Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Filling

These were fun to make and I have it on good authority that bite-sized cookies are healthier for you ;)

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 ounces butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 can cream cheese frosting

1. Lightly rub a dollop of oil onto your baking sheets with a paper towel. Heat oven to 350°.
2. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. In a large mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat 4 ounces butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well blended. Slowly beat in the milk and pumpkin, then add dry ingredients, beating just until blended.

4. With a pastry bag (or ziploc freezer bag), pipe the dough into silver dollar sized circles onto the prepared baking sheets.

5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until tops are firm. Cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet then loosen the bottoms with a spatula and let them cool completely.

6. Lay the cookies out upside down and pipe frosting onto each one about 1/2 inch from the edge of the cookies. Then gently push the bottom of another cookie down onto the frosting until the frosting just barely comes over the edges.

7. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes so that the icing sets up. Serve room temp or cold. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Octoberfest Beef Steak

Beef... Beer... Happiness. I'll give directions on how to prepare the steak, but truthfully you should just use the method you've perfected so that your steak is cooked the way you like it. If you haven't perfected your own method, consider this one :) Broiling falls short of grilling for flavor, but it's more practical for us makes it easy to monitor the temp.


  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 bone-in Rib Steaks (Any steak will do, just adjust your cook time)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 1 cup Octoberfest beer
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water

1.  Salt your steaks on both sides and rub with a bit of dijon mustard.

2. Mix the Dijon mustard, brown sugar, garlic, and nutmeg together in a small bowl. In a medium pan over medium heat, add the mustard mixture, the beer and beef stock; season with salt and black pepper and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low.


3. Whisk the corn starch into 2 T cold water and add to the simmering sauce. Continue to stir for 5 minutes or so, until the sauce thickens.

4. Put the steaks in the broiler on high for 5 minutes, remove, then flip and broil for another 5 minutes. Keep checking the steaks every minute after that until they're just slightly undercooked to your liking. Then let the steaks rest on the pan for 5 minutes before serving. They'll finish cooking to perfection and hold onto all of the juices better when you let them rest.

5. Cover steaks with sauce and serve with potatoes and veggies :) 

NOTE: To test the temp of your steak without a meat thermometer, use this trick. Touch your thumb to any one of your fingers and squeeze the thumb-portion of your palm. This corresponds to how a steak should feel at various levels of done-ness (prior to letting the steak rest). This method is a quick reference and can be done in two seconds to decide how well your steak is cooked, as opposed removing your steak from the heat and waiting for a meat thermometer to take a reading or burning your hand while you leave your steak on the heat and hold the meat thermometer...

Medium-Rare: Thumb to first finger
Medium: Thumb to middle finger
Medium-Well: Thumb to ring finger
Well: Thumb to pinky



I've been holding onto this recipe for weeks because I couldn't think of a name for this odd and delightful creation that evolved in my kitchen one evening. I know this combo sounds a little odd, but you're going to be sorry if you miss out on these scrumptious little wontons!!

  • 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella
  • 2 T pesto
  • 1 avocado, split in half, seed removed, and removed from the peel
  • 15 wonton squares
  • 1 egg, beaten

1. In a bowl, combine a hunk of mozzarella, the avocado and pesto. Squish them all together with your hands until it's a little chunky, but mostly creamy. I suppose you could do this with a food processor, but I don't have one :(   [There is one on my wedding registry at, along with many other wonderful kitchen gadgets. I hope for my kitchen to be renovated in any style but "dark ages" after the wedding!]

2. Lay out wonton squares and place 1 T of filling in just off center in each one. You then line two edges of the wonton with egg wash and fold it in half diagonally. Take the two ends of the hypotenuse (I don't know how else to describe this...) / aka don't grab the right angle, grab the two smaller angles, and pull them together away from the right angle.  And in case my genius geometric description didn't make that perfectly clear (I never liked geometry...), here's a photograph from the wonton wrapper!

3. Fry them at 350 for 1-2 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Move from heat onto a paper towel lined plate, and let cool for a few minutes.

NOTE: These don't reheat very well, as most fried items do not. So, get'em while the gettin's good!

