Posted in dessert, eat something cute, recipe

Pumpkin Pecan Whoopie Pies

About two weeks ago, one of my coworkers was having a pretty crappy day at the office. I knew I would be seeing her later in the week, so I decided I would make her a treat to help cheer her up. Because who doesn’t love a whoopie pie?

I never pass up the opportunity to brighten someone’s day with something delicious.

The whoopie recipe is Martha’s (with an adjustment or two), but the filling is all mine. Some flavors I love in the fall (besides pumpkin) are maple and bourbon, and I almost always incorporate the two in any of my autumn treats. A little monotonous perhaps, but mama loves her bourbon.

Maple-Bourbon Buttercream. So good it’s a proper noun. I’ve made buttercream frosting so many times that I could do it in my sleep, so I the recipe that follows below *might* not be exact, but it’s  close enough that some simple adjustments (a little extra sugar here, a touch more bourbon there) will get you where you need to be.

I added pecans to the cake for a little texture. I should have either added more or omitted them altogether, but Pumpkin Pecan Whoopie Pies has so much more panache than just Plain Ass Pumpkin.

Oh, alliteration. You make my soul sing.

I used a mini ice cream scoop (2 oz) to scoop the batter for the cakes. This made an incredible amount of mini whoopies – almost three dozen.

No worries, none of them went to waste. I should have flattened them out a bit before baking with a spatula or something. These were a bit…rustic.

Yeah, rustic. That’s what I’ll call them. Also, moist, tender, pumpkin-y bundles of deliciousness. The perfect cure for a bad day, or the perfect ending for a good one.

Pumpkin Pecan Whoopie Pies with Maple Bourbon Buttercream 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 TB ground cinnamon
  • 1 TB ground cloves
  • 2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices and set aside. Whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla. Incorporate wet ingredients into dry and stir to combine. Add pecans (if desired). Scoop batter onto lined cookie sheets and bake approximately 12-15 minutes (touch center of cookie, if it springs back it’s done). Allow to cool while making frosting.

Maple Bourbon Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar (watch your consistency & volume)
  • 2 tsp maple flavoring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (4 TB) bourbon (or to taste, it will mellow out overnight)
  • 3-4 TB  cream (or milk)

Beat butter in a stand  mixer until creamy. Add sugar 1/2 cup at a time, incorporating fully after each addition. Add vanilla extract, maple flavoring, and bourbon & mix to combine. Add cream a little at a time, stopping when frosting is desired consistency.

Spoon frosting into a piping bag with a large plain tip (or use a spatula) and frost half of the cookies with approx 1-2 tablespoons of frosting. Top with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (to allow to set) and serve. The whoopies keep nicely in the fridge for three days, but they won’t last that long.

pumpkinwhoopTrust me.

Posted in daily, food porn, recipe

Boneless Pork Chops with Cherry Merlot Sauce

I came up with this one over the weekend. I knew I wanted boneless pork chops with some sort of fruity-saucy accompaniment, but wasn’t sure what kind of fruit until I was walking through the store. Usually when you think pork chops, you think apples or apple sauce. Well, Peter Brady, let me show you something a little different.

“I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.”

This is another very simple recipe, with just a little bit nicer result than your normal grilled chicken breast or sautéed chop. The sauce isn’t too rich or sour, and the fruit adds just the right amount of sweetness to complement the chop and the wine. I added a few healthy grinds of fresh black pepper to add a little depth of flavor.

The chops cook quickly, and the sauce comes together in a matter of seconds. You can literally have this on your table in less than 15 minutes.

I’m always worried when I make something for the first time that I don’t have a recipe for – something original. I’m still a bit unsure of myself when it comes to pairings and flavorings and what “goes” with what. I was questioning myself all week as to whether or not I should sautee an onion in the sauce, or add a vegetable to braise. Ultimately, I decided that the chop and the sauce could stand on their own.

And I was right.

