November 18, 2019

Watercress-Fennel Soup with Chicken-Parmesan Meatballs



1 lb ground chicken
1/3 cup (loose) chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
freshly ground black pepper


4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 parsnips, sliced
1 small bulb fennel (bulb and stalks sliced)
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 onion, sliced into quarter moons
64 oz chicken stock
4 oz fresh baby watercress
1/3 cup tubetti (or other small pasta)
freshly ground black pepper


for the meatballs:

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together all the meatball ingredients. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place on the lined baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes, flip and bake for 4 minutes more. Remove from the pan and use immediately or cool and refrigerate up to one day.

for the soup:
Saute the garlic, parsnips, fennel, celery, and onion, until the onion is translucent and the parsnip is softened. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add the meatballs.

If your meatballs were made ahead of time and are cold, simmer until warmed through before adding the pasta. If they are fresh from the oven, add the pasta and cook until nearly al dente. Stir in the watercress, salt, and pepper. Allow the watercress to wilt. Serve immediately.


If you are planning on saving leftovers, make the pasta separately and add it to each bowl when serving. Store leftovers separately and add it when you go to reheat the soup.

My thoughts:
After making this soup, I realized it had more than a passing relationship to Italian Wedding Soup. Don't know how that happened! I was trying to use up the bag of watercress I had in my fridge and the ground chicken I had bought for another dish before our oven "incident". The good news is that, if you like Italian Wedding Soup, you will most likely like this soup!

It really is super flavorful yet super simple. For some reason when it comes to soup, I always feel like it is a lot of work. It really isn't! I didn't grow up making homemade soup and my husband is the type of person who when he makes matzah ball soup starts with a whole, raw chicken and takes all day to make one bowl of soup so I think that really contributed to it. However, if you are willing to use a box of stock or have frozen your own, you can have fresh soup in like 40-ish minutes. I made the meatballs in the morning and refrigerated them so at dinner time, everything came together really quickly.

Parsnips are really underutilized in soup, they are very earthy yet have a subtle sweetness. I love fennel and for this soup, I didn't just use the bulb at the end, I sliced up those stalks and tossed in the fronds. The stalks have a sort of celery-like texture and it's a shame most recipes call for tossing them. They are on the tough side but in a bowl of soup, that isn't an issue at all. I'm trying really hard not to waste ingredients so using the stalks is perfect. I love watercress very much. It's got a peppery bite to it and it is surprisingly versatile. It really holds it's shape when added to hot soup which really added a lot of texture interest to the soup. I still hate fall and winter but this soup makes it a little bit better.

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November 15, 2019

Gingered Cranberry Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake



1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 cups fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries


1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (canned) pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Heavily butter an 8-inch cake pan. Set aside.

For the topping:

In a small saucepan, melt and stir together butter, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon fresh ginger. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. whisking occasionally to dissolve the sugar, or until it thickens slightly. Stir in the cranberries. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the cake pan. Set aside.

For the cake:

Cream together the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and beat until fluffy. Beat in the pumpkin and vanilla until well combined. Whisk together the spices, baking powder and flour in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. The batter should be rather thick. Spoon over the cranberry layer and bake 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan 5 minutes to let the molten fruit settle then carefully invert onto a flat, heat-proof plate. Cool completely, on the plate, over a wire rack.

Serves around 8.
My thoughts:
My husband managed to melt the display panel and the bottom half of the oven controls while making dinner Sunday. Let it be a warning to you all not to let a very hot small enameled cast-iron French oven get wedged against the apparently too low control panel on the back of your stove while making your kasha-stuffed twice baked potatoes. After panicking, we called around and found someone who came out in just a couple days and replace the part (after several calls to people who said they could install it in 2-3 weeks or who nearly wanted as much to come out as they wanted to--possibly--repair it). Support small businesses! I'm just glad it was early enough that we avoided being stuck in the queue with people who figured out 2 days before Thanksgiving that their oven doesn't work.

To celebrate my return to the working oven world, I thought I'd make a quick, yet holiday-worthy cake. As the years go by the more I realize that while I like eating cake with lovely swirls of icing, I don't really enjoy making them. There are only two people in our family and making a whole regular sized cake (unless we happen to be entertaining or invited somewhere) seems a bit wasteful. Plus every time I make a frosted cake, I realize all over again just how time-consuming they are. The waiting and cooling time always seems interminable.

