Archive for the ‘Fall’ Category

The weather in Florida is finally getting cooler.  I love cooler weather.  Our family can finally enjoy opening the windows and turning off the air conditioning for a while (hopefully).  I have been craving a good tomato-basil soup for a while now, so as soon as I woke up yesterday I decided that it would be the perfect soup along my other craving: grilled cheese.  You see my parents-in-law went out to California for Thanksgiving, that’s where they used to live for 20+ years, and spent some time with my sister-in-law, Keely.  As I was bidding them farewell I just casually slipped them a hint.  That if they wanted to bring me back anything, a loaf of San Fransisco sourdough bread is all I wanted.  Well, if they aren’t the best in-laws, I don’t know who is.  Guess what they brought me back? 

Of course you can make your grilled cheese with any bread, but I recommend finding a good sourdough loaf to take it to that next level 🙂

Fresh Tomato-Basil Soup 

4 lbs of tomatoes (I used 2 pints of grape tomatoes, 1 pint of heirloom tomatoes, and 1 big ugly tomato)
2 onions, approximately 2 1/2 cups
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 shallot, diced (or can substitue garlic)
1/4 cup basil, julienned, + more for garnish
2-3 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp salt + more to taste
2 tsp fresh ground pepper + more to taste
1 quart chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato paste (helps to develop flavor quicker)
3 tsp sugar
1/4 cup 2% milk
optional: croutons or parmesan shavings for garnish

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot at medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, salt and pepper to the pot and allow them to become soft and translucent, about 10 minutes; stirring periodically.







Now add the shallots, stir and continue to cook until you can press a carrot piece with the back of your spoon and it easily falls apart.







Next add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, stock, and finally the basil.







Allow your soup to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the tomtoes are soft and cooked down.  Now check for seasonings, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Now use your immersion blended (or in 2 batches in blender) and puree the soup down. If you don’t like bits of tomato skin you can strain your soup, but I personally love the bits and pieces of texture in this soup. You can also use a food mill if you have one.









Now I add the milk and give it a stir. Serve in a mug or bowl and top with your favorite garnishes- I used parmesan shavings and basil. Really great flavor, super fresh, hence the name 😉 and really nice thicker consistency.








Next the grilled cheese to eat along side your soup. 

sourdough loaf of bread cut into whatever thickness you prefer (i like medium thick slices 🙂 )
sharp yellow or white cheddar cheese, about 2 slices per sandwich
muenster cheese, 2 slices per sandwich
swiss cheese, 1 slice per sandwich
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp dijon mustard
3-4 tbsp of butter


Combine your mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl.  Spread this sauce on both insides of bread.  Next, arrange your cheddar slices on one sourdough slice of bread.  Place your swiss cheese in the middle and your muenster slices on the other side.  Top with your already mayo’d slice of bread.  You can either spread your butter lightly over both top and bottom of your sandwich bread-or if you want a little less butter, like me, I just used a brush to spread  it directly on my George Foreman grill..(I don’t have a panini grill yet, and this was a gift).  If you don’t have a panini press you can use a skilled and place a plate or heavy lid on top of you sandwiches, flipping halfway through.  Total time is about 4 minutes.  You can try your own combination of cheeses, let me know what the results are!

So there you have it, the perfect combination on a cool Florida evening:  fresh and hot tomato-basil soup with a crunchy crust on the outside, melty and cheesy on the inside with a slight tanginess from the sourdough and dijon, but a slight sweetness from your swiss cheese- sandwich.  And if you dip one into the other, some say fireworks go off…  a bit exagerated?  I don’t know 😉  Some really have seen said fireworks 🙂  I hope you enjoy this one!

Read Full Post »

As I sit here writing this post my entire house is filled with sweet aromas of roasting red bell peppers and cornbread that is sitting on the counter beginning to cool.  These are the kinds of smells that whet my appetite for tomorrow and one of the many things that make Thanksgiving so exciting.  And I was so excited to find this recipe a few years ago in Fernando Saralegui’s Our Latin Table.  It is the perfect combination, in my opinion, of savory and slightly spicy combined with a little sweetness.  And it really is a wonderful blend of the traditional mixed with the sassy flavor of cuban-americans.  I was a never a fan of stuffing as a kid…come on stale bits of bread that come in a prepackaged bag with undercooked onions and celery combined to make some sort of gummy mush?  No thanks.  Of course since then I’ve found recipes that shame the aforementioned- but this is the one that changed it all!  At least for me that is.  If you don’t already have a set recipe you are using, this just may be your family’s new favorite!

