Monthly Archives: October 2013

Chorizo Con Queso Dip in a Pumpkin

Chorizo Con Queso Dip Served in a Pumpkin

Chorizo Con Queso Dip Served in a Pumpkin

This is really a re-post, (click here to see the original post) but I love this recipe, and it’s so great for Halloween! If you can find festive black and orange tortilla chips to serve with the dip, they add a fun element; Black and Orange Corn Chipsblue corn tortilla chips also work well because they sort of look black. You could make this dish vegetarian by eliminating the chorizo and substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

Because of scheduling conflicts, I won’t be hosting a gala Halloween party this year; however, this leaves me more time to post Halloween themed food and party ideas.

INGREDIENTS: (serves 15-20 as an appetizer)

  • 1 Lb. Ground Chorizo Sausage*
  • 4 Cups Shredded Chihuahua Cheese (can substitute mozzerella)
  • 2 Cups Mexican Cheese Blend (4 Cheese blend – NOT Taco cheese because it contains spices)
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper (remove seeds and membranes for less heat) – finely chopped
  • 4 Oz. Can of Chopped Green Chiles
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cumin
  • 1/2-1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup of Flour
  • 2-3 Cups Chicken Broth
  • Chopped Fresh Cilantro – for garnish
  • 1 Large (about 3 Lbs.) Sugar Pumpkin (or medium sized regular pumpkin) for Serving- Optional

*If you can’t find loose ground chorizo, you can substitute chorizo that is cased – just chop it into small pieces. You could also substitute regular breakfast sausage, but you will have to increase your Mexican spices.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium saute pan, cook chorizo over medium to high heat, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain off excess fat from the pan. Add jalapeno, green chiles and spices to pan, and cook until jalapeno is tender. Add flour and cook until the flour starts to brown (3-5 minutes). Add 2 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in all of the cheese, stirring until the cheese is thoroughly melted. Check the consistency and, if necessary, add additional chicken broth to thin the dip- the dip should have a creamy texture. Pour cheese mixture into a baking dish (use a baking dish you would serve out of) or an oven-proof bowl. Bake for 20-30 minutes until bubbling and golden brown on top. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.

If you would like to serve out of a pumpkin, cut the top off of a 3 Lb. sugar pumpkin and remove the seeds and pulp from the pumpkin. Place the pumpkin on a baking dish, fill with the con queso, cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour (until pumpkin starts to brown and become tender). Do not overcook, or your pumpkin will be too soft to move to a serving plate. Remove foil and bake for another 10-20 minutes until cheese dip is bubbling and browned on top.


Deviled Egg Eyeballs

Deviled Egg Eyeballs

Deviled Egg Eyeballs

With Halloween just around the corner, I will continue to post some of my favorite creepy treats. These deviled egg eyeballs are always a favorite at my Halloween Party. They are easy to make (although I will never achieve the same perfection my friend Nora did the year she flew in for the party and was responsible for all blood spatter decorations involving red food coloring – Lizzie Borden Cake and Deviled Egg Eyeballs). For this popular appetizer, simply prepare deviled eggs (click here for the previously posted recipe), top each egg with a black olive slice and a caper, and use a toothpick dipped in red food coloring to add bloodshot streaks. Deviled eggs are always a favorite appetizer, so make plenty (I usually prepare 3 per person).Halloween Party 030

Halloween Lizzie Borden Cake

Halloween Party 042I have made this cake for my Halloween party for the last few years. I have a great homemade Red Velvet Cake recipe which I will share soon, but to be true to what is pictured, this cake is straight out of the box. The frosting is, however, homemade whipped cream cheese frosting. What makes this cake fun is the decoration. After frosting the cake, you simply add drops of red food coloring and “blow” them out to get the dripping blood effect. For those of you who are super germaphobes, you could probably use a hair blow dryer or small hand-held fan, but I just go right ahead and blow my concentrated breath all over the cake – of course I wouldn’t do this if I were ill.  As a final touch, add a lightweight plastic axe or hatchet (available at Halloween stores) to the cake and make a festive label.


  • 1 Box of Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • Egg, water, oil (as directed in cake mix instructions)

Prepare the cake according to the directions for two 8″ layers. Remove the cake from the pans, transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting. Halloween Party 037In the meantime, prepare the frosting.

