Vegetarian, Alabama-style Jackfruit BBQ

DSC_0168

I highly recommend trying this BBQ recipe, even if you are normally a meat-eater. Using jackfruit in lieu of pulled pork is nothing new in Asian cuisines, but we are bringing it down to the Deep South! We pair a braised jackfruit BBQ with traditional Alabama white sauce, and it is absolutely delicious!

This is a vegetarian spin on an old and classic BBQ sandwich. You can even make it vegan by leaving off the white sauce (or making vegan white sauce)!

DSC_0161

Jackfruit is a stringy, Asian fruit that can be eaten sweetened or in a brine. It can be bought fresh at supermarkets during certain times of the year- however it is difficult to find and doesn’t quite match the texture of BBQ, when cooked from the fresh fruit.

DSC_0097

That being said, you should try to look for canned jackfruit. Be very careful when you are looking for this product canned. Be sure that you find jackfruit in brine, NOT in syrup. You cannot use the syrup jackfruit for this recipe, so it’s a waste of your money (and personally, I think the syrupy jackfruit tastes awful). If you insist on finding it in a store- check an Asian supermarket. When my mom prepared this BBQ in Alabama, she was able to find it with ease at Birmingham’s Asian supermarket. Here in California, though we have multiple Asian markets, none of them carry canned jackfruit. All of that is simply to say: my recommendation is actually to just buy canned jackfruit from Amazon. You can be sure you are getting the right kind, it is reliable in terms of delivery dates, and you don’t have to drive anywhere!

DSC_0167

William and I had planned on making this months before we ever got around to it because we had the hardest time finding the right jackfruit. However, all of our efforts ended up being worth it because it is so yummy! It is also super easy!

Enjoy!

Alabama-Style Jackfruit BBQ

(makes 4-5 sandwiches)

Ingredients
1/2 Anaheim pepper
1 serrano pepper
1/2 large, yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 20 ounce cans jackfruit in brine
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup traditional, red BBQ sauce (make sure this is vegetarian friendly!)
salt and pepper to taste

traditional buns and any fixin’s including Alabama white BBQ sauce (a recipe for this unique and amazing vinegar-based sauce can be found here)

DSC_0092

First, clean and mince the peppers. Make sure you clear out all those seeds, and I’d recommend rubbing your fingers with a bit of olive oil beforehand to prevent that burning from occurring afterwards.

Chop the onion finely- you can dice it if you like, it can be in pieces a bit bigger than the peppers!

Mince the garlic.

Combine the peppers, onion, and garlic in a large, shallow pan with the olive oil. Let these cook on very low heat for about 5 minutes.

DSC_0100

Next, tackle this jackfruit! You will need to rinse it in water to clean off the brine. Then, carefully cut out any pieces of the core that you can see. It is the whitest, most solid, and almost spongy part of the fruit. This part of the jackfruit isn’t bad to the taste, but it will mess with the texture of your BBQ, and we don’t want that! Once you have your jackfruit cleaned and de-cored, you can set it aside.

DSC_0096

Turn back to your pot and turn the heat up just a bit to get a simmer. Stir your onion mixture. Add in the cumin, paprika, and liquid smoke.

DSC_0105

If you are using a pre-made vegetable broth, add it into your pot. We use a bouillon base and added that with water. Stir everything together and turn up the heat to a good simmer.

Let this mixture simmer for a few minutes before adding in the jackfruit and BBQ sauce.

DSC_0129

DSC_0131

DSC_0150

After adding in the BBQ sauce and jackfruit, let the mixture cook on lower heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point you can season with salt and pepper. Do a taste test after 15 minutes and if it’s tender enough for you- you’re ready to build your sandwich! Let your own BBQ preferences be your guide to how long you should keep this on the stove!

Build a traditional sandwich using buttered, sesame seed buns, pickles, and Alabama white sauce!

DSC_0153

DSC_0154

DSC_0155

DSC_0160

Make a mess and enjoy!

DSC_0174

 

Homemade Cheese Ravioli

DSC_0357

I have never been a huge fan of spaghetti. Your standard noodles + pasta was never quite satisfying to me. My favorite Italian dishes growing up were always the cheesy ones- stuffed pastas like cannelloni and manicotti and ravioli, and the delicious layers of lasagna. As a vegetarian, they still felt warm and comforting.

DSC_0365

In our tiny, California kitchen we do not have room to make homemade pasta- it is fun, and I recommend experiencing it at some point. However, this recipe is not difficult and not super time consuming. The method we apply here utilizes wonton wrappers, in lieu of homemade pasta. When you boil wonton wrappers they behave in a very similar manner, and taste very similar to pasta. This gives you the flexibility of creating any filling you like, and using your own sauce, without having to deal with homemade pasta dough.

DSC_0327

The one warning I do have- it makes 26 ravioli and it does not freeze well. I was really hoping that it would freeze, but using this method to quickly make stuffed pasta creates a very thin and fragile raviolo. You might try to freeze them individually, but when we froze multiple ravioli at a time, and then tried to cook them, they stuck together and did not cook evenly.

