The Tasting Room - Post Alley

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - 
Hubs and I were able to sip many wines while we were in Seattle, and one of our favorite stops was The Tasting Room, located in Post Alley of the Pike Place Market.  I had read about them during some online research and after finding them on twitter, they made my list of "must see's" while in Seattle.  So after a day in the market and some fantastic luncheon fare at Matt's in the Market, we meandered our way through the alley to sip on some wines.
The concept of TTSeattle is great: local wineries all got together and decided to open a spot where their wines could be presented. It is truly a collaborative effort and shows how wine lovers can come together to showcase a great product.  There are two locations in the state of Washington, and I'm happy that they picked such a great location to feature their products.
The location is fantastic as it tucked away from the busy market, but easy to find in the alley.  It is a great spot to relax after shopping in the market and side shops.  Or, if you are going to dinner, a perfect place to stop there for an after (or before!) dinner drink.  Not only can you purchase some great wine, but you can relax in the cozy wine cellar atmosphere over samples and small bites. They have great events planned including a trivia night or even a pie night (they teamed up with a local pizzeria who delivers pizza at low cost, so you don't have to go anywhere and can have a full meal.)  They havelong, wooden tables that makes the perfect venue to share some great conversations (or game, they have board games available for play) with friends or smaller, round tables for intimate conversations.
Hubs and I sat at the bar and immediately were greeted by some great staff.  Not only were the knowledgeable and made some great recommendations, they were so personable.  I immediately knew this was a place where I could relax for hours and feel among friends.  I decided to sample one of there many themed wine flights. I love wine flights - a small taste of many (like my love of small plates) is always great for me.  These flights aren't your basic "Chardonnay flight" or "Red Wine Special" types - they were all creatively named to capture the true experience of each taste.  As I was wearing flip flops in chilly weather, I began with the 'Sandals & Socks' flight which was a variety of both red and white that you could easily sip during warm or chilly weather.  It was a great way to kick off the afternoon.
My next flight was 'White Noise' which was a trio of bold whites.  It went perfect with the cheese plate that hubs and I ordered.  Though we were stuffed after lunch, we had these two Wisco kids couldn't pass up a cheese plate!
It was really one of the best parts of our trip.  We were relaxed, drinking and eating local food in an atmosphere that was conducive to our feeling of the day.  We even pondered on heading back that way the next day, but knew there was still so much more to see in the area that we had to resist the temptation.  If you enjoy wine and are looking for a relaxing time with great nibbles and wine, stop by The Tasting Room.  And pick up the Operation board, you'll be in for a treat.

The Tasting Room Seattle
1924 Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98101

A Taste of Thanksgiving

Monday, November 29, 2010 - 
Though Thanksgiving was on Thursday, Tastings was celebrating the holiday with their own pairings the evening before.  I had the pleasure of attending with some friends who had never been before - even I couldn't explain to them the treats they were going to be receiving that evening. 

We arrived a bit late, but as we sat down, Brian began with the aperitif and our tastebuds were awakened.

Aperitif - NV Juve y Camps Brut Rose Cava
'Tis the season for sparkling wines, and I was pleased to see this as our aperitif for the evening.  There is something about the sparkling wine that brings out the celebratory feeling of the holidays, and this beautiful rose was the perfect way to kick off the season.  Both in taste and floral smell, this deep pink wine was bright with berry flavors.  Great on it's own, but I could see this complimenting a brunch mimosa brilliantly.  It wasn't an overly dry brut, but rather had a mild sweetness that everyone at the table enjoyed.

First Course - 2008 Arger Martucci 'iliad' White Blend & 'Green Bean Casserole'
This wine was complex as it was a blend of several whites, including Viogner, Gewurtztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc.  At first taste, it was incredibly rich but cut by the sweetness of a tropical spice on the palate.  It was crisp and the acid was a pleasant contrast to the creaminess of the dish adding a perfect balance.  If you live in Indy, note that you can only try this bottle at Tastings, so make your way over for a sip.

