Fun Fall Recipes

The switch has officially flipped in my home.  It feels, looks and smells like fall around here.  Fall flavors are about as distinct as any.  Warm, earthy, and of course…pumpkin spicy.  I’ve been invited by my friends at She in the CLE to create some fun fall recipes.  To me, a collection like that wouldn’t be complete without incorporating apples, pumpkin and a clam bake!

For those of you who have a countdown programmed in your phone for when the Starbucks PSL is finally available…this breakfast is for you.  Pumpkin.  Spice.  Pancakes.  Now, I could have developed my own pancake mix recipe, but I’m a realist.  And I think most of you are too.  So the base of this recipe is Krusteaz buttermilk pancake mix.  Then I put my own #Cheftovers twist on it.  Creative pancakes, like characters, or animals, have become a weekend tradition in my household (check out my Instagram account, @jenpicciano. My pancakes are usually my most popular posts). Just like jack-o-laterns, make these your own.  Use what you’ve got in the house to decorate these fun fall flap jacks. Or don’t.  And just enjoy fall’s favorite spice blend in a new way.

pumpkin-spice-pancake

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

1 c. Krusteaz buttermilk pancake mix

2/3 c. water

2 T. pumpkin puree

1/2 t. cinnamon

one pinch each of ground ginger, nutmeg and ground cloves

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Add a pad of butter on to a hot frying pan or griddle and spoon in a ladle full of the batter. Cook until you see bubbles.  Flip and cook the other side until golden brown.  Decorate like a jack-o-latern with candies, or just top with powdered sugar or syrup.

I’ve also taken some filling from leftover pumpkin pie (I know, who has that?? ) and added it to pancake batter, with similarly tasty results. 

Apples are abundant, cheap and versatile.  But why do something complicated…or expected with them? That’s not what you’re here for, right?!  Every time I walk past the caramel apple stands at late-summer county fairs, or fall festivals, I’m tempted by the combinations of sweet, tart flavors.  But I’m turned off by the task of tackling the whole apple and thick layers of caramel, chocolate etc. when I bite into them.  So why not break it down and still get all you’re after?

apple-nachos

Caramel Apple “Nachos”

1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced

1 T. chopped peanuts

1/4 c. Smucker’s salted caramel, warmed

1/4 c. chocolate chips, melted

1 T. Nestle Toll House Pumpkin Spice or Halloween morsels

Arrange the apple slices in a pile on a plate. Drizzle with melted chocolate and caramel.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and pumpkin spice morsels.

Clam bakes are one of my favorite fall traditions.  I love the steamy, savory smells, and appreciate the process of cooking clams, potatoes, corn and chicken in one giant pot of heavenly fall goodness.  But it can be intimidating and time-consuming.  So I took the elements of the fall party favorite and made it into a pizza!

fall-clam-bake-pizza

Clam Bake Pizza

1/2 russet potato

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 doz. middle neck clams

4 T. butter

1 T. shallots

1 bay leaf

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup cooked chicken (can be grilled, roasted, or leftover)

1 ear corn, kernels removed

2 slices bacon, cooked and finely chopped

1 T. chives (optional)

Pizza dough/crust

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and chop the potato, add to a pot of salted boiling water and cook until fork tender, then drain.  Mince the garlic.  Steam the clams with half the butter, stock, shallots, 1/2 of the garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper, and stock. Once they all open, remove them from the shells and reserve the liquid.

In a food processor, blend the cooked potatoes, the other half of the butter, the other half of the garlic, and several tablespoons of the liquid from the clams, until you get a consistency like Alfredo sauce.

Spread the potato mix on the pizza dough/crust like you would pizza sauce.

Top with chopped chicken, bacon, corn kernels, clams and cheese.  Bake until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown, (about 10-12 minutes).

No season can compete with fall when it comes to flavors.  I hope you enjoy my favorites as much as I do!

