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Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cups

 

 

 

I’ve got a bone to pick with Reeses. First, they make the only store bought candy that I can’t stop eating. The only Halloween treat I’m actually tempted to eat in bulk.

But my real issue is with their so called Peanut Butter Cup Pumpkins.

On first glance this Halloween treat seems like it contains, or at least tastes like, pumpkin. Which lures me into breaking my self imposed ban on store bought candy only to be left with the realization that the only thing Pumpkin about it, is the shape.

So I give to you the exact opposite. An Unprocessed, homemade treat that is not shaped like a pumpkin but contains real life, home roasted pumpkin.

If you want to make it a touch easier, you can combine canned pumpkin pie filling with peanut butter until it tastes right to you, but I like to roast my pumpkins myself. I just love real life produce that much, I pledge my allegiance to the framer and not the factory.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cups

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

(you will also need mini muffin tins and mini muffin papers)

Instructions

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate. Microwave on high for 20 seconds, stir and repeat until melted. Line a mini muffin tin with mini muffin papers. Add about 1 1/2 tsp of melted chocolate to each paper. Using the back of a spoon, gently "paint" the chocolate up the sides of the papers, making sure to leave enough on the bottom for a sturdy base.
  2. Place muffin tin in the refrigerator, chill until set, about ten minutes.
  3. Place the remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir until well combined. (Taste filling, add more honey for a sweeter filling.)
  4. Once the chocolate has set, add a small amount to the middle of the cups, making sure to avoid the top edges.
  5. Remelt chocolate if necessary.
  6. Top the muffin papers with melted chocolate, tap the muffin tin lightly on the counter to evenly distribute chocolate. Make sure the pumpkin filling is completely covered.
  7. Chill until set, about 10 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen.

 

Pumpkin Ale Waffles & How To Roast A Pumpkin

 Although most of you are in the giddy early stages of fall, here in Los Angeles it’s still over 90 degrees. So what the rest of the country is referring to as "Fall," I am calling Pumpkin Season. And to curb my near constant urge to shove as much pumpkin into everything I consume, I have elected to only make pumpkin from scratch, no cans.

It’s only really helped a little. It’s pretty easy to roast a pumpkin and turn it into massive quantities of pumpkin treats.

If you haven’t roasted your own, don’t be intimidated, its pretty simple.

Start with a pie pumpkin. They go by various other names, but they are not Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins used for carving. They are small, about the size of a cantaloupe.

Preheat oven to 375.

Remove the stem by running a butter knife around the edges and then prying it off. The most stubborn one I removed by whacking it on the edge of the counter. Popped right off.

Cut the pumpkin in half, right through the hole left by the stem.

Scoop the seeds out with a spoon.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place pumpkins on baking sheets, cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast at 375 for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until a fork can easily slide into the skin.

 Allow to cool and sccop the flesh out.

For a smoother texture, process in a food processor for about 3 minutes.

See, that’s not so hard. You can totally do that.

Pumpkin Ale Waffles

Ingredients
  

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 eggs divided
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1 cup Pumpkin Ale

(Makes 6 to 8)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat waffle iron.
  • Get out three bowls.
  • In the largest bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking power, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, stir until well combined.
  • Divide the eggs between the last two bowls, egg whites in one, yolks in the other.
  • In the yolks bowl, add the milk and pumpkin puree, stir until well combined. Add the melted butter and stir.
  • Using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry mixture and stir until just combined, don't over mix. Add the beer and stir until combined. Gently fold in the egg whites.
  • Spray waffle iron with butter flavored cooking spray. Cook waffles according to manufactures directions.

 

 

Skinny Baked Potato Soup 210 Calories

 

Raise your hand if you ate way to much this weekend.

I finally found pie pumpkins in my city wide search and participated in hours of pumpkin glutton. Those posts will be up later, but I needed a bit of a pumpkin detox before jumping back in for more. I have no plans to stop my fall pumpkin worship, but I needed a break.

I am also preparing for October Unprocessed. Have you taken the challenge? I signed up. Andrew of Eating Rules has asked if we could all go just one month without eating processed foods. I did it last year and found that it was both easier and more challenging that I had thought. What is processed food? That’s quite the debate, but it gets you thinking. It was, more than anything, a great reminder to read every single label on every single package I buy. Why am I buying a jam with ingredients I don’t recognize when I can just buy the one with only two: Strawberries, sugar.

Why don’t I just buy my bread from the baker down the street, with his 4 ingredients rather than the  package from across the country with 17 ingredients?

More produce, less cans, no Doritos. You can do it.

There is no fixed answer to the question, "What is unprocessed?" but the simple answer is: do you have (or could you have) all of those ingredients in your kitchen and could a person reasonably make it themselves.

For instance, I have lots of friends who are home brewers and they make beer themselves. So that makes beer OK to have, it passes the Kitchen Test. If you could reasonably assume you COULD make it, it’s OK.

