Kitchen Concoctions: October 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Website Wednesday: Corn Dogs

Happy Halloween!!!

I absolutely love this holiday.

All the pumpkins, cute costumes, candy, spooky eats and even a few scares! But I love it most because it brings back all those childhood memories and for a night (or maybe an entire month) you feel like a kid no matter your age!

While we have no specific Halloween plans for tonight (as of yet) except pass out candy to trick-or-treaters, we have had lots of fun over the past month watching scary movies (we watched one scary movie every night of October), going pumpkin hunting, eating lots of candy, enjoying beautiful fall weather (and foliage), making my house all sorts of Halloweenie cute, carving Jack-o-lanterns (we carved multiple pumpkins this year), roasting pumpkin seeds, and eating lots of ghoulish grub!

Take a peek at what we have been up to (via Instagram photos):

To celebrate Halloween one more time here on this blog (one more time until next year, that is), I have a fun ‘kid-friendly’ recipe. You know, keeping with the theme that Halloween makes us all feel like a kid!

Corn dogs are such kid food (just like the tater tots from yesterday). They remind me of being a kid, going to fairs, carnivals and sporting events. And while I am sure we are all familiar with this epic kid food, have you ever made homemade corn dogs? They really couldn’t be easier and paired with some homemade tater tots you have a fun kid friendly meal.

These homemade corn dogs tasted just like the corn dogs found at the fair with more of a crispy, almost funnel cake type coating, opposed to those frozen corn dogs that have more of a breaded texture. And they (and the tater tots from yesterday) really come together fast, which would make them a great dinner for tonight, for Halloween (before you go trick-or-treating), and are things that even the kiddos can help with (just don’t let them help with the frying, adults only on that part!).

So.good. So.corny. ; ) Muh.Haha.

Recipe notes: We actually found that it was easier to dip the hot dogs in the batter and then carefully dip them in the hot oil, using a slotted spoon/tongs, and then actually insert the wooden stick after they fried. But you can certainly insert the wooden skewer into the hot dog first, then dip in the batter and then the oil if that method works better for you.

One Year Ago: FYI: Avocados and Turkey Guacamole Burgers
Two Years Ago: Seasoned Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Three Years Ago: Sweet Potato and Cheese Soup

Corn Dogs
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Makes: 10 corn dogs

Vegetable oil, as needed
10 hot dogs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/4 cups cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk
10 Wooden skewers

Heat 3 inches oil to 350°F in a deep 3-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Put 1/4 cup flour on a plate and roll hot dogs in flour to coat, shaking off excess.

Meanwhile, whisk together cornmeal, remaining 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, chili powder, salt and black pepper in a medium bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in buttermilk.

Working in batches of 2 or 3, dip hot dogs, 1 at a time, into batter to coat then fry, turning occasionally, until batter is cooked through and golden-brown all over, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer corn dogs to paper towels to drain. Transfer cooked corn dogs to a baking sheet and place in a 300 degree oven to keep warm until ready to serve.

Repeat cooking process with remaining corn dogs.

Insert wooden skewers and serve immediately.

Adapted from Epicurious

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Homemade Tater Tots – Two Ways

I know the following statement sounds terribly naive, but even in my almost thirty something years of life, I still sometimes feel so ‘at aw’ that the weather in one part of the country, state, or even city can be one way and in another part be 100 times different.

Like if I jump in my car and drive just twenty minutes or two hours can see totally different weather phenomenons. Or hop on an airplane and fly that same amount of time and reach a climate 30 degrees different. (Except in the summer, when everywhere you go is just plan hot!)

So yesterday I felt terribly guilty that here in Texas we are having the most beautiful, absolutely gorgeous fall weather (seriously I was running around as giddy as can be); because up until this past weekend, we have been in like the 80’s while the rest of the world was embracing glorious fall like weather!

But I felt guilty, because while I was as happy as can be because we finally felt like fall, horrible hurricane Sandy was wreaking havoc on the northeast. And I hope with the greatest of hope, that everyone up there is safe and that recovery and rebuilding is as quick as possible. (Growing up near the Texas gulf coast, I know how scary those storms can be.) I will be keeping you all in my thoughts.

For today’s recipe, I am sharing my first recipe to revamp those Thanksgiving leftovers! Smashed taters are a super popular Thanksgiving side dish (check out yesterday’s recipe for a new version); but if you are like us, you always make WAY more than you need. Not only that, sometimes after a day or two in the fridge those smashed taters can get dried out and then no one wants them.

But don’t throw those taters out! Make tater tots instead!

If you have leftover mashed potatoes just lying around, homemade tater tots are so easy, not to mention to die for!

The recipe below is for homemade tater tots, but two ways. The traditional frying them in hot oil until crispy and golden version; and a lighter version, baking them until hot and lightly golden (in case you have after.Thanksgiving.I.ate.too.much.guilt.).