For a green bean casserole, I was expecting a warm and creamy dish.  Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a light, citrus plate full of green beans.  Lightly poached to keep their crispness, the bean were then tossed with a parsley and citrus pesto.  Leaning heavily on the parsley for taste, the pesto had the perfect level of acid to help balance the creme fraiche.  A 'casserole' wouldn't be complete without mushrooms and crisp onions.  I would say my favorite part of this dish was the pan fried mushrooms as they lent an earthy edge to the plate while fried green onions finished the dish.  I really enjoyed the green onions and the crisp sharpness they brought to the citrus plate - they were a fantastic component to the dish.

Second Course - 2007 Patrick Lesec 'Rubis' Chateauneuf du Pape & 'Mashed Potatoes and Gravy'
The wine was the first of the reds, a well balanced peppery blend that sat well on the palate.  The wine had a creamy red fruit taste as well as an earthy edge.  A deep and rich taste, the wine was well balanced to be a great bold red.  Easily enjoyable on its own, it was brought up a level when paired with the well-seasoned dish as they complimented each other well.  And as I've mentioned before, I'm a marketer's dream as I was drawn into the bold colors of the label and embossing on the bottle.  I could see picking this one up on looks along and then being pleased with the bright, bold taste as well.

Yukon gold potato croquettes that were delightfully stuffed with cheese and speck were paired with this meal.  Lightly fried, the speck filling gave off a rich, smokey smell and taste while the Irish chedder was the perfect level of saltiness.  A crisp and sharp contrast to these two flavors were bits of green onion - perfect for the balance of the ingredients.  Basic breadcrumbs allowed these to be fried to perfection, and though I loved my tots, I could enjoy many more of these croquettes.  It was a creamy perfect mashed potato concoction that was seasoned well.  And to top it off, there was a strong mushroom flavor incorporated into the roasted mushroom gravy it was served with.  A touch of cream gave it a rich taste, which is another reason the wine worked so well with this dish. 

Third Course - 2006 Onyx Pinotage & 'Turducken'
A cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, the Pinotage is considered a highly revered grape of South Africa.  I had the pleasure to indulge in this smokey and woody tasting wine.  It was rich and mildly fruity (Brian tasted bananas, though I couldn't get my palate up to his!) and noted as a 'Scotch drinkers' wine.  I could see this as it was so rich in the smoke element.  It smelled delightful with the taste of red currants shining through.  Great wine - it couldn't have been matched with a better dish as the two made the best pairing of the evening.

Turducken is a turkey stuffed with duck and chicken.  Delish.  Steven did not disappoint with his dish giving us a trio tasting of a deconstructed meal.  Beginning with a pan seared duck breast (which was my favorite of the dish) it had a subtle spicey outer layer to the medium rare meat.  Perfectly tender, it was not fatty how duck tends to be - just rich in all those flavors.  In the middle was a sage gorgonzola bread pudding under turkey confit.  The dressing smelled rich of the sage flavors and was mild in the creamy gorgonzola unless you had a crumble in the specific bite.  The turkey was rich in flavors with a hint of cajun spice.  Additonally, we were presented with a buttermilk fried chicken 'wing.'  Deep fried, the chicken was incredibly tender as the crispy outer layer locked in the juice and buttermilk.  To tie all the flavors together, they were drizzled with a smokey and perfectly sweet syrup of chipotle-cranberry.  Best dish - the flavors worked incredibly well together as I couldn't resist a bite of all three in one.  This would have been a delight on any Thanksgiving table.

Fin - 2006 Olivares Dulce Monastrell & 'Pie-fecta'
A dessert wine, the Dulce was a bit too much for me.  It smelled thick of spice and raisin aromas which carried through with a thick taste.  I believe I am beginning to really appreciate all the complex flavors of wine, but when I'm presented with something like this, I remember I still have a lot to learn on how deep flavors really can be.  I'm not a huge raisin fan, and the taste was extremely thick on palate.  However, a few of the patrons I was dining with did enjoy it, so they had no complaints of me passing it their way after trying it with the dessert.  As I have learned, flavors can really change with the food, and unfortunately, this wasn't a case for me.