No such problems with an upside-down cake! No need to ice, it mixes together in about 15 minutes and bakes for less than 45. Sure you have to wait for it cool but it naturally looks very pretty with the fruit on top and once it's done, it's done. It's a little nerve-wracking when you are tipping it out of the pan but if you buttered your pan well, it should come out easily. An added bonus is that it only serves about 8 so it is perfect for smaller families while still having enough to share or have a slice leftover for breakfast the next day.

At the last minute, I decided to make this a cranberry pumpkin cake. I was just going to go with a simple ginger cake base but pumpkin desserts are so popular at Thanksgiving, it's always nice to have one that isn't pumpkin pie (yuck) and doesn't use pumpkin pie spice. You get plenty of ginger flavor thanks to using both ground and fresh ginger and the allspice adds that autumnal flavor a November cake needs.

The pineapple upside-down cake I made years ago will always be my favorite of the upside-down cake recipes I've created but this one is a very close second. It smells amazing while baking; it is full of warm spices, rich pumpkin and the perfect amount of tartness is present thanks to the cranberries. Plus you can make it a full day before serving, making it perfect for the holidays.

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November 13, 2019

Slightly Posh Tuna and Sweetcorn Jacket Potatoes


4 large baking potatoes (like Russet)
3 5-oz cans Albacore tuna in water, drained
8 oz can corn kernels*, drained
1 bunch green onion, chopped (green parts only)
1/3 cup (loose) chopped Italian parsley
1/2 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 cup mayonnaise


Preheat oven to 400. Scrub off the potatoes and score an X in the top of each. Roast for at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, mix together the tuna, corn, green onion, parsley, lemon pepper, and mayo until well combined.

Slice the potatoes in half length-wise and fluff the potato with a fork. Top with tuna mixture, serve.

*I don't know if I have ever brought canned corn kernels before but the Green Giant Steam Crisp corn was really good! Minimal water in the can and it was actually really crisp. Much crisper than frozen corn.

My thoughts:
Tuna and sweetcorn is not a popular combination here in the US. I had heard of it before our trip to England a few years ago but I was still surprised to see tuna and sweetcorn in such abundance. It was in grocery stores among the other prepared sandwich selections (why is Europe so ahead of us in the packaged sandwich game?), I saw it on menus at cafes, and I even saw an ad for tuna and sweetcorn pizza! When we made our way up to Bath, it had been a long day and we ended up getting some take out from a little place (The Bridge Coffee Shop if I remember correctly) right on the Pulteney Bridge over the Avon River. I had sort of wanted to try a tuna sweetcorn sandwich on the trip so I was a little disappointed that I didn't see it on the menu but they did have it as a topping for a jacket (or baked) potato. Yes, please! The combination was oddly tasty! The creamy tuna plus the lightly sweet corn really did work. It was a fun contrast to the hot potato beneath.

I'd love to know the origins of this combination. I really can't find one. Canned tuna was introduced around 1908 but really didn't become popular until the 1920s. Tuna salad was a new addition to the repertoire of lunch salads like chicken, ham or egg that had their roots in saving scraps from dinner and turning them into new dishes. When canned tuna became available they pushed turning it into casseroles and mayonnaise-based salads. You no longer need to wait for leftovers to make tuna salad and it was an affordable source of protein. Perhaps the heightened popularity of canned corn after Green Giant invented a vacuum method of canning corn in the late 1920s and love of tuna salad hit at the same time in England and Ireland resulting in a sandwich filling that could be tossed together quickly with pantry ingredients. I really don't know.

I had thought of tuna and sweetcorn off and on from our trip but never bothered to make it. Anyway, the other day I unexpectedly needed to make dinner, had tuna and potatoes I wanted to use up so my husband picked up some canned corn and here we are. Normally, the combo is literally mayonnaise, tuna and drained canned corn but the potato I had a garnish of green onion that I thought really pepped up the dish so when I made it, I added in some green onion and parsley. That and some lemon pepper (or fresh lemon zest, salt, and pepper if you're fancy) added a fresher, brighter taste to the final dish. Try it, it's oddly satisfying!

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November 06, 2019

Pot Roast & Butternut Squash Cottage Pie


1 small butternut squash, cubed
coarsely chopped leftover pot roast with sauce (roughly 4 cups)
2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch green onion, chopped
1/4 cup whole milk


Preheat oven to 350.

Boil the potatoes until fork-tender. Drain and mash in green onion, butter, and milk.  Set aside.

Using a steamer pot or a steam basket, steam the squash until tender. Arrange in the bottom of a deep-dish pie plate. Set aside. Remove the slices of pot roast and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Stir in the pie plate. Add the remaining pot roast sauce and bits.

