Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween...Please Donate...

I love Halloween but this is the second Halloween in a row, that doesn't have that magical spooky charge in the air. The crisp-weather-Halloweens, of the past, just distant memories now, especially with last years' snow storm and this year, with Hurricane Sandy passing through, that caused much destruction. Our power came on today, I feel so fortunate that the crews are working so hard to get power restored to everyone. And as we put on the news and saw all the destruction, it has saddened me so. With neighborhoods destroyed, evidence of memories taken and lives lost, this time, is heartbreakingly sad and there are people in dire need. Please, if your resources allow, donate to a reputable relief organization, to help out. Thank you and have a safe and happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Old Bay Seasoned Pumpkin Seeds

Once a year, I find myself craving freshly roasted pumpkin seeds. There is nothing like it, when the leaves are on the ground, yet some still hanging onto the branches, golden and rust in color. I love to look out the window as a few sporadic leaves fall ever so gently before the glass, as the wind, takes them down. It makes me want to have hot apple cider and carve a pumpkin! With it being the last weekend before Halloween, I think a lot of kitchens will have bowls full of seeds, on their tables. Don't let them go to waste! They are great to snack on while you are carving your pumpkin! There is no easy way to get the seeds out of the pumpkin, other than a spoon and your bare hands, it's messy and fun. And in a matter of 25 minutes, that messy pile becomes a tasty snack! Have a great weekend everyone! Happy carving and roasting!

  • pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • cooking spray
  • garlic powder
  • sea salt

Clean your pumpkin seeds, under cold water, hand picking the threads out. Line them in a single layer on a large cookie sheet. Sprinkle Old Bay seasoning (nothing like a little Old Bay in the autumn, with memories of summers past, filled with blue claw crabs, caked on with the good stuff, enjoyed on hot balmy nights) on them along with a little garlic powder. Spray them with cooking spray and place the sheet in a 375 degree pre-heated oven. Bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, take them out and toss the seeds with the olive oil and adjust the seasoning as needed, I ended up adding a little salt and more Old Bay. Back in the oven they go, for another 15-20 minutes, until golden brown or darker if you like! Keep an eye on them, so they don't burn. Enjoy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Oxtail & Lentil Stew in a Pumpkin

This could be a potentially cute couples night, (with a couple that doesn't squirm at the thought of eating oxtails, lol) With two sugar pumpkins filled with steamy stew and a bottle of wine, this could be the perfect couples night, at your place. Oxtails are really good once cooked down, till the meat is falling off the bone, combined with sage flavored lentils and creamy potatoes, this is a comforting meal. This stew is time consuming to make but the reward is a not-so-ordinary-dinner and the warmth and coziness it brings to your kitchen, is a definite plus, as the longer it simmers on the stove, the better it gets. Serve each couple with a pumpkin, 2 bowls and spoons and good bread on the side. Present each pumpkin with its' own mini ladle, so each couple can help themselves. Enjoy!

  • 2 sugar pumpkins, each weighing about 3-4 pounds each
  • 1 pound oxtails
  • flour
  • vegetable oil
  • 4 oz. dried lentils, soaked overnight
  • 1 small carrot, sliced and cut into half-moons
  • 1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 2-3 small sage leaves
  • pinch marjoram leaves
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 cups water, plus more as needed
  • fresh ground pepper
  • sea salt

Salt and pepper your oxtails and dredge them in flour. Heat up a generous drizzle of oil in a Dutch oven until hot. Sear the oxtails on all sides, on medium-high heat, keeping an eye on them so they don't burn. Remove them from the pot and lower the heat and add your shallots. Quickly saute them and add in the lentils, giving them a good stir. Add in the water, potatoes, carrots, pumpkin puree, sage leaves, marjoram and nutmeg. Stirring up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add in your oxtails and bring to a boil on high heat with the pot covered. Add in the bouillon, and stir until it's dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer covered for a minimum of 3 hours. Adding water, as needed, as it reduces. And you could enjoy this as a soup or as a stew, depending on how much liquid you add or reduce. While your stew is simmering away, you can prepare the pumpkins. Begin by cutting the lids off the pumpkin. (Leave about an inch to the stem, so none of the stew comes spilling out, once it's poured in.) Remove the seeds and the pumpkin threads and don't be shy about carving into your pumpkin with a spoon, to remove all of the threads. You want a pretty smooth surface inside the pumpkin and the lid. (Reserve your pumpkin seeds for roasting, another day.) Place them in a 13x9 baking pan. Pour two cups of water into the pan and place them in a 325 degree pre-heated oven for 1 hour. After the hour is up, cover with aluminum foil, (with the stems sticking through) and bake for another hour. Let them cool a bit before handling. Using good oven gloves, carefully, move the pumpkins to their serving platter and divide the stew into the pumpkins and serve! You can also scoop some of the pumpkin with the soup, it's really good! Serves 2 couples or makes 4 servings.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Witches' Brew