I served this with a simple herb roasted potato (‘recipe’ to follow) and these green beans (minus the shallots). Definitely a keeper.

Boneless Pork Chops with Cherry Merlot Sauce

  • 3 or 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1 cup frozen cherries, thawed, with juice (mash them up a little with a fork or potato masher)
  • 1 cup merlot (use something you would drink. This is a personal favorite.)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB butter
  • Salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch or two of sugar (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Pat chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Add chops to the pan and cook 3-5 minutes on either side. Remove from pan.

2. Add wine to pan and deglaze, scraping all the brown bits into the wine. Add butter and allow to thicken slightly.

3. Add mashed cherries with juice, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, and a couple of pinches of sugar if desired. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

4. Spoon sauce over chops and serve.

Herb Roasted Parmesan Potatoes

I only cooked one potato for this meal, you can adjust this for as many people as you like. 

  • 1 medium potato, cut into large dice
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp herbs de provence
  • 1 TB grated parmigianno regianno
  • salt & pepper

Heat oven to 375. Toss diced potato with oil, herbs, and salt & pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Toss with parmesan cheese & bake for an additional five minutes.

Serve.

Posted in daily, filler, recipe, simple suppers

Steakhouse Style Wedge Salad

This is another ridiculously easy recipe; I made it as a side to another dish I’ll be writing up soon-ish, and I figured what the heck, I’ll write this up too. Plus I want to keep the habit of posting regularly and it’s almost bed time and this was the best I could do short notice, so.

I love the flavors in a wedge salad. The “salad” part is just a big hunk of iceberg lettuce, but it’s the toppings you add that make it really special. I see it once in a while on a menu when I go out for dinner and I always consider ordering it, but then I think “Why would I pay twelve dollars for it here when I can make it at home for half that?”

So that’s what I did.

For this I had scallions, crispy onions, bacon, blue cheese dressing, and crumbled blue cheese. I made it easy on myself by buying the precooked bacon. Just one less step and ten minutes faster to salad perfection.

You can make it your own with chives, diced tomatoes, crispy prosciutto instead of bacon (ooh, yum), a different dressing…you get the idea.

Steakhouse Style Wedge Salad

Iceberg lettuce, quartered

3 slices of bacon, cooked and sliced thinly

3 scallions, thin sliced

2 TB blue cheese crumbles

2 TB blue cheese dressing

2 TB crispy salad onions

Top lettuce with bacon, scallions, dressing, cheese, and onions and serve. Goes well with a medium rare steak, but don’t let me tell you what to do.

See? Stupidly, ridiculously easy.

But hey, it counts as a blog post. BAM.

Posted in recipe, simple suppers

Easiest Roasted Butternut Squash Soup Ever.

This time of year is always sort of bittersweet for me. I lament the end of summer, but I welcome fall and the coming change of seasons. Shorts and tank tops get put away and sweaters, boots, and thick blankets come out of hiding. Pumpkin, apples, and maple flavors start making appearances in my kitchen, along with the more “comfort food” types of recipes, instead of the watermelon, garden fresh tomatoes, and grilled goodies that rule the roost during the summer.

I was at my parents’ house on Sunday to help Dad put the winter cover on the pool, and I stopped at one of the roadside farm stands on my way home for some mums to decorate my front step. While I was there inspiration (and my appetite) struck and I grabbed a few squash to whip up some soup that night.

I only started cooking and eating butternut squash in the past two years or so. I don’t know what took me so long, because it’s damn delicious. My “recipe”, if you can even call it that, is stupid easy. I came up with it on the fly and haven’t changed much about it since.

The hardest part is peeling, cleaning, and cutting the squash, so you can get the pre-cut squash at the grocery store to make it really easy on yourself. You can add in any other vegetables you like (just roast it along with the squash), or top it with toasted pumpkin seeds or whatever.

