Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Treats

My friends through a huge Halloween party Saturday night. So of course, I had to bring treats. I made Chocolate cookies with Candy Corn, Brown Sugar Spice Ghost Cookies, Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Halloween Sprinkles, Pumpkin Mini Cupcakes with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting (piped in the shape of brains), Mexican Hot Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Spicy Ganache, and Pumpkin Cupcakes with a Chocolate Ganache filling and chocolate buttercream frosting. An epic amount of desserts for an epic party.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Piccata Style Chicken with Pesto Spaghetti Squash

Picctata is one of my favorite dishes. I love the crispiness of the thinly fried chicken (or fish) accompanied with the tangy lemony caper sauce. I found a recipe for Piccata Style Chicken roasted in the oven after browning in a pan then using the pan juices to create the sauce. I cooked these with bone-in chicken breasts instead of a half a chicken. And since I was switching things up I thought instead of my usual side dish of pesto pasta I used a roasted spaghetti squash with pesto. It was a fun twist on one of my favorite recipes.

Piccata Style Chicken
Adapted from Food and Wine Best of the Best Vol. 12

2 bone-in, with skin chicken breasts
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 lemon, sliced thinly
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. of butter
1/2 cup of dry white wine
t tbsp. capers

1) Preheat oven to 375 F
2) Heat an oven proof skillet or dutch oven, then add oil
3) Salt and pepper chicken breasts then add, skin side down, to heated oil and cook on both sides until crispy and brown

4) Place pan with chickens in oven and roast until cooked through
5) Remove chicken breasts and cover with foil
6) Heat pan on stove, adding sliced lemon until softened, about 1 minute

7) Add lemon juice and white wine, scraping the bits from the bottom of pan, add butter and reduce, then add capers
8) Pour sauce over chicken and enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash with Pesto
1 spaghetti squash
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pesto of choice

1) Heat oven to 400 F
2) Slice squash in half, remove seeds, and coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper

3) Place flesh side down and roast in oven until tender, about 35 minutes
4) With a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash. It will take the form of strands of pasta
5) Place in bowl and mix with pesto until combined

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pasta e Fagioli

Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant is a recent addition to my cookbook family and has some great vegetarian recipes. Being a vegetarian through middle school, high school, and most of college probably influenced how I learned to cook as well as my fascination with food. Vegetarian meals are still some of my favorites, although I do particularly love bacon. On a chilly fall night I could think of nothing better than to make a warm one pot meal. Searching the cookbook for something delicious I found the recipe for Pasta e Fagioli, which is similar to a stewy minestrone, a lovely pasta and bean dish. Working with the ingredients I had in the house I came up with a similar version of their recipe, but I worked with the ingredients I had in the house. So feel free to experiment!

Something that I find very interesting about Italian food is how influenced it is by New World domesticates. Many of the main ingredients in this dish would not have been available in Italy prior to the European contact with the Americas. This is known as the Columbian Exchange and was the exchange and introduction of new species of plants and animals to and from the New World and the Old World. In this dish the tomatoes, zucchini, and beans are all originally from the Americas. It is almost impossible to imagine what Italian food would have been like without these crops.

Pasta a Fagioli
Adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant

1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
2 cloves of garlic or granulated
2 zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 can of diced tomatoes, with juices
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 can of kidney beans  (Cannelini beans would be perfect here as well)
1 can of pinto beans
Fresh parsley
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Crushed red pepper
Dried oregano
Salt and pepper
8 oz. of pasta (I used macaroni)
Water to thin if desired
Parmesan cheese

1) Heat olive oil in dutch oven, add onion, celery, carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, and spices, cook until slightly softened

2) Add zucchini and cook until softened

3) Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans, then taste and flavor with more seasonings if desired, also adding water to thin slightly
4) Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente
5) Simmer stew for 25 minutes, uncovered, add basil and parsley towards the end
6) Add pasta and serve into bowls, garnish with Parmesan and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Desserts

My friends were having a Fall Festival over the weekend so I thought pumpkin desserts were in order. I decided to make Brown Sugar and Spice Cookies, in the shape of pumpkins of course, and decorated with royal icing (my first time using this icing). I don't like sugar cookies. I'm not much of a plain vanilla kind of person, but I found a recipe that adds a little spice, and I knew I had found a new sugar cookie.

In addition I wanted to make a Pumpkin Carrot Cake in the shape of a pumpkin, with the addition of some Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting. The pumpkin cake was a little difficult to assemble, but if you cu a little of the bottom off, it sits right on top of the other cake. The cake is also enormous, so it makes a great dessert for a crowd. Fair warning, this is a very time intensive cake.