When I see that sign at Dairy Queen, that says "Just 4 days left," a mild panic sets in. It's a combination of it being, a sure sign that winter is eventually going to be here. (Winter is my least favorite season. If I could live in a beach shack somewhere for a few months, I would.) And, where am I suppose to get pumpkin ice cream if they are closed? That's the real concern, lol. But I have a few days left before the CLOSED sign at Dairy Queen, stays that way. (Until late February 2013, the 22nd to be exact, but who's counting and who circled it on her mental calendar, not me, lol) So it's time to enjoy the pumpkin ice cream while we can! If you aren't a fan of pumpkin, you can use vanilla or chocolate ice cream, dulce de leche would be nice also. And you can use cream soda instead of cola also. This is such a fun drink and looks like a little bit of a witches' brew! To delight your inner witch, wrap a piece of "creepy cloth" around your glass and cackle away, my pretty!

  • 2 scoops pumpkin ice cream
  • 4 oz. chocolate liqueur, like Godiva
  • 8 oz. cola
  • milk chocolate for garnish *optional

Fill your glass with a scoop of ice cream. Top with the liqueur and the cola, skimming the foam to add more if necessary. Grate the chocolate on top. Serves 2. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Potato Gnocchi with a Tomato, Pumpkin & Mushroom Sauce

Potato gnocchi have my heart, always. On a chilly, rainy and foggy autumn night,  potato gnocchi can put a smile the face and warm the belly, like nothing else. I found these dried wood ear mushrooms at a health food store and I couldn't leave without them, I had to give them a try and thought they would look great on a plate during Halloween...on a dark and creepy night...Muuwaaahhaaa...( couldn't resist. lol)

  • 1 pound potato gnocchi
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 4 tablespoons good marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light cream
  • 1 sage leaf
  • 1 heaping tablespoon dried wood ear mushrooms *
  • fresh ground pepper
  • sea salt
  • Parmesan cheese *optional

           *You can use any dried mushrooms you like, if they are larger, just chop them down to size.

First begin by rehydrating your mushrooms, according to the package instructions, about 30 minutes in hot water, until the mushrooms get soft. Just add enough water to cover them by about an inch. Cook your gnocchi according to the package instructions, about 2-3 minutes, until they float, drain and set aside. Into the same pot, melt the butter and add the pumpkin puree, marinara sauce, cream and sage. Simmer for about 5 minutes and add the mushrooms, 2 tablespoons of the mushroom liquid and the gnocchi, until heated through. Pass around a wedge of Parmesan cheese, so everyone can help themselves. Serves 2-4. If serving 4, round out the meal with a soup and salad, I don't know about you, but gnochhi are addicting and a nice big bowl makes a rainy and chilly night, all the warmer. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Creepy Cheese Platter

Start your Halloween party, off on the right foot, with a creepy cheese platter! Blue cheese always gave me a little bit of a fright for some reason, lol. But I've grown to love it. So taking a little bit of a spin off that fright, combining the mysteriously deeply blue veined cheese with dark purple grapes, walnut halves, dark seeded crackers and pumpkin puree makes this a cheese platter, one to remember. And pumpkin doesn't have to be limited to just pies, adding it to your cheese platter gives it an unexpected twist. Add faux bugs and a mini cleaver to slice the cheese for a little bit of Halloween fun and fright.

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons fig marmalade
  • pinch of pumpkin pie spice

In a small pan, melt the butter and add the pumpkin puree, fig marmalade and pumpkin pie spice. Heat on low heat, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, until heated through. If you want your pumpkin spread sweeter, add in honey. Surround with Concord grapes, Gorgonzola cheese, black sesame brown rice crisps (You can usually find them down the health food aisle, if not a brown rice cracker fan, Dr. Kracker crackers would be great instead) and walnut halves. Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Witches' Roses

Even the sunshine can't help this Halloween scene become less scary...At night, add candle votives and be prepared to have the sudden urge to jump on a broomstick and fly towards the moon. ;)