Though I didn't enjoy the wine, I don't know if I would have been able to appreciate it even if I did like it.  This is because in front of me was a layered piece of delicious work.  A cinnamon graham cracker crust was the base of the three layers: a roasted apple layer of Braeburn and green apples lent the earthy taste of an apple pie followed by a crunchy layer of pecan pie filling.  Sweet, crunchy and delectable, this was topped with a creamy layer of pumpkin cheesecake.  Smelling of all things fall, the pumpkin layer was baked perfectly with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whipped vanilla cream and a warm, salted caramel topped the dish.  I loved the crunch of the pecans and apples as it fused together with the creamy cheesecake and vanilla cream.  Delicious.  I was even lucky enough to walk away with more and share with friends and family the following day (thank you Steven!)  If you are like me and debate between apple, pecan and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, this is the pie for you!

A great evening with friends and my Indy 'family,' I was knees deep in thanks for all the great food and drink that we shared together.  I even had the pleasure of meeting the lovely owners of Tastings and promised I would be returning for more sip and dine delights with more patrons in tow.  Cheers to another great evening Steven, Brian, and all the staff of Tastings - I'm thankful to be able to share in these delights with you!
Make your reservations for these upcoming events - they are going fast: 

December 1 - Regional Series: The Wines of Italy
Italy is a country infused with wine culture, come enjoy an evening on why many people say Italian wine is their favorite! 

December 8 - Truly Progressive
Part of the monthly series, a full-course meal is designed with wines to match.  Enjoy from aperitif to dessert and celebrate the food and wine relationship.

December 15 - Stocking Stuffers
To help find the perfect gift for the wine lover, stop by for an evening of great wines that come in small packages.
December 22 - White Christmas
Tastings twist on the classic Yuletide tune, an evening of cold weather white wines will be sipped upon.
December 29 - Sparkling Tasting
Sparkling wines to discover in celebration of the New Year!

Thanksgiving Menu...nom nom nom...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - 
courtesy of The Washington Post
Turkey Day is just about here and I'm excited.  A day full of food, football, Macy's Day Parade, family and friends.  This year, we are lucky to be celebrating it with friends and family - hub's sister and our brother-in-law are driving to Indy with our beautiful nephew and our dear friends MC & RS are joining us.

Last week, I completed the menu for a day of feasting.  I'm really excited to try new dishes this year as I stray from the norm by tweaking here and there.  Here is the game plan:

  • Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins (which were made on Sunday)
  • Mushroom, Bacon & Swiss Strata (will assemble tonight)
  • Fruit
  • Mimosa's, coffee and juice
Highlight of brunch - the pumpkin muffins.  Oh gosh, I can't wait to eat more than my fair share...all while watching the Macy's Day Parade.  Just love it.  Love.

Then we'll have some appetizers during football time - nothing too extravagant.  I wasn't able to find figs so that put a kink in my original plans, but I swapped it out for some baked brie.  Here is the what we have planned for munchies (but let us be honest, I'm sure some chips or something will be thrown into the mix):
  • Raspberry Baked Brie
  • Walnut, caramelized onion and bleu cheese dip 
  • Crudites

Among the football, board games, and child laughter (I hope!) dinner preparation will be happening.  Hubs and I really planned ahead this year so that we barely spend anytime in the kitchen for the big day.  I assembled as much as I could prior to our guests arrival and I'm sure it will pay off. 

  • Pumpkin & Squash Soup (making tonight)
  • Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese
  • Turkey (hubs is in charge - rotisserie style)
  • Apple Chestnut Dressing ( roasted and peeled the chestnuts last night, but assembling tonight - also using this as a base, but am tweaking for my own love)
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes (hubs in charge)
  • Green Bean Casserole (thank you Martha!)
  • Corn Casserole (MC is bringing - yum!)
  • Cranberries (MC again)
  • Mac & Cheese (MC one more time - gluten free!)
  • Herb Buttermilk Biscuits (made these on Sunday, they are ready to be baked!)
  • Pumpkin Pie (making tomorrow morning)
  • Pecan Pie with Bourbon Cream (tomorrow morning too!)
Hubs has made some hefeweizen (nom nom nom, love hefe, especially this one if you remember) for the festivities too, so I'm excited for the batch of home brew. It is his first hefe round - I'm excited!  We are also stopping at Sun King Brewing so we can fill the kegerator - type of brew tbd.  Wine will be flowing as well.

