Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Mac & Cheese

Remember when we were kids and everything was cooler if it was in a fun shape or color? Purple oatmeal, Rugrats mac and cheese, Dunkaroos. I love having fun with my food so I couldn't resist buying Halloween shaped pasta. Spiderwebs, ghosts, pumpkins, they made dinner seem all the more festive and exciting.

And what better way to pretend you're still a kid as a grown up but to have grown up mac and cheese? I'm just as happy as the next 5 year old to eat Kraft macaroni but for this pasta, we need some adult cheese to balance it out.

Using a very scientific method called 'winging-it', I made a roux as the pasta cooked. The roux was really to add some extra creamy texture to the cheese sauces as there's really far more cheese than butter/flour. The roux is made by combining equal parts butter and flour to make a sort of paste. Milk is added to smooth it out before shredding a whole bunch of cheese. Just when you think you have enough cheese, add some more!

Just so I can say that this meal contains a serving of vegetables, I added chopped mushrooms to the mix. You could also add bacon, tomatoes, sausage, really anything you'd like or would enjoy on a pizza.

The cheese sauce should be nice and thick, you don't want it to be too liquidy or it won't stick to the pasta. Add more cheese if necessary (always add more cheese). All of the ingredients are combined in the pot of cooked, drained Halloween pasta. Stir it all together and you've got a gooey, delicious and spooky meal!

This can also be applied to things like turkey shaped pasta or dreidel pasta (it exists, my sister's getting it for Hanukkah this year), all the shapes of pasta really.

I hope you all have a Happy Halloween!! Stay tuned for some little monster treats...

  • 14 oz. of fun pasta (or regular)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese or adult cheese of choice
  • Dash of paprika (optional)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped (optional)
  1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil for the pasta. 
  2. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta noodles and cook until tender.
  3. While the pasta cooks, in a skillet or frying pan, melt the butter. Add the flour once the butter is melted and combine to make a paste.
  4. Add the milk to the skillet and mix until smooth.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and grate the cheese directly into the skillet, stirring as needed to help melt the cheese. 
  6. Once all of the cheese is melted, stir to check the consistency. If the sauce is runny, add more cheese until it resembles a thick alfredo sauce.
  7. Add the chopped mushrooms to the sauce and remove from heat.
  8. Drain the pasta once it is done cooking. 
  9. Add the sauce and chopped mushrooms to the pasta and mix until combined. You can also add paprika, salt or pepper if you choose.
  10. Serve hot! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Zucchini Cakes

You know you've had your blog for awhile can't remember if you've posted a recipe already. Back before I was blogging about my kitchen adventures, I tested a recipe for zucchini cakes. These aren't savory cakes but are more like substitute veggie burgers. This recipe is super simple to make and would be great with a yogurt sauce but I used ranch dressing as a side.

We know that cucumbers and zucchini are great for summer salads, adding a cool and crispy touch. They're also used for cooling properties on the eyes and are full of water. I didn't realize how much water until I made this recipe. After shredding the zucchini over a towel, you wring out all of the water. Lots of green water.

I got fancy with Paint
The zucchini shreds are added to a bowl with bread crumbs (I used panko bread crumbs because it adds some crunch), garlic, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, cinnamon and one egg. The whole thing gets mixed together before forming patties to lightly fry in a pan. It's likely you can grill these as well but I haven't tried it before.

I love that this recipe is easy to make and easy to clean up. One bowl, just a few ingredients and room to expand on seasonings or sauces.

  • One large zucchini
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Shred the zucchini using a cheese grater over a paper towel. Once the zucchini is shredded, gently squeeze the water out of the vegetable and paper towel. Be careful not to bust the paper towel.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients except for the oil in a mixing bowl.
  3. Form patties with your hands or two large spoons.
  4. In a skillet or pan, heat the oil and lightly fry the patties, flattening with a spatula as you add them to the pan.
  5. Once the cakes are golden, flip over and continue to cook. 
  6. Serve plain or with dressing or sauces.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles

Life is like a box of chocolates. True statement. Around the holidays, we would inevitably receive at least one box of chocolates from friends, family or business acquaintances of my parents. Part of the fun is not knowing which flavor you'll get but when your dessert is limited, you don't want to waste your chance for something good! I learned to scout out the chocolate covered marshmallows quite promptly as they were my favorite. My tastes have certainly expanded but when we move into truffles, it's harder to know what the flavors are.

