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Pumpkin Spiced Whipped Cream

October 13, 2016 Dessert, Menu 1 Comment

Recently, I shared with you my recipe for Whipped Mascarpone and Greek Yogurt, served with puffed pastry and fresh fruit. Today, we’re going to add a little fall flavor to this recipe! All you will need are two additional ingredients that are autumn staples…pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice (a dash of cinnamon wouldn’t hurt either). The pumpkin flavor is not too overpowering…it’s just enough to put you into the autumn mood. Whether you decide to use my mascarpone and yogurt recipe, or the more traditional heavy whipping cream version, this delicious topping will go perfect with any fall dessert. Serve it over your favorite slice of pie, or along with spiced wafers or graham crackers. If you’re using the heavy whipped cream version, add a dollop in your cup of coffee, hot chocolate or apple cider. Or just eat it with a spoon!




Pumpkin Spiced Whipped Cream

Mascarpone and Greek Yogurt version
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 tspn powdered sugar
2 tspn vanilla extract
1/2 tspn pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
dash of cinnamon

Combine mascarpone, yogurt, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice in a chilled mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, mix until thick and creamy. Fold in the pumpkin puree. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Top with a dash of cinnamon.


Heavy Whipping Cream version
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tbspn powdered sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
1/2 tspn pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
dash of cinnamon

Combine cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a chilled mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, mix together until soft peaks form. Add the pumpkin pie spice and continue to mix until stiff peaks form. Fold in the pumpkin puree. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Top with a dash of cinnamon.




Talking Turkey on the Grill

Holidays play an important part in my family’s deep-rooted traditions. A holiday wouldn’t be the same if we weren’t spending time together, most likely while enjoying a beautiful, home-cooked meal. While the ‘big’ holidays are always special, we also look forward to the casual, summertime holidays that are celebrated over grill-outs, cold beers and fireworks. Not only are these holidays fun and exciting, they are also stress-free! We’ve started the tradition a few years back of spending these summer holidays with our close friends, Chrissy, Carl and their son Lucas, who are as near and dear to us as our own family.

A few months back, as we were enjoying a Sunday dinner with our friends, we shared conversation about how much we love Thanksgiving dinner, and how it’s a shame to enjoy such a great meal only once a year. This immediately led us to deciding on having a Friendsgiving Dinner on Memorial Day weekend. The timing would be perfect – it would be exactly 6 months until the actual Thanksgiving holiday, and we would have the rest of the summer to grill up burgers and hot dogs. From there, the wheels were in motion and the menu was planned between all of us…and a new holiday tradition was born!

The Menu

We decided to stick with a traditional Thanksgiving menu: stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, cold apple cider, a pumpkin dessert and, of course…the turkey. Chrissy and Carl also kicked the mood up a notch by digging out their Thanksgiving decorations and playing A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD…complete with popcorn as a snack. Since Memorial Day is the official kick-off to summertime (Carl’s awesome mojitos were a nice reminder of this), I thought it would be fun to cook the turkey on the grill. I have always heard that grilled turkey is fantastic, so what better opportunity to give it a go?

*Note – there was one additional item added to the menu, which I will be sharing in the future. Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait!

The Turkey

The first thing that I learned right out of the gate was that whole turkeys aren’t cheap this time of the year (and the local supermarkets aren’t giving away free turkeys with your bonus points). To not risk over-grilling a $45 bird, I decided to just go with a 6lb turkey breast. An additional benefit to going this route is that you can always purchase legs and wings separately, so you can prepare as many as needed. Being that this was my first try at grilling a turkey, I spent a good amount of time doing my research on the proper cooking methods. One of the key steps that I followed was to soak the turkey overnight in a brine. Not only does brining add flavor to the turkey, it also adds extra moisture to avoid the turkey from getting dried out while on the grill.

Brine Recipe
1-1/4 cups coarse salt
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 gallon cool water
Place water, salt and sugar into a large pot, bring to a slow boil. Remove from heat, let cool completely. Place turkey breast into pot, be sure to cover completely with brine. Cover the pot tightly with a lid, refrigerate for 8-12 hours. Rinse brine off of turkey breast before seasoning.