Game plan tomorrow is to bake the pies in the morning and bake sides (dressing, beans and biscuits) in the afternoon.  I'll rewarm the soup, and that is all.  Not a lot of work on the day of - it is amazing what a little planning can do!

Am I excited?  Absolutely! I can't wait for this day of eating and relaxing.  Very thankful for lots of things in life, so why not celebrate it!?

What are your plans for Turkey Day?  Anything that you absolutely can't wait to eat?!

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 
It was Meatless Monday once again, and this was another "what can I make with what I have in my pantry" type of a night.  I then saw this...

...a can of roasted red peppers.  I won it in my Italian gift basket from the Giving Dinner.  It is one of those things that hubby looked at and said, "we'll never use that."  I had to agree, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it.  So when I was digging up our herbs that died from the cold weather and silently crying over the wasted basil, I had an epiphany - roasted red pepper pesto.  Thus, the pantry Meatless Monday was born.

I grabbed the jar and some basic ingredients for pesto sans basil.  I'm sure basil would have been a great addition, but as just mentioned, it was now thrown aside in the brisk cold air. 

I had every intention on adding more olive oil, but after seeing all the great oil that was already seeping with flavor, I didn't need any.  I toasted up some pine nuts that I had leftover from a recipe last week and grabbed handfuls of Parmesan to add. A few cloves of garlic and we were ready to blend.

Adding some salt and pepper to taste, I had this beautiful, red/orange pesto.  It had great char flavor due to the roasted peppers, a taste of earthiness from the pine nuts, and a nice salty contrast from the cheese.  This would be absolutely fantastic on some fresh pizza dough or even some toasted crostini's.  I was pleasantly surprised and I think hubby was too as he feasted on lots of pasta.

With Turkey Day right around the corner, I was happy to not indulge in any meat as I know that bird and I will become very good friends come Thursday!

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins (aka Heaven)

Monday, November 22, 2010 - 
I love pumpkin, that is no secret.  So when I came across this recipe about a month ago, I knew I had to try.  I was then reminded of them when I was perusing my Nov. 2010 Everyday Food magazine and thought they would be perfect for Thanksgiving brunch!  Knowing that I could freeze them until the day of,  I got to work making these and some biscuits (which are so good, but different story) knowing I could mark something off my Thanksgiving Day list of "to-do's."

I gathered the ingredients (though I ended up doubling the recipe - I decided to make two batches so that we could munch on a few for breakfast and so I could bring them to work for when we decorate the office on Wednesday.)

I prepped two muffin pans and the mixing began!  Dry ingredients in one bowl, which consisted of flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and allspice (don't have allspice?  Use equal portions of cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper - pretty similar in taste - though for something like this, I would use all cinnamon instead.) Wet ingredients in another bowl and this included the pumpkin puree and buttermilk.

I then creamed together butter and brown sugar until it was fluffy.  I heart my KitchenAid mixer (though no, they didn't give me anything to write this blog, I just like their stuff and happen to own a lot of it in red!) and it works well for things like this.

Next up, add eggs.  I break these prior to adding them to ensure no shells get into the mix.  I also bring them to room temperature - I don't bake with cold eggs.  Oh, butter tip.  If you forgot to bring your butter to room temperature, cut it up in small pieces and leave it out while you prep the dry and wet ingredients.  It will be softened and at room temp in no time!  Once the eggs were incorporated, I then added the dry and wet mixes.  I alternated between the two to ensure all ingredients were incorporated.

What you are left with is some pretty thick batter.  It is gorgeous in color and smells divine, but don't be threatened by the thickness.  It will rise (I was worried, but just went with it to find that it was perfectly fine!)

