Creamy Root Beer Float

With summer fast approaching, warm weather activities and fun in the sun can’t be too far off. The grill comes out of storage and our minds turn to BBQs and summer salsa. Refreshing drinks are the order of the day, with home-made lemonade for the kids, and sangria for the grown-ups. And who doesn’t enjoy a nice chocolate shake? Or my favorite, a creamy root beer float.

root-beer-float-139

They’re simple to make, right… just vanilla ice cream and your favorite root beer! But why not get the kids involved and try making your own fresh root beer at home. Not only is it a fun learning activity that will keep your family busy on a rainy afternoon; but unbeknownst to them they’ll be doing a science project at the same time. My root beer making kit was gifted to me by my wife, but you can order them online and have them ready for that inevitable dreary day. Then when the sun finally does comes out, it’ll be root beer float smiles all around !

Joe

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Filed under Drinks, Shakes & Smoothies, Uncategorized

Savory Cavatappi with Pork Sausage and Veggies


I truly love discovering quality foods to cook with…recently I came across Applegate Farms Breakfast Sausage at my local Whole Foods Market.  The sausages are really, really, really good. Really. So, I thought, why limit myself to just breakfast?  Inspired by my dad’s recipe for a 1960s favorite—Egg Noodles and Sausage Toss—I devised this recipe. It’s a hit, except with my son who dislikes green things in his food. Oh well, like so many good-for-you foods, in Sam’s case, the spinach is optional.

Savory Cavatappi with Pork Sausage & Veggies

(serves 6)

  • 1 package (16 ounces) Cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta (or try bowties, penne, etc., any shape will do!)
  • 4 tablespoons good quality olive oil, divided
  • 1 package (8 ounces) Applegate Farms Classic Pork Breakfast Sausage
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes (any colors and varieties), halved
  • about 6 ounces  baby spinach leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • small basil leaves, optional

Cook the Cavatappi according to package directions. Before draining it, reserve 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta and transfer it to a large bowl. Drizzle it with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the reserved cooking liquid, and toss. Cover the pasta to keep it warm.

While the pasta is cooking, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet, and saute the sausage  over medium low heat. Remove the sausage to a cutting board.  Slice the sausage diagonally into 1 inch pieces.

Keeping the heat on medium low, add the onions and garlic to the pan, and saute them for a few minutes until they soften.  Add the tomatoes and cook them for 2 minutes, then add the sliced sausages. Next, add the spinach and cook it until it just begins to wilt. Be careful not to overcook it, since it will become mushy and lose its brilliant green color.

Pour the sausage mixture over the pasta, and gently toss it. Sprinkle it with the Parmesan cheese, then add salt and pepper to taste, and  toss it again.

If you like, add some small basil leaves and a sprinkling of extra Parmesan cheese to each serving.

This recipe lends itself to all kinds of good veggie variations, so have fun experimenting!

Heather

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Filed under Entertaining, Pasta, Pork, Sausage, Vegetables

Not Just for Vegans….Nutritional Yeast

Does Nutritional Yeast sound good to you? Me either. But, I was introduced to it recently, and guess what? It’s actually really good—and better yet, it’s good for you.

Sugar-free, dairy-free, & gluten-free, nutritional yeast is naturally low in fat and sodium. Since it has a cheesy, nutty flavor, it works as a cheese replacement in many recipes, making it a vegan’s best friend. Since it’s healthy and tasty, I’ve made friends with it too.

So, what the heck is it? Well, for the full scientific explanation, check it out on Wikipedia….but in short, it’s a deactivated yeast sold as powder or flakes. It’s a source of protein and vitamins, and it’s often available fortified with vitamin B12.  You can find nutritional yeast in health food stores….I bought it at Whole Foods. It’s not cheap, but neither is cheese, and a little goes a long way.

I’ve used nutritional yeast in pesto, I’ve breaded chicken cutlets with it, and I’ve sprinkled it and on pasta and salads. Nutritional yeast makes a really tasty topping for popcorn, too, plus you can really enjoy it knowing it’s good for you.

Not-So-Cheesey Popcorn

(makes eight 1-cup servings)

  • 8 cups air-popped popcorn
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • • 2 tablespoons of melted clarified butter, or 2 tablespoons of a vegan spread, melted
1. Place the popcorn in a large bowl.
2. Mix the nutritional yeast, italian seasoning mix and garlic powder together in a small bowl.
3. Drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn and toss it.
4. Sprinkle on the nutritional yeast mixture and toss again.
5. For a little extra zip, sprinkle on a little Cajun seasoning.