Chili Rubbed Pork Chops with Black Bean Pineapple Salsa and Roasted Corn

Yum yum yum! The pork chops reheated really well for lunch the next day. I was worried that the chili rub would be too spicy, but brown sugar served to mellow out the chili and make a really great flavor combo. I will definitely be making this again!!

  • 4 pork bone-in rib chops, about 3/4-inch thick, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ears of corn
Pineapple Salsa:
  • Canned crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and veins removed, finely chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt, to taste

1. In a shallow bowl, combine chili powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Sprinkle both sides of pork with spice mixture. 

2. Broil pork chops on a foil lined baking sheet on high for 6 minutes on each side (or until internal temp reaches 160F)
3. Meanwhile in a medium pan, combine pineapple, black beans and lime juice- heat throughout. Once hot, add jalapeno, red onion, and lime juice. Season to taste with salt. 

4. Prepare corn by shucking and boiling for 6 minutes. Once it's cooked by boiling, turn a stove burner to medium and roast it until there are little black spots all over it. You typically will hear some popping as a good indicator that it's time to turn the corn. I was nervous to do this, but it was fun and gave the corn such a multi-dimensional flavor. Delish! 

    Zucchini Fritters

    It will take you 10 minutes to whip these up, max. They're the perfect side for any fall dish!

    • 1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
    • 1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
    • 2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
    •  1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • Olive oil for frying

    1. Shred the zucchini either with a food processor or by hand. Then wrap it in cheese cloth and drain the water as best you can.
    2. Combine zucchini and egg in one bowl and your dry ingredients in another bowl. Once they're mixed together respectively, combine add the dry stuff to the wet stuff and stir.
    3. In a CAST IRON skillet, preheat your oil on the stove for frying. When it's hot, drop small bunches of the zucchini mix into the skillet. Don't overcrowd them, because your next move is to flatten them gently with the back of your spatula.
    4. Fry for 3-5 minutes on each side. You want them to be golden brown and crispy on both sides.
    5. Place onto a baking sheet and keep warm at 325F until you're ready to serve them.

    These go great with a sour cream topping- add a bit of lemon juice, salt and garlic for great accents! I added a pinch of Jal Jeera (Indian rock salt) and it made the perfect savory compliment!

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Grilled Cheese Tomato Soup

    This soup is low-maintenance and has a little kick! The grilled cheese topper brings this classic together perfectly. Talk about comfort food!

    • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
    • 2 cups chicken stock
    Grilled Cheese Lid
    • 15 slices from a thin baguette, lightly buttered on one side
    • 1 c shredded cheddar 

      1. Lay tomatoes out on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, coarsely ground salt, and pepper to taste. Wrap cloves of garlic in aluminum foil and toss them on the tray as well. Broil on low for 20-30 minutes (or on high for 5-10 minutes). The tomatoes will be charred and your house will smell amazing when they're ready to come out. Cool Slightly.

      2. Unwrap and peel garlic. Coarsely puree tomatoes and garlic. 

      3. In a soup pot, combine tomato puree, red pepper and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

      4. While the soup cooks down, toast the bread in the oven at 325 F. The toast will become hard throughout. It's important that it gets crisp enough because otherwise the bread won't hold up in the soup.

      5. Ladle soup into bowls or large mugs. Top with toast, then cheddar cheese. Broil on high for 5 minutes.

      Saturday, October 22, 2011

      Hash Brown Venison Quiche

      This quiche uses hash browns instead of a pie crust and the substitution is AMAZING! If you don't like venison you can always substitute it for ground beef or sausage.

      5 cups frozen potatoes, shredded
      1/4 cup butter, melted
      1 cup ground venison
      1/4 cup onions, diced
      3/4 cup milk
      1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
      3 eggs
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/2 tsp pepper


      Press the hash browns between paper towels to remove excess moisture then press into bottom and up sides of an ungreased 9-inch pie plate. Drizzel with butter. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes.

      Meanwhile, in a skillet sauté the onions for 1 minutes, add the venison and cook until brown. Let cool slighlty. Combine the venison mixture and cheese, spoon over baked crust.

      In a small bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour over the venison mixture. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes.

      Monday, October 17, 2011

      Homemade Turkey Soup

      As you can see by my past three posts soups are a fall favorite in our house. I made this soup the day after our Annual Fall Feast. The turkey was injected with a Lemon Rosemary Meat Injection and then deep fried. The falvored carcass made for an amazing broth.


      • 2 quarts chicken broth
      • 1 turkey carcass, all meat removed
      • 1 onion, halved, plus 1 onion, minced
      • 1 carrot, halved lengthwise, plus 1 carrot, minced
      • 1 whole stalk celery, plus 1 more stalk, minced
      • 2 bay leaves
      • 3 cups turkey meat
      • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • 3 cups leftover cooked Thanksgiving side vegetables (Roasted Potatoes)


      Put chicken broth, turkey, onion halves, carrot halves, 1 celery stalk, and 1 bay leaf in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 1 1/2 hours.

      Dice the turkey meat. Make sure meat pieces are no larger than the size of a soup spoon. (If preparing soup the next day, be sure to store leftover turkey meat in an airtight container before placing it in the refrigerator, top with 1 or 2 ladles full of broth to keep meat moist.)

      Before straining broth, remove large bones and carcass with tongs. Strain the broth through a sieve, covered with wet cheese cloth. Discard the solids. Transfer broth to a bowl set in a bath of ice water, which will cool the broth quickly and help keep it fresher longer. This can be done the night before and stored in the refrigerator until the next day.

      In a large soup pot, heat garlic cloves in the olive oil. Allow to brown slightly and add minced carrots, celery, and onion. Sweat over medium-low heat until softened, about 7 or 8 minutes.

      Dice the leftover vegetables (here Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and green beans). Add the chopped sage to the soup pot along with the turkey broth and the remaining bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. When simmering, add potatoes and diced turkey meat to the soup. Bring it back up to a simmer. Turn the heat off and cover. Allow to sit and steam for 5 to 7 minutes.

      Let simmer for 5 more minutes and serve.

      Best Pumpkin Soup Ever

      I know that is a bold statement but honestly this Pumpkin Soup recipe is TOPS!!! The spices also give this soup a great twist. It is one of my all time favorite fall dishes. I served it with crab cakes and remoulade sauce.


      4 Tbsp unsalted butter
      2 medium yellow onions, chopped
      2 teaspoons minced garlic
      1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
      2 teaspoons curry powder
      1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
      Pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
      3 (15 oz) cans 100 percent pumpkin or 6 cups of chopped roasted pumpkin* (about 4)
      5 cups of chicken broth
      2 cups of milk
      1/2 cup brown sugar
      1/2 cup heavy cream

      *To make pumpkin purée, cut a sugar pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff, lie face down on a tin-foil lined baking pan. Bake at 350°F until soft, about 45 min to an hour. Cool, scoop out the flesh. Freeze whatever you don't use for future use.


      1 Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spices and stir for a minute more.

      2 Add pumpkin and 5 cups of chicken broth; blend well. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

      3 Transfer soup, in batches, to a blender or food processor. Cover tightly and blend until smooth. Return soup to saucepan.

      4 With the soup on low heat, add brown sugar and mix. Slowly add milk while stirring to incorporate. Add cream. Adjust seasonings to taste. If a little too spicy, add more cream to cool it down. You might want to add a teaspoon of salt.

      Serve in individual bowls. Sprinkle the top of each with toasted pumpkin seeds.

      Roasted Butternut Squash Three Ways

      I am finally posting my recipe for the Butternut Squash Challenge.
      The following recipe makes a Roasted Butternut Squash and Onion Puree which can be served three ways. It can be served cold as a dip with pita chips or warm as a great side dish. And if you add some chicken stock to the puree it becomes a tasty Butternut Squash Soup.


      • 41/2 cups cubed butternut squash
      • 1 sweet onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
      • 2 tbsp. EVOO
      • 1 tsp. salt
      • 1/2 tsp. pepper


      Toss squash and onion with EVOO, salt and pepper on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast at 400° for 25 minutes, tossing halfway through. Puree in food processor. Serve warm as a side dish, thinned with broth as a soup or cold as a dip with pita chips.