Enjoy!

Homemade Cheese Ravioli

(serves 6-7)

Ingredients
for the filling
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated or shaved)
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
1/4 cup chopped, fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons minced, fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste (we went with 3/4 teaspoon of each)
1 egg

for the wrappers
1 package wonton wrappers (pack of 52)
1 egg

olive oil, pepper, and garlic salt to cook in
tomato sauce, shaved parmesan, and fresh basil to top

(We used our homemade sauce for this and it worked out very well.)

DSC_0283

First, make your filling. Combine the cheeses, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, and egg in a large bowl.

DSC_0286

DSC_0290

Set up a work station. Lay parchment paper down, with your bowl of filling, wonton wrappers, a fork, and a brush. Whisk a second egg in a small bowl, this will be used to help create a good seal on your wrappers.

DSC_0294

Lay the wrappers down six at a time. Two rows of three. You will be making three ravioli at a time, using two wonton wrappers per raviolo.
Brush the edges of each wonton wrapper with a bit of egg.

DSC_0298

Take a heaping teaspoon of filling and place it in the center of three of your wrappers.

DSC_0299

Place the empty wrappers on top of the cheese wrappers one at a time. Press down on the edges carefully to begin the process of creating a seal. As you do this, be careful to keep the squares aligned.

DSC_0302

DSC_0303

Finally, take your fork and crimp the edges of each raviolo. Place the finished ravioli in a waiting area – they are ready to cook!

DSC_0305

DSC_0307

Complete this process with the remaining filling and wrappers.

DSC_0311

Feel free to be generous with the filling (there will be more than enough), but you do not want to put too much in there to the point that it gets in the way of your seal.

DSC_0319

DSC_0320

DSC_0323

DSC_0327

DSC_0339

Pretty ravioli are the goal- no ricotta spilling out over the edges! This sounds silly, but in actuality, it will be a big problem when you try to boil them.

After you have assembled all of your ravioli, put a pot of water on to boil. Sprinkle in some olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper. This will add a good bit of flavor to the wonton wrapper while also helping them to not stick together!

Let the water boil fully. You can cook as many ravioli as your are comfortable with at a time, I usually stick to 5 in our small quart-sized pot!

When the ravioli float to the top, they are ready to come out (3-4 minutes)! Stack them on a plate and top with anything you desire! We usually go for sauce, basil, and parmesan. However, you can even bake them or sauté them if you prefer an oil-based or creamier sauce!

DSC_0361

DSC_0364

Enjoy!

DSC_0368

DSC_0380

DSC_0390

 

4-Ingredient, Vegetarian Sausage Balls

DSC_0305

Growing up, my family ate a ton of breakfast foods. One of the things we commonly ate on special occasions were sausage balls. These are tiny bites of absolute heaven. Cheesy goodness and spicy sausage held together with a little breadiness from a Bisquik box. Little did I know at the time- those were basically the only ingredients in the entire snack!

Now that I no longer eat actual sausage, I still like to revisit recipes like this from my childhood. Recently, I began experimenting with the creation of a vegetarian sausage ball. I was looking for a super easy way to make these nostalgic treats for an only slightly healthier diet.

DSC_0304

Perhaps the most amazing thing about these is that they can be frozen! They can be frozen for long amounts of time and then, for long amounts of time, you have a stash of delicious sausage balls that you can reheat at any moment for a quick, but still tasty breakfast! Every time we make ours we make them a little bit bigger. If you make them about the size of a golf ball, you don’t get as many servings out of it, but you can truly have a single one for a solid breakfast on-the-go. It’s a great option for busy families who still like to do some meal prep and have food that feels more homemade!

DSC_0300

This is such an incredibly easy recipe- it only calls for 4 ingredients (one of which is water, I mean, does that even count?)!

4-Ingredient Soy Sausage Balls
(makes about 27, medium-sized balls)

Ingredients
1 lb soy sausage (I always use Morningstar’s regular brand, and simply use 12 patties)
3 1/2 cups Bisquik
1 lb extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I highly recommend shredding cheese off of a block for this, it makes the moisture content more accurate so you will not need to add as much water as you will if you use pre-shredded cheese)
1/4 cup water

DSC_0151

First, microwave all of the soy sausage patties on a plate for 4 minutes. You want them to be soft and easy to tear apart, but not to the point of being fully crisped or cooked. Chop the patties into a crumble. You can chop them as finely as you like. It really depends on your preference.

DSC_0166

Combine the cheese and Bisquik in a large bowl. Stir together carefully. I like to use my hands because it can be a messy process and I prefer to have complete control over it!

DSC_0163

Add in the sausage crumbles. Mix together entirely. It helps to have a very large bowl here, and to use your hands as you stir.