A few weeks ago, I attended a pairing of wine and chocolate at a local truffle shop, Chocolate Therapy. I love the name of this place as it's a term near and dear to my heart and they really do make some very therapeutic chocolates. Truffles can come in many forms and in this case, they come in beautifully decorated and delicate chocolates filled with a variety of flavors. They have found some very unique pairings for chocolate such as basil, lavender and balsamic. I highly recommend seeking them out for hostess gifts, holiday presents or just straight up Monday treats.

Outside of the professional realm, chocolate truffles are doughy balls of chocolate that are typically covered in more chocolate. I have a friend who is a master of mint chocolate Oreo truffles and I tried my hand at snitch truffles a couple years ago (whaaaat, I've been blogging for plural years?!?).

These pumpkin truffles were much cleaner than the snitches, in part because I used a food processor to mix the ingredients together and a melon baller to shape the dough. Gingersnap cookies are pulverized into a grainy 2 cups. Pumpkin puree, or apple cider pumpkin butter in my case, is added to help create a cohesive mixture of ginger crumbs, spices and pumpkin. Melted chocolate adds a special sweetness to it all, assisted of course by powdered sugar. Everything gets mixed together until you get a dough.

Using a melon baller, or your clean hands, bite-sized balls are formed and placed on a tray lined with parchment paper. The dough should be chilled before coating in chocolate to prevent them from falling apart. Once the dough is set, you can dip them in melted white or dark chocolate. Add some sprinkles for a festive touch or leftover gingersnap crumbs. This should be done immediately as the chocolate will harden quickly as it cools.

Just to be safe, test one or two to make sure they aren't poisoned. I found these are great to bring to a party so people can just pick one up and move along the buffet.

  • 1 1/2 cups (approximately 1 sleeve) of gingersnap cookies, crushed
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (or apple cider pumpkin butter)
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 16 oz. bag of white chocolate chips
  • Festive sprinkles (optional but encouraged)
  1. Using a food processor or pent up frustration and a bag, reduce the gingersnap cookies to crumbs.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor or mixing bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs with the softened cream cheese, pumpkin puree, cinnamon and powdered sugar until well-combined.
  3. After melting the semi-sweet chocolate carefully in the microwave using its melt setting or over a double boiler, fold in the melted chocolate with the pumpkin dough.
  4. Using clean hands or a melon baller, scoop bite-sized amounts of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Allow the truffles to chill in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. 
  6. In the meantime, melt one bag of white chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler.
  7. Carefully dip the chilled truffles in the melted chocolate to cover. Allow any excess chocolate to drain back into the bowl before returning the truffle to the cookie sheet and coating with sprinkles.
  8. Repeat the dipping-sprinkling process until all of the truffles are beautiful and tasty. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Baking Bucket List

This has happened before, it will happen again. I can't help it, I'm a list person. Not only am I a list person, I'm a hand-written note list person. You say sticky notes and mean those things on your computer that allow you to keep a to-do list. I mean a physical piece of paper on my desk that says "to do". And it usually has a date at the top.

Well my fall and winter to-do lists are my favorite. I keep track of the recipes I want to try or themes I want up on the blog or gifts I want to get for people so I can empty my brain space a little bit. Until they invent a pensieve (and make Harry Potter a real thing), notes will do.