Cornbread & Chorizo Stuffing

4 8.5 oz boxes cornbread mix
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 large Spanish onions, chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced (to quote Emeril Lagasse “Yeah baby”)
4 small (7 oz) chorizo sausages, diced
2 roasted red bell peppers, chopped
salt and pepper to taste


Bake the cornbread according to package directions. 

 While the bread is still warm, cut it into cubes in the pan.  Let the bread sit at room temperature, uncovered, for 12 hours or overnight.  Remove the bread from the pan and crumble to make course breadcrumbs. 

 To toast the pine nuts, bake them on a sheet pan at 300°F for about 5 minutes until they turn golden brown.  Watch carefully as they will burn fast.  Immediately remove the nuts from the pan to a clean dish to stop them from cooking.



In a medium sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, pine nuts, sautéed onions and garlic, sausages, red pepper, and oregano, mixing well.   Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The stuffing can be up to this point a day in advance in an airtight container.

*I wanted to post this recipe before the big day, but I haven’t assembled everything together yet.  I just wanted to post this in case anyone out there wanted to make it today.  Here are a few pics of the steps I’ve done ahead of time.  And I will post more pictures once the dish is completed.

Guide to roasting and peeling peppers.  Put peppers on a sheet pan at 450°F.  Let them roast for 10 minutes or until charred, then with tongs rotate to all sides (about 5 min per side) until they are all done.  Take out of the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Skin will be wrinkled and easy to peel off.  Once peeled remove core and seeds.


Read Full Post »

Pear Butter

Another thing my friends and I cooked up this past weekend was pear butter.  It is incredibly good!  This recipe (adapted from Bon Appétit) has cardamom, wine, and vanilla, to give it a floral note as opposed to the exact flavorings of the traditional apple butter.  I’m adapting the recipe after doing it the harder way, but I am glad I tried it so you can have the easier way to do it.  Pear butter is perfect for spreading on anything you would normally put butter on: toast, muffins, brie.  You can even top your granola and yogurt with it (my favorite way).  It is great for you, but your friends will surely want some too! 

Pear Butter

4 pounds Bartlett pears (cored and peeled) cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 orange slices
1 lemon slice
4 whole cloves
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of salt


Combine pears, wine and lemon juice in heavy large saucepan. Cover and simmer until pears are soft, pushing unsubmerged pears into liquid occasionally, about 25 minutes. *Transfer to a food processor and puree.

Pears are soft and ready to go to my food mill (remember you can save time by peeling them first!)


*At this point the recipe called to pass unpeeled pears through a foodmill.  I founds this to be more work than necessary.  It is easier to peel and core the pears beforehand, and then after they are poached, transfer them to a food processor. 




I felt like Julia Child using a food mill. Although I still think it has its place, here it lengthened the prep time. I suggest peeling the pears and processing them instead!









Return puree to heavy large sauce-pan. Add remaining ingredients.  *Helpful hint: If you have a cheesecloth or even a coffee filter would work tied with kitchen twine- put the ingredients you will need to fish out in the end, here; your cloves, cinnamon, orange slices, and lemon.  It makes it much easier in the end.  Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and boil gently until mixture thickens and mounds slightly on spoon stirring often, about 50 minutes.  If it has been 50 minutes and your pear butter is still not thickened up, don’t be afriad to continue reducing it at a lower heat.  It will be about the consistency of apple sauce.  Also remember it will thicken slightly once cool.

Discard fruit slices, cloves, and cinnamon. Spoon butter into hot canning jar, filling only to 1/4 inch form top. Immediately wipe rim, using towel dipped into hot water. Place lid on jar; seal tightly. Repeat with remaining jars.

Arrange jars in large pot. Add boiling water to pot so that at least 1 inch of water covers tops of jars. Cover pot and boil rapidly 15 minutes. Remove jars from pot. Cool to room temperature.  If lid stays down, jar is sealed. (If lid pops up, store butter in refrigerator.) Store in cool dry place up to 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.


Read Full Post »

Over the past weekend, my friends April, Whitney, and I gathered together for what I believe was our 4th annual “homemade gifts day”.  It’s become a really fun tradition to get together and enjoy our time in the kitchen; something we all have agreed seems so natural for women to do.  Of course, if this isn’t your cup of tea I do not mean to discourage you in any way!  Everyone has different strengths- but for us, cooking, baking, and canning for a whole afternoon seems to go by so quickly!  We just chat away, enjoying each other’s fellowship, and feeling very productive at the end of the day from the fruits of our labor!  And of course, Whitney (another huge foodie) made us an amazing lunch that consisted of Sweet Potatoe, Carrot, & Rosemary soup with warm Prosciutto, Pear, & Gruyere Paninis-now that is a complete afternoon! 

