Perfect Pumpkin Pudding

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This is an adaptation of a recipe which uses brown sugar and half and half that I found here: Pumpkin Pudding

Here is my take on this recipe. You won’t miss the sugar and fat!

Perfect Pumpkin Pudding

“My pie without the crust!”

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
1/2 Amber Agave
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 3/4 cups Vanilla Almond Milk

Preparation:

Brush D’Avolio EVOO into a 1 1/2-quart casserole. It also works well in a pie plate. Heat oven to 350°. If you double the recipe, bake longer and check with a knife.In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk or beat on low speed until blended. Pour into the prepared casserole and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If desired, serve with sweetened whipped cream and cinnamon sugar for sprinkling.Serve with whipped cream.

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Sweet Potato Mushroom Roast

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You won’t miss the marshmallows in this one!

Sweet Potato Mushroom Roast

3 Sweet Potatoes  (about 2-2.25 pounds)

4-6 Ounces Mushrooms, coarsely chopped (I used “Gourmet Blend” baby bella, shitake and oyster)

1/2 medium Onion, chopped

D’Avolio Cilantro and Roasted Onion EVOO

1/2 Amber Agave

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush olive oil into a 3 quart oven safe roasting pan. If the oven is hotter reduce the cooking time by about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Peel potatoes and cut into 1’1 1/2″ chunks. Boil for about 5 minutes. Drain.

In heavy skillet heat 1 tablespoon of EVOO and saute onion for about 5-7 minutes until caramelized. Add mushrooms and toss with onions. Cook for about a minute and remove from heat. Add drained potatoes and toss. Add agave and toss.

Evenly place them into the prepared pan and roast for about 30 minutes until they are soft.

1 Activity + 1 Bite + 1 Sip = Easy Party

Any holiday is busy with church and travel and family so it’s hard to coordinate the fun and have fun yourself.

For Easter this year I decided to schedule an early brunch for our family at a lovely restaurant. This way everyone had time to relax in the afternoon. At 6:00 pm we all convened for an Easter egg hunt for the children, a sandwich platter and age appropriate drinks for all.

Here is a plan that will get you out of the kitchen and into the mix.

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1. An activity: ours was an egg hunt but here are a few ideas for an activity to center around your party

movie night
the playoffs (Buffalo fans, don’t put off having a party just for this :o)
Mother’s Day – have the big kids coordinate a card making party for all of the moms. Think glitter and macaroni.
clothing drive – ask everyone to bring one no longer loved professional outfit to the party and box them by gender and size. Donate them to a job placement center.
game night – you don’t have to stick to the usual ones…have you ever played Candyland with alcohol?

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2. A Bite: I made a sandwich platter. I bought 2 ciabatta loaves and 2 multi grain loaves. Look for bread that will lay flat on both sides when cut in half.
I cut one ciabatta and one multi grain in half lengthwise. I put mayo on both sides and layered a quarter of a pound of provolone cheese, a half a pound of thinly sliced roast beef and sliced tomatoes. I cut the sandwich in quarters then down the middle making eight sandwiches.
Next was prosciutto di parma on ciabatta: i spread pesto on both halves of ciabatta then added a half a pound of thinly sliced prosciutto di parma. On that I spread about 6 ounces of goat cheese. I cut the sandwiches as described above.
The last one was my grilled zucchini Caprese sandwich. You can find it here. http://judethefoodie.com/2013/02/12/grilled-zucchini-caprese-sandwich/
I placed all of the sandwiches on a big plastic platter. Paper plates and paper napkins save time and add to the party theme.

3. A Sip: all you need is one special drink and you have a party. My Easter Punch

20130401-104743.jpgis as easy as can be. Buy a package of frozen mixed berries. Add some to any kind of cool glass (I love these retro dot cups here). Fill the cup about half full with store bought lemonade then complete with sparkling white wine. I used Asti but you can use Prosecco or Champagne.

Give this a try and you actually will enjoy your next party.

