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Archive for 2017

TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking With Pumpkin Liqueur

Pumpkin French Toast
[1] For brunch, pumpkin liqueur French toast with an optional topping of sauteed apples (photo courtesy Domesticate Me | Peapod).

Bailey's Pumpkin Spice Liqueur

[2] Baileys is one of a number of pumpkin liqueurs available in the fall (photo courtesy Baileys).


Last year we received a bottle of pumpkin liqueur, and put it to good use in Halloween cocktails…plus coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

But we overlooked all the other uses for the seasonal spirit. Here, some ideas from Fulton’s Harvest Pumpkin Pie Cream Liqueur. There are many more here for your perusal.

You can substitute apple or spice liqueur for the same seasonal touch.

You can add a topping of diced apples for a festive brunch dish. Instead of the apple garnish, you can substitute a few roasted pumpkin seeds, toasted nuts, and/or dried fruit: cherries, cranberries, raisins.

Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin liqueur
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 loaf of dense bread, 12-16 slices (we used brioche)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons. butter, as needed
  • Optional garnish: sautéed diced apples
    For Serving

  • Butter
  • Syrup

    1. MAKE the apple topping: dice and sauté in butter with a splash of pumpkin liqueur and a dash of pumpkin pie spice. Cover for warmth and set aside.

    2. MIX together the milk, liqueur, eggs and brown sugar

    3. MELT the butter on a hot griddle or in a pan. Dip the sliced bread into the batter and allow it to soak in, turning if needed.

    4. PLACE the battered bread on the griddle and cook until the first side begins to turn golden brown. Flip and repeat on the other side.

    5. TOP with the apples or other garnish, or serve them on the side. Serve with butter and syrup.



    You can dip fruit, or top desserts with this boozy caramel dip. You can also use it as a garnish with cake or pie…or make [adult] cookie sandwiches.

  • 1 package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin liqueur
  • 1 package caramel topping
  • Optional garnish: 1 package Heath Bits

  • Fresh fruit(s) of choice

    1. BLEND the cream cheese, brown sugar and powdered sugar with a hand mixer. Add the vanilla and the liqueur.

    2. BLEND in the caramel sauce and scoop into a serving dish. Top with the Heath Bits.
    Cut up apple (of your choice) to serve with dip.


  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin liqueur
  • 14 ounces can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cups half and half

    1. BEAT the eggs with an electric mixer at medium speed. Gradually add the sugar while continuing to mix. Add the liqueur and condensed milk and mix well. Add the half-and-half and mix well.


    Caramel Fruit Dip
    [3] Serve your favorite fresh fruits with a pumpkin-caramel dip (photo courtesy BR Farms).

    Pumpkin Liqueur Ice Cream

    [4] There’s a good supply of store-bought pumpkin ice cream…but it doesn’t have liqueur (photo courtesy Dolcezza Gelato).

    2. POUR the mixture into the canister of a one-gallon ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. When finished churning, place the canister in the freezer and let it sit for at least 1 hour before serving.

    Soften store-bought pumpkin or vanilla ice cream until you can swirl in pumpkin liqueur. Mix and return to the freezer until ready to serve.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Replace Avocado Toast With Sweet Potato Toast

    Sweet Potato Toast
    [1] For fall, replace avocado toast with sweet potato toast (photo courtesy François Payard | New York).

    Balsamic Vinaigrette

    [2] Balsamic vinaigrette: so easy to make, we don’t understand why people buy it pre-made (photo courtesy Canola Eat Well).


    Chef François Payard has put a seasonal twist on the ubiquitous avocado toast: sweet potato toast!

    We love avocado toast, but sweet potato is a good seasonal variation.

    Chef Payard suggests that you top your morning toast with a layer of caramelized onions, balsamic vinaigrette and sliced roasted sweet potatoes. We re-created the recipe: It’s easy.

  • You can bake the potatoes the day before (or steam them to al dente), and warm them in the microwave prior to serving.
  • Garnish your toast with fresh herbs. Parsley is shown here, but you can use whatever you have.
    And although Chef Payard makes some of the most delicious pastries in the world, he starts the day well. Use whole wheat or mixed whole grain toast, he says.

    Make it a crusty loaf, we say.

