Monday, October 31, 2011

You Know You're a Foodie IF....

  1. You auto-tune your favorite food shows
  2. EVERY conversation you engage in ALWAYS evolves into FOOD
  3. You want to read MENUS instead of news
  4. You plan dinner the minute you wake up (after coffee, of course).
  5. You tune into your Twitter account or FB page first thing in the morning to see if anyone has posted links to new recipes.
  6. You take three weeks to plan a dinner party for your 5 casual friends and you write out a time schedule for that dinner party
  7. You buy Saffron just BECAUSE it looks GOOD in your spice cabinet (you have no clue YET what to do with it, but by gollie - it's going to be in your kitchen!)
  8. You gravitate to the kitchen gaget aisle and justify purchasing the latest and greatest gizmo.
  9. Your iPad and iPhone have every conceivable app for recipes
  10.  Your default browser is FoodNetwork

I did not choose to be a Foodie... I am sure I was born this way.  While I try to maintain normalcy, it's really difficult sometimes to be around my non-foodie friends. I am so very grateful for the community of Tweeples and #FoodieChat that make me feel NORMAL.

Happy Eating!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Savory Sweet Pumpkin Soup

To ME, Pumpkin Soup should not be liquid pumpkin pie served in a bowl. I want just the right balance of sweet & savory. Googling recipes for Savory Pumpkin Soup turned up a litany of boring, boring, boring.  Googling Pumpkin Soup gave me more "liquid Pie" recipes...Therefore I knew I had to create my own...using everything but the *Kitchen Sink*. This is my interpretation for the perfect combination to create:

Savory Sweet Pumpkin Soup


1 tablespoon butter
2 chopped shallots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
3 cans pumpkin puree
2 cans chicken broth
1 can vegetable broth
1 cup half & half
2 small sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon all spice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar (a little more or less, depending on your taste)
Salt to taste


In a small sauce pan, sauté  the shallots, garlic and ginger in butter until soft. Set aside. Add all the other ingredients to a crock pot and stir until blended. Turn crock pot on high, cover. After 30 min stir in the shallots, garlic and ginger. Cook on high another 2 hours. Turn to LOW, and cook for an additional 9 hours, stirring occasionally.

If you serve it in small hollowed-out pumpkins, bake the pumpkin shells in the oven for  about 30 minutes @350. You do not want to cook them thorough, just until they are slightly soft. Ladle the soup into the warm pumpkin bowls. The cooked interior of the pumpkin will continue to lend flavor to the soup.

Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds or a fresh sprig of thyme. If you're feeling really edgy, use both!

Happy Eating!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Port Balsamic Vinegar Jam

Exciting... Well, maybe not SO exciting that it merits a huge font; however, just the name of this jam had my creativity going.  I saw it and thought: "Interesting flavors in a jar". Being one that loves to experiment with *interesting*, I just knew I had to make this.

The recipe is relatively easy to follow. I always read through a new recipe a few times before actually attempting to do it.  One of my favorite tweeples on Twitter @exceptionalfoods highly recommended thoroughly reading a recipe two or three times. While it may SEEM rather elementary, it isn't. How many times have you given a cursory glance to something, then accidentally omitted a critical ingredient? :::gulity:::

I acquired this recipe from

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup strips orange rind
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups port or white port
  • 1 pouch liquid pectin
In small saucepan, simmer vinegar and orange strips until reduced to 1/4 cup. Cover and let steep until cool. 

Meanwhile, in a bowl, cover 4 canning jar discs with hot water; set aside.

Strain vinegar into large saucepan; stir in port and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. At rolling boil, cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in pectin, mixing well.

Pour mix into hot 1-cup (250ML) canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe jars, cover with prepared discs. Screw on bands until resistance is met; increase to fingertip tight. Boil in  boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Let cool on rack. Check that lids curve down. 

The NEXT time I prepare this recipe, here are the adjustments I will make:
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup strips orange rind
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups port
  • grated orange rind
Following the same directions as above, I want to increase the vinegar, decrease the sugar. In my initial batch, I thought the sweetness of the port to provide more than enough "sweet".  The sugar is needed for texture and consistency. I also will seep the vinegar and orange strips longer than 45 mins (until cool). I want to add some grated orange rind to the actual mix for sparkle, color and a tinge of flavor. 

This jam will be perfect on cheddar cheese biscuits, or served along side a corned beef or some equally salty beef. Please feel free to post any of your suggestions, too!

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Better Apple Butter Quest

Starts HERE 
Tis The Season...well, no, not THAT season yet. But, I am preparing for it now with jars of Apple Butter to give to my friends. Nothing says "Sweet Dreams" like a jar of homemade apple butter...right? 
Bring the Haul Home

I have made several adjustments to a recipe that I found using the crock pot.  Finally, I just decided to give up on the recipe.  It was coming out either too sweet or WAY too sweet, calling for 6 cups of sugar to 12 Cups of apples. Today, I made a crock pot full of apples, adding just one cup of sugar  and it tastes awesome. I'll be processing it later today. Here's what I've discovered: Pack your crock pot full of apples, and add about 1 1/2 - 2 cups of liquid (use apple juice or water. I used water). Set it on High, and let the apples bake down. As they bake down, stir and add more apples. When those bake down, add about 6 tablespoons of cinnamon and 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cloves. Stir, and add more apples to fill it to the top.

Pack your crock pot with cored/sliced apples
It gets a little tricky at this point. The main question is: "To sugar or not to sugar?" The sweeter the apple, the less sugar (I feel) is required. I sure wish I knew what variety of apples I'm picking, but the trees in my area don't have signs on them, and no one seems to know either. So, it's hit and miss...luckily I've had a hit. I made my last batch with just one cup of sugar and it came out fabulous! Rich and thick, just the right amount of sweet.