 Stir and flatten with the back of a spoon. Top with an even layer of potato.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

My thoughts:
I posted a recipe for a pot roast this week that we really loved. I had actually made it quite a few months ago and saved the recipe. At the time we had a ton of leftovers so I made this easy cottage pie. Normally we eat leftovers the next day for lunch but there is always a ton leftover from pot roast when you are a family of two so I must have had enough (or already had another lunch on tap) to make a whole second dinner out of it.

I don't quite remember the circumstance but I do remember eating this cottage pie (not shephard's pie as it is made with beef, not lamb) and really enjoying it! To bulk the dish up a bit (the 4 cups of leftovers that went into this was a mix of cubed beef, veggies and a lot of sauce), I added a layer of steamed butternut squash to the bottom of the pie plate. Then I covered the whole thing in a thick layer of mashed potatoes. If you had leftover mashed potatoes (or thoguht ahead and made extra on purpose) they'd be great to use here and would make the dish even quicker--just let them come a little closer to room temperature so they are easier to spread and add a couple extra minutes cooking time. The result is pure comfort food. Perfect for a cold, windy night.

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November 04, 2019

Classic Pot Roast with Root Vegetables

2 1/2-3 lb beef bottom round roast
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cubanelle pepper, chopped
4 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef stock
3 cloves garlic
6 oz tomato paste
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs rosemary
3 carrots, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
3 parsnips, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
superfine flour (like Wondra)


Heat a small amount of oil in a large, lidded heavy-bottomed pot (like a Dutch or French oven). Add the onions, mushrooms, garlic, and peppers and cook for 2 minutes. Rub paprika, salt, and pepper into the roast. Sprinkle liberally with flour. Place in the pan and brown on all sides. Add the wine, tomato paste, bay leaves, rosemary, and stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 2 hours. Add the carrots and parsnips. Continue to simmer, covered, 1 hour or until the meat is very tender.

My thoughts:
I actually made this pot roast way earlier in the year but it started to get warm before I had a chance to post it so I saved it for when it got cold again. Unfortunately, cold weather is here! It's actually not too terribly cold during the day yet (mid-50s today) but nights have been quite chilly so I think pot roast season is upon us. We actually alread made pot roast once this year and I used this recipe as a guide, I liked it so much.

I didn't grow up eating pot roast. My father was an incredibly picky eater and it really limited what we ate as a family growing up. It just didn't make practical or I guess, financial sense to make two seperate meals all the time so we ate a lot of very basic, bland food. It was fine but not very exciting. My husband, however, grew up with it and has some real nostalgia for pot roast. He really enjoys it when we make it. It isn't difficult to make an really isn't even terribly adventurous but it is very good. It surprisingly doesn't taste too tomato-y despite the paste, instead the pastes seems to deepen the flavor of the sauce and thicken it. The carrots and parsnips add some sweetness and because you add them late, hold their shape so you can serve them as more than just sauce. I think it goes great with mashed potatoes.

I transformed the leftovers into Pot Roast & Butternut Squash Cottage Pie.

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October 29, 2019

Autumn Salad with Cornbread Croutons


for the croutons:
a few slices day-old cornbread (I used this country ham cornbread), cut into bite-sized cubes
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

for the salad:

1/3 cup toasted walnut pieces*
3 small-medium roasted beets, chopped
1 cooked chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced into quarter moons
1 large Stayman-Winesap apple, thinly sliced
3 oz crumbled blue cheese
10 oz baby arugula
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


 Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss the cubed cornbread with the olive oil. Arrange on the prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes, stirring once, or until crisp. Allow to cool briefly.

Meanwhile, toss together the salad ingredients. Divide onto two plates and top with cooled croutons.

*I heated them in a dry skillet for about 1 minute
My thoughts:

I am not a huge green salad fan. I always find them a bit boring, honestly. They really have to be loaded up with a lot of strong, contrasting flavors and textures to keep my interest. This salad fits the bill on all accounts. Peppery arugula, slightly sweet, crunchy cornbread croutons, crisp Stayman-Winesap apples, creamy blue cheese, crunchy celery, warm walnuts, and earthy beets. It's a whole, actually satisfying, very autumnal salad. I think I get bonus points for picking the apples myself and making my own cornbread that I then made into croutons. 