Combine orange roses into a rusted pot. I found this great cast iron pot (or is an authentic old witches cauldron? I'm kind of hoping so, lol) at a garage sale and I thought, "Halloween!" But if you don't have one, any vintage sugar canister or apothecary jar, would work great also. Trim the roses down to size to fit the pot. Tie the end of the stems with a rubber band, to make it a tight little bunch. Add in twigs and water. Complete the scene by adding skulls, bugs, mini pumpkins and ripped up, tattered cloth. A black cat and a broom always helps. ;)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Black Ink Spaghetti with Squid

Everyone will scream in horror and run from the table, when they see squid tentacles falling over the plate, unexpectedly reaching and grasping to take hold of any helpless victim that falls in their path. (Ok, maybe not scream but it will be fun for sure, it's not every night that you have black ink spaghetti and squid tentacles for dinner.) For some reason the theme song from Jaws keeps playing in my head, when the shark is oh so close and everyone runs from the water, screaming, just as everyone will run from that dinner table. That was a great movie. I really need to watch Jaws over the weekend! Speaking of weekend, everyone have a great one and enjoy the fall foliage, carving pumpkins and grasping tentacles that you have to fight off, for dinner. ;)

  • 4 oz. black ink spaghetti, cooked al dente
  • 3/4 pound squid tentacles
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and finely minced
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes *optional
  • 2 cups good marinara sauce
  • 3 tablespoons light cream
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • sea salt, if needed

In a Dutch pot, on low heat combine the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute for 5 minutes, until the garlic gets soft. Add the marinara sauce and heat until it's simmering, about 5 minutes. Add the squid and simmer for about 5 minutes until the squid turns opaque and is pink and purple in color. Scoop the squid out, leaving the sauce in the pot. On high heat, bring the sauce to a boil for 2-3 minutes, add in the cream, pepper and salt. Heat for another 2-3 minutes, until thickened. Toss in the squid and spaghetti, gently toss and enjoy! Serves 2. Double or triple the recipe as needed. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Autumn Walk Push Pin Board

As I've been going on my walks with Daisy, my eyes are drawn to the beautiful leaves, each one unique, at the same time, each one perfect, like us. We are perfect in our own unique way. And it's time to reflect on your own uniqueness. There is no one in this world quite like you. Sure maybe close, but they don't love like you, laugh like you or smile the way you do. And maybe you haven't thought about your own unique qualities in a while and as the leaves show us, we are all special and all shine in our own way. And as autumn is a natural time, to hibernate like the bears, it's a time to go inwards and to give life some thought. Are you shining as the bright as the bright light that you really are?

I can't help but bring some leaves home from our walks and I am so in love with them and appreciate the beauty that they give my mornings and evenings. They needed to be embraced and my solution was to display them on a board. Although they won't last too long, they would survive a dinner party to be admired. If you have a mantle or a buffet table, you could easily lean it against the wall bringing the season indoors, in a matter of minutes! I found these great rustic push pins at a garage sale but you could always add some glam to this, by using shiny gold push pins. If you have a black and white theme in your living room, you could silver push pins. Have fun pinning and shining bright! ;)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Creepy Cauliflower

Halloween is a time to dance with what frightens us, and illusions are a big part of the season. And this creepy cauliflower does exactly that, on your dinner plate! You can surely get your teenagers and their friends to eat their veggies when you serve a creepy cauliflower "brain" for dinner. Taking this out of the oven, creepied me out and seeing it on the plate did also, so I think this is perfect for this time of year, where the scarier the better! After the creep factor sets in and the cauliflower is broken up, it's really good served with buttered and dilled brown basmati rice. Great for a creepy veggie night meal! Serves 4.

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • sweet Hungarian paprika
  • turmeric
  • garlic powder
  • 2 sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil, finely minced
  • 4 tablespoons light cream
  • ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Trim the cauliflower of its' leaves and cut the stalk down, (I cut in deeper, almost removing the stalk altogether, but be careful, if doing this.) so the cauliflower sits evenly in the pan. Next, run your knife down the center of the cauliflower and cut into it about an inch or so deep. Take a small knife and cut into the center cut, at an angle, creating that center part. (Although not much, you can save the trimmings for another use, like adding them into a bowl of soup.) Rub the olive oil over the cauliflower and season with the paprika, garlic powder, turmeric, salt and pepper. You can rub the spices into the cauliflower. Pack on the coriander seeds, letting them fall into the crevices of the cauliflower. Place in a baking pan and pour 1/2 a cup of water into the pan, give your cauliflower a final drizzle of olive oil and bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree pre-heated oven. After 30 minutes, pour another 1/2 cup of water over the cauliflower and bake for another 30 minutes. Repeat, this step again. Totaling the cooking time at an hour and a 1/2. If you want the cauliflower more tender, add 30 more minutes to the cooking time, adding another 1/2 cup of water. After your cauliflower is baked through, (fork tender in its' thicker parts) spread on the sun dried tomato and spoon on the light cream. Bake for about 5 minutes and your creepy cauliflower is done.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Initial Charm

