Pumpkin Seeds

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love making costumes, dressing up, and going to a party where everyone else is in costume too! There are so many fun things to do around this time and so many fun foods and special dishes to make for parties.

I took some time to carve a pumpkin…

I added some feathers to make it really look like an owl! It was pretty fun. I think next year I am going to get some better pumpkin carving tools and make a better carving. If you have any good ideas let me know. I want to make something interesting.

From this pumpkin project, I pulled out 1 cup of pumpkin seeds.

I decided to roast them and try something new this year. I made a mixture of sugar spices to coat the seeds. Here’s the recipe to my spiced up roasted pumpkin seeds.

If you like my cute goose measuring cup you can find a similar set here.  I got my gaggle of geese measuring cups a few years back at Anthropologie and they are no longer available.

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (all pulp removed and washed)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. sea salt

2 tsp. organic cane sugar

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. smoked sweet paprika

1/4 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 tbsp. water

Spread the cleaned seeds out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil and 1/4 tsp. of the sea salt over the seeds and stir them so that all of them are coated.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until they are golden and crispy.

You can eat the seeds just like this. This simple roast is how I usually eat them. They are really good- nice and simple just roasted and salted.

To spice them up, mix the other 1/4 tsp of salt in with the rest of the spices and the 2 tsp. sugar in a small bowl. Toss the seeds in and add the 1 tbsp. of water – just to help the spices stick to the seeds. Mix it well to make sure all of the seeds are coated.

Spread the seeds out on the baking sheet in a single layer again and bake for about 10 minutes (you want to try to get them dry again so they don’t all stick together). They come out kind of caramelized or candied but they have a nice little spice to them.

Make sure you save your pumpkin seeds! They make a great Fall snack and it’s kind of fun to pick them out of the pumpkin.


Beer Taste – Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Well there certainly has been a lack of pumpkin beers available this year. I have been looking every time I go to get beer. I guess it is so popular that distributors and stores can’t keep it on the shelves. The past few years I have been able to get a bunch of different kinds from breweries all over the place. This year I have had only a few!

I was very happy when my friend Janeen brought me some Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. This is my number 1 favorite pumpkin beer! I thought I was going to miss out on it this year because I could not find it anywhere.

We had a crazy snowstorm yesterday, so here’s the punkin ale next to my snowy pumpkins. Good thing it’s a really good beer to enjoy in the cooler weather.

Punkin ale is a brown ale with real pumpkins, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s much lighter in color than other brown ales but it has big bold flavors. It’s perfect to pair with fall comfort foods. It is really well-balanced and does not have that overly spicy pumpkin pie flavor. I think it is awesome! It definitely gets my pick as the best of the pumpkin beers every year.

I think they is my favorite punkin beer because it has nutmeg in it. I love nutmeg – It’s my secret ingredient in some of my pasta sauces, it is great with greens like kale, and I like to add a little into some of my treats when I bake. The brown sugar also adds a little something special to this brew.

Punkin Beer was originally made for the Punkin Chunkin event that takes place in Delaware every year. You can check out the event on the Discovery Channel website.

I hope you can find this pumpkin beer this year if you haven’t tried it yet. Good Luck!

Food Photography and Caprese Salad

Last month, my photographer friend Jason Bleecher took some photos of some food I created. I’ll be sharing the photos and the recipes over the next few weeks!

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

1/2 cup good quality Balsamic vinegar

3 fresh mozzarella balls

3-4 medium size red and yellow heirloom tomatoes

1 cup of red and yellow cherry tomatoes

purple and green basil leaves

Salt and pepper

Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a small pan, reduce the balsamic vinegar to half over medium heat. Slice the mozzarella and tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices and half the cherry tomatoes. Arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella in alternating layers on the plate. Chiffonade the green basil and spread it over the salad, garnish with purple basil leaves. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar reduction and olive oil over the salad and season with salt and pepper.

Simple and delicious, especially when tomatoes are in season.

Marisa Cheese!

A new specialty foods shop opened in Lancaster on the 300 block of North Queen Street. Bon Appetit serves coffee, breakfast and lunch. There are plenty of food items to bring home with you as well.

