Tag Archives: fall

ACC Parties: Oktoberfest

IMG_0985

I kid you not – the German outfit koozies I got at World Market is 100% the reason why we had an Oktoberfest party.  How could I not???  Also the idea of a fall party with beer and pretzels was too good to pass up.  This is definitely the kind of party that is perfect for folks that don’t love to cook, as most of the food on this menu is already prepared.  So take your time with displaying the food and enjoying time with friends.  To get people in the mood at my party they were greeted with a mini pumpkin and beer coaster display that I had seen on Pinterest.  I basically stole a whole bunch of random cardboard coasters from bars leading up to the party – shhhh!

dsc04307

I lit lots of candles and set out flowers in fall colors.  Ideally we would have been outside but it was a grey and yucky day.  Sometimes I think that is more fun because people really hunker in to have a good time.  A couple of my friends have been to beer fests were they give you pretzel necklaces to clean your palate between beer tastings (also presumably to help keep you sober!).  I bought a bag of mini pretzels and just strung them on grosgrain ribbon long enough to put over everyone’s heads.  It was a great favor and helped keep the party going.

dsc04298

German food can be pretty heavy so I wanted to have a mix of snacky type things as well as a full meal if my guests were so inclined.  On my kitchen island I set out Ina’s famous Green Herb Dip along with endive spears and celery.  Make two batches of this dip – it goes fast!

It’s not a party without cheese, so I set a whole bunch out on my epic cutting board.  A mix of gouda, cheddar and blue cheese along side some sliced salamis, hearty crackers and grapes give this cheese board a rustic fall vibe.

dsc04312

You cant have Oktoberfest without beer and once September hits there will be plenty of options in the stores.  I went with a bunch of mixed cases, some actually German and some just fall craft beers.  Make sure to have plenty of water as well (I did a large container so people could serve themselves) and a couple of bottles of wine in case you have some non beer drinkers (!!!).

dsc04286

Pretzel necklaces was not going to be enough, especially when I live near The Pretzel Bakery (OMG OMG OMG).  So I ordered up a whole mess of them and kept them warm in the oven.  To display them I used a pasta drying rack that has dried exactly zero strands of pasta but was PERFECT for this!

dsc04311

Stock up on lot of mustard, preferably in a couple of flavors.  Normally I would have put the mustard in ramekins but lets be honest,  it is way more satisfying to squeeze mustard on a pretzel for some reason.

Oktoberfest means bratwurst so I bought a ton of them and simmered them in beer first – then just throw them on the grill when you are ready.  Set out buns and store bought sauerkraut (because no one ever has needed their house to smell like sauerkraut)  and you are in business.

dsc04297

I also made a fantastic German potato salad from the New York Times and set out good old potato chips to round out the meal.  But wait – no dessert?  Of course not and what better than German Chocolate Cupcakes.  Or cut out a step and just buy some delicious cupcakes.  That would mean all you have to make is dip, potato salad and grill some bratwurst.  Easy right?  Throw this party to usher in fall or just to justify lederhosen for a beer!

A Deconstructed Turkey Rachel

I used to be able to travel back to Boston all the time for work.  It was great because I got to see family and friends and stay connected to my hometown in a way I can’t do now.  However, I would be lying if I said it didn’t also have to do with frequent stops to the Paramount, an awesome diner like place on Beacon Hill.  Open since 1937 this place is always packed but worth the wait.  My standard lunch order was the roasted turkey Rachel with sweet potato fries.  If you have never had a Rachel, its basically a Ruben sandwich with turkey and coleslaw instead of sauerkraut.  The mix of the tangy Russian dressing with the hearty turkey and the rye bread make me super happy.  Since I no longer get to fly up to Boston for one every couple of weeks I started craving it big time.  That’s when the idea to deconstruct the Rachel came to me – turn a lunch classic into a dinner staple.  In place of the rye bread I simply breaded turkey cutlets with breadcrumbs mixed with caraway seeds (the nutty yummy flavor you get in rye bread comes from those seeds).  Then the Russian dressing and coleslaw come together as a bed for the turkey cutlet.  To elevate this a bit I made my own Russian dressing and used bagged broccoli slaw which is much more crunchy and flavorful then the cabbage kind.  A bite of the cutlet with the slaw together and BAM you have a Rachel sandwich!  This dish will definitely get me through until the next time I can go to the Paramount.  Serve it for a totally outside the box Thanksgiving with some hoppy beer and I am sure your friends and family will flip.  Have a great holiday!!