DSC_0170

DSC_0175

Finally add in the water. It will not seem like enough water at first, but keep working the “dough” until it finally comes together. You should not need to add more than a 1/4 cup of water if you use freshly grated cheese. If you are using packaged, shredded cheese, it will be drier than the fresh kind. As a result, you will want to add additional water. I recommend doing this by the tablespoon until your dough comes together. You want to avoid adding too much water. The dough will be fairly dry, but still cohesive enough to keep shape.

DSC_0196

DSC_0199

DSC_0207

Cover a baking tray in parchment paper. Form the balls, trying to keep them as regularly shaped as you can. It’s up to you how large or small you make them. We have never done larger than roughly 1/4 cup sized. Arrange them on a baking tray. Rest the baking tray in your freezer for 15-20 minutes.

DSC_0208

DSC_0209

DSC_0214

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake for 20 minutes! They do stick to parchment paper and aluminum foil, so you will just need to let them cool and then peel them off carefully!

Any balls that you would like to freeze, you can plop them all in a large plastic bag and put them in the freezer! When you are ready to eat them later, simply follow the baking instructions listed here!

DSC_0281

Enjoy!

DSC_0286

DSC_0288

DSC_0292

DSC_0295

DSC_0296

DSC_0306

 

 

 

 

 

Vegetarian Vidalia Onion Soup

DSC_0106

Several weeks ago, back in Alabama, I found myself sitting across from my sister at a restaurant dinner table as she savoured every piping hot bite of what looked like a delicious French onion soup. It, of course, contained beef broth, so I was stuck just staring rudely. With each of my sister’s sips, I knew I was destined to make my own, vegetarian version this winter. I did. And it was amazing.

DSC_0130

French onion soup is one of those perfect winter dishes that makes you feel cozy and comforted, and, with the added bread-cheese gratinée, you just can’t go wrong.

DSC_0077

I decided, as usual, to include some choice ingredients. Seeing as I was back in Alabama, thinking about onions, I just had to purchase some Vidalias. This strain of onion comes from a very particular area in Georgia and you basically can’t get them here in California. So about a week ago, unknowingly, Southwest Airlines checked and transported what was probably the first bag full of specially procured onions. [Yes, they arrived safely!]

I love Vidalias, they are SO perfect for an onion soup (especially a vegetarian version). I was able to find petite Vidalias, with the greens still on, so we used those in the topping as well. Of course, for onion soup enthusiasts without access to the South’s produce, a standard, sweet yellow onion will suffice. I did end up supplementing with a few cippolini onions, which I believe are more easily procured from anywhere in the country. (Although for some reason, we haven’t been able to find those in California either, so I had to sneak those back from Alabama as well!)

DSC_0125

Whether it’s with Vidalias or plain yellow onions, this is a thicker-than-average onion soup, as I wanted something substantial. It is a little salty, especially after you add the gratinée, so I put very little actual salt in the soup and used a low-sodium vegetable bouillon.

Enjoy!

Vegetarian Vidalia Onion Soup

Ingredients

for the soup
2 pounds Vidalia, or sweet yellow onions (we used one pound of petite Vidalias, with the greens cut off and one pound cipollini onions)
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ -1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons better than bouillon vegetable base (we used low sodium)
¼- ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 quarts boiling water
2-3 stems rosemary
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup white wine
½ teaspoon black pepper

for gratinée
bread (we used a french bread from Lucky, and it was amazing)
~ 1 tablespoon butter
2 cups grated fontina
1 tablespoon raw onion or chopped onion greens (we sliced the tops of the Vidalias)

DSC_0003

First, slice the onions. You don’t need to chop them, as they will break down. The important thing is to clean off the skins, slice them, and separate the layers.

DSC_0010

Cook the onions with the butter and olive oil in a large pot over low heat for about 15 minutes.

DSC_0016

Add in the salt and sugar. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

DSC_0017

While the onions are breaking down in the pot, make your broth in a separate bowl. Combine the porcini, vegetable stock base, and boiling water. Let it rest for 30 minutes. This will create a strong, rich broth, while also rehydrating the mushrooms.

DSC_0005

Continue to stir the onions. They should be browning well and becoming deliciously fragrant!

DSC_0020

DSC_0030

DSC_0033

Add the mushrooms and broth to the large pot along with the rosemary, flour, wine, and pepper. Simmer for an hour. Go watch your favorite show or even a movie. If it cooks for a bit longer than an hour, it certainly won’t hurt this soup!

DSC_0036

DSC_0053

DSC_0043

As the soup is finishing its time on the stove, preheat the oven to 325° F. Pour the soup into oven-safe bowls.

DSC_0066

Slice the bread and spread the slices with a bit of butter. Arrange the slices like a delicious lid over your soup bowl.

DSC_0091

Top with a generous amount of grated cheese.

DSC_0099

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Finish the gratinée off with about 2 minutes on broil.