Cheese and cheese items are abundant in the shop, along with spices, specialty cookware, and there is a section near the back with candies and chocolates.

Here’s the first item I purchased:


I had to try it of course. I served it thinly shaved on wheat crackers with fresh fig slices. It made a great late night snack one night and I would absolutely get it again to make a nice after dinner cheese plate. It has nutty, salty, sharp flavors that go with all different kinds of crackers and accompaniments.

I have been back to the shop recently for a coffee break. They have good coffee and excellent Chai. The only slight disappointment I encountered was that they were out of soy milk. I’m not holding it against them though, I’ll be back again.

Global Gardens Meyer Lemon Balsamic Bliss

I spent one day of my vacation in California wine tasting in Los Olivos. I was also really excited that day because we did an olive oil tasting at a place called Global Gardens. I loved it so much that I decided to join their quarterly olive oil club… so four times a year I get a package in the mail containing 3 bottles of Global Gardens products.

My next olive oil package is coming in November. I’m not sure what I am going to get next month but I hope it’s as good as the one I purchased in August. This one included Mediterranean Finishing Glaze, Peach Cinnamon Balsamic Vinegar, and 10th Anniversary Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I added the Meyer Lemon balsamic Bliss to my package because I tried it at the shop and it was amazing on a piece of bread so I had to try it on some other food!

I decided to share one of the recipes I made with the Meyer Lemon balsamic Bliss. Global Gardens has several fruit infused vinegars – some of which I got to try while I was in their tasting room – and all of them were outstanding! I have used the Meyer Lemon blend to marinate steak and several times as a salad dressing so far.

Here’s my sliced Bliss marinated steak with heirloom tomato and feta salad.

I rubbed salt and pepper to two small steaks and placed them into a zip top bag. I added about 2 tbsp. of the Bliss vinegar and 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil. I’ll be honest… I can’t remember what cut of steak I used because I made this dish in August. I would recommend using a skirt or flank steak. They are some of my favorites to marinate.

I let the steaks hang out in the refrigerator for most of the day. I grilled them over a medium high charcoal fire only for a few minutes until they were medium rare. If you use flank steak make sure you cut it at an angle against the grain so that it is tender, otherwise you’ll end up with some tough-to-chew pieces.

I mixed spring mix and some home-grown romaine lettuce together with heirloom tomatoes cut into quarters, parsley, cucumber, and feta cheese. I used the Meyer Lemon Bliss for the dressing as well and drizzled the salad with extra virgin olive oil.

The whole meal was a really nice light and bright summer dinner.

The 10th Anniversary Extra Virgin Olive oil is a blend of organic Mission and Manzanilla olives. It is fruity and crisp and it finishes with a peppery flavor. It’s a great dipping oil for bread. It goes really well with aged balsamic vinegar.

I haven’t tried to create anything with the Peach Cinnamon Vinegar but it is good on a simple salad of butter lettuce and strawberry slices…

The Mediterranean Finishing Glaze makes a great bread dipping sauce. I’ve also had it over pasta and it was pretty good. I think it would be best used in a cold pasta salad if you are going to put it on pasta. It is the perfect accompaniment to a nice Antipasto appetizer plate. I do love finger foods, tapas, and snacking.

If you are debating ordering something from Global Gardens, I would support you! It can get a little pricey, I would get some kind of package or gift set instead of buying individual items. I am trying it out for now because the Olive Oil Club is a pretty good deal. I really enjoy that they use good quality ingredients to make everything they sell. I definitely recommend a stop in Los Olivos and a stop at Global Gardens if you are going to California and you are going to be wine tasting.

Roasted Pork Loin with Beer Braised Cabbage and Butternut Squash Soup

A simple, quick Fall dinner!

Pork Loin and Apple Cider Sauce:

one small pork loin (about 1 lb.)

2 tbsp. cumin

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper

1 cup apple cider

1 tbsp. creme fraiche (one of my favorite ingredients!)