However, I have no idea how to pronounce half of the ingredients in Oreos, I don’t have those in my kitchen, I could not make that product, with those exact ingredients, so sorry, no Oreos for me. For more in depth answer to the questions, you can read this.

The best thing about this challenge, is that it gets us thinking. About what we eat, who we "vote for" with the dollars we spend, and what we are training our bodies to crave.

And if you can’t go a month with eating just real whole food, then why not? Why is that hard for you?

I encourage you sign up, even if you know you can’t be perfect. Can you do Unprocessed Wednesday Night Dinners? Sign up and give it a try. It will get you thinking about what you’re eating, and what you are feeding your family.

This soup recipe could even be debated (although it is not yet October). While some ingredients easily pass the kitchen test, it reminds you to read the labels on the brands of sour cream and cheese you buy. Some will only have three or four easily recognized ingredients while some brands will have several more. It’s just about being mindful of what you buy.

Skinny Baked Potato Soup 210 Calories

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 leek, chopped (only white and light green part)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups fat free chicken broth
  • 4 cups cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup milk

Garnishes:

  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese, 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onion or chives, chopped

(Makes 4 servings)

Instructions

  1. In a pot over medium high heat, add the leeks and onions, cook until softened, stirring frequently. Add garlic and stir. Add the chicken broth, potatoes, and cauliflower and allow to boil until vegetables are softened, about 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender or a food processor, puree until smooth. Stir in the spices and milk, return to heat and allow to simmer until thickened to desired consistency (the longer you simmer, the thicker the soup will become).
  3. Divide among 4 bowls, top each one with 2 tbs sour cream and stir. Top with remaining garnishes and serve.

 

DIY Glow In The Dark Halloween Ghost Craft

DIY Glow In The Dark Halloween Ghost Craft


Maybe you don’t know this, but the first post I ever did for this blog was a craft post on how to make Homemade Paper Lanterns. It wasn’t too much longer that I was sucked into the food blog scene and haven’t really looked back.

I do still love to get my crafting hands dirty, and this little DIY is so easy, I hope you forgive me for my break from those food posts I love so much.

Make a dozen or so to hang from your trees on Halloween, they turned out a little creepy in the best way.

Materials (for 1 ghost):

1 large clear plastic christmas ornament (I found this at Michael’s Arts & Crafts for $1)

1 to 3 glow sticks (or glow necklaces) that are small enough to fit inside the ornament

Round black felt stickers, or black felt cut into cricles

6 feet of cheese cloth (most grocery stores sell this in the baking section)

 

Remove the metal top from the ornament. Place the glow sticks inside (but wait until dark to break the glow stick). I found that two or three work better once its dark.

Replace the metal top.

Add the black felt stickers (or cut out circles and glue them) to the ornament to resemble eyes.

Cut the cheese cloth into 2 foot strips. You can also cut it into various lengths to add a bit of dimension.

Layer the cloth over the ornament and push the metal ring through the cloth.

DONE!

That’s it, takes about 5 minutes.

Here is day time creepy ghost:

And night time creepy ghost.

 

 

Beer Pretzel Bread Bowls & Oktoberfest

 

Although Oktoberfest has morphed into a festival of beer, it began as a celebration of a royal wedding more than 200 years ago. It starts in September, last for 16 days and ends on the first Sunday in October.

I can assume that most of you won’t be making it to Munich to participate in the festivities at the celebrations birth place. But, if you want to throw yourself your own little Oktoberfest, I have some facts for you that can help you celebrate in a more authentic fashion than those American street fairs in late October with macro beer and  sorifity girls in period inaccurate midriff baring wardrobes.

First, you’ll need some local beer, Oktoberfest only serves beer brewed in the Munich city limits. Follow suit and find the breweries closest to your own home, or talk that home brewer you know into making you a batch, those guys are always up for sharing.

Second, learn the opening salute. For the past 60 years the celebration has been kicked off by the mayor of Munich yelling, "O' zapft ist!" (it’s tapped!) after the very first keg of Oktoberfest beer has been tapped.

Make fun of people who can’t hold their liquor. Really, this is always a good idea, but at the festivals in Munich, those who get too drunk and pass out are teased with  the label "Bierleichen" (beer corps). Please, know your limits.

Traditional foods include:  Roast pork, sausages, pretzels, potato dumplings, cheese noodles, potato pancakes, sauerkraut, and  spiced cheese-butter spread.

Although not technically a traditional Oktoberfest food, beer cheese soup has made it’s way onto Oktoberfest menus all over the word. Throw in some sausage and sauerkraut and serve it in a pretzel bread bowl to make it a little more credible.

