Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

There is a hint of a chill in the air here. The mornings start out crisp. The sky is a clear turquoise blue. Summer fruits no longer abound on grocery store shelves.

Fall is coming.

Fall is a warm mug of tea, a hint of cinnamon in the air and pumpkins.

These muffins packed with pumpkin, oatmeal and cinnamon give you something to accompany that mug of tea.

No all you need is a good book.

For the muffins:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. I got 12 muffins out of this recipe.

In one bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

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In another bowl, mix the egg, pumpkin, milk and oil.

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Add the wet to the dry.

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Stir until combined.

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Then add in the oats

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And stir until combined.

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Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners.

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And bake for about 15 minutes. The house will smell like pumpkin pie. Is there anything better?

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Darn Good Chocolate Cake

 

This recipe is actually called Darn Good Chocolate Cake. I didn’t make that up.

When you eat it, you take a bite and just kind of go wow, that is darn good chocolate cake.

I first made this for my mom for her birthday one year. Since then, this has become THE chocolate cake recipe in our family. If someone asks for chocolate cake, this is the one they get.

I like this recipe a lot because 1. you don’t need to separately mix the wet and dry ingredients and 2. it starts with boxed cake mix. Score.

This cake is heavy and rich. But it really is like the ultimate birthday cake.

You will need:

  • 1 package devil’s food cake mix
  • 1 package chocolate instant pudding
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1.5 cups chocolate chips
  • Chocolate Frosting (The cake really does not need frosting, but if you’re feeling decadent – and if this is for a celebration of some sort then decadence is required- pile on the frosting.)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour two round cake pans or 1 bundt pan.

 

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Throw all of the ingredients except the chocolate chips into a bowl a stir until well combined.

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Then fold in the chocolate chips.

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And pour the batter into your pan or pans.

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Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for at least 30 minutes before removing them from the pans

 

 

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Frost.

 

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Slice.

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Chocolate Coma.

Mexican Salad

So, it’s like the hottest day ever in New York.

For real.

We’re talking unbearably hot, humid and sticky.

The heat rises up from the pavement when you walk home from work and if you stand in one spot too long waiting for the light to change, your sandals can melt to the asphalt. No joke.

The last thing I want to do is walk into my sweltering apartment and turn on the stove.

But I’m hungry and want something substantial.

Enter: Mexican Salad.

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Cold lettuce, canned beans, rinsed and drained, canned corn, taco spice and creamy guacamole. Satisfying and refreshing dinner.

Start with shredded lettuce. I used iceberg because i wanted something really cold and crunchy.

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In a bowl mix pinto beans, black beans and corn and add a tablespoon or so of taco seasoning.

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Pile the bean mix and some guacamole on top of the lettuce. and voila! Dinner. No oven required.

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Greek Tacos

Yes, you read that title correctly.

Greek. Tacos.

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Hear me out.

A gyro is seasoned meat, either beef or lamb, lettuce, tomatoes and sauce inside a pita.

A taco is seasoned meat, lettuce, tomatoes and sauce inside a tortilla.

All the Greeks out there shuddered. But whatever. This dinner was damn good.

I love a good gyro. The meat that’s been rotating and cooking on a spit all day, dripping glorious juices and layered with delicious seasonings. But it’s not exactly something i can easily make in my tiny kitchen.

Or so I had thought at first.

Sure, I couldn’t have that glorious rotating beef, but, I could use ground beef like i would for tacos and swap the Mexican seasonings for Greek seasonings to give it the Greek flavor profile.

Genius. I know.

You will need

  • one onion, diced
  • one pound ground beef
  • one tablespoon coriander
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dice tomato
  • shredded lettuce
  • pita
  • tzatziki (cucumber yogurt sauce)

Drizzle olive oil in a pan and add your diced onions, cooking over medium heat until browned.

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Add your ground beef, coriander and salt and pepper.

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Cook until meat is cooked through and browned.

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Se the table with the meat mixture, lettuce, tomatoes, yogurt sauce and pita, to make a build-your-own gyro stand.

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Stuff the pita with your favorite fillings and enjoy.

And don’t try to tell me that isn’t a Greek taco.

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Green Chili Mac and Cheese

Last month we took a quick trip to Austin. Music City USA! Home of fantastic dive bars, endless options for live music and barbecue.

The barbecue was insanely delicious. Pulled pork, brisket, ribs. There was definitely a meat coma.

But as good as the meat stuffs was, I can’t say it was my favorite thing, or the best thing or the thing I am going to crave from this trip.

I’m a sides girl. Pinto beans, cole slaw, potato salad. These are the best parts of getting good barbecue. But the absolute best of the best was the green chili mac and cheese we had at Roaring Fork.

We weren’t interested. The waitress told us to trust her.

