Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mini Pumpkin Spice Cheesecakes - Perfect Potluck Contribution


Thanksgiving may be over, but thankfully pumpkin season is still hanging on. And if you're an insane person like me, you waaay over-stocked yourself on canned organic pumpkin.

Fun fact: a lot of canned "pumpkin" on the market is actually squash. There isn't a hard and fast rule on what you can call pumpkin. I'm not 100% sure "Organic" is a safe bet, but it's what I try to use.

One of my go-to recipes for potlucks is my famous Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake. However, I've noticed over the years that a full-on cheesecake can be difficult for potlucks. Finger food is way more portable. Plus, there's less chance of the top cracking--for us cheesecake perfectionists.

Check out this recipe and let me know what you think! Try to keep those fall flavors coming all year round :)

Mini Pumpkin Spice Cheesecakes
1 package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla (bourbon vanilla preferred!)
1 heaping tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 cups pulverized ginger snaps
1/4 cup butter
Caramel, for topping

-Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

-Prepare a muffin tin by either liberally spraying each well with non-stick spray, or lining with wrappers and lightly spraying inside each one.

-Melt the butter and mix with the cracker crumbs. They should be slightly sticky and able to be pressed together and lightly hold shape. Press a heaping tablespoon of the mixture evenly into each liner.

-Cream together the cream cheese, pumpkin, and sugars. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well, until the mixture is pourable. Pour into each liner (over the crumbs) to 3/4ths full.

-Bake for 20 minutes or until the middle of each cheesecake is set. Chill for 2 hours, then top with caramel, if desired.

Protip: I used the pumpkin spice sauce from Torani, that I got in a complimentary pack from the company for my cold brew coffee post. It was diviiiiine.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fancy Fall Drinks for Holiday Hosting - Apple Cider Sangria

 All summer, I guzzle sangria. If there's a party at my house, or a party I'm invited to, I throw together a quick and easy white or red sangria and a wondrous time is had by all. It's just so EASY: wine, fruit, some liquor, some juice, BAM. Instant party.

But when fall hits, the sangria disappears into the abyss summer leaves behind in its wake. Instead we're drawn to our pumpkin beers, our darker wines, our mulled anythings. Our ciders...

This, my friends, is the perfect transitional alcoholic beverage. Apple Cider Sangria. Apples fresh off the branch, coupled with tart cider, sweet wine, and topped with gingerale. It's like a sweet liquid apple pie without the spice.

Divine. Enjoy.

I updated this after watching a friend make something similar at a dinner at my place. The wheels were turning in my head and I made some tweaks, and lugged this to the next party I went to. It was a hit.

Apple Cider Sangria

  • 2 medium sized apples (any kind works, but McIntosh might shine best here), sliced
  • 1 barely-ripe pear, cubed
  • 1 bottle sweet wine, I used moscato
  • 2 bottles hard cider (I used McKenzie's Seasonal Reserve, which is IDEAL here because it already tastes like pie)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/8 cup orange liquer
  • 1/4 cup spiced rum
  • Gingerale, to top

-Place fruit in the bottom of a large pitcher (note: you will need one larger than the one pictured). Pour wine over fruit and let chill for 30 minutes to an hour, but preferably overnight.

-When wine is fruit-infused, pour in the remainder of the ingredients, except the gingerale. Return to fridge and chill until ready to serve.

-Pour into glasses and top with gingerale.

Happy Thanksgiving Week! - Green Bean Stuffarole

Guys. I'm not the best at side dishes. I literally only ever think of them on the fly, and when I do, they're typically just "uhhh I guess I'll put something green on the plate and cover it with butter?" Seriously, the "side dishes" part of my recipe collection up there is HURTING.

Then I attended a potluck where an amazing dish was served: some sort of stuffing with green beans. It was SO GOOD (or, maybe I was kind of drunk) that I ate three helpings. I'm a one-helping kind of gal, so you know this was legit.

I used what my foggy brain could remember about the dish to create this: the most amaze-ballz, MIC-DROPPING side dish for your turkey day EVER. I call it a "Stuffarole" because it's half green bean casserole, half meat-filled stuffing. Bring this to your family gathering, your office potluck, whereever, and you can drop the mic yourself, I promise.

Kickass Green Bean Stuffarole
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 package maple bacon, chopped
  • 1 package breadcrumb-style stuffing
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 3 cups green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a large casserole dish, set aside. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and whisk in the chicken broth.

-In a large saucepan, cover the green beans with water and set to a low simmer. Simmer until tender.

-While the green beans are cooking, fry the bacon in a deep frying pan. When the bacon is just beginning to crisp, add the sausage, crumbling into the pan.

-Once sausage has browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to a large bowl. Mix in the breadcrumb stuffing, and pour in the chicken broth. Mix well, let sit until fully absorbed.

-Keeping the leftover fat in the pan, toss in the onions and season with salt and pepper. When onions are transluscent, add the mushrooms. Splash with the red wine, and let cook until wine is reduced and mushrooms are soft.

-Pour the cream of mushroom soup into the pan. Add a bit of water until mixture is thick but flowing.

-Press the saturated bread crumb and meat mixture into the greased pan. Place green beans on top, and pour mushroom mixture over the whole thing.

-Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and add cheese. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What I've Been Eating, Travel Edition - Santa Barbara California


First and foremost: I'm going to be posting some older recipes this week to get y'all ready for Thanksgiving! Stay tuned!