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October 24, 2019

Brunswick Stew (in the slow cooker)


2 1/2 cups leftover pulled pork
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup diced country ham (I used Clifty Farms Country Ham Biscuit Portions*)
2 cups frozen (or fresh) lima beans
11 oz canned (drained) or frozen corn
28 oz canned fire-roasted tomatoes
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili sauce (like Heinz)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
black pepper


Place all ingredients in a 4-quart slow cooker. Stir. It will be very thick. Cook on low 8-10 hours.

My thoughts:

There are so many ways to make Brunswick Stew and everyone thinks theirs is the correct version. I do not make this claim! If people can't even agree if the stew originated in Georgia or Virginia or when who am I to decide what was in it? Some sources claim that the original stew used more "rustic" meats like a squirrel, but I don't know if it is true or not. In the south, I've mostly seen it served as a side dish at barbecue restaurants where it is often made of what appears to be leftovers of what's on their menu: beef, pulled pork, chicken or even turkey, and some vegetables. To me, the origin that makes the most sense is similar to that one: you have a lot of leftover meat and you need to use it up. Why not a stew?

Vegetables are always in the final stew but vary a bit between recipes. Lima beans, tomato, corn, and celery seem to be the most common. Potato is used in some versions as is okra. I actually wanted to put okra in mine but I ran out of room in my 4-quart slow cooker. If you scaled the recipe up or made it in a larger slow cooker (like a 6-quart), I'd add okra.

The meat is also up for debate. Depending on the region and cook, I've seen combinations of chicken and pork, chicken and beef and all pork. Most seem to agree that a combination of at least two different meats is best (or to cook it in fatback and add chicken). The quantities are often massive, serving 40 or more! To make it at home, I wanted it to be easier and not require stirring a pot with a paddle in the town square for hours. The slow cooker seemed ideal. To simplify it further and make it even more of a weeknight meal, I used leftover rotisserie chicken (breast and thighs--leftovers from this would be good too) and leftover pulled pork I had frozen. I wanted to up the smoky flavor to get it closer to the versions I've had at barbecue places so I used fire-roasted tomatoes and chopped up some Clifty Farms Country Ham Biscuit Portions to give it a super-rich, umami boost.

Some recipes add bottled barbecue sauce or even (yuck) ketchup but I don't think it needs it if you are using leftover pulled pork. I tossed in some chili sauce, spiced and apple cider vinegar to kick the flavor up a bit.

They say the stew isn't ready until you can stick a spoon in the middle of it and have it stay vertical. This is definitely true of this Brunswick stew! It is hearty, hardy stuff.

While I've mostly seen Brunswick stew at restaurants served as a side dish, something this tasty and filling deserves to be center place at the dinner table. I served it with cornbread I made with a bit of country ham in it to tie it all together.

This recipe is my entry into the Clifty Farms's blogger recipe contest. I love country ham but it's a little tricky to find in central Maryland. Luckily you can order it online. It adds a real punch to soups and stews in addition to being amazing in a breakfast sandwich. Click here for a coupon for $1 off a Clifty Farms product.

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Country Ham Cornbread

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup finely diced country ham
pinch salt


Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8x8 inch baking pan. Set aside.

Combine the milk, butter, and egg together in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer and mix, using a mixer until well combined. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean or with just one or two moist crumbs. Cool in pan, on wire rack.

My thoughts:
I made this to go with Brunswick Stew. It's a good, lightly sweet cornbread with a lot of savory notes thanks to the country ham. Take care to dice it finely and cut across the grain to avoid any chewiness.

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October 22, 2019

Pumpkin Buttermilk Drop Biscuits


1 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons butter unsalted cold, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cup pumpkin pulp*
1/2 tablespoon jarred crushed rosemary
pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Add butter and with a back of a fork, break the butter until the flour resembles coarse crumbs.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and pumpkin. Pour pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Drop about 1/3 cup of batter about 2" apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, until golden. Let cool for 5 minutes, serve warm.

*I roasted a sugar pumpkin for about 40 minutes at 350.
My thoughts:
I am excited to say that I used every last bite of those volunteer pumpkins I harvested. My goal was to use it all but honestly, I  wasn't sure if I could. Then I had the idea for these biscuits and the roasted pumpkin Rice Krispies Treats I posted last week. That used up the very last cup and a half. Whew! What really helped was roasting them up two at a time so they were recipe-ready. It doesn't help if you want chunks for something but if you are willing to use more of a puree texture, it made making all these dishes so much easier to make on a weeknight.