      Sunday, October 9, 2011

      Western Scramble & Potato Pancakes

      My dad and grandpa harvested a "Sheepshead" or maitake mushroom recently. Dad cleans and processes them and sends some my way chopped and frozen. Perfect! Here's some more info on sheepshead mushrooms for anyone who is interested. (Sheepshead/Maitake mushroom) They're really quite interesting to read about, because they can grow to be 50+ pounds. It's important to note that mushroom hunting (mycogphagy) can be very dangerous and it's of dire-import to do your homework prior to picking and eating wild mushrooms.

      I used some of these mushrooms in scrambled eggs this morning and it was SO tasty!

      • 1 c mushroom
      • 4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
      • 2 eggs
      • 1/4 bell pepper, chopped
      • 1/4 of a large white onion, chopped
      • 1 clove garlic, chopped
      • salt and pepper to taste
      1. Saute the mushrooms in dab of butter until most of the water has cooked out of them. These mushrooms have a large water content, so 2 c of frozen will cook down to about 1/2 c cooked. You'll notice them start to brown when most of the water is gone.

      2. When the start to brown, add the onion, garlic and green pepper. Saute together 5 minutes over medium heat. Throw the chopped cooked bacon in and toss for another minute until bacon is heated.

      3. Reduce heat to low, add scrambled egg and fold together for 5 minutes until the egg is cooked through.


      Potato Pancakes are a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes and they're great with breakfast, lunch or dinner.

      • 2 c mashed potatoes
      • 1/4 of a large white onion, finely chopped
      • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
      • 1/2 c flour
      • 1/2 c bread crumbs
      •  salt and pepper to taste
      • 2 glugs of vegetable or canola oil.
      1. Saute the onion and garlic over low heat with a tiny bit of oil for 5 minutes, until they're soft. Then add them to the COLD mashed potatoes along with salt, pepper, 1/4 c of flour and 1/4 c of bread crumbs. Mix together with your hands or a fork.

      2. Combine the rest of the flour and bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Quickly form the mashed potatoes into patties (about a 1/2 c of potatoes each) and dredge them in the breadcrumb/flour mixture.

      3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mashed potato patties and let cook 4-5 minutes before turning carefully. Don't stop and check them because lifting up the edges will cause them to break. Just have a little faith... lol

      4. Cook 3-4 minutes on the other side and serve warm :) These come out crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and totally satisfying!

      Homemade Apple Butter

      There's an apple orchard in Kent, so Joe and I went and bought a peck of apples. The ones that were recommended for apple butter were Swedish Gourmet because they will cook down all the way into a puree rather than an apple-sauce type of thing. In fact, they ended up cooking down to an apple sauce consistency, so I just pureed it before jarring. I split the process in half and got 4 pint jars both times, so from 1 peck of apples, you should get 8 pints of apple butter. Lucky you!

      One of my favorite things about the end of the summer is harvesting and canning. It's something we've been doing in my family for a long time, and I got to take a stab at it solo this year :)

      Makes 4 pints
      • 1/2 peck of apples, peeled, cored, cubed
      • 2 c brown sugar, unpacked
      • 4 sticks cinnamon, broken/crushed
      • 2 T allspice, whole
      • 1/2 t nutmeg, ground
      • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
      • 1/4 c apple cider vinegar

      1. I like to create a spice sack so that I can use the whole spices and let it simmer. To do this, just cut out a 4"x4" piece of cheese cloth (I left it doubled up, so it was sturdier). Place your spices (whole and ground) in the center, then tie it up with a string.

      2. Once you've peeled, cored and cubed the apples most of the work is over with. You'll just need to put the apples into a stock pot over low heat, add the apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and your spice pack and give it a stir.

      3. Cover and let simmer over low heat for 3 hours. Come back occasionally to stir it. At first it will cook down to apple-sauce (I set some aside when it was still apple sauce for my lunch the next day). Keep cooking until hopefully it turns into apple butter. If it doesn't, you can do what I did.
      Apple Sauce
      Dark in color, very very soft = ready for apple butter.
      4. If needed, blend it on a low speed ("puree" setting) for 30 seconds.

      It will start out looking pulpy
      and end up looking smooth.

      5. If you've blended it while the apple butter is still hot, pour it straight into the jars and put the lids on. The cooling process will cause the lids to form the air tight seal that you're looking for. If you waited until it cooled to puree, heat it back up in the stock pot and then pour it off.