Here's what coming up on my mental dump of fall things:
  • Monster Cupcakes- Complete with googly eyes which always confuses people because how can they make moving candy eyes. They aren't technically googly, okay? But they look like googly eyes so just go with it. There may also be safari cupcakes. All the decorations! 
  • Creepy Caramel Apples- I think caramel apples are impractical, you can never take a bite with caramelizing your entire face. So we're going miniature. And we're going Halloweeny on them.
  • Halloween Mac and Cheese- Of course I bought Halloween shaped macaroni last year when it was on clearance so I could make spooky mac and cheese this year. Get with it.
  • Applesauce- My grandparents lived in California when I was a kid and they had an apple tree in their backyard so naturally made apple sauce. I don't have an apple tree but there are farms for that so I want to try my hand at a family tradition. 
  • Pecan Pie- This seems like a good addition to Thanksgiving dinner. And an opportunity to make a pie and expand my horizons.
  • Chick Pot Pie- Also an opportunity to expand my pie-eating horizons but for lunch and dinner instead of dessert. Plus it screams fall. And eat me. 
  • Chili Hot Chocolate- I visited a chocolate factory or two this year and one specialized in traditional South American chocolate (we're talking Mayan and Aztecs). Inspired by the history, they created a spicy chili chocolate. This would make a great warm-up beverage that I'm anxious to perfect!
The end of fall is going to be a whirlwind. I'm thinking mass cooking sessions to survive the week and many many dirty dishes. But there will be tricks and treats along the way so never fear!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Butternut Squash Curry

Let's take a break from pumpkin. We're not breaking up, we're just taking some time apart to explore other orange autumn gourds. Is that cool? Okay, great!

Did I mention I love orange? When I was younger, I loved red but red was an angry color (#ariesproblems) so I pretended it was both red and silver which made it way cooler (and matched my sneakers) but really, yes, I love fire colors (#ariesproblemsstill) which happen to be autumn colors. That perfect red-orange of the fall leaves makes me smile like woah. What's even more beautiful about it is it's soooo hard to capture. Even if you paint it or photograph it, it's just not he same. I think Peeta and I would get along (this is the part where I reveal I'm a nerd who memorized that part where he's like "my favorite color is orange, not like Effie's hair but like sunset". Magical).

Squash has that orange color that gets us all happy but it's more of a complimentary orange to the leaves. I'm a big fan of butternut squash soup although it's fairly work-intensive. This curry turned out to be a lot of chopping but otherwise pretty low maintenance. I'm a fan.

Initially, I assumed I would need to cook the squash and then scoop out the cooked parts for this curry. Apparently, you can cook and eat the rind! Whaaaat, minus 2 hours of work, bam. That's not to say it's not challenging to chop the raw squash. I'm pretty sure I got a blister.

The onions and garlic and cilantro are chopped up first and set to cook in a big pot with oil. I finally learned the proper way to chop cilantro (thank you Barefoot Contessa on Saturday mornings). Instead of chopping the leaves and what not like you normally would (you know what I mean), you scrape the leaves off by using your knife in a downward motion along the stalks. This strips away the leaves without the stalks. Fabulous!

While the onions etc. are cooking, we chop the squash. Perhaps chop some squash before starting to cook the onions because it takes some time. The pot sounded angry, like feed me, so I quickly added some liquid to that bad boy in the form of water, coconut milk and then the squash. Chickpeas (drained) and some chopped spinach fortify this curry. Like it needed to be any better.

Don't forget the curry! I don't know why but when I make red curry dishes, they're significantly less spicy than red curry dishes at restaurants. So I added a healthy amount of curry, let it cook a bit, taste tested and added some sambal oelek (that spicy stuff from this carrot soup last year). Just for some extra kick.

Once all that chopping is done, it's easy clean up and rice cooker set up. Everything comes together in a bowl and I ended up discarding some of the liquid as the curry was a bit soupy. It should be a little liquidy but drowning the rice.

I couldn't even tell that the rind had stayed on the squash. I wonder if it's like bread where all the vitamins are in the crust. Let's go with yes so we can say this was extra packed with vitamins (because I think it was).

Perfect for lunch in the park or dinner in the warmth of your home.