It’s warm, it’s comforting, it’s autumn in a bowl.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

3 small to medium butternut squash, cored, peeled, diced medium (Approx. 6 cups diced)

1 large onion, diced

4-6 cups vegetable stock

1 pint cream

4 TB Olive Oil

2 tsp curry powder

11/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

1 tsp cracked black pepper, plus more to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Toss the diced squash with 2 TB olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until cooked through and slightly browned. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sautee until browned, 5-8 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and the curry powder, allowing the spice to toast in the oil for a few minutes. Add the roasted squash and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer for ten minutes. (FYI: This soup was pretty thick, I would maybe add another cup or two of stock to this amount of squash if you prefer it a little more thinned out.)

Remove pot from heat. Puree squash and stock in a blender in batches, or use an immersion blender directly in the pot. Stir in the cream, adjust for seasoning, and serve immediately with any garnish you prefer.

Or not.


And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make all the pumpkin-based things.

Posted in daily, recipe

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes with Pork Sausage

If there is one food I love more than any other, it’s pancakes. Homemade pancakes. Pancakes from the diner. Pancakes from a mix. Pancakes from McDonald’s. Pancakes from the freezer. It doesn’t matter, I love them all. There’s something about warm, fluffy, ‘cakes smeared with butter and dripping with warm maple syrup that just calms my soul.

There’s no such thing as a bad pancake.

There is, however, such a thing as pancakes that are better than other pancakes, and these are just those pancakes.

Say ‘pancakes’ again.

Pancakes.

The basic recipe has been in my family for years. My grandmother and grandfather used to be caretakers for a private fishing club – doing the cleaning, cooking, and general maintenance; and when they moved on from the club, my gram brought it with her.  My mom had the recipe, but didn’t make them all that often. She always preferred the denser, cakier box mix ‘cake to these, their lighter, fluffier, and incredibly moist brethren. If I wanted these ‘cakes I either had to wait for Christmas morning or for my Gram to make Breakfast for Dinner (best dinner!) and invite us over.

So, yeah. Just an FYI: This ain’t no Bisquick nonsense. If you like your pancakes dense and thick and brick-like, you might want to add a little more flour than the recipe calls for, or just skip this version all together. If you prefer pancakes that float on your tongue like angel wings, well then darling, you’re in the right place.

Because I can’t have a good ‘cake without some Ron Swanson-approved breakfast meat, I started with some loose pork sausage purchased at the local farmers’ market. I seasoned it up with some Montreal steak seasoning, onion and garlic powder, and of course some whole fennel seed, but you can season according to your own tastes. If you can find loose sausage at your local grocery store and are feeling adventurous, go for it. You can add anything in that you like — so much better than packaged sausage, in my humble opinion.

Heh. I said ‘package’. And ‘sausage’.

I usually prefer a plain ‘cake, but I had some extra blueberries on hand this day and decided to add them to the cakes right on the griddle.  I’ve also gone the Jack Johnson route in the past and added some mashed up banana to the batter. I have plans for a pumpkin version later this fall as well, so keep an eye out for that.

I know I can’t wait.

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes and Pork Breakfast Sausage

1 cup all-pupose flour

2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs, separated

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

For the pancakes: Mix flour, buttermilk, egg yolks, baking soda, vanilla, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined. (The recipe calls for dissolving the baking soda in a small amount of boiling water, and you can absolutely do it, but it’s totally unnecessary and has no impact on the final product whatsoever.) Whip egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form, and fold into flour/buttermilk mixture until just combined.

Heat a pan (or griddle) over medium heat and grease with butter or non-stick spray (Gram uses shortening). Pour the batter onto griddle by 1/4 cup measuring cup (mine were…a bit larger). Add a small handful of blueberries. When the edges of the pancake appear dry and bubbles appear in the batter (about 3-4 minutes), flip the pancake. Cook for another 3-4 minutes and remove from pan. Serve with butter (if desired) and syrup. Makes approximately 8-12 pancakes depending on size. Recipe can easily be halved or doubled (or tripled!).