(Fried Version)
Of course the deep fried tater tots tasted just like the tater tots you get at the local drive in, only like better because they are homemade. But the baked ones totally worked out too (which made me so happy), they just weren’t *as* crispy as the fried ones and lacked that lovely greasy flavor and texture. : )

So if you want to enjoy tater tots guilt free, go for the baked version. And well, if eating tater tots doesn’t make you feel guilty at all, go for the gold, err fried version!

One Year Ago: Magazine Review: Family Fun
Two Years Ago: Diet Soda Cake and Cookies 'n Cream Frosting
Three Years Ago: Deviled Egg Eyeballs
 (Baked Version)
Homemade Tater Tots – Two Ways
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 15-20 minutes Makes: approximately 40 tater tots

3 cups leftover cold mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 ¼ cups panko bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil (as needed)

In a large bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, eggs and flour. Stir to combine.

In a separate bowl combine panko bread crumbs, salt and black pepper.

Shape approximately one tablespoon of the potato mixture into a tater tot shape. Roll tater tot in the panko bread crumbs. Place on a baking sheet or plate. Continue with the remainder of the potatoes.

To deep fry:

Heat about one to two inches of oil in a heavy duty skillet over medium-high heat (If you have a thermometer, you want the oil at about 350 degrees F.). Test the oil by dropping one tater tot in the oil. The oil is ready if the tater tot begins to ‘sizzle’ and create bubbles in the oil.

Cook tater tot for about 2-3 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown. Adjust temperature as needed, if tater tots begin cooking too fast or become too dark in color. Remove cooked tater tot from the oil and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately.

To bake:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray foil with cooking spray.

Arrange prepared tater tots on prepared baking sheet, making sure not to over crowd the baking sheet. Spray tops of tater tots with cooking spray. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Taste and Tell

Monday, October 29, 2012

Two Potato and Parsnip Baked Mashed Potatoes

Well hello Monday.

I know many of you out there are Monday haters, but I am one of those annoying Monday lovers (a fresh new start sortta thing).

But to all you Monday haters, you are probably not going to want to read the next few sentences.

First Halloween is Wednesday (Wednesday!!!). I am sure that even though you are a Monday hater, you are ready to celebrate this fun holiday, considering many celebrations happened over the weekend. But in case you are a procrastinator or need a few last minute ideas head to Pinterest (of course I have a Halloween board!). Or check out one of these recipes.

But I have an even bigger news flash for you (you Monday haters you); Thanksgiving is only a mere three and a half weeks away. Yes, folks (Folks? Am I like 80?)Thanksgiving is on the way!

And just like most Mondays, it will be here before you can even say ‘turkey!’

But have no fear, three and a half weeks is still plenty of time, if you start planning now!

To help you ease your Thanksgiving dinner menu planning woes, I have a few Thanksgiving recipes and special posts over the next few weeks.

When I was planning and preparing for these Thanksgiving recipes, many weeks ago, at first I couldn’t decide exactly how I wanted to present this information to you. In years past I did special Thanksgiving themed weeks, with certain weeks all about how to repurpose all those Thanksgiving leftovers to others sharing fresh Thanksgiving recipes to sharing Thanksgiving planning tips.

This year I decided to do it all!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll not only share a few new Thanksgiving recipes, but then share ways to use leftovers, with a few Thanksgiving tips, tricks, and information mixed in the whole mess (and maybe a few *random* recipes too).

Sounds good? Huh. Mashed potatoes are a staple for Thanksgiving dinner. This recipe has a slight twist, being made from two different types of potatoes as well as parsnips. It is then baked, making them able to hold their own despite being drenched in Thanksgiving’s other popular side dish, gravy.

Thanksgiving Tip: These potatoes can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Perfect, to take some stress off T-day cooking. Simply, make potato mixture as directed and spoon into prepared baking dish. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake, then remove cover and bake as directed in recipe.

One Year Ago: Magazine Review: Family Fun
Two Years Ago: Diet Soda Cake and Cookies 'n Cream Frosting
Three Years Ago: Deviled Egg Eyeballs

Two Potato and Parsnip Baked Mashed Potatoes
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 30-45 minutes Serves: 6

2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into pieces
2 large red potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
3 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
½ small white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup sour cream
½ cup half and half or milk
2 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or lightly butter an 8-inch pie plate or 8x8-inch square baking dish.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add prepared parsnips and potatoes; and boil for 12-15 minutes or until fork tender. Once cooked, drain; return the potatoes to the same pot and mash well. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well.

Pour prepared mashed potatoes into prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Note: These potatoes can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Make potato mixture as directed and spoon into prepared baking dish. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake, then remove cover and bake as directed in recipe.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli Interview and Free Haagen-Dazs e-book

I was recently given a rare and exciting opportunity to interview TV personality, restaurateur and Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. Leading up to the date and time of the interview I was extremely calm and not nervous at all; even though I am a huge fan. I knew I had this in the bag, so to speak. I “knew” Alex from her TV appearances and shows and had done my research. However, after it was all over, all I kept thinking about was, ‘I should have asked this,’ or ‘I should have asked that!’

Oh well, it was one of the few times I have been the interviewer (not the interviewee)! And you live and learn! Oh heck, I have even heard famous talk show hosts, news correspondents and radio deejays say that they tense up, forget things, or just plain can’t remember entire interviews they have done because they are so star struck!