Over the weekend, we went to Applefest in upstate New York, a street fair that is never void of a couples walking hand in hand, kids running around with freshly painted faces, laughing, dogs on leashes and lots of great stuff! And you have to have a game plan, arrive earlier than you think reasonable and stop at Cafe Ala Mode for a cup of graham cracker flavored coffee. And after that first sip, "Ahhhhh," you're ready to walk and get lost among vendors, the farmer market and the smells of street fairs. We ducked around a corner for some privacy, as we took bites of fried dough topped with powdery sugar, maneuvering ourselves with the wind, to avoid getting sprayed with white powder. (My husband was successful, I was not and wore black, lol. Patterned outfits are best when dealing with street fair food.) We marched on and had to keep an eye on Daisy as she randomly took licks of the street, lol. She was a really happy dog that day. On the side streets, there were garage sales tucked in between vendors and I was a happy girl that day too. After my garage sale rush, I found such an awesome rustic initial charm that I am currently obsessed with! If this is something that you would like, you can find your initial at Enter blisshousehappiness at the coupon code, at check out and get 10% off your total purchase! Offer is good through November 30, 2012. These are nice when layering your childrens' initials and would make a great gift!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Roasted Beef Bone Marrow Platter

Halloween skeletons sway from the trees, as October winds pick up and bring leaves with its whisper. Skeleton arms creepingly emerge from front yards alongside grave stones, as flickering lights complete the eerie scene. Halloween touches upon the darkside, as we embrace it and make peace with it. When I was little, my mom would make chicken soup and sometimes add marrow bones to enrich the flavor. And when the soup was done and I saw some empty marrow bones in my mom's bowl, my mom had to show me that the marrow had fallen out and were swimming in the bottom of the soup pot. (It didn't dissolve into the soup, like I had thought, lol and I was relieved!) After much reassurance, lol, I ate my soup and it was so good! It took me a long time to appreciate marrow bones, as my husband reintroduced me to them. In the cooler, rainy summer days, he made a broth with the bones and spread the soft buttery marrow on toast and I was a little hooked! Later tossing them on the grill, and now with the cooler weather upon us, tossing them in the oven. This is an appetizer that is indulgent and all you need to be satisfied is a little bit on toast. It's delicious with the salty olive tapanade. If you want more of a pungent flavor add a thin slice of blue cheese on top. And if you want pure indulgence, make a little well in your marrow and pour in a little cream...My favorite is the marrow spread on toast and topped with an arugula leaf, just delicious! And so, as we make peace with the darkside of the season, embracing the ghosts, ghouls and the supernatural, I've made peace with what I thought was from the darkside that was lurking in the chicken soup of my childhood...those marrow bones.

  • 1 & 1/2 pounds beef marrow bones
  • 1 ciabatta roll, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup black Cerignola olives
  • 1/4 cup oil cured olives
  • 1/4 cup tightly packed baby arugula leaves plus more for garnish
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 smashed garlic clove
  • sprinkle of garlic powder
  • ground black pepper
  • sea salt, if needed
  • 1 teaspoon pear infused balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • slice of blue cheese *optional
  • heavy cream *optional

Rub the garlic on both sides of the bread slices and lightly spritz with cooking spray, place on a cookie sheet. Place in a 425 degree pre-heated oven and bake for 5 minutes. Take your cookie sheet out, flip the slices over, spritzing the other side. Bake for 3-5 minutes, until as brown as you like. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Wash your bones well and place them in a heavy bottomed pan or glass pie dish and place in the oven for 35 minutes, roasting them uncovered. While your bones roast, make your olive and arugula tapanade. Remove the pits from the olives. Roughly chop the oil cured olives and finely mince the Cerignola olives. If you can't find the Cerignola olives, use any mild flavored black olive. In a bowl, combine half of the minced Cerignola olives with the oil cured and blend with a hand immersion blender or regular blender to make a paste. Combine that with the remaining Cerignola olives. Finely mince the arugula and add to the olives along with the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic powder and ground black pepper. Season with sea salt, if needed. Once your bone marrow is done, (they should be brown and bubbly) make your platter. Arrange the marrow bones, olive tapanade, toast, cream, blue cheese and arugula leaves so everyone can help themselves. Serve nice and hot. Serves 4.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Candele Lunghe in a Tomato Beef Sauce

