Holy Pumpkin!

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At last, fall has come along! I absolutely love everything about this time of the year.  I love sitting in coffee shops on cloudy days, Halloween, the colors, comfy sweaters, and the crisp air without it being chill to the bone cold.

Oh ya… and pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin!

Finally, I can indulge in all my favorite pumpkin sweets and fill my house with the sweet, sweet, scent of pumpkin spice.

My first dessert of the season? Pumpkin Spice Donuts with a Maple Glaze.

These things are heavenly. If you don’t believe me, try them yourself!

Ingredients for Donut

2 cups of all-purpose flour, sifted

1 and 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of ginger

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

dash of salt

1/2 stick of  butter

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons of 2% milk

1 egg and 1 egg white

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Maple Glaze

1 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

4 tablespoons of 2% milk

3 teaspoons of maple syrup (sorry Mrs. Butter-worths wont cut it, real maple syrup)

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Directions:

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

First you will need a greased donut pan. (Trust me, it’s worth the $9.99 investment. These pans are so much fun!)

Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, spices, and salt) and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together the pumpkin, butter (room temperature), brown sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Combine with dry ingredients.

You will notice that the donut dough will get sticky and thick. Next, you will either need to pipe the dough into the donut pan or take a spoon and spread the dough along the pan sections.

Bake for 10-12 minutes and let cool while you make your maple glaze.

For your maple glaze, whisk together all ingredients listed above in a small bowl.

You may need to add more milk to achieve the desired consistency.

Once the dounts are cool, dip in glaze and decorate!

My favorite toppings are pecans, cinnamon, walnuts, and sprinkles…but really, the sky is the limit.

Grab your donut, brew up your favorite coffee, listen to The Cinematic Orchestra “To Build a Home” and watch the world. Hellooooo Fall, please stay a while! 🙂

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Green Apple Mac n Cheese

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“Shall I post or shall I not?”

This has been the reoccurring thought circulating my brain the past seven days. Last week I decided to make a unique, out of this universe, mac n cheese. In fact, I had hopes of converting velveeta lovers across the world. Did I? Not exactly.

Since apples and expensive cheese go together like Kate Middleton and Prince William, it was only natural to add apples to my cheesy goodness.

I started with making a normal bechamel sauce, threw in some gruyere, creamy havarti, and sharp white cheddar cheese.

To make things interesting, I threw in a cup of apple cider (or apple juice) and one cup diced granny smith apple.

Poured it over some shell pasta and voila the perfect Fall mac n cheese!

I proudly took this sucker via crock pot to work the next day. My office hosts cooking competitions almost on a weekly basis and it happened to be the Mac N Cheese Smack Down. I never received my pamphlet about the “mandatory weight gain” when hiring on. Anyways, I was ready to blow everyone away with this creamy cheesy goodness.

It is safe to say I didn’t place 1st…or 2nd…or 3rd…or even 4th or 5th. My ego is still on its way to recovery. I will leave it at that.

As a food lover it is no surprise that I had a dark cloud over my head for a few days. How could I not place? How did everyone not LOVE this recipe? In an effort to better understand I asked around. Their responses:

“It wasn’t orange”

“I like velveeta”

“It didn’t have bacon”

“No parmesan cheese”

Okay okay! I will agree with the parmesan comment.

Regardless, the answer was simple (I do happen to work with a bunch of engineers). Everyone has their own personal preference for this comfort dish.

So if this recipe sounds good to you, try it out! I am most defintely a fan and so are quite a few other foodies I know.

Ingredients

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter

2 cups milk

1 and 3/4 cups heavy cream

3/4 cup apple juice or apple cider

4 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons salt

Black pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg to taste (about 1/4 teaspoons)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup gruyere cheese

1 cup sharp white cheddar

1/2 cup havarti cheese

1/4 cup parmesan

1 large box of shell pasta

Directions

Start by heating cream, milk, and cider/juice on medium heat in a saucepan

In a large skillet pan, melt butter and mix in flour. Once hot, slowly pour in the cream mixture while whisking. Add in the spices, cheeses, and apple pieces

Let simmer and reduce for 10 minutes

Cook pasta and pour cheese over

Top with breadcrumbs and fresh diced apples

I’ll be your Huckleberry!