We all know Chef Alex Guarnaschelli as a reoccurring judge on Food Network’s Chopped, judge and challenger on Iron Chef America and The Next Iron Chef, as well as her own shows Alex's Day Off and The Cooking Loft. She is also the executive chef for New York City's Butter and The Darby restaurants.

But Alex’s latest project is one that she teamed up with Haagen-Dazs on. Over the past few months Alex collaborated with Haagen-Dazs and wrote the forward to a special e-book called Ode to Summer. This free e-book “captures the essence of summer” and is a compilation of tweets and Instagram photos from Haagen-Dazs fans. This free e-book is not only a great way to reflect and escape the dreary winter time blues, but the Häagen-Dazs brand is donating $25,000 to honey bee research; plus an additional $5 for every download of the e-book up to $50,000. With honey bees such a vital part of our ecosystem and food supply, protecting this endangered species is critical. Alex “grew up eating Haagen-Dazs” and because of her passion for food as a chef, she knows that it is important to protect the honey bees (for more information about downloading this free e-book, see below).

While Ode to Summer, will brighten up these cold winter months, Alex dished about some of her favorite fall foods and holiday traditions. She predicts “to see a huge increase pumpkin and squash popularity this fall;” because these foods are so comforting and are transformed into American classics such as Pumpkin Pie and soup. However, Alex’s favorite fall foods are the rarely acknowledged turnip and rutabaga. When asked, Alex stated her favorite way to prepare turnips “is to roast them with a touch of allspice.” To dress up those rutabagas, Alex suggests “boiling them like a potato, putting them through a ricer, and tossing the riced rutabaga with some sugar or honey.”

With the holiday’s coming up, Alex was happy to dish on her favorite holiday traditions; “bake a different pie every year and top it with ice cream,” of course!

But to help us through the holiday cooking season and weeknight dinners; Alex happily shared one last tip: “Prepare a menu and then go back and eliminate at least one thing. Make it simpler and remember less is more!”

What great advice from such a talented chef! I want to publicly thank Chef Alex Guarnaschelli for taking the time to visit with me. If I ever get the chance to chat with her again I have like a million other questions that I have now thought to ask!

To download the free Ode to Summer e-book, which helps donate $5 to honey bee research please visit the following sites:

Google Play
And be sure and tune in on November 4th, to catch Chef Alex Guarnaschelli in the season premiere of Food Network’s latest show, The Next Iron Chef: Redemption. (I’ll be sure and watch and cheer Alex on!)

Disclosure: Photos courtesy of Taylor Strategy.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

In Season: Broccoli

We eat broccoli like 5-6 times a week.

No seriously it is pretty much the only 'green' veggie (besides lettuce in salad form) Eric will eat.

And eat it we do! With almost every.single.dinner as a side dish or mixed into the main entree.

So needless to say there are a lot of broccoli recipes on this here blog. But I decided that it was time to shed some light on this magnificent veggie (Wow. I am shocked I can say that, and not that I am completely sick of it! 5-6 times a week here people.)!

Below is an article I wrote quite a while ago (for meal planning/recipe site Food on the Table) all.about.broccoli. Also be sure and check out some drool worthy (yes, in fact broccoli *can* be drool worthy for all you broccoli haters) broccoli recipes at the bottom of this article.

Looking to add a boost of vitamins and nutrients to your diet?

Well look no further than broccoli!

Broccoli has been around for thousands of years; and the name "broccoli" comes for the Latin word brachium, which means "arm” or "branch."

Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous family, or cabbage family of vegetables. Other vegetables related to broccoli include broccolini, which is a cross between broccoli and kale, and broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.

Broccoli is one of the healthiest foods available and has been shown to fight diseases and cancer. It is full of vitamins and nutrients, such as, Vitamins A, C, B6 and E. It is abundant in calcium, folic acid, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, glutathione, beta carotene, and lutein. Broccoli is also full of fiber, containing approximately 9% of the daily recommended value per serving. Broccoli is a low fat, low calorie food; containing only 30 calories for every half cup serving.

Broccoli is one of the few vegetables that is grown and available year round, but is at its peak from October through April. It is also one of the least expensive vegetables to purchase. When purchasing broccoli from your local grocery store, look for bunches that are dark green in color, which indicates high nutrient value. Also look for bunches with stalks that are very firm, because stalks that bend easily or seem rubbery are not good quality. Broccoli should be stored dry in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to four days.

To preserve the most nutrients in broccoli, it should be eaten raw or steamed. Broccoli can also be roasted, boiled or sautéed, however, due to these direct heat cooking processes some of the nutritional value will be lost.

Whether a quick snack, easy side dish, or last minute addition to a salad or entree, broccoli should be included in your weekly meal plan and eaten several times a week.