Beer Pretzel Bread Bowls & Oktoberfest

Ingredients
  

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 packet of dry active yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup wheat beer
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • water
  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 3 tbs melted butter
  • 2 tbs coarse salt

Instructions
 

(Makes 4 bread bowls or 8 dinner rolls. Bread bowls are fairly small and only hold about a cup of soup each.)

  • Add flour, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachement. Stir to combine.
  • In a microwave safe bowl, add the beer. Microwave for 20 seconds, test temperature and repeat until the beer reaches 110 degrees (if the beer is too hot, it will kill the yeast). Sprinkle the beer with the yeast and wait for it to foam (this is called proofing the yeast, if it doesn't foam the yeast is bad).
  • Pour the beer into the bowl and stir at a low speed until well combined, turn the speed up to medium until the dough gathers around the hook and is smooth.
  • Oil a large bowl with olive oil. Remove the dough from the mixer, form into a ball and place in prepared bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to sit in a warm, dry area until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl, knead on a light flowed surface until smooth, about 2 minutes. Break into 4 equal pieces (you can also make 8 dinner roll size portions) form into balls. Cover balls with plastic wrap, allow to sit until doubled in size, about 20 mintes.
  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Fill a large pot with water, making sure there is room for it bubble up without spilling over, but deep enough for the large dough balls. Bring water to a boil, add the baking soda. Cut an X into the top of each bread ball. Place gently in the baking soda water and cook, turning once, for about 30 seconds. Remove from water and place on a baking sheet covered with a Silpat, or sprayed with cooking spray, cut side up. Repeat for all bread balls.
  • Brush liberally with melted butter, sprinkle with salt.
  • Bake at 375 for 25 minutes, or until a dark golden brown in color.

 

Crab Cake Eggs Benedict with Bacon Hollandaise

I think we know each other well enough by now that I don’t have to try and pretend. If a dish is easy, I’ll tell you. If it’s quick, I’ll tell you. If it’s healthy, I’ll tell you.

This is none of those things. It is, however, worth the effort. It’s a special occasion breakfast to keep in your back pocket, for, you know, if Bradley Cooper stops by for breakfast. It could happen.

It’s actually not that difficult. Although, I do hesitate to say that since my "not that difficult" is someone else’s "Oh my GOD, is she nuts??"

But really, you can do this. I even gave you a food processor version of a hollandaise, which is SUPER easy, you don’t even have to worry about turning your sauce into scrabbled eggs, which is what I did the first time I tried to make it the traditional way.

If you want to make this in stages, you can assemble the crab cakes ahead of time, put them on a plate, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then cook the following day. You can also make the sauce ahead of time, and then reheat slowly in a double boiler. You can EVEN replace the poached eggs with fried eggs to make it even easier. But really, it’s not that difficult.

And I believe in you.

I think all food people have a small stash of items that we buy at Gourmet Food Stores that we save for special recipes. Spices, the good salt in those fancy containers, crab meat, things like that. This is a recipe I found worthy of breaking into my Gourmet Food Store stash. Rare for a breakfast recipe, but this one made the cut.

Crab Cake Eggs Benedict with Bacon Hollandaise

Ingredients

For The Crab Cakes:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tbs melted butter
  • 8 oz lump crab meat
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs, plus one cup divided
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning

For the Hollandaise:

  • 4 strips bacon
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tbs lemon
  • pinch cayenne
  • 4 eggs (for poaching)

Makes 4 servings

Instructions

  1. Combine all the crab cake ingredients in a bowl (reserving one cup of Panko for the coating). Form into 4 patties, about 1 inch thick. Place remaining Panko in a bowl. One at a time, place the patties in the Panko and press until well coated on all sides with bread crumbs. Place on a plate and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. In a pan over medium high heat, cook the bacon, turing frequently, until crispy and cooked trough. Remove the bacon and set aside. Once the bacon is removed, add the crab cakes to the pan, cooking in the bacon grease until golden brown on the underside, flip carefully and cook on the other side until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat.
  3. In a food processor, add the bacon, process until only crumbs are left. Add the egg yolks and process for about 3 minutes. Melt the butter in a pot on the stove (or in the microwave) until hot and steaming. While the food processor is running, slowly, slowly add the butter until well combined with the yolks. Add the lemon and the cayenne, process until combined. If your sauce is too thick, add water to thin, about a teaspoon at a time.
  4. Poach the eggs in simmering water.
  5. Place one crab cake on each plate, top with poached egg, then sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dirty Girl Scout: Chocolate Mint Beer Float

 

This isn’t a recipe. Not really, it’s more like assembly instructions for how to make a float that tastes like a Girl Scout Thin Mint, but with beer.

Boozy, chocolatey, minty.

But there really isn’t a recipe involved. Add more ice cream if that’s what you like. Add more beer, if that suits you.

I used my homemade Chocolate Mint Stout Ice Cream & a lot of Bison Chocolate Stout.

