Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Hope everyone is having a fun-filled Halloween! For those folks living in the path of the recent Nor'easter here in New England, I hope you're electricity and heat are back on.
For us, we made it through without losing power. I was very happy, as we have a small co-op electric company in our neighborhood and we're usually the first to lose power.
Many others were not so lucky. In my town alone 5,700 households lost power...on a day when temperatures were frigid! Because of the this, along with downed trees all over the place, school was canceled today. Which ordinarily would have been cause for celebration. But, today there were all sorts of fun activities planned at school - the annual Halloween parade and classroom parties - all were cancelled along with school...a major bummer!

Then late this afternoon our Mayor announced that Halloween had been postponed until Saturday night. Are you kidding me? How does one cancel [or postpone] Halloween? My kids were in tears.
But, we decided to flip our porch light on...have the candy ready...and suit up for Trick or Treating anyway and take our chances that others would be doing the same. I understand that some neighborhoods are still without power, and that downed power lines are a real hazard. But, our neighborhood was safe, so we went. Good thing too because it was the best year yet! My boys made out like bandits.
[This year, Bozo #1 was Pac-Man and #2 was a Ninja! The Scream characters are the boys who live across the street. Fun times!]
Past Halloweens here, here, and here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Weekend //

I've been wanting to start a little weekly round-up of some of my favorite finds from around the Food Blog world. I give shout-outs to style and design finds all the time...but, what about Food??
There are so many great food blogs out there, and I think you should be reading them! Here are some of my favorites this week...{1.} Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread with Pumpkin Seed Topping via My German Kitchen in The Rockies {2.} Homemade Unsweetened Applesauce via So Good & Tasty {3.} Harvest Apple & Spinach Salad via Annie Eats {4.} Super Simple Roasted Apples via Joy the Baker {5.} Grilled Eggplant & Squash Lasagna via Give Me Flour {6.} Beef, Beer & Blue Cheese Pot Pie via Edible Ireland

Eggplant Parmesan

My grandmother made the best Eggplant Parmesan known to man. No joke. It was soft, cheesy, salty, sweet from the tomatoes, crispy on the edges and generally perfection in every way. Knowing this, you would think I make it all the time, right? But, I don't. And, I haven't. Ever.
It's just been one of those dishes that intimidates me. Plus, the thought of salting all that eggplant, then having to wait for it to drain, then making a sauce, then assembling it, then doing the mountain of dishes you created using 5 plates, a pot, a colander and a skillet. Well, you just really have to be in the mood.
Another reason is why make it myself when I have my mother's version available numerous times a year? You see, in my opinion [sorry Dad, you've got grandma's meatballs down to a science] my mother can replicate this signature dish exactly. I love when she makes it and so does my entire family.
However, this isn't doing me any good at the moment, as my mother recently moved away...2,207 miles away from me to be exact. She left Connecticut and is fulfilling her dream of living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming {where my brother can have all the eggplant he wants}.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Some Things I Just Love...

Being a fair-skinned redhead, Autumn colors are something I've always been attracted to. Here are some favorite Fall finds from around the web - {1.} Ponchos are super popular at the moment and I'm very happy about this. This sweater is one of my most favorite recent finds and I hardly ever take it off! {2.} I'm developing a crush on anything owl related. I love this Wise Ol' cookie jar. {3.} I love the idea of using these velvet pumpkins {with real pumpkin stems} for Fall decorations. {4.} I love Chan Luu bracelets. This gold vermeil bracelet with orange leather is perfect for this time of year. {5.} Adorable and vintage looking Halloween dishtowels from House 8810 {6.} A great pot with spoon for serving holiday entrees or side dishes from Terrain.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spiced Dark Chocolate & Pumpkin Seed Bark with Sea Salt

Spiced Dark Chocolate & Pumpkin Seed Bark with Sea Salt // The Parsley Thief
I'm dubbing this treat Halloween Candy for Grown-ups. It's my kind of candy - a perfect combination of just enough sweetness, crunch, saltiness, and a touch of spice. While the super dark varieties of chocolate aren't really my thing, I love bittersweet chocolate. Not only for it's purported health benefits, but for {as the name suggests} - it's slightly bitter, not too sweet taste. I know I'm probably not the only one who can get a bit overwhelmed with the sickeningly sweet candy overload that comes with Halloween. This treat is perfect for folks like us and it's a fun candy to whip up for a teacher goodie bag, a hostess gift, or to serve if you're entertaining during the upcoming weeks.
When I say you can whip this up, it's true. This recipe really couldn't be easier. Not only is it easy and quick to make, but it's very adaptable as well. If you're not a fan of bittersweet chocolate, use semi-sweet, or a combination of both. Add dried fruit, like cranberries, cherries, or apricots.
Mix & Pour
Pumpkin seeds are appropriate for this time of year, but pistachios, almonds, peanuts, or cashews would be great too. To add some depth and spice to the flavor of the chocolate, I've added some pumpkin pie spices and ground red chipotle. The flavors are evocative of Autumn and the chipotle adds a subtle heat, which you can certainly adjust to your taste. You can purchase pumpkin pie spice at your local market, but I've also included a quick recipe with instructions on how to make your own at home below.
Spiced Dark Chocolate & Pumpkin Seed Bark with Sea Salt // The Parsley Thief
I hope you love this delicious "candy" as much as I do...just beware, it's highly addictive! Enjoy!
Some other sweet treats perfect for gift giving - Rum Balls | Coconut Brigadeiros | Saltine Toffee | Chewy Caramel Popcorn Pretzel Bars

