Oct 31, 2009

PumpkinFest Popcorn

Salty, spicy & sweet, this popcorn is perfect for snacking while you're carving your pumpkin masterpiece tonight or watching scary movies... simply toss dried cranberries and spiced pumpkin seeds with hot popcorn and a sprinkle of salt. 

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
Spread seeds in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a spice mix of cumin, garlic salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and Chinese 5-spice powder over the seeds. Toss to make sure everything is coated and roast at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes until seeds start to brown. Keep an eye on them though - they'll go from brown to burnt really quickly! 

Oct 29, 2009

Trick or Treat

Treat - for sure.

These Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies are going to be the triumph of my pumpkin-themed bash tomorrow night...

There are plenty of recipes to be found on the web for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. I combined a few to come up with these - fluffy spiced cake with a cream cheese based frosting - I also tripled the usual amount of each ingredient to make an extra-large batch of 30 cookies. Trust me - your pals will eat every last one!

What you need:
3 boxes yellow cake mix
2 15oz. cans pumpkin puree
2/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 tea each cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger

1 cup vegetable shortening
1 small jar marshmallow creme
1 8oz. block cream cheese
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tea vanilla extract
2 TB cinnamon
2 TB water

How you make them:
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cookie ingredients together in the largest bowl you can find. Batter will be very thick. Drop rounded tablespoons on a well-greased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until cake is set and tops are lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely before frosting.

Beat frosting ingredients in a stand mixer on medium speed until well combined and smooth. Add water a few drops at a time to help it come together if you need to. Sandwich two cookies with a tablespoon (or more!) of frosting and store in a cool spot. 

NOTE: You can absolutely substitute pumpkin pie spice rather than using individual spices for the cookies.

Oct 21, 2009

Save the Date

Now's the time to send out invites for a Halloween party if you haven't already - see mine below! I like to throw a pumpkin-carving party so everyone can create a fabulous jack-o-lantern before the big night... stay tuned for recipes!

Oct 19, 2009

Real Party!

Toni W. in Atlanta hosted a little fete last weekend and made carnitas - way to go Gal! My favorite part? That she put her fella to work searing all that pork!

From Toni:
"They were fantastic! Many folks asked for your recipe, and I passed the link along. Jim is ready to make them again for another shower we are hosting Friday night!"

Oct 18, 2009

DFO: A Hearty Stew

Right about now you’re probably asking yourself “What is that brown mess and why on earth would anyone eat it?” Well, fear not gentle reader, for that is a bowl of lentil and sausage stew and it may just become your new favorite weeknight supper.

Full disclosure: I actually saw this recipe somewhere recently and thought it looked delicious. I picked up the ingredients on my last trip to the store and then I settled in and waited for the cold weather to roll in. Because this just sounded like hearty, comforting bowl food. And then I lost the recipe. I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I saw it! I’ve re-created it from memory but if it rings any bells for you, would you let me know where you saw it before?? That would be so great – ‘cause I’m feeling pretty silly right now.

Dinner For One: Lentil and Sausage Stew

What you need:
Olive oil
2-3 ounces smoked turkey sausage, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
8oz. package baby portabello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
14oz. can chicken broth
1 cup brown lentils
2 big handfuls baby spinach
Salt & pepper to taste

How you make it:
Heat a swirl of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook, turning occasionally until browned. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Turkey sausage won’t render much, if any, fat so add another swirl of olive oil to the pot and turn the heat down to medium. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly for about a minute. Add a splash of chicken broth and stir to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Add lentils to pot and pour in the rest of the chicken broth. Add water until lentils are covered, put top on pot and let cook, over medium heat, until lentils are tender. Keep an eye on them, and add more water if they start to dry out.

When lentils are soft, add spinach and sausage and stir until spinach wilts and sausage is heated through. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.

This would be great with some good feta or queso blanco crumbled on top but it’s delicious on its own too. You don’t really need the sausage – the mushrooms are tender and meaty, so feel free to leave it out if you’re so inclined. I might not serve it to company because it is so very brown… but make a pot for yourself on a chilly night, settle in on the couch with a big bowl and a glass of wine and see how happy it makes you. Go ahead, try it – you can thank me later.