It tastes like beer. In case you were hoping for one of those overly sweet concoctions they sell at diners.

But, more or less, this is how you do it:

 

Step one:

Add a few scoops of chocolate mint ice cream to the bottom of a mug.

 

Grab some beer, chocolate stout is preferable.

Pour beer over ice cream.

 

Enjoy.

 


Chocolate Mint Stout Ice Cream

There are two ways to look at this.

It’s either the summer death rattle manifesting itself in an ice cream during the first week of fall, or it’s the nexus of the best of summer treats and the best of fall beers joining forces at the perfect moment.

For this, I used Bison Chocolate Stout. Rich, dark and beautiful. Although I did try and hold out for the Stone Chocolate Mint Stout that I’ve been teased with for months now, I may have to give this recipe another try when the red tape is lifted and the world is able to indulge in that.

I also used Green & Blacks Mint Dark Chocolate, adding a smooth peppermint flavor.

Resulting in a rich, smooth ice cream that’s like a Girl Scout Thin Mint, but with beer. And, that’s really what those cookies need: beer.

 

 

Chocolate Mint Stout Ice Cream

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chocolate stout or chocolate mint stout
  • 7 ounces of 60% dark chocolate with peppermint oil such as Dark Chocolate Mint from Green & Blacks, broken into chunks
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar

Instructions
 

  • In a pot over medium high heat, add the cream, milk, mint leaves cream and stout. Bring to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat, remove and discard mint leaves, and stir in the chocolate until melted.
  • In a separate bowl, add the egg yolks and the sugar, whisk until well combined. Slowly add the chocolate milk, whisking continually, until about 1/2 the mixture has been added to the egg yolks. Add the egg yolk mixture back into pot, whisk until well combined. Return pot to heat and bring to a mild simmer.
  • Refrigerator until chilled, about 3 hours.
  • Churn in ice cream maker according to manufactures directions. Chill until firm.

 

 

 

Green & Blacks provided me with a sample of chocolates used in this post. I was not monetarily compensated for this recipe. All thoughts, opinions and ideas are my own. 

Jalapeno Bacon Dip

This is a Game Day win.

Maybe it’s cliche but my favorite part of game day parties is the food. And the socialization.

I understand football, don’t get me wrong. I played powder puff in college at the Free Safety position, I even made a girl cry once. But that’s on her, if you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the end zone.

It’s just that my attention span is pretty short when it comes to things I have no emotional investment in the outcome.

But I do love being at the house of true fans, which give me some emotional investment in their team winning. I’ll root for your team, and bring you some bacon dip, as long as your team isn’t playing The Seahawks. Because if I root against The Seahawks, I might wake up a single woman the next day.

Jalapeno Bacon Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 fresh jalapenos
  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 6 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, plus 1/4 cup divided
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Cut the stems off the jalapenos.
  3. Since the seeds of the jalapenos contain most of the heat, you can adjust the heat level of your dip depending on how many seeds you leave in. For a mild dip, remove them all, for an extra spicy dip, leave them all in. I removed the seeds from one pepper and left the seeds from the other. The dip was perfect heat level for some, but too spicy for others. I would recommend removing at least half of the seeds to serve to a large group.
  4. Chop the peppers.
  5. In a food processor add the chopped jalapenos (with the amount of seeds you want), cream cheese, 1 cup parmesan, sour cream, bacon (reserve a few tbs for a garnish on top), smoked paprika, and garlic powder and process until well combined.
  6. Pour into a baking dish. Garnish with remaining cheese and bacon.
  7. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  8. Serve warm.

 

 

 

Cheesy Potato Pancakes with Jalapeno Sour Cream

I like to throw parties, invite people over and make them feel at home. I like to make more than enough food, and for everyone to leave very full and with a take away bag of goodies. But the last time I had a little gathering at Casa De Dodd, I had overlooked my Gluten Free friends. I had remembered the vegetarians, and the vegans, the people who don’t drink beer, but for the ones who are allergic to gluten there wasn’t much. I felt terrible.

Gluten Free isn’t a fad diet. It isn’t Paleo or Raw or Weight Watchers. It isn’t a choice. It’s a medical condition and a food allergy  that is one of the fasted growing diagnosed food allergies in the United States.

Gluten Free (Celiac’s Disease) people don’t want to give up bread. And regular pizza, or hamburger buns and flour tortillas, they don’t have much of a choice. Eat gluten free or become debilitatingly ill. Have you ever had food poisoning? In away, it’s like that.

And with over 3 million American’s allergic to gluten, chances are your next party may have one. It might even be you, Celiacs is most often diagnosed in adulthood. Because we want everyone who walks into our parties to feel at home, we all need to have a stock pile of appetizers to accommodate. Because unlike other diets, this isn’t a choice.

