Food Journal

Welcome to my food journal! This is officially on the net as of Oct. 24th 2011! I will try to put new entries in my journal once a week if possible – some of them may take a little longer. My journal is where I will be writing about anything going on in my culinary world. This includes recipes from my home, restaurant and event reviews, some basic culinary information that I want to share with you, and whatever else may come to mind. The food journal will always have the last ten things I put on the site in it, just not categorized. Everything will be in it’s own category on the menu bar as well. This is the best place to look if you want to see my latest post, because it will always be at the top. You can use the search tool to look for a specific subject by typing key words into the search bar. You can also go to the index on the menu bar for a list of everything on the site. If there is something you would like to know about that I haven’t posted or if you have a question, please feel free to contact me and I will try to answer as soon as possible. I love to share my food and knowledge, and  I put this site up for us!

Here are my 5 most recent entries!
If you would like to see a list of all of my recipes, lessons and reviews, please go to the index on the menu bar.

Fried Pickles


Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


Chili Mac





Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich

Posted by on Jan 9, 2013 in Food Journal, Lunch | 0 comments

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich – Being a food nerd, I am very interested in food history/origin. Who isn’t though right :)? So, today, I want to share with you a sandwich with a history – The Philly Cheese Steak. The Cheese Steaks’ story starts back in the 1930′s. Well, I guess technically, all sandwiches start back in the 18th century with the Earl of Sandwich – he was the first person to decide to put food between bread and call it a sandwich. Or at least he’s the one credited for it. But, were going to start in the 1930′s, because that is when the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich was born. I have heard a few different versions of this story but they all have some things in common. In South Phillidelphia, there was a hot dog cart owned by two guys  by the names of Pat and Harry Olivieri. One day, Pat was working and got hungry. He decided to cook some beef on his hot dog grill (one story says his wife sent the beef to work with him that day the other says he got it from the butcher (I’m not sure why there’s a debate – it’s the 1930′s not the 1430′s but anyway). He then placed the beef, along with some onions onto a roll – I’ve heard Italian or  Hoagie roll. So, one of his regular customers, a cab driver happened along and saw Pat eating his new creation and asked if he could make him one as well. Pat did and the cabbie liked it and asked if he could make it again for him the next day (or sometime in the future) and the Philly Steak Sandwich was born which eventually led to Pat’s restaurant, Pat’s King of Steaks. Notice that I didn’t say Philly Cheese Steak yet. That’s right, there was no cheese on the first one. The cheese came a short time later. According to Oliveri, the first cheese was added by a guy named Joe “Cocky Joe” Lorenza. He was the manager of the Ridge Avenue location of Pat’s and made the choice to add Provolone Cheese. So what about the American Cheese and Cheese Whiz? Those are also later additions. The Cheese Whiz actually didn’t come until the 1950′s. Which is obvious if you think about it since Cheese Whiz wasn’t invented until 1952. And the American, well I haven’t heard any definitive year for that one, only that it is now commonly served on the sandwich including at the restaurant Pat’s King of Steaks. They also serve the Cheese Whiz there in case you’re wondering. So, what officially makes a Cheese Steak Sandwich? Well, I guess it depends on who you ask. There are several versions at this point which have added everything from the cheeses to bell peppers, mushrooms, mayonaise, ketchup and hot sauce. Oh, a nice Amoroso Sandwich Roll – if you can get one, also makes a welcome addition and is common in Philidelphia with the Cheese Steak. Generally, you saute the meat with the other ingredients you’ve choosen, place the cheese on top, and then scoop it onto your bread. Very yummy. I do mine a little different though – I also encourage you to give the Cheese Steak your own little twist. Don’t forget, cooking is an art! Enjoy and happy cooking everyone! Oh, this recipe makes two large sandwiches – enough for 8 people, but you can easily just cut it in half.

Ingredients (for 2 large sandwiches)

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 onion, sliced (I used a brown onion, white is good too)

1 1/4 teaspoons Kosher Salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 1/2 pounds mushrooms (white button or crimini *see note), sliced

2 pounds Steak (I used Sirloin), partially frozen – I’ll explain later :D

1 Green Bell Pepper, sliced 1/4 inch thick, seeds removed

1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced 1/4 inch thick, seeds removed

2 Loaves French Bread

butter – enough to spread on the bread

mayonaise – the amount depends on your taste, 1/2 cup or so

1 pound Provolone Cheese

American Cheese (optional (I don’t use it))

Cheese Whiz (optional (I don’t use it))


1. Saute your sliced onions with a little bit of Kosher salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) and black pepper (also about 1/4 teaspoon) in the olive oil for about 30 seconds. Reduce your heat and stir the onions one time really good making sure they’re not sticking anywhere. Leave the onions cooking on low for now (we’re going to caramelize them lightly).

saute the mushrooms with the onions

2. Slice your bell peppers about 1/4 inch thick. Remove all of the seeds and throw them out. They taste bitter when you cook them so we don’t want any on our sandwich. Put the bell peppers to the side.

3. Slice your mushrooms. Make sure you wash them first. It is OK to get your mushrooms wet. I put them all in a bowl together and fill the bowl with water, then I swirl them around, drain them and repeat the process. If you do this, you will notice how dirty those mushrooms actually are because you can see the dirty water. So, the point is, wash your mushrooms, you don’t really have to worry about them absorbing a bunch of water. It’s cool.

4. Add your sliced mushrooms to the onions and add a little more Kosher Salt (1/2 teaspoon or so) and pepper (1/4 teaspoon or so).

add the meat to the mushrooms and onions

5. Stir the mushrooms in with the onions. Allow the mushrooms to “cook down”. Please check out my how-to video if you’re not sure what to look for.

6. Once the mushrooms are cooked down, it’s time to add the beef. Now, let’s have a little talk about the beef. Often, when I have had a Philly Cheese Steak, the meat has been well done. That’s fine I guess and I’m not downing it or anything, but I like my steak to be somewhere between mooing and medium rare depending on what I’m cooking it for. In this case, I like to have my meat medium rare. So, to accomplish this while still getting the flavors right and that kind of saucey-ness that you end up with at the end, I freeze my steak. SSSSSSSSSSS (that’s the sound of everyone doing that suck in through your teeth sound in a tisk tisk manner – I wasn’t sure how to spell it :D), I know. I normally would not tell you to freeze your steak, especially all the way through (but that’s another lesson). This time, for this sandwich, I freeze my steak all the way through. Then, I let it thaw a little. “What?” You may be asking, why would you freeze, then thaw. Well, that’s the only way I know to start with the middle totally frozen and the outside thawed. Do you follow me? So, what’s going to happen when we add the steak to the pan is we can cook the outside enough to get the flavor and sauceyness and the inside stays medium rare – Yay! If you want your meat to be well done, just don’t freeze it. The other thing is, when your meat is slightly frozen, it’s easier to cut into those nice even beautiful slices. So, even if you’re going for well done, you may want to freeze the steaks for an hour or so, just to make them easier to slice. And just in case you’re wondering why I don’t just cook the steak for less time, well it’s because I think you get better flavor this way because you can cook the outside of the slices further then if they weren’t frozen in the middle.

