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Archive for Halloween & Fall

RECIPE: Pull-Apart Cheese Bread, Or Halloween Brain Bread?

Pull Apart Cheese Bread
[1] .

Provolone Cheese

[2] Provolone, originally made in a round or oval shape, is now made in loaves and wheels as well (photo courtesy DiBruno Brothers).


Bel Gioioso, the Wisconsin-based Italian cheesemaker, sent us this pull-apart cheese bread recipe.

A boule (ball)-style Italian pull-apart bread, it’s made with provolone cheese, marinara sauce, garlic and seasonings.

We renamed it “brain bread” for the Halloween season.

For snacking, with a beer, or at the dinner table, it’s a special treat that’s actually easy to make—you start by buying a sourdough boule.

The recipe was developed for Bel Gioioso by Amy of

Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 25 minutes.

Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 pound round boule-style loaf of sourdough
  • 6 slices provolone cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup marinara sauce
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (recipe below)
  • Garnish: chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375F. Tear off a large enough piece of foil to wrap around the loaf. Coat the foil with nonstick spray and place on a baking sheet.

    2. CUT the loaf of bread into 1-inch-wide slices with a serrated knife, leaving about 1/4-inch of the base of the bread intact (i.e., cut the slices down to the bottom quarter-inch, but don’t slice through the bottom). Repeat the cuts in the opposite direction to create a cross-hatch/cubed pattern (photo #1). Place the bread on the foil.

    3. PRESS the provolone pieces between all the slices of bread. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, marinara, minced garlic, garlic powder, onion powder and Italian seasoning. Gently pry apart the bread pieces and drizzle the mixture over the loaf evenly, making sure to get into all the seams and cover all the pieces.

    4. WRAP the bread up in the foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Open up the foil, increase oven temperature to 425°F, and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley, pull apart the pieces and serve.

    If you don’t have Italian seasoning, it’s easy to make it by combining:

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage


    RECIPE: No Sugar Added Caramel Apples

    If you love caramel apples but are cutting down on sugar, make your own with sugar-free caramels.

    Werther’s makes delicious sugar-free caramels in regular and chocolate-flavored. Pick up a few bags and get dipping!

    You can use the same recipe with regular caramels.


  • 5 Granny Smith apples (1-1/2 pounds), washed and thoroughly dried
  • 12 ounces Werther’s chewy sugar-free caramels (not the hard caramels)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Wooden sticks
  • Optional garnish: chopped nuts or whatever your reduced-sugar diet allows

    1. INSERT the wooden sticks into stem end of the apples. Cover a large plate, baking pan or tray with waxed paper. Lightly grease the paper with butter.

    2. COMBINE the caramels and water in large saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the caramels are completely melted, stirring constantly.

    3. DIP the apples in the melted caramel, spooning additional caramel over the apples if necessary to coat evenly. Place on the buttered paper and allow the excess caramel to drip off.

    4. SCRAPE pooled caramel from the bottoms of the apples for neatness. Garnish as desired, then place on a prepared serving plate and refrigerate for 1 hour.


    Dipping A Caramel Apple
    [1] Enjoy your apple covered with sugar-free caramel (photo courtesy Daffy Apple).

    Werther's Sugar Free Chewy Caramels

    [2] Werther’s makes sugar-free soft chewy caramels and chocolate-flavored chewy caramels (photo courtesy Werther’s Originals).



  • Bourbon Caramel Apples
  • Classic Red Candy Apples
  • Easter Candy Apples
  • Matcha White Chocolate Granny Smith Apples
  • Modern Art Chocolate Apples
  • Sugar-Free Red Candy Apples
    You can also host a candy apple party!



    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.



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