Second of all: Oops, that was an unexpected hiatus! You'll notice I didn't even finish getting all my Halloween recipes up. D'oh! Oh well, they're in draft for next year. Let me know if I should do a "Nighmare Before Christmas" series and get them up in December. I have jello shot eyeballs, bat wings, and my attempt at a Thorax Cake.

The reason for my short absence was actually due to a change in employment. Though I wasn't actively looking for a new job, I came across something interesting and decided to go for it. It turned out to be an incredible opportunity and I couldn't be happier I made the jump! The process was incredibly quick and suddenly I was on a plane to Santa Barbara for TWO WEEKS for training, leaving me very little time to blog.

I'd never been to Santa Barbara, but I adore California. I was excited to explore this gorgeous little town after spending the day in work training. And guys, I'm in love. If they ever need to transfer people to the home office from Austin, I will be first in line. Mountains on one side, beach on the other (literally, the home office looks out onto the bluffs), amazing seafood... this is my dream place.

I had a food and beverage allowance, even with breakfast and lunch provided during training. So I was really able to go anywhere within walking distance of my hotel when it came to restaurants and definitely did not take it for granted. Unleash a foodie with a budget for nearly anything? Score. I basically ate my weight in raw fish, as Texas is not known for seafood. Here's what I enjoyed during my visit.

Arigato Sushi | 1225 State St, Santa Barbara, CA
Immediately upon entering California on a Sunday evening, I knew I needed to get seafood. This was the first stop I found by just aimlessly wandering down State Street, and it turns out it's a great one! This sushi combo plate was $28, and more than worth the price for the variety of nigiri offered with a bonus California roll on the side. I sat at the sushi bar and chatted with the chef, watching him carefully mold each piece of rice with his hands. The fish was fresh, the rice was perfectly seasoned, and the little extra bits of garlic and scallions on a few of the nigiri pieces really hit it out of the park. Next time I'm in town I'll check out more of their maki rolls, but for my first introduction to California sushi, this place was great.

Jane | 1311 State St, Santa Barbara, CA
My second night in town I wanted to treat myself to something a little fancy. Jane was a little more upscale, and a few patrons in line scoffed at me when I said I didn't have a reservation (I walked past them to sit at the bar). The theater is right next door, so this is obviously a great date night location if you're in the area and want to feel classy. Chicken Piccata is one of my favorite dishes, and turns out it's Jane's signature dish. It was perfectly cooked and a decently sized portion. Since I had no way of keeping it or warming it up later, I had to sadly leave behind my leftovers, to dream about the rest of the trip. Their wine list is extensive and if you have the budget for it, check out some of the California wines.

The Drunken Crab | 416 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 
A few of my coworkers were surprised I enjoyed this spot so much--as it's new, it hasn't gained much of a reputation yet, and the storefront is a little easy to miss with the hustle and bustle of State Street. But don't let that stop you--this place is a true gem. I overdid it by ordering soft shell crab, New England Clam Chowder, and oysters and only made a mere dent in the spread. They're known for their crawfish and Louisiana cuisine, but I was feeling a little less spice when I popped in here for a bite after wandering the beach. Also I make the trip to New Orleans at least once a year and figured crawfish was best left as a special treat for the next time I visit. Special shout out to the chowder in the sourdough bowl, it was the perfect marriage of New England flavors with West Coast.

Bigeye Raw Bar | 38 W Victoria St #119, Santa Barbara, CA
You guys. This was my FAVORITE place, and I am sad I didn't get the chance to go back. The freshest oysters I've ever eaten in my life, the best spicy tuna roll I've ever had in my life, and THE BEST POKE I'VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE--okay tbh I had never had Poke before BUT STILL--y'all need to go here. The fish is so fresh and light tasting I would bet money it was caught that morning. The restaurant is hidden in the back of the Santa Barbara Public Market, with counter seating only, so I imagine it fills up quickly during peak hours. But this just means that any raw-fish doubters in your party can snag a bite elsewhere in this upscale cafeteria and y'all can sip wine from "Wine + Beer" across the aisle as you enjoy your incredible fish (another favorite of mine). Win-win. 

Rori's Creamery | multiple locations
Two of my favorite flavors are in that cup: S'mores and rootbeer. And they go surprisingly well together! But all of the organic ice creams at Rori's would be delicious, I'm sure. Soft, creamy, flavorful. There's really not much more you can want out of your ice cream. Plus, it's also at the Santa Barbara Public Market! It's the perfect date night: Poke at Bigeye, wine at Wine + Beer, and finish it off with ice cream at Rori's. Boom.

Okay, you know what? If you go nowhere else in Santa Barbara, go to the Santa Barbara Public Market and just eat your way through because there are SO MANY amazing options. Next time I'm in town I want to check out the Garden or The Empty Bowl, as both were packed every time I wandered through so you can assume the food is solid.

Opal's | 1325 State St, Santa Barbara CA
What is "California Cuisine"? Opal touts its mastery of the category, so I had to find out. Turns out, it's a lot of seafood, fresh veggies, and things that are grilled. I'm cool with it. I was getting a little scared of Mercury poisoning at this point, so I decided to forgo seafood for some sort of land creature. This chicken was stuffed with mushroom and sat atop a creamy tomato sauce with herbed risotto and veggies off to the side. It felt fancy, almost healthy, and the wine pairing of a crisp white from Northern California brought out all the complex flavors of the dish. However, the cocktail list looked pretty fun and unique, if you'd prefer something a little more boozy!

Overall, it was an awesome trip and I can't wait to go back! Since the home office is here, it's likely this won't be my last visit. And I can't wait to devour more food.