Dinner Lab: Beer! Please! Drunk Food Redefined

Who doesn’t have a favorite food to chow on when you’ve been drinking a couple of beers?  Now imagine a five course menu of elevated versions of all those favorite foods.  Good, right?!  That’s what Chef Brooks Hart offered to Dinner Lab diners at their second Cleveland event.

Dinner-Lab2-welcome card

When I read the menu sent to members in the weeks leading up to the dinner, it wasn’t a hard sell for me.  Billed as drunk food redefined, it also boasted beer pairings from two increasingly popular local breweries.  Sold.

Dinner-Lab2-view

As is always the case, the venue isn’t revealed until about 24 hours before the event.  And I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the second venue would be at the penthouse space of Skylight Financial Group, offering a unique and unforgettable view of the city.  We drank in the scenery and the cocktail hour special, named for the chef in honor of his 30th birthday.

Dinner-Lab2-ceviche

After the 30 minute cocktail hour, I was ready to dig in to course #1, a deconstructed fish taco with halibut ceviche, marinated in coconut milk and thai chili and crispy tortilla strips.  The fish was the perfect temperature and texture.  I could’ve done without so much lime juice.  But still a great start!  This was paired with Platform Black Eagle from Platform Beer Co.

Dinner-Lab2-poutine

The second course was a nod to all the Canadians and gravy fans in the dining room…poutine with crispy fingerling potatoes, a tempura cheese curd (my favorite element of this dish) and some lemon rind confit, (which was a surprise when I took the first bite, but I loved it too)

Dinner-Lab2-beer

The beer offering for this one was a smooth and refreshing compliment to the food, Platform Symon Says Saison from Platform Beer Co. It’s brewed exclusively for Iron Chef Michael Symon’s “B Spot”, (their website describes it as a citrus driven peppery saison utilizing a specialty yeast blend specific for this beer)

Dinner-Lab2-Pizza and braised bacon

Our third course was a tale of two dishes, for me.  It was listed as a pizza, but you could hardly eat it that way  The raclette flatbread with butter roasted mushrooms that served as the base was tasty, but a little tough.  And it was impossible to pick it up, or slice into the braised bacon and eat all of it as one bite as it was likely intended.  When I gave up and ate the elements separately, I was happy again.

Dinner-Lab2-commet card

As we ate and chatted with our guests, some friends who also enjoy food and these kinds of experiences as much as we do, I made sure to jot down a few notes on my comment card.  No, I’m not one of those people who does this at every restaurant I go…this is a huge part of the process for Dinner Lab and its chefs.  They take the feedback back to “the lab” and make changes (or not) according to the comments from their diners.

Dinner-Lab2-pretzel croissant

Course number four was the crowd favorite by far.  It was a pretzel croissant with marinated gouda and blueberry mustard.  I know…sounds a little crazy.  But I wanted a whole box of those pretzels and a vat of the blueberry mustard to take home!!

Dinner-Lab2-Chef Brooks Hart.Dinner-Lab2-preztel prep

One diner even stood up and whistled to get the crowd’s attention so he could shout “That preztel was the bomb!”  The chef told us he was relieved to hear it, as he put a lot of muscle power into rolling out enough of those for two seatings.  The beer pairing for that course was also my favorite, the Albino Stout from Butcher and the Brewer.  I order it every time I go there.  Great choice!

Dinner-Lab2-dessert

For dessert we had another helping of culinary imagination…a chocolate brownie topped with pickled peanuts (in a caramel sauce) creme fraiche and ganache.  I loved the bravery and spirit of adventure that this process fosters among its chefs.  Who pickles peanuts?!

Dinner-Lab2-dinning room view

We had mixed feelings about the dining room.  I loved the view of downtown, especially at sunset.  But once dinner began, the fluorescent lights of the business space took over.  To be honest, it wasn’t a distraction or something that hindered the experience…just an observation.

Dinner-Lab2-prep

We also got a chance to chat with both the chef and event manager by the end of the evening.  I was pleased to hear that a lot of what we ate was sourced from the iconic West Side Market and I am excited about the next venue (got the inside scoop…stay tuned…and hungry!)