Category Archives: Tips

How to Use Pumpkin Pie Spice (aside from a pumpkin pie…)

We all have spices in our cupboards that we never use. I personally have a shaker of garam masala that I used once two years ago and haven’t touched since. Well… there was one time I mistook it for nutmeg. Needless to say those pancakes ended up in the trash.

You probably use your pumpkin pie spice once a year at Thanksgiving, but during this pumpkin-y time of year why not pull it out for some unorthodox uses? Not that the below are TOO out of the box, but perhaps they’re new and exciting to you. I do hope that’s the case.

Maple brown butter pumpkin spice popcorn

On the menu:
Maple brown butter pumpkin spice popcorn
Serves 2

1/2 cup unpopped corn kernels
3 Tbsp butter
2 tsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Pop the popcorn in an air popper.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Watch the mixture closely as the color turns from white and yellow to a light brown. As soon as the butter is a light brown color, turn off the heat. Mix in the maple syrup and the pumpkin pie spice and stir to combine.

Pour half the mixture over the popcorn and toss to coat. Pour remaining butter mixture over the popcorn and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Pancakes with sauteed apples with maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice

On the menu:
Pancakes with apples sauteed with maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice
Serves 2

2 small apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Make pancakes according to this recipe.

In a small frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add apple slices and stir to coat. Cook apples for approximately 5 minutes or until they soften. Add maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice. Stir to combine. Cook for another 2 – 3 minutes or until mixture is heated through. Top pancakes with sauteed apples and serve.

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Cooking Planit Giveaway

Happy weekend, my friends! Just back from foggy London town (where the weather was goooorgeous, I might add) and so happy to tell you that today through September 2 you can enter here to win an incredible set of T-Fal Cookware courtesy of Cooking Planit. Remember Cooking Planit? The coolest cooking app out there right now? Here’s a refresher.

Cooking Planit does everything except stand at your stove and stir the sauce for you. On the app you can choose the dish or dishes you want to cook, make a grocery list, sync all your devices so that you can use your phone or iPad to shop with, then return home to your kitchen and get to cooking with the help of voice instructions and perfectly timed cooking prompts. You literally can’t mess it up.

Picture 2

Here are a couple other features you will surely want to know about.

Ability to choose meal plans based on dietary restrictions.

Dietary restrictions

Provides a list of things you’ll need to cook the meal, from food prep ingredients to kitchen staples and equipment. Have you ever been halfway through a recipe and realize it calls for a Kitchenaid and you don’t have one? Guilty.

Ingredients

Predicted time finished. Expecting guests at 6:30? Not starting to cook until 5:55? Then wait. Cooking Planit tells you down to the minute, based on what time it is now, your dish will be done. Better than an egg timer any day of the week.

Ready by

Warnings when you’ve skipped ahead. You’re like, “I’ll just get the next step going before I finish this one” and Cooking Planit is like, “Hey girl. Slow down. Take it easy. Have a sip of wine. And don’t ruin this meal.”

Warning

Provides notice of ingredients you’ll need in the current step. Sometimes I scan the list of ingredients and they’re out of order or I just plum skip over one. Cooking Planit takes you step by step, ingredient by ingredient, so nothing is left out.

Ingredients ready

And yes, that’s a built in timer. I don’t know about you but sometimes I forget to set my oven timer. Cut to 30 minutes later when my entire kitchen smells like burnt cookies and I’m trudging sadly to a bodega for Oreos. Not with Cooking Planit. They’ll countdown for you.

Timer

The best part: you can try it for free. So go forth! And don’t forget to enter the giveaway by following me @LaurenFoodE on Twitter and clicking here! Because what’s better motivation to get cooking than fancy new pots and pans from T-Fal?

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Tips for Throwing a Holiday Brunch (plus sweet fruit dip!)

BrunchToday’s post is the last in the holiday brunch series, and I thought I’d offer up just a few more tips on making your brunch a success.

1. Finger foods: Never have I ever seen a holiday home brunch where every single person sat down at a nice, long table complete with place settings and a solid surface to cut their food on. Where’s the fun in that? Keep your food small and finger-friendly, and if you must use utensils, limit it to forks. That way everyone can still eat even if they’re standing, and everyone has a free hand for a cocktail. Duh.

2. Keep it small: No one shows up to a holiday brunch ready to eat their faces off. Okay, MOST people don’t. During the holidays, everyone is up to their ears in cookies from co-workers, sweets at home, and candy cane colored everything. The last thing people want is to be force fed your giant culinary mess. I also like to keep things small so that it’s never apparent how much any one person has eaten. Maybe somebody wants only one slice of apple. Maybe somebody else wants eight pounds of hasbrown casserole. No judgment.

3. Balance the sweet and the savory: One year I attended an office potluck holiday party where someone brought chicken wings… they disappeared in about 3 minutes and at the end of the night there were more cookies and cakes leftover than you could shake a stick at (that’s how that saying goes… right?). The moral of the story is that one cannot live on sweets alone… trust me. I’ve tried. Make sure for every sweet dish, you have a savory.