DSC_0103

DSC_0105

Enjoy!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

DSC_0119

DSC_0132

DSC_0146

Almond Date Pinwheels

DSC_0381

Pinwheels are a classic winter cookie, in my mind- like thumbprints, gingerbread men, and cucidati- they usher in the Christmas season! This recipe was truly a shot in the dark when William and I created it. We had some extra dough while making cucidati this season, so we decided to put it to good use.

DSC_0383

These cookies are made with dates, almonds, and figs. We added no spices considering the impromptu nature of the experiment, and it actually turned out amazing! However, I think if you want to make it fancier or give it a more complex flavor, you could add similar spices: allspice, cloves, and even orange extract.

These are much easier to construct than the cucidati and that is convenient, but you will still need a food processor and large workspace to create the pinwheels.

DSC_0382

This recipe was basically made up on the fly, but it turned out so well, I thought I’d share it.

Ingredients

1/2 recipe cucidati dough
~1 ounce dried dates
2 ounces dried, mission figs
3/4 cup simple syrup
1 cup sliced almonds

We Sliced and de-stemmed about 10 dried dates, and 1-2 ounces of dried, mission figs. Then, we boiled them in the simple syrup and let them sit for half an hour. We then combined the sweetened date-fig mixture in a blender with 1 cup of sliced almonds.

Finally, we spread the mixture onto a long, flattened square of excess dough.

We rolled the dough up and sealed it with a bit of water. We then sliced it into little pinwheels with a sharp knife, and finally cooked it following the same process as with the cucidati.

DSC_0356

DSC_0358

DSC_0375

Slice carefully with your sharpest knife, and lay them onto parchment paper. Some of the date filling may squeeze out on one side if your knife is a bit dull. To keep your pinwheels pretty, lay them down on the parchment paper with the messy side down.

DSC_0378

Enjoy!

DSC_0380

Cucidati (Sicilian Fig Cookies)

DSC_0396

During the winter, right around Christmas, it’s a tradition amongst many Sicilian families to get together and make certain types of cookies. Perhaps my favorite of the cookies are the cucidati. These tiny cookies, jammed packed with flavor, always remind me of Christmastime. However, for such a small cookie the amount of effort involved in constructing them is very high. The prep process for these little guys is not something you can do casually in an hour or so for a late-night snack. It makes for a great afternoon activity and the more people you have, the more fun it can be- it’s the one time our idiom “too many cooks in the kitchen” seems to be untrue on a very literal level!

DSC_0370

Cucidati are crescent-shaped cookies made with a light, white dough and filled with a spiced, fig-nut filling. In our family, we love to use the flavors of clove and allspice with a hint of orange extract. We also use pecans to add the nuttiness. Many families use walnuts, but I’m convinced that the south rubbed off on us and we switched to the less bitter, and less expensive pecan in many dishes! Some people also use dates in the mixture- I prefer 100% mission figs for the filling.

DSC_0371

Every family has their own recipe for cucidati. In my family there are two different methods for making these delicious cookies. I decided to blend the two and create my own recipe. This is partially due to necessity, most family recipes for cucidati make 100-200 cookies… which I do not need in my two-person household. This recipe makes about 50 cookies, with some extra dough to play around with. First-time cucidati makers will hopefully find this recipe useful because of the extra dough, it can be difficult to get the cookies looking pretty the first few times around. With this recipe though- you should be sure to be a little stingy with the filling. If you’re not prepared to be careful about doling out the filling- make double the filling recipe.

DSC_0407

We ended up making an impromptu date-almond jam and made pinwheels with our excess dough. I will post that recipe later! (It’s here, it’s here! :)

DSC_0380

A few additional notes: you’ll want a very large work space for these cookies, especially when constructing them. You’ll need a rolling pin as well as a sharp knife for cutting the characteristic slits in the top of the cookie. When I get together with my aunt, grandmother, great-aunt, cousins, and mother, we use a pack of razor blades. However, this most recent time making them I just used my pocket knife and it worked out fine! You will also need a food processor to make the filling.

DSC_0364

As with many Sicilian family recipes, it is assumed that you’ve had someone teach you how to make it so you know how the dish should progress in its look and feel. With the filling here, that’s a big part of it. I give a recipe for simple syrup to help break down and sweeten the figs- do not use all of the simple syrup, you will NOT need all of it. I will repeat this throughout the recipe, as a reminder.

Enjoy the cookies- and the experience of making them! :)

Cucidati- Sicilian Fig Cookies
makes 50-60 cookies with extra dough

for the dough
4 cups AP flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup crisco
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
3/4 tsp vanilla

DSC_0200

for the filling
simple syrup (made with 3/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water) You will not use all of this syrup!
6oz dried mission figs
3/4 cup pecans
3/4 tsp each cloves and allspice
3 tsp orange extract

DSC_0237

for the icing (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar
~2 tablespoons milk

First, make your dough. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt).

DSC_0204

DSC_0207

Cube the crisco and mix it into the dry ingredients by hand until combined. The mixture will be crumbly.

