Seasonal delights: Pumpkin Spice chocolate chip cookies

October 16, 2010 in cookies, Food Porn


As we all move into the holiday season, many of us will be gearing up to do quite a lot of baking and then cooking on Thanksgiving and the end of year holiday feasts.

One of the things I love about this time is cooking with pumpkin and also the traditional spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and even cardamom.

When I was invited to the Baking with Betty event at General Mills, I learned about a special edition product called “Pumpkin Spice Cookies” (see below) and I even got to meet the woman who worked to develop the recipe, the packaging and the marketing for this product.


She was very proud of these cookies and was eager to hear how we all felt about them.

In theory, they sounded delicious. I FINALLY found the mix in my local grocery store and now, after making them and sharing them with my family, I know they are delicious in practice!

I added chocolate chips because I had an open bag – simply awesome.

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate chip cookies - Betty Crocker

[I bought this mix myself and was not obligated to discuss them here on this blog. I just share them because I found them delicious!]

Gourmet Live Socialvore

October 13, 2010 in Food Porn



If you have sharp eyes, you may notice I have a new badge in my sidebar to the right (also shown above).

Gourmet is launching what looks like a really neat new project – or perhaps its better to say the natural extension to their brand. Specifically, this is a content (read food porn) heavy web interface best experienced via your iPad called Gourmet Live.

When I got to play with an iPad recently I took it with me into the kitchen immediately!

The photos, all that delicious food porn we ALL love, they pop OUT on the iPad.

I feel, as a food photographer myself, that the iPad shines the brightest for this particular reason! But I am biased – I am VERY image-centric and find nothing more satisfying that cuddling up with the iPad and staring at food photography (god, I know, I am hopeless).

Its not just food porn, recipes, videos, and all sorts of content you expect from Gourmet Magazine, in your hand though – this is about sharing the experience with your friends (read – social media like facebook and Twitter!)

Watch this video below for a good explanation of what that means.

I am a charter member of the Gourmet Live Socialvore food bloggers and am looking forward to sharing this fun with those of you who might be interested in also playing along. I will learn more about how to do that in the next few weeks so I will get back to you on that.


Apple Pie, lazy Sunday fall mornings – Pillsbury pie crusts

October 12, 2010 in Ad free, baking, Food Porn, giveaway

[Details on the Pillsbury pie crust prize pack giveaway pack at the bottom of this post. This giveaway closed as of 10/26/10 at 9:00 pm EDT]


I live in apple country here in the Northeastern part of the US (central Massachusetts) so I am situated in the middle of many thousands of acres of apple orchards the year round. In the spring we are surrounded by the most beautiful white flowering trees who later bless us by their sweet and tart bounties. We usually go and make an afternoon of picking apples in the fall.



As a fun way to celebrate the fall, I have been given this neat pack of tools and ingredients one can use to make a splendid apple pie by Pillsbury and MyBlogSpark. (I received the sample pack for free but was under no obligation to write about my experience with these products).

Pie crust can be a challenge for beginning cooks but that should not completely bar you from making an amazing pie for your upcoming holiday dinners (impress the in-laws! your mom!). I have tried the cheap store brand crusts and have always been let down. Having received this free pack, I tried the premium Pillsbury crusts and can report a real, honest, qualitative difference between store brand and Pillsbury. If you are not going to make your own, give these a try, let me know if they work out for you.

Fall Apple Pie

In the prize pack, which I am giving away to one entrant in the contest shown at the bottom of this post, one gets:

  • Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts
  • set of measuring cups
  • apple corer/slicer
  • apple timer
  • red apple shaped trivet
  • pot holder
  • pie plate

Fall Apple Pie

Fall Apple Pie

Fall Apple Pie

I am going show how I made this delicious pie below!

Fall Apple Pie

Pre-heat your oven to the temperature recommended on the package.

Allow your Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts to come to room temperature (about 15 minutes on the counter top) and then carefully un-roll one of the crusts. Put that crust on the bottom of your pie plate.

I added a pie bird because a) I have one and b) I thought it would look neat with it.

Fall Apple Pie

Add your filling.

Fall Apple Pie

Carefully un-roll your second pie crust and prepare it the way you would like. The following illustrates how I did my decorations.

Cut out windows and use extra crust to decorate second layer.

Fall Apple Pie

Put the top crust on the pie, brush where the two crusts meet with some egg wash.

Fall Apple Pie

Fall Apple Pie

Crimp the top and bottom crusts together, not allowing the edge to get too thin (will burn too easily if it does)

Fall Apple Pie

Apply an egg wash over the top crust and sprinkle with large chunky sanding sugar crystals.

Fall Apple Pie

Bake as recommended for your filling!

Remove and cool some what before serving. – I recommend serving it with a slice of sharp cheddar as we do here in New England.

