Falling in Love with Fall Food Part II

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This second chapter in a celebration of fall food includes recipes for several seasonal fruits that make a sweet addition to any dish. Apples, figs, pears and pomegranates are just a few favorites that offered inspiration for the following collection of favorite fall recipes.


Nothing tastes more like fall than Apple Brown Betty, a variation of apple crisp that is a blend of tart apples, bread crumbs and a sugary sweet brown sugar sauce. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a really decadent dessert.

Instead of using rolled oats like traditional apple crisp dishes, this Apple Brown Betty
incorporates fresh bread crumbs in the mix.
Photo Source: Saveur

Another recipe that offers a taste of fall is this Epicurious version of Apple Butter, a delicious spread that's great when paired with a crusty piece of bread or as a flavorful sandwich filler that will break the monotony of other brown bag lunch options.

If you're looking for a cocktail with a fall twist, try Honeycrisp Apple Sangria or Spiked Apple Cider.


Figs are a fall delicacy with their sweet honeyed taste and soft texture. They're a great ingredient to dress up a dish and give it a more gourmet feel. Like many fall fruits, figs are a favorite for baked goods, desserts, and pastries. If you're looking to get your fig fix from baking, then try out Autumn Muffins, which also include apples, cranberries and hazelnuts along with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Or, if you're looking for a fun appetizer for a wine and cheese party, then your guests will be impressed by Figs and Toasted Almonds Brie, an appetizer that's quick and easy to make, but is an elegant alternative to a typical cheese tray.

If you'd like to make dinner and include figs, then try out this recipe for Homemade Focaccia Bread with Figs and Goat Cheese, an Italian-inspired dish that includes fresh figs, pine nuts and goat cheese atop a doughy pillow of fresh focaccia bread. To save time on this recipe, simply use a boxed version of focaccia bread as the base instead of a homemade rendition.

Fig pizza, anyone?
Photo Source: Local Lemons

Another fruit of fall harvest, pears are tasty when paired with a salty ingredient like cheese. This Fall Pear Galette is a pretty dessert that plays on these flavor pairings, with sharp cheddar cheese and Bartlett or D'Anjou pears surrounded by a ring of pie crust, a fun alternative to the traditional latticed pie.

This Fall Pear Galette is a rustic fall dish with that combines the
sweet flavor of pears with sharp cheddar atop a pie crust.
Photo Source: MyRecipes

Roquefort Pear Salad is another recipe that gets it's flavor from the unlikely ying and yang pairing of pear and cheese, but this time Roquefort, a pungent, creamy, crumbly bleu cheese is used. With other flavorful ingredients like pecans, avocado and green onion, this salad offers a healthy choice for a fall lunch or dinner.


With a powerful punch of sweet and tart flavor, pomegranates are a fun fall fruit to incorporate in your cooking. While pomegranates have become popular in recent years in the US, they're an ingredient that's been used in Indian, Middle Eastern and Greek cuisine for centuries. High in antioxidants and Vitamin C, pomegranates are offer a variety of health benefits.

Feeling adventurous in the kitchen? Try out POM Tiramisu for a sweet,
tart addition to traditional tiramisu.
Photo Source: POM Wonderful

If you've never cooked with pomegranates before, check out this About guide "All About Pomegranates." With a step-by-step guide to seeding pomegranates, as well as a video and information on how to select and store the fruit, you'll be a pomegranate connoisseur before you know it!

While Mexican Salad with Pomegranate-Lime Dressing derives pomegranate flavor from pomegranate juice, POM Tiramisu and Pomegranate and Lemon Herb Tilapia both incorporate the arils, or the fleshy seeds, as key ingredients. For more pomegranate recipes, visit the site of the maker of POM juice, which includes a variety of pomegranate-inspired dishes.

Falling in Love with Fall Food Part I

Monday, September 14, 2009

While the leaves haven't started changing colors yet, and the temperature is still 86 degrees in Charlotte, fall still seems to be in the air. School is in session, football season has kicked off and weekend camping trips are replacing days spent by the poolside. Along with the new smells and sights of fall comes a slew of new seasonal ingredients. Among favorite fall veggies now in season are pumpkin, squash, eggplant and sweet potatoes.


Possibly my most favorite pumpkin recipe of all times is this Pumpkin Cake recipe that I've been making for years. The moist and delicious cake is a blend of yellow cake mix, canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice which includes one secret ingredient - butterscotch pudding. Serve warm with Cool Whip for an indulgent fall-inspired treat.

One oven-baked breakfast dish that I sampled for the first time last weekend is the Pumpkin-Cinnamon Streusel Buns, a delicious, time-consuming concoction that's well worth the effort to make.

This twist on traditional cinnamon buns is festive and flavorful.
Photo Source: My Recipes

Finally, if you're looking to break out of the realm of pumpkin baked goods, then sample this highly-recommended recipe for Pumpkin and Shrimp Bisque. A creamy blend of salty, rich flavors with notes of lemon, pepper and sage. A whopping 91 percent of those who tried this recipe said that it's a keeper and that they'd make it again.