Oct 14, 2009

This makes me happy

From Lauren S. in Atlanta:

Thank you so much for your fabulous Oktoberfest post! It inspired me to have a beer exchange and Oktoberfest get together a la casa de Gary. Attached are the pictures. Guests were RAVING about the sausage and potato salad - and the entire theme! Thank you again!

love to TSG!

My heart is full. Listen up Single Gals - Go forth and entertain!

Oct 11, 2009


Wanna go to a place where everyone knows your name? (Cue Cheers theme song…) Well then plan a trip to Jupiter, Florida. And before you go, call my cousin and tell her you’re on the way so that not only will she plan an elaborate dinner party in your honor with ten of the most interesting & fun people you’ve ever met, but she’ll also alert the ENTIRE TOWN that you’re coming so that once you arrive you will be greeted by EVERYONE as though you’re their long-lost relative or best friend. Everywhere you go people will call your name and be genuinely thrilled that you’re there. It’s absolutely enchanting. I think all the nicest people in the world must live in Jupiter, Florida.

One tip - when my cousin tells you that it’s getting “cooler” down there, just ignore her and pack your shorts and flip flops. Otherwise you’ll be the only idiot in Florida with a sweater.

Oct 5, 2009

DFO: Moo Shu Chicken

Perhaps I should change the name of this site to "101 Dishes to Make with Coleslaw Mix" - seriously, it's like I'm obsessed with the stuff! 

Dinner For One: Moo Shu Chicken

Forget the takeout and break up with the delivery guy – this is a fast and easy take on a Chinese restaurant favorite. Recipe adapted from Family Circle July 2008.

1 TB sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
5 oz. shredded coleslaw mix with carrots (about 1/2 a bag)
2 baby portabella or standard mushrooms, sliced into matchsticks
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup hoisin sauce plus more for serving
2 TB soy sauce
4 6” flour tortillas
1-2 cups shredded, cooked chicken

Warm tortillas in a dry nonstick skillet over medium heat until light brown spots appear on both sides. Make an aluminum foil packet, place warm tortillas inside and set aside.

In same pan heat sesame oil over medium heat. Add garlic, coleslaw mix, mushrooms and scallions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, until vegetables are softened.

Add chicken and stir in the hoisin and soy sauces and cook 2 minutes, stirring to make sure everything gets coated.

Spread each tortilla with a little extra hoisin sauce and roll up with a large spoonful of the chicken & vegetable mixture.

NOTE: Grocery store rotisserie chicken works great for this but it’s just as easy to quickly poach a chicken breast – try adding a little soy sauce to the poaching liquid to boost the flavor.

p.s. - I've gone back to the original header... the photos were bugging me. Thoughts?

Oct 1, 2009

DIY: Spooky Centerpiece

I love Halloween. It might be one of my favorite holidays and, as such, I find it perfectly acceptable to start decorating on October 1st. I pulled together this centerpiece in less than an hour and it will live on the dining room table all month long. I especially love when a breeze hits it and the bats flutter a bit... 

DIY: Spooky Centerpiece

What You Need:
Small Garden Urn
Small Rocks or Gravel
3-4 Branches
Black Spray Paint
Needle and Thread
Black Construction Paper
Scissors or an Exacto Knife
Lamb’s Wool

How You Make It:
Make sure your urn is clean and dry. If it’s not already black, you may want to give it a coat of black spray paint. Plug any drainage holes with tape and fill the urn with rocks, gravel, marbles or even floral foam if you want. Go out to your yard (or someone else’s!) and gather 3 or 4 dead branches and spray paint them black. Once the paint has dried, nestle branches into the rocks.

Trace bat shapes onto the construction paper and cut them out with scissors or an exacto knife. Not feeling artistic? You can find templates at Martha Stewart’s site or download some free clip art. If you only have white paper, try a spooky ghost or a skull. Any Halloween-inspired shape will work. Using a needle and black thread, make bats into ornaments and hang from the branches.

Pull the lamb’s wool into wispy pieces and drape some in the branches. Pile the rest into the base of the urn, covering the rocks completely.


NOTE: I actually had everything I needed for this around my house and I bet you do too... no lamb's wool? How about cotton balls? No garden urn? Try an interesting vase or bowl. No thread? Try fishing line or un-bend some paperclips to make hooks... you get the idea.