7. Moving on, sprinkle the meat with Kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon or so) and a little pepper (1/4 teaspoon or so), then, add the beef to the pan.

8. While your beef is starting to cook, slice your french bread in half long ways. Butter each side well, then lay them buttered side down onto a griddle or pan to toast them. Go back to your beef.

9. Saute the beef around until it is starting to brown. This should be happening by the time you butter your bread and everything. When the beef starts to brown, add your bell peppers. Stir everything around. Allow this to cook while you check on your bread (that is toasting).

10. When your bread is golden brown, add the mayonaise, then the cheese to the bread. I put mayonaise on both pieces of bread and then cheese on the top slice.

11. Add the beef mixture on top of the cheese (yep, it’s upside-down), put the two sides together, flip it :) and enjoy!

*A note on mushrooms-You may not know this, but Button Mushrooms, Crimini Mushrooms, and Portabella Mushrooms are all the same mushroom in different states of maturity. They are the variety Agaricus bisporus. The white button and the crimini are the youngest and therefore the softest. Why are the crimini brown? Well, they are bred to be brown, but the only real difference between them and the button is color….and price. Sometimes I like to use the crimini anyway because even though I know they’re the same, they somehow seem “nicer” to me. I don’t know why – maybe because they cost more :). The Portabellas are the most mature in the family and have the “meatiest” texture and the most flavor. Look for mushrooms that have a membrane covering the gills. Those are the freshest. If you can’t find any that are still “closed” (that means the membrane is there), then make sure the cap is still turned down. If the cap is turning up, that’s a sign of an old mushroom. There, now you’ve learned something today :).

Please enjoy this how-to video!

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Pumpkin Pecan Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

Posted by on Dec 29, 2012 in Cookies, Food Journal | 0 comments

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies with White Chocolate Chips – Have you ever eaten a cookie thinking “I’m going to eat one cookie, then, no more today”? I have. I have this strange relationship with cookies. We can’t really be in the same room together or one of us becomes a snack (the cookie, not me). I’m not sure exactly what the weakness is, it’s not the same for me with all desserts or snacks. No, just cookies. Mix that with the fact that these cookies have pumpkin in them, which is one of my very favorite flavors on the planet, and the result is…..well, the result is me eating like four or five cookies a day. I can’t help it either. I try to be stern with the cookies, but they don’t care. They just call to me from the kitchen in their sweet cookie voices  (also high-pitched, I don’t know why, maybe because they’re small) “Alicia, come and eat us”. And I tell them “quiet cookies”. But alas, here I am, typing this recipe and eating one of these cookies. That’s OK though because I’ve convinced myself that these cookies are healthy. Not like healthy, healthy like low-fat and all of that stuff, but healthy like they have pumpkin in them. For crying out loud they have to have some kind of vitamin content and fiber- right? Yes, I think so. Plus, cookies make people happy. Being happy is very important to your overall health (some study somewhere at sometime said :D) and pumpkin is definitely good for you, therefore, by reason, pumpkin cookies are good for you. I think I’ll have another. You see, you see how devious the cookies are. They get into your head. BAD COOKIES! No, no, you’re not bad, you’re good, I love you cookies. :D Happy Cooking everyone!


dry ingredients pumpkin pecan cookies with white chocolate chips

3 cups AP (all purpose) flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pumpkin spice *see note

2 sticks butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

15 ounce can pumpkin puree

1 cup pecans

1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

If you’re new to making cookies, I’d like to invite you to read my article and watch a short video “The Cookie Method – How to Properly Mix Your Dough :D!


1. Bring all of your ingredients to room temperature. At least make sure that your butter is soft. This helps everything blend together better. cream the butter and sugar together

2. In a small bowl, combine all of your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt).

3. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. (I don’t usually do it at the beginning of the recipe because then it just sits there wasting electricity and making the house too hot :).

4. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula making sure to get the bottom and the sides really well. It is important not to leave any chunks of butter behind.

5. Add the eggs into your creamed butter mixture and mix until well combined. If you happen to be doubling this, add the eggs two at a time and mix in between additions.

6. Add the vanilla and the pumpkin puree and mix until well combined. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, again, make sure to get the bottom and the sides.

8. Add in half of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Scrape the bowl. Add in the other half of your dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Don’t over mix once you’ve added the dry ingredients. Over mixing causes your flour to develop gluten strands and makes your cookies tough.

9. Stir in the white chocolate chips and the pecans. Just as a side note, you can buy pecan pieces instead of pecan halves which and they are less expensive. It makes more since to buy the pieces for this recipe since you will have to break them up anyway if you buy the halves.

10. Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment lined sheet pan (cookie sheet). You can also use a Silpat if you have one or use cooking spray or butter.

11. Bake until they’re done. Mine took about 12 minutes at 350°F. They don’t really brown much on top (or shouldn’t), but the bottoms will brown, so watch the sides of the cookies for signs of browning.

12. Remove your delicious pumpkin pecan cookies with white chocolate chips from the oven and let them set on the pan for about one minute.

13. Transfer them to a cooling rack and allow them to cool.

14. Enjoy your awesome, delicious cookies, you deserve it! Also, keep reading for a little more info on the health benefits of pumpkin.

Here’s a little extra information about pumpkins and their nutrition and health benefits – just in case you wanted to know.