1 lb loose pork sausage (not Italian sausage)

1 tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2-1 tsp whole fennel seed

1/4 tsp red chili flake, if desired

For the sausage: Add seasonings to loose sausage and combine completely. Form into round 1/4 lb patties, making a dent in the center of the patty with your thumb to ensure even cooking and so the patty doesn’t “puff up” in the pan. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for approximately 6-7 minutes on either side and serve along side pancakes. While you’re at it, go ahead and dip that sausage in that syrup. No judgments here, babies. Do what feels right.

Posted in daily, recipe, simple suppers

Simple Supper: Linguine with Fresh Clams

Did you ever inexplicably get a craving for a dish that you never had in your entire life? And were kind of convinced you’d never like anyway so never bothered to try? That’s how this happened. I was sitting at work one Friday afternoon, wondering what to make for dinner, when suddenly the urge for linguine with fresh steamed clams came over me. Not canned white clam sauce, but fresh steamers, still in their shells, piled on top of a plate of buttery, lemony linguine, with just a hint of crisp pinot grigio in the sauce.

“Mmm,” Said my imagination.

“Growl,” Said my stomach.

So off I went to my local Wegman’s after work to gather my ingredients. Lo and behold when I got to the fish counter, I find that they don’t sell clams by the dozen, but only by bags of 50. Now, I can pack away some food, but FIFTY clams? Plus pasta? Not happening. I grumped away from the counter (yes, grumped. It’s a verb), picked up a baguette, a nice hunk of cheese, and a bag of grapes for dinner and vowed to make the dish of my daydreams another time.

A few weeks later on my day off, with visions of linguine still in my mind,  I headed to the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers’ Market in the hopes that my luck would be better with their fish mongers. And it was. I picked up a couple dozen middle neck steamers, and I got my produce for half the week while I was there, to boot.

I got the clams home and immediately put them in a bowl of water in the fridge with some oatmeal for a few hours. This helps the clams spit out any sand or grit that might be in their shells.

When it was time to make dinner, I put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. I grabbed my favorite braising pan, added a few inches of water, and brought that to a boil as well. I added the clams to the second pot and covered them.

Once the shells were all opened I removed the clams from the water and set them aside. I drained the water from the pot, dried it quickly, and returned the pot to the medium high stove top. I added butter and oil to the pan & let it melt & come to temp.

I added some diced shallot and garlic and sauteed for a few minutes. Once the shallots are translucent to slightly browned, add the red pepper flakes (if desired), then white wine and fresh lemon juice.

Shell half to 3/4ths of the clams and add them to the sauce. Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the sauce, adding the fresh lemon zest and parsley, and salt and pepper as needed. Finish with another tablespoon or two of butter. Toss the remaining clams (in shell) and serve.

I made a garnish of parsley, lemon zest, a little bread crumb, and extra virgin olive oil to go on top, but I’d probably skip it next time. It didn’t need it.

Linguine with Fresh Clams

1/2 lb linguine

2 dozen fresh clams in the shell

1 large shallot, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 lemons, zested and juiced

2 TB fresh parsley, chopped fine

1/2 tsp red pepper flake (optional)

1/2 cup white wine (or chicken stock)

4 TB unsalted butter

4 TB olive oil

Cook pasta according to package directions. Steam clams in a small amount of water until just cooked, drain, and set aside. Melt 2 TB butter and 2TB olive oil over medium high heat. Sautee shallots and garlic until just browned. Add red chili flake if desired. Add lemon juice and white wine, stir to combine. Toss in pasta and parsley. Remove clams from shells (leave a few in for presentation) and add to pasta. Add remaining butter and olive oil, heat through and serve.