Brown Sugar and Spice Cookies
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 sticks butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

1) Preheat oven to 350 F
2) Combine butter and sugars and cream until fluffy, then add egg and vanilla
3) Combine dry ingredients, then add to butter mixture and combine
4) Roll out cookies to desired thickness and cut with cookie cutters (I used pumpkin shapes- thanks Mom for the new cookie cutters!)

5) Place cut cookies on baking sheet for 9-12 minutes
6) Let cool and frost. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Carrot Cake
Adapted from Woman's Day
Each ingredient list is for 1 cake (you will need to double to make two cakes)

3/4 cup canola oil
3 cups flour
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (or mixture of your preferred flavors)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 medium carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
1 cup walnuts (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 F
2) Butter and flour bundt pan
3) Combine dry ingredients in bowl and set aside
4) Whisk eggs with oil, sugars, pumpkin, vanilla, and milk then mix in dry ingredients, then add carrots and walnuts if using

5) Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for 55-60 minutes until done

6) Let rest in pan for 10 minutes then remove from pan and let cool on rack
7) Prepare second cake
9) Let cool and assemble with frosting (see below)

Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
4 8-oz. packages of cream cheese, at room temp.
2 sticks butter, at room temp.
4 tsp. vanilla
6 cups of confectioners sugar
1/2 cup bourbon
Orange and green food coloring
1 wafer cone (which I forgot and wasn't going back to the store so I used a cup filled with candy)

1) Whip all of the ingredients, except food coloring, together until fluffy
2) Cut each cake in half and spread 3/4 cup of frosting on each bottom and place top back on top

3) Transfer 1/2 cup of frosting to be colored green to create stem
4) Dye the remaining frosting orange
5) Take one of the cakes and flip over so that the top is not the bottom, frost the top with orange frosting then place second cake on top
6) Frost the combined cake with orange frosting and mold frosting in shape of pumpkin
7) Color ice cream cone with green frosting and place in hole of cake
8) Serve and enjoy!

Spiced Pumpkin Butter

Curious with what to do with the extra can of pumpkin puree I had in the house I was browsing through recipes for pumpkin on Better Homes and Gardens. I had never had pumpkin butter before, but I love anything pumpkin and spice flavored, probably why I love Autumn so much. I only made half a batch, but it fit perfectly into a Ball canning jar. The recipe calls for apple juice, but we had cider in the fridge and I thought it would work well. Next time I may cut down on the juice and maple syrup, it is really sweet, although it has mellowed a bit. This pumpkin butter is great on toast, muffins, and even unfrosted cookies. Plus, it makes the kitchen smell amazing!

Spiced Pumpkin Butter
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

2 cans pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups maple syrup
1/2 cup apple cider
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt

1) Combine all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook, uncovered for 25 minutes until thickened

2) Ladle into jars or into freezer storage and if you want decorate with Halloween ribbon

3) Store in fridge for 1 week, freeze for 6 months, or can

Monday, October 24, 2011


Homemade pizza is one of the best and simplest meals to make at home. I know a lot of people who are afraid of yeast doughs, I used to fear making them as well. But, after a little practice you'll see how easy they can be. I usually make enough dough for four pizzas because the dough freezes very well and you can take it out of the freezer the morning before you make it and leave in the refrigerator, it will be ready when you get home. After you roll out the dough to your specifics, whether it be a thin crust or a thicker crust, round or oblong, you will find that this blank canvas can be topped with almost anything. I usually make a simple tomato sauce or use pesto for my pizzas, but my dad always uses a creamy garlic sauce, which is still my favorite. Feel free to experiment with any toppings you like. One thing that I do recommend though is to get a pizza stone. You won't regret it. These are great for making pizzas, reheating pizza, and making many varieties of bread. A great investment for relatively little money.

Pizza Dough
Adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe (this makes enough for 4 pizzas)

2 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (100 degrees to 110 degrees)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp.salt
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to coat bowl
Corn meal to coat bottom of pizzas

1) Combine yeast with warm water; let stand 5 to 10 minutes, or until foamy. Stir well.
2) Combine flour and salt in a food processor. Add yeast mixture and olive oil, and process just until dough comes together.
3) Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead for 1 minute, and shape into a ball.
4) Place in a well-oiled bowl, turn to coat with oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place until dough has doubled in bulk, 45 to 60 minutes.
5) Freeze dough until ready to use or store in refrigerator if using same day
6) When dough is ready to use place on lightly floured surface and roll out or stretch with hands to form pizza shape (I prefer mine to be very thin)

7) Preheat oven to 500 F with pizza stone on bottom rack
8) Coat bottom of crust with corn meal until lightly coated and place on pizza peel or wax paper
9) Top with sauce, cheeses, and toppings (be careful not to add too much)

10) Carefully slide pizza off of peel or wax paper onto stone and bake for 8-10 minutes, until desired crispiness
11) Carefully remove from oven and slice and enjoy!