My husband loves biscuits both cut out biscuits and drop biscuits like these. I always think they are a bit of a pain until I make them but drop biscuits are actually pretty quick to make! I am notorious for using my stand mixer for everything but I actually made these in a bowl with a wooden spoon like in the olden days and they turned out great and my wrist didn't hurt afterward. They are very, very moist biscuits so be forwarded. I don't think they need any extra butter spread on but know yourself out. They are pleasantly tangy thanks to the buttermilk with a touch of roasty sweetness from the pumpkin. I suggest you serve them with soup.

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October 18, 2019

Roasted Pumpkin and Toffee Rice Krispies Treats


1/4 cup pumpkin pulp*
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 10-oz bags marshmallows
6 cup crisped rice cereal (aka Rice Krispies)
1/2 cup toffee bits


Butter an 8x8 inch pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the cereal and toffee. Set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter. Whisk together the pumpkin, butter, and vanilla until the butter is melted. Add the marshmallows.

Stir until they are fully melted. Turn the heat to the lowest setting. Stir in the cereal mixture. Immediately scrape into the prepared baking dish. Very gently, smooth it out so it is an even layer without pressing down and compressing the mixture. Allow to cool at room temperature until firm enough to cut into squares. Turn out the dish and cut into squares. Store at room temperature in a foil-wrapped container.

*I roasted a sugar pumpkin for about 40 minutes at 350 and scraped out the flesh.

My thoughts:
My goal this year was to use up every last scrap of flesh from those volunteer pumpkins. So far, I'd only made savory dishes but I felt like I needed one sweet treat. For some reason, I always think of making Rice Krispies Treats in the fall. Not sure why that is; summer would make more sense since they don't require heat or effort.

I thought why not add some pumpkin to the mix? I had so much pre-roasted pumpkin I could spare some to experiment with, I had store brand "crisped rice cereal" ($1.99 for the giant box) and Aldi marshmallows (89¢), and half a bag of toffee leftover from making cookies,  so at the very most I'd be out about $2.

The result? Surprisingly pumpkin-y treats! The toffee blended into the pumpkin to give it a rich caramelized flavor. Who knew? I will say they are slightly less crunchy than traditional Rice Krispies Treats due to the extra moisture from the pumpkin but the texture was still pretty close to the classic. I would follow my instructions and wrap them in foil vs the usual air-tight container I'd typically store them in so the moisture doesn't build up in the container overnight and make them soggy. I just covered the Pyrex I made them in in foil and they were perfect the next day.

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October 16, 2019

Homemade Pumpkin Paprika Spätzle


for the spätzle:
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree*
1/2 tablespoon butter
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
pinch salt

to serve:
1 medium onion, cut into half moons
8 oz button mushroom, sliced


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer, mix together the eggs, pumpkin and butter until smooth. Add the flour and spices and mix until a thick, if slightly sticky batter forms.

Meanwhile, saute the onions and mushroom in butter until softened.

Place a handful of dough in a spätzle maker or a ricer with inchangable plates, using the medium plate. I used a ricer virtually identical to this one that I purchased from Aldi.

Squeeze the dough over the boiling water and cut off the noodles by running a knife along the bottom of maker when the spätzle is between 1/4-1/2 inch long. Cook until they float to the top. Use a slotted spoon or spider to scoop them out and add the mushrooms and onions. Repeat for remaining dough. Saute the spätzle until they are lightly browned. Salt and pepper and serve.

*I made this by roasting one small sugar pumpkin for about 40 minutes at 350.
My thoughts:
I'm on a mission to use up all of the pumpkins from the four volunteer pumpkins I ended up growing this year. I've been trying to think of savory pumpkin recipes all week. One suggestion that came up was gnocchi which I enjoy but for some reason, I can never shape it right. Then I thought, why not make spätzle?

I had never made spätzle before but I had bought this ricer a long time ago with the idea that I could probably use it as a spätzle maker. It's been languishing in the cabinet ever since. As it turns out, it does make a good spätzle maker! It took a lot of arm strength but it was worth it when I was rewarded with super tasty fresh pumpkin spätzle! I amazed myself. It was really quick too--I served with some pickled red cabbage with apples (from Aldi) and some bauernwurst I bought at a local German sausage maker-- and the whole dinner only took about 20 minutes. The paprika added a nice hint of spice and finishing them in the pan with the mushrooms and onions made for a great vegetarian side dish.