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Filed under Appetizer, Entertaining, Popcorn, Snacks, Vegetarian

Just Wing It !

There was a time in most of our lives when “take-out” was the rule of the day. Pizza, Chinese food, Buffalo wings, Mexican and more were often the meal of choice for my college friends and me. Back then “cooking-in” usually meant a dinner of Ramen noodles or scrambled eggs, and for some, even microwave popcorn was a meal.

It’s my impression that few “x-gens” and “baby boomers” today have ever attempted to cook their college “take-out” staples at home. Perhaps it’s been so ingrained in our psyches that these favorite foods are too time-consuming or difficult to prepare—and why bother when you’ll probably never achieve that perfect “take-out” flavor anyway?

My old college roommate Delton had no such fears. He was always willing to try his hand at something new, even Buffalo style chicken wings. As I recall, the kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off when he had finished preparing, but that hardly mattered once you took a bite of his wings. They were simply slammin’!

Now-a-days, I rarely see Delton, as he is usually off leading some white-water adventure in Africa. We caught up recently and he was good enough to share some of his best tips for making Buffalo style chicken wings at home.

You can deep fry ‘em and go hot & spicy, or bake them up lite with some mild heat. Either way don’t fret it, skip the take-out, and just wing it!

Thanks “D”

Dj’s Buffalo Style Chicken Wings

  • 1 dozen wings
  • Canola oil for deep-frying
  • Cajun seasoning
  • (or make your own rub with 1/4 teaspoon each of garlic powder, paprika, & cayenne pepper; plus a dash of salt & pepper.
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s™ RedHot™ “Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce” (Frank’s™ was the secret ingredient used in the original Buffalo Wings created back in 1964).
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • all-purpose flour
  1. If chicken wings are whole, divide them at the joints into three pieces, keeping the drumettes and wings, and discarding the wing tip.
  2. Rub your favorite Cajun seasoning onto wings, or prepare your own rub of garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt & ground black pepper.
  3. Cover and allow to season in fridge for at least an hour or so (very important)
  4. Heat canola oil to 375˚ in deep-fryer.
  5. Melt butter in small saucepan; stir in Franks’s™ RedHot™ sauce and a few shakes of celery salt. For a bit more tang, add 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar (optional).
  6. Once seasoned, remove wings from fridge and deep-fry at 375˚ for 10 minutes.
  7. Place cooked wings in glass (or other non-porous) mixing bowl and stir in warm hot sauce.
  8. Serve immediately with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.

Alternatively, dust seasoned wings with all-purpose flour and place on foil-lined tray. Bake at 500˚ for 20 minutes until fully cooked (lightly browned & slightly crispy). Mix wings with hot sauce and serve.

- Joe

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Filed under Appetizer, Chicken

Party Cake Pops

Every year when the kids’ birthdays roll around, my wife Carol tries something different to celebrate. As a creative director, she is, well, pretty creative, so I’m always expecting something new & exciting. This year she decided to try her hand at making cake pops.

Cake pops have been “all the rage” ever since Angie Dudley of Bakerella fame published her recent book. Although Angie forms her pops from crumbled cake, Carol decided to try baking them from a set of Bake Pop trays. Carol also wanted her pops to have a soft exterior coating of frosting, rather than the harder candy melt surface that Angie suggests. Either way, cake pops are all about the decorating, and, as you can see from our photo above, anything goes!

You will need…

  • cake mix
  • bake pop tray or baking pan
  • candy melts and your favorite frostings
  • lollipop sticks
  • piping bag & tips
  • sprinkles, nonpareils, etc. (for decorating)
  • styrofoam board (for drying)

Bake cake mix in bake pop trays. Allow to cool. Remove pops from tray.

Place candy melts in narrow microwave-safe bowl and melt in microwave, per candy melt package directions.

Dip lollipop stick approximately 1/2″ into melted candy. Next, insert stick halfway into cake pop. Place pop on small baking sheet or plate. Repeat with remaining pops.

Place pops in freezer for 15 minutes to secure lollipop stick.