Woodlands Indian Vegetarian Cuisine

Woodlands Indian Vegetarian Cuisine has to be my favorite restaurant in Nashville. Each time that we have gone there we have ordered something different, although I usually do stick with a Dosa. If you have never been here or have never had a dosa, you really need to try one. Like me before I ever tried one, yo may be asking yourself, what is a dosa? Well, it is like a giant crepe only it has a slightly sourdough like taste and is made from rice flour or lentil flour. These are huge! And they come filled with a delicious blend of vegetables and spices all accompanied with wonderful dipping sauces. The flavors of the spices all blend together wonderfully and each taste revels a new layer of flavor. They are absolutely amazing! So are the many other items on the menu.

Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines. Although I think that the term 'Indian' food is very misleading. India is a huge country with many different regional cuisines and access to certain spices and vegetables, and has a rich culinary tradition. If you are as interested in food as I am, particularly the cultural influences that food has on society and vice versa, then I suggest Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors, by Lizzie Colllingham. In this book the author examines Indian cuisine and how it has both influenced and been influenced by different culinary traditions brought by conquerors and outside influences. It even contains a few recipes that relate to each chapter. This book is a great example of how to examine change in foodways and how culture and foods influence one another.

For more readings on Indian cuisine and culinary traditions see

Appadurai, Arjun
1981    Gastro-Politics in Hindu South Asia. American Ethnologist 8(3): 494-511.
Appadurai, Arjun
1988    How to Make a National Cuisine: Cookbooks in Contemporary India. Comparative Studies in Society and History 30(1): 3-24.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Parlsey Potatoes

My boyfriend and I figured that last Sunday was going to be the last chance we had to grill for the rest of this year. We may have been right. It quickly turned to Fall weather over the past week, complete with rain and cold. I wasn't in the mood to grill burgers or anything like that so I suggested a pork tenderloin. I used to hate pork. I liked bacon and sausage, but ham and pork were never my favorite. But that all changed when my dad introduced me to pork tenderloin, and since my opinion on pork has changed dramatically. I remember telling my dad that I was found of pork and that I would prefer something else for dinner, but I sure was glad when he grilled up a pork tenderloin. It was so tender and flavorful, nothing what I expected. I have since began cooking pork tenderloin as often as I can and in many different ways. But I thought we would get back to the first way I ever had it. Roasted potatoes were a perfect accompaniment to the pork and were some of the best roasted potatoes I have made. I hope you enjoy!

Grilled Pork Tenderloin
2 pork tenderloins (they usually come in a pack of two)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

1) Coat pork tenderloins in olive oil, salt and pepper, and spices

2) Transfer to grill and cook, turning once, until temperature reaches 145 (the FDA lowered from 160)
3) Cover with foil and let rest for at least 5 minutes
4) Slice and serve with side of choice

Roasted Parsley Potatoes with Shallots
8 or more red potatoes, quartered
3 shallots, cut into large pieces
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley

1) Preheat oven to 400 F
2) On a baking sheet lined with foil, coat potatoes and shallots with olive oil, salt and pepper, and parsley

3) Roast, turning once, for about 25 minutes, or until tender

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Roasted Chicken Thighs and Vegetables in Lemony Leek Sauce

This was one of those meals where I wanted to use up a bunch of stuff in the fridge and freezer but also wanted to try something new. I was thinking of making a piccata, but I also wanted some roasted veggies and all I had were chicken thighs. Then it hit me. What if I roast the vegetables and pan fry the chickens to get them crispy and then finish them in the oven? I could make a lemon sauce and make it really fresh tasting. So I got to work trying to figure out which vegetables would go well in the dish and I realized I had bought some frozen artichoke hearts and green beans which would match up nicely with some carrots and fresh leeks. So I started planning out what I would do and how I was going to make this work. I was surprised when the dish came out of the oven how delicious and flavorful it was and how all of the components really complimented each other. We'll definitely be making this again.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables in Lemon and Leek Sauce
4 chicken thighs, with skin and bones
3 large carrots, cut into long pieces
8 or so artichoke hearts
Green beans, however many you want and will fit in the pan
1 leek
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup of vermouth, or white wine
1  1/2 tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

1) Preheat oven to 375 F
2) Place carrots, artichoke hearts, and green beans in pan and coat with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme
3) Heat skillet or dutch oven and add olive oil
4) Salt and pepper chicken thighs then add to pan and fry skin side down until browned then turn and fry other side until browned