Did you know that a pumpkin is a fruit? Yep, it is. There is a really easy way to tell if you have a fruit or vegetable. Fruits have seeds, veggies don’t. But what about tomatoes and zucchini and cucumbers? They’re fruits too. Yes, even tomatoes – even though there is a whole legal thing about tomatoes being a veggie. I’ll get into that another time since we’re talking about pumpkin here. So, pumpkin is rich in vitamin A. Vitamin A is an anti-oxident. It is great for your skin and vision and believed to lower risk of lung cancer among other benefits. Pumpkin also contains the vitamin B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid. Not to mention vitamin C, and E. It is also a source of the minerals phosphorus, calcium, copper, and potassium. It is low in calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. It also contains other flavonoid compounds which are also anti-oxidents and have tons of benefits. They have been shown as “anti-aging”, they help protect your eyesight (zea-xanthin), the list goes on and on. If you would like to know more about the benefits of pumpkin, I encourage you to just google it because there is a ton of information out there. Just make sure you’re at a reputable source like or See, I knew that they were “healthy” :).

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Spiced Pecans

Posted by on Dec 18, 2012 in Food Journal, Holidays | 0 comments

Spiced Pecans

Spiced Pecans – (recipe and instructions along with a video tutorial follow) – OK, I’m going to warn all of you ahead of time. These things are seriously addictive. Like crack addictive. I had to laugh at my husband last night when I told him I was making spiced pecans. He’s so cute because he had been wanting them lately and when I told him that I was making them he was like “You’re making the spiced pecans :D!” And I said “yeah”. And he said “Like, the ones :D”. And I said yeah”. And he said “Well, like how many are you making? :D” And I said “I’m making two pounds”. And then it was so cute because he got a very concerned look on his face and he said “Well, do you think that’s going to be enough?” And I laughed and said “Enough for what, it’s two pounds, what we’re you planning on doing with them?” And he said, “Well, you know, munching.” And I was like “a yeah, it’s two pounds”. I don’t know, maybe you had to be there. I was just surprised at the amount of excitement that I was getting over the spiced nuts. They are really super good though. And then you had to see his face when I told him that I was giving away three mason jars of them to go with a few peoples Christmas Cookies that they ‘re getting. Very sad face. Then I told him I’d make him two more pounds that he could hoard all to him self – a secret spiced pecan stash if you will, and that made him happy. So, anyway, spiced nuts are really great for the Holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years) kind of time just to set out for people to munch on, but don’t stop there. I love to add these spiced pecans to salads. There is a salad that I make anytime I get the “salad job” at a get together. I use mixed greens, orange wedges, goat cheese and these pecans. Then I top it with an orange vinaigrette. So very yummy! They also make a welcome addition to a cheese plate. And, of course, you can bake with them. Oooo, or add them to a pasta dish. That would be yummy. I think I may try that this week since I already have the nuts made and everything. I’m making crab ravioli with Alfredo sauce tomorrow and I may throw some in – just to give you an idea. So, anyway, here’s the recipe. Happy Cooking everyone!

2 pounds of Pecans
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon coriander
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Also, pre-heat your oven to 350°F.

2. While you’re waiting for your water to boil, place the sugar, olive oil, salt, pepper and spices into a large bowl. Stir them up really good. I use a rubber spatula and kind of mash the places where the oil is to break it up. Stir it until everything is evenly combined.

3. When your water comes to a rolling boil, pour your pecans in. Stir them up and leave them in there for one minute. Then drain them in a colander. Don’t leave them in there any longer then one minute. This is called “blanching your pecans”. “Blanch” is a culinary term that means to boil quickly (as in for a short amount of time but not necessarily one minute). It is often used to remove the skin from fruits or vegetables. There, now you’ve learned something today :D.

4. Once you’ve drained your pecans, put them in the bowl with the sugar and spice mixture.

5. Stir them until the sugar has “melted” onto the pecans and is sticking. Make sure you are getting the sugar/spice mixture from the bottom of the bowl too. Stir until the pecans are well coated.

6. Spread the spiced pecans onto a sheet pan (cookie sheet).

7. Bake them at 350°F until there is barely any liquid left on the pan, stirring them every 5 minutes during baking. Mine took around 20 minutes of baking. So I took them out of the oven and stirred them four times including the last time I pulled them out. Don’t skip the pulling them out and stirring them because the poor little spiced pecans that are hanging out on the sides will burn and then they won’t taste as yummy.

8. Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely before storing them. You don’t have to do anything fancy, just leave them on the sheet pan to cool.

9. Store your delicious spiced pecans in an airtight container.

Please enjoy this how-to video!

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Banana Cookies with Peanut Butter Chips

Posted by on Dec 14, 2012 in Cookies, Food Journal | 0 comments

Banana Cookies with Peanut Butter Chips

Banana Cookies with Peanut Butter Chips – (recipe and instructions follow) – One of my very favorite things to eat as a little girl was bananas with peanut butter smeared all over them. OK, that’s half of the truth….um, not that it was a lie. It’s just that bananas and peanut butter weren’t just a child time favorite I still love to eat them. I don’t know what it is about the flavor combination, but it’s so, so yummy. Here’s kind of a cute story. When I was little, I had a cookbook. It was one of those ”my first cookbooks” and had Humpty Dumpty on the front. It’s copyright is 1978, so that puts me right around the age of two when I got it. I used to cook out of it all the time and I really thought that I was awesome because I could follow the recipes (they had picture instructions). Wow, is it weird that I remember something that far back but often forget where I put my car keys. Anyway, I just think it’s cute now because when I look through that old cookbook (yes, I still have it (I’m going to pass it down to my daughters when they have babies) the recipes are so simple. Like I said, I really thought  I was making something special. Anyway, one of the recipes in there was bananas with peanut butter on them. They also had the option of using mayonnaise instead of peanut butter. I never tried that one and still probably won’t – well maybe just to try it. Sorry, I’m off track here. So, I was at the store the other day stocking up on my Christmas Cookie baking supplies and I saw this huge bag of Reese Peanut Butter Chocolate Chips. The front of the bag has a picture of a big  chocolate cookie with the peanut butter chips in it and I thought MMMMMMMMMM that sounds sooooo good. I’m a sucker for Reese cups, again, a childhood favorite. So I decided to get some. But then, as I was walking through the store, I was thinking about my site and all of you and I stated thinking “I bet everyone makes chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips with these”. And then I decided to be a little more original and try to give you something that isn’t all over the net already (which is what I always try to do). So then I started thinking, “what goes good with peanut butter besides chocolate”. And guess what sprang to mind. That’s right, bananas. And that is when my banana cookies with peanut butter chips were born – or at least the idea of them. So, when I got home, I sat down at my dining room table (while the babies were napping), and I wrote this recipe. When they woke up, we made them and…….they came out super duper amazing and yummy, in my humble opinion :). Enjoy everyone and happy cooking!

dry ingredients
3 cups AP(all purpose) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium bananas)
Just as a side note, I like to use bananas that are super ripe. They should have lots of brown spots and smell like yummy sweet bananas. Just don’t let them get too ripe – yes, there is such a thing. I let mine sit to ripen for banana bread one time and kept waiting and waiting and they were all the way brown, then when I went to pick them up, I discovered that the one on the bottom was leaking some kind of syrup. I think I may have accidentally made a banana liquor on my counter top :D. Anyway, on with the recipe!