Fall Apple Pie

Giveaway Details:
To enter for a chance to win a Pillsbury pie prize pack (as seen above) you must do at least one of the following and may do all three to enter up to three times:

  • Leave a comment below telling me about your family’s most treasured fall harvest tradition
  • Tweet about this giveaway with this specific tweet ” I entered to win a Pillsbury Apple Pie prize pack @ Nikas Culinaria visit to enter! #pie #myblogspark RT pls! ” MAKE CERTAIN to comment below to let me know about the tweet
  • Blog about this giveaway and about your most treasured fall harvest tradition and then let me know that you blogged it (with valid link) in the comments below


Closing date for this giveaway is 10/26/10 at 9:00 pm EDT

After the contest is closed, I will choose the winner with a random number generator.

The Blue Jean chef: Comfortable in the Kitchen By Meredith Laurence

October 11, 2010 in Ad free, cookbook, Food Porn, giveaway, review


(Chicken Fried pork medallions, fried green tomatoes, sautéed garden spinach, white pan gravy)

This is a both a cookbook review and a giveaway. Five copies of this cookbook will be given away, the winners being selected on October 31, 2010 when there will be a simultaneous live event by Meredith Laurence, the author, on QVC on In the Kitchen with David at 12pm EDT. She will also be introducing her line of cookware along with her book on that day. The details on the giveaway are found later in this post.


Table of Contents

  • Soups and Salads
  • Snacks and Sandwiches
  • Pasta
  • Meat and Poultry
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Breakfast
  • Desserts and Treats

As with any cookbook author, Laurence seeks to present a select group of recipes to the reader in a certain way to make cooking easier and more enjoyable. Laurence crafts her book around core or basic recipes that introduce basic techniques. She shares some of her experience in these basic recipe sections to help the reader feel more comfortable with these techniques and suggests cookware and tools that makes the job easier. She then shares related recipes that helps novice cooks spread their wings with confidence and creativity.

Examples of basic recipes include:

  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Mac n Cheese
  • Roast Chicken
  • Meatloaf
  • Hamburger
  • Mussels
  • Roasted Vegetables
  • Pancakes
  • Cheesecake
  • Pie Dough
  • Dessert Souffle

For this review I chose the “Chicken Fried Steak” recipe which is listed under the basic recipe “Pan Fried Chicken”. In my version I used pork because thats what I had on hand!

I cut thin medallions from the loin to use in place of the tenderized beef steaks.

I found that we got a delightful and moist result from this simple recipe, I recommend it! As a side, I made fried green tomatoes because its the end of our gardening season and I have an abundance of green tomatoes! That recipe is not one I found in this cookbook.

Chicken Fried Steak (Page 118, modified here to pork vs beef)


  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1 C + 2 tablespoons flour, divided in half
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 tenderized round steaks (~5-6 oz each, 1/2 inch thick)
  • 1 pound shortening (2 C oil)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 C milk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 170 F. Pour buttermilk into shallow bowl. Combine 1 C flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and divide mixture between two separate bowls or plates.

Heat shortening/oil (I used olive oil) in a 12 inch heavy bottomed saute pan, about 1/2 inch of oil. Heat to ~ 350 F. When hot, dip tenderized steaks, one at a time, in the flour, then the buttermilk, then the flour and then put into the pan. Fry about 2 – 3 minutes per side (until golden) and then remove to the oven to keep warm.

Chicken fried pork and fried green tomatoes, garden spinach

When done cooking all meat, drain all but 1 tablespoon of the oil from the pan. Add 2 tablespoons of flour to the pan along with the fresh thyme. Cook about 2 minutes or until flour is cooked. Add the room temperature milk to the pan and scrub up all bits of fried meat from bottom of the pan. Whisk this sauce and cook until it comes to a boil and then thickens. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour this gravy into a gravy boat ad serve with the steaks as well as your desired sides.

Chicken fried pork and fried green tomatoes, garden spinach

Chicken fried pork and fried green tomatoes, garden spinach

Fried Green Tomatoes


  • 4 large green tomatoes
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C bread crumbs
  • 1/2 C corn meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • enough oil for about 1/4 to 1/2 inch oil in bottom of pan

Preheat oven to about 200 F. Heat oil to about 350 F. Slice green tomatoes about 1/2 inch in thickness. Dip tomato slices in eggs/milk and then dredge in the flour mixture. Place dredged slices into hot oil and cook until golden on each side. Remove slices to a baking pan in the 200 F oven to hold until time to serve. Sprinkle with some salt before serving.

Giveaway Details
To enter for a chance to win one of five copies of this cookbook you must do at least one of the following and may do all three to enter up to three times:

  • Leave a comment below telling me about your most important basic go-to recipe
  • Tweet about this giveaway with this specific tweet ” I entered 2 win @bluejeanchef ‘s cookbook Comfortable in the Kitchen @ Nikas Culinaria visit 2 enter! #recipes #foodies ” MAKE CERTAIN to comment below to let me know about the tweet
  • Blog about this giveaway and then let me know that you blogged it (with valid link) in the comments below

At the end of the contest, I will use a random number generator to select the winner.

I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Product Details

  • BLUE JEAN CHEF: Comfortable in the Kitchen
  • By Meredith Laurence
  • Walah!, LLC Publishing
  • October 2010
  • $24.95/Softcover
  • 96 full-color photos
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-9827540-3-0