Check out some of the tasty broccoli recipes below:

Chicken and Broccoli Pasta (Kitchen Concoctions)
Broccoli Cheddar Bites (Gourmet Veggie Mama)
Broccoli Francaise (Kitchen Concoctions)
Slow Cooker Korean Shredded Beef & Creamy Asian Broccoli Slaw (Heather's Dish)
Three Cheese Broccoli Risotto (Kitchen Concoctions)
Broccomole: Broccoli Guacamole (Domestic Fits)
Roasted Broccoli with Chili Butter (Kitchen Concoctions)
Szechuan Broccoli and Quinoa (Peas and Thank You)
Green Gruel with Eyeballs: a.k.a. Broccoli Cheese Soup (Kitchen Concoctions)
Chickpeas, Broccoli & Bacon (Living Well Kitchen)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Website Wednesday: Honey, Mustard and Rosemary Baked Pork Chops

So did anyone else have a mild panic attack a couple of weeks ago when the news broke that in the next few months there will be a major shortage on pork.

I seriously *might* have had a slight *episode*.

Not that we are super pork freaks around here (remember yesterday’s blog post all about ‘this becoming a vegetarian blog’) but I do like to keep our dinners ‘interesting’ and change things up.

You know balance.

Because I try to plan our meals based on what is on sale at the grocery store, I get really excited when things besides chicken are on sale.

So when pork is on sale I go ‘hog wild!’ (Haaa! I kill me.) and stock up.

We will eat it all week and then I will get enough to throw some in the freezer too.

So if you are a pork freak (Which is totally cool! Even if you are in denial about it.) and eat it like most people eat chicken, then here is another pork recipe to add to your repertoire.

Let me just say, “oh, wow this.was.good!”

The chops themselves have wonderful flavor. But the sauce. The sauce on these pork chops will make your wildest dreams come true. I almost drank the entire pan of this sauce, before it even made it to the dinner table (seriously people, don't skimp on the sauce).

It was that good.

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Spiked Sugar Cookies
Two Years Ago: Mini Graveyard Cakes
Three Years Ago: Z'Tejas Cornbread

Honey, Mustard and Rosemary Baked Pork Chops
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 20-30 minutes Serves: 4

4 (1/2 inch thick) bone-in pork chops
½ teaspoon salt and black pepper
3/4 cup beer (brown ale)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Arrange pork chops in 9x13 inch roasting pan. Season both sides of pork chops with salt and black pepper.

In a medium bowl whisk all remaining ingredients, EXCEPT whipping cream. Pour beer mixture over seasoned pork chops.

Bake pork chops in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes. Remove pork chops from sauce and roasting pan, and place on serving platter.

Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Carefully add juices from roasting pan and whipping cream to saucepan. Boil sauce until reduced for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve pork chops with cream sauce. Garnish with additional rosemary, if desired.

Adapted from Epicurious

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hearty Baked Spinach and Tofu Casserole

I swear, this isn’t turning into a vegetarian blog!

Nothing wrong with vegetarians or their food (I often talk about ‘Meatless Monday’ being one of my favorite meals to plan each week) (plus I love all my 'Rabbit food' eating friends!), but you would think by the way things have looked around here lately, that I have converted.

(This is totally evident by the one and only recipe containing meat, I have posted in two full months of blogging.)

But that really isn’t so. Just the way the blogging schedule has played out (with special themed weeks) and well with the fact I have been annoyingly obsessed with the seasonal fruits and veggies as of late like always, I just can’t help all the ‘veggie’-tar-ian recipes!

So when it comes to our “Meatless Monday” meals our usual suspects include things like eggplant parmesan, soup, salad, chili, pasta dishes, and even veggie burgers.

All chock full of veggies and usually beans for protein and that is it, our extent of vegetarian meals.

But recently I decided I needed to branch out, and broaden our vegetarian meal repertoire.

Thus incorporating things like tofu.

In the past, when I tried tofu in a few dishes, I was, well, not impressed to move forward and take the next step in our ‘food relationship.’ Then in the past year or so I decided to give tofu a second chance. After some research, and recipe testing, I concluded my favorite way to enjoy tofu is pureed to help ‘thicken’ a sauce or add a ‘creamy’ element, without diary (a.k.a tons of calories). Plus tofu is like loaded with protein, which can sometimes be ‘left out' of vegetarian meals.

This spinach and tofu bake is a great recipe to try if you are new to tofu, as the tofu is blended to create a creamy texture without the addition of milk or cream. This casserole was surprisingly tasty and hearty to boot. Loaded with good for you things like spinach, brown rice, and oh yeah tofu; this casserole could simply be cast as a side dish, or could be the star of the show on “Meatless Monday.”

The choice is yours!

One Year Ago: Goblin Feet and Witch Finger Cookies
Two Years Ago: Penne with Spinach Sauce
Three Years Ago: Sesame Crackers

Hearty Baked Spinach and Tofu Casserole
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 35 minutes Serves: 6

1 (8.0 ounce package) tofu, drained
¼ cup veg broth
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes (don't drain)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 (10.0 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place tofu and vegetable broth in blender; blend until completely smooth.