If you’re new to making cookies, I’d like to invite you to read my article and watch a short video “The Cookie Method – How to Properly Mix Your Dough :D!

1. Bring all of your ingredients to room temperature. At least make sure that your butter is soft. This helps everything blend together better.
2. In a small bowl, combine all of your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt).
3. In a separate small bowl, mash your bananas. You don’t have to mash them into baby food, just mash them with a fork.
4. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. (I don’t usually do it at the beginning of the recipe because then it just sits there wasting electricity and making the house too hot :).
5. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula making sure to get the bottom and the sides really well. No butter chunks left behind :D
6. Add the eggs into your creamed butter mixture and mix until well combined. If you happen to be doubling this, add the eggs two at a time and mix in between additions.
7. Add the vanilla and the mashed up banana and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, again, make sure to get the bottom and the sides.
8. Add in half of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Scrape the bowl. Add in the other half of your dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Don’t over mix once you’ve added the dry ingredients. Over mixing causes your flour to develop gluten strands and makes your cookies tough.
9. Stir in the peanut butter chips. I also like to eat a few, they’re so good!
10. Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment lined sheet pan (cookie sheet). You can also use a Silpat if you have one or use cooking spray or butter. These don’t stick too bad.
11. Bake until they’re done. Mine took about 12 minutes at 350°F. They don’t really brown much on top (or shouldn’t), but the bottoms will brown, so watch the sides of the cookies for signs of browning.
12. Remove your delicious banana peanut butter chip cookies from the oven and let them set on the pan for about one minute.
13. Transfer them to a cooling rack and allow them to cool. Although they are really tasty warm, especially with a nice, tall glass of milk. Just be careful of the hot chips – I said warm, not fresh out of the oven still at 350° :)
14. Enjoy your awesome cookies, you deserve it!

Yield – about 40 cookies

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Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies

Posted by on Dec 10, 2012 in Cookies, Food Journal | 0 comments

Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies

Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies – (caramel apple oatmeal cookies recipe and instructions follow) – So, here it is, Christmas time again – yay! I don’t know if you are anything like me, but if you are then when it comes to Christmas you are in the kitchen baking cookies. I love, love, love to bake cookies. So, the other day I was at the store stocking up on all of my cookie baking needs, and what did I find?  I’ll tell you what I found, some caramel  chips. Not like chip chips, but like little spheres of caramel. Now, I don’t know if those existed last year and everybody just managed to buy them before me, or if they are a new thing on the market this year. But, what I do know is that I am super duper crazy excited because –  ♪ I’m going to make caramel apple oatmeal cookies ♪ and they are going to be the bomb. Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookie I have to say here though, that of course, I’ve had apple cookies, even apple oatmeal I think. But there is always one flaw in those cookies. Dry apples. It just always seems like the apples start to dehydrate a little while they’re baking. Does anyone else notice this? Don’t get me wrong, they’re still delicious and I wouldn’t turn one down. I don’t think I’ve ever met a cookie that I didn’t like. I just think that I have a good solution to the problem. If you’d call it a problem. Do you want to hear it? Well here it goes….. I’m going to saute the apples in butter before I add them in, maybe some sugar too. Mmmmmm, doesn’t that sound good? I mean really, butter is always a welcome addition. And, I think it will make the apples less like dehydrated apples and more like apple pie apples. Hmmm, should we alter the name to caramel apple pie oatmeal cookies? Too long maybe, I don’t know. OK, you can call them that if you like it. It can be our little secret :). Shhhh! So, anyway,  today, my 2 year old, my 4 year old and I are going to put on our aprons and go into the kitchen and start playing with this recipe. It’s always so much fun to bake with them in the kitchen. I’m so excited! Plus as an added bonus, my husband just happens to love caramel. So, I know that when he gets home from work today he will have a smile on his face when I tell him what I baked and I will get extra special awesome wife points. Yay! That is always a good thing. Happy cooking everyone!

**Note – I highly recommend using a Silpat or other silicone baking mat to bake these on. They stick to the pan, and they stick to parchment/wax paper. If you do not use a Silpat, you will have a serious issue getting these cookies off the pan/paper and you will end up hating me and this recipe. So what I’m trying to say here is – if you don’t have a Silpat or silicone baking sheet, get one before you make these cookies! Or, proceed at your own risk :), I did get one batch to come off of my parchment, but in all of my test batches, the Silpat was the winner by far! Also, you have to pull these cookies out a tiny bit earlier then you pull out most cookies or the caramel melts into liquid and they’re not as pretty.

1 1/2 cups apples, small dice (1/4 inch dice)
I used 1 Granny Smith and 1 Jonagold
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar

dry ingredients
1 1/2 cups AP flour
3 cups oatmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs small dice apples
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups caramel bits (I used Kraft)

Special Equipment
Silpat or silicone baking mat – these cookies stick to the pan and to parchment. I really highly recommend only making these if you have a Silpat or other silicone baking mat. There is a link at the bottom to where you can purchase one (no, I’m not the seller).

If you’re new to making cookies, I’d like to invite you to read my article and watch a short video “The Cookie Method – How to Properly Mix Your Dough :D!

1. Bring all of your ingredients to room temperature. At the very least, make sure your butter is soft. This helps with the mixing process.
2. Melt the one Tablespoon of butter in a saute pan. Add your diced apples. Sprinkle them with the teaspoon of sugar. Saute them for about two minutes – until you see liquid coming out of them and they are beginning to get soft. Don’t over cook them or they will lose their shape and you will end up with something closer to applesauce. Set the apples to the side to cool off.
3. In a small bowl, combine all of your dry ingredients – the flour, oatmeal, baking soda and salt.
4. In a large bowl, cream your butter with your brown sugar and white sugar. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, make sure that you get the sides and the bottom. We want to make sure that there are no chunks of butter hiding that didn’t get mixed in.