After rinsing the brine off of the soaked turkey, I brushed it with 1 cup vegetable oil, then coated the entire bird, inside and out, with 1 tbspn Italian seasoning and some salt and pepper.

There are a few methods for grilling a turkey that I found online. The most common method that I found and decided to follow was to cook the turkey sitting over a drip pan, using indirect heat. After warming the grill up to 350˚, I placed the seasoned turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack and placed it inside of a roasting pan. I added 1 cup of water to the roasting pan (adding additional liquid as needed while grilling, to prevent the drippings from burning. I sat the roasting pan over indirect heat and let it go for 1 hour and 45 minutes, until the internal temperature of the turkey was 165˚. After removing it from the grill and letting it rest for 20 minutes, the turkey was ready to be sliced. While the turkey was resting, I put the drippings to good use by making a home-made gravy (click here for the recipe).

If you are looking for a new method for making a turkey, I highly recommend grilling it. There is minimum prep time and effort involved, and if you follow the brining method, you will be sure to end up with a turkey that is flavorful and juicy!

Whole turkey cooked on a gas barbecue, using a roasting pan. Image courtesy of istock.com

Whole turkey cooked on a gas barbecue, using a roasting pan. Image courtesy of istock.com

What, No Cranberries?!?

Aside from finding out that turkeys are not in large supply this time of year, it was also a challenge to find fresh cranberries for my home made cranberry sauce. Instead of resorting to frozen cranberries, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of a summertime flavor to the table by making Bon Appetit’s Cherry Compote recipe (click here for the recipe). This an excellent substitute to the traditional cranberry sauce. It offered a nice summertime sweet/tart flavor combination, and the leftovers worked very well served over vanilla ice cream!

You Can’t Forget the Pumpkin!

It’s no secret that I am a nut for all things pumpkin. Even though we are not in pumpkin season, we made sure that it would somehow be represented at our Friendsgiving meal. For dessert, my wife Daria made a pumpkin crisp that has been a signature at our family’s Thanksgiving dinner for a few years now. We made sure to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which put this dessert over the top!

Pumpkin Crisp
(Originally posted at myrecipes.com)

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 c. of evaporated milk
1 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 (18.5 oz) pkg butter-flavored yellow cake mix
1 c. melted butter

1 c. chopped pecans
Ground nutmeg
Whipped cream
Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350F.  Stir together the first five ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 13×9 inch baking dish.  Sprinkle cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture (if you wish to add pecans, sprinkle them evenly over cake mix).  Drizzle melted butter over cake mix. Bake at 350F for 60 – 65 minutes or until golden brown**.  Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  IF desired, serve with whipped cream, sprinkle of nutmeg or vanilla ice cream.

** If baking ahead of time, I baked for about 55 min then re-heat again for another 10 min before serving.

I am very fortunate to be thankful for a lot of things in my life, most of all for my family and friends. I am also thankful that we started a new tradition to look forward to every Memorial Day!

Here’s to friends…and Friendsgiving!

Friendsgiving mascots!

Friendsgiving mascots!



The turkey breast, fresh off the grill!



…and dinner is served!


Pumpkin Spice Latte Liqueur

September 22, 2015 Dessert, Menu No Comments

It’s always just a short matter of time once September rolls around before I start delving into the pumpkin-inspired recipes. This year, I thought I would take my seasonal craving in a different direction. Instead of coming up with a festive fall-flavored dish, I decided to put my liqueur-making skills to the test by playing up on the coffee-house seasonal sensation…pumpkin spice latte. The recipe itself wasn’t that hard. I started with a basic espresso liqueur recipe that I occasionally make. From there, I added some pumpkin-inspired spices and a bit of pumpkin purée. The big debate with many pumpkin-based beverages is that there is no actual pumpkin in the recipe. I always found this argument to be silly and unnecessary. Pumpkin is a bland squash and doesn’t really have much taste on its own, so the flavors that most people associate with it are the spices that give it character: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves…aka PUMPKIN SPICE. However, I did decide to add a bit of real pumpkin to my liqueur. I thought that it would give the liqueur a bit more of a rich, full-bodied texture, and hey…nobody can accuse me of false advertising!