  • Crusty bread
  • Balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below) or a simple drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • Caramelized onions (recipe)
  • Garnish: fresh herbs

    1. BAKE the sweet potatoes. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Pierce each potato several times with the tines of a fork and place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Bake until al dente, about 35-40 minutes (test with the tines of a fork or the tip of a paring knife). When ready to serve…

    2. REMOVE the skins and slice the flesh into 1/2-inch circles.

    3. TOAST the bread. Spread the caramelized onions on the toast. Layer the potato slices on top; drizzle with the vinaigrette; garnish with the herbs and serve.


    Balsamic vinaigrette can be as simple as one part vinegar to two parts oil. Olive oil is classic; but if you like playing with different flavors, try an infused oil, a nut oil, or whatever you have on the shelf.

    For a more complex recipe, try this:



  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

    1. COMBINE combine the vinegar, mustard and garlic in a small bowl.

    2. ADD the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly; or emulsify in a blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  • Substitute pesto for the vinaigrette and fresh herbs.
  • Add a slice of gruyère or Swiss cheese on top of the toast; assemble and microwave for a few seconds to melt the cheese.
  • Combine slices of avocado and sweet potato for a fall leaf-turning effect.
  • Use black sesame seeds to make a jack o’lantern face on the center slice of sweet potato.


    TIP OF THE DAY: What’s The Best Candy For The Diet-Minded?

    October 31st is Halloween, and November 4th is National Candy Day. What’s a calorie-counting candy lover to do?

    Here are some of your best candy choices.

    Note that this is not permission to gorge on anything on the list. You should limit yourself to 150-calorie portions daily—and limit gorging to lettuce and celery.

  • Cacao Nibs: These are sold plain in health food stores, but SweetRiot chocolate-coated cacao nibs are more of a candy treat. The brand sells its nibs coated in 65% or 70% chocolate. Cacao beans, especially when eaten raw, are one of the highest antioxidant foods (however, roast them and coat them, and you lose a lot of “benefit.” You can find Sweet Riot at retailers nationwide.
  • Chocolate Bars: Choose bars that are 70% cacao and higher. The higher the percentage of cacao, the lower the amount of sugar. With milk chocolate the situation is reversed. You can have 70% cacao bars enhanced with nuts (but not “praline,” which adds sugar) or an “Aztec” chocolate bar, which adds chile and cinnamon spices.
  • Chocolate-Covered Fruits: From dried apricots to fresh strawberries, there are good choice here. Fresh fruit—apples, strawberries, orange peel and segments—are a better bet. Strawberries are particularly low in calories: They’re almost a freebie with the chocolate—and you can dip your own at home.
  • Chocolate-Covered Expresso Beans: The crunch of the roasted beans and the added caffeine make this confection popular among coffee lovers.
  • Chocolate-Covered Nuts & Seeds: Whatever nut you choose, you’re getting a hit of protein, fiber and healthy fats. Ditto with sunflower seeds. Look for artisan brands or head to your local chocolatier or natural foods retailer for a 70% cacao coating. Mass-market brands (Hershey’s, Nestlé, Mars, etc.) use high-sugar chocolate coatings. Still, in a choice between Goobers and a Milky Way, pick the Goobers.
  • York Peppermint Patties: We always have a Costco-size box of these on hand, and grab two or three when we need a chocolate fix. You can also melt them into a no-sugar-added hot chocolate or a glass of microwaved hot milk. The chocolate is both darker and higher quality than that of Junior Mints. While the York brand is now owned by Hershey’s, it has maintained the chocolate coating that its fans love.

    Nutritionist Joy Bauer recommends hard candies, “because they automatically pace you. They take a while to finish (as long as you suck or lick, not chomp!), so you get to savor the sweetness for a bit and stretch your sugar calories.

    “As long as you limit yourself to a few pieces, you can’t do that much damage,” she concludes.

    Joy’s comments on her favorites in the category:

  • Atomic Fireballs: Unlike some addictive sugary candies that you can swallow by the handful, Atomic Fireballs are a great “one and done” candy option. They’re hard as a rock, so you can’t bite through them; and after you finish one flaming sucker, you’ll be ready to give your mouth a rest. One large, individually-wrapped Fireball has only 35 calories.
  • Lifesavers and Jolly Ranchers: Fruity Lifesavers have 15 calories, Jolly Rancher has 23 calories. Both are available in a wide variety of flavors.
  • See’s Gourmet Lollypops: In butterscotch, café latte, chocolate and vanilla, they’re 80 to 90 calories apiece.
  • Smarties: These have just 25 calories for an entire roll, a calorie bargain! (Note: It’s a skinny roll.)

