Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

As fall continues to set in and the weather cools down by the day, all I want to do is make comforting fall dishes and satisfying baked goods. With my constant craving for sweet treats, I decided to knock another dish off my pumpkin list - chocolate chip pumpkin bread! The combination of sweet and spice makes for a perfect fall treat, especially with a cup of tea to start your morning.

This recipe makes two loaves of bread, but unfortunately I only own one loaf pan, so this turned into a long baking endeavor. Lucky for me, I had twice the time to enjoy the great smells coming from my oven. Once the first loaf was baked to wonderful golden brown perfection, I couldn't wait to try a slice!

The pumpkin and mix of fall spices balances really well with the sweet, melting chocolate embedded throughout the bread. I was a little worried that the chocolate would overwhelm the bread, but it was just the right amount to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Although Matt and I definitely could have eaten a whole loaf between the two of us, I tried to practice some self control and brought almost a loaf and a half to work to share with my coworkers. I love sharing baked goods with my friends and coworkers, especially as it's getting closer to the holidays. Who doesn't love an unexpected sweet treat to make it through the work day? Let me know some of your favorite baked goods to make during the fall so I can try them too!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NYC Wine and Food Festival!

I had an amazing weekend volunteering at the New York City Wine and Food Festival with my friend Aleiya! Despite being completely exhausted today after volunteering at four events in three days, I had a great time seeing so many of my favorite celebrity chefs in person and tasting so much delicious food!

We started the weekend volunteering at Morimoto's Rockin' Dumplings and Rollin' Sushi event. I was so starstruck with the number of celebrity chefs I saw - Robert Irvine, Guy Fieri, Andrew Zimmern, Jacques Torres, and, of course, Masaharu Morimoto! There were also several chefs from Food Network Star - Damaris Phillips, Justin Warner, and the Sandwich King himself, Jeff Mauro! I tried my best to contain my smile and excitement every time I saw one only a few feet away. One of the best moments (other than Justin Warner singing 99 Problems during karaoke) was getting a picture with Morimoto, a foodie's dream come true! We were able to sample all of the dishes as well and the food was fantastic. I was so stuffed as we only had a limited time before going back to volunteering so we made the most of our time.

Masaharu Morimoto, Andrew Zimmern, Jacques Torres and Ming Tsai (pardon the phone photo quality)!
Aleiya and I with Morimoto - amazing!
On Saturday, we volunteered at the Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie making class. This was a quick two hours of our time, registering and guiding attendees to the event itself within the International Culinary Center. Later that night, we volunteered at Bobby Flay's Tacos and Tequila. This event was fantastic, with so many delicious dishes and tequila cocktails. I ate so much that I physically could not fit any more food in my stomach. If only I had more self control!

The Sandwich King! Such a nice guy :)
My final event, which I did on my own, was Dale Talde's Dim Sum Party at Buddakan. There were two floors of dim sum style dishes to try, and although I was only able to try a smaller selection of dishes since it was closer to the end, they were still delicious. My favorite dish was a kabocha squash dumpling with lobster bubble tea - I had three!

It was an amazing and very tiring weekend, but I definitely can't wait to volunteer again next year! I know I'll be sleeping well tonight!

Saturday, October 12, 2013


In celebration of Oktoberfest, Shake Shack has a special menu of delicious German foods, like bratwursts, Polish sausage, and a new burger that has a bratwurst on it...yum! Matt and I couldn't miss the opportunity to chow down on some tasty food and wash it down with an ice cold beer!

I tried the currywurst, which is a Bavarian brat with curry ketchup and crunchy fried shallots. The ketchup was perfectly seasoned with a good kick of curry, but not too much to overwhelm the brat. The shallots added a great crunch and tasted delicious on their own too.

             Currywurst and Shackmeister Ale                   Chedder brat burger and an ice cold Oktoberfest hiding in the background

Matt tried the cheddar brat burger, which is a beef patty topped with a griddled cheddar bratwurst, crispy shallots and ShackSauce. The burger was full of flavor from the perfectly cooked beef patty and juicy cheddar bratwurst, a needed crunch from the fried shallots, and rounded out with the creamy ShackSauce. Mmm, what more could you want on a burger?

                             Ready to dig into that burger                                       Burger love!

I would definitely recommend trying some of their German goodies before they're all gone - you only have until October 13! Guten Appetit!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Favorite Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Well, I think it's time to share another one of my all-time favorite recipes, especially since the fall weather is kicking into high gear. I actually had to bust out a legit coat today because the high was only in the low 60s! This weather just swooped in out of nowhere, especially since we had to use our air conditioner this past weekend because it got up to 80 and was way too humid for October weather.