What’s different about this liqueur recipe as opposed to most others that I make is that the flavor infusion time is just a few days as opposed to a few weeks, or sometimes even months. Since the turnaround time is fairly quick, it’s easy to whip up a batch for a fall festival, Halloween party or even to serve with your Thanksgiving dessert. Just serve it over ice with a splash of light cream for a tasty adult beverage version of the fall favorite.

Cheers to the 2015 Autumn Season!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Liqueur

2-1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
10 tspn instant espresso
1 tbspn pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tspn cinnamon
4 tbspn pumpkin purée
1 750ml bottle vanilla-flavored vodka
1 750ml bottle plain vodka + 4 tbspn vanilla extract
light cream

Combine water, sugar, espresso, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon in a sauce pan. Simmer 1 hour and let cool. Once cooled, you will need to strain the liquid (a mesh strainer works best). The pumpkin and espresso grinds will thicken up and become syrupy as it simmers. You may need to strain it 3-4 times, until there is no more thick sludge in the liquid. Once straining is done, add vodka (and vanilla if necessary). Stir well and seal tight. Keep it sealed in a dark, cool area for 2-3 days. Serve over ice with a splash of light cream.

For a basic, yet still quite tasty espresso liqueur, simply eliminate the pumpkin spice, cinnamon and pumpkin purée from the recipe above. Follow the same preparation directions.

*Because this recipe uses canned pumpkin purée, it would be best to store it in your refrigerator.



Pumpkin Ricotta and Fig Crostini with Honey Maple Syrup

October 13, 2014 Appetizer, Menu No Comments

I always got a kick out of how television painter Bob Ross would turn artistic mistakes into ‘happy little accidents’.  This recipe isn’t so much of a mistake or an accident as it is a substitution, but it’s end result still made me much happier than anticipated.

My first intentions were to take the classic Italian dish of fresh figs, ricotta and honey, and add a little seasonal flare to it. My version would be fresh figs, pumpkin ricotta and a maple honey syrup. The only problem was that on the day that I planned to make this, I couldn’t find any figs. Every store I checked…nada. I guess I wasn’t the only one with figs on the brain that day.

I was offered two alternatives by one of the produce people that I spoke to that day. They suggested either dried figs or fig preserves. I didn’t think that dried figs would be a good substitute, but the jarred fig preserves got my wheels spinning. Since the preserves are obviously meant to be a spread, why not turn my idea into an autumn crostini? The lack of fresh figs turned into a happy and delicious Pumpkin Ricotta and Fig Preserve Crostini drizzled with maple honey syrup.

NOTE – the pumpkin ricotta is not as sweet and creamy as a pumpkin spread, filling or mousse. The ricotta cheese flavor stands out the most…with a bit of a cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice kick. It’s  quite delicious.

The following ingredients makes for a small batch of pumpkin ricotta. You can double up on ingredients to make a larger batch.
Pumpkin Ricotta
4 oz ricotta
2 oz pumpkin puree
1 tspn powdered sugar
1/4 tspn pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/2 tspn vanilla extract

Honey Maple Syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup

1 small jar fig preserves

1 French baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

Combine all pumpkin ricotta ingredients into a bowl, whip together until well combined. Chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.
Melt butter in a small sauce pan. Remove pan from heat, stir in honey and maple syrup.
Lightly coat the toasted crostini bread with fig preserves, add either a smear or dollop of pumpkin ricotta. Lightly drizzle with honey maple syrup.

If you do happen to come across fresh figs, you can slice them and dip them into the ricotta, or you can add a dollop of the ricotta to the top of the figs and drizzle with the honey maple syrup.

pumpkin fig


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