Heat oil in a medium sized sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft about 2-3 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add tomatoes and oregano. Increase heat to high and boil for 2 minutes. Stir in tofu mixture, rice, spinach, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Pour casserole mixture into a casserole dish. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve topped with remaining cheese.

Adapted from Food on the Table

Monday, October 22, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

I am so happy for the fall/winter season purely to eat soups and chili.

I can’t think of anything more comforting than curling up on the couch, with a soft, oversized blanket, a big mug of hot and steamy soup or chili and reading an intriguing book or watching a nail biting TV show (any other Revenge fans out there?!?).

I have already made several soups this season and just made my first batch of chili, and even though I try and slurp these up as much as possible in the cooler months, I will always love my salads.

Just like soups and chili are comforting, to me salads are comforting in their own way. It is like my body craves them when it needs a boost of nutrients and after consuming them, I feel so good.

The problem is the fall and winters are certainly not your ‘typical’ salad seasons. Sure I have a few fall salads that I enjoy regularly, but it is still a struggle to enjoy a good fresh, fall salad with seasonal fruits and veggies.

That is why I was totally drooling all over my chin when I saw this Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette! So many fresh fall flavors! From plump dried cranberries to wholesome butternut squash to smooth cider vinaigrette, all served a top spicy arugula.

This salad has saved my salad loving soul and will totally carry me through until next summer when I will be scarfing down this one, this one, and this one!

One Year Ago: Goblin Feet and Witch Finger Cookies
Two Years Ago: Penne with Spinach Sauce
Three Years Ago: Sesame Crackers

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes Serves: 4

1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 tablespoons dried cranberries
3/4 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4-6 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup pecans halves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the butternut squash in a bowl. Add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper and toss to combine. Place squash on baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.

While the squash is roasting, heat 2 teaspoons oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook 1 minute. Add apple juice and vinegar; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard, remaining olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash, cranberries, and pecans. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Food Network

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Giveaway: Cooking Planit iphone/ipad App

UPDATE (10/29/12): This giveaway is now closed. The winners chosen by are Harmony Burmeister, The Grigg's and Emily. Winners please contact me at kitchenconcoctions at gmail dot com to claim your prize!

So remember the website (and delicious steak dinner Eric cook for me) I was raving about yesterday? Cooking Planit, a new website and cooking app, is offering an iphone/ipad giveaway to three lucky Kitchen Concoctions readers.

Check out my blog post from yesterday to see my complete Cooking Planit review (plus a fantastic Rosemary Scalloped Potatoes recipe), but here are a few of the app highlights:
  • Timed meal plans tell when and how to do each step in the cooking process.
  • Voice command feature, you know for when you are up to your elbows in chicken.
  • Browse their chef recommended meals or custom build your own custom meal by searching for specific courses, dishes or ingredients.
  • Photos of completed recipes, as well as ingredients and cooking utensils.
  • New recipes and meal plans added regularly to their current selection of recipes.
  • Ability to adjust the serving quantities of the recipes.
  • Create a grocery list that combines the ingredients of all recipes in your meal plan as well as add additional items. The grocery items are then categorized by grocery store aisle.
  • Advance search features that allow you to filter out dietary restrictions, search by course, or special occasion.
  • Synchronize your account with other family members.

You have SEVEN separate ways to enter the Cooking Planit iphone/ipad app giveaway! (NOTE: Please leave a SEPARATE comment for each response below):


1. Leave a comment stating what type of home cook you are. Are you a beginner, home cook rock star, professional cook?


2. Become a follower of Kitchen Concoctions through Google Friend Connect.

3. Tell someone about this giveaway, whether it be on a blog, Facebook or Twitter and leave a new comment letting me know and sharing the link.

4. “Like” Kitchen Concoctions on Facebook.

5. Follow Kitchen Concoctions on Twitter.

6. Follow Kitchen Concoctions on Pinterest.

7. Follow Kitchen Concoctions on Instagram @kitchenconcoctions.

This give-away closes Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 11:59 PM CST. Three winners will be chosen at random (by and will be announced sometime shortly after the give-away ends. Winner must contact Kitchen Concoctions within 72 hours at kitchenconcoctions at gmail dot com to claim prize. If winner has not claimed prize within 72 hours then a new winner will be notified. Kitchen Concoctions is not responsible for undelivered or damaged prizes.

NOTE: Please check back shortly after giveaway closing to see if you are a winner. As much as I would like to run all over the Internet world looking for you, I do not have the time. So you as the winner MUST contact me with your information.

"Disclosure: This giveaway is sponsored by Cooking Planit. Photos have been provided by Cooking Planit. All thoughts and opinions are my own."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Rosemary Scalloped Potatoes and Cooking Planit Review

Eric’s not much of a cook.

Not that he can’t cook, (because he can) just that with all the cookin’ and recipe testing that I do, he really doesn’t have to cook.

I know, lucky him!

But the things he does know how to cook, he does well! I have even shared a few of his simple yet tasty recipes (like his Chicken and Yellow Rice, Chicken Parmesan and even Mashed Potatoes). He even came up with this zesty Jalapeno Mayo.