In honor of fall weather and craving warm, delicious comfort food, I share with you my favorite recipe for creamy tomato basil soup. This is yet another recipe, like my turkey chili, that I, at one point in time, found online or in a magazine so I have no idea where the original source came from to give them credit. Sorry whoever provided this recipe to the world - I hope you know how much I enjoy it!

Some of my favorite recipes are very simple and pretty quick to make, just like this soup. The minimal number of ingredients in this recipe, which most are pretty common to find in the kitchen already, really allows each component to shine. I couldn't imagine omitting any of the ingredients as they all play an important part as the flavors meld together.

Mixing up my bowls for this photo shoot
I don't know anyone who doesn't love the smell of onion and garlic cooking in a pan. The release of smells that fill the kitchen (apartment too when you're living in NYC) are mouthwatering and definitely lead to the anticipation of the dish to come. This dish starts off in exactly that way and the final product is definitely worth the wait!

When you take your first spoonful, there are so many flavors and textures going on in your mouth! The bite from the onion that has cooked down most of the way, but still has a little crunch to it. The anise flavor from the pieces of basil. The chunks of diced tomato that pop in your mouth. And, most importantly, the creaminess of the soup as a whole from the heavy cream. This soup just wouldn't be the same without the cream - it really makes this dish and brings everything together. What better way to enjoy a generous bowlful of this soup than with a grilled cheese? I highly recommend it - you won't be disappointed!
My Favorite Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Serves: 4 servings


  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans of tomato sauce (14 oz. each)
  • 1 can of Italian style diced tomatoes (14 oz.)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Drizzle the olive oil, covering the bottom of the pot, over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil, until tender. Stir constantly to prevent scorching. Add basil to the sautéed onions and garlic. Allow to cook for at least 5 minutes.

Add the 2 cans of tomato sauce and the can of diced tomatoes to the pot. Decrease heat to medium-low and cover the pot to allow the flavors to blend for at least 15 minutes. 

Add the heavy cream to the soup mixture and stir well. Raise the heat to medium and stir constantly until soup begin to boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat to a simmer for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

It was a very pumpkin filled weekend (don't forget about our really fun pumpkin ale blind taste test!) and even more pumpkin loving this week! For our four year wedding anniversary, we took off last Friday to celebrate, kicking it off by making a delicious breakfast at home. Along with bacon (some of the best bacon I've had!) and eggs, we made the pumpkin spice pancakes I included in my list of pumpkin recipes to try. Boy, were they delicious!

Based on the proportions listed in the recipe, the batter was definitely too thick. I thinned it out a bit with some more milk, but not enough in the end as the pancakes were a bit denser than we would have liked. Despite the density, they had a delicious pumpkin flavor and the spices used in the recipe really came through. I was so happy with the punch of flavor these pancakes packed.

Since we had such a filling breakfast, there was batter left over for the next day. How lucky is that? After thinning it out some more, which required quite a bit more milk, the batter was a perfect consistency and the second batch on Saturday was even better!

We had a great anniversary day, going on a sailboat ride down at South Street Seaport. The weather was absolutely perfect, 80 degrees and sunny with some beautiful puffy clouds in the sky. We then headed to Park Slope, where we lived our first year in New York, and ate at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Hanco's, to chow down on some delicious and incredibly flavorful bánh mì sandwiches and wash it down with a refreshing Thai iced tea. If I only I could have this meal every day! Well....we may have eaten at their other location the following day because it was so good. Don't judge me - you would do the same if you tried it!

If you love pumpkin and the flavor of all the spices that come along with pumpkin pie, you'll love these pancakes. Just make sure to thin out the batter to make them nice and fluffy! I also made a few loaves of pumpkin chocolate chip bread yesterday so stay tuned!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Blind Taste Test: Pumpkin Ales

One of my favorite things about fall is the selection of pumpkin ales I can try throughout the season. I've come to realize that I'm fairly picky, and rightfully so, wanting a beer with full pumpkin and spice flavor. It's always disappointing ordering a beer that is just so mild that you can barely taste the delicious pumpkin and mix of spices (cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg) that you fully expect out of it. 

