Friday, December 30, 2011

5 Manly Cocktails Women Should Be Drinking

A few months ago I was at a bar where the hip, mustachioed bartenders were touting their selection of superlative old-school cocktails. So I ordered a Manhattan. My husband turned to me and said, “You know a Manhattan is a guy’s drink, right?”

“No, man, that’s fine,” the bartender interrupted. “You’ve got a woman who knows what she wants.”

Yup, I do. Sure, I like a refreshing mint mojito and a champagne sparkler just like the next gal, but there are times when I crave something stronger, more muscular, like scotch or bourbon.

Since that night I've ordered many a manly drink. I've also asked many a manly man what he thinks of women who imbibe traditional men’s drinks. Everyone I spoke with was OK with it, and many thought it was sexy. But most were quick to add this caveat: “Just not on the first date. You might scare us off.”

They also agreed: Don’t go too masculine too quickly. Want to order an Old-Fashioned? Don’t. Too Don Draper. A Rusty Nail? Too Bob Villa. A Godfather? Too Michael Corleone.

If your current drink of choice is a fruity Cosmopolitan, then don't switch to a bitter Negroni. You might not recover from the shock. So this New Year's Eve, why not be adventurous and try a bolder manly cocktail such as a classic Manhattan or a Tom Collins?

Here are 5 more traditional men’s drinks that women can safely order:

Sidecar: The mixture of cognac and cointreau creates a sexy amber color and leaves a sweet taste on your mouth. You know, just in case he’s got nice lips.

Gin Martini: Ask for a martini, and most bartenders will assume you want vodka. So specify gin and whether or not you want it dirty or with a twist.

Whiskey Sour: As far as sour cocktails go, a whiskey sour is eminently drinkable. Plus, a classically prepared whiskey sour should come with a slice of orange or lemon, and a maraschino cherry which lends a flirty touch.

Salty Dog: If you’re out for brunch, skip the mimosa and order the more playful Salty Dog, a mouth-puckering combo of vodka and grapefruit juice, spiked with salt.

Sazerac: Sazerac is to New Orleans cocktails what gumbo is to New Orleans cuisine. Made with rye, Peychaud's Bitters, and Angostura bitters, this is a heady, spicy cocktail. Purists insist New Orleans is the only place to find an authentic Sazerac, but you can buy Peychaud's Bitters and Herbsaint online. So drink up.

So what do you think about women ordering classic men’s drinks? Do you?

Makes 1
Printable recipe.

The Manhattan was conceived with rye as its essential component, but the consensus is that even if you don't use rye, Manhattans should be made with American whiskey, such as a good bourbon. --Rob Chirico, author of Field Guide to Cocktails.

2 ounces straight rye or bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Dash of Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry

1. Stir the bourbon, vermouth, and bitters in a pitcher half filled with ice, or shake them with ice; then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Photo credits: FCC; FCC culinarygeek; Susan Russo.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

10 Tips for Baking, Storing, and Freezing Cookies

Baking cookies with Nonna

It's cookie season! Oh, sure, cookies are eaten 365 a year, but is there a better time to celebrate cookies than during the Christmas season? Even the most baking-averse among us can't help but bake cookies in December (though they may just be sugar cookies cut out from a can).

Anyone can make cookies and everyone loves to eat cookies. They're the ideal thoughtful holiday gift, they're perfect for children's little hands, and they're a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends creating memories that will last a lifetime. (I don't remember many Christmas gifts I received when I was a kid, but I do remember marathon Christmas cookie baking sessions with my mom every year.)

So during this Christmas cookie season, I'm sharing 10 tips for baking, storing, and freezing cookies. And if you need some cookie recipes, Food Blogga has several hundred of them that have been submitted by bloggers and bakers across the country for previous "Eat Christmas Cookies" events. Here are links to the 2007 round-up, the 2008 round-up, and the 2009 round-up. From Italian pizzelle to German Spritz cookies, you'll find absolutely every type of cookie imaginable!

baking 2

10 Tips for Baking, Storing, and Freezing Cookies

1. Before you begin baking, make sure you have all requisite ingredients as well as baking utensils, pans and parchment paper (lots of parchment paper). Baking requires precision, so it's a good idea to use the exact ingredients specified in a recipe rather than make substitutions that can adversely affect both texture and flavor.

2. In general, cookie dough should be mixed by hand or with an electric hand mixer. Over mixing can lead to tough cookies. Stir in ingredients such as chocolate chips, nuts, and dried fruits by hand.