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Today I came home from work to find a fairly large package sitting at my door. It was taped up suspiciously with the words “perishable” written across. Given that I grew up with an FBI agent as a father, naturally normally I would assume this was some sort of bomb from an enemy I never knew existed.

As I got closer, I started to notice the sweet berry smell escaping the box with a tag reading “overnight shipment from Montana”. Ahhh ha! A package from my wilderness boyfriend.

My boyfriend has been hiking across the United States and living with the bears.  Although it’s a little tough listening to his amazing stories while sitting at work, I can’t help but wait by my phone. Lately the topic of conversation has been about huckleberries. Huckleberry pie..huckleberry shakes…huckleberry anything. Sadly, the only Huckleberry I know is the one Mark Twain wrote about. That being said, my boyfriend insisted that these Pacific Northwest berries were better than any other kind out there.

Sure enough, he spent all day picking berries just to overnight ship me a batch….along with a recipe for huckleberry pie. As usual, he knows the way to my heart.

These berries are simply incredible. With the perfect balance of sweet and tart they contributed to the best pie I have ever made.

This recipe was super easy and came out delicious. For those wondering, the recipe comes from this cute postcard. Too bad these berries aren’t abundant where I live…I’ve already thought of a ton of recipes.

Who needs roses when they can have huckleberries shipped overnight?

Something Sweet from Shredded Wheat

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Sorry for my lack of blogs lately. I’m not purposely neglecting Break-the-Plate…just haven’t been able to post. You see, my roommate transferred work positions and moved across the country to New York. This left me with an empty apartment, no fridge, no table, and not a single potential roommate. Lucky for me, my mom offered me a place to stay until I figure things out. This happens to work out perfectly since I have big plans brewing at the moment. 🙂

The only downside to my practically free living arrangement is their internet. Although it magically works for them, I can’t seem to connect for the life of me. Which is why I am currently stationed at Coffee Bean.

By the way: I have ended my relationship with Starbucks. This might come as a surprise to many but things just weren’t working out. The Bucks has been striking out on beverages lately (burnt coffee and sloppy lattes). Therefore, I have developed a relationship with Coffee Bean… and yes, things are going quite well.

Last night I made my favorite Greek dessert, Kataifi. This has always been a favorite but I never knew exactly how to make it. Over the weekend I heard my mom arguing with one of her Greek friends about the recipe. One insisted it was made with shredded phyllo dough and the other insisted it was made with Shredded Wheat cereal. Turns out, they were both right!

That’s right! This usually boring and tasteless cereal:

Makes a very sweet and delectable dessert.

Ingredients

Shredded Wheat biscuits (I used 6 biscuits for 6 servings)

1/2lb of butter melted

3/4 cup of crushed walnuts

1 cup of sugar

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground clove

Directions:

Start by greasing your pan and heating your oven to 350 degrees

Layer your shredded wheat biscuits in pan

Pour 1/2 of your melted butter over your biscuits. Be sure to flip and get both sides.

In a seperate bowl, mix cinnamon, ground cloves, walnuts and 2 tablespoons of sugar together.

Pour walnut mixture over the biscuits

Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes

While your biscuits are in the oven, boil two cups of water and 1 cup of sugar on the stove. Add your lemon juice.

Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and set aside. The liquid should not be thick syrup.

Remove your dessert from the oven and pour the sugar water over the biscuits.

Trust me, you need the sugar water! Honey is not a good subsitute for this dessert. Sugar water softens the biscuits and makes it sweet within.

Let cool, sprinkle with cinnamon and serve. Who said Shredded Wheat had to be boring?

Check out this link to find a Greek Festival near you.