DSC_0213

DSC_0220

Add in the wet ingredients (eggs, milk, and vanilla). Fold until it comes together in a ball. Let it rest in a cool place for half an hour.

DSC_0227

DSC_0229

During these 30 minutes, you can make the filling! First, you will want to make a simple syrup. I use a recipe for a large amount of simple syrup, just in case. Plus, it’s useful for all sorts of other things like jams and fancy cocktails! Stir the sugar with a cup of water in a pot over medium-high heat. Heat until the sugar is completely dissolved (almost or just to boiling/simmering usually). Let this cool down. You can store it in the fridge in an airtight container. Remember, you will not be using all of this simple syrup for the cucidati recipe.

De-stem and quarter the dried figs.
Chop the pecans in half.

DSC_0245

DSC_0250

Combine the two in a food processor until it forms a very loose paste or crumble. You might need to stir it a bit in between pulses to jostle the figs around, they are very sticky.

DSC_0251

DSC_0262

In a bowl, combine the fig-pecan mixture with the spices and orange extract. Mix together.

DSC_0264

Next, add to your filling the simple syrup. You will probably be adding only around ¼ cup, but it takes a little bit of practice to get the consistency right. Add the simple syrup a tablespoon or two at a time until you’ve got a fairly sticky paste that keeps together and could be spread. You do not want to add too much, otherwise it will leak out of the cookies. It should be about the consistency of a cheese spread (or a little thicker).

DSC_0270

DSC_0272

Now comes the construction. First, create your workspace. Lay down a large sheet of parchment paper and set up a small bowl of water, a pizza cutter, and your pocket knife/sharpest, smallest knife. Flour the surface of the parchment paper. Roll out half of the dough and trim the edges to form a large square.

DSC_0285

DSC_0282

Cut the square into 2″ strips using the pizza cutter.

DSC_0290

Taking one strip at a time, flatten it out and shape a thin line of filling down the center.

DSC_0291

DSC_0299

Fold one side of the dough over the filling. Lightly wet it with water. Fold the other side on top and press down to create a seal.

DSC_0300

Flip the roll “seal-side down” onto your floured surface. Using your kitchen knife, cut the log into 2-3″ pieces.

DSC_0302

DSC_0305

Finally, take your sharpest, smallest knife and cut 3 small slits in the top of the dough. You want to slice through the top layer of dough only.

DSC_0315

DSC_0319

Shape the cookie into a crescent and place it on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

DSC_0326

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes on the bottom rack and 5-7 minutes on the top rack. When each batch is finished, take them out and allow them to cool completely. The filling will be very hot.

DSC_0330

If you like, you can then create a light glaze by mixing 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar with about 2 tablespoons of milk. Brush the glaze over the cooled cookies. It hardens very quickly, so that you can enjoy your fig treats soon!

DSC_0341

DSC_0336

DSC_0363

DSC_0361

 

Bourbon Pumpkin Pie with Maple Whipped Cream

bourbon pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving 2015 was many things for me– for us (I’m getting more used to saying that now). It was my first Thanksgiving as a part of an engaged couple. This year, thinking about all of our family back in Alabama, Thanksgiving was especially difficult. I will admit that there were times when all of this cooking felt decidedly pointless. I had many thoughts: why am I doing all of this for just the two of us? who really cares? what are we doing? this is so much work and effort for a celebration with only two people.

bourbon pumpkin pie

It was a real struggle. There were times when I almost quit cooking entirely, and I came close to calling off the meal.

However, we kept cooking and ended up having a good time and making a great meal!

bourbon pumpkin pie

For us, any great cooking adventure starts with an equally fabulous bottle of wine. We found a great bottle of red and opening it up as the rosemary-sage rolls were headed into the oven was a calming moment for me. Everything seemed to be coming together, and it began feeling much more like the cozy Thanksgivings I know and love!

thanksgiving 2015

There are a few dishes that I will always associate with Thanksgiving. I usually don’t eat them outside the context of the holiday and Thanksgiving just wouldn’t feel right without these sides. A vegetarian, sage dressing is one of those dishes. Green bean casserole with crispy onions on top perfectly pretends to be the vegetable of the table. We had all of these things ready to go into the oven and complete our meal, when I decided that candied, gelatinous cranberry and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes were not dessert-y enough.

thanksgiving 2015

So, we decided to make a pie, because, why not? Pies are chill, right? And, as if we didn’t have enough to handle in our tiny kitchen, I had the bright idea to try a brand new kind of pie with special decorations on top. I’m not even a pie expert, but I suppose the wine had me feeling overzealous.

bourbon pumpkin pie

The above pie is the result of our adventure in Thanksgiving baking. While the filling did overrun the edges a bit, it is an absolutely delicious dessert and I highly recommend it. However, we spent an inordinate amount of time hand-making those tiny decorations. The acorn is mine and the holly leaves are William’s creation.

bourbon pumpkin pie

Let me just say- it is 100% not worth your precious Thanksgiving day to sit around building decorations to make your pumpkin pie look more like fall. Pumpkin itself is the essence of fall, and when you’re left with a tiny hunk of plain pâte brisée, you won’t care that it looks like an acorn, just that it isn’t nearly as good without the delicious bourbon-pumpkin filling!