Because gluten is used as a thickener in tons of processed foods, it can easily hid in obscure places like canned soup, pre-made salad dressing, imitation crab, cheese spread and some brands of soy sauce.

At each party I need to have a few Celiac Friendly dishes that I made from scratch so that I can be sure there isn’t any rogue gluten waiting like a digestive ninja to attach my friends insides. Potatoes are a great place to start. Because who doesn’t love potatoes? It’s like not liking puppies or The Beatles.

So when you come across Gluten Free appetizers and dishes that you love, bookmark for them for gatherings. Because your friends would do it for you.

Cheesy Potato Pancakes with Jalapeno Sour Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red potatoes, grated with a cheese grater
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs masa (corn flour used to make corn tortillas)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (if using pre shredded, check to make sure it does not contain gluten)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 jalapeno, diced, stem and seeds removed
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika

Instructions

  1. Place grated potatoes between several sheets of paper towels, press to remove some of the moisture. In a bowl, combine the grated potato, egg, masa, salt, pepper, cayenne and onion powder, mix until combined.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Form potatoes into silver dollar sized pancakes about 1/4 inch thick. Add to the pan and cook until browned, about 2 minutes, then flip pancake. Top the pancakes with a small amount of cheddar cheese, cook until cheese is melted and underside of the pancake is browned, about an additional 3 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to drain on a paper towel.
  3. In a bowl, combine the sour cream, jalapenos and smoked paprika, mix. Top the potato pancakes with sour cream. Serve warm.

 

Cucumber Cups Stuffed With Goat Cheese Caprese

 

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

On Friday I fought a culinary chicken battle that ended with a giant foam core check with my name on it. This was my second attempt to win the Semi-Finals of the Foster Farms Chicken Cook Off, last year wasn’t my year. But this year, I won a giant check, a trip to Napa, the opportunity to cook at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (my favorite prize so far) and the chance to grab another Giant Check worth ten grand.

I’m so excited. Not just because the other dishes I was competing against were incredible and each worthy of their own Big Check, but because, in a way, this Big Check (that currently sits on my bar, in all it’s 4 foot long splendor) serves as a validation for what I do. I’m good at this! See, look, other people picked my recipe out of thousands of other ones!

Maybe that seems silly, I create 3 to 5 recipes a week, post them for you and you seem to like them. You send me emails and post comments telling me that you liked my little creations. That should be enough, right?

But for some reason, that Big Check gave me tangible evidence that my recipes are good. Other people, who don’t even know who wrote that recipe, liked it.

Maybe I have a future here.

;

For this, I’m resurrecting and re-creating one of my most popular posts.

I love these little cucumber cups, so easy, so versatile, the perfect thing to throw together for a party. They take about 5 minutes, and they look so fancy. I used persian cucumber for these, smaller than your standard English cucumbers and the skin is so thin, there is no need to peel them.

Just use a small melon baller to scoop out a good portion of the middle, or use a paring knife to cut a wedge out of the middle and you can fill them with just about anything.

Cucumber Cups Stuffed With Goat Cheese Caprese

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup balsamic
  • 4 Persian Cucubers
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, chopped
  • 3 large basil leaves, chopped
  • salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. Place balsamic in a small sauce pan over medium high heat. Cook until reduced by half (you can also by pre-reduced balsamic, called balsamic glaze, in the market near the balsamic vinegar).
  2. Cut the cucubmbers into 1 1/2 inch slices. Use a melon baller to scoop out the middle, leaving the walls and bottom in tact.
  3. In a bowl, add the goat cheese, tomatoes, basil and stir until combined. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Fill cups with goat cheese mixture, drizzle with balsamic reduction.

 

 

Beer & Bacon Pecan Bars

 

 

Clearly, I’m ready for fall. And in Los Angeles, that just means that Dodgers games are starting to end and I get to wear a light sweater. If I feel like it. Oh, and fall produce. If I haven’t mentioned to you before my favorite part of living in Southern California, its this: Farmers Markets.

This Golden State that I live in grows half of all the produce grown in the United States (that’s a lot) and we get to have Farmers Markets nearly every day of the year. And although mid-rant I realize that this post doesn’t even contain any produce, it does contain those fabulous flavors of fall. With bacon. And beer. And fall farmers markets are my favorite. No matter what day of the week, somewhere in Los Angeles there is a Farmers Market in which I can unnecessarily bundle up and walk from stall to stall with a cup of coffee buying local vegetables in the "chilly" mid 60 degree weather.

Pecan pie will always remind me of fall and for nearly a year I’ve wondered what it would be like to add bacon. And of course, beer.

Turns out, these are the best damn pecan pie bars I’ve ever had.