In addition to pumpkin, many other squash varieties are in season during the fall and winter months including butternut squash, acorn squash and spaghetti squash, which are several of my favorites. If you're looking to serve a yummy squash dish, then I'd recommend Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Parmesan Croutons. The rich, creamy soup is well-paired with the parmesan croutons. A dish that's sure to warm you up on a cool fall day, butternut squash soup keeps well and makes for a nice alternative to a brown bag lunch. Check out this Cooking Light article for tips on how to peel and cut butternut squash if you've never done so before. It can be a bit tricky, and if you think it may be too much of a hassle, your local Harris Teeter or another upscale grocery chain may have fresh and frozen pre-cut butternut squash.

When I stumbled on this Winter Panzanella recipe reviewed by Smitten Kitchen, I couldn't contain my excitement. Having recently made a summer version with fresh tastes of basil, tomato and chunks of yummy sourdough bread, I was thrilled to find a version with seasonal roasted vegetables, including squash.

Winter Panzanella incorporates tasty fall and winter veggies
for a fresh and colorful dish.
Photo Source: Smitten Kitchen


An avid eggplant lover, I can't get enough of this funky fall veggie. The key to this somewhat high-maintenance ingredient is in preparation. In some cases you may need to sweat the eggplant by placing peeled and cut slices on a plate and coating them in a generous layer of salt, which will bring out the bitter flavors. The process takes about 30 minutes, and you'll know when it's done because the slices will feel more flexible, bending easily to the touch. Check the eggplant recipe you're using to see if you need to go through this preparation step or if you can skip it.

My all-time favorite eggplant recipe is eggplant parmesan. While I've made it by sweating it and then baking it in a layered casserole dish, I've found that dipping the slices of eggplant first really makes for a much tastier (and much more unhealthy) final product. Try out this version for a hearty, meat-free layered dish. This is another one of those recipes where time equals taste, but if you need a quick eggplant parmesan fix (which I admittedly do at times), pick up some frozen, pre-breaded eggplant slices at your local Trader Joe's.

Other awesome tried-and-true eggplant recipes include Penne with Sausage, Eggplant, and Feta and Stuffed Eggplant, both of which are Cooking Light recipes and healthier options for flavorful fall dishes that will leave you feeling full. And, if you're an eggplant addict like me, then be sure to check out aubergines.org, a fun purple-themed site filled with hundreds of eggplant recipes.

This Cooking Light Stuffed Eggplant recipe received 5-stars from
reviewers and is a tried-and-true dish that plates pretty.
Photo Source: My Recipes

Sweet Potato

The final fall veggie that I'm spotlighting is the sweet potato - another rich, colorful ingredient that offers opportunity that extends beyond traditional Thanksgiving sweet potato casseroles and baked sweet potatoes.

To add some flavor and spice to sweet potato, try out Chipolte Sweet Potatoes or Roasted Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges, each of which draws flavor from a blend of spicy herbs. Finally, if you're looking for something on the sweeter side or for a dish that makes for great finger food, try the Harvest Sweet Potato Pecan Tarts. This dish was a big hit at the engagement party last fall. Party goers couldn't resist these sweet miniature sweet potato and pecan pie treats!

Opt for some spice instead of sugar with your sweet potatoes this fall.
Photo Source: Smitten Kitchen

Check back soon for more fall recipes! Part II will pull inspiration from recipes with fall fruits including apples, figs, pomegranates and pears.

The Hype about Skype

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

With a recent Oprah endorsement, Skype has seen user ship jump sky-high in just a few short months. Despite being in operation since 2002, the service, which is now owned by eBay, has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. So with all of this hype about Skype, you may begin to wonder – what’s the big deal?

Skype, which rhymes with type, is an Internet-based communication service that allows users to call each other from any place in the world through their computers for free. You can even make calls through your computers to cell phones and landlines for a small fee.

So what’s the catch? Well, there isn’t one really. You have to have Internet service in order to use Skype, and both users must have downloaded the program for your call to go through. Sometimes call quality is not crystal clear and there can be an echo or fading in and out, but with international phone rates being as much as $5 per minute, you can hardly complain about a service that offers the same for free.

This Skype screenshot shows a live video feed via web cam.
The computer-to-computer service is free worldwide.
Photo Source: Skype

In addition to being able to call users via Skype, you can also send instant messages, pictures and videos to users on your Skype buddy list, which allows you to see when they’re online and available. Call forwarding and voicemail are other features that are useful for travelers, students studying abroad and anyone who has a computer and doesn’t want to pay long-distance calling fees.

If you plan to Skype friends and family at home while you’re traveling, download the software to test it out before you leave. Test call each of your contacts to work out any bugs. For example, your computer has to have a microphone in order to use Skype, so while you can talk into the speaker on newer laptops, this may not be the case for PCs and older laptops. Working out these details in advance is the best way to prevent communication barriers once you’re on the road.

You'll never know when Skype will come in handy during your travels! Kris and I announced our engagement to our families and friends through Skype, which was a nice alternative to email to actually be able to share the night's events and excitement in realtime. Happy Skyping!

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