And boy am I glad we did.

I make a pretty mean mac and cheese. SO I had to try and make a green chili version that would at least come close to satisfying the craving for the one at Roaring Fork.

So I took a basic mac and cheese recipe and amped it up with some green chilis.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 small can of green chilis
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 8 oz sharp white cheddar, grated
  • 1 pound pasta, any shape (i used mini shells)
  • Optional, crushed crackers

Preheat the oven to 400.

Basic mac and cheese starts with a roux. Butter, flour and milk.

You melt the butter and add the flour, whisking, and cooking out the raw flour taste.

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Then you add the milk. And here is where this becomes green chili mac and cheese.

Into a blender goes the milk and the can of green chilis. Blend. You will now have green chili milk.

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Add to the butter and flour slowly. And whisk until it starts to thicken.

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Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and add in your pasta. Cook according to package directions, drain and set aside.

When the milk and flour mixture has thickened (it should coat the back of a spoon) add in your cheese and stir until it melts.

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Remove from the heat. Dump in the pasta and stir until it is all coated.

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Pour into a greased 9×13 baking pan.

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This next part is optional but recommended. Take half a sleeve of crackers (I used Ritz), place them in a bag, and whack away until you have crumbs.

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Sprinkle atop the mac and cheese in the baking dish

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And bake for 20-30 minutes. The crackers will turn golden, the cheese will melt and bubble and it won’t turn orange. I don’t know what happened to the lighting there. Sorry guys.

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You get the warmth from the heat of the chilis and the smooth creaminess of the cheddar.

A match made in mac and cheese heaven.

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Trust me. You won’t miss the brisket when you have a big bowl of this for dinner.

Florentine Carnival Cake (Orange Cake)

I love Italian food.

I love cooking channel’s Deb and Gabriele

I love the beautiful and simple Italian food in their cookbook Extra Virgin.

New York’s been having some strange weather so far this summer. It’s been 100 and humid and it’s been 65 and a bit chilly.

So to make it feel like summer, no matter what it looks like outside, I though I’d make a bright, citrusy dessert to at least give us some sunshine on our plates.

This recipe is ridiculously easy. You probably already have all of the ingredients. Oh and the bright orange burst in this light and fluffy cake is out of this world.

You will need:

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • .5 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • zest and juice of one orange

Preheat oven to 350. Butter  a 9×13 pan.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. (That’s right. everything into the bowl. No wet and dry ingredients, no separating eggs, no sifting. Just dump it all in.)

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Whisk until combined.

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Pour into your buttered pan.

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Bake for about 30 minutes.

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Allow to cool. You can dust with powdered sugar or, you can serve with sliced strawberries and some whipped cream.

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Food Truck Style Falafel Platter

I love falafel.

Like most New Yorkers, I first discovered falafel when I was a broke college student roaming around the East Village and trying to save a few bucks for the cover charge at the Bitter End so I could watch my friend’s band play, and hopefully find someone who would buy me a beer.

Falafel trucks abound by Washington Square AND you can get a really good falafel for like 2 bucks.

No joke.

So now the question. What is falafel?

It’s basically chickpeas mixed up with some parsley and spices, deep fried and then served in a pita as a sandwich or on some lettuce as a platter.

It is one of my favorite foods of all time. I could definitely subsist on falafel and pasta for the rest of my life and be happy.

Thankfully, falafel was as easy to make as pasta!

You will need:

  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • handful of parsley
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • vegetable oil for frying

Throw everything but the vegetable oil into a food processor.

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Blend until smooth

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Place the mixture in a bowl and pop in the fridge for about 20 minutes. This helps it set up a bit so it doesn’t break apart when you fry it.

Now, on to the frying.

You want about a 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring it up to 350 degrees. I don’t have a thermometer, so I use the wooden spoon trick. Dip the handle of the wooden spoon into the oil; if it pops and bubbles you’re good to go.

Using two tablespoons, form the falafel mixture into balls and carefully drop into the oil.

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Fry on one side for 2-3 minutes and then flip and let cook another 2-3 minutes. They will be golden on both sides.

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Place on a paper towel-lined plate and continue to form balls and fry until the mixture has all been cooked.

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You can take these little guys and stuff them into a pita pocket with some lettuce and cabbage, or you can make a platter, which is what we did.

Iceberg lettuce, pickled cabbage and cucumbers (By the way, the cabbage is just barely pickled. Shred some red cabbage and toss it in a bowl with two tablespoon olive oil, 4 tablespoons champagne vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar, and let it sit in the fridge overnight)

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Add your falafel

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And finish it off with some tzatziki, hummus or tahini.

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Derby Pie

My Family, if you’ve been reading this blog you will know, is really big on food.

We’re also really into football and hockey.