3. Use sturdy, aluminum baking sheets with or without a rim. Skip greasing the sheets and line them with parchment paper instead. This helps the cookies bake more evenly, makes it easier to slide them onto a cooling rack and allows for quick clean-up.

4. Always preheat the oven. Space cookies at least 2 inches apart; even cookies that don't spread a lot need their space to bake evenly. If your first sheet of cookies spread too much, then chill the remaining cookie dough in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before baking.

5. If possible, bake one sheet of cookies at a time. This allows the oven’s heat to circulate evenly and prevents cookies from becoming too browned on the bottom. If you must bake more than one sheet at a time, then place sheets in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and rotate mid-way through. Never place cookies on a hot baking sheet as they will spread; either let the sheet cool or run it under cold water before re-using it.

6. Unless otherwise noted, transfer cookies immediately to a cooling rack. Just slide the parchment paper with the cookies on it directly onto the rack. Cookies will firm up a bit as they cool. Allow them to cool completely before frosting.

7. Make sure cookies are cooled completely before storing. Metal tins keep cookies crisper and firmer than plastic containers.

8. Store soft cookies like macaroons in a separate container from hard cookies like biscotti. Otherwise, you’ll end up with all soft cookies.

9. Layer cookies between sheets of waxed or parchment paper to maintain freshness and to prevent them from sticking together. Sturdy cookies such as biscotti can be stored without the paper. Use the same storing principles when giving gifts of cookies. Festive decorative tins and cellophane bags are both attractive and practical.

10. Most types of cookie dough can be frozen raw then baked later, though drier cookie dough such as shortbread freezes better. Place formed cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 1 hour. Place cookies in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. There is no need to thaw them; just add a few minutes to the baking time. To freeze baked cookies, place them in single layers separated by sheets of waxed or parchment paper and store in a freezer-proof, air-tight container. Baked cookies can be frozen for up to 6 months and should be defrosted on the counter top before serving.

Oh, and don't forget to leave some cookies for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Next to Cookie Monster, no one loves cookies more than old Saint Nick.

Where Is Santa?

Photo credits: FCC, Sponsellicathyse97, conniefoggles.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Great Cookbooks for Holiday Gifts

There are some people who are so cool, you just wish you could be friends with them. You know what I’m talking about. Is there a woman alive who didn’t want to be friends with Carrie Bradshaw during her heyday? And she wasn’t even real.

Well, guys (and gals) get ready for the best friend you’ll ever have. How do I know he’ll be your best friend? Because he just wrote the book, Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World’s Craft Brewing Revolution.

Please meet author and resident cool guy,
Josh Bernstein. With his easy, conversational tone and deep knowledge of all things beer, Bernstein makes Brewed Awakening a fun read for all beer lovers, from newbies to connoisseurs.

You'll learn
 how hops, grain, and yeast work, where to travel for killer craft beer weeks, and how to pair beer with food, which Bernstein affectionately calls, "brew and chew." You'll also be entertained with tales of cutting-edge craft brewing and discover 150 craft beers you need to try. There's a hefty section on home brewing, and if you visit Bernstein in Brooklyn, NY where he resides, you can even take a home brew tour with him.

As a beer-lover I was intrigued by the section entitled, "Women in Brewing." Did you know that ancient Sumerian and Egyptian women commonly brewed beer at home? Or that females are more sensitive to the different layers of flavor in beer? Or that there are gal-friendly beer groups such as Girls Pint Out with chapters in Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, and Texas? That's right, ladies. 
Put your pinot grigio aside, and get crafty with beer.

So if you’ve got a beer enthusiast on your holiday gift list, (everyone does, right?), then get him or her a copy of Josh Bernstein’s Brewed Awakening. And while you’re at it, throw is a six-pack. 

Need more holiday gift book ideas? Several cookbook author friends of mine and I have gotten together to share these great cookbooks for holiday gifts. Below is a blurb about each book, but if you click on the link, you'll be sent to a full post with a recipe. Have fun on your culinary travels, and let me know what you find!

100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love
By Jill Silverman Hough

Chock-full of delicious, creative, and easy-to-make recipes for everyday cooks, 100 Perfect Pairings makes food and wine pairing easy and approachable. With recipes organized into twelve chapters by wine variety, simply turn to the chapter for the wine you want to serve, make any of the entrees you find there, and enjoy it with your wine. It’s that easy. Be it Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir, a big dinner party or a simple meal with friends, “100 Perfect Pairings” promises wonderful recipes that make every pairing, well, perfect!