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October 14, 2019

Autumn Spiced Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


seeds from 2 small sugar pumpkins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons canola oil


Preheat oven to 225. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, stir all ingredients together to coat the seeds in spices and oil.  Arrange on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes, stir, bake for 15 minutes, stir, bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven up to 350 for 10 minutes or until the seeds are very crispy.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

My thoughts:
After I roasted the volunteer pumpkins from my yard to make the Afghan inspired pumpkin dish and the Italian sausage pumpkin pasta, I was left with a ton of seeds. My husband very nicely cleaned all the guts off them and then they sat in the fridge for a few days. My first thought was to make spicy seeds but he suggested using some warm baking type spices and since he cleaned the seeds, I went with it. 

Long-time readers know I don't eat pumpkin pie because I find the combo of pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spices beyond repulsive but I do like all the spices and actual pumpkin, separately. So I thought it was a little funny to make basically pumpkin pie spice pumpkin seeds (with a bit of allspice, ginger, and cardamom added). If you like all those spices, these are the seeds for you! Try them as a garnish on salads or soup or as a snack. 

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October 11, 2019

Old Bay Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies

1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay
2/3 cup toffee bits
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2-3 cookie sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using a stand or electric hand mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms.

Fold in the chips and toffee.

Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping tablespoon of dough two inches apart (I like this cookie scoop that holds 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough).

Flatten slightly then bake until light brown on the bottom, about 12-13 minutes.

Slide them out on the parchment paper onto a wire rack and allow them to cool 1-2 minutes on the parchment or Silpat on the wire rack before removing the parchment/Silpat and allowing them to cool directly on the wire rack.

Cool completely before storing in air-tight containers.

My thoughts:
One day my mom made something (deviled eggs? potato salad? I can't quite recall) and asked me what the secret ingredient was after I tried it. The secret ingredient was, of course, Old Bay. I told her Old Bay doesn't count as a secret ingredient in Baltimore because it is in everything.

If you are not from here, it sounds like an exaggeration but it really isn't. It's on fries, in dip, on crab laden soft pretzels, in shrimp salad, in crab imperial and of course, steamed crabs and crab cakes. I've made grits with it (served with Old Bay seasoned soft crabs), fried catfish dredged in it, made Thanksgiving for two with it, used it to season Chex Mix, made po'boys, jazzed up cauliflower, spiced hollandaise and so much more over the years.

It's a lot but we love it. Most of the uses of Old Bay are savory but it isn't unheard of to have it in something sweet. I've had Old Bay caramels, Old Bay chocolates and Old Bay toffee. I've eaten Old Bay caramel popcorn on the boardwalk in Ocean City. It struck me the other day that I have yet had it in a cookie.

That seemed wrong to me. The spices were very good with buttery caramel. I didn't want to have to make my own caramel but  I had some toffee bits I picked up at Hershey Park last weekend which provided a similar flavor and of course I added a lot of dark chocolate. The result? A cookie that tastes like a regular chocolate-toffee cookie for a minute but then a sharp, spicy note hits. It's really lovely. If you like spicy-sweet-salty combos, this may be your new favorite cookie.

If you are a hardcore Old Bay lover, feel free to add some more to the dough.

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October 10, 2019

Crispy Thai Inspired Chicken Nuggets

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CrispyCreations #CrispiestChicken #CollectiveBias

2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons lemongrass stir-in paste (or one stalk finely minced fresh lemongrass)
juice and zest of one lime
1 jalapeño, sliced 3 cloves garlic, sliced 3 tablespoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
2/3 cup Argo® Corn Starch
2/3 cup flour
pinch sea salt
corn oil (for frying)
sweet chili sauce (for dipping)


Place the chicken thighs, lemongrass, lime zest and juice,  jalapeño, garlic and fish sauce in a large resealable bag. Squish the bag around to evenly distribute all ingredients. Refrigerate 2-5 hrs.

Heat 1 1/2 inches of corn oil in a deep skillet. Meanwhile, whisk together the Argo® Corn Starch, flour, and salt. Dredge each nugget in the corn starch mixture. Fry until golden brown and fully cooked, about 6 minutes.

Drain on paper towel-lined plates. Serve with sweet chili sauce.

My thoughts:
I admit I have a secret fondness for chicken nuggets and sweet and sour sauce from a certain fast food establishment. Something about them really hits the spot at 2am. These days, however, I'm trying to cut back on my random takeout consumption and getting back in the groove of cooking most of my meals at home. That doesn't mean that my chicken nugget cravings have gone away though! Luckily, chicken nuggets are one of the easiest takeout fakeouts you can make. Since I was making these at home, I dialed up the flavor in the nuggets themselves vs. relying on a savory dipping sauce. Marinating them just a few hours in pungent fish sauce and lime juice infuses each nugget with a ton of flavor. Chicken thighs are moister than breasts and make for a juicy, succulent chicken nugget. The real secret ingredient, however, is Argo® Corn Starch. I've long used it as a thickener in baked goods and sauces, and as a coating in a stir-fry but it really makes for the crispiest chicken you can imagine. Argo® Corn Starch​ is very fine and sticks to the chicken (without needing extra binding like eggs!) creating a light, airy crust that shatters when you bite into it while still sealing in the juices of the chicken. Argo® Corn Starch also helps the chicken to brown quickly and evenly which means your nuggets are always the perfect golden-brown of your dreams. It was so difficult not to eat the whole bowl! Who needs fast food nuggets when you can make this at home so easily?