 

Beer & Bacon Pecan Bars

Ingredients
  

For The Crust:

  • 1 stick plus 2 tbs 10 tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs water

For the Filling

  • 1 cup stout
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups chopped pecan
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 strips of bacon cooked and chopped

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • In a food processor add the flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and salt, pulse to combine. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the food processor. Process until butter is incorporated into the flour mixture. Add the water and process to combine. Add additional water, 1 tsp at a time if there is flour that still hasn't been dampened.
  • line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper (this will make it easier to remove from the pan) and dump the shortbread into the pan. Press into the bottom of the baking pan in one even layer.
  • Bake at 350 for 12 minutes of until a light golden brown. Allow to cool before adding the filling or the crust and filling will mesh together.
  • In a pot over medium high heat, add the stout, cook until reduced by half. Add the butter and stir until melted, remove from heat. Add the sugar, pecans, cream, corn syrup and stir until melted. Once the mixture has cooled to room temperature, add the eggs and stir until combined.
  • Pour the filling over the crust, sprinkle with cooked bacon and bake at 350 until the filling no longer jiggles when you gently shake the pan, about 25-30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Compost Toffee

There is this bakery in New York called Momofuku Milk Bar that sells baked goods so perfect, they defies the laws of baking. They have this incredibly popular Compost Cookie recipe that people line up to buy fresh out of the oven.

And I’ve been missing New York a lot lately, and the time I used to spend there, before I was a mom. I miss the roof top parties, the back stage passes, the music festivals, the rock shows, chatting with celebrities, chefs tastings, my single friends with fascinating careers, and epic dinners that lasted all night.

Which might be why I wanted to a little piece of the NYC I miss, turned into a toffee.

But then last night I got to do something even better than all those night in New York during my 20-something life. I ran around the back yard playing "I’m gonna get you" with my little girl, while my husband volunteered to do the dishes, and then my daughter curled up in my lap to eat rasins and watch Sesame Street.

No passes, no list, no plane tickets.

As much as those pre-mom nights had a higher marquee  value, this is the good stuff. This is what I’ll miss when I’m old, and even my grandkids have babies.

I loved my 20’s, and I’m glad I was able to run around the world with my husband, but now I’m glad to run around the back yard with my daughter.

And if all I have left of New York is memories and cookies I turn into toffee, I’m ok with that. Because it all comes down to my life’s motto: Figure out what is great about the situation you are in and enjoy the crap out of it. 

Compost Toffee

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tbs corn syrup
  • 2 tbs water
  • 2 cup 60% dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup pretzels, smashed
  • 1/4 cup potato chips, smashed
  • 2 tbs butterscotch chips
  • 2 standard sized graham crackers, smashed

Instructions

  1. In a large pot over high heat add the butter (make sure to use a large pot) and stir until melted. Clip a candy thermometer onto the edge of the pot, add both types of sugars, corn syrup and water. Stir continuously until it turns an amber color and hits 300 degrees. This process will take between 15 and 20 minutes from start to finish. pour onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a Silpat. Allow to cool.
  2. Add the chocolate to a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until chocolate is melted. Pour over the toffee and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle remaining ingredients evenly over the warm chocolate. Allow to cool until set.
  3. Cut into pieces.

 

Beer Soaked Apple Pie With Cheddar Beer Crust

When it comes to baking, I’m always intrigued by a new spin on an old favorite. Not to say that I don’t fully appreciate the simplicity and beauty of a perfect and well done classic recipe.  I’ll never tire of a traditional, straight forward apple pie with a huge scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream.

But I was introduced to the pure magic of a cheddar pie crust as an encasement for a traditional apple pie, by Kelly of Evil Shenanigans. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I want to beer-ify (it’s a word) that perfect pie. Kelly’s cookbook, Not So Humble Pies is all about how to take that sweet little pie you’ve always loved and turn it into something they’ll never forget.

She even agreed to let me post my modified and beer-ified version of the crust that’s in her book. Maybe because she watched me greedily inhale two pieces of her pie in record time and was afraid of my possible reaction to not having said pie in my life any longer.

Here is my beer version of an apple pie with a cheddar crust. Which served as dessert, then breakfast the following day, then dinner.

It’s pretty versatile.

 

 

Beer Soaked Apple Pie With Cheddar Beer Crust

Ingredients
  

Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6-8 tbs beer pale ale, or wheat beer work best
  • 2 tbs melted butter to brush on prior to baking

Filling:

  • 7 cups Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and sliced (Granny Smith are the only apples that will not turn mushy during this process)
  • 16 oz pale ale or wheat beer
  • 2 lemons juiced
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp corn starch