Jill Silverman Hough is a cookbook author, food and wine writer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor whose forte is making food and cooking simple yet special. On Jill’s blog: Tortilla Soup from Almost Meatless

By Joy Manning & Tara Mataraza Desmond

Ideal for today's conscientious carnivores, Almost Meatless is a timely new book featuring 60+ tasty recipes that go light on the meat.  Without compromising flavor or protein, these dishes maximize health benefits while minimizing the grocery bill and impact on the planet.

Co-author Tara Mataraza Desmond is a writer, cookbook author and recipe developer focused on food for health and wellness, pregnancy and parenthood.

On Tara’s blog: Yogurt Chicken with Yogurt Chutney Sauce from 100 Perfect Pairings

By Patricia Tanumihardja

Asian grandmothers—whether of Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, or Indian descent— are keepers of the cultural, and culinary, flame. Their mastery of delicious home-cooked dishes and comfort food makes them the ideal source for this cookbook. The 130 tantalizing dishes assembled in this tome comprise hearty food, brightly flavored, and equally good to look at and eat. Plus, all the recipes are translated to work in modern home kitchens.

Pat Tanumihardja is a food and travel writer currently based in the Washington, D.C. metro area and blogs at
On Pat’s blog: Chickpea Curry with Tomato and Mango from Roz Cummin’s blog.

By Joshua M. Bernstein

Brewed Awakening is Joshua M. Bernstein’s definitive take on the craft beer revolution. The book is the deeply reported story of the wild innovations and passions driving craft beer, focusing on the tales of the risk-taking brewers, bar owners and the dedicated beer drinkers across the globe. There’s a story in every pint glass, and Brewed Awakening gives voice to each one.

Josh Bernstein is a Brooklyn-based beer, spirits, food, travel and bicycling (phew!) journalist, as well as an occasional tour guide. 
On Josh’s blog: The Jucy Lucy Burger from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

By Susan Russo

How do you keep a Dagwood from toppling over? How did the Hero get its name? And who invented the French Dip? Discover these answers and more in The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches—a chunky little cookbook dedicated to everything between sliced bread. You'll find recipes for every sandwich imaginable along with fascinating regional and historical trivia. From the humble Sloppy Joe to the chic Nutella sandwich, from the iconic Po 'Boy to the fresh-faced donut sandwich, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches will satiate sandwich connoisseurs everywhere.

Susan Russo is a San Diego-based cookbook author, blogger (Food Blogga), and freelance writer specializing in food and lifestyle. 

By Andrea Lynn

The ultimate one-stop shopping guide, The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook finally offers starving college students a welcome relief from fast food fiascos. Designed to help shoppers recognize the best finds and reap the fruits of Trader Joe’s smart buyers, many recipes utilize TJ’s signature products to create unique meals like olive focaccia, frito pie, pulled-pork sliders, and fish tacos, among other things.

Andrea Lynn is a NYC-based food writer and recipe developer who has tasted almost every product Trader Joe's has to offer. On Andrea’s blog: Ravioli Lasagna and Baked Macaroni with Ricotta, Spinach and Mint from Parents Need to Eat Too

By Debbie Koenig

Give a new parent the gift of sanity! Parents Need to Eat Too makes it easy for new moms and dads to take care of themselves as well as they're caring for baby. Every recipe has been tested by a group of more than 100 moms, and every recipe also includes instructions for turning that dish into baby food. The book goes on sale in February, but author Debbie Koenig has created a special holiday offer, available now: She'll send a free signed, custom-made bookplate and holiday card to anyone who pre-orders the book as a gift.
Debbie Koenig is a Brooklyn-based food and parenting writer and blogs at Words to Eat ByOn Debbie’s blog: Olive Focaccia from The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook

By Roz Cummins

Roz Cummins is a Boston-based food writer who specializes in sustainability. She also loves tea and baking. She has worked as an editor, a teacher, and an arts administrator. She is currently working on an e-book called Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies' Afternoon Tea. Visit her website:

On Roz’s blog: Steamed Meatballs with Tangerine Peel from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ecosalon's Holiday Gift Box is Back

If you're reading this blog, then you or someone you love is a foodie. You love to talk about food, gaze upon food, cook food, and, most of all, eat food.

Slate Cheese Board

If you're like me, then you also prefer eating to shopping. But with the holiday gift giving season underway, we have to shop, right? Yes, but how about shopping at your computer while munching on cranberry-pistachio biscotti and hot coffee?
Bird Salt and Pepper Shakers

Well, I've got ya covered. Here's the ideal holiday gift for the foodie in your life: "The Box." What is "The Box"? It's a holiday gift box from Ecosalon that's chock full of $500 worth of foodie-related goods from cookbooks to artisan chocolates to stylish kitchen accessories such as bamboo utensils. And the best part is it's only $99!