5. Add the eggs into the butter mixture and mix to combine.
6. Add in the vanilla and mix. Scrape the bowl again, and again, make sure to get the bottom and the sides.
7. Add in your dry ingredients half at a time and mix in between additions. Only mix it until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Over-mixing your dough will give you tough cookies.
8. Once you have all of the dry ingredients mixed in, add in your cooled apples and the caramel bits. *see note* Stir them with a rubber spatula. It takes a few minutes and a little arm strength to get them all mixed in, but be patient and try to get the caramel and apples mixed in as evenly as possible.
9. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to six hours. If you want to store it raw longer, freeze it.
10. Pre-heat your oven to 325°F.
11. Drop the cookies by Tablespoons onto your Silpat. Make them as round as possible. This will make your cookies come out more round.
12. Bake at 325°F for 8-9 minutes. Pull the cookies out while they still look a little raw on top. They will finish cooking outside of the oven. If you over-bake them, they will be a mess of melted caramel and not pretty, so watch them close in the oven.
13. Remove the cookies from the oven. Transfer your Silpat to a cooling rack. Let the cookies cool completely before you attempt to move them or they will fall apart. The caramel is like liquid magma until it sets back up, so just wait until they are cool.
14. Finally, enjoy your caramel apple oatmeal cookies. Mmmmm, so good!
**note on step 8 – – I have also found that instead of mixing the caramel and apple bits in, you can make them the center of the cookie. So, what I did to do this is – I made a flat cookie, then I put a couple of the caramel bits in the center along with some of the apples and then I folded the cookie around the filling so that it would be in the center. After you bake them you end up with a caramel apple filled oatmeal cookie. – Yum!

Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies

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White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Posted by on Dec 5, 2012 in Cookies, Food Journal, Holidays | 0 comments

White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies – (white chocolate peppermint cookies recipe and instructions follow) – If you know me at all by now, you know that I have kids. One of them being a two year old. Do any of you have a two year old in the house? If so, you are totally going to empathize with this. We put up our Christmas Tree a few days ago right, so, we started off with you know like a normal tree. Decorated from the bottom to the top. Like ya do, you know. Anyway, my very awesome two year old, Alicia, is fascinated with the tree, of course. And with the ornaments, of course. And especially with the candy canes – yes, of course. So, I hear myself say at least 20 times a day – “no, no, no, those are to look pretty, not to throw/eat” (depending on what she grabbed). Well, ten broken candy canes later…and several thrown ornaments (shatter proof, yay :D), I have re-decorated our tree. Yep, it’s naked from two year old reaching height down. It’s still pretty though – at least half way up and to the top. No, I take it back. The bottom is still pretty too. That’s only because we have one of those super dope white Christmas Trees- yes a fake tree, allergies. And, my husband always wanted a white tree growing up but his parents thought that they were ugly so he never got one – :(, sad, I know. What was my point? Oh, broken candy canes. So Tia, my four year old (being never discouraged) saw the pile of broken candy canes and her little face lit up and she said – “Oh Mommy, I have the best idea. We could make cookies out of the candy canes”. Great idea Tia. So, after a little adjustment to her original idea of candy cane marshmallow cookies – which probably would be good too. We decided to make white chocolate peppermint cookies. Oh yeah! And, they are super duper tasty. Happy Cooking everyone!

Dry Ingredients
2 cups AP flour (all purpose flour) candy cane cookies
2 cups whole wheat flour *see note
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Splenda *see note 2
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1 cup plain yogurt (I use fat free)

1/2 cup crushed candy canes (around 6 big ones)
2 cups white chocolate chips

1. Bring all of the ingredients up to room temperature. At the very least, make sure the butter is room temperature.
2. In a small bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. That’s the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir them together.
3. In a large bowl (use you stand mixer if you have one because the dough gets very stiff ), cream the butter, brown sugar, and splenda. Scrape the bowl (sides and bottom) with a rubber spatula.
4. Add in the eggs and mix to combine. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.
5. Add in the vanilla and mix to combine.
6. Add in half of the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Start on a low speed so that the dry ingredients don’t poof out at you in a big cloud. Also, only mix it until it is combined. You don’t want to over-mix your dough. It makes your cookies tough.
7. Add in the yogurt and mix to combine. Scrape the bowl. Make sure you get the bottom really well (sometimes the dry ingredients or clumps of butter like to hide down there and not mix in well).
8. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix to combine. The dough should be pretty stiff once you get the rest of the dry ingredients in there.
9. This is a good time to pre-heat your oven. I usually don’t do it at the beginning of the recipe only because I live in AZ and it makes the house hot. Plus, why waste all that electricity right? Oh, it needs to be 350°F.
10. Add in the white chocolate chips and the candy cane pieces. Mix the dough with a rubber spatula. Again, make sure that you are scraping the bottom of the bowl and the sides really well. Your going to get a good arm work out here because like I said, the dough should be pretty stiff. Stir it and fold it until you are sure that the chips and the candy cane pieces are mixed in nice and even.
11. Line your sheet pans (cookie sheets) with parchment paper (waxed paper). You can also use a silpat if you have one but they will cook a tiny bit faster on the silpat so watch them. Also, I highly recommend not skipping this step because the candy cane bits melt and they will stick to your pan like crazy and then you’ll be scrubbing pans which is not fun … at least to me.
12. Drop your dough onto the lined sheet pans about a Tablespoon at a time. They need to be around two inches apart. They don’t spread very much though (as long as you’re not making any changes to the recipe (like in the notes)).
13. Bake at 350°F for about 14-15 minutes until they are light golden brown.
14. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to set on the pan for about one minute.
15. Transfer the cookies with the paper onto a cooling rack. So, basically, just carefully slide the whole paper off of the pan and onto the cooling rack.
16. Allow the cookies to cool before you take a bite. Trust me, you do not want to bite into a piece of hot molten candy cane. It will burn you for sure. It’s hot melted sugar – ouch!
17. Once they are cool enough to eat, eat ‘em, they’re yummy! Enjoy! Oh, also, I’m not exactly sure why, but these cookies taste better the next day, at least to me, kind of like spaghetti. Wait, they don’t taste like spaghetti, they just taste better the next day- like spaghetti does :) – Yeah, so enjoy!

*note 1 – You can replace the whole wheat flour with AP flour, but it will change the texture slightly and the cookies will spread more. You can help this by putting in 2 Tablespoons less of the plain yogurt.

*note 2 – You can replace the Splenda with white sugar. It shouldn’t change anything except your cookies may brown a little faster…..and the amount of calories of course. But go for it if you want to. :)

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Caldo Gallego – Yummy Stew!