Even though he does cook like a rock star when it comes to certain things, in other areas of the kitchen he needs some assistance. Like multitasking to make everything for dinner (from the main dish to sides) come out successfully at the same time and not take all.night.long to prepare.

So when I was approached by the people of the new cooking website and app, Cooking Plainit, to challenge a friend or family member who lacks confidence in the kitchen, to host a dinner party, preparing everything from start to finish, I knew the perfect person for the job, Eric. (Even if I had ulterior motives and only wanted to get Eric in the kitchen so I could relax and have a night off!)

The idea behind Cooking Planit is to help new and intermediate cooks, prepare full complete meals, by guiding you through the entire cooking process from planning and grocery shopping to cooking and execution.

You can browse their chef recommended meals or custom build your own meal by searching for specific courses, dishes or ingredients. After you create your meal you can then print your shopping list or access it through the iphone/pad app. What makes the shopping list unique on Cooking Planit, is that it includes photos of the ingredients, perfect for those just getting into cooking or learning about new foods. (It also has pictures of the kitchen tools/appliances at the top of each recipe.)

Once you get home and are ready to cook, go to the website or app and select your saved meal and then click ‘Prep and Cook.’ This is where you will be guided through every step of every recipe as you need to. So you will be prompted to get your potatoes in the oven before getting your steak going or your salad made since the potatoes take the longest. Thus ensuring you will have your entire meal ready at one time, not letting other food get cold while things finish. Perfect timing in the kitchen is even something experienced cooks struggle with.

It was fun watching Eric in the kitchen (even though he dirtied like a million dishes!). His meal came out perfect and he was even impressed that he could so easily make homemade blue cheese salad dressing and how delicious it came out! A wonderful steak house dinner in the comfort of our home! Dinner was a success!

A few thoughts and comments Eric and I both have about the site. First, right now they only have an iphone/pad app. I have seen the app and it is very similar to the website, just more portable than even a laptop and has a voice command feature, you know for when you are up to your elbows in chicken. However, for us folks that are not aboard the iphone train and are android peeps, this makes us sad and left out. But I have been told that an android app is in the works, so for now we just have to wait.

Also when going through the guided cooking process, Eric got a little frustrated when he got ahead of the program in cooking and the program would not let him advance to the next step even though he was ready. When this happens, a box pops up asking if you are for sure ready to move forward, and you have to click again to proceed.

(Look at that beautiful meal!)
Eric wanted to cook something else originally but they didn't have a recipe for it, because currently they only have a few hundred or so recipes. But I am told that this is something they are constantly adding to, and plan to build up their recipe collection. This is a new website, and as my experience with all new websites and companies, they are constantly growing and improving!

Other things to note: Every recipe has a photo of the completed dish. You know I love this and so many of you do to! When you search for recipe you use advance search features that allow you to filter out dietary restrictions, search by course, or special occasion. And for those of you on special diets, unfortunately at this time, they do not provided nutritional data.

Eric chose to make Blue Cheese Steak with Rosemary Scalloped Potatoes and Romaine Wedge with Bacon and Blue Cheese Dressing. Even though he tried to follow the directions and recipes as written (for the complete Cooking Planit experience), he is like me and just can’t. So he made a few slight changes (like how can you have a wedge salad without tomatoes?) and felt like there wasn’t quite enough ‘sauce’ in the potato recipe. So this is his version of the Rosemary Scalloped Potatoes. For the other recipes click on the links above and head over to the Cooking Planit website to check them out!

Rosemary Scalloped Potatoes
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 50 minutes Serves: 4

1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary
2-3 large Russet potatoes
1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
½ teaspoon each black pepper and salt

Preheat the oven to 425 °F.

Peel the potatoes and thinly slice. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave the potatoes on high for 7 minutes until slightly tender. Strain any liquid from the potatoes after microwaving.

Pick leaves of rosemary off the stems and finely chop. Place in a medium mixing bowl. Combine whole milk and heavy cream in the bowl with the rosemary, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Lightly butter an 8x8 inch baking dish. Layer the potatoes on the bottom, overlapping them slightly. Cover with 1/3 the Gruyere cheese, 1/3 the Parmesan cheese and 1/3 the heavy cream mixture. Season the first layer with salt and pepper, then repeat layering process until all ingredients are used (approximately two more times). Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and sauce is thickened. Remove foil and cook for another 15 minutes until top is golden brown.

After cooking, let rest for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Adapted from Cooking Planit

Disclosure: Cooking Plainit sponsored our dinner party. But all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Website Wednesday: Bananas Foster Daiquiri

It may be October here, there and everywhere; with most of the country experiencing soup weather…

But we were in the 90’s today.

Which called for a cold drink.

Not hot apple cider or pumpkin spice lattes that the rest of you are sipping on all cuddled up on the couch with your Snuggie.

Ninety degree days require shorts, air conditioning and daiquiris.

This is defiantly not your sister’s strawberry daiquiri. This version combines that classic drink with a classic dessert, Bananas Foster.

So if you are still in need of a cool drink, even if it is October, then give this Bananas Foster Daiquiri a whorl!