  • Australian or European Licorice: Unlike American brands, there is no HFCS or artificial flavors in Australian and most European licorice (they spell it liquorice). We don’t like the artificial-tasting domestic product, but we can’t get enough of brands like Kookaburra.
  • Florida’s Natural Au’some Treats: Joy Bauer likes Florida’s Natural Au’some Nuggets and Sour Strings because they’re made with more than 60% real fruit and fruit juices. A bonus: They come in pre-portioned, 50-calorie pouches. “These fruit chews are a terrific step up from sugary gummy bears and traditional fruit snacks,” she says.
  • Yummy Earth Sour Worms: These sugarcoated worms are made with organic fruit juice instead of high-fructose corn syrup. While “sour” means less sugar, note that sour candies have more acid (the “sour”), which can erode tooth enamel. So don’t eat to many; and if you can, brush afterward.


    Kookaburra Allsorts Liquorice
    [1] For licorice lovers, Australian liquorice and European brands are better bets than American licorice (photo courtesy Kookaburra Licorice).

    Chocolate Covered Almonds
    [2] Chocolate lovers: Chocolate-covered nuts are a better choice than chocolate bars (photo of chocolate- and cocoa-covered almonds courtesy Charles Chocolates).

    Chocolate Covered Strawberries
    [3] The best choice may be chocolate-covered strawberries: low-calorie fruit and a thin coating of chocolate (photo courtesy Balducci’s).

    York Peppermint Minis
    [4] The chocolate coating on York Peppermint Patties is very good, and two or three minis do the track (photo courtesy Hershey’s).

    Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

    [5] Coffee lover? These coffee-coated espresso beans (photo courtesy Superior Nut Store).

    Most of us have the impression that sugar-free candy is “better for you” than regular versions. The truth is that all candy, sugar-free or regular, can be high in calories, fat, and carbohydrate.

    Most healthcare professionals advise that it be limited to diabetics and those with other special needs, like too much tooth decay. Here’s more detail.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Halloween Cakes With Nordicware

    Add even more fun to Halloween festivities for family and friends…for party hosts…for your workplace:

    Make a Halloween cake with a NordicWare cake mold. It requires no more time and talent than pouring a cake mix batter into the mold.

    The molds are artfully embossed, creating “cake sculptures” that need no added decoration. Of course, you can add your own touches with icing, edible glitter, spider candies, etc.

    Beyond Halloween, the skull molds also work for El Dia De Los Muertos. In photo #4, one home baker created a classic decorated skull design.

    NordicWare’s Halloween cake pans include:

  • Ghost centerpiece (photo #3)
  • Haunted manor centerpiece (photo #2)
  • Skull cakelets and centerpiece (can be decorated for Dia De Los Muertos—photo #4)
  • Tombstone cakelets (photo #1)
    The pans have a nonstick finish that guarantees easy release, and a lifetime guarantee.

    There are also cookie stamps: a set that includes a black cat, pumpkin and spider.

    They’re available at many retailers including Williams-Sonoma, plus online at Amazon and

    You can use any cake recipe you like. Particularly seasonal:

  • Applesauce cake
  • Dark chocolate (for the black spooky effect—add some black food color)
  • Pumpkin Cake
  • Red velvet cake (for the “bloody” effect)
  • Spice cake
  • White cake for ghosts and skulls
    But sure, go for the brownie batter, the chocolate ghost with white icing, or other family favorite.

    You can add a sauce for a more elaborate dessert:

  • Bourbon or rum sauce
  • Caramel sauce with scotch
  • Crème anglaise
  • Hard sauce
  • Sabayon, the French version of zabaglione sauce
    The best approach is to put the sauce on the plate first, then set the cake on top of it. You won’t cover up the design elements.

    Have fun with it!

    Use the cake pans to mold other foods:

  • Custard
  • Dips and spreads
  • Gelatin
  • Ice cream
  • Pudding

    Tombstone Cake Nordicware Halloween
    [1] Tombstone cakelets, individual portions (photo courtesy NordicWare).

    Haunted House Cake - Nordicware
    [2] Haunted mamor centerpiece (photo courtesy NordicWare).

    Ghost Cake Nordicware
    [3] A ghost centerpiece (photo courtesy Nordicware).