Twig Servers

Really. It's true, and it's all legit. In fact, my friend Anna from Ecosalon included my cookbook, Recipes Every Man Should Know, as one of the gifts in the box.

Here's the only catch: There are a limited number of holiday gift boxes, which are selling quickly. So if you'd like to purchase one, hop on over to Ecosalon and place your order. And while you're at it, have a biscotti for me.

Stainless Steel Robot Tea Infuser

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hungry for Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipes

For many Americans, the best part of Thanksgiving dinner happens on the Friday after the holiday, when the leftovers begin. The November celebration that began at a single table nearly 400 years ago has grown into a holiday feast eaten in nearly 90 percent of American households. According to the National Turkey Federation, Americans gobble more than 690 million pounds of the big bird every Thanksgiving....

Please click here to continue reading my article, "Looking Forward to Thanksgiving Leftovers" on, and get the Thanksgiving leftovers recipes below.

cranberry sauce and honey smoothie
Cranberry-Honey Smoothie


leftover mashed potato cakes
Mashed Potato Cakes

Turkey, Quinoa, and Persimmon Salad with Warm Cranberry-Maple Dressing
Turkey, Quinoa, and Persimmon Salad with Warm Cranberry-Maple Dressing

cheesy turkey and kale quesadillas
Cheesy Turkey and Kale Quesadillas

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Peak Cranberry Season

When I was a kid and my parents took us out for breakfast, I always ordered a glass of cranberry juice. I loved the way it sparkled like rubies in a glass. But most of all, I loved its mouth-puckering tartness that sent shivers down my jaws when I drank it. (Even typing that sentence caused the same reaction.)

Now that I'm all grown up, I no longer drink cranberry juice. Maybe my taste preferences have changed, or maybe I've just become a wimp.

Fresh cranberries, however, I adore. And since cranberry season peaks between October and December, now is the perfect time to buy them.

In the fall, cranberries are used most commonly for cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving Day, yet they have so much more potential. They balance the sweetness of baked goods such as pumpkin muffins and banana bread. They add a jolt of flavor to homemade sweet apple sauce. And they perk up fall vegetables, such as butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

Cranberries are a powerhouse of nutrition as well. 1/4 cup of fresh cranberries contains only 12 calories and is loaded with health-promoting fiber, Vitamin C, and antioxidants.

So the next time you're at the market, pick up a bag of fresh cranberries, and let their mouth-tingling tartness take action.

Below are some of my favorite fresh cranberry recipes. What are yours? Please share them with us in the comment section.

cranberry smoothie

Cranberry, Banana, and Honey Smoothie

cranberry, pineapple, and walnut relish DSC_0002

Cranberry, Pineapple, and Walnut Relish

cranberry, raisin, and walnut apple sauce

Homemade Cranberry, Raisin, and Walnut Apple Sauce

Spinach and Apple Salad with Cranberry-Maple Dressin

Spinach and Apple Salad with Warm Cranberry-Maple Dressing

simple stuffed acorn squash DSC_0011

Festive Stuffed Acorn Squash

Spiced Sweet Potato, Cranberry, and Pecan Cake with Orange-Cinnamon Glaze  DSC_0337

Spiced Sweet Potato, Cranberry, and Pecan Cake with Orange-Cinnamon Glaze

banana cranberry mini muffins

Low-Fat Banana, Honey, and Cranberry Mini Muffins

Top photo of cranberries, credit FCC Muffet

The Winner of Vegan Holiday Kitchen Is....

Congratulations to Brian (BriGuy) who won the copy of Vegan Holiday Kitchen!

Many thanks to all of you who commented and tweeted. There will be many more give-aways to come!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

My 20 Best Thanksgiving Recipes

Backlit Turkey

Exactly one week from today, 90% of Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving by gobbling nearly 700 million pounds of turkey. With the overwhelming number of turkey hotlines and tutorials already available, I'm here to share something more important -- Thanksgiving sides and desserts. I've culled my archives and freelance pieces and have chosen my favorite Thanksgiving recipes to share. I hope some of them become favorites in your house as well.

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes? Please share! 

Appetizers, Sauces, Soups, and Salads:

sweet, spicy, nutty Thanksgiving popcorn!