Check out  Argo® Corn Starch's website for more recipe ideas using my secret ingredient. You too, can make the #CrispiestChicken. Remember, Argo® Corn Starch has over 100 years of quality and trust over multiple generations so you can count on it in all your recipes.

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October 08, 2019

Hot Cocoa Brownies


1/2 cup butter, sliced
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup hot cocoa or hot chocolate mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
1/4 cup dehydrated vanilla mini marshmallows

additional chocolate chunks and dehydrated marshmallows to garnish (optional)


Preheat oven to 325. Butter and flour an 8x8 inch baking pan. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small pan.

In a medium bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the sugars, cocoa powder, and hot chocolate mix. Stream in the hot butter and beat until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg. Beat in the flour until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks and mini marshmallows.

Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick or the tip of a dull knife inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Immediately sprinkle with additional chocolate chunks and marshmallows if desired, gently pressing down to anchor them in the brownies. Cool completely on a wire rack prior to slicing.

My thoughts:
Is it hot chocolate weather yet where you are? It's still pretty warm here but the calendar tells me it's fall. I'm actually not a huge hot beverage person, I love slushy and other cold drinks 1000x more, but I do like hot chocolate. Maybe it's the marshmallows.

My husband bought an industrial-sized tub of Galaxy hot chocolate/hot cocoa mix last year which was tasty but then he found a fancy super dark hot chocolate for me which I love. This leaves me with a huge amount of hot chocolate mix to get through. Luckily it's pretty good in baking! It already has some dehydrated milk in it so it makes things really taste like hot chocolate, not just regular chocolate. I have dehydrated marshmallows I bought in bulk at an old fashioned candy store but I've recently seen them in regular grocery stores so they hopefully won't be difficult to find. If not, I'm sure you could dig them out of packets of hot chocolate with marshmallow mix if you'd like. You're using the powder anyway!

This recipe makes a brownie that is slighly chewy thanks to the marshmallows, creamy yet very chocolatey thanks to the mix and the chocolate chunks. It's a brownie that will appeal to both brownie purists and those who want something just a little different.

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October 04, 2019

Pumpkin, Fennel and Italian Sausage Pasta


1 bulb fennel, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 cubanelle pepper, diced
1 lb hot Italian sausage (casings removed if necessary)
1/4 cup (loose) chopped Italian parsley
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen
2 cup roasted pumpkin*
12 oz cooked small pasta (I used creste di galli)
1/2-2/3 cup cooked pasta water
freshly ground black pepper


In a large skillet, saute the fennel, onion, and pepper until the onion is translucent. Add the sausage and parsley and saute until the sausage is nearly cooked though. Stir in the spices and pumpkin and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is warmed through and the sausage is fully cooked. Stir in some pasta water to loosen up the mixture. Stir in pasta. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan and additional parsley if desired.

Yield: 6 meal-sized portions

*from 1 sugar pumpkin, halved and roasted for 45 minutes at 350.
My thoughts:
My volunteer pumpkin plant produced four pumpkins that didn't get nibbled on when we were on vacation. I made an Afghan-inspired dish with the first pumpkin that grew and when I was roasting that pumpkin, I roasted a second to speed up the next recipe. Then I was left with a bunch of pumpkin pulp. Loathing pumpkin pie and not being much of a muffin fan I really didn't know what to do with it. So many savory recipes called for cubed pumpkin but all I had was already pretty smooth.

We hadn't had pasta in a long time so I looked up pumpkin pasta recipes. So many called for a ton of heavy cream and that seemed so heavy and unappealing. Why not just thin the pumpkin out with a little starchy pasta water? It surprisingly (?)  worked! It really did turn the pumpkin into a sort of sauce that coated the pasta. The pumpkin melded so well with the sweet fennel and the hot Italian sausage I bought from the local Italian store. I love it when experiments really work!  The meal was super flavorful and filling without being over the top rich. No heavy cream needed!