(Haha! Get it? A whorl? Since it is processed in the blender? Ok, maybe I’m not as funny as I think!)

Note: I have made notes on the recipe to make this beverage non-alcoholic, if that is how you prefer your ‘cold beverages.’ But fear not, the rum extract adds a nice depth of flavor that does not have you missing the actual rum.

One Year Ago: Candy Corn Breakfast Parfaits
Two Years Ago: Herbed Cheese Polenta
Three Years Ago: Red Bell Pepper Hummus

Bananas Foster Daiquiri
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes Serves: 2

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup ice cubes (about 8 cubes)
2 large frozen bananas, peeled, sliced
4 tablespoons spiced rum (or ½ teaspoon imitation rum extract*)

Stir sugar and water in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil. Boil 1 minute then remove from heat. Cool slightly.

Transfer syrup to blender. Add ice, bananas, rum, and lime juice; blend until smooth. Pour into 2 glasses.

*Note: If making this non-alcoholic, replace rum with rum extract and increase water to ½ cup.

Inspired by a recipe found on Epicurious

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Crock-Pot Santa Fe Chicken

I am going to keep this short and simple today.

It’s been a doozy the past few days. Way busier than normal with a few ‘surprise’ *situations* thrown in the mix that have certainly taken some major time and attention.

But there have been some fun projects and opportunities that have been taking up my time recently too, and I can’t wait to share all of those with you.

(Here are a few hints (cuz I love teasing y’all!): a giveaway, added blog features to totally help you and me both navigate the site better, and a few other neat-o things!)

To keep not only this blog post short and simple today, I have and easy “dump and go” crock-pot recipe for ya. Plus it uses pantry staples!

So no matter what curve balls life throws at you (good or bad) and no matter how crazy it all gets, with recipes like these, there are no more excuses not to eat a fantabulous homemade dinner!

PS: Even with life kr-A-zy right now, I didn’t forget about the Hodgson Mill giveaway! Click here to see if you are the winner!

One Year Ago: How to: Host a Haunting Halloween Bash on a Budget and Bloody Eyeball Soup
Two Years Ago: Ranch Dressing
Three Years Ago: Red Bell Pepper Hummus

Crock-Pot Santa Fe Chicken
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 7-8 hours Serves: 4

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
1 (14.4 ounce) can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ½ cups frozen corn
2 cups fat free chicken broth
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper, or to taste

Toppings (as desired):
Sour cream
Fresh cilantro
Green onions

Combine all ingredients in crock-pot. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 5 hours. Half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Adjust salt and seasoning. Serve as desired; over rice or with tortillas, topped with desired toppings such as sour cream, cheese, green onions, fresh cilantro.

Adapted from Food on the Table

Monday, October 15, 2012

Baba Ganoush

Words are funny things.

I like how powerful they are and how they can eloquently describe the world around us.

They can make us cry and get us all riled up!

How words can transform a list of ingredients and a simple recipe into a type of moment.

But they can also make you laugh out loud.

Like the word succotash.

I don’t know why but just saying that word makes me giggle! Maybe it is because that word simply means a mixture of corn and beans. Or maybe it is the way I say it.

Or how about goulash?

Whoever though of that one to describe a chunky meat, veggie and pasta, stew like concoction, well they should be commended!

And the world wouldn’t be complete without supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (That is totally the correct way to spell it. I know. I Googled it.).

But back to funny food words. And I guess I should say 'fun to say' instead of funny; because these words are just that, fun to say, as opposed to you know, just plain 'ole casserole or bake.

(Not to mention have a great educational history as to where these words came from.)

Have you ever heard of Baba Ganoush?

Haha! Just saying that makes me shriek with laughter!

Come on, just say it…

Baba Ganoush.

So unique.

Now make it into a song…

Baba Ganoush Ganoush (now faster) Baba Ganoush Ganoush (now faster and at a higher pitch) Baba Ganoush Ganoush!

Ok you don’t need to tell me I’m weird.

I already know.

I also know Baba Ganoush is awesome! I have been slightly obsessed with as of late and literally craving it everywakingmoment.

(And then I bust out in song and dance. You know, because it makes me so happy!)

So if you are new to Baba Ganoush Ganoush, it is similar to hummus but minus the chickpeas and made of roasted eggplant. Roasted eggplant that is whipped to smooth perfection and carefully seasoned. A delicious, yet healthy, Middle Eastern spread or dip perfect for dipping veggies or (my carb loving favorite) crackers or Matzo.

One Year Ago: How to: Host a Haunting Halloween Bash on a Budget and Bloody Eyeball Soup
Two Years Ago: Ranch Dressing
Three Years Ago: Red Bell Pepper Hummus

Baba Ganoush
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes Makes: approximately 1 – 1 ½ cups

1 medium-large eggplant
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon salt and black, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400.

Cut eggplant in half and rub all sides with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning. Place cut side down on baking sheet covered with aluminum foil and sprayed with non-stick spray. Place garlic cloves on separate sheet of foil. Drizzle garlic with 2-3 teaspoons olive oil and wrap foil tightly around garlic. Place garlic on baking sheet with eggplant. Roast in oven for 20 – 25 minutes depending on size of eggplant, until the peeling begins to blacken.