You can look forward to this recipe soon!

On this particular day we decided to try out my newly learned canning “techniques”.  And we decided to can Whitney’s mother-in-law’s Cranberry Chutney, pear butter, and pickled dilly veggies.  Today I’m going to share the Cranberry Chutney recipe with you.  This is a gorgeous chutney*, it looks so festive in its pretty mason jars, just ready to celebrate the holidays, and of course, it’s also delicious!  This makes a great gift paired with a home-baked bread or served along any poultry or game. 

*What is a chutney?  Pronounced CHUT-nee, the word come from the East Indian chatni, this spicy condiment usually contains fruit, vinegar, sugar, and spices.  It can range in texure from chunky to smooth, and in degrees of spicyness from mild to hot…The sweeter chutneys also make interesting bread spreads and are delicious served with cheese.  Barron’s, The New Food Lover’s Companion.

Holiday Cranberry Chutney

  • 1 lb. cranberries
  • 1 c. orange segments
  • 1/4 c. orange juice
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. chopped unpeeled apple
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/4 chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 T. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon


Combine all your ingredients in a non-reactive medium-large saucepan and set over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until cranberries have burst.

Aren't the colors gorgeous?!The fruit mixed with the sugar, vinegar, and spices.

Simmering cranberries starting to burst.

Spoon into sterilized jars and follow standard waterbath procedures if you want to keep these in your pantry.  Otherwise enjoy fresh and refrigerate the rest.  Should last about a week in your fridge! 


Read Full Post »

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Good morning everyone, I hope your weekend was great!  This post is much later than I anticipated, but the weekend was filled with a lot of (good) appointments, so I didn’t have much time to get on the computer.  The good news is that I can’t wait to share some of the things that were cooked up in my kitchen (and my friend’s kitchen as well)! 

Have you ever heard of a whoopie pie?  I personally had never even tried one until after making this recipe, but I had heard of them.  I was surprised to find out a lot of people don’t actually know what they are.  I came across the recipe on my friend Kristen’s blog, notsodomesticated.com.  Kristen is a newlywed and blogs about the adventures of perfecting her “wifely duties” and I enjoy her trials and errors, successes, and her transparency and humor along the way.  But more than that she is a great friend and I love reading her blog so I can be up-to-date with her life and feel like we’re still close (distance-wise that is).  So.. on to the whoopie pie!  I realize this is a funny name, my husband laughed every time I offered him one.  This is basically a soft cookie that sandwiches a cream filling.  It is actually very reminiscing of a snack cake, but of course much better… and mothers, better to give one of these to our children than a Hostess or Little Debbie cake filled with trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup..;)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie

For the cookies:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract                                                                                                                       Cream Cheese Filling:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1  cup powdered sugar


Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine your dry ingredients (1-6 on ingredients list).  Beat butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Add your eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Next add your pumpkin and vanilla and beat until smooth.








Stir in flour mixture until combined.







Drop by heaping spoonfuls or by cookie dough scoop (as pictured) onto your baking sheets.  *I would say this is one of my most valuable tools, and sure speeds things along in the kitchen.  Bake for 10-13 minutes or until springy to the touch. 







For your cream cheese filling beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until light and fluffy.







Spread a heaping teaspoon of filling onto flat side of one cookie; top with flat side of second cookie to make a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling.  Makes about 18 whoopie pies.  Store in covered container in refrigerator.







In my opinion, these are the best when freshly baked.  The cream filling is light and airy when at room temperature, so if you don’t serve these right away, maybe take them out a half hour before eating to take off the chill a little.  These are the perfect little fall snacks, enjoy!


Read Full Post »

Pears are in season!  So you can look forward to a few more recipes with pears.  The other night Jeremy asked if we had any dessert, after saying no I looked around and fixtured once again on my fruit basket, and once again the ever faithful pear stood tall. 🙂  “But I can make you something…” began my mini-adventure.  I usually start off creations that way:  there is a need (or want, haha) and a lack of something (triple chocolate brownies) and out of it arises beauty.  Okay, so a bit poetic for just mere poached pears, but you’ll see what I mean in a second.  So out of a bottle of Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc and a few pears arise Poached Pears filled with Dark Chocolate.