Mom’s Spanakopita

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Growing up, I was always a little embarrassed to be part Greek. I never thought it was fair that I had naturally frizzy hair or that I had to learn the art of plucking my bushy eyebrows. It was never easy explaining to friends why my parent’s house had a shrine to Greece and holy water basically on tap. It took my first trip to Greece to realize how amazing my culture really was. I eventually learned how to tame my hair and somehow bushy eyebrows are now back in style. My friends don’t seem to mind when my mom offers shots of ouzo and I kind of enjoy having homegrown grapes from my backyard.

Greece may always have a special place in my heart….

But, Greek food will always have a special place in my stomach!

Since my mom is Greek, I grew up eating feta and hummus at a young age. When it came to favorites…spanakopita was always at the top of my list. Spanakopita is basically a Greek spinach pie. I have to say, those Greeks must be pretty smart if they are able to get a child hooked on the usually despised green leafy veggie.

Just like any Greek dish there are dozens of versions/methods of making it. Ask another Greek and they will tell you their yiayia can make it better anyways! My mom taught me her recipe and just as any other Greek would say, “it’s the best version out there”. My mom makes her spanakopita in a casserole or baking pan. This may not be the traditional “triangle” style but it’s just as delicious and much more practical for dinner parties. This past Saturday, my mom and I made the dish. Check out the recipe below:

Mom’s Spanakopita

Ingredients:

One large bag of frozen spinach (found in the frozen veggie seciton of the market)

1/2 cup chopped leeks

1/4 cup of chopped red onion

1/4 green onion chopped

2 cloves of minced garlic

1 package of phyllo dough

1 package of feta cheese

4 eggs lightly beaten

1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

1.) Start by microwaving your frozen spinach until it is fully thawed. Your spinach will hold excessive water which will turn your spanakopita into a soupy mess. In a bowl squeeze out the excess water and separate.

2.) Next, mix your leeks, garlic, and onions with your spinach and set aside.

3.) Separate your phyllo dough sheets into two sections. Phyllo dough can be tricky to use. It dries very fast and can rip easily. The best way to keep it workable is to keep a damp napkin over the dough when you aren’t using it.

4.) In a large rectangle pan, brush olive oil along the bottom. Take your first section of phyllo and one-by-one start layering the bottom your pan with the sheets of dough. Brush olive oil in between each layer.

5.) Once you have layered the first section of phyllo, sprinkle your spinach and onion mixture.

6.) Crumble your feta cheese and pour 1/2 of the egg mixture on top of the cheese.

7.) Next, fold in the sides of the phyllo dough.

8.) Using the second section of phyllo dough sheets, one-by-one cover the top of your mixture. Be sure to brush olive oil in between each sheet. Tuck in the edges of the dough to seal filling.

9.) Once completed, brush olive oil and the remaining egg mixture on top of your phyllo dough. This will give your dish a beautiful golden brown color when cooked.

10.) Place in the oven at 350 degrees and cook until golden brown (about 30 minutes).

Ready to serve! Opa!

Homemade Chai Tea Latte

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It seems as though I have been a slave to Coffee Bean and Starbucks lately. Running to the nearest coffee/tea supplier has become an everyday trend. Although my taste buds don’t seem to mind, my bank account does. Overall, I fancy Coffee Bean over Starbucks but you just can’t beat the S-bucks Chai Tea Latte.

Some suffer from seasonal Chai-addiction (occurring in the Fall and Winter seasons) but it appears I suffer from a severe year-round case. I like them hot, I like them cold…Shoot! I will drink them luke warm also. Chai teas are just plain delicious.

Recently my office supplied a Keurig machine. In an effort to save money I have been eliminating a majority of my S-bucks trips and buying my own K-cups. K-cups come to about 65 cents per cup vs. the normal $3.50 a cup from Starbucks. Keurigs may not come with frothy milk but they usually calm my cravings.

A problem begins to surface when I develop a craving for chai tea lattes at home. I do not own a Keurig since I am saving for an espresso machine/milk steamer. Therefore, it’s time to get crafty. Check out the below recipe for the “Almost as good as Starbucks Chai Tea Latte”. It’s tasty and rather healthy.