Posted by on Nov 28, 2012 in Food Journal, Soups | 0 comments

Caldo Gallego – Yummy Stew!

Caldo Gallego – (Caldo Gallego recipe follows along with instructions and video tutorial) – Caldo Gallego is another one of those dishes that I am addicted to as a direct result of my mother-in-laws’ fabulous cooking. She makes this every year as soon as the weather starts to get cold - well, cold for us here in Phoenix. I know you Northerners are laughing when I say cold and it’s 70°F out. Anyway, Caldo Gallego is a beautiful Spanish Soup which is also very common in Puerto Rico. It traditionally is made with cabbage, potatoes and beans and can also have meat. Which meat varies slightly by family. I would say the most usual meats used though would be pork, ham and chorizo. Actually, to me, the chorizo is kind of mandatory. First of all because it is soooooo good. And second, because it adds a ton of flavor.  You need to know that we’re talking about Spanish Chorizo here though. No, Chorizo is not all the same, at all.  You see, Spanish Chorizo is made from chopped (not ground) pork and pork fat, which has been seasoned with smoked paprika and salt, using smoked dried red peppers and white wine. Yummy! It is also usually dry – cured and doesn’t require further cooking (although we are going to cook it for this recipe). Of course, there are tons of regional variations of chorizo if you’re lucky enough to be in Spain or travel there including smoked and un-smoked, cooked and raw and garlic and so on,  but what we need to know about is what we can get easily here right? Spanish Chorizo You should also know that I’m not using a spicy chorizo, you can , but I”m not. You can tell if they are sweet or spicy by the shape of the sausage. If it is long and thin, it is sweet, if it is short and fatter, it is spicy. Again this is a general rule and not every sausage maker follows this general rule (sausage making is an art too ya know). And actually, you’ll notice that the chorizo I use is short and fat and doesn’t follow the rule. OK, I told you about Spanish Chorizo, so I just want to make a quick comparison for you to Mexican Chorizo even though this is not an article about chorizo (Is it turning into one?) Anyway, Mexican Chorizo is generally made without the smoked paprika and the white wine is usually replaced by vinegar. Oh, and the pork is ground, not chopped and is not cooked or cured. So, you’re getting a raw meat (usually) if you buy Mexican Chorizo. Which by the way is also yummy, just not necessarily in this soup. So back to the name  – Caldo Gallego. Well, Caldo Gallego translates to Galician Broth. Galicia is located in the Northwestern corner of Spain. It is historically one of the poorest areas of Spain.  In Spanish the Galacians are called “Gallegos”. One of the dishes they are famous for is – you guessed it, Caldo Gallego. There it is made with cabbage, potatoes and beans. They may also add the meats pork, chorizo, or ham, but not always. Like I said, it is one of the poorest parts of Spain. Today, we will be adding meat :D Last but not least, as I mentioned earlier, my mother-in-law makes this. This is not her recipe, but definitely is inspired by it (I’m a Chef after all, I can’t help but make some changes) so she deserves some of the credit. So, thank you Mirta for introducing me to this delicious soup. I think you’ll be proud.

chopping Napa Cabbage

3/4 pound dried white beans
1 pound of ham
3.5 ounce package links of Spanish Chorizo
1/4 pound bacon (not traditional, but yummy)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 ham bone
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt Chopping Kale
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, fresh ground
1 pound potatoes, small dice (cut bite size)
1 pound Napa cabbage (green cabbage is fine too)
1 bunch Kale (you can also use turnip greens or collard greens)

1. Spread the beans out on a plate or sheet pan and look through them for any pebbles (yep, sometimes they get in there), and any bad beans. Soak your beans in water over night. It is better if you can change the water at least once. I changed mine like five times. *See note after the recipe.
2. Drain the beans and rinse them thoroughly. Drain them again and set them to the side.
3. In a large pot, saute the bacon until it’s about half way done. Caldo Gallego Cooking
4. If needed, add a little of the stock or water to deglaze the pan and scrape up the fond (that means you add maybe 1/4 cup of the stock to the hot pan and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all the little brown bits that may have formed there, they’re full of flavor and we want them in the stew). If you don’t have anything sticking to the bottom of the pot, just move on to the next step.
5. Once you have deglazed the pan, add the ham and chorizo and saute for about one minute. Then add the onion. “Sweat the onion”. That’s Chef talk for cook the onion until it’s translucent.
6. Add the beans and stir. Then add the ham bone and the rest of the stock. If your ham bone isn’t covered, add some water until it is (up to two cups). Add the bay leaf, salt and pepper.
7. Bring this to a boil and then reduce the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Let it simmer for two hours.
8. Add the potatoes and return the stew to a boil.
9. Reduce the heat and allow the stew to simmer for about another 20 minutes partially covered.
10. Add the cabbage and simmer for 15 more minutes, uncovered.
11. Add the chopped Kale. When the Kale is done, so is the stew. You want the Kale to have a nice bright color and it shouldn’t take more then five minutes.

Caldo Gallego

Why do you soak and drain your beans (and change the water and all that)?

The answer is simple and not so simple. The simple answer-you don’t want to give everyone gas. The not so simple answer-beans contain oligosaccharides. This is a sugar that, because of its large molecular size, our bodies don’t break down. It makes its’ way through our small intestines where most sugars are absorbed and into our large intestine. When it makes its way into our large intestine, the bacteria that live there have a small party (they never get sugar, so it’s a treat). They process the oligosaccharide, this produces gas-not so good. The sugar is water soluble though – Yay! That means that if you soak your beans and change the water, you pour the oligosaccharide down the drain. This is also why it’s important to change the water. The water can only “hold” so much. It’s kind of like when you dissolve salt in water for a brine, if you put in too much, it doesn’t all dissolve. Also, don’t cook the beans in the soaking water. It defeats the purpose!

Please enjoy this how-to video!