4. Loosen up: No one cares if your plates match or your house is spotlessly clean. They care that they’re all together under one roof, oftentimes for the only time that year. Forgive the spills, laugh off the food flops, have another cocktail, and remember: brunch is an early meal so you can be asleep by 8. Amen.

The last dish on the brunch menu is one I am a tiny bit embarrassed about… it contains Fluff. That’s right. That disgusting, sticky, white spread that my mom wouldn’t let me have when I was a kid but I would sneak at friends’ houses (sorry, mom). It’s gross. But you know what? It makes a damn fine dip for fruit. And when I started researching “fruit dip” this one came up more than I care to mention. So should you dare to add one of those vintage-labeled jars to your cart at the supermarket, you won’t be disappointed. Cross my heart.

On the menu:
Sweet Fruit Dip
Makes 2 cups

1 7-oz jar of Fluff
1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, optional

Add Fluff and cream cheese to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, blend the mixture together. Pour into a bowl and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon for decoration if you wish. Cut up fruit to serve alongside, such as pears, apples, and grapes.

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Holiday Brunch from A to Z

Hashbrown casserole
Growing up, I lived in a neighborhood where all the families were very close. One family’s kids babysat for the younger families’ kids, cups of sugar and milk were always being lent out, and when it came to Christmas time, all the families gathered in one house on Christmas Eve to enjoy brunch and the holidays together. Those brunches are some of my favorite memories, and it was never about the food (of which there was always tons). I decided to host my own little brunch this weekend in the spirit of the holidays… and of day drinking. Now that I’m older, I realize everything is more festive with champagne.

This week I’ll provide you with recipes and tips to host your own holiday brunch that allows you to truly enjoy the company of friends and family without spending the entire party in the kitchen slaving over the stove. First on the week’s menu list is a delicious, decadent, cheesy potato casserole that you can make the night before and pop into the oven the morning of brunch. Little work plus even less time? Hey favorite new recipe. Hey.

On the menu:
Cheesy hashbrown casserole
Serves 8 – 10

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup sundried tomatoes, whole and oil packed
6 cloves of garlic, minced
9 large eggs
3 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 cup milk (preferably whole or 2%)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 cups (roughly 1 1/2 pounds) shredded or cubed frozen hashbrown potatoes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat just until the butter starts to brown. Add diced onions, garlic, and sundried tomatoes and cook until the onions are translucent. Pick out the sundried tomatoes with tongs and discard. Turn off the heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and mustard. Add the milk, salt, and pepper and whisk thoroughly. Fold in the cheddar cheese, frozen potatoes, and vegetables from the skillet. Mix until combined. Pour mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan. At this point, you can refrigerate the casserole for up to 24 hours.

Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until the top and sides are a golden brown. Serve hot.

NOTE: the original recipe from The Kitchn calls for thinly sliced sundried tomatoes that you do not pick out of the onions. I like the flavor they bring to the dish, but I’m not a fan of chewy sundried tomatoes… and neither are most people I know. The flavor is still there if you pick them out, but it’s not overwhelming. Done and done.

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Cake Decorating 101


This past weekend was my oldest and dearest friend’s bachelorette party and I wanted to make a special cake in honor of her last single girl hurrah. You can imagine what I found when I Google’d “bachelorette cakes.” Let’s just say unless you have Google Safe Search on, don’t check it at work.

I opted to go for simple and classy using one of the bride’s wedding colors, purple. Below is a step-by-step process for writing on a cake without it looking like you let your three year old child do it. Not that I’m speaking from experience just… well, just in case YOU have that problem. For all interested parties: the cake is chocolate with vanilla frosting.

Step 1: Get the right tools
I bought a $5 cake decorating kit from Bed, Bath and Beyond that includes a bunch of disposable pastry bags and 3 different tips. If I was making cakes for a living then I’d invest in something more serious but so far, this has done the job for me. I use the smallest, round holed tip for text.

Step 2: Prepare your text
I used the empty cake pan to trace a correctly-sized circle on notebook paper, typed out my message in bold text in Word on my computer, then traced those letters on my cake-pan-sized outlined notebook paper. Next, I used cuticle scissors (properly cleaned beforehand, of course) to cut out the letters, leaving me with a stencil of my message that I already know will fit on my cake (which is half the battle if you’ve ever tried to do this freehand).

Step 3: Creating the message on the cake
Once your cake is frosted and chilled (so that the frosting is firm), lay your stencil over the top of the cake and using the end of a chopstick, poke light impressions where all the letters should be. When you lift your stencil, you should be able to see the light impression of your text.

Step 4: Writing out the message on the cake
Fill your pastry bag with frosting (Tip: fold the top of the pastry bag over your hand for a more firm grip). Follow the impression you made on the top of the cake, making sure to apply enough pressure so that your frosting sticks. End each letter with a firm press, like a period at the end of each letter, so that each letter has a clean end and doesn’t trail off like it would if you dragged your pastry tip away.

The result is a message that looks almost professional (if you mess up, don’t worry, you can always either scrape it off or fix the letters with a toothpick) and way better than your typical childish chicken scratch.

Is this something you’d like to see in a video? Let me know! If I get a response, I’ll spend some time this week creating a step-by-step instruction on cake decorating. 

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