Homemade Chai Latte

Ingredients

3 and 1/2 cups of water

2 black tea bags

1/4 teaspoon of ginger

1/2 teaspoon of whole cloves

1/4 teaspoon of green cardamom or a 1/2 teaspoon of pre-grind cardamom

2 cinnamon sticks or 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons of sugar or 1-2 packets of splenda

1/4 cup of milk or creamer

1.) Start by boiling your water, tea bags, and spices together for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to open flavors.

2.) Next, strain your tea with a fine mesh strainer. There will be lots of floaties so try to catch as much as possible!

3.) Pour your tea back in the pan and add milk (if you decide to use milk over creamer) and sugar.

4.) Scald milk (heat uncovered and just below boil point). Stir occasionally.

5.) Strain one more time and serve in mug! I like to use cinnamon sticks in the mug for presentation.

If you are using creamer instead of milk, add one teaspoon of creamer per mug to have a richer tasting latte.

This recipe may not come with frothy milk but it definitely gives me my fix. Serve this recipe hot or over ice. Try it out!

Faux Funfetti

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Tonight I decided to try out a popular recipe that has been floating around the web. Diet Coke Cake!

I believe this is a Weight Watchers recipe and although I try to count my calories and be good, I was hesitant to test out this recipe in the past. I guess i’m under the impression “if you are going to eat it, eat it right”. Therefore, when I am having my cake and eating it too… I want it full of calories and full of fat. It just tastes better! On the flip side, it is swimsuit season so I see why this recipe is all the rage. Given that this is what I keep in my purse these days:

I should probably learn to cut calories somewhere.

There are two main ingredients: boxed cake mix and a can of diet coke.

That’s it.

My first thought was “how?”

Didn’t I learn in culinary school that eggs are the best method of binding together ingredients? I am no Chem. major so I have no idea how this recipe surprisingly works. And, believe it or not it tastes pretty similar to the real thing.

Start by heating your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together your boxed funfetti mix and can of diet sprite or diet 7up. If you are using chocolate boxed mix try rootbeer or diet cola.

Pour mixture in pan and cook for about 30 to 35 minutes.

Thats it folks!

I am amazed it turned out so well. It was a challenge to slice the cake without it crumbling so next time I plan on adding an egg white to solidify it a little better.

It’s Monday night which means I will be glued to the TV watching The Bachelorette (Rooting for Sean). I couldn’t think of a better late night dessert.

Have a nice week everyone! 🙂

Bahama Dream Drink

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It’s been a while Blog World! I’ve returned from the Bahamas (whether I like it or not) and am trying to remigrate to reality. It’s no secret that I’m still stuck in vacation mode. I haven’t touched the oven lately and have been yearning to lounge in the sun with a delicious Bahama Mama drink in hand. For those that didn’t know, I was lucky enough to join my boyfriend’s family on their caterman voyage through the Exumas Islands. Endless blue water, boat to ourselves, private beaches, and lovely weather. What a rough life…

Did I mention there was a chef on board?  Like I said, real rough for the average foodie. We were borderline overfed and constantly shoved delicious desserts down our throats. It was amazing watching the chef prepare his many meals. We even had fresh sushi within 30 minutes of reeling in fish. I had the intial thought to write a blog post solely on his food choices but, of course, relaxation got in the way.

I learned how to scuba dive which was mind-blowingly awesome and terrifying all at the same time. Once I calmed my heart rate, I was one with the fish and explored the underwater world.

We made friends with the fish and got up and close with the largest lobsters I’ve ever seen.

By the way, these shells:

They are conch shells and quite popular among the Bahamian restaurants. From conch salad, to conch fritters, to conch chowder, you can taste it all!

Since I am still stuck in vacation mode. I will leave you with a yummy Bahama inspired drink recipe. What can I say? It’s been rough being back in the office. Let me pretend I’m still on vacation for a little bit longer!

Bahama Dream

Ingredients:

2 cups mango sorbet

6 large strawberries

1/2 cup pineapple juice

2 oz rum

1/8 cup of shredded coconut

handful of ice cubes

Blend together and pour. Rim the glass with coconut or sprinkle it on top. Enjoy!