Bourbon Pumpkin Pie

makes 1, 9″ pie

Ingredients

for the crust
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons salted butter
~5 tablespoons ice water

for the filling
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons bourbon (your favorite- we used Bulleit, but Knobb Creek would work well too)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1 /2 teaspoons Vietnamese cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground clove

for maple whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons maple syrup

9″ pie pan and pie weights (or dried rice/beans)

bourbon pumpkin pie

Begin by making your crust. Combine the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor until it looks almost like butter flour or dry cheese curds.

bourbon pumpkin pie

You will need to shift the dough around in your food processor to let it come together. Add in a few tablespoons of ice water. Pulse the food processor. Continue adding a bit of water and pulsing just until the dough forms a ball. Wrap it in parchment paper and chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour.

After the dough has chilled, carefully roll it out onto a floured surface. Flatten the dough into your pie pan and trim the edges. You can also crimp the edges, but I didn’t spend too much time on this. Prick the crust with a fork and put it in the refrigerator to chill for another half hour. All of this chilling time is very important to keep the butter solidified and it helps make for a flakier crust.

bourbon pumpkin pie

After the crust has chilled again, place tin foil over it and fill it with pie weights. Bake it at 375°F for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake for 5 more minutes.

While the crust is baking, combine all of the filling components in a large bowl.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Let the crust cool to room temperature, then carefully pour the filling into the crust. You will have extra filling, be careful not to overfill the crust like I did! Bake at 325°F for an hour.

While the pie is baking, make the whipped cream. In a food processor, combine cold whipping cream and maple syrup. Beat together until stiff peaks form.

Cut the pie and serve immediately!

This pie is particularly good with the cold whipped cream spread on top of it!

 

 

Bruschetta con Burrata

bruschetta

Rich, Italian foods are always immensely satisfying and this is one of them. Savory olive oils, tart tomatoes, milky burrata cheese, and fresh basil– it all makes for one delicious bite! Pretty much anyone can make a good bruschetta with a variety of ingredients, but this particular combination has become our go-to. We have tried tons of different kinds of breads and different ingredients, but we landed on this recipe and we haven’t changed it in about a year. We make it probably once a month (it is incredibly delicious, but it’s not really very healthy).

Bruschetta is a fairly traditional Italian dish that has become popularized all over the world. In Italy, there are many, regional variations. The Toscana region often prepares a simplified version with salt, pepper, and olive oil. This fettunta is usually more of a vehicle for tasting the first batches of olive oil for the season. In the Campania region, the dish has been served for a very long time and, unsurprisingly, it has evolved. Often, you will see bruschetta here with mushrooms, squash, and even sausages. There are many other variations, but here in the States, we usually see it with basil, tomatoes, and olive oil. I’ve added burrata in the Campanian style to counter the acidity of the tomatoes, and I believe it works very well.

bruschetta

You can eat these as a snack or a full meal. We usually opt for the full meal with a glass of white wine. It doesn’t take much time, and the full recipe makes about 24 pieces. Each slice is around 115 calories, as I said, it’s a treat! However, every piece does have 3 grams of protein (which is pretty good for a vegetarian bruschetta). Obviously, there are tons of changes you could make to this recipe to spice it up or simplify it!

Enjoy!

Burrata Bruschetta

Ingredients
1 Trader Joe’s herb loaf
1/2 cup olive oil (I use dark, flavorful varieties, but if you prefer a lighter oil, go for it!)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes (I usually do half red cherry, half multi-colored, mini heirloom)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
fresh basil (several stems, enough to chiffonade about 2 tablespoons)
1 carton Trader Joe’s burrata (equivalent of 2 burrata balls, about 8oz total)
optional
truffle olive oil drizzle to finish (adds a nice, savory flavor that works especially well if this is to be an entree)

bruschetta

 

First, prep a baking sheet. Cover it in tin foil and preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice the herb loaf into 1″ strips and then cut each strip in half.

Mix the olive oil and garlic salt in a small dish. Brush each side of every slice with the garlic olive oil.

Next, begin chopping the tomatoes. You want to cut them into fairly small pieces that still retain their shape and some of their juices. Either quarter or sixth each one. Put them in a medium-sized bowl. Add in the salt and pepper and stir it all together. Next, chiffonade the basil. Mix it in with the tomatoes carefully. Taste the mixture to make sure it is to your liking, and make any adjustments necessary. I usually add in a bit more basil.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bake the olive oil bread for about 5 minutes. Watch it carefully, you want it just lightly toasted but not too crispy.