5) Remove from heat and add to pan with vegetables
6) Remove excess fat if too much has accumulated, about 1/4 a cup
7) Add leeks to oil and cook for about 1 minute then add vermouth and lemon juice and zest and reduce

8) Pour leek sauce over chicken thighs and vegetables and place in oven covered and roast for 30 minutes, then remove covering and roast an additional 15 minutes, uncovered, or until chicken thighs and vegetables are cooked

9) Remove from oven and enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Roasted Acorn Squash with Rice Pilaf

Our friends were out of town last week and we were given their CSA basket. In the basket there were 2 little acorn squash that would be perfect for roasting. I had never had acorn squash before so after reading up on how to cook them I decided to roast them and stuff them with a flavorful rice pilaf. The rice pilaf had baby yellow squash from the CSA basket as well, although the other vegetables were from the supermarket. The roasted acorn squash is very easy to make and has mildly sweet flavors and matches well with the savory flavors of the rice pilaf. It was a perfect Autumn meal.

Roasted Acorn Squash
2 acorn squash
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1) Preheat oven to 425 F
2) Slice acorn squash in half and remove the seeds
3) Coat with olive oil and salt and pepper and place flesh side down on pan

4) Roast for 20-25 minutes until soft
5) Stuff with pilaf and enjoy!

Savory Rice Pilaf
1/2 cup of basmati rice
1 cup water
1 onion
2 stalks of celery
2 baby yellow squash
2 carrots
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp. of thyme
1 tsp. of cayenne
1 tsp. fresh parsley
2 tbsp. sliced almonds
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

1) Saute vegetables in olive oil with spices, salt and pepper
2) Add rice and sliced almonds and brown

3) Cover with water and let cook for 15 minutes
4) Leave covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with fork
5) Serve with roasted acorn squash

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Bundt Cake with Rosemary Syrup

I finally bought myself a bundt pan a week about a week ago. I bought it for a pumpkin cake which I will be making next week. But since I had never made a bundt cake before I thought I would get some practice and use up some ricotta I had in the fridge, as well as some lemons. I found a recipe for an Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake that I thought sounded delicious and a perfect end to a meal we would be having with friends Friday night. In my new Bon Appetit cookbook on desserts there is also a recipe for a pound cake with rosemary simple syrup that I had been curious about. So I thought I would give it a shot and add it to cake. I think it made a great addition. The rosemary simple syrup is sweet but has that wonderful almost savory flavor of rosemary that really compliments the lemony cake. This would be a perfect cake to serve on a warm day after a light meal.

Lemon Ricotta Cake
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
Juice and zest of 3 lemons
Powdered sugar for dusting

1) Preheat oven to 350 F and butter and flour bundt pan
2)Combine dry ingredients and lemon zest in a bowl and set aside
3) Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice
4) Add ricotta cheese and flour mixture a little at a time, alternating until combined
5) Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for 50-60 minutes

6) Let cool on rack for 10 minutes then remove from pan and let cool completely
7) Dust with powdered sugar

8) Slice and serve with rosemary syrup

Rosemary Simple Syrup and Candied Rosemary
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
Sugar for tossing with rosemary

1) Combine sugar and water in pan and simmer until sugar has dissolved
2) Add rosemary and let simmer in syrup for about 5 minutes

3) Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes
4) Remove rosemary sprigs and toss in sugar
5) Refrigerate until ready to use

*Simple syrup can also be used in mixed drinks

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Mom's Apple Pie

Apple pie is one of the best desserts that my mom makes. Since I don't live in the same state it makes it kind of hard to have her make it for me once Autumn hits. So I called her up and asked her what she put in and how to assemble the pie I pieced together some memories of us baking them together and got to work. I was in kind of a rush so I didn't have time to make a nice crust, but I enjoy a rustic looking crust anyways.

Mom's Apple Pie
Enough pie dough for 2 crusts (I use an all butter pie dough recipe -see sweet potato pie recipe for crust recipe)
5 Granny Smith apples
4 sweeter apples (I had honeycrisp in the fridge)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar (plus more for crust)
1-2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. flour
Couple of tbsp. butter
Milk for brushing

1) Preheat oven to 350 F
2)Peel and slice apples to your desired thickness
3) Coat apples in lemon juice then toss with all other ingredients, except butter

4) Taste an apple to see if sugar is to your liking
5) Prepare a pie pan with the crust and then pour the apples into the pan, top with some slices of butter then seal with other pie crust
6) Cut 4 slits on top of pie then brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar
7) Bake for 1 hour
8) Let cool and enjoy!