Can also be called, "Worms in Tomato Sauce" for the older boys and girls that delight in a little bit of "ILLLL!" and "YUCK!" and similar squeals of the Halloween season. This is great to make on Halloween, before the kids go out trick or treating. You can make this ahead and just heat it up in the oven, the day of. Or you can even make it over the weekend and freeze it. (Just defrost before baking.) This is great for an adult Halloween party also! If you can't find candele lunghe you can use bucatini in its' place. And you can certainly use ground turkey instead of the ground beef, I actually prefer turkey over beef any day, but found free range, grass fed organic ground beef that I couldn't pass up. You can always make this dish vegetarian also! It's really important, to use a marinara sauce that isn't laden with oil, otherwise the pasta will be swimming in oil and you will get an ill and a yuck, but not the kind you were anticipating, that comes with a giggle, lol. Enjoy and have a happy weekend!

  • 1 pound candele lunghe pasta,broken in half, cooked al dente
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 5 small tomatoes, like Campari, roughly chopped equalling a cup
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • 1 24 oz. jar good marinara sauce (or a little larger)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 juniper berry
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Begin by heating up a drizzle of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add the beef, juniper berry, bay leaf, clove, paprika, salt and pepper. Saute the meat until browned, breaking it up as needed and cooked through, set aside. In the same pan, add a drizzle of olive oil and saute the tomatoes and the garlic on low heat for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes and garlic are cooked through. Add the jar of tomato sauce and cook for ten minutes. Discard the juniper berry, bay leaf and clove and add the beef to the sauce.

Use a nice amount of olive oil when cooking your pasta, so they don't stick to each other. Stirring the pasta often. Drain carefully and , use tongs to handle the hot pasta and spread out the noodles on parchment paper, so they don't stick to each other. Spoon 2 cups of the sauce down in a 13x9 pan and top with a layer of tightly packed candele lunghe.

Spoon on 1 cup of ricotta cheese. Follow by 2 more cups of tomato sauce. Top your sauce with another tight layer of the pasta. Spoon on another cup of ricotta cheese, followed by a layer of pasta. Ending with the remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake in a 350 degree, preheated oven for 30 minutes. This serves 6-8.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Halloween Floral Arrangement

I love this time of year, where spiderwebs hug almost everything in the house. Mice line the steps outside, bats hang from the ceiling and spiders are overtaking the house. Ripped dark gray cloth hangs from the windows and I'm just having so much fun with it! But I needed flowers! Not just any kind of flowers, but flowers that Morticia Addams would love! Grayish green seeded eucalyptus, stark white roses and burgundy kangaroo paw are creepingly combined in vintage glass bottles, to give this arrangement its' spook factor. Seeded Eucalyptus lasts a long time, and as your roses begin to wilt, take them from the vases, and dry them upside down, adding them back in, giving your arrangement a whole new look, perfect for Halloween!

You can find vintage glass bottles at garage sales or antique shops. These were three for a dollar and really give the arrangement its' character. Add in glass candle votives, (I found these mercury bubble votives at West Elm and think I can bring them out again around Christmas time!) Spanish moss and a white pumpkin or two, to complete the look. If using votives, make sure to give them enough space, so they don't wither your flowers and always burn your candles when you can have an eye on them. This is nice on a coffee table or if you find smaller glass bottles, you can line them up on a window sill also. This would be great running down a long table, if having a spooky Halloween dinner, just double or triple the amount of vases as needed. I first arranged the eucalyptus organically, followed by the roses sparingly and added in the kangaroo paw as a filler. Don't forget to add water to your bottles and not every bottle has to have the same arrangement of flowers. I love seeded eucalyptus and it's a pale, almost unnatural color makes this arrangement, Halloween-perfect. Have fun!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guacamole in a Pumpkin

I can eat an avocado drizzled with olive oil and topped with sea salt and be a happy girl, really happy girl, lol. I have a deep fondness for avocados. And as many times as I've made guacamole, each time it comes out different. Guacamole is great because you really can't mess it up, provided you have perfectly ripe avocados and complimenting ingredients. At times, it's loaded with fresh tomatoes, other times, I can't get enough cilantro in the mix, topping whole leaves, on the green mound of goodness. Sometimes, I want a lot of heat and add some minced jalapeno pepper. Other times, I've wanted just a little heat and have added some long hot pepper or Sriracha sauce. At times, thinly sliced scallions and extra crunchy sea salt is all I need. This last time I made it, I made it pretty simple, wanting chunks of avocado with a little cilantro. Come Halloween time, guacamole takes on a whole new look when piled into a pumpkin, looking like a little bit of a monster mash, lol. Serve with plantain strips and tomato wedges on the side. Enjoy right away!