Next, slice the burrata carefully and arrange a little bit on each slice of bread. Some pieces will have more cheese than others, but that is okay! You can stretch the cheese by spreading some of the creamier inner part onto a few slices. Bake the cheese + bread for another few minutes. Do not wait for the cheese to melt, you just want it to warm up.

Finally, arrange about a spoonful of the tomato mixture onto each slice.

bruschetta

You can also add extra basil and truffle oil to the top! Serve immediately and enjoy!

bruschetta

 

Cauliflower Tortillas and Breakfast Burritos

cauliflower tortillas

About 8000 years ago someone amazing figured out that if you grind up wheat you can get flour out of it and make delicious things. The original tools used to perform this task were made of stone, and they continued to be made of stone until the 19th century when Europe’s Industrial Revolution instigated the use of metal in mills to grind wheat. Unfortunately, these “modern” processes also take away flour’s greatest, most nutrient-rich components (the germ and bran of the wheat). As usual, I am convinced that the Romans had everything solved perfectly as they used animals or water to power a stone which ground the wheat, leaving the nutrient-dense parts intact… but that is a story for another day!

cauliflower tortilla

Alas, here we are, with a new, cautionary tale every day that demonizes flour and gluten. While I do detest this slander and mourn the loss of my favorite ingredient’s good name, it has lead us to some interesting and exciting discoveries. When we ask the question: what can I use instead of flour, we get many answers (some more disgusting than others). So far, my absolute favorite answer is: cauliflower!

We have made muffins and pizza crusts out of cauliflower with great success. Our most recent use of this oddball veggie is for tortillas. For anyone concerned with calorie or carbohydrate counts, flour tortillas are basically a no-go. They are extremely compact and therefore calorie-dense, it’s just not worth it. However, these cauliflower tortillas make for a darn good substitute. They are only 28 calories per tortilla, with 1.5 grams of fat and carbs, but a whopping 2.3 grams of protein! While they do break apart more easily than traditional flour tortillas, they are much more moist and flavorful. If you’re okay eating your burrito open-faced, it shouldn’t be a problem at all.

cauliflower tortillas

As for the process of making them, as far as I can tell they do require a blender. You need to rice the cauliflower, and although I’ve read that you can do that with a grater, it sounds messy and frustrating to me. With the food processor, it doesn’t take but an hour or so to make and bake them, totally worth it!

Cauliflower Tortillas

makes 6-7 tortillas

Ingredients
1 head cauliflower
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

additional items
blender
cheese cloth or tons of paper towels
parchment paper

cauliflower tortillas

Loosely chop the cauliflower, discarding the green stems and leaves.

Place the cauliflower in a blender with one cup of water. Blend it until it looks almost like disintegrated styrofoam floating in the water (that’s a weird simile, but that’s what it will look like). Scoop the cauliflower out and drain it on paper towels or through a cheese cloth. You want to get it as compact as possible. Place it on a plate and microwave it for ten minutes.

When it is done cooking, take it out and carefully drain it again. I took my time with this, as the cauliflower was still very hot from the microwave. I used a combination of paper towels and a cheese cloth to get it (again) as compact and dry as possible.

Measure out two cups of the mixture (this should be essentially all of the riced cauliflower). Combine it with the eggs and spices in a medium-sized bowl.

The mixture should look like thick grits. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and carefully shape six or seven tortillas. We used a heaping 1/4 cup of mixture for each tortilla and pushed it into a circle with the bottom of the measuring cup.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake the tortillas for ten minutes. After the first ten minutes, very carefully peel up each tortilla and flip it over. They are fairly fragile, so you want to use the biggest spatula you have! Bake them for ten more minutes or until they are dry and browned! Let them cool thoroughly before enjoying them!

Try not to stack them before they are cooled, as they will stick and break apart. You can treat these like any tortilla, except they don’t wrap up as well because they break apart. If you want to add some extra crispiness and a buttery flavor, you can heat them up in a skillet with some butter! We made breakfast burritos and just enjoyed them open-faced, more like tacos! (Pictured below: open-faced breakfast burrito. Scrambled egg whites with soy sausage, shallots, shredded pepper jack cheese, chipotle mayo, and parsley. All on a cauliflower tortilla!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Homemade Pizza

homemade pizza

It’s a simple fact: everybody loves pizza. Pizza is just delicious, and there’s not much more to say about it.

For some people, fast food pizza suffices- for the Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, and Dominos fans. For others, there’s that local joint that is the only acceptable option and serves the best- albeit simple- pies around. For still others, there is that pizza place that serves flatbreads, or pizzete, using Neapolitan style dough, traditionally prepared, with fancy topping options– fior del latte mozzarella, anyone?? For William and myself, all of these places will do. We don’t discriminate against pizzas, we love them all!