Thanksgiving Popcorn! (above)

Spicy Rosemary Nuts

Spiced Persimmon and Pecan Muffins (published in Cooking Light)

Savory Butternut Squash Muffins with Apples, Caramelized Onions, and Cheddar Cheese

Homemade Cranberry, Raisin, and Walnut Apple Sauce

Cranberry, Pineapple, and Walnut Relish (published on Food52)

velvety butternut squash and chestnut soup

Velvety Butternut Squash and Chestnut Soup (above)

Roasted Purple Cauliflower and Arugula Salad

Dandelion, Persimmon, and Medjool Date Salad (below)

dandelion, persimmon, and Medjool date salad


Southern-Style Greens: Collards with Ham Hock (published on NPR's Kitchen Window)

Roasted Kabocha Squash with an Orange-Honey Glaze

Roasted Root Vegetables with Pomegranate Molasses and Rosemary (below)

roasted root vegetables with pomegranate molasses and rosemary

Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Shallots (published in Cooking Light)

Minted Apple and Almond Stuffed Carnival Squash

String Beans with Prosciutto, Pine Nuts, and Meyer Lemon (below)

Green beans with prosciutto, pinenuts, and Meyer lemon


Best Ever Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Fresh Fig, Walnut, and Rosemary Upside-Down Cake

Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Cranberries, Raisins, and Pecans

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans

Pumpkin Pie Pudding (published in Cooking Light, courtesy photo below)

Turkey photo credit, FCC, ingridtaylar.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cookbook Review: Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas

Making Thanksgiving dinner is hard enough for most people. For those who have guests with food allergies, it can be grueling. Mom can't eat the creamy mashed potatoes because she's lactose-intolerant. Aunt Amy skips the bread stuffing because she's gluten-intolerant. Uncle Henry is allergic to nuts, so he can't eat  half the dishes on the table. Just order him a pizza.

As for dessert, well, it's practically a death trap. Classic Thanksgiving pies typically contain gluten, butter, milk, sugar, and nuts. Plus 1 in 2 Americans is pie-challenged. I know, I'm one of them.

Here's the answer to your Thanksgiving dessert dilemma: Make Nava Atlas's Apple-Pumpkin Delight from her latest cookbook, Vegan Holiday Kitchen (Sterling, November 2011). It's gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free, so everyone will be able to enjoy it. And you won't have to make a pie crust.

A veteran vegetarian and cookbook author, Atlas has created more than 200 festive, tasty, vegan holiday recipes organized into six chapters: Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Holiday Season, Jewish Holidays, Easter, Independence Day and Summer Entertaining, and Brunches, Appetizers, and Potluck Dishes.

In her introduction, Atlas says, "Holidays can be particularly trying for vegan who aren't part of a wider circle of like-minded eaters This book is dedicated to them-- and to vegans of all stripes." Of course, be prepared for the carnivores at your table to gobble up many of these meat-free dishes.

Who could pass up autumn-inspired Coconut Butternut Squash Soup or Sweet Potato Biscuits? If you think gluten-free stuffing can't be delicious, consider Atlas's herb-laced Polenta, "Sausage," and Mushroom Stuffing or her softly spiced Wild Rice Stuffing with Dried Cranberries.

You'll find traditional holiday recipes such as Cranberry-Apple Sauce, Pumpkin Mini Loaves, and Ginger Cookies sharing space with modern dishes such as Red-Wine Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Baked Thanksgiving Risotto, and Mixed Greens with Green Apples, Beets, and Pistachios.

The book's design is clean and inviting, and Susan Voison's photos are attractive. While some recipes have longer ingredient lists, most are short, and recipe instructions are clearly written and uncomplicated. As for make-ahead recipes, Atlas notes that "most recipes just don't taste as good when they're made too far ahead of when they'll be used... Honestly, most of the recipes in this book are not so lengthy or complicated that they benefit from advance prep." Sprinkled throughout the book are useful cooking tips, entertaining suggestions, and notes about ingredients.

So whether you're looking for vegan holiday inspiration or just some new, healthy recipes, you should get yourself a copy of Nava Atlas's Vegan Holiday Kitchen.

Give-Away Time!

In the comment section below, tell me why you'd like to win a copy of Vegan Holiday Kitchen. Tweet about it and mention @foodblogga, and I'll count that as another entry. I'll announce the winner on Monday, November 21st. 

Apple-Pumpkin Delight
Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Nut-Free
Makes 8 servings
Printable recipe.