Poached Pears Filled with Dark Chocolate

3 somewhat firm pears (bosc or bartlett)
2 cups wine (I finished off two bottles, so I used half of a red, and half of a white wine)
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips (i used ghirardelli, but use your favorite)
1 tbsp of cream


Combine the wine, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan and turn burner on to med-high.  Next, peel your pears (I use a potatoe peeler) and core them from the bottom, using an apple corer or small knife.  But leave the stems intact.







Place your pears in your saucepan and with a spoon baste the exposed side with the poaching liquid.  After about 5 minutes, gently turn your pears around, and continue basting the side that is facing up.  Your pears are ready when easily pierced with a knife.  They do not need to be mushy, just soft.








In the meantime put your chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl or measuring cup and mix with cream and 2 tsp of poaching liquid.  Put defrost in microwave for 15 seconds, remove and mix.  If it isn’t melted yet, put in for another few seconds, and mix again. 














Next, carefully remove your pears from the saucepan and place on a separate dish.  But keep your poaching liquid on the burner and allow it to simmer for a few more minutes until it has just reduced a little bit.  *Important to not cook down too much or it will become a sticky wine-caramel.. not what we are looking for here! 









Carefully tilt your pear so the opened bottom is facing you and with a small spoon fill the bottom of your pear with the chocolate mixture.  Smooth out the bottom.  Do this with all your pears. 








Sit pears upright in your serving dish, serve with a small scoop of vanilla icecream, and drizzle your reduced wine sauce over your pear and icecream.  Enjoy the simple pleasures in life!


Read Full Post »

Florida Chili Con Carne

Last night Jeremy and I had to be somewhere at 6pm, and I wanted to make sure I had dinner ready before he got home.  I had a pound of lean ground beef in the fridge, and I wanted to use it to make something seasonal (of course).  So I looked in my fridge and saw that I had onions, beef stock, leftover pumpkin pureé and some jalapeños.  And in my pantry I have an array of canned beans and stewed tomatoes, as well as a leftover bottle of Merlot, so I decided I had everything I needed to make a chili con carne.  Except, Florida is sometimes too hot to really enjoy a pretty hearty, or in other words, heavy, dense stew.  I mean, let’s face it, we don’t need all those extra calories to survive the harsh, brutal, non-existent winters we have down here.  I know my Canadian-snow-bird-neighbors would agree :).  So I decided to see if I could thoughtfully create a lighter chili, without sacrificing any flavor… and I think I have achieved it!  My husband certainly thought so (he usually complains of, hmm.. bloatedness, heartburn, and heaviness after eating two or three bowls of chilli) :).  This time he was quite happy with the lack of side-effects..haha.  In other words, this chili will satisfy your desire for chili, without being heavy on your stomach, and there is a secret ingredient that gives it a creaminess (without being dense) that you wouldn’t imagine- you got it- pumpkin!

Florida Chili Con Carne

1 lb lean ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced (leave seeds in if you like it spicier)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1/4 cayene pepper
1/4 tsp crushed coriander seed
1 32 oz can of peeled whole tomatoes
1 cup of pureéd pumpkin
16 oz of beef stock
1 ½ cups of merlot or red wine *(can be substituted with more beef stock)
1/2 bunch of cilantro, leaves and stems
1 16 oz can of black beans
1 16 oz can of red beans
3 cups of prepared brown rice


Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Once hot add your onions and garlic, stir and allow them to sweat and soften. 







Add salt and pepper, as well as your diced jalapeños. 







When onions start to look translucent add the ground beef, break up with a wooden spoon and allow to brown.  Add your spices and seasonings to the beef. 







Once your beef is browned add your entire can of tomatoes in, juices and everything, and use kitchen shears or the back of your spoon to chunk your tomatoes into smaller pieces.  Add the beef stock, merlot, and pumpkin pureé and stir. 








Also, chop your cilantro stems and add them into your chilli along with the 2 types of drained beans. 







Allow your chilli to simmer, this could be 40 minutes on a lower heat.  Or in my case, about 20 minutes (with me carefully watching it) on high heat, since I had less time today, while stirring ocassionaly.  In the meantime prepare some brown (or white) rice in another pot.







Finally when the chilli looks like it has thickned a little, and reduced slightly in amount, add the chopped cilantro leaves, stir, and take off the heat.  Serve over a bed of rice, and you can dollop it with sour cream or greek yogurt if you’d like.  I didn’t have any, and it was simply delicious by itself with the rice. 


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »