Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

For some reason I am very excited for halloween this year. I don't know if it is because we are now living in a house and that we will have trick-or-treaters or if it's the warm weather, making fall so very enjoyable. We have carved pumpkins, roasted the seeds and bought candy, so we are set for tonight. 

When I saw these cookies on Martha Stewart I knew I had to try them. They are delicious and a big crowd pleaser. The recipe can be found on her website and as always, I found that the comments at the bottom of the recipe were very helpful.  I found that using a small ice-cream scooper to size the cookies, yielded way more than what was stated in the recipe (3 dozen vs. 1 dozen whoopie pies), which of course, was a pleasant surprise. 

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

butternut squash and corn chowder

Here is yet another fabulous squash recipe (from Everyday Food) and it is incredibly easy and fast to make.   This chowder is very hearty, but also low in calories/fat.  I usually serve it with some crusty bread and a side salad, but it can definitely be served alone.



2 Tbs olive oil 
1 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks (about 5 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 box (10 ounces) frozen corn, thawed (I usually add more corn)
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) chicken broth
1 cup whole milk



In a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high; add squash and onion. Cook until onion is soft, about 6 minutes. Add corn and curry powder; cook until curry is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth and simmer until squash is tender, about 25 minutes. Using an immersion blender (you can also use a regular blender) blend the soup until smooth.
Return to pot and stir in the milk; heat through over
medium-low (do not boil). Serve and enjoy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

pumpkin cookies with candy corn

My mom has been making these cookies for as long as I can remember and they have become a Halloween staple at my house as well.  I had to make one more batch prior to Halloween, before candy corn disappears for another long year.  These cookies are delicious and the cream cheese frosting makes it hard to have just one! I have made a couple of my own little adjustments to my mom's recipe by adding ginger, nutmeg and cloves (a great combo with the pumpkin).  Happy early Halloween :)

Makes: 5 dozen
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 ½ cup butter (3 sticks)
1 egg
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
4 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 can 16 oz. pumpkin
1-2 cups choc chips or raisins

6 oz cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
½ cup butter
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, oats, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in a bowl and set aside.

2. In a standing mixer, mix sugars, butter, vanilla and egg until smooth. Slowly add flour mixture in three stages, alternating with pumpkin until just combined. Add chocolate chips.

3. Using a small ice cream scoop place cookies on a baking mat and bake for 20  minutes. Cool on wire racks for 10-20 minutes.

4. To make frosting first beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy or about 3 minutes. Next add powdered sugar (sifted) lemon juice and vanilla extract. Beat until just combined.

5. Frost cookies and place 2-3 candy corn on each.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Baked Apples

Growing up, my parents would take us to our Great Grandpa's apple orchard every October to pick apples.  The orchard was Great Grandpa's hobby during retirement and we were able to reap the benefits. He had 6-8 varieties of apples, pears and plums.  We would pick crate upon crate of apples and store them in our garage.  I remember getting sick one year while picking, because I had eaten one too many apples.  Apples are such a versatile fruit and you can incorporate them into any meal, savory or sweet.  You can use them as filling, stuffing or simply eat them Au natural (with a bit of nutella - my toddler's favorite).  One of the simplest ways to enjoy an apple for dessert is to bake them with a bit of butter and sugar, resulting in a warm, and delicious treat (not to mention this dessert contains just a fraction of the calories/fat in a slice of apple pie!!).

Baked Apples
Peel upper 1/4 of apple.  Place in a baking dish.  In the center of each apple put 1 tbsp of brown sugar and one tsp of butter (I alternate the two ingredients - sugar, butter, sugar, butter, sugar).  Sprinkle the top of the apple with cinnamon. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

* This is a basic baked apple recipe - You can try adding a the following ingredients into the cored center; raisins, a cinnamon stick, old fashioned oats (They are all good!)   

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Classic Acorn Squash

Aside from looking like an acorn, acorn squash is known by its' longitudinal ridges and its' green and orange skin. Although considered a winter squash it is actually belongs to the summer squash family. It is one of the most popular squashes, and it is used in a variety of fall dishes. This hearty treat is a good source of fiber and potassium and has Vitamins C, B and Magnesium.

I have been trying to buy and cook with in-season produce,so I purchase a lot of my fruits and vegetables at the Farmers' Market.  Below are some great tips on how to select a squash and how long you can store them:

Acorn Squash Season: October through December

What to look for: Choose a squash that is heavy for its size with dull skin that is free of blemishes. Partial orange on the skin is good, yet, too much orange coloring indicates an overripe squash which will be dry and stringy.

How to store: With its hard skin you can keep it at room temperature for up to a month or it can last longer if stored in a dark, cool place.

Classisc Acorn Squash
Acorn squash has always been a favorite side dish of mine. It is easy to make, and the sweet flavor is a great pair with most fall dinners.

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise, stem to stem and scoop out seeds. Score the insides of each half with a sharp knife.

- Place each squash in a baking pan or a dish cut-side face up. Fill pan with 1/4 inch water at the bottom to keep the squash moist and prevent the skin from burning.

- Place a Tablespoon of brown sugar, 1/2 tsp of butter, dash of salt and a dribble maple slurp (if desired for extra sweetness) inside of each squash.

 Bake for approximately 1 hour or until the squash is very soft and the tops are browned.  

When finished remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Scoop out the inside of the squash into a bowl and mix all of the ingredients together. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

wine stoppers - made from cabinet knobs

I was recently in Napa for my good friend's bachelorette party and we had a weekend full of eating, drinking and shopping. It was a great get away and being in Napa during harvest time was amazing.  I have to admit that after a few glasses of wine, I am not a very practical shopper. I start LOVING everything and if it weren't for the baggage restrictions on my flight home (I was already checking a box of wine!), I would have purchased new dishes and serve ware. 
Despite the wine fog that was clouding my practical judgement, I did find something antique door knob wine stopper.  We do have a few plain, cork wine stoppers at home, that we use for open wine bottles, olive oil, booze bottles etc, but this door knob stopper made the cork look vintage and one of a kind.  I resisted  the urge to buy the stopper on the spot with the hopes that I would try to make my own at home. 

Once I recovered from my trip and spent some quality time with my girls, I got to work. I decided to look for cabinet knobs vs. door knobs, because the smaller scale knob seemed more practical for fitting in kitchen drawers, plus, I knew exactly where to find them. Anthropologie and World Market both have cabinet knobs in a variety of shapes and colors.  I also purchased a hack saw, super glue and 2 packages of cork bottle stoppers.


1. Remove all nuts and washers from cabinet knobs
2. Measure 3/4 down the screw from the base of the knob.  Mark 3/4 of an inch with a sharpie or pencil.  Using the hack saw, saw off the screw that extends past the line drawn.
3. With a drill bit slightly smaller than the screw itself, drill a one-inch hole into the center of the top of the cork stopper. 
4. Squeeze a few drops of super glue onto the hole that you drilled and start to screw the knob into the cork. 
5. Continue to screw the knob into the cork until the base of the knob lays flat against the cork. 
6. Allow the glue to dry for at least 12 hours before use. 

These bottle stoppers make great hostess gifts, but make sure to save some for yourself, because they come in handy around the house!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Brussel Sprout and Pancetta Pasta

Brussel Sprouts are one of my favorite fall veggies and paired with pasta and pancetta, these ingredients make a hearty and savory dish.  (Recipe courtesy of Rachel Ray)

1/2 pound spinach fettuccine
3 tablespoons butter
3 oz  inch thick sliced prosciutto or pancetta, sliced
3/4 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or 1 shallot, finely chopped
3 to 4 sprigs fresh sage, thinly sliced
A few grates fresh nutmeg
1 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta, salt water and cook fettuccine to al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 cups starchy cooking liquids just before draining.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the butter and melt, add the prosciutto or pancetta and brown 2-3 minutes. Add the sprouts and sauté 3-4 minutes, add garlic or shallot and sage, and toss 2 minutes more. Season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg.
Drain pasta and add reserved cooking liquid to sprouts. Toss with pasta and cheese, adjust seasonings and serve.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Footed Dishes

I have been looking for ways to decorate my table, without getting too fancy, and I wanted an alternative to buying fresh flowers 2x per week. I came across a great idea in Martha Stewart Living Magazine, that is affordable and super easy.  Using dishes you already own and flea market finds, you can make footed dishes in a variety of styles that are decorative and/or functional.
I went to our local St. Vincent DePaul store and found some vintage china and some every day white pieces that I decided to spray paint red (for a Christmas centerpiece :)).  I picked up some superglue and I was able to complete the project in minutes (plus dry time)  If you want a less permanent option, you could use a hot glue gun.  