Finished jars of Apple Butter
After it all cooks down, I prepare the jars accordingly. I then take my emulsion blender and start mixing like crazy until it's nice and smooth. The color is a rich brown and the texture is well, like butter. I feel that a little apple jack Brandy in it is good, too, just for some added flavor. Pour into the jars and process in a hot bubble bath for about 10 minutes. Remove, and wipe the jars. Let them set out overnight. This is a wonderful gift to friends, great to keep around in your pantry, and a super use for a lot of apples! Enjoy!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Heavenly Dessert! Apples, Pears & Praline oh my!

Apple Pear 
Praline Pie

Arizona isn't all about deserts! I live in the Rim Country, approx 5600 ft. and about an hour and a half Northeast of Phoenix. Ponderosa Pines stand tall, and fruit trees of all varieties,  are generously scattered everywhere! Thanks to the weather we had last winter, this summer brought an abundance of apples, pears and plums!  So many apples, and so many wonderful ways to prepare them!

I stumbled on this Apple Pear Praline Pie recipe while searching for a nice apple/pear combination. My friend has an Asian pear tree, and I was able to pick a few of the ones the birds had kindly left alone.  I found this recipe on the site, and of course altered it just a little bit. My additions are italicized in blue to distinguish them from the original recipe.  If you do make this pie, I promise you,  it is a huge hit, and gone before you can think how to store it! Enjoy!


cups thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith apples **(I used a nice variety of apples ranging from Red Delicious to Macintosh)
cups thinly sliced peeled pears ** (I used 3 Asian Pears and one Red Pear)
cup granulated sugar
cup all-purpose flour
to 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
teaspoon salt
box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box **(Pillsbury pie crust is absolutely wonderful if you're pressed for time!  When I bake, I love to do everything myself!)
tablespoon all-purpose flour
tablespoons butter or margarine
cups (1 bag - 8 oz) almond brickle or toffee bits **(I had to substitute crushed Heath bars)
cup butter or margarine
cup packed brown sugar
1/4    cup half-and-half (Fat-free Half & Half )

cup chopped pecans
  • about 8 caramels 
  • 1-2 Teaspoons of Apple Jack Brandy - or more...

1Heat oven to 350°F.2In large bowl, gently toss apples, pears, granulated sugar, 1/4 cup flour, the cinnamon and salt. Let stand 15 minutes. Place 1 pie crust in ungreased 9-inch deep-dish glass pie plate; sprinkle lightly with 1 tablespoon flour. Spoon apple mixture into pastry-lined pie plate; dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the almond brickle. Top with second pie crust. Flute edges as desired. Cut slits in several places in top crust to allow steam to escape.3Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until golden brown; remove pie from oven. Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter over low heat. Stir in brown sugar and half-and-half. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. **(stir in the caramels, and the Apple Jack Brandy) Remove from heat; stir in pecans. Spread sauce over top of hot pie; sprinkle with remaining almond brickle. Cool 2 hours before serving.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Spooktacular Halloween Dining Experience!

Entertaining is so much fun, and even MORE fun when there is a pre-set theme to work within! I’ve been researching my Halloween Dinner, and I believe I’ve come up with the perfect menu!
  1. A Pumpkin Soup Appetizer
  2. Jack-O-Lantern Bell Peppers
  3. Spider Web Bread 
  4. Pumpkin Bars dessert.

The table decor will be fun, also! I’ll be sure to post a photo! Here is the entire menu, with recipes written out for you. What other additions would you make? Any comments?

Savory Pumpkin Soup
I found a recipe that I’m altering just a bit to suit my tastes.  Hollow out 4 small pumpkins, saving the seeds and discarding the membrane. Bake the pumpkins in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until softened.
I will use 1 can of pumpkin as the base, add 1 can of vegetable broth, 1/2 cup of fat free creamer and bring this to a slow simmer. Add 1 tsp of curry powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, a dash of cayenne pepper, a little cinnamon and some nutmeg. Let this cook down for about 30 minutes. Ladle into the pumpkin bowls and top with toasted pumpkin seeds.
Main Dish
 Stuffed Jack-O-Lantern Bell Peppers from


  • 6 bell peppers, any color
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 4 slices whole wheat bread, cubed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish.
  2. Lightly mix together the ground beef, egg, bread cubes, onion, tomato, garlic, chili sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
  3. Wash the peppers, and cut jack-o’-lantern faces into the peppers with a sharp paring knife, making triangle eyes and noses, and pointy-teeth smiles. Slice off the tops of the peppers, and scoop out the seeds and cores. Stuff the peppers lightly with the beef stuffing, and place them into the prepared baking dish so they lean against each other.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the peppers are tender and the stuffing is cooked through and juicy, about 1 hour.
I will more than likely do some deletions/additions to the stuffing, but I love the idea of making the bell peppers look like Jack-O-Lanterns! So fun!
Spiderweb Bread
I found a very easy recipe on the Pillsbury site for “Spider Web Bread” using a can of Pillsbury breadsticks, cutting them into pieces, rolling them into smaller sections to make individual spider webs. This will be visually fun! I plan to craft a “spider” from a dollop of butter. These will go beside each plate.

Paula Dean's Pumpkin Bars from  

Ingredients - Bars
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
 Ingredients - Icing
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.


If you are like me, when you entertain, you will search for specific recipes that can be made up ahead of time and prepared in advance. This way, serving is a breeze and presentation is easy! I hope that YOUR Halloween Dinner is a smash hit! I can’t wait to post photos of this one!