Note: the leftovers reheated really well in the oven, covered in foil, for about 30 minutes at 350.

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October 02, 2019

Afghan Inspired Roasted Pumpkin with Spiced Beef and Mint-Kefir Sauces


for the pumpkin:
1 3-4 lb sugar pumpkin (aka pie pumpkin)
olive oil

for the sauce:
2-3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup plain Lifeway whole milk kefir

for the meat sauce:
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 1/3 lb lean ground beef
8 oz canned tomato sauce (not puree, not paste)
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste (or make your own with fresh ginger and garlic)
8 oz water
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

Cut the pumpkin in half vertically. Remove seeds and loose pulp (save the seeds for roasting!).  Lightly oil the pumpkin inside and out and place it cut-side down on the sheet.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife easily pieces the flesh. In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, saute the onion until translucent. Add the spices and saute for 1 minute. Add the ground beef and brown, breaking up any large pieces. Add the tomato sauce, garlic ginger paste and water and simmer until the liquid reduces by half.

To serve: halve each pumpkin halve and fill with meat. Drizzle with sauce.

Serves 4.

My thoughts:
If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen me post the backstory to this pumpkin. Yes, my pumpkin has a backstory. We've never had luck growing vegetables in our yard, despite have excellent luck with various fruit trees and bushes, so we gave up planting anything. This year, nature had other plans because one morning I realized that we had a mysterious squash plant growing near my back door. It grew bigger and bigger and finally, it fruited and it was clear it was a pumpkin! Not only that but it was clearly a sugar pumpkin made for eating. What should I make?

Long-time readers also know I hate pumpkin pie so that was out. So what else could I do? I got a few good suggestions on Twitter and decided to take one from a fellow Baltimore blogger and make kaddo, an Afghan pumpkin dish. I'd had a sweet pumpkin appetizer at Baltimore stalwart The Helmand that had sugared pumpkin and a creamy yogurt sauce. I think it's pretty much their signature dish, every time the restaurant comes up in conversation somone mentions it. Anyway, I started to google recipes and realized that there is another version out there that adds a meat sauce to the mix. This sounded perfect because my pumpkins are a little bigger than app size and the addition of meat would make it into a more filling meal. I dug a little deeper into the recipe and really couldn't find any real connection to an Afghan dish actually served in Afghanistan. All of the recipes seemed to come back to a restaurant named Helmand in San Francisco, or a restaurant in Cambridge, MA also named Helmand (note to Afghan restaurants, maybe a new name is in order). Even blogs specializing in Afghan recipes admitted they didn't eat the dish while in Afghanistan but at one of these restaurants. So, I'm not entirely convinced kaddo bourani is some authentic Afghan dish. It does use a lot of the same flavors as other meat-based Afghan dishes and there are recipes for sweetened pumpkin so my guess is that some chef combined the two, added yogurt (a familiar addition in Afghan cuisine) and created a new dish. If you know more, please email me! I'm very interested.

So I checked out the menus of the various Helmand restaurants and came up with this recipe. It's almost like making sloppy joes, to be honest, so it is quite quick. The pumpkin takes a while but honestly, that requires no hands-on time so you really could make this on a weeknight and really impress someone.

After cracking the meat sauce, I moved on the yogurt sauce. Since I wanted to make this quick, I wanted to make the simplest sauce possible. I love doogh, a salty yogurt drink that is popular in Afganistan. It's often flavored with mint which reminded me of the sauce you pour over the meat and pumpkin and I wondered if I could just use that but is a little tricky to find in local stores.

I had heard about the Lifeway Kefir blogger contest. Kefir reminds me a lot of doogh, they are both lightly bubbly and of course yogurt-based but Lifeway Kefir is sold at Safeway, Giant, and Shoprite locally and I wouldn't have to track down doogh or make my own. Doogh isn't traditionally used as a sauce anyway, normally you thin out yogurt so using kefir which is already the consistency of thin yogurt was perfect. Less work, great yogurt flavor, and ton of probiotics? Sign me up.

The whole dish really came together. A lot of recipes I found online had you heavily sugaring the pumpkin and baking it for a very long time but I didn't find that either was needed. Sugar pumpkins are quite sweet naturally (it's in the name!) and truly don't need a long roasting time or sugar for them to provide the necessary sweet contrast in the dish. The meat sauce is deeply flavored and is complemented by the rich, minty sauce. The presentation is quite impressive too! I served this for an everyday meal but it would be perfect for a dinner party. You can easily double the recipe.

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