Matt and I decided to put a selection of six pumpkin ales to the test, trying each one blindfolded and ranking them from the best to the worst. Who knew this could be so fun (and make you feel so bloated)? After browsing the awesome selection of 15 to 20 different pumpkin beers available at City Swiggers, these are the six pumpkin ales we chose for our tasting, from left to right:

  • UFO Pumpkin
  • Blue Point Pumpkin Ale
  • Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale
  • Ithaca Country Pumpkin Ale
  • Cisco Pumple Drumkin
  • Captain Lawrence Pumpkin Ale

Since I've tried my fair share of pumpkin ales in the past, I always considered Blue Point one of my favorites, so I knew I had to include it in the mix. I chose some of the others based on reading about recommended pumpkin ales. The definite wild card was Pumple Drumkin, mainly because of the name and the adorable picture on the label. Well, here it goes, blindfold and all!

Matt and I both sampled all six beers, going through the first tasting to put them in a rough order of best to worst. We sampled them all again a second time, starting with our least favorite, and working our way up to our favorite pumpkin ale. As we tasted each one, we made adjustments to the order before solidifying our final lists! 

The first impression

Initial tasting

Palate cleanser between beers

Here are our final lists (brewery name only) after the delicious, but very filling, blind taste test:
Emily's List
  • Ithaca
  • Captain Lawrence
  • Shipyard
  • UFO
  • Blue Point
  • Cisco
Matt's List
  • Ithaca
  • Shipyard
  • UFO
  • Captain Lawrence
  • Cisco
  • Blue Point
Ithaca was the clear winner for both of us. It had a very well rounded pumpkin and spice flavor (a bit more of the spices than pumpkin itself) and a touch of brown sugar. I haven't really seen this as a pumpkin option in bars, but I'll definitely be on the lookout this fall.

My second choice was Captain Lawrence, which had a really spicy smell before the first sip, which had a good kick of pumpkin and spices with a little hoppy note to it as well. I love IPAs so I'm not surprised that I ranked this one so highly. Shipyard had a major punch of cinnamon and raisin flavor, more reminiscent of a Christmas beer/cocktail (I had an amazing gin cocktail at Gin Palace that reminded me exactly of the flavor of this beer), without really tasting any pumpkin. I personally loved the flavor, but couldn't rank it higher because it didn't scream pumpkin to me at all. UFO also had a well rounded pumpkin spice flavor, but could have been a little stronger and have a longer lasting flavor. Both Blue Point and Cisco were very disappointing, both having very little flavor at all. Who knew that Blue Point would rank so low when I thought it was one of my favorites?

We had so much fun trying a range of pumpkin ales! I think in the future, we'll be doing other blind taste tests of other types of beers. IPAs are by far my favorite (not so much for Matt) so I would definitely want to try a variety. However, IPAs can taste drastically different whether they are more on the bitter side or have a lot of floral notes. It would definitely make for an interesting taste test! I think our next set of seasonal beers will be around the holidays so stay tuned for Christmas ales!

What are your favorite pumpkin ales? Let me know in the comments section so I can try them myself!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pumpkin Love

Fall. Is. Here. Is anyone else as excited about this as I am?!? The cool weather, changing leaves, need for cozy sweaters and cups of tea, and endless baked goods to make and eat! Since I automatically go straight for pumpkin flavored everything when it comes to fall, I put together a list of 10 delicious recipes I can't wait to make in the coming months.
  1. Pumpkin spice chai latte - since my two favorite drinks at Starbucks are the PSL and chai tea latte, this is the perfect combination of both to make at home!
  2. Pumpkin thyme macaroni and cheese - cheesy, pumpkin-y and a hint of herbs sounds like a winning dish to me
  3. Pumpkin pie baked oatmeal - I love a tasty bowl of oatmeal in the morning, especially one I can prepare the night before and tastes like pumpkin pie!
  4. Turkey pumpkin chili - well you know I love chili so why not add pumpkin to it?
  5. Pumpkin pie popsicles - what a perfect fall after-dinner sweet treat
  6. Pumpkin pie energy bites - a perfect no-bake work snack to satisfy my pumpkin cravings
  7. Pumpkin ice cream - time to put my ice cream maker to use!
  8. Pumpkin banana muffins - good mix of pumpkin and banana bread, in muffin form!
  9. Pumpkin spice pancakes - already planning to make these tasty pancakes this weekend!
  10. Chocolate chip pumpkin bread - chocolate and pumpkin, need I say more?
What pumpkin recipes are you dying to make this fall? Let me know in the comments section so I can see all the creative ways you're incorporating pumpkin into your dishes!

Happy pumpkin-ing!