P.S. For optimum enjoyment of your chips, don't leave them in the dip, they get soggy!

  • 1 2-pound sugar pumpkin
  • 5 small ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot, rinsed under hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • plantain strips
  • a few tomatoes, chopped

Draw a squiggly line around the top of the pumpkin for the opening with a pencil. Fixing it along the way as needed. Take a small utility knife and lightly score the design. Go in again with your utility knife to make the cut of the opening a little deeper. Make small movements with your knife as it can slip, so slower is better when cutting the opening for the pumpkin. Next, take a small utility saw or pumpkin saw and cut into the opening, going around one more time, if needed, until the lid comes off easily. Be really careful when handling the utiility knife and saw. *Remove the seeds and also a little bit of the inside of the pumpkin so you don't have pumpkin threads with your guacamole. Set your pumpkin aside. Begin making your guacamole. Juice 1/2 the lime and let your shallot sit in the lime juice for 10 minutes. Drain the shallot and squeeze dry, discarding the lime juice. Next, combine the avocado, cilantro, shallot and salt in a non-reactive bowl with the remaining juice of 1/2 the lime. Mash with the potato masher until well combined. And off course add more cilantro or lime juice as needed!

*Toss the pumpkin seeds with a little olive oil and sea salt or any seasoning you like and roast at 425, until light brown, stirring occasionally. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Witches' Roasted Chicken

I love this time of year, where street fairs fill the weekends and there is a touch of mystery of the season, in the air. The leaves were cascading down from their branches and the overcast sky completed the scene as small crowds stopped at booths, that had decorative wooden witches and black cats embroidered on puffy woolen pillows. It was a little quiet this year but it must have been the chill in the air that kept everyone home. I have to admit, it was chilly and used that excuse for a hot cup of snicker doodle flavored coffee. (It was delicious.) And although we enjoyed ourselves, I couldn't wait to get home and make a nice roasted chicken with fingerling potatoes and earthy shiitake mushrooms. The Halloween spirit got me in the mood to make a chicken that a true witch would approve of! lol The chicken is very juicy as it sits in the buttery porchini broth and gets basted with it and knobby-finger-looking-fingerling potatoes complete the meal! Serve with a red leaf lettuce salad tossed with an olive oil and pear balsamic vinaigrette. I added a touch of truffle oil to make it more special and it was delicious! This serves 4. Enjoy all!

  • 1 5 pound chicken
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, halved if too big
  • 4 tablespoons, unsalted butter
  • 1 porchini mushroom bouillon cube
  • 1 cup boiling hot water
  • 6 small garlic cloves, left in skin
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 whole purple basil leaves plus more for garnish, green basil is fine too!

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. With a sharp knife, carefully cut down the back of the chicken, so you are able to open the chicken so it lays flat in the pan. You can cut down the other side and remove the entire back and reserve it for stock, if you like. (I ended up doing that and added cabbage, carrots, beans and scallions and it's a nice way to start the meal, especially on a chilly autumn day.) If you feel uncomfortable cutting up the chicken, you can always ask the butcher to do it for you. After this last time, I think I'm going to invest in a nice pair of kitchen shears, to make this task easier. Lay your chicken down, skin side up, in a turkey roaster, or any pan big enough to hold the chicken, potatoes and mushrooms in one layer. Surround the chicken with the potatoes and garlic cloves. Dissolve the mushroom bouillon in the hot water and pour over the potatoes and garlic.

Divide 1 tablespoon of the butter into four pieces. Take your 4 basil leaves and stuff one under each of the legs and each of the breasts along with a piece of butter. Take 1 tablespoon and cut into small pieces. Top the chicken with the butter. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter to the potatoes. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, remove the pan and add the mushrooms. Baste the chicken, potatoes and mushrooms with the liquid from the bottom of the pan. Roast for another 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes is up, baste your chicken and vegetables again. Place back in the oven and roast for another 40 minutes. Remove your chicken and let it rest for 5 minutes, covered, before you carve it. (If you want more of a crispy skin, you can place the chicken under the broiler for a few minutes, watching it through the oven window, so it doesn't burn.) Garnish with some strips of basil. The roasted garlic cloves taste delicious when spread on the potatoes or chicken!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Rosemary Mushrooms

The cooler weather has me craving good old comfort food, that sticks to your ribs and leaves you happy. And gnocchi never disappoint! I had about a cup of pumpkin puree left over from making my "Corn & Pumpkin Soup with Wild Rice" (October 2nds' post) and wanted to make gnocchi. I never made them before and was excited and I used Hank Shaws' recipe that was featured on Simply Recipes and it came out great! What a nice recipe! I adapted it a little bit because I was in a rosemary and mushroom mood, and when a rosemary and mushroom mood hits, you gotta go with it! lol Nice recipe to make on a weekend where the leaves and temperatures are falling outside but the temperature inside is nice and warm from the gnocchi boiling away on the hot stove. Enjoy and happy weekend!