A Deconstructed Turkey Rachel

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 12 ounce bag of broccoli slaw
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound turkey cutlets
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium size bowl combine the mayo, Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, apple cider vinegar, and hot sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the broccoli slaw making sure it is all combined.  This can be done several hours in advance, store in the fridge and just take it out 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off.  Set out three bowls for breading – one with the breadcrumbs and caraway seeds in it, one with the flour and one with the egg, beaten with a splash of water.

Set out a plate or cookie sheet to place the breaded cutlets on.  First tip each cutlet in the flour, shake off the excess, then dip in the egg, making sure to coat the entire thing and then finish in the caraway breadcrumbs, pressing them on to make sure they stick.

Once all the cutlets are breaded heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Once they are hot add as many cutlets as comfortably fit in.

Cook 3 minutes per side and remove, add the remaining butter and oil to the pan and cook the remaining cutlets.  Serve the cutlets on top of the slaw mixture.

Peanutty Oatmeal Cookies

DSC01641

Ok there is plenty of candy around at Halloween – dessert seems like overkill.  But this cookie has oats in it!  Don’t you feel virtuous already??  We get a million trick o’ treaters so having something to snack on while drinking wine and passing out candy is a good thing.  You can also make these cookies with peanut butter chips but the Reese’s gave them a nice Halloween look.  Two important tips to take away from these cookies that work for all drop cookies – first make sure to really cream the butter and sugar together.  I used to just mix the two until combined but once I started really letting my mixer go to work until the butter and sugar gets light in color and fluffy, my cookies are much lighter and softer.  You cannot over beat the batter before the flour has been introduced so really work the butter and sugar for as long as your arm can take it if you are using a hand mixer or about 3 minutes if you have a stand mixer.  Second tip is to chill your dough.  At least 20 minutes is good but you can also store the dough in the fridge for a couple of days.  Drop cookies if the dough is too warm will spread when they bake and you will end up with a flatter, crunchier cookie than you want (or perhaps even the dreaded one giant cookie melted together).  Wednesday I will be posting the perfect dinner to go along with these cookies and trick or treating and then Friday will be a special cocktail to wash it all down with.

Peanutty Oatmeal Cookies 

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted room temperature butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 9 ounces Reeses Pieces

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cream the butter and sugars in a large bowl or a stand mixer – mix for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.

While the butter and sugar is mixing combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl with a whisk.  Add the egg and vanilla to the butter and sugar and mix until combined.  Stir in the oats and Reeses Pieces with a spoon and then refrigerate for 20 minutes.  Drop the cookies on sil pat or parchment paper lined cookie sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes until golden.  Let cool on a baking rack – the cookies can be stored for several days.

Pumpkin Lasagna

DSC01346

The great thing about getting comfortable with a lasagna recipe is that you can change it up pretty easily depending on your mood, what’s in the fridge, or in season.  Remember the Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Lasagna from June?  I made that with tons of fresh basil and a light tomato sauce.  Now that it’s fall I took the same recipe and method and just swapped out basil for sage and tomato sauce for pumpkin sauce.  The rest, the 3 cheeses and prosciutto, stay the same.