1 1/2 pounds sugar pumpkin, cushaw or any orange winter squash
2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3 or 4 large apples)
1/2 cup natural granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons cornstarch

1. To make the pumpkin easier to peel and cut, partially pre-bake it according to the directions on page 22. When cool enough to handle, peel the pumpkin and slice it into thin pieces about 1 X 2 inches (about 1/8 -inch thick; the size matters less than the thickness). Peel the apples and slice a little thicker than the pumpkin.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

3. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Oil a 2-quart casserole dish. Arrange half the pumpkin slices in the dish, and sprinkle with about 1/4 of the sugar mixture; arrange half the apple slices over the pumpkin and sprinkle with another 1/4 of the sugar mixture. Repeat the layers.

4. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer, or until a knife inserted in the center goes through easily. Serve warm or at room temperature in individual dessert cups.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Take The Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge and Get a Healthy Holiday Recipe

carnival squash

It's here. The holiday season. That joyous time of year when you suddenly experience murderous feelings in the mall parking lot, when you send Christmas cards to people you're not even sure you know, and when you're constantly struggling between whether to have that second piece of peppermint fudge or to stay on your diet. Fun times.

Here's some help. Skip the parking lot and shop online. Forget the cards; that's so pre-2011. Use Facebook instead. As for the fudge? Stop after one piece; that way you can have a piece of shortbread at the next party.

And if you really want to feel good take The Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge spearheaded by Cathy of What Would Cathy Eat? At the age of 44, Cathy underwent major heart surgery for a blocked artery. Two stents later, she recovered but realized she had to start eating more healthfully. While she no longer noshes on decadent desserts and bbq every night, she believes (and I agree) that healthy eating is NOT an excuse for bland food. Healthy food can and should be delicious food.

If you too believe healthy holiday eating can be fabulous, then consider taking the challenge and sharing your recipe with Cathy. I'm sharing a recipe for Minted Apple and Almond Stuffed Carnival Squash that I make all the time. Why? Because it's easy, attractive, healthy, and delicious. So, enjoy it guilt-free.

minted apple and almond stuffed carnival squash

Minted Apple and Almond Stuffed Carnival Squash
Makes 4 halves or 8 if you cut them into quarters
Printable recipe.

2 small carnival squash (about 1/2-3/4 pounds each, cut in half, seeds removed
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 small, crisp, mildly tart apples, such as Pink Lady, Gravenstein, or Pippin
The juice of 1/2 small lemon
A couple of pinches of salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped, lightly toasted almonds, plus extra for garnish
1-2 tablespoons fresh finely chopped mint, plus extra for garnish
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Slice acorn squash in half and remove seeds. Brush flesh with a bit of olive oil and place flesh side down on prepared baking sheet. Cook 35 to 45 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork.

2. In a medium skillet, warm 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add shallot and saute 3 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add apples, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Cook for 3 minutes, or until apples are just tender. Remove from heat. Taste. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Stir in the almonds and mint.

3. Divide filling equally among the four squash halves and heat in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes. Before serving, garnish with chopped almonds and chopped fresh mint, and drizzle with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil.

Here are more healthy squash recipes you might enjoy:
White Bean and Kale Stuffed Delicata Squash recipe from Eat Local
Roasted Kabocha Squash with Orange Honey Glaze recipe from Food Blogga
Agave and Balsamic Glazed Roasted Buttercup Squash recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen
Roasted Acorn Squash with Honey-Lime Glazed Pepitas recipe from Food Blogga
Roasted Winter Squash with Cranberries, Pepitas, and Honey-Lime Vinaigrette from The Perfect Pantry

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happy National Sandwich Day, 2011!

Sloppy Joe from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo. (Yup, that's me.) Image courtesy of Matt Armendariz.

Have you eaten a sandwich today? Odds are you have. Hundreds of millions of people across the globe do every single day. And today that number will rise. Why? Because, sandwich lovers, it’s National Sandwich Day. That’s right. An entire day designated to celebrating the humble sandwich, a simple combination of bread and filling that is satisfying, fast, comforting, and portable.

Everyone loves sandwiches, but Americans are besotted. We love to make them, talk about them, and gaze upon them. Entire books (mine included), televisions shows, and websites have been devoted to them. Why are we so passionate? Because sandwiches typically have deep cultural, ethnic, and geographies roots. Think of the Vietnamese Bahn Mi, the Mexican Torta, and the American ham sandwich. Some sandwiches have become icons of the city from which they emanated. Can you imagine Philadelphia without its cheese steak or New Orleans without its Po ‘Boy?