    Skull Cakes Nordicware

    [4] Skull cakelets, decorated for El Dia De Los Muertos (photo by Nozomi | Williams-Sonoma upload.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Individual Squash Bowls For Soup, Grains & More

    This make-ahead beauty (photo #1) is a stunning first course or, turns into a dinner with a light saladr. You can make it vegetarian or add meat: chicken, ham, turkey or sausage.

    This squash soup is packed with shiitake mushrooms, sausage and red chard, and topped with a fresh sage chiffonade. There are no right or wrong ingredients: Use whatever sounds good to you.

    The soup bowl in photo #1 is from Olmsted restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. The photo, along with the availability of so much squash in the markets—had us spending a week trying different recipes that used small squash as individual edible bowls.

    The result: delicious baked squash filled with other delicious things, from breakfast eggs to baked fruit sides.

    While stuffed squash has served as edible bowls for millennia, our concept was to expand the squash bowl for soup (broccoli soup, butternut squash soup, mushroom soup, etc.) to other uses.

    Small acorn squash squash (photo #1) are the most available; but you may be able to find eight-ball zucchini (photo #2), carnival squash (photo #6) or golden nugget pumpkins (photo #5). A farmers market is your best bet.

    Use whatever filling you want.

    Soup is most popular: not just butternut squash soup, but mushroom and any but that’s because most people haven’t thought further. Here are 20 options, including two for breakfast.

    You can serve the squash bowl as a side, or add as a main with a protein (chicken or turkey, sausage, tofu).

  • Baked fruit: apples, cranberries pears, quince, with walnuts and/or raisins
  • Beans or lentils with corn, onions, roasted tomatoes
  • Breakfast hash and a poached egg
  • Buffalo chicken
  • Cheese: a bubbling bowl of fondue
  • Cruciferous bowl: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, rutabaga, turnips
  • Grain salad or hot grains: barley, bulgur, kasha (buckwheat), quinoa, rice, wild rice
  • Greens bowl: broccoli rabe, collards, kale, mustard greens
  • Gratins (anything topped with cheese)
  • Kale, sausage and mushrooms
  • Mushrooms, sausage and quinoa
  • Mac and cheese
  • Pumpkin ravioli topped with fried sage
  • Rice and beans
  • Roast vegetables
  • Sausage, zucchini, rice
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Stuffing
  • Tex-Mex fillings (chicken enchilada, taco, rice and beans
  • Turkey, stuffing and gravy (leftovers!)

  • Fresh herbs, especially sage and thyme
  • Nuts, or nuts and raisins or other dried fruit
  • Seeds: chia, flax, pepitas (pumpkin)

    1. MAKE the soup or other filling ahead of time, and warm it when the squash bowls are ready.

    2. BAKE the squash: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Halve the squash widthwise and scoop out the seeds and any loose fibers. Discard the fibers and reserve the seeds for garnish, if desired.

    3. SLICE a small piece from the bottom halves of the squash, so the “bowls” will sit evenly. You can bake the top halves and serve them as well; or cut the flesh into chunks to use as a filling ingredient or for other purposes.

    4. BRUSH the cut surface of the squash with olive oil and season lightly with salt, pepper and thyme. Place face down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until golden brown and tender, 20-30 minutes, until you can pierce the rind with a fork or tip of a knife.

    5. REMOVE any additional center of the squash, until the bowl opening is large enough for your purposes (save the cooked squash for another purpose). Add your filling(s) and serve.

    You can also bake the squash in advance and microwave it when ready to serve.


    Squash Bowl With Soup
    [1] A squash bowl with soup and lots of extras, at Olmsted | NYC.

    Soup In Eight Ball Zucchini
    [2] An eight ball zucchini makes an ideal single-portion bowl, at Bittersweet Blog.

    Sausage & Lentils In Squash Bowl
    [3] Curried lentils with onion and carrot at Fried Dandelions.

    Sausage & Apple In A Squash Bowl
    [4] Sausage- and apple-stuffed acorn squash at Cherished Bliss.

    Stuffed Golden Nugget Pumpkin
    [5] A golden nugget pumpkin stuffed with couscous, bacon and sausage, from Good Food | Australia.

    Carnival Squash

    [6] Check farmers markets for squash that work as individual bowls. This is a carnival squash: butternut’s flashier brother (photo courtesy Kitchen Tangents).




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