Have a yummy day!!
________________________

Congratulations to Colleen Low Larkin who won the March Quick Bite Quick Sip contest.

March theme: Grandma’s Kitchen

“The pies at Mangia Cake and Village Bake Shop, while they’ll never be quite as good as hers remind me of my Grandma Ross-BEST PIES EVER!”

You have won a $25 gift certificate to the Lewiston Village Pub!

Let’s keep the party going. April’s Quick Bite Quick Sip theme is Spring. Head out to your favorite eateries and hang outs and play.

Setting the Table for 2013

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One of my first chores as a child was to set the table. My mom would put place mats or a table cloth on the round table in our kitchen. She would stack the dishes and glasses on the table because I could still not reach to safely remove them. I would get the utensils and napkins and complete the task.

Without realizing it my mother was teaching me etiquette and responsibility. I learned the proper place for the fork and knife (even when I was too young to use one) and which side the napkin is placed. Weeknights did not require complicated dishes or utensils so I needed special help at holiday time. I will always remember cleaning the silver (watching her do it, really…) before holidays. I have loved a pretty table since I was a child.

2013 table

There was a famous and expensive restaurant in Buffalo called The Cloister on Delaware Avenue. It was a very special treat to dine there with my parents. One of the things that impressed me was that every table had different chairs giving it an intimate feeling. I loved the way they
I love a table set with beautiful dishes, especially when the dishes don’t match. As long as the color scheme is compatible and the flatware is complimentary a mismatched table is very elegant. folded the napkins and how they treated children just like any other honored guest.

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I love dishes. I mean, I really love dishes. I once flew home from Rome with pottery carefully wrapped and on my lap for the 8 hour flight.

Can you blame me? I cradled that bubble-wrapped baby to the right like it was my job. I absolutely love it!

I know many families sat in the same spot for every meal. Our family of five was set in perfect nine o’clock, high noon, and three o’clock with me and my sister at five and seven. My high noon brother had his back to the window and was stuck in his spot since our nine and three parents surrounded him. So, whenever he wanted anything he would simply say “while you’re up can you get me…” and being up and out of our chair was of no concern to him.

Well, I’ve waxed poetic long enough. It’s time to chat about what I hope my foodie year will bring.

Foods I will learn more about:

Tea, Honey, Beets, Key Lime, Chia

Foods I will use or prepare for the first time:

Almond Paste, Duck, Hollandaise Sauce

Special dishes for special events:

Beef on Weck Sliders for the Super Bowl and Gramma’s St. Joseph Pasta Con Sarde

We are going to talk about:

Manners, protein and portion, and how foods are not good or bad, okay or forbidden

I will share my travels south this year:

Southern California, South Florida and the South of France after a visit to Paris

We are going to shake and stir and sip this year:

Cocktails using Pisco (a grape brandy from Chile or Peru), we are going to infuse vodka and other clear alcohol to make our own signature cocktails, and focus on French wine

I’m a home cook, “classically” trained by my mother and my own experience. It is very likely you are, too. Whether it was your mom or someone else in your life, you learned not only how to cook but how to share love with those you care about.

2012 was a big year for me and my writing journey. You have been with me for a very fun ride. Because we are in this together I would love for you to share with me what interests you and throw out some ideas of what you would like to learn with me.

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Let’s do this together.

Let’s have a yummy year!

Facebook: Jude The Foodie

Twitter: @JudeTheFoodie

Sure, I’ll Bring The Appetizer!

20120724-065503.jpgCheers to good friends who love you enough to host you on a weeknight!

Have you ever volunteered to bring a dish to a friend’s house after a busy work day? I’m usually tempted to buy something ready made…and sometimes I do (even a foodie has to know her limits). However, with a little advanced planning you can personalize this quick dish.

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I decided to bring something reasonably small. I visualized how the little bowls and mini colander will fit on the platter and what will be in them.

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I secure the various serving pieces and add a few ice packs to my handy tote cooler.

20120724-070601.jpgI love this because it is easy to carry, fits a ton and slides into my car easily.