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Anything Pasta Salad

Posted by on Nov 15, 2012 in Food Journal, Sides | 0 comments

Anything Pasta Salad

Anything Pasta Salad (Recipe and instructions follow) – I have been making this pasta salad this way for a number of years, but it didn’t start out as an exact science :D. Pasta salad to me in the past was more like clean out the refrigerator and cabinet salad, but not in a gross way. You see, I often shop at Sprout’s farmers market (maybe you’ve been there). Anyway, they sell stuff in loose bulk bins like nuts, dried fruit, candy, chocolate, granola, trail mix, rice, beans, lots of different flours and sugars. Dry goods, you get the idea. So, I always find myself in the loose bulk isle thinking mmmmm, what can I put that in. Then I end up with all these little bags of random foods. I get home and play in the kitchen making everything from cookies to bread to main dishes and pretty much anything in between. So, I always have this cabinet full of fun ingredients to add to whatever I feel like, including my pasta salad of course. OK, anyway, one day I was making pasta salad and decided to open my cabinet and see what would make it a little different then usual. I can’t really remember exactly what I put in it that day, but I can say that I started opening my special cabinet from then on to make my pasta salad, and one day, I found the perfect combination that I had been looking for. That day, Anything Pasta Salad was born. I’m going to give you the recipe the way I have come to love it, but I’d also like to encourage you to try other ingredients in it. I’ll give you a list of the things that I still sometimes add. Also, I serve this chilled and it’s super awesome for picnics and potlucks and that sort of thing. It also makes a nice side for burgers or grilled chicken. If you happen to have left over chicken (grilled or roasted or whatever), you can add that in also to make your pasta salad a full meal. Enjoy!

1 pound Rotini Pasta (I use whole wheat) Pasta Salad
iodized salt (for the noodle water)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 Granny Smith Apple, small dice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 tomato, I prefer Heirloom, seeds removed
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
fresh basil, I add about ten large leaves, cut chiffonade (that means into “little ribbons”)
Juice of 1 lemon (2 Tablespoons or so)

Awesome extras to try that I sometimes put in.
Feel free to substitute or change ingredients – that’s why it’s Anything Pasta Salad.
walnuts, cherries, dried cherries, grapes, red onion, chives, feta, pecans, almonds, dried cranberries etc…..

1. Add your pasta to well salted, rapidly boiling water. I use an eight quart pot with about 1/4 cup of Iodized salt. See my salt article for an explanation on properly salting your water.
2. Stir your noodles for the first ten seconds or so after you add them into the water. This helps prevent them from sticking together. Cook the noodles until they are “al dente”. This literally means “to the tooth”. You don’t want them to be squishy, they should be soft on the outside and still have a little firmness in the middle. This takes about eight minutes.
3. As soon as the pasta is done, drain it and either put it in an ice bath, or run cold water over it until it is cooled. This stops the cooking process. If you let you noodles sit there hot. They will continue to cook and get squishy. That is one of the big things that you learn in Culinary School – control your cooking. That means that you only let stuff cook when you want it to and you stop the cooking when you don’t want it to.
4. After cooling and draining your pasta, place it in a large bowl.
5. Add the olive oil. Stir the pasta to coat it in the oil. The 1/4 cup should coat it well, but if it seems like it needs a little bit more, you can add a little more one teaspoon at a time until the pasta is coated.
6. Add all of the other ingredients (except the lemon juice) in order and stir your pasta salad to combine everything. Just as a side note, if you’re using iodized or table salt instead of Kosher salt, start with only 3/4 of a teaspoon and taste it. Then decide if you need more salt or not. Remember, you can always add more salt, but you can’t really take it out once it’s in there.
7. Add the lemon juice to the pasta salad and stir it up well.
8. Let the pasta salad stand for at least two or three hours before you serve it. Overnight is even better. This gives all of the flavors time to develop.
9. Garnish the pasta salad if you want, I garnished mine with purple basil leaves. Enjoy!

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Hot Homemade Apple Cider

Posted by on Nov 5, 2012 in Food Journal, Holidays | 0 comments

Hot Homemade Apple Cider

Hot Homemade Apple Cider (recipe and instructions along with a video tutorial follow) – Does anything scream fall more then a cup of delicious warm homemade apple cider? You know besides the smell of fires, the leaves changing, the pumpkin everything and the cool crisp air :) OK, so maybe the homemade apple cider just joins in the screaming of fall. But either way, I love it and I love making it for my family. If you know me at all, then you already know this, but I love the smells of fall. So, of course, one of my other very favorite things about this recipe is the way that it makes my whole house (along with my neighborhood I think) smell like the fall. Plus, when I make stuff like this, it makes me feel extra motherly – kind of like I get mom bonus points, because I feel like I’m making memories with my kids. I always hope that one day they’ll grow up and tell their future husbands or wife that their mom used to make homemade apple cider in the fall and it would make the whole house smell amazing. Or, better yet, they’ll load up all 20 of my future Grand kids (yes, I’m hoping for tons of Grand kids one day) and bring them over because Grandma (that’ll be me one day God willing) is making homemade apple cider. I mean seriously, how cool would that be? Also, this is one of the traditions in my family that my husband and I started with our kids. Neither of us grew up with the homemade apple cider in the house – not that we were deprived or anything, we just had busy parents. I have the very great privilege of being at home with my babies and I feel super crazy blessed and want to make the most of it. So I think it’s nice to have these kinds of “old fashioned” traditions around, so we do. Hooray for the Holidays – woo, excuse me, I got a little excited :D One last thing, this recipe is like crazy easy, and hot apple cider is good for you (see note at the end of the recipe) so give it a try.


water, preferably filtered
12 apples, quartered and cored
any kind of apples are fine, I’m using the following
2 Red Delicious
2 Granny Smith
3 Cameo
5 Johnathan
1/2 cup honey
3 cinnamon sticks
3 cardamom pods
5 whole allspice
3 whole cloves
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably fresh
zest of 1 orange

1. Wash your apples. Cut each of your apples into quarters and remove the cores.
2. Place the apples into a large pot. I use my 8 quart pot.
3. Add the honey and spices as well as the orange zest. If you want to make sure that your apple cider has no bits of spices in the final cider, you may want to consider using a spice sachet for this. What you need to do to make a spice sachet is wrap the spices in cheesecloth kind of like you’re making a little bag out of the cheesecloth. Once you have them wrapped, tie the top of the cheesecloth with butcher string to keep it from opening. This way, when it is time to strain your apple cider, you can leave the pulp and get all of the spices out easily by just removing the whole sachet. If you will be using a fine mesh strainer (to get a no pulp apple cider) then the sachet would be pointless. I don’t do one, I just strain mine. I just wanted to give you the option. Cup of hot Apple Cider
4. Add the water. You will want the water to be about four inches above where the apples come to in your pot. Apples float so see where they come up to on your pot and then add the water to make it four inches over the “apple line”.
5. Bring the mixture to a boil. Allow it to continue to boil for one hour. Do not boil this on high or it will likely start boiling over. It doesn’t have to be a rolling boil, just a light boil. Every 25 minutes or so, check on your apple cider and kind of press on the apples with a large slotted spoon or spatula. As they soften, they will turn into a pulp. Also, this is going to make your house smell so amazing.
6. After it has boiled for about an hour, reduce the heat and cover the pot. I put my lid at a bit of an angle so the steam can still escape a little.
7. Allow it to simmer, covered, for another two hours. I still check on my apple cider about every half hour and press on the apples to break them up into pulp.
8. Drain your apple cider. You have a couple of choices here. If you want your apple cider to be pretty much pulp free, use a fine mesh strainer to strain it. You can also use a colander lined with cheesecloth if you don’t have a fine mesh strainer. If you want it to have pulp (which is the way I prefer my apple cider), use a colander to strain it. Just make sure to watch for bits of the spices, you want to make sure to get them out so no one ends up with a big chunk of allspice or something in their mouth. Also, if you want to be sure that no spices bits will be left behind. You can choose to make a spice sachet for your spices in step 3.
9. Once you have strained the apple cider, it is ready to serve. You can store any left over in the refrigerator for up to four days – if it lasts that long. Make sure to cool it properly before placing it in the refrigerator. And just as a note, it is also yummy when it is chilled.