Click here to continue reading and to get the Sloppy Joe recipe! 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Frightfully Sweet Leftover Halloween Candy Recipes

Scared_person I can't believe what I heard on NPR this morning: Due to the unexpected and severe snowfall this past weekend, some places in the Northeast are canceling Halloween. Not postponing, canceling.

No! They can't do that! How are the parents going to explain that to their kids? Soccer games, field trips, and pool parties get rescheduled. Why not Halloween?

Plus, think of all the hundreds of pounds of glitter, fake blood, and werewolf teeth that will go unused. We can't tolerate that kind of waste. And what about the potential trauma endured by those children? After all, not all children are as stoic as Linus who has for the past 45 years waited patiently for the Great Pumpkin to appear. Remember what happened to Sally when she found out there was no Great Pumpkin? She's still suffering from Halloween PTSD.

So, please, you thieves of Halloween, give it back! That's what do-overs are for!

Do it. Do it for the children.


Whether or not your kids go trick-or-treating tonight or sometime next week (or in your living room tonight) you're going to need some ideas of what to do with all that leftover Halloween candy. I've got ya covered. Below are some of my favorite leftover Halloween candy recipes that are sure to bring smiles to all the big and little pumpkins in your home.

tootsie roll fudge

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Snickers bread pudding

This recipe is from one of my NPR Kitchen Window pieces entitled, "Grown Up Tricks for Treats." It also includes recipes for Heath Bar Truffles, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting, and Mounds of Joy Custards with Mounds Chocolate Sauce.

Do you have any leftover Halloween candy recipes that you love? Please share them with us in the comment section. And happy hauntings!

Top Photo courtesy of victria1, FCC.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Winners Announced!

Many thanks to all of you who left comments and tweeted about the give-aways. Here are the winners:

Congratulations to Janel! You're the winner of the BBQ sauces from Pig of the Month!

Congratulations to Ashley Akee! You're the winner of the cookbook, Big Vegan!

There will be many more give-aways to come, so keep trying!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cookbook Review: Big Vegan by Robin Asbell

It was 1995, and I was in graduate school at Brown University. I was taking a gender studies course that claimed gender (male and female) is a social construct not a biological difference. I was a nice Italian girl who grew up in North Providence in an assertively pink bedroom. My head would throb every time I left this class.

One afternoon several of us gathered for a study session where a few of the students brought vegan snacks and refreshments. I was already a vegetarian, so I was excited about exploring vegan food. They served a disturbingly gray mock chicken salad, carrot and celery sticks, some sugar-free fruit juice cookies, and a funky smelling "revitalizing" tea. Never had I more intensely craved a Dunkin' Donuts hazelnut coffee and sesame seed bagel.

I chose the cookie. It looked good, all chunky and nicely browned. I took a bite. It was chalky and dry. I chewed and chewed. I tried to swallow, but I couldn't. It was glued to the roof of my mouth. I grabbed a cup of the revitalizing tea to try to wash it down. Nothing happened. I thought, I'm gonna choke to death at a study group eating a vegan cookie. Damned vegans. 

Eventually I managed to swallow it. 16 years later, I've learned that vegan food can be delicious, and while I'm no longer a vegetarian, I still love eating vegetarian and vegan dishes. So I'm happy to add Robin Asbell's colorful new cookbook, Big Vegan (Chronicle Books, September 2011), to my shelf.

Asbell has created 350 meat-free, dairy-free, 100% delicious vegan recipes which she organized into categories including Breakfast, Breads, Salads, Soups, Main Dishes, Desserts, and more.

Though Asbell states the benefits of adopting a vegan diet -- it's healthy, it doesn't harm animals, it leaves a smaller carbon footprint -- she isn't preachy. She advocates veganism more for its health benefits than for its political ideals.

Whether you're a veteran, newbie, or part-time vegan, Asbell's book will suit your needs. She covers all the basics of cooking vegan, including special ingredients to buy such as nutritional yeast, seitan, and soy and tips for successful vegan  baking. She also includes a lengthy section on the nutritional components of a vegan diet.

Asbell's recipes are inspired. Who wouldn't want to wake up to an Almond-Apple-Date Breakfast Burrito or a bowl of Fruit-Sweetened Chai-Spiced Granola with Pecans? How about sitting down to a dinner of Harvest Vegetable Stew served in Mini Pumpkins or a dish of Corn and Cauliflower Stir-Fried Noodles with Peanuts?

Asbell pays homage to many global cuisines. From Greek Beet and Orange Salad and Tuscan Potato Gnocchi to Tibetan "Beef" Fried Noodles and Szechuan Eggplant with Peanuts, you'll find bright, tempting worldly flavors. Some ingredient lists are long, but most are short, and all recipe instructions are lucidly written and easy to follow.