This version is a “bit” richer so you definitely want to pair it with a light salad and have a nice warming red wine on the side.  This sauce would also be lovely just over regular pasta, maybe with some cubes of roasted butternut squash tossed in as well.  I won’t bore you all to tears with step by step pictures in this post, if you need a reminder of what it should look like during assembly just refer back to the original post and follow along.  I will definitely be coming up with a winter and spring version of this lasagna – it’s just that good.

Pumpkin Lasagna 

Pumpkin sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small onions, or one large, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 16 ounces pumpkin puree (make sure its plain pumpkin not pie filling)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon piment de espellete (if you don’t have that, well let’s assume you don’t, use 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup cream

Rest of the Lasagna

  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese (either homemade or good quality)
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped sage
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 8 sheets of no boil pasta
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

First make the pumpkin sauce – in a saucepan over medium heat add the olive oil and cook the onions and garlic for 7 minutes until soft and translucent.  Add the pumpkin, nutmeg and red pepper and turn up the heat to medium high.  Cook on this higher temperature for 3 minutes, stirring frequently so the bottom doesn’t burn.  Add the broth and cream and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  This makes 2 1/2 cups of sauce.

If baking right away preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl mix the ricotta, goat cheese, egg, sage and prosciutto together then season with salt and pepper.  Put a 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the large pan or distribute equally among the 2 smaller pans, using the spoon to spread out the sauce.  Then add 4 sheets of the no boil pasta on top (4 laid in the bottom of the large pan or 2 in each small pan).  Then add half of the mozzarella on top of the pasta.  Next you add half of the ricotta mixture – don’t worry if your layers of sauce or cheese don’t cover the whole surface, once these get in the oven everything pretty much melts together.  Then comes another 1/3 of the sauce, 4 sheets of pasta, the remainder of the mozzarella and the remainder of the ricotta mixture.  Finish it all off with the rest of the sauce and then top with the grated parmesan cheese.

If you are going to freeze them cover with a layer of saran wrap then a layer of tin foil.  They should freeze well for 6 months – take it out of the freezer the night before you want to bake it and let it defrost in the fridge.  You could also just assemble these and leave them in the fridge for a couple of days (3 max) and then bake.

Once you are ready to bake put the lasagna in a 400 degree oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes, maybe 40 if it’s coming from the fridge.  It should be brown and bubbly on the top.  Let cool for 5 minutes or so before cutting into slices.

Apple and Cheddar Risotto

Last day of apple week – I hope you guys enjoyed it.  Today’s recipe is inspired by a dish I saw on a menu years ago.  My brain is full of half baked ideas like this, that I glean from long forgotten sources.  I do remember thinking how unusual cheddar sounded in a risotto but now I am sad I didn’t try it earlier!  The tradition is parmesan of course, but cheddar has the same salty, nutty goodness and melts well right into the rice.

To add some crunch I sprinkled the top with toasted walnuts which keeps the whole thing from tasting like baby food.  Also the apple sauteed in with the shallots adds some sweetness and heft to the dish. We had this with a nice green salad (and ate all 4 portions between the 2 of us!) but I think it would make a really nice starter for a fall dinner party, then it would likely serve 6.  Have a great long weekend!

Apple and Cheddar Risotto 

  • 6 cups of chicken or veggie stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1 apple, chopped (small dice)
  • 1 cup aborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Add the stock to a small saucepan and warm over low heat.  In a high sided skillet melt the butter over medium heat, then add the shallots and apple and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the rice and stir it around until all the grains are coated in the butter.  Reduce the heat to medium low.  Splash in the wine and use your spoon to stir the rice.  Once almost all of the wine has cooked off you can start ladeling in the stock.

Add 1 ladelful at a time, stirring near constantly.  Once the rice starts looking dry add in another ladelful.  After about 25 minutes I start checking the doneness of the rice but usually it will take closer to 30 or 35 minutes to cook.  Once the rice is done (its tender with just a little bit of bite to it) take it off the heat and stir in the cheddar.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.  Top with chopped walnuts and serve immediately.

%d bloggers like this: