Monthly Archives: November 2013

Salted Caramel Vanilla Pumpkin Pie


This pie recipe elevates the classic pumpkin pie to a whole new level. Even those who turn their nose up at plain pumpkin pie will fall for the rich, golden brown caramelized sweetness and tempering tang of salt in this pie. Start with a basic blind baked pie crust, and save your crust trimmings for any decorative embellishment you might want to top the pie with. You can make this the day before, and serve it with freshly whipped cream, or a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream the next day. Perfect for Thanksgiving, or any holiday gathering that calls for dessert.


  • 1 blind baked pie crust, trimmings saved (I love this basic recipe)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons cold salted butter
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • A few dashes ground cardamom
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature


  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the sugar and 3 tablespoons water over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat slightly. Swirl the pan occasionally, but don’t stir it. If you have a pastry brush, you can use it to brush water around the edges of the bubbling caramel to prevent sugar crystals from forming.
  3. Once you have a deep golden color, stir everything with a wooden spoon, and add the butter and heavy cream all at once. Be careful, it will bubble up pretty aggressively, and sugar burns are the worst!
  4. Add the vanilla and the brown sugar, and stir everything to combine. If you have lumps, whisk everything together until smooth.
  5. Next, whisk in the pumpkin and all the spices until smooth. Taste your filling at this point before you add the eggs, and add more salt, vanilla, or a bit more brown sugar if needed. Then one at a time, whisk in the eggs.
  6. Pour the filling into the pie shell, tap out any air bubbles, and smooth the top, and put the pie in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then bring the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  7. Bake the pie for 15 more minutes, until the filling is set enough to support the decorative crust, then add any decorations you like. Cut out shapes, lattice, or braids look beautiful. Brush the decorations with some beaten egg, and bake for another 10 minutes.
  8. Brush the decorations with a bit more egg wash, then sprinkle with coarse raw sugar for a little sparkle. Bake for 5 more minutes, until the crust turns a lovely golden brown. Allow to cool a bit before serving.

Sweet & Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato Mash {with a brown sugar pecan crumble}


Don’t get me wrong, I love the traditional Thanksgiving sweet potato side dish, gilded on top with puffy white marshmallows and sugar. Though its hard to improve on a classic, I think this recipe elevates the humble sweet potato, and adds new dimension to an old favorite. You still get plenty of sweetness from the potatoes, maple syrup, and brown sugar, but the addition of smokey and spicy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce tempers this sweetness, and the pecans provide some welcomed crunch.


  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons butter (or Earth Balance)
  • 1 chipotle pepper from a can of peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the same can
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar


  1. Preheat your oven to 400. Roast your sweet potatoes for an hour, or until they’re knife tender.
  2. Add the potatoes, butter, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, and maple syrup to the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Blend to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you want a little more heat, add a bit more adobo sauce.
  3. Spread your sweet potato mix evenly in a casserole dish. Using a food processor, blitz together the pecans and brown sugar, keeping the mixture fairly rough. Top the sweet potatoes with this crumble, and set aside until ready to eat.
  4. Before serving, heat the dish in your oven, set to 350, until the potatoes are warmed through, and the top becomes crispy and golden.

How To Carve A Turkey {without drying it out}


Unplug your electric carving knives, and tuck those away for good. This fool-proof and super simple technique for carving a turkey (or any poultry for that matter) will carry you through the holidays with easy, and without a dry slice of meat in sight. Rather than sawing away at the turkey breast, trimming it into paper-thin slivers that stand no chance of holding onto any of the moisture and flavor your worked so hard to get in there, follow this method and never eat dried out turkey again.


  • Make sure your carving knife is sharp. It should go without saying, but the sharper the knife, the easier your carving becomes.
  • Let the turkey rest out of the oven before carving. Just like a good steak, turkey needs to rest to allow all the juices to redistribute, and not end up all over your cutting board.
  • Work your magic away from the crowd. Bring in your golden and glistening bird to the table to show it off in all its glory, then head back to the kitchen to get down to carving. You’ll feel a lot more confident and competent without an audience.
  • Add a ladleful of gravy for insurance. Once you’re done carving the bird, swathe everything in a ladleful of gravy. Don’t drown the plate, but add a little extra moisture and flavor back to the meat to make sure its spot on delicious.

How To Carve A Turkey:

  1. Start with the rested turkey facing breast side up, with the legs facing away from you.
  2. Cut through the skin that connects the leg to the carcass, then use your hand to find the ball joint that connects the leg. Using the tip of your knife if necessary, disconnect the joint, then use your knife to cut off the leg.
  3. With the knee of the leg facing you, find the joint connecting the drumstick and thigh bones, and use your knife to cut straight through the joint. Portion this meat however you like, then repeat on the other side.
  4. Use one hand to pull the wing away from the carcass, then with your knife, pop the connecting joint, and cut the wing off. Repeat on the other side.
  5. Find the breastbone on the top center of the bird, running right through the middle of the two breasts. Using your knife, cut down one side of the bone, staying close to it so you don’t miss a lot of meat. Cut all the way down to the side of the ribcage, then use your hand to work the breast away from the carcass. Use your knife to slice the breast meat horizontally into thick strips. This way everyone gets a bit of crispy skin and tender meat. Repeat on the other side, and you’re done!

Arugula Salad with Marcona Almonds, Red Grapes & Pumpkin Vinaigrette


Most Thanksgiving side dishes involve copious amounts of heavy cream and butter. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but your palate and your pants will take solace in a lighter, fresher option among all the buttered and creamed ones. This arugula salad brings bright, tangy flavors from the apple cider vinegar and the pumpkin purée, while the salty Marcona almonds balance the sweeter grapes. And don’t stress about adding another recipe to your full cooking schedule-you can assemble this salad the day before, and just dress it at the last-minute.


  • 1/2 pound seedless red or purple grapes
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound arugula (about 8 cups)
  • 3/4 cup salted, roasted Marcona almonds, coarsely chopped


In a large, shallow bowl arrange the arugula. Halve the grapes and scatter them over the arugula. Scatter the chopped Marcona almonds over the grapes, and drizzle with the pumpkin vinaigrette (recipe below). Toss to combine, and top with a few shaves of Manchego cheese if you like before serving.


In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, pumpkin purée, honey, and salt and pepper. Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking to combine. Season to taste, adding more vinegar to make it more tangy, more pumpkin to thicken it, and more oil to tone down any overly tangy flavors, if needed.


Recipe inspired by

Duck Fat Latkes {with sour cream & pumpkin butter}


Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlap this year- providing the perfect excuse to make these delicious and decadent latkes, whatever your religious inclination may be. Duck fat, though not traditional, gives these potato pancakes an irresistible golden brown crust, and provides another layer of flavor. For the health conscious, duck fat actually has less saturated fat than butter, and lowers your cholesterol with its high levels of healthy mono-unsaturated fat. Though we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking this dish is healthy, it’s definitely worthy of a holiday splurge. I made these this past weekend at a William Sonoma  for Thanksgiving demo, and they were definitely a hit, served with sour cream, fresh chives, and a dollop of pumpkin butter for a Thanksgiving twist.


  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 large russet or Yukon gold potatoes (about 2 1⁄2 lbs.), peeled (keep them in water until ready to use, or they’ll oxidize)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 6 tablespoons plain matzo meal
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Duck fat for frying
  • Sour cream, chives, pumpkin butter, applesauce, smoked salmon, caviar, and whatever else you might like, to serve


  1. Working over a bowl topped with a fine strainer, grate the onion and the potatoes. Press out as much liquid as you can, and discard it.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the potato onion mixture, salt, pepper, matzo meal, and eggs, making sure everything is well combined.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt a tablespoon or two of the duck fat until it sizzles when you add a bit of the latke mixture.
  4. Using a tablespoon, portion out the latkes, keeping them round and even.
  5. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Flip, and cook for another 2-3 minutes until both sides are golden brown.
  6. Continue, working in batches, adding more fat, until all the latkes are cooked. You can keep them warm in the oven, or serve them as they come out of the pan.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Sour cream, applesauce, and chives
  • Sour cream, pumpkin butter, and chopped pecans
  • Sour cream, smoked salmon, and caviar
  • Creme fraiche, fig jam, and black pepper
  • Chipotle sour cream {just mix in some adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers- to taste}
  • Sriracha creme fraiche {just mix in some sriracha to taste}
  • Goat cheese, a slice of pear, and a drizzle of honey
  • Sour cream, horseradish, and cooked shrimp


Calvados & Ginger Fizz {the perfect Thanksgiving cocktail}

Calvados Ginger Fizz Cocktail courtesy of Elizabeth Palmer Kitchen

My Recipe for Calvados Ginger Fizz was recently featured on author & TV host Robyn Moreno’s HIP HOSTING, as one of the Best Fall CocktailsIt’s the perfect cocktail to serve at Thanksgiving, and all those other celebratory holiday gatherings.
{autumnal leaves and decorative twine optional- but certainly festive!}
For the recipe, and other great holiday entertaining and lifestyle ideas, visit

A Healthy Twist on Bangers & Mash


A hallmark of classic British food, bangers and mash have taken a turn for the upscale in recent years. But taking this famous meal out of the pub and into the fancy restaurant doesn’t make it any healthier. Usually made with copious amounts of butter, fatty sausage, and rich gravy, traditionally prepared bangers and mash will leave you with a bellyache and in need of a nap. This lighter, fresher version scrimps on neither flavor nor satisfaction, and makes for a comforting and nourishing meal. Leaving the skin on the potatoes adds a healthy dose of fiber, and swapping Greek yogurt for butter gives the potatoes and mushy peas a pleasing tangy flavor. When choosing a sausage, look for a leaner variety made with chicken or turkey rather than pork to keep the over all fat and calorie count low.

For the recipe, visit Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Healthy Travel Blog. 

Brew Your Own Beer at Brooklyn’s Bitter & Esters


As microbrews and small batch beers grow in popularity, taking the beer brewing process into your own hands is the next logical step. Bitter and Esters, located in Brooklyn, provides everything you need to make your very own customized beer. Douglas Amport and John La Polla founded Bitter & Esters as the city’s first do-it-yourself brewery two years ago, with an appreciation for both the scientific and artistic sides of brewing. Just like cooking and baking, Douglas and John show that beer brewing is equal parts art and science.

Limited only by your own imagination for flavors and types of brews, Bitter & Esters offers a dizzying array of hops, malts, extract syrups, and gourmet flavor enhancers to choose from. Select a recipe from two large bound books of beers, or work with one of the brew masters to create your own special blend. For the adventurous and adept, Bitter & Esters offers everything you’ll need to brew your beer at home, from machinery and equipment to fermenters and bottles. For those apprehensive about the home brewing process, Bitter & Esters offers a full range of classes right in their store, from beginner to advanced, to get you started.

Mixing Up The Brew

Mixing Up The Brew

Booking your own brewing session at Bitter & Esters is definitely the best way to dive right into the beer brewing process without a lot of muss and fuss. Set aside 3 1/2 to 4 hours, gather up five of your friends, and begin working with the experts at Bitter & Esters on the specific beer you’d like to brew. They’ll walk you through the whole process, from picking and grinding your hops, to steeping them, mixing in the yeast, flavoring additions, and finally sending your unfermented pre-beer into its container to ferment in a special temperature controlled room. We were lucky to have both John and Doug on hand for our session, and both can answer just about any beer brewing question you can throw at them. They’ll be as hands on or off as you want, and you’re free to bring whatever snacks and drinks you like. We brought a cheese and charcuterie spread, along with some lamb meatballs and savory tarts, most of which disappeared over the 4 hours we were brewing. You’ll have plenty of downtime as your beer goes through the process, so bring whatever libations you enjoy. Beer is obviously the natural choice here, and if you’re lucky you might even get to taste one they have on tap. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal, with plenty of time to socialize.

Owners Doug And John

Owners Doug And John

Once you tuck your hopped up beer away to ferment, you can book a date 4-5 weeks later to come back and carbonate and bottle your finished brew. You’ll get to take home six cases total (that’s 144 bottles), and the whole process, brewing, bottling and all, costs $350 for a signature beer recipe. That totals at just under $60 per person; well worth the experience and finished product. Personally, I love everything about the brewing process at Bitter & Esters, and want to get back to craft a new batch of beer as soon as possible. If you’re interested, call early, as appointments book up quickly around the holidays.