  • Plate or bowl for the top of the footed dish
  • Tea cup, or smaller bowl to serve as the foot of the dish
  • Super glue or hot glue gun
  • Spray paint (optional)
  • Spray paint pieces if you decide to do so
  • Clean all of your dishes to ensure that the glue adheres correctly
  • Invert the cup or bowl that you are using for the foot/base of your footed dish and apply a layer of super glue or hot glue to the side that is facing up
  • Gently place the top dish/bowl on top of the inverted piece and press down firmly so the glue "grabs" the top piece
  • Allow glue to dry for at least 12 hours before use

The possibilities are endless - you can display family heirlooms or create bold, colorful, seasonal pieces.  Have fun!

Footed Dish #1 before 
#1 after
Footed Dish #2 - before 
#2 after

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

I started off the season completely obsessed with pumpkin.  I put  it in my oatmeal, drank pumpkin spice lattes, and I even snacked on pumpkin seeds. My obsession with pumpkin is starting to become less intense, however, I cannot say the same for my family.  I have made the following pumpkin recipe 3x in the last week and I am still getting requests for more. The muffins are moist and the nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon make them a perfect fall treat. 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1/2 (15-oz) can of pumpkin puree
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cups raisins
(Optional - add in chocolate chips or walnuts)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, set aside.
3.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin puree, and applesauce.  Add the dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula until the flower has been absorbed.  Fold in raisins
4.  Divide batter evenly amount the prepared muffin cups
5.  Bake, rotating the pan half way through the baking time, until the tops of the muffins spring back when touched (about 20-25 minutes)
6.  Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool

Monday, October 8, 2012

White Bean Turkey Chili

It is that time of year again; football, color changes and yes.... cold! This past week in Denver we had our first snowfall and I was craving a warm, filling and comforting soup.  This chili has been a staple for the last couple of years, being a little different from your standard chili. I have made a couple little adjustments to Martha's recipe, enjoy!

Prep: 20 min, Total time: 35 min, Servings: 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
3 stalks celery chopped
2 jalapenos, seeds removed and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves
4 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1.25 lbs of ground turkey (7 percent fat)
4 cans cannellini beans (15.5oz) rinsed and drained
Garnishes: cilantro, cheese, sour cream (or greek yogurt), lime wedges

1. In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, jalapenos, celery, garlic, oregano and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until vegetables are softened, approx. 3-4 min.

2. Add turkey and cook for 2-3 minutes breaking up with a spoon until no longer pink. Add beans and 3 cups of water (or chicken broth). Bring to a boil and mean while smash beans agains the side of the pot to release the starch. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5-10 minutes until thickened.

3. Season with salt and pepper and garnish as desired.

**Mashing the beans during the cooking gives you the texture of a slow cooked sauce in a shorter amount of time. Serve with jalapeno corn bread :)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage

I LOVE butternut squash. This flavorful and tasty winter squash has a nutty, sweet taste, similar to that of a pumpkin. The darker and deeper the orange of the flesh, the richer and sweeter it is. Here are some tips that I found in Real Simple Magazine about how to select and prepare the fall/winter treat:

Choosing the Squash:
Pick a squash that is heavy with smooth, butterscotch-colored skin that looks dusty. The steam should be intact and dry. If the skin is shinny that means it was picked to early.

An uncut squash will last for up to three months at room temp. Cut squash, wrapped tightly, will last one week in the refrigerator.

Start by cutting crosswise at the base of the neck, separating the neck from the bottom. Next using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from both pieces until you get down to the brightly colored flesh. Cut the bulb in half and using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Cut the bulb and neck into pieces as desired.

I have made a variety of recipes using winter squash, so I took two favorites and combined them into one winner!  I would recommend serving the pasta with a green vegetable (such as brussel sprouts) on the side, for a complete dinner.

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces - approx 3 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt
3/4 pound pene pasta or other tubular pasta
1/2 onion
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
10 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped or torn
1/2 cup parmesan
1 cup ricotta

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Placed cut butternut squash on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil; season with salt. Roast in Oven until squash is browned and tender (15-25 minutes)

2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of liquid and set pasta and reserved liquid aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skilled over medium. Cook onion until becomes translucent. Add crushed pepper and sage. Add penne and squash and toss gentley, adding reserved liquid as necessary to moisten (not a lot).

4. Add parmesan and black pepper and cook, tossing gently until pasta and squash are headed thoroughly. Serve immediately with more grated cheese and a dollop of ricotta if desired.

Look out for more butternut squash recipes to come!!