Instructions
 

  • Combine 1 1/2 cups of flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor, pulse a few times until its combined. Add the butter and process until well combined, about 2 minutes.Add the remaining flour and process until incorporated, about 1 minute.
  • Move to a bowl and add the cheese and 6 tbs beer, mix until just incorporated. Don't over mix. If the dough is too dry, add more beer until the right consistency is reached.
  • Split into two equal sized portions and form into disks. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and chill until very firm, about two hours. Because this dough is so soft, it is very important for the pie dough to be very cold and very firm.
  • Place the apples, lemon juice and 16 ounces of beer in a bowl and allow to soak at room temperature for 2 hours. If the apples are not fully submerged, toss every half hour to redistribute. Remove the apples from the beer and allow to drain and dry for about 30 minutes, or until fully dry.
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Add the apples and the remaining filling ingredients to a bowl and toss to coat.
  • On a well floured surface, place one of the disks, add flour to the top of the disk as well.
  • Roll out into an even thickness. Marble rolling pins are very cold and don’t disrupt the fat inside the dough, making them an excellent choice for rolling pie dough. When you place your dough in the fridge to chill, add your marble rolling pin as well, allowing it to chill.
  • Add you pie dough to a pie pan and press into shape, removing any excess. Add the filling.
  • Roll out the second disk of pie dough and add to the top of your pie. Press the top crust and the bottom crust together at the edges, cut holes to vent steam.
  • Brush with 2 tbs melted butter.
  • Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cover the edges with foil of the edge starts to brown too quickly.

Crust adapted from Not So Humble Pies, Kelly Jaggers

Brownie Waffles

I can’t decide if I’ve been obsessed with Dessert for Breakfast or if it’s really an obsession with Breakfast for Dessert.

 

Well, you say, it depends on what time of day said meal is being consumed. Although if this dessert/breakfast hybrid is eating all day long, the lines get a little blurred.

Now that I’ve shared with you my Pecan Pie French Toast, and Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes now I throw these Brownie Waffles at you.

I figured out that although I eat pretty well most of the week, I let myself eat whatever I want at my Saturday morning breakfast, making me want to get the most bang for my bite. Hence, breakfast and dessert crammed into one plate. I hope you don’t mind too much.

And if you want to get craaaazy, go ahead and top this with vanilla ice cream. And sprinkle it with bacon. But make sure and invite me over.

Brownie Waffles

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup milk (divided in half)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturers specifications.
  2. Get out three bowls.
  3. In the largest bowl, add the flour, baking powder,cocoa powder, and salt, stir.
  4. In a microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate chips and 1/2 cup milk. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until melted. Add the remaining milk, vegetable oil, vanilla and only the yolks of the two eggs.
  5. Add the whites to the third bowl, along with the sugar. Whip with a hand mixer until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes.
  6. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the chocolate milk mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold into the egg whites until just incorporated.
  7. Cook in waffle iron according to manufacturers specifications, using butter flavored cooking spray if indicated.
  8. And I recommend topping with whipped cream, or ice cream, or frosting, or chocolate chips, or all of it.

Chocolate Chip, Stout & Beer Nut Cookies

 

If you live in the Los Angeles area, I’m going to need you to do me a favor. I’ve somehow been booked on CBS, Los Angeles mid-day news with a cooking segment this Friday, August 31st. They want me to do a quick Cooking With Beer segment on the news at noon. People will be hungry, naturally, it is lunch time, and my hope is that this will persuade them to ignore any brief moments of nervousness that I have.

But If you could tune in, and support me, that would be great. I’m not really nervous, I keep waiting for that to set in, but it hasn’t yet. When it does, I would love to know that people who have been visiting me here on this little blog for the past year are out there cheering me on.

That would be great.

In the meantime we’re going to make some cookies. These call for the classic Beer Nuts, which I found myself in possession of after a particularly round night of cards at my house. Several bags of Beer Nuts left by an anonymous donor.  And I can’t just leave them in my pantry, I need to find a use for them.

We are also going to revisit that crazy idea I have of making beer extract. Because vanilla is just too…well, vanilla.

 

Chocolate Chip, Stout & Beer Nut Cookies

Ingredients
  

  • 3/4 cup stout beer
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips 60%
  • 3 oz bag Beer Nuts

(Makes 10-12 cookies)

Instructions
 

  • In a pot over medium high heat add the beer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 tbs.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and both types of sugar, beat until well creamed. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Add the 1 tbs of beer extract and beat until well combined, scraping the bottom to make sure all the ingredients are well combined.
  • In a sperate bowl, add both types of flour (these two types of flour are very important to the end result of your cookies, regular all purpose flour will not give you the same results), cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add dry ingredients to the stand mixer and mix on medium/low speed until just barely combined, don't over mix. Add the chocolate chips and Beer Nuts, and stir until incorporated.
  • Resting the dough is an important step in this recipe. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, scoop golfball sized scoops of dough, roll them into round balls and place on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes or until light golden brown, don't over bake. (If you don't chill the dough, or if you make smaller sized cookies, the cooking time will be much shorter. Start to keep an eye on your cookies after about 14 minutes).

 

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

I’ve spent all day with an internal struggle about the limits of my acceptance of other people. Probably a much too serious intro for a post about pancakes, but bear with me, you might have some insight I could really use.