For the Frosting:

  • 1 8 Oz. Package Cream Cheese (softened)
  • 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 tsp. Salt
  • 1.5 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream

Add cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla to a medium sized mixing bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer). Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add whipping cream to a separate chilled bowl (I place a small metal bowl in the freezer for about 15 minutes) and whip until the cream forms peaks. Gently fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture and stir gently until completely combined.

Frost one layer of the cake, top with the second layer and frost completely. Add a few drops of red food coloring to the top and sides of the cake and allow to drip (you will have to blow on the top droplets in order to get them to spread out and achieve that drippy look).

Roasted Golden Beets with Feta, Basil and Pumpkin Balsamic Drizzle

Roasted Golden Beets with Feta, Basil and Pumpkin Balsamic Drizze

Roasted Golden Beets with Feta, Basil and Pumpkin Balsamic Drizzle

I’m kind of bummed that this doesn’t look that great in the photo because my “roasted beet loving friend” and I loved this new creation. I’m a huge fan of roasted beets, and an even bigger fan of roasted golden beets – they don’t turn all of the other ingredients pink, and they have an earthy less sweet flavor. If you can’t find golden beets, by all means use red/purple beets. You could also substitute mint for the basil, but I prefer basil. For the drizzle, I used pumpkin oil and cherry balsamic vinegar. Again, there are plenty of options for substitutions here. In fact, when I was first thinking about a drizzle, I thought I would use walnut oil, but I didn’t have any. However, the pumpkin oil adds a great contrast to the beets, so it’s worth trying to find. I love fruit flavored/infused balsamic vinegars because I feel like they have a little more depth than just plain balsamic, but if you prefer, use plain balsamic or any other hearty vinegar. The measurements here are not exact and don’t need to be – adjust all according to your taste. Serves about 6.


  • 6-8 Medium to Large Golden Beets (can substitute red/purple beets)
  • 2-3 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 2-3 TBS. Pumpkin Oil (can substitute walnut oil or other favorite oil)
  • 10-12 Basil Leaves – chopped
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Cup Feta Cheese
  • 2-3 TBS. Cherry Balsamic Vinegar (can substitute regular balsamic or other favorite flavored vinegar)
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper


Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Place unpeeled beets on a foil lined baking sheet and coat generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover beets with another piece of foil and crimp edges to seal and form a packet. Roast beets for 30-45 minutes (depending on size of beets) until tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Peel off skins, cut off ends, and slice beets into bite-sized pieces. through Sept 24 014When beets are completely cool, add crumbled feta and chopped basil. Through October 9 011Gently mix – adding more feta or basil as desired. Season with oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or chilled.


Ginger Pear Tart

Ginger pear tart

Rustic Ginger Pear Tart

This is a simple rustic tart. In fact, it’s really simple if you do as I do and use a pre-made pie crust. I’ve made many varieties of this tart (apple, pear, berry), but there were beautiful pears at the market the other day and I couldn’t resist.PearsI bought this amazing ginger syrup that I’ve used on all sorts of goodies, but it was fantastic with the pears. I used it to glaze the crust, but if you don’t have ginger syrup, you can do a honey glaze and add some ground ginger or you could steep fresh ginger and combine that with honey. This would be great served with vanilla ginger ice cream or a simple ginger whipped cream. Neither of those were good options for me because I was serving the tart at school, but none of my kids complained.


  • 3-5 Medium Pears (Bosc, Anjou, Bartlett, or whatever is in season)
  • 1 Prepared Pie Crust (Pillsbury makes a great one)
  • 2 TBS. Sugar
  • 4 TBS. Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 2 TBS. Cornstarch
  • 1 TBS. Lemon Juice

For the Glaze:

About 2 TBS. Ginger Syrup. Alternative: Combine 1 TBS. Honey with 1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger and 1/4 tsp. Boiling Water.


Preheat oven to 425 Degrees. Peel and core the pears and slice into 1.4 inch pieces. In a glass, or non-reactive bowl, combine lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cornstarch. Mix until all ingredients are well combined; add pears and mix gently until pears are well coated.Sliced Pears In the meantime, lay out the pie crust and sprinkle the sugar over the crust. Sugared CrustTransfer the crust to a parchment lined (for easy clean-up) baking sheet. Mound the pears in the center of the crust and spread out leaving a 2 inch border. Pears on crustWorking in sections, fold the bordering crust up over the pears (the pears will not all be covered). Fold-up sidesBake at 475 Degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 Degrees. Bake for another 30-40 minutes until pears are tender and crust is golden brown. While the tart is still hot, glaze the crust and the exposed pears with ginger syrup or honey glaze. Allow to cool slightly and serve (or can be served later at room temperature).