  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 can of chickpeas (drained)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 2 cups of water (less if you want a thicker curry)
  • 1 teaspoon curry paste
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon of sambal oelek

  1. I recommend chopping everything at once and setting aside. Chop your butternut squash so it's in small pieces (the original recipe said chickpea sized but it's based on your preference). Dice the onion and shear the cilantro leaves from the stem before chopping. Also dice your garlic.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and cilantro to a medium pot with the oil. Allow the ingredients to cook and sweat until the onion is somewhat translucent.
  3. Add the coconut milk and water to the pot. 
  4. Next, add the squash, drained chickpeas, and spices (curry paste and sambal oelek).
  5. Allow the mixture to come to a low boil. Then reduce the heat and cover to cook completely.
  6. While the mixture cooks, you can make your rice according to the instructions. 
  7. The curry will be done in about 30 minutes but you can test it by checking if the squash is tender and easily speared with a fork.
  8. Serve the curry over rice (or eat like a soup). 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pumpkin French Toast with Apple Cider Pumpkin Butter

For most people, this is just another Monday but fortunately for me, it's a day off! Long weekends are perfect for sleeping in, coffee dates and brunch. This weekend was full of brunches for me, one with blogger friends and one with day-to-day friends. Even though brunch is a breakfast-lunch hybrid, I always assume brunch food to be things like pancakes, waffles, eggs and general breakfast foods.

The first weekend brunch was more of a lunch but man oh man was it delicious. We went to Del Frisco's in Burlington and were treated to samples from their appetizer, entree and dessert menu.
While each menu varies by location (slightly), this Del Frisco's is designed to be more family friendly. I must say that their flatbreads and Philly cheesesteak egg rolls were definitely family friendly but sophisticated enough for adults that it didn't feel like a standard family place like Friendly's. And save me from myself, those Philly cheesesteak egg rolls were amaaazzzziiiiiing.
Lucky for my waistband, the portions were smaller than standard menu items. The dessert options included mini coconut cream pies and adult milkshakes, also miniature. I thought the coconut pie would be weird, it sounds too tropical but it was delicious and like a custard pie with fresh whipped cream on top. And of course coconut shavings.

For my brunch menu, I was more focused on breakfast items. This included french toast from Shutterbean. I altered the recipe a little bit to use apple cider pumpkin butter instead of pumpkin butter. It's pretty simple to make the butter and then you simply add some to your regular french toast recipe for extra flavor. I prefer using Challah bread for french toast which makes fluffy slices but brioche would also work (as recommended by Shutterbean).

I can't believe we're half-way through October and so far I've kept up my promise for many pumpkin treats. I'm also moving towards some squash recipes, everything orange. I realize that orange is probably my favorite color. It's hard to decide but I always worried loving red, orange and yellow was more fiery and angry sounding (Aries unite!). But now I've come to the conclusion that it's really fall colors that I love. It's so hard to capture that perfect orange of autumn leaves but pumpkins and other squash certainly compliment it all very well.

Apple Cider Pumpkin Butter
  • 1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Combine all ingredients into a medium sauce pan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce heat slightly.
  3. Allow the mixture to cook for about half an hour, stirring frequently until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool before placing in jars. This makes about two mason jars of butter.
 Use this butter with Shutterbean's french toast recipe or on toast. This will last in the fridge for up to 1 week. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pumpkin Oatmeal

We're starting a trend, right here and right now. Pumpkin has returned to the blog. Apples are great too but I love the color orange and the fall leaves put me in the perfect mood for squash and pumpkins. So this will be first of hopefully many entries on pumpkin and just when you're sick of pumpkin everything, we'll move on.

There is literally a pumpkin spice for everything under the sun. I toured a cider house (because cider is also amazing and autumnal) and they made it very clear they were not making a pumpkin cider or pumpkin spice cider or blueberry cider for that matter. Works for me! I like my pumpkin in baked goods and coffee. And apparently breakfast items.

When I was a kid, after my pancake for every meal phase and before my Lego My Eggo phase, I was obsessed with oatmeal. We even had oatmeal with little dinosaur marshmallows in them. I have no idea where you would find this stuff now, I think you're stuck with Quaker Oats, but it was magical. This was the only time the ads on the back of the box worked and we sent away for color changing bowls. What likely ended my oatmeal phase was my brother deciding that oatmeal was no longer cool. He was definitely right there with me on the color changing bowls but eventually, he changed his tune and started telling me it would make my muscles squishy.