But the other biggie for us is the horses. An Italian family into betting the horses?

I know. Shocking.

Well, this weekend is the biggest event in horse racing, for those of you virtuous types who don’t follow the ponies. That’s right, folks, it’s almost Derby Day!

The Kentucky Derby is the first race in the triple crown, which consists of the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont. Win all three and you win the triple crown. The races are only open to 3-year-olds so horses only have one shot at the prize.

Secretariat won the triple crown in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. Since then, nothing. It’s been one heck of a dry spell.

You may remember the big hubbub surrounding California Chrome last year, but he just couldn’t pull out the win at the Belmont.

Anyway, I digress.

With the Kentucky Derby coming up, I’ve been thinking about a childhood favorite dessert that we used to get down the shore and that has been off the restaurant’s menu for over a decade: Derby Pie.

It was essentially a chocolate chip cookie in pie form. But there was something a little different about it. I did some testing and I figured it out. What would make it a derby pie? Well, the Derby is run in Kentucky, right? What’s big in Kentucky? That’s right. Bourbon.

Sub the vanilla for bourbon and you have yourself the makings of a delicious Derby Day dessert.

The recipe is super simple, but ridiculously delicious.

You will need:

  • 12 tablespoons butter, room temperature (1 and 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I mixed milk and dark)
  • 1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)

Preheat the oven to 275.

Roll out your pie crust and place in your pie pan.

In a bowl stir together the butter, sugar and flour.

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Add the beaten eggs and the bourbon and stir until combined.

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Add in the chocolate chips and stir again.

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Pour the mixture into your pie crust

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And bake at 275 for about an hour and a half.

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Let cool before you slice otherwise you will have melted chocolate everywhere.

Top with whipped cream or ice cream if you’re feeling extra decadent.

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You may not know which horse to put your money on, but I can tell you that you’ll want to put your money on this pie.

Pesto Farro

Lately we’ve been trying to up our lunch game- up the nutrition, up the flavor and up the wow factor- without upping the prep time.

Enter the grain bowl trend.

It’s pretty brilliant actually. Take a grain – think brown rice, quinoa, cousouc- add some vegetables and protein and boom, lunch. Even better? Easy to make in bulk. Boom, lunch for the week.

We discovered farro a few months ago while watching Extra Virgin on Cooking Channel. It’s an ancient grain with a somewhat nutty flavor that you can treat sort of like pasta.

I buy the kind that you cook just by boiling in water for about 20 minutes.

I whipped up some basil pesto

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boiled the farro

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sliced some tomatoes and black olives

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And poured it all into a big bowl

 

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stirring until the pesto coated every grain.

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Portioned out in tupperware containers, this was an easy grab and go lunch for the week.

Croque Madame

The very first meal we ate in Paris was croque madames while the hotel got our room ready.

That was when I learned about the French way- your room being ready upon arrival really means your room being ready after the maid has had her nap.

So, tired after the train ride from London, we took our bags to the closest cafe and ordered two pernods and two croque madames.

A croque monsieur is essentially  french ham and cheese sandwich. It becomes a croque madame when you add a fried egg.

You will find these sandwiches on the menus of every cafe lining Paris’s streets, and, if you have one you’ll know why. They’re so simple, yet so incredibly delicious with the toasted bread, the buttery, melted cheese and the salty ham. The runny egg yolk is la piece de resistance.

I’ve had a travel itch lately, so when that happens, I tend to recreate meals we had on our travels, to give myself the illusion of being elsewhere.

For the croque madame you will need

  • Bread
  • ham
  • cheese (traditionally gruyere but anything that melts well will work)
  • butter (because what’s a French dish without butter?)
  • eggs

A traditional croque monsieur or madame is made with a beschamel. That’s lovely when you’re on holiday, but a little too heavy for everyday eating. So I eliminated the sauce and made something a bit more akin to a grilled cheese.

Start by using a biscuit cutter or a glass to cut a whole in two slices of your bread.

Butter a skillet and toss the two slices with holes and two more slices into the melted butter. Cook over medium heat until browned.

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Once browned, flip the bread and carefully crack an egg into each hole- sort of like when you make egg in the holes. Okay, exactly like when you make egg in the hole.

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Once the egg is cooked but still runny, top the non-egg bread with slices of ham.

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Remove the ham side from the skillet and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Top the ham with shredded cheese and pop under the broiler to melt the cheese.

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It only takes a minute or two to get the melty gooey perfection, so don’t go anywhere.

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If you want to be extra decadent, you can also top the egg-bread with cheese and pop under the broiler.

So that when you make your sandwich, you have two doses of cheese.

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Egg-in-the-hole-meets-grilled-cheese-meets-taylor-ham-sandwich.

My version of a croque madame.

C’est Magnifique.