Posted in daily, food porn, Local Flavor, Uncategorized

Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Fest Burger & Beer Bash

Two weekends ago, the 4th Annual Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Festival was held at the Sands Event Center. The event was held over two and a half days, starting Friday afternoon and continuing through Sunday. I attended Friday night’s event, the Burger & Beer Bash (if I’m not mistaken, this is the first year they’ve held this event), and the Grand Tasting on Sunday (Next post).

The burger bash was held in a tent just outside the casino in the north parking lot. I found this a bit confusing, seeing as I had purchased my ticket at the Sands Event Center and as far as I could tell, there was no indication on my ticket that the event would take place on the north lot, nor did I see any signs that indicated where it was being held when I drove onto the casino grounds that night. I walked into the hotel and out around the Event Center looking for the Burger Bash before speaking to someone that actually knew where it was being held (note: this person had no affiliation with either the casino or the F & W event whatsoever, the one staff member I did flag down to speak to had no idea). Once I moved my car and parked in the parking deck, I then found out I had to walk into and through the casino to access the tent. A bit of a frustrating start to my evening.

But maybe it was just me and my infinite stupidity unable to find the tent, because by the time I actually got into the Bash it was pretty well packed, with lines at all the burger and beer tasting tables not 30 minutes into the event. There were a number of different restaurants offering up burger choices, ranging from Roosevelt’s 21st and Copperhead Grill to Pearly Baker’s and of course all of the Sands restaurants. Beer choices ranged from the mundane (Coors, Yuengling) to the more craft brew type (Goose Island, Victory).

Entertainment was provided by the Amish Outlaws, and if ArtsQuest is listening, they’d do well to book the Outlaws for a show at Musikfest because they are a hell of a lot of fun. They played covers ranging from country to hip hop and everything in between. My personal favorite was a cover of Kanye West’s “Stronger”. Yes, you read that right.

The venue was quite packed, which led to a longer wait at a few of the more popular burger stands, and, despite the size of the tent, there was some bottlenecking to get through the crowd at certain areas – specifically if there were two popular tables across from each other, but from all appearances the event seemed to be quite successful. I didn’t get to taste all the burgers, there were simply too many and personally, when I’m alone at a super crowded event like this I’m more of the “get in, get done, get home” type, so I didn’t linger. I was able to taste a good amount of the burgers, mainly focusing on the offerings from the Sands restaurants and other places that I’ve been meaning to try, like Sagra and Spuds. My personal favorite was the bruschetta burger from Emeril’s Italian Table, with the crab-stuffed burger from Spuds coming in second. The voters’ overall favorite, however, was the offering from Roosevelt’s 21st, which I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to sample. I think I’ll try to tag team this event next year and split all the burgers in order to be able to taste them all.

That way I can go back for seconds.

Posted in daily, recipe

Recipe: Roasted Parmesan Zucchini

I have a tendency to over-purchase produce whenever I go to the grocery store. Every Sunday I go to Wegmans with an idea of what I want to make for dinner and take as lunch for the next week, and I have the best of intentions, but many times, whether it be because I end up working or going out for dinner with friends, or just don’t feel like cooking that night, I end up with leftover veggies in my fridge at the end of the week, and no idea of what to do with them. This was just such a week.

I’ve had two zucchinis floating around my crisper drawer for a while now; my original intentions were to make this zucchini spaghetti and meatballs…yeah, that didn’t happen. I wanted to use them up this weekend instead of letting them go to waste, so I threw this together instead.

Please excuse the crappy cell phone pictures, my dad borrowed my good camera last week and I haven’t gotten it back yet.

Roasted Parmesan Zucchini

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini

2TB extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp herbs de provence

2 TB grated parmigianno reggiano cheese

pinch salt/fresh cracked pepper

Slice the zucchini thinly.

Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs de provence.

Arrange in baking dish and top with grated cheese. There’s no need to be as fastidious with it as I was, but I have culinary OCD.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is browned and the zucchini is tender.

Delicious, and the perfect way to use up any extra squash you have lying around.