Apple Cider isn’t just yummy, apple cider is good for you too!
Apple cider is high in vitamins A, C and E. It is also high in iron, and potassium. Apple cider contains flavonoids. These are an antioxidant that inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer cells.  If you leave the pulp in your apple cider, then it will also contain quite a bit of fiber. Apple cider has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Not to mention that cinnamon has it’s own anti-bacterial properties. There is a ton of information out there about the nutrition in apple cider. All you have to do is Google something like “vitamins in apple cider” and you’ll get like a million sites with more info.

Please enjoy this how-to video!

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Southwestern Pumpkin Soup

Posted by on Oct 26, 2012 in Food Journal, Holidays, Soups | 0 comments

Southwestern Pumpkin Soup

Southwestern Pumpkin Soup (recipe follows) – I decided to make Southwestern Pumpkin Soup for two very simple reasons. One, because I love, love, love pumpkin. Like a lot. Including pumpkin soup.  I wait the whole year for Fall to roll around so I can get some pumpkin. One year I even thought I’d be smart and buy a bunch of pumpkin while it was around and then I could have it all year. Guess what, it didn’t work. All that happened is that I  thought “Yay, I have a huge supply of pumpkin and now I can eat all I want”. Then I did. Then I ran out really fast. Don’t get the wrong idea, I know I’m making it sound like I bought like 20 cases of canned pumpkin, but it was more like eight cans. I thought that seemed like plenty, easily one pumpkin thing a month. But, like I said, it didn’t work out the way I had planned. That’s OK anyway, I’ve kind of since figured out that the anticipation is half of the fun. Who was it that said “Hunger is the best sauce”? Cervantes maybe? Anyway, that’s the first reason for the pumpkin soup. And the second reason explains why it’s “southwest” pumpkin soup. Simple really, I live in the Southwest. I found the inspiration for the “southwest” part of the pumpkin soup in my beautiful surroundings. Plus, every year for Thanksgiving, I’ve always done the more traditional dishes – well, traditional American along with a little mix of traditional Puerto Rican (for my hubbie and kiddies). But I think I’m going to  do a fun Southwest theme this year and use this for the first course. I’m still thinking about the rest of the meal. I think it’s going to involve chipotle in some way. I’ll let you know. Enough about that though, let’s concentrate on the recipe at hand – delicious Southwest Pumpkin Soup!
Southwestern Pumpkin Soup


1/2 teaspoon olive oil
3 strips bacon (apple-wood smoked preferred)
1/2 large shallot, minced
3 cups chicken stock (you can also use canned broth)
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons brown sugar (dark is better)

garnish options

creme fraiche (or plain yogurt or sour cream)
cheddar cheese


1. Slice the bacon into small pieces. Saute it until it’s almost done the way you like it, then add the shallot. I like the bacon to be crispy for this, but I know some people don’t like crispy bacon, so, to each his own. If you like your bacon super crispy, cook it a little longer before you add the shallot so you don’t burn your shallot. Make sure your shallot gets at least a minute or two in the pan though. If it’s getting too dark too quick, turn the heat down or off.
2. When the bacon and shallot are done, remove them from the pan and put them to the side. They will be garnish later. Pour the grease out of the pan, but don’t worry about the tiny bit that’s left behind. This is a good and yummy thing and it’s going to add flavor. Return the pan to the heat.
3. Add about 1/4 cup of the chicken stock  into the saute pan. Scrape up all of the brown goodness that the bacon left behind. Pour this liquid into a small bowl and place it in the freezer to cool. The idea here is that we are going to kind of “extract” the bacon flavor without putting the grease into our final product. So when you put the small bowl of the 1/4 cup of chicken stock with the fond (that’s the brown goodness) into the freezer to cool, the bacon grease will separate and be easy to remove when we’re ready for it. Just as a note here, you can skip this step entirely and just move on to the next step. However, you will be missing out on a beautiful smoky background flavor in your soup. It really adds a nice richness.
4. In a separate pot, bring the rest of your chicken stock to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to medium.
5. Whisk in the can of pumpkin.
6. Whisk in the chili flakes, cumin, coriander, chili powder, nutmeg, black pepper and the brown sugar.
7. Allow the soup to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
8. Remove the soup from the heat. Whisk as you add in the heavy whipping cream. Do not do this if your soup was above a very light simmer. It can make your soup “break”. That means it will separate and curdle and it won’t be pretty. Also, once you add the cream, do not take it above a light simmer. If your soup was boiling or simmering like crazy, just let it cool for a few minutes. Ideally, it will be under 190°F. But, like I said, as long as it was only simmering, don’t worry about it, just take it off the stove and add your cream. This really isn’t as difficult as I think I may be making it sound, I just want you to understand what happened if your soup should curdle so you know what to correct for next time.
9. Check on your small bowl of chicken stock and bacon goodness from earlier. Remove as much grease as you can and add it into the soup.
10.If necessary, return the pot to the stove and place the heat on low to bring the soup up to serving temperature. This generally won’t be needed, but just in case :). Remember, don’t take the soup above a simmer at this point because it may “break”.
11. Taste the soup and decide if it needs some more salt or pepper but keep in mind that you’ll be garnishing with the bacon and that will add more salt flavor.
12.Place your soup into the serving bowls with a spoon of the bacon and shallot from earlier then add any of the extra garnishes that you choose.

How to video coming soon!

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