Many years later and my muscles are just gonna be squishy because oatmeal in the fall with a little brown sugar and cinnamon plus a side of coffee is heavenly. While perusing the internet last week, a recipe for pumpkin oatmeal caught my eye. Although I've graduated from the little packets of oatmeal, I still microwave my plain oats so this was a step in the fresh direction making it on the stove top.

It's extremely simple to make and tastes like pumpkin pudding. A little bit of maple syrup, pumpkin, cinnamon and almond milk went a long way in making this breakfast ready for fall. Remember when we had cookies for breakfast?? Well, we're all grown up now and we're having vegetables for breakfast instead. My childhood sobs.

(Adapted from edible perspective)
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Dash of cloves
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  1. In a medium heated pan, cook the pumpkin puree until it has reduced to about 1/3 cup and is golden brown (5-7 minutes).
  2. Add the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt to the cooked pumpkin and stir well. 
  3. Add the oats, water and milk to the pot and stir to combine.
  4. Allow the mixture to come to a boil before setting to a simmer. Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the oatmeal has thickened.
  5. Stir in the vanilla and maple syrup.
  6. Portion into bowls and serve fresh.
You can also reheat this but it becomes a little thicker after being refrigerated. Makes 2-3 bowls. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pad Thai Salad

With the exception of Ethiopian food, I love ethnic food. Indian food can sometimes be a little spicy for my tastebuds but naan makes it so much better and I have fond memories of Chinese food Sunday dinners and learning to use chopsticks. And Thai food was my go-to when I lived in Connecticut where the Thai restaurant in town had Wednesday happy hours with amazing sangria and half-off appetizers.

Even with all of this experience, I still find myself daunted when looking at a menu. It's uncharted territory for the most part and I don't want to order something I won't enjoy. This is a trap. This is how you end up only getting one dish at restaurants ever and miss out on something equally delicious. For Thai food, my go-to is Pad Thai. I find that every restaurant makes it slightly different but inevitably it's delicious rice noodles with a Thai sauce and chicken.

Well, this is the green and American-ized version of Pad Thai in the form of a salad. My friend Lisa (of Lisa's salad) found this recipe online after falling in love with Whole Foods' version. Not one to go to Whole Foods or pay $10 for a salad often, I found this recipe to be as healthy as it was delicious. As with most things, the secret is in the sauce.

I altered this a bit from the original based on my vegetable preference but you chop kale into edible size pieces (wash the salad first, Martha lectured me recently on that point) and add your desired vegetables. For me, this included chopped carrots and peppers but you could also add spaghetti squash instead. I used a food processor to get small pieces of vegetable in every bite without slaving over the cutting board. Unless you think cilantro tastes like soap (I think it tastes refreshing), add some cilantro and a can of chickpeas to the mix. Lastly, chopped cashews add some more crunch and salt. Really mix everything in there so you get a little bit of everything in every bite.

Now, for the dressing, it's unsurprisingly peanut butter based. I'm a huge fan of cold sesame noodles and when I was a camp counselor, we made the campfire version with just peanut butter and soysauce melted together. This dressing is very similar with peanut butter, sriacha sauce, water and sesame oil. As I learned from making spicy Thai noodles, sesame oil is the key. All of these are shaken together vigorously in a jar or salad dressing bottle. This dressing is very thick so it's best applied with a spoon to your salad.

Depending on how spicy you like things, add more sriacha sauce as needed. The salad overall definitely needs to dress for success, by itself it's just rabbit food but with the dressing, it's a Thai masterpiece. You can add some grilled chicken for protein if you like but you can also keep it veggie friendly!



  • Kale, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro 
  • 2-3 bell peppers, chopped
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup of cashews or peanuts, chopped
  • Grilled chicken (optional)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha (add more if you like more kick)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger 
1) Combine the cleaned and chopped kale, cilantro, peppers, carrots and chickpeas together in a bowl.
2) Toss the vegetables until they are well mixed. 
3) Using a nut chopper or food processor, chop cashews or peanuts into small pieces. Add to the salad. 
4) In a mason jar or salad dressing bottle, combined the peanut butter, water, oil, syrup, sriracha and ginger. Shake vigorously until combined. 
5) Dress the salad and mix. Enjoy a healthy lunch all week long!