I’ve always prided myself on being a person who is able to see people for who they are, in the context of their own culture and life experiences and find beauty, talent and value without the qualification and framework of my own situation.

Whether it be a trailer park in South Central Los Angeles, a cave in Morocco, or a bus bench in Greece I’ve always been able to do that. Easily.

But today I was challenge with a though: what about hateful, small-minded, bigoted people?

What about racists?

The homophobic?

Are those people I should love and keep in my life?

I had an interaction with someone who left me wondering about my assertion that I have the anthropological capacity to care about other people regardless of who they are, what their beliefs or culture dictates, without judgement.

Can I judge someone merely for judging others? Isn’t that the epitome of hypocritical?

Isn’t the greater definition of open-minded and open-hearted to love those who are a challenge to love? I do believe that there is good in everyone. But is it worth it to try to dig past the hate and anger of a racist or homophobic friend or family member, or is that level of toxicity a fundamental deal breaker?

If you have some insight, let me know. For now I will proceed with caution, because the bottom line is I want to love everyone. I don’t want anyone, or any group of people, to be designated as a group I should hate. Because hate just breeds more hate.

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup milk (use coconut milk for dairy free, this is what I used)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup raisins (plus more for garnish)

Instructions

  1. In a bowl add the flour, oats, salt, brown sugar, baking powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, mix until well combined. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the milk, egg and vanilla, stir until just combined. Add the raisins and stir.
  2. Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat, coat with cooking spray.
  3. Drop about 1/4 cup of batter on the hot griddle. Cook until dry on the edges and bubbles start to form in the center. Flip and cook on the other side until cooked through, about 2 more minutes.

(Yield: 6-8 pancakes)

Cherry Peach Tart With Coconut Cointreau Whipped Cream (Vegan)

Julia Child would have turned 100 today. She’s an inspiration, not just for those of us who cook, but for anyone who is sitting in an unfulfilling life wondering how then ended up where they did. Anyone who thinks they are "too old" to start a new path.

Julia didn’t start cooking until she was 32 and she didn’t enter culinary school until she was 37. And just look at how that turned out for her, I’d say pretty well. What if she had felt "too old" to start learning how to cook? Would we still be putting canned pineapple slices on ham and eating Sarah Lee on special occasions?

Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t start writing until she was in her 40’s and her Little House books weren’t written untill she was in her 60’s.

Martha Stewart was a stock broker until she started working on renovating a farm house at the age of 32.

Andrea Bocelli didn’t start singing opera until he was 34.

Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 70.

Makes me feel like I have an early start on this career change I want to make. Instead of thinking "Who am I to do that?" Start thinking, "Why not me?" If they can do it, why not you?

 

Reminder: If you are in San Diego and want tickets to the Foster Farms Cook Off on September 7th, check this out.

Cherry Peach Tart With Coconut Cointreau Whipped Cream (Vegan)

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable shortening (can sub butter for non vegan)
  • 2 to 4 tbs ice cold water

For the filling:

  • 3 cups cherries, halved and pitted
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs flour
  • 2 yellow peaches, sliced

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk, chilled in the fridge overnight (important) (can sub 1 cup whipping cream for non vegan)
  • Chilled bowl (like the bowl of a stand mixer, just place it in the fridge for a few hours)
  • 3 tbs powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs Cointreau

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine 1 1/3 cup flour, salt, sugar and shortening, process until well combined. Add the remaining flour and process again until combined. Transfer to a bowl and add the water with a wooden spoon (don’t add the water while the dough is in the food processor or your dough will be brittle and cracker-like). If the dough isn’t moist enough, you can add more water, a tsp at a time until the consistency is right. Dump the dough into the bottom of a 9 inch tart pan with 1 1/2 inch high sides, sprayed with cooking spray. Starting with the sides first then the bottom, form the crust into the pan. Chill the crust for 2 hours in the fridge. (If you haven’t yet, put a bowl in the fridge to chill to make the whipped cream)
    (*Note: if you have a smaller tart pan, mine seems to be quite large, you will need less tart dough, pull out any excess and make a mini tart in a muffin tin. You can also double the recipe, form the excess into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, place in a Ziplock freezer bag and freeze. should keep up to two months)
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. Add the cherries, sugar, and flour to a bowl and toss to coat. Add the cherries to the tart crust. Top with sliced peaches. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until tart crust is a light golden brown. Allow to cool before removing from tart pan.
  4. Make the whipped cream.
  5. Open the can without shaking. Scrap only the fat layer at the top and into the chilled bowl, do not include any of the water in the bottom of the can, just the fat layer. Using a hand mixer, on high, whip until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and whip until combined. While the mixer is running, slowly add the Cointreau until combined.
  6. Serve the tart topped with whipped cream.