Bitter & Esters makes the perfect venue for a birthday celebration, bachelorette/bachelor party, or reunion. You can also brew a signature beer to serve at events, like weddings, birthdays, or graduations.

For more information, and to book your brewing appointment at Bitter & Esters, visit their website. 

Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Cranberries & Almonds


Most Thanksgiving sides come out of the oven hot, toasty, and laden with butter and cream. Save yourself a little oven real estate, and lighten up your meal with this quick and light raw brussels sprout salad. The sprouts act like little cabbages, and make a sort of slaw. Its crispy, crunchy, and refreshingly tart thanks to the apple cider vinegar. You can make the whole dish the day before- it only gets better as it sits. One less thing to worry about on the big day.
  • 4 cups raw brussels sprouts
  • 2 red apples, cored and chopped
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 raw garlic clove, run over a micro-plane (optional)
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Clean and trim the sprouts of any bruised leaves, and trim off the hard stems at the root. Slice the sprouts as thinly as you can, so they shred like cabbage for a coleslaw.
  2. In a bowl, combine the sprouts, apples, cranberries, vinegar, garlic if using, and olive oil. Toss everything together to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley if desired.

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Zucchini Noodles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}


Ever get a craving for something melty and cheesy, but don’t want to spend your night with a bellyache? This recipe will satisfy even the most serious cheese craving, all without an ounce of dairy.

Zucchini stands in for pasta noodles in this lasagna, and butternut squash packs a healthy dose of beta carotene and vitamin C, and gives the dish a delicious fall flavor. Vegan, gluten-free, and simple to make, this lasagna will be one of your favorite cozy meals this fall and winter.

For the recipe, visit Mind Body Green.

Egyptian Kosheri with Quinoa, Lentils & Chickpeas



Widely considered a national dish of Egypt, Kosheri is a comforting, filling, and protein packed dish. Sometimes spelled koshary or kushari, this dish traditionally incorporates white rice, broken pieces of pasta, and an oily tomato sauce. While this combination makes for the perfect street food, a few tweaks elevate kosheri to a healthy dish worthy of a dinner party, and render it no less flavorful or satisfying than the original. Lentils, quinoa, and chickpeas pack a hefty does of high quality vegan protein, and by swapping the starchy pasta and rice for super-food quinoa, you can enjoy this Egyptian favorite without the guilt or bellyache. Tomatoes provide lycopene, which bolsters the health of your heart, skin, eyes, and bones, and cooking them simply with a little olive oil provides a delicious flavor contribution to the nutty kosheri. Whatever leftovers you might have make the perfect lunch to bring to work the next day.

For the recipe, visit Geo Blue’s Healthy Travel Blog.

Fig & Gorgonzola Crostini


Sweet, tender figs make the perfect counterpoint for sharp and tangy gorgonzola cheese in this crowd pleasing and super easy appetizer. In under 15 minutes, you can throw this together and have something sweet, salty, warm and delicious to serve at cocktail hour. If you can’t find fresh figs or they’re out of season, just substitute dried figs. They don’t look very pretty, but give them a 10 minute soak in warm water and they come right back to life. You can also swap in pears or apples for the figs, to a similar effect. The finishing drizzle of honey caramelizes in the oven and makes these crostini extra special. Finish with a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs, and watch these fly off the plate.


  • 1/2 baguette, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 10 fresh figs, or about 15 dried figs soaked for 10 minutes in warm water
  • 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 2-3 tablespoons runny honey
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh herbs to garnish (try parsley, basil, thyme, whatever you like)


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Arrange your baguette slices in an even layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Halve the figs, and arrange them cut side up on the baguette slices (probably 2 or 3 figs on each slice).
  4. Crumble over the gorgonzola cheese, and then drizzle over the honey. Give a few cracks of black pepper over the whole thing, and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and the honey has become caramelized and burnished.
  5. Remove from the oven to a serving platter, and sprinkle over the chopped fresh herbs. Enjoy!

Apple, Beet & Cheddar Tartlets


These diminutive little tartlets will make a big impression at your next cocktail party. Deceptively simple, they come together in under 20 minutes, and rise in your oven into golden, buttery, flaky puff pastry perfection. Just keep some store-bought pastry on hand in your freezer, and you’ll have a show-stopper appetizer at your fingertips whenever you need it. If beets and apples aren’t your thing, you can easily substitute whatever you like and have on hand. Try sautéed mushrooms and goat cheese, roasted fennel and feta cheese, or slivered sweet potatoes and mozzarella.


  • 1 package puff pastry, defrosted (I like Durfour best)
  • 1 small tart apple, cored and thinly sliced (use a mandolin here if you have one)
  • 1 small yellow beet, thinly sliced
  • 1 small purple beet, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup white cheddar, shredded
  • 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On a clean surface, dust over a little flour, and lay the pastry sheet out. Using the lid of a Mason jar, or the lip of a cup, cut rounds out of the pastry, and lay the rounds evenly spaced on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Place one slice each of the apple, yellow beet, and purple beet on each pastry round, and arrange them so you can see a bit of each slice.
  4. Top the pastry rounds with a sprinkling of the shredded cheddar, and a few leaves from the thyme sprigs. Crack over a little fresh black pepper, and bake in the oven for 12-16 minutes, until the pastries have puffed and turned a burnished golden brown.
  5. Serve the tartlets immediately or at room temperature.


If you’re not serving these immediately, they keep well wrapped in foil. Just let them cool completely first so they don’t get soggy.

Recipe inspired by Martha Stewart.

Kale, Cranberry & Pecan Salad with Cornbread Croutons


This salad combines all the favorite Thanksgiving stuffing flavors in a decidedly lighter, fresher dish. But don’t worry, the combination of crunchy kale, tart cranberries, rich pecans, and warm toasted cornbread packs a ton of flavor and makes for a super satisfying side dish. You can make the whole salad the night before, and put it into glass Mason jars to bring to your Thanksgiving celebration. Before serving, just cube and toast your cornbread, and you’ll have a healthy plate of seasonal goodness that’ll impress even the kale-adverse in the crowd. This whole dish comes together in less than 15 minutes, making it the perfect last minute recipe, and great for those with two left feet in the kitchen.


  • 4 cups chopped kale (stems removed)
  • 3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • Roughly 1 cup cubed corn bread


  1. In a large bowl, combine the kale, vinegar, oil, and a pinch of salt. Massage the kale well for a few minutes, until it begins to wilt and become softer. Add the cranberries and pecans, toss everything together, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Put the salad into glass jars, and let everything sit in the fridge overnight. If you don’t have that kind of time, totally fine. The salad will taste great without sitting overnight.
  3. Just before serving, toast the cubed cornbread in an oven set to 400 degrees, until the cubes become crusty and golden brown in places.
  4. Arrange the cornbread over the salad, toss everything together, and enjoy!

Norwegian Roasted Salmon with Hasselbeck Potatoes, Quick Pickle Cucumbers & Dill Sour Cream Sauce


Surrounded by crystal clear and pristine waters, Norway produces some of the best wild salmon in the world. Fish features prominently in Norwegian cuisine, and wild salmon ranks among the healthiest choices you could make. Rich in high quality proteins, heart healthy omega fatty acids, and vitamins A, D, E, and B6, wild salmon protects your body from cancer, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even depression.  In Norwegian cuisine, salmon often comes poached in creamy, fatty sauces that diminish its health benefits.

In this recipe, roasting the salmon at a high temperature keeps it moist and tender, without any added calories, aside from some heart healthy olive oil. Sour cream dill sauce, a popular accompaniment for salmon, is easily made healthier by swapping in a low-fat dairy product. Hasslebeck potatoes, a Scandinavian classic side dish, normally are prepared with copious amounts of butter and breadcrumbs. But they come out just as deliciously with a little olive oil and some time in a high heat oven. This meal makes a perfect easy weeknight dinner, and can also easily be dressed up for a fancier occasion.

For the recipe, visit Geo Blue’s Healthy Travel Blog.