 🙂

I”m going to leave you with one more picture of the new good-looking guy in my life:

Cake Review and Overnight Oats

10 Oct

                   Sorry for the poor pictures, I only had my phone with me

I think I found my new go-to cake recipe for the next few months.  You would never even know that there were dates in this cake because they practically melt away in the cooking process, only leaving sweet little gooey morsels throughout the cake.  The topping, which sunk into the cake during round two of baking, turned out to be this amazing, sweet, coconut filling – almost like a stuffed cake.  So good!  This is a definite keeper – I may even add some pumpkin to the batter next time (GASP – I’m such a rebel 😉 )!
 
Onto the next order of business.  Overnight oats are pretty much a staple for food bloggers.  However, whenever they come up in a conversation with friends, family, and co-workers, they have no idea what I am talking about.  To this day I get funny looks when I explain it to somebody.  Overnight oats, to those who do not know, are my #1 favorite go-to breakfast ever.  I have them at least 3 days a week.  Convenient, versatile, fast, filling, and good for you.  What is not to like?  Below is a very basic recipe, but once you get used to making it you can add anything you fancy.  Mashed bananas, cocoa powder, granola, diced fruit, vegetables (grated carrots or zucchini actually work really well), etc.
 
Overnight Oats
Yield: 1 serving
 
Ingredients:
½ cup rolled oats
¾ cup milk of your choice (I prefer almond milk in my oats – the chocolate almond milk is crazy good)
1 tbsp chia seeds
¼ cup shredded coconut
 
Toppings:
1 tbsp peanut butter (any nut butter works)
1 tbsp maple syrup for drizzling
 
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, add the toppings of your choice and mix well. 


 

Pretty sure the oats in these pictures have more than 1 tbsp of chia seeds.  I tend to go a little nuts because they are so healthy.  The idea of cold oats might not sound very appetizing (Steve was not excited the first time I made them and he was “forced” to try it either), but I have yet to meet one person who makes these and is not instantly converted into an overnight oats junky.