Show Me Your Mussels

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With only days away from paradise (aka Bahamas), I’ve got seafood on the brain. Coincidentally, my friend Jamie did too! We decided to stay in this past Saturday and make a shellfish dinner.

Forget the loud clubs, expensive drinks and creepy guys. I’d rather spend my Saturday night with these mussels:

Instead of these muscles:

It was a night in full of girl talk, cooking, and wine. Jamie pulled out a bottle of Chardonnay which happened to be called “Sweet Bitch”.  How appropriate for our girl night. This wine was deliciously sweet and took every bit of will power we had not to drink the whole bottle before dinner.

Tomato Garlic Mussels 

Ingredients:

1lb of mussels (clean and debearded)

The seafood department may debeard the mussels for you. If not, check out how to here.

1tbs of olive oil

1/2 cup of chopped basil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can of crushed tomatos

1 fresh tomato chopped

2 table spoons of butter

1/2 cup of dry white wine

salt and pepper to taste

First of all, throw out any mussels that are already open. Mussels should be shut when not cooked and opened after they are cooked.

Mussels are not always supplied at your local grocery store. Unless you are close to the beach, you may need to talk to the seafood department and pre-order a batch.

Heat oil in large sauce pan.

Pour in your can of crushed tomatos, fresh tomato, basil, garlic, butter, and wine. Let simmer on the stove over medium heat.

Next, place your mussels in the pan and cover.

After about 5-8 mins check on your mussels and see if they are opened. Mussels that are not open should be discarded and not eaten.

Pour in a bowl and ready to serve.

We served our garlic mussels and tomatos in a bowl and dipped toasted sourdough bread in the sauce. However, this dish would be great on top of angel hair pasta!

By the way, how amazing are these plates? Jamie found them at Neiman Marcus (on sale).

I love my thrifty, yet stylish friends.

Heading to the Bahamas on Thursday. Hoping to swim with the dolphins and eat spectacular seafood. Catch you all when I return!

East Coast Edibles

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It’s been far too long since I last blogged and I’ve been antsy to do so! Now, don’t go thinking I’ve lost my passion for food just yet…

Proof: I just purchased cupcake flavored toothpaste.

Yes, it’s sweet and flavorful but I’d rather have a tube of straight buttercream frosting. For the sake of my teeth and dentist bills, I’ll resist the temptation.

With vacations occupying most my weekends, I haven’t had much time to dedicate to the kitchen (or to my laptop for that matter). Oh, how miss my tiny kitchen, my hand-me-down crockpot, and most of all, my mellow Friday nights of cooking in.

You better believe I have been eating away on my travels and of course snapping pics as I go!

Over Memorial Day weekend, I headed to New Jersey and enjoyed some of my favorite edibles on the East Coast.

First stop? Mack’s Pizza (formally Mack and Manco). I first tasted this “pie” during my visit last year and couldn’t wait to get seconds this time around. They claim it’s the Jersey water that makes the pizza irresistible and I kind of have to agree. The sauce tastes fresh and the crust is cooked to perfection. Usually I am partial to the Chicago deep dish style but Mack’s thin crust hits the spot after a long day at the shore. Enjoy the casual enviroment and open kitchen while you wait for your pizza to be ready. I opted for the half pepperoni and half mushroom pie but I have a feeling any combination won’t leave you disappointed. Check out Mack’s Pizza in Wildwood, NJ or Ocean City NJ.

Best way finish your pizza dinner?  With a boardwalk staple, Kohr Brothers frozen custard. The variety of flavors will make it almost impossible to decide!

I went for the mint flavored custard with rainbow sprinkles jimmies. I demolished it in about .5 seconds flat.

Another boardwalk staple? Water ice. Trust me, this isn’t a snow cone. Water ice is finely graded, served in a cup, and accompanied with a spoon. Unlike snow cones, water ice never feezes over or gets a hard surface. Water ice is light, refreshing, and makes me wonder why California wastes its time with the messy, poorly made versions served in a cone cup. Last year I went for the black cherry flavor…this year I chose cotton candy! Equally delicious and an East Coast must have.

Thanks for the excess calories, East Coast! Until next time Jersey….