Place frosting in narrow microwave-safe bowl and microwave one minute. Tint if desired. Stir. Repeat until frosting is thinned enough for dipping. (Do not overheat or frosting may break down.)

Dip cake pops fully into melted frosting and allow excess to drip away.

Insert stick end of cake pops into styrofoam board to dry. Once the pops have dried, decorate as desired.

For more cake pop tips & methods check out Bakerella’s “how to” video.

-Joe

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Filed under Cake, Chocolate, Cupcakes, Entertaining, Sweets

Autumn Apple Pie

Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year, although not for the reasons you might think. Sure there is the colorful splendor of the changing leaves, and that clean crisp fragrance in the air that says the holidays can’t be too far off. But what gets me most excited about the Fall is that it’s apple pickin’ season.

Lyman Orchards – Middlefield, CT

For me, there is something very romantic about journeying with family & friends to one of the many local orchards in New York and Connecticut.  It’s very special to spend a leisurely day together… picking apples, sipping cider, and meandering through corn mazes. All a much welcome departure from the fast-paced lives we’ve come to know.

When the day is done my mind will often wonder to memories of Autumns past, to Thanksgiving around the dinner table, and in particular to my sister’s homemade apple pie. Roseann is quite the natural baker, and on holidays, the dinner conversation will inevitably turn to guessing which of her fantastic desserts she may have prepared this time around. Of course I’m always hoping for my favorite—her wonderful apple pie. It just melts in your mouth, and is still, to this day, the best I’ve ever tasted.

Special thanks to Roseann for sharing, and for all her help in baking & shooting the pies for this post!

TIP:  If you’re like me, you believe that apple pie shouldn’t crunch when you take a bite, so use naturally soft apples like Macintosh or Cortland. It makes all the difference.

Autumn Apple Pie

Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • Pastry for 9″ double crust (use Pillsbury Pie Crust or make from scratch)
  • 8-10 medium cooking apples  (Macintosh or Cortland), peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • milk (for browning of crust)

• Preheat oven to 425F.

• Line 9″ pie pan with one pastry.  In large bowl stir together apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Spoon into pastry-lined 9″ pie pan. Dot with butter. Cover with second pastry; fold overhang under; crimp and  flute edge.

• Brush pastry with milk;  cut a few slits for steam to escape.

• Bake 40-45 minutes until pie is browned and apples are tender. To prevent over-browning, cover pie loosely with tent of foil after 20 minutes.  Cool on wire rack or serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Joe


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Filed under apples, Dessert, Pie

Sweetest Witch Ever!

Looking for a spooky Halloween snack ? Check out this adorable witch that we recently  shot for The Popcorn Board. It’s easy to make & fun for kids —you just need grocery store ingredients and your imagination. Trick or Treat!

Here’s the recipe, courtesy of The Popcorn Board.

Witchy Popcorn Balls

Yield: 8

  • 16 chocolate wafer cookies
  • 3 quarts popped popcorn
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or
  • margarine
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 3 tablespoons (1/2 of a 3-ounce box)
  • lime gelatin dessert mix
  • Green food color, optional
  • 8 chocolate ice cream cones
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • Orange sugar sprinkles, placed in small bowl
  • Jelly beans, candy corn, licorice string
  1. Spread a sheet of wax (or parchment) paper over a work surface and place the wafer cookies on it.
  2. Spray a large mixing bowl with cooking spray and place popcorn inside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in marshmallows and gelatin dessert powder until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. If desired, adjust color with a drop or 2 of food color. Pour over popcorn and mix well until coated.
  4. Spray hands with cooking spray and press firmly to form into 8 balls. Place balls on 8 of the wafer cookies. Press candy decorations into popcorn balls to form eyes, nose and mouth.
  5. Place chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover and heat for 10 seconds. Stir chocolate to aid melting. Repeat as needed until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  6. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon melted chocolate onto the top of each popcorn ball. Press a few licorice strings into chocolate to form ‘hair’.
  7. Make hats: dip cone edges into melted chocolate and then into orange sugar sprinkles. Using melted chocolate as the “glue,” attach cones to remaining wafer cookies to form hat with brim. Place hats onto popcorn balls, again using melted chocolate as the “glue.” Allow chocolate to set for about 45 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve or seal individually in plastic wrap for storage.

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Filed under Halloween, Holidays, Popcorn, Sweets