  • 1 cup of pureed pumpkin
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted flour plus more for dusting
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon finely minced rosemary plus 1/4 teaspoon finely minced for mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot
  • 10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  • 1 porchini mushroom bouillon cube *optional
  • chives for garnish *optional

First combine the pumpkin, ricotta cheese and eggs. Stir in the rosemary, pepper and sea salt. Put your mixture in the middle of a large board. Using a fork, add in the flour, little by little. I did about 1/2 a cup at a time. Once the dough was too thick to mix, I used my hands to incorporate the flour. If doing this, it's best to have a buddy next to you, adding in the flour for you. The dough will still be sticky but form it in a ball and transfer it to a board that is coated with flour. If you can, roll your ball in flour or with your hands rub more flour on the surface of your dough. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 4 pieces.

Take each ball and form into about a foot long log, rolling and pulling the dough along. Cut your log into about 1/2 inch strips. As you cut it will flatten the dough so squeeze the ends of each cut strip with your fingertips to make it more of a gnocchi shape.

Bring your water to a boil and add in your bouillon cube. If not using the bouillon, that's fine, you can use sea salt. You want enough water in the pot, so the gnocchi have room to cook. Drop in your gnocchi, a little at a time, in about 8 batches. I rolled, cooked along the way, each gnocchi roll was cooked in 2 batches. But for ease, having all the gnocchi formed and then boiling them is best. Cook them for 2 minutes each until they start bobbing up towards the surface. You want the broth boiling on high heat. Using a strainer spoon, take the gnocchi out and let them drain in a colander. Cook all of your gnocchi and set them aside, reserving a little bit of the cooking liquid. To make your rosemary mushrooms, in a large, heavy bottomed pan, combine the butter and the shallots. Saute on low heat until softened for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add in in the mushrooms and saute for ten minutes, until they get lightly browned. Add in 2 tablespoons of the broth, if not using broth, you can skip this step. Continue cooking your mushrooms for another 15 minutes. Once your mushrooms are soft, increase the heat to high, until most of the liquid is evaporated. It doesn't take that long, but it really depends on how much liquid the mushrooms have released. Add in your gnocchi and the rosemary. Season with sea salt and saute until the gnocchi are browned a little bit. Add in the heavy cream and stir until the cream has thickened. Garnish with chives and enjoy nice and hot! This makes 4 servings.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rib Eye Steak with Anchovy Butter

Halloween is around the corner and it's a time of fright. And for some reason, it reminded me of the few foods that frightened me as a little kid, those being bloody steaks, anchovies and  raw egg yolks. Bloody steaks always made me squirm in my seat, so much, that I gave up eating meat for a while, altogether. And when I found out what anchovies actually were, I thought to myself, "How can you put fish on a pizza pie?" But now, I appreciate anchovies and I've even topped my pizza with them and added blue cheese on top of that, lol. Now that's scary. (Now that I think about it, blue cheese freaked me out too, those moldy looking blue veins deeply embedded in a creamy white cheese, frightening.)  And my last fright being, over easy eggs. Mainly they grossed me out, almost as much as a gory horror film. But now, I enjoy over easy eggs and think they can make almost everything taste better. So in honor of the foods that once frightened me, they are gathered together in one dish. Once you break that yolk and it melts into the steaks' juices and it blends with the anchovy butter, it's not that scary anymore, lol. ;)

  • 1 14 oz. rib eye steak, bone in
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste, you can always use more
  • lots of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 raw egg yolk, reserve the egg white for another use
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Begin "churning" your heavy cream with a hand held immersion blender for about 10 minutes, until the liquid separates from the butter. I used a paper towel to strain the liquid from the butter, squeezing gently. Take your butter left in the towel and transfer it to a small bowl. Add in the anchovy paste and pepper, mixing with a fork. Place your anchovy butter onto a small piece of parchment paper, forming it with a spatula into a small log. Roll up your butter with the parchment paper. You can place it seam down on a small plate or tie it with kitchen twine. Place in the freezer for about 15 minutes to set it and then into the fridge, while you grill your steak. Alternatively you can use 4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter and mix in the anchovy paste and pepper, followed by the freezer. Rub a little olive oil on both sides of your steak and season with sea salt. Grill your steak to your liking and let it rest for 5 minutes. Top with a pat of anchovy butter and the raw egg yolk. If you want a little more saltiness, you can top with a few salt packed capers.
Enjoy and please take extra caution whenever eating foods raw. Start with a nice Cesar salad and crusty bread. Have the extra anchovy butter on the side, for your bread. This serves 2. It's a nice steak to share.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Catfish, Beans & Tomatoes