However, making a pizza at home is really something we do for a different reason. There is truly an artistry to making your own pizza, and there is added fun in that creative process.

homemade pizza

It all starts with the dough. You baby this dough, let it rest for at least 48 hours to develop a rich, yeasty flavor. When I prepare the dough for pizza, it gets its own special treatment of toppings: brushed with strong olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, sometimes a bit of garlic powder or onion flakes. The crust of the pizza is often the first thing that touches your tongue when you’re eating it- so you’ve gotta make it good.

homemade pizza

Then, the sauce. We do two variations: homemade pesto, and homemade tomato sauce. I know, it’s weird that I use the same tomato sauce on pizzas as I do for pastas, but it’s really flavorful and it’s thicker so you do not have the problem of all of your toppings sliding off the side of your pizza. Both options are great, but you’re only limited by your imagination. I know some people who don’t like any sauce at all, some who use olive oil- or even infused olive oil. This is a creative experience, so every person making a pizza can do their own thing with it. That is part of what makes it SO fun!

homemade pizza

Next, the toppings!! Oh, the toppings! You have so many options, you can really put anything you want on a homemade pizza as long as you can find it at the store :). My standby is a nice Margherita. It’s traditional, but easy and satisfying. I use buffalo mozzarella, chopped cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil. William loves his salamis. He also enjoys putting minced, fresh garlic on top and placing it under the broiler for a bit.

homemade pizza

There are a few tips I can give about toppings: avoid cheeses that are super soft or too creamy (like burrata) as they will melt all over the place and basically liquefy. Don’t put fresh herbs or greenery on the pizza while it is cooking, wait until after and treat it like a garnish, unless you want them wilted and limp. As for fresh tomatoes, if you wanted a roasted char, I suggest cooking them separately, you are unlikely to get that by simply placing them on the pizza in your standard, home oven. Usually, I place them on the pizza after cooking. Other than that, treat your dough like a canvas and place the toppings wherever you want! You can even try to make actual images out of it. This is a really fun meal and activity when you have a group of people (like your kid’s slumber party) and everyone wants something slightly different.

homemade pizza

A note on tools: I am IN LOVE with my pizza stone, really. It is definitely one of the best kitchen purchases I have ever made (second to my favorite, rubber spatula). Get a good pizza stone. You know you want to. Just do it. I also have a pizza peel and a nice pizza cutter (we make pizza a lot….). They aren’t necessary but they’re fun to have. Also, make sure you have some parchment paper or wax paper on hand for this, especially if you’re going to be making several pizzas at a time. They are perfect as staging areas for a pizza to be made, and it’s super easy to flip the pizza over onto the pizza stone using the paper without damaging the shape of the crust.

homemade pizza

Plan ahead. This dough can be made the day-of, but it isn’t as good. If I want pizza, and I want it now, I am going to go to the store and buy a pre-made dough, or just order take out. This amount of effort is usually reserved for a weekend dinner or special occasion.  However, the dough recipe I use makes four servings, so William and I typically make a full recipe and have homemade pizzas two days later, and then enjoy homemade pizzas again in a week or two with the rest of the dough.

homemade pizza

 

Homemade Pizza

makes enough dough for 4, 12″ pizzas

Ingredients

2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar

5 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Any sauce and toppings you want!

Each pizza will take 2-3 tablespoons of sauce and 1/2 cup shredded cheese (3-4 ounces of sliced, buffalo mozzarella)

Begin by preheating the oven to 200° F. After it has preheated, turn it off and open the oven door.

Combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a glass container, stirring them together gently. Place the bowl in the warm oven and leave the oven door cracked. Let the yeast proof for about ten minutes.

While the yeast is proofing, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and proofed yeast to the bowl, folding everything together until it comes together in a large ball.

homemade pizzaLet it rest in the bowl for ten to twenty minutes.

Next, divide the dough into four even pieces and place them in a large container. Coat them with olive oil and seal the container with plastic wrap. Place them in the refrigerator for 48 hours to finish rising.

homemade pizza

After the dough has risen, you can make each individual pizza. Preheat the oven to 425° F, with the stone inside. After the oven has preheated, let the stone “cook” for ten to fifteen more minutes.

On a piece of parchment paper, flatten the dough into any shape you want (I’m into circles, William loves squares). For a thin crust pizza, you really need to get it super flat, so it might be bigger than 12″. The dough should be 1/4″ thick, as it will rise some in the oven. It should not be too sticky and it should be very elastic. Brush your crust with olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt or kosher salt. If you would like to add crushed garlic or onion to add flavor to the crust, you can do this now.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Use the parchment paper to flip the dough onto the pizza stone. Cook it for five to ten minutes. It’s up to you how crisp you want your crust to be. It will not cook too much more with the sauce and toppings, so don’t worry about it burning!

Take the crust out of the oven. Add your sauce and the toppings you plan to cook.

Put the oven on broil and cook the pizza for another five minutes, watching it closely.

Add salt and pepper to the top along with any additional toppings you prefer. A sprinkle of truffle olive oil is great! Fresh basil and tomatoes are also delicious!

homemade pizza

You can easily make these in succession if you’re having a party and everyone is making their own. We are able to do it without any issues with only one oven!

Enjoy!