Spiced Dark Chocolate & Pumpkin Seed Bark with Sea Salt

{printable recipe}
Yields: about 12 ounces
If you don't have a double boiler, a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water will work just as well. The chocolate can also be microwaved at 30 second intervals, checking and stirring after each, until completely melted. Experiment with the ingredients and quantities to suit your taste...such as adding dried fruits, assorted roasted nuts, or using a combination or semi-sweet and dark chocolate. The spices give the chocolate a subtle heat, but not too spicy! If you'd like it on the spicier side, add a bit more ground chipotle. Pumpkin pie spice can be found in most supermarkets, but if you're unable to find some, I've included a recipe to make your own at home below.

3 - 3 1/2 ounce bars good quality dark chocolate {70% cacao or higher}
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice {recipe below}
1/8 teaspoon ground red chipotle
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons roasted & salted hulled pumpkin seeds {pepitas}
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Break the chocolate into small pieces. Melt 3/4 of the chocolate in a double boiler set over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and add the remaining chocolate, stirring until melted. Add the dried spices and stir until thoroughly combined. Stir in a 1/2 cup of the pumpkin seeds.

Using a silicone spatula, scrape the mixture out onto the parchment paper. Spread out evenly into a rectangle, as thin or as thick as you desire. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds over the top. Let the bark rest for 5 minutes to cool slightly, then sprinkle the sea salt evenly over the top. Refrigerate for 45 minutes, or until firm. Break the bark into pieces and enjoy!
Make ahead: The bark can be made at least a week in advance and stored in an airtight container. Keep refrigerated, or store in a cool spot.

Pumpkin Pie Spice {Yields: 2 teaspoons} - In a small container, combine 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice. Stir to combine. Save the remaining spice blend for another use by storing in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

{The Basics} Homemade Chicken Stock

I have two Chicken Soup recipes on this site that give basic instructions on how to make homemade stock. But, recently I've decided that the process of making really good stock warrants it's own post, where it can hold a seat in the "Kitchen Basics" section of this blog. Because really, making your own chicken stock is something you should be doing...that is, if you enjoy cooking. It's worlds better than using store bought, although I have been known to cave and do just that on many an occasion. It's also nourishing, economical and makes use of parts of a chicken that would ordinarily be thrown away.
I've been making, packaging and freezing my own stock for years. But, one thing that used to really bother me was that my stock always came out muddy looking. It still tasted good, but the bits floating around in it looked unappetizing. I had tried straining it through a fine mesh sieve, even one lined with cheesecloth...but, it still never came out even mostly clear. Through research and experimentation I discovered what I had been doing wrong.

Friday, October 14, 2011


I know I've mentioned this several times in the past few weeks...but, I recently attended a workshop in NYC called Blogshop and now I'm finally talking about it!
I initially discovered these workshops and the idea of attending one when I read about it on a blog I read regularly, called a Cup of Jo. I was immediately intrigued. The workshop is a 2-day course in learning how to apply Photoshop techniques to your photos and blog posts...and it's specifically geared towards bloggers [although anyone would learn a ton and have a blast attending one!].
I learned a thing or two about Photoshop while in college studying Design. But, that was years ago [more years than I'd care to think about] and my major was not graphic design, so the bits of the program I did learn were purely rudimentary. Since starting a blog, I've re-taught myself several things. The problem is, the way I was previously "figuring things out" wasn't really the proper way to do things. Ultimately, I was just making things more complicated and difficult than they really needed to be...I was basically just winging it. There have also been times when I'll be browsing around the Internet, checking out other people's blogs and will wonder, how'd they do that?
For all of these above reasons I jumped at the chance to take this course.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Roasted Cardamom Applesauce

Ahhh...FALL. My favorite season. I love the chillier weather, wearing sweaters, the smell of fires burning in fireplaces, the colored leaves...and the apples!
We went on our annual apple picking trip recently and brought home many, many pounds of apples. If I get my act together, hopefully I will have more apple recipes coming your way. But, for now, I'm starting off with homemade applesauce. There's a vintage recipe here for plain old applesauce, which is delicious as is. But, this year I was inspired to try something new.
A few weekends ago I attended a workshop in NYC. The event was catered by an amazing prepared food shop in Brooklyn, NY called Radish. On the first day, one of the lunch items served was a Cardamom Spiced Applesauce. It was hugely popular and even people who claimed to not really care for applesauce were loving it. All I could think of was how much my boys would love some! So, that was my mission...finding out how to make something similar. I didn't have Radish's exact recipe, but found something online that looked like it might fit the bill.
It's pretty much exactly how I would normally make applesauce, except instead of steaming the apples in a bit of water, these are roasted. Then, of course, there's cardamom added...which is really what gives it a unique flavor. We had ours with breaded pork chops, mashed potatoes and green peas {basically my all time favorite dinner...ever}.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

- Steve Jobs, commencement speech @ Stanford University, 2005

{photo source: Apple}