Mixed Green Salad with Beets, Fennel, Orange and Greek Yogurt Dressing

Mixed Green Salad with Fennel, Beets, Orange

Mixed Green Salad with Fennel, Beets, Orange and Greek Yogurt Dressing

I served this salad about a year ago when our visiting author Julie Otsuko came for dinner. I still don’t know why I feel the need to experiment when I entertain guests, but I do. I mean you really can’t go wrong with a salad if you have a good sense of complimentary flavors. I love beets, and while they’re earthy and rustic, they are also sweet. The orange, obviously, adds another level of sweetness, but the citrus balances it. The fennel, which has a mild but distinctive licorice flavor adds a really nice contrast. The creamy, cool Greek yogurt dressing just brings everything together. This was really one of my favorite salads – as I say that, I wonder why I am just now getting around to publishing it. As with all of my salad posts, I only list ingredients, not amounts. Adjust according to your preference, whether your salad is a starter or main dish, and how many you are serving.


  • Mixed Spring Greens (or your favorite greens)
  • 2-3 Beets (combination of purple and golden)
  • 1-2 Oranges – sectioned, membrane removed
  • 1 Fennel Bulb – sliced thin (use a mandolin if available)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Greek Yogurt Dressing:

  • 3 TBS. Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 2 TBS. Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 TBS. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Light Brown Sugar
  • 1.5 TBS. Finely Chopped Chives
  • Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Cut the ends off of the beets. Brush beets with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Wrap in a foil pouch and roast in oven until tender but not too soft – about 20-25 minutes depending on size of beets. Remove beets from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, peel and slice into 1/4 inch slices. In the meantime, prepare the dressing by adding yogurt, Parmesan, vinegar, olive oil and brown sugar to a blender. Blend on medium until all ingredients are well combined and sugar is incorporated. Season according to taste with salt and pepper, and mix in chopped chives.
Assemble the salad on individual plates, adding the beets just before serving. Drizzle generously with dressing and serve.


Maple Glazed Bacon Muffins

Maple Glazed Bacon Muffin

Maple Glazed Bacon Muffin

I first made these muffins at the cottage over the summer. The little beach shop Nani’s on the corner was renowned for their gourmet hot dogs and bacon muffins. I concur that both are worthy of the highest praise. Unfortunately, since I’m only at the cottage for  2 weeks, I had to find a way to reinvent the muffins, or my enjoyment would be limited. Since my loaded blueberry muffins are always well liked, I decided to adapt that recipe. The glaze was a result of reading a variety of glaze and frosting recipes and merging several of the flavors that most appealed to me. While they’re not going to win any contests for healthiness, the muffins are quite tasty, so I entered them in a bacon recipe contest. While the contest does come with a cash prize, more importantly, the winner is awarded a year’s supply of bacon! My son was pretty excited at that prospect.


  • 10 Slices Thick Sliced Bacon
  •   6 TBS. Unsalted Butter – softened
  • 2 TBS. Bacon Drippings (cooled)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 3 TBS. Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Paper Cupcake Liners

For the Maple Glaze:

1 Slice Thick Sliced Bacon – cooked and crumbled for garnish
2 TBS. Cream Cheese- softened
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
3 TBS. Pure Maple Syrup


Cook bacon (either in the oven at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or in a large skillet or on a griddle on the stovetop) until crispy. Transfer cooked bacon to a paper towel lined plate and reserve bacon drippings. When bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add butter, sugars and eggs to a large mixing bowl and cream together.
Sift all of the dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Add vanilla to milk. Add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately (in about 2- 3 batches) to the creamed butter mixture. Crumble the bacon into small pieces and gently fold bacon into the batter. Mix-in Bacon
Line a muffin tray with cupcake liners Spoon batter into tray filling each compartment 2/3 full.Fill muffin trays

Place muffin tray in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes (until a toothpick inserted comes clean). Cooked muffins
While the muffins bake, prepare the maple glaze. Combine all glaze ingredients, except bacon, in a small-medium sized mixing bowl and, using a hand mixer, combine until all ingredients are incorporated.
Allow muffins to sit for 3-5 minutes before removing from the tray. Spread maple glaze over muffins and sprinkle each glazed muffin with a bit of crumbled bacon.