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Deciding what will go into the containers is next. Fresh fruit would be perfect in the mini colander.

This cream cheese dip would be a nice compliment to the fruit and even be a good dip for a pita chip or pretzel.20120724-071130.jpg

20120724-071747.jpgNext I needed to chose what would go into the white bowls. I decided on a mix of green olives stuffed with garlic cloves and little sweet red pepper from the take-out olive stand at the grocery store. By the way, those little red gems can be stuffed with both sweet and savory nuggets for another fun snack.

 20120724-071805.jpgI bought some tiny fresh mozzarella balls for the other dish. It was not a good color match but instead was a perfect compliment to the fruit and olive combo.20120724-072015.jpg

I was pretty excited I remembered these brightly colored picks to make serving and enjoying this appetizer even more fun.

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Have a yummy day! JudeTheFoodie.com

S’more than a Bonfire

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The Foodie:

Last week I had a get-together with six of my sixteen cousins and many of their family (the six who grew up next door and across the street) and there was neither a wedding announcement nor an obituary involved.

You know how it goes … remember how much fun we used to have? We really need to get together. I promise I’ll call. Then we all get so busy we never do.

Well, last week, spur of the moment, I organized a bonfire at my house. We had a blast!

Here is what I did to have a party that I could actually enjoy.

• I organized as much electronically as I could. That means I used Facebook and text messaging as much as possible. Because this came together in just a few days there was no time for formal invitations.
• Buy S’more fixings (wish I had this list before my party … I forgot :o)
• Everyone asked if they could bring something. Sure! A snack or something sweet. Also, I asked them to bring chairs. Those bag chairs are so comfortable and perfect with cup holders. Handy!
• I “dialed” the main course. You just can’t go wrong with pizza and wings.
• Plastic and paper everything.
• I had several drink buckets overfilled with ice. They must have brought a lot of beer because I think I actually put more back in the refrigerator than I purchased that day. No worries … beer never goes to waste around here.
• I placed a plastic storage box for empties next to the drink buckets. I kept a garbage bucket close by with extra bags inside.
• I made one signature drink — a quick sangria. I thought I made a lot. I guess not because it was gone before the ice could melt.

Quick Sangria
(Makes a little less than a gallon)

2 – 1.5 Liter bottles Sangria (I like real but whatever ready-made sangria you enjoy works just fine)
1 – 12 oz. frozen concentrate lemonade
1 – 12 oz. frozen concentrate limeade or other juice (I used white grape and peach on the 4th)
1 – Cup Orange-flavored vodka (I mixed some pear vodka with citron for the bonfire – be creative)
2 – Lemons
4 – Limes

Mix the sangria, juice concentrate and vodka. Add fruit, cut into wedges and lots of ice. Serve in large glasses filled with ice. Enjoy!

When the food was put away and my family back home, I sat by the fire happy that I didn’t over think this get together and truly enjoyed being with people who know me as well as I know myself.

Ready for the Derby? Try this menu!

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The Foodie:

Here’s an idea for a Derby Day celebration which is quick and easy — invite a few friends over for this celebration then make reservations at one of the many BelowTheFalls restaurants for a “post” race supper.

For this quick Kentucky Derby celebration I suggest the traditional drink, one quick appetizer and a sweet snack.

Menu: Simple Syrup Mint Juleps, Ham & Cheese Biscuits and Spicy Pecans

I like this Mint Julep recipe best because it uses Simple Syrup. If you make the Simple Syrup in advance you only need to muddle the mint and mix with bourbon and crushed ice before the race. Boil one cup water with one half cup granulated sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cool and refrigerate. Use this syrup cold.

Simple Syrup Mint Juleps: Serves 4 (traditional Low Ball glasses are nice but the drink is fun in Martini glasses, too)

20 Mint Sprigs (leaves) – I buy two packages in the herb section of the supermarket (Save 4 pretty leaves for garnish)

In a medium pitcher, muddle (break up with muddler or with a wooden spoon) mint leaves and ¼ cup simple syrup until they are broken and you can smell the mint. Add 10 ounces (1 ¼ cups) of Kentucky bourbon and gently stir. Fill four glasses with crushed or small cubed ice and divide the mixture evenly. Garnish with mint leaves.

Ham & Cheese Biscuits: Prepare a tube of refrigerator biscuits according to package directions and sprinkle about a tablespoon of shredded white cheddar on each biscuit the last five minutes. Cool slightly, split and fill each with slices of thinly shaven country ham from the deli. Place on colorful platter.

Spicy Pecans: In dry skillet, put one bag (12 ounces) pecan halves on medium heat tossing often until toasted. Note: Nuts go from toasted to ruined very quickly so do not walk away. Remove from heat and stir in ½ cup spicy pepper jelly. Spread on parchment paper to cool and serve in a pretty glass bowl.

Don’t forget your hat!

Have a yummy week!

All Star Tips for your Easter hockey playoff meal

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(Editor’s note: This is the first offering from BelowTheFalls.com’s new food and wine columnist Jude Caserta. Although we’ll have a full introduction to all our new contributors this week, this story couldn’t wait, since tomorrow’s Game 6 looms.)
If you don’t have tickets to the big Buffalo Sabres playoff game on Easter Sunday and have a house full of fans like I do your Easter dinner plans have taken a turn. I cannot think of a worse time than 3 p.m. to schedule a game, but thanks to NBC wanting to feature our game in prime daytime we have some decisions to make.

Rather than waiting for the game to end to begin your dinner, why not try this game plan:

Adapt your menu

• Think about food that can be eaten without a knife. Either soft, that can be cut with a fork (scalloped potatoes), cut in bite sized pieces or eaten with your fingers (maybe meat on a skewer).

• Think “room temperature” and cold.

• Forget the extra stuff – if you are huddled over the stove making gravy you are not watching the game,

• Appetizers – Try to have one hot and two cold. All Star Tip: the grocery store olive bar has great appetizers. I don’t even hide the containers anymore.

• Salad/Soup/Bread – If you are serving soup, make it early in the day and keep warm until needed. All Star Tip: Salad can be prepared early in the day and stored in separate containers/bags until serving. Toss at the last minute with dressing.

• Main course and sides – Most meat/poultry does not need to be served hot. You can roast/grill before game-time and keep covered tightly with foil. All Star Tip: Do this today, slice and refrigerate. Take it out and set it on counter about an hour before serving – around game time.

• Dessert/champagne – All Star Tip: Arrange for your family/guests to bring a dessert. After all, who says you have to do all of the work?

• Prep early

Write out your menu

• Menu item — left column; all ingredients you do not have, middle column; serving pieces, right column.

• Once your menu is complete, re-write all of your middle column – that’s your shopping list. All Star Tip: don’t forget to buy yourself some flowers

• The grocery store is crazy today but you have to go in.

• Once home from the store, prep what you can and refrigerate.

Set the table

• Put a tablecloth on your table and visualize where the food will go. From your menu, find all of the items in the right column and put on the table to help you visualize balance.

• You can “set” individual places by stacking dishes and utensils per person and creating a fun place card. Maybe use a permanent marker and write their name on a plastic Easter egg filled with candy. Don’t forget napkins. You may want to have a few per place or multi-colored cloth ones for color and variety.

• Or, you can stack the dishes needed for each course and include a long dish with utensils. “Block” out where the serving pieces will go and put the dishes to the left.

• After each “course, have each member of your “eating team” stop by the kitchen to drop off their dish from the last course — organized chaos!

Timing

Think a fancy multi-course meal, eaten slowly, with time between the courses (sort of like the Europeans but with a TV screen as one of the guests). Instead of the appetizers being the only food eaten in a living area, have the main course there, too.

• Appetizers – Pre-game through the first period.

• Salad/Soup/Bread – Served during the first intermission.

• Main course and sides – Served during the second intermission.

• Dessert/champagne – The victory celebration!

Lets go Buffalo!