After cooking, let cool slightly, then remove peel from eggplant and garlic. Place eggplant and garlic bowl of food processor. Add the tahini, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, remaining oil, salt and black pepper. Pulse several times or until mixture forms a paste.

Can be served immediately, but best served after refrigerating for 2-3 hours. Serve topped with fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil or a dash of paprika. Can be served with crackers, toasted bread or fresh veggies.

Adapted from Sunflower Supper Club as seen on Tasty Kitchen

Friday, October 12, 2012

“Ghoulish Grub” - Owl S’mores

Today I am sharing the last recipe of this year’s “Ghoulish Grub” week!

I know, boo! Right!?! (Boo! For be sad and being haunting!)

Well, actually, I might have one or two other Halloweenie recipes I might be sharing in the upcoming days leading up to Halloween; just because I can’t get enough of this season!

So let’s talk owls.

They are so cute and super popular right now. Not only for Halloween but fall and camping themed parties to sweet baby showers, home décor and nature enthusiasts. Owls are where it’s at!

Naturally when I saw these owl s’mores awhile back (like really a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away), I was immediately drawn to them. Not only for their owl cuteness but for my obnoxious s’more addiction.

How could I not possibly make these?

A cute s’more?

These Owl S’mores are just as widely popular as the owl and s’more fads and have made their way in various form all over the internet. And why not? Easy, cute, and what all the cool kids are doing!

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread
Two Years Ago: Breakfast Stuffing
Three Year Ago: Jerk Chicken
Owl S’mores
Printable Version

Graham crackers, broken in half into square shape
Large marshmallows, cut in half
Yellow candy melts
Chocolate chips
Candy corn (or Mike and Ike’s candy)

Place two marshmallow halves, sticky side down, on one graham cracker square. Place on microwave safe plate and microwave for 3-5 seconds.

Remove from microwave and top each marshmallow with a yellow candy melt. Top each candy melt with a chocolate chip and insert candy corn in between each marshmallow.

Return to microwave and microwave for another 3-5 seconds.

Adapted from ideas seen all over the web, specifically Living Locurto

Thursday, October 11, 2012

“Ghoulish Grub” - Witches’ Hat Cupcakes

I’ve made a few cakes and cupcakes in my day.

From sisters’ and friends’ wedding and groom’s cakes; to birthday cakes, holiday cakes, and justbecauseIneedacupcakefix type of cakes.

And after all the cupcakes and cakes I have made over the years, you would think I would have mastered the cute decorating aspect of cake decorating. Sure I can pipe a mean swirl on a cupcake or and get a smooth layer (or two) of frosting on a layered cake; but when it comes to fancy decorations, my lack of a steady hand fails me every.single.time.

That is why I love that you can throw on some candy, nuts, or dried fruit and have cute, fancy cupcakes without stressing out too much.

(Just ask Eric what happens when someone, makes like a million handmade fondant and gum paste flowers for a wedding cake.)

So cute decorations that are super easy, like won’t make you break a sweat, are right up my alley.

The Witches’ Hat Cookies are nothing new. They have made their way around homes and holiday parties, as well as the World Wide Web, for years. But take some green frosting plopped on a vanilla (or chocolate would be fun) cupcake and topped with a Witches’ Hat Cookie and you have a cute Halloweenie goodie that *anyone* (no matter your cake decorating skills) can make.

Make this with your favorite homemade cupcake and frosting recipe (here is a vanilla cupcake recipe for two that can easily be doubled or tripled and this is my favorite easy one bowl chocolate cake recipe), or use a box mix and a tub of frosting, or even if baking is not your thing, many bakeries sell unfrosted cupcakes that you can easily frost (seriously just smear on some frosting) and top with these cookies for the easy semi-homemade route.

But whatever you do, get on the “Ghoulish Grub” band wagon and make some fun holiday treats!

P.S. These cupcakes would be a fun addition to these Witch Finger Cookies on a Halloween dessert table!

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
Two Years Ago: Breakfast Stuffing
Three Year Ago: Jerk Chicken

Witches’ Hat Cupcakes
Printable Version

Prepared vanilla cupcakes (use your favorite homemade recipe, cake mix, or store bought)
Buttercream frosting (use your favorite homemade recipe or store bought)
Green food coloring
Fudge Stripe Cookies
Hershey’s Kisses
Purple, Green, Blue, Orange, Red tubed decorator’s frosting

Tint prepared buttercream frosting with green food coloring, until desired shade is reached. Frost each prepared cupcake with green buttercream frosting.

Put a dot of frosting on the bottom of the Hershey Kiss. Adhere the chocolate kiss to the bottom side (chocolate side) of the fudge cookie. Using tube of colored decorator’s frosting, pipe a circle around where the chocolate kiss touches the cookie and form into a bow.

Put one cookie ‘hat’ on each cupcake.

Inspired from ideas seen all over the internet, specifically this one
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