1 tsp. chopped fresh chives

Rub the cumin, salt and pepper evenly over the pork loin. Heat an oven safe skillet on high heat. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to the pan, allow to heat up (but be careful to not let the oil start to smoke!). Sear the pork loin on all sides to form a nice golden brown crust. Place the pork loin (in the skillet) into the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. About half way through cooking, pour 1/2 cup of the apple cider into the pan and leave it in the over to finish cooking (the apple cider will keep it nice and moist). Remove the pork when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 140 degrees. Let the pork rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

To create the sauce, place the skillet on the stove top over medium high heat. pour the other 1/2 cup of apple cider into the pan to deglaze it. Make sure you scrape up all of the yummy little brown bits off the pan! Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce by half. Add in 1 tbsp. creme fraiche, stirring until melted,  and 1 tsp. chopped scallions.

Beer Braised Cabbage:

1/2 head purple cabbage (about 1 lb.)

2 apples peeled and sliced thin

1/2 cup apple cider

1/2 bottle of Fall seasonal beer (I used Organic Pumpkin Ale, but you could use an Oktoberfest or something similar)

1/2 a medium-sized sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp. celery salt

salt and pepper to taste

Core and thinly slice the purple cabbage. Heat a pan to medium high heat and add two tbsp. olive oil. Saute the onion for a few minutes, until it begins to turn translucent. Add the cabbage and saute a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the apples and saute a few minutes more. Pour in the apple cider and the beer and allow it to come up to a bubble. Cover the pot ad let the cabbage cook down until it is soft, stirring occasionally.

Simple Butternut Squash Soup:

1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and diced small

1 small sweet onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3-4 cups chicken stock

3 tbsp. fresh chopped chives

creme fraiche, for serving

Saute the onions and garlic in a small soup pot until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add in the butternut squash and saute for a few minutes, add salt and pepper to taste. Add about three cups of chicken stock (make sure the squash is submerged). bring to a boil and cover. Allow the soup to cook until the butternut squash is soft and cooked through. Use a hand blender to blend the soup until smooth. Add in extra chicken stock to thin out the soup if desired. Bring the soup back up to a slow bubble (if you added more chicken stock) and add in the chives. Serve the soup with a dollop of creme fraiche on top.

There you have it – a simple delicious Fall meal made from seasonal veggies. yum!

Beer Taste – Wolaver’s Organic Pumpkin Ale

It’s pumpkin season! And with pumpkins… you get pumpkin beers! One of my favorite things about fall. But all pumpkin ales are not created equal…some are good and some are not. I have taste tested a lot of pumpkin ales over the past few years and I have picked out my favorites. I’ll be sharing some of my top picks this month.

Wolaver’s Fine Organic Ales are made in Vermont by Otter Creek Brewing Company. Dan and I went on vacation to Vermont a few years ago and visited the brewery. It’s a great stop if you’re in the area and it’s also pretty close to Magic Hat, so you can check out both breweries in one afternoon.

Wolaver’s is a great pumpkin beer. It’s made with plenty of organic Vermont pumpkins and a few spices reminiscent of pumpkin pie. It’s not loaded with spices (as some of them are) making it easy to drink. Sometimes flavored beers are a little over powering and I often think “it’s good, I could drink one, but I wouldn’t want to drink it all night.” The Wolaver’s is NOT like that, it doesn’t have the overly-spiced problem. I would definitely have more than one!

I think this brewery just changed the look of their labels and the names of some of the beers. I have had Wolaver’s pumpkin ale before but it was called Wolaver’s Will Steven’s Pumpkin Ale. It had a darker label with some retro writing on it. I don’t remember it being as good as the current ale so they may have changed the recipe as well. I’m not totally sure about this change but I haven’t seen the old brew around at all and this pumpkin ale seems totally new to me.

I actually decided to try to use this ale in a recipe tonight. I was making braised red cabbage with apples. I thought it needed a little something extra so I decided to add some of the pumpkin beer in the pot as the braising liquid. It came out really good! It was a great fall side dish… look for the recipe tomorrow.

A few weeks ago I commented on the Braaaiiins pumpkin beer from Spring House Brewery. While their version is good, it has a little of that overly-spiced problem. I don’t think I really realized it that much until now that I have had the Wolaver’s. I think this is my second favorite pumpkin beer that I have taste tested… stay tuned for my number one pick.

In case you were wondering… that little birdie in the photo is my new bottle opener. It’s tail is the lever to pop your bottle top. You can find one of your own little birdies here.

Sausage with fall veggies and beans

Fall veggies are plentiful and the air is getting chilly. This dish is perfect for this time of year and really easy to make. It’s a one pot meal so the clean up is minimal, which makes it great for weeknights after work because it doesn’t take much time!

You can choose what ever sausage you like. I have made this with sage turkey sausage (from The Turkey Lady), chicken apple sausage, and sweet Italian pork sausage. I think my favorite was the sweet Italian pork sausage.

1 lb. sausage (your choice!)

olive oil

1 large sweet potato

2 medium beets (I like golden beets because they do not turn the whole dish pink)

1 medium sweet onion

I medium carrot

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 can cannellini beans

1 can dark red kidney beans

1 bunch swiss chard or kale

salt and pepper to taste

Add about 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a dutch oven set to medium high heat. Sear the sausages and remove from the pot.

Chop the onion, mince the garlic, and cut the sweet potato, carrot and beets in to 1/4 inch cubes (to match the size of the beans).

Saute the vegetables in the dutch oven for about 5 minutes, until the onions turn translucent.

I used red beets this time, so my final dish turned out pink. I also had to substitute chick peas to the cannellini beans because I didn’t have any cannellini beans left. You can substitute with pink beans as well but I think the cannellini work best in this recipe.

Chop your swiss chard or Kale into smaller pieces. If you decide to use kale, remove the tough stems and use only the leaves. I chose to use black kale this time because it was available at market and it is slightly softer than the regular kale that I usually find. After experimenting a bit, I still really like using the swiss chard.You can use the stems of the Swiss chard too, the red and yellow colors are a nice addition.

Use 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock to deglaze your pot, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the swiss chard or kale and season with salt and pepper. Place the lid on the pot and allow the liquid to boil and cook down the greens (about 7 minutes).

When the greens have reduced in volume, add in the beans. replace the lid and bring the liquid back up to a bubble.

Nestle the sausages back in the pot vegetables. Try to submerge it under the liquid and cover the pot again, bringing the liquid back up to a boil. Allow the sausages finish cooking (about 5-10 minutes, depending on size).

Remove the sausages and slice them into pieces, add the sausages back into the pot and serve…. comfort food for a chilly day.

Harvest Breakfast

This Saturday was the annual Harvest Breakfast at Central Market. One of my favorite events of the fall, Harvest Breakfast celebrates the harvest season with food, music, and festivities.

I continuously say that I wish someone would put some tables out in the market alley so people could eat breakfast and lunch outside. This is one weekend where that happens! Tables are set up and some of the usual  stand holders from inside come out into the alley and cook breakfast. There is music playing, pumpkin painting, alpacas to pet, and fall air to enjoy.

The Vinegar Creek Constituency was playing (one of my favorite local bands) and hay was flying in the air (thanks to some kiddos who were really having fun and jumping in it like a pile of freshly raked leaves).

Dan and I enjoyed breakfast outside. We shared the wild mushroom Quiche and the cinnamon french toast.

Both were yummy and breakfast was followed up by some bangin’ coffee and Chai from Mean Cup. I got a whole bunch of nice fall vegetables and turkey sausage from the Turkey Lady. I’m going to make a warm fall meal perfect for a chilly day – sausage with fall veggies and beans – a hearty dish, kind of like stew but no quite. Look for a post later in the week with the recipe.

I had a great day walking around market and all around down town with Dan. I come down town pretty much every weekend, but Dan has been away so much that I haven’t gotten to spend a Saturday wasting time walking around with him in a while. It was really nice and I had a ton of fun being kind of touristy.

We visited the record store, some of the shops on Prince Street, went to a flea and craft market at the Candy Factory, and went in and out of the shops on the 300 block of North Queen Street.

We ended out tour of Lancaster with a stop at The Fridge. The new beer and pizza joint craft beer and fancy flat bread pizza place on the west side of town. Look for a post detailing this place (one of our favorite new stops) later this week.

So… what a great Saturday!

Dan said it was the “greatest hits of Lancaster” in a day: harvest breakfast, Vinegar Creek playing, central market, walk up prince street, record store stop, flea and craft market, historic queen street antique shops, rummaging through Building Character, and afternoon beers.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a day…