I love catfish, its' flavor, texture and versatility. I especially like that it doesn't fall apart easily and retains its' shape. The other night, I took catfish out of the fridge and was going season it and simply pan fry it for dinner. But as I began to clean the fish and pat it dry, I looked at the Campari tomatoes, and thought of the half a shallot, sitting in the fridge. "Mmm... cilantro would be great in this too", I thought to myself. I got out a can of beans, and the dinner started taking on its' own flavors. And my current obsession with smoked Spanish paprika, had to be added to the fish! Lately, it's in everything! The end result was delicious and was done in no time! Start with a salad and pair the catfish with rice, pasta or a potato side dish. This serves 2. Enjoy!

  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vegeta, or any all purpose seasoning
  • 3 small good tomatoes, like Campari, chopped
  • 8 oz. catfish fillet. cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 cup canned small white beans, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon minced cilantro, plus additional leaves for garnish

In a heavy bottomed pan, combine the olive oil, butter, shallot, paprika and Vegeta. Saute until the shallot is soft. Add the tomatoes and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the catfish and saute for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the beans and cilantro and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Corn & Pumpkin Soup with Wild Rice

I am seriously in the Halloween spirit! As I recall, this is the earliest the house is decorated. There are faux spiders and mice all around the house. Dark tattered curtains adorn the windows, that only a true witch would approve off. And creepy faux spiderwebs are everywhere, they blend into the natural spiderwebs, that the house is rarely void off. (I love this time of year, the real spider webs are part of the decorations! ;) lol.) If you are in the spirit also, this is a great soup to make. This soup can be a little creepy looking, but it's so fun and tasty. Late season corn makes this soup pleasantly sweet. If you want to skip the bugs-in-your-soup look, just serve without the wild rice. Either way it's a treat!

  • 2 ears of corn or 2 cups of frozen corn
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • heaping tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 1-2 cloves
  • 1-2 allspice berries
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 oz. light cream
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vegeta or any all-purpose seasoning that you like
  • 2 cups wild rice, cooked

If using fresh corn, run a sharp knife down the cob, to remove the corn kernels. Do it carefully. In a Dutch oven, melt the butter and add the shallot, saute until soft. Add the corn, chicken broth, pumpkin, cloves, allspice and turmeric. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once brought to a boil, bring down to low heat and simmer for 55 minutes, covered. After the time is up, remove the cloves and allspice and discard. Stir in the cilantro and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Carefully, remove your pot off the stove and either use a blender or a hand immersion blender and puree the soup. It still ends up a little chunky. If you want, you can strain it through a cheesecloth, to get it silky smooth. Once your soup is blended, put it back on the stove, on low heat. Whisk in the cream. Season with Vegeta or all purpose seasoning if needed and simmer for about 5 minutes. To serve this soup, use shallow soup bowls and mound the wild rice in the center. Ladle the soup around the rice. Pass around a small bowl with chopped cilantro, so everyone can help themselves. This serves 4 people.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Spanish Style Garlic Shrimp

October has arrived! One of my favorite months of the year! Where ghouls and ghosts abound and when extra protection from vampires is needed. And I've come up with the perfect dish to be enjoyed while protecting yourself from those pesty bloodsuckers. You don't have to fear Dracula coming near you, when making this garlic shrimp, actually, loved ones may not want to come near either, lol. So enjoy this with a fellow garlic lover, maybe when the sun is out, just in case ;) Enjoy!

  • 1 pound shrimp, (any size) deveined and patted dry
  • 7 large cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • a few saffron threads
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vegeta
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • sea salt, if needed

In a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan, combine 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, the butter and the garlic. Let this barely saute on the lowest heat possible, for 20 minutes, stirring often. You don't want the garlic to burn, you want it to get so soft, that the garlic becomes sweet. Stir in the shrimp and increase the heat slightly, to a regular low heat. Stir often for about 5 minutes, until the shrimp is cooked through and are opaque. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve nice and hot with crusty bread to dip into the garlic paprika scented olive oil. This is a nice appetizer or can serve 4 as a meal, when paired with buttered orzo and a nice salad. Enjoy!