The book's design reminds me of a Mollie Katzen book, clean, simple, and inviting. Kate Sears's photographs are beautiful; I only wish there were more of them.

Give-Away Time!

In the comment section below, tell me why you'd like to win a copy of Big Vegan. Tweet about it and mention @foodblogga, and I'll count that as another entry. I'll announce the winner on Sunday, October 30th.

Photo courtesy of Kate Sears.

I adore this zesty Mango Jicama Salad with Lime Dressing and Pepitas. It's a symphony of colors, textures, and flavors that leave you refreshed and satisfied.

Mango Jicama Salad with Lime Dressing and Pepitas
Makes 4 servings
Printable recipe.

8 ounces jicama
2 large mangoes, peeled
1 small red bell pepper, slivered
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 large jalapeno, chopped
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1. Peel and thinly slice the jicama, then stack the slices and slice them into 1/2-inch sticks. Put them in a large bowl.

2. Slice the mango flesh across the grain and add it to the bowl, along with the bell pepper, onion, and jalapeno.

3.  In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, sugar, and oil. Pour the dressing over the mango mixture.

4.  In a small frying pan over high heat, dry-toast the pumpkin seeds, swirling and tossing them in the pan. When the seeds start popping and are toasted and fragrant, pour them onto a plate to cool slightly.

5. Serve the salad topped with the crunchy seeds.

*Click here to follow Big Vegan's virtual potluck.
*To learn more about Big Vegan, check out Robin Asbell's YouTube video.
*Below are more recipes from other bloggers participating in the virtual potluck:

Baguette French Toast with Cream "Cheese" and Apples recipe from Vegan Good Things
Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins recipe from San Diego Food Stuff
Maple-Barley Granola with Pecans recipe from Robin Asbell
Armenian Red Lentil Apricot Stew with Sesame Rice recipe from Notes from the  Vegan Feast Kitchen
Korean Miso-Tofu Soup recipe from Nancie McDermott
Squash Quesadillas with Cranberry-Jicama Salsa recipe from The Veggie Queen

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Product Review: Pig of the Month BBQ Delivered Straight 2 U!

Guys, this post is for you. You get home from work starving, and you open the fridge to find exactly two half-empty containers of ketchup and mustard and a six-pack of beer. You grab a beer, open it, take a swig, then start searching through the couch cushions for any remnants of last night's chips. Oh, you know you have.

Pig of the Month BBQ Ribs

Wouldn't some hot-from-the-oven authentic BBQ baby back ribs be better? Or a a mammoth pulled pork sandwich? Of course. Which is why you should know about Pig of the Month. They deliver real BBQ directly to your door.

Pig of the Month BBQ Ribs

Pig of the Month offers personalized BBQ packages. You choose the meat and the sauce you want, and they'll deliver it to you.

I was sent a package of fully cooked Key West Ribs, a bottle Key West BBQ sauce, and a container of fully cooked, frozen pulled pork.

Pig of the Month BBQ Ribs

Pig of the Month gives you simple cooking instructions for both the microwave and the oven. Microwaved ribs take 4 to 7 minutes, oven roasted takes 1 hour for thawed and 1.5 hours for unthawed ribs. The pulled pork cooks in 30 minutes in the oven.

But how do they taste? Really good.

If you like sweet BBQ sauce, they'll you'll enjoy the Key West ribs. The ketchup based sauce also includes brown sugar and a medley of sweet fruit juices. They were satisfyingly sticky and surprisingly tender.

Pig of the Month Fully Cooked Pulled Pork

The pulled pork is great for last-minute dinners and left-over lunches. You simply plop the frozen pulled pork in a dish and cook for 30 minutes, or until heated through (I cooked my for 40 minutes.) It was soft and moist with just  a few chewy flecks of roasted meat mixed in. It was mildly sweet and not at all spicy; so if you like spicy foods, I'd recommend dousing it with either your favorite hot sauce or a spicy sauce from Pig of the Month.

Pig of the Month Fully Cooked Pulled Pork

And now it's time for a saucy give-away! 
Pig of the Month will send one lucky Food Blogga reader a 4-pack bbq sauce sampler. To win, simply tell me something tasty about BBQ -- why you like it, your favorite style, your secret sauce, etc.  Tweet about the give-away and mention @foodblogga, and I'll count that as an extra entry. I'll announce the winner on Monday, October 24th. Sunday, October 30th. Good luck!