I used a scoop to put batter in pans - it helps make them uniform in size which then helps them bake together.  In the oven they went, and I continued to drool as the smell of them baking was intoxicating.  When they came out, they had kept that beautiful orange color and I couldn't help but try one. 

Oh gosh, it was so good - I knew it would be better once I coated it in butter and sprinkled (okay, I really just dipped it, no sprinkling was done in this recipe) it with cinnamon and sugar. Divine. 

I only coated enough for hubs and I to snack on for breakfast (and for Monday as well.)  The rest went into the freezer (sans butter and cinnamon/sugar) for another day, more specifically, Wednesday and Thursday.  I plan on reheating them in the oven, then coating them the sugary mix so that I (and others) can indulge on them.

I can't wait.  So. Good.  If you love pumpkin, these are a must try.  So march yourself to the kitchen and get baking - these will be perfect for any brunch, snack, potluck, dinner, midnight snack....

Friday Ramblings...

Friday, November 19, 2010 - 
Love her and fiance, B - GREAT couple!
I'm delayed in this request from my dear friend MKL over at Fun and Fearless in Beantown, as she tagged me in a blog post a few weeks ago.  MKL is a dear friend of mine who lives in Boston - we've been friends for nearly 10 years as we met back in college as sorority sisters.  I adore her, I miss her from a far, and I always look forward to seeing her when I visit Beantown once a year. So though I don't normally do questionnaires (in fact, I never have on this blog,) I decided to give it a try and entertain all of you with some answers:

1.  If you could eat anything without any health repercussions or guilt, what would your meal be?
Nachos - I simply adore them.  Crunchy, salty tortilla chips (they can be corn, flour, whatever!) adorned with topping galore.  And they are so versatile.  You can have your plain chips and salsa or gourmet it up with kettle chips topped with bleu cheese crumbles and pancetta.  Oh my gosh...I'm drooling...

2.  If you could meet anyone living or dead who would it be and why?
Martha Stewart.  I, like many others, adore her.  But don't think I'm ignorant - I also know that many people do not like her.  I am a fan- and I absolute LOVE it when MKL says I'm "younger version of Martha Stewart" or when Shutterboo used to reference me that way.  But honestly, I don't even come close to this woman.  It amazes me how successful she has become, all because she did things that she loved to do - and now it is this huge business (and in reference to a few years back, I think anyone would have did what she did - no judgment here!)

She has a fantastic home where she has created a business out of passion - she even helps people learn how to wrap china for when they move.  Honestly - she grows an abundant garden and then creates fantastic meals before going upstairs to her craft room.  Or she may sit down with one of her adorable pets (RIP Ghengis Khan and Paw Paw, her two adorable Chow Chow's) or create some new magical craft.  All while knowing somewhere across the country, someone is picking up a copy of one of her successful magazines.  She loves what she does, and she made a profession out of that.  If that isn't something to admire, I don't know what is.
photo taken from The Sydney Morning Herald
3.  Why did you start blogging and what did you expect when you started?
I started blogging because a friends kept saying, "you should blog about that!"  One person in particular, KJ over at KJ Pugs, would always say "you have to blog so I can see your food creations." So I finally did this past February.  I know I haven't posted many recipes, but I did have expectations to do so.  I never cook the same thing at home - I'm a random cook, always grabbing this and that.  I'm not very good at following recipes (I always update it with my own twist) and I don't like to measure.  Maybe that is why I find it difficult to blog about my cooking - I feel like many people want to know specifics and that is info I just don't supply.

But, I also had expectations to blog about all things that entertain me, which is mostly food, events, friends and family.  And that is essentially what my blog is about, all the entertaining elements life throws at you on a daily basis.  I love to write about the food I eat and the events I attend.  I didn't think anyone would really read this either - a BIG thank you to all that do!

4.  What is the one book you could read over and over again?
Harry Potter.  I love all seven of them, so yes, I'm picking a series versus one book.  If it makes me child, so be it.  But I absolutely adore the imagination of J.K.Rowling and her drive.  Once again, doing something that she loves, she became a successful woman who has inspired children and adults all over the world to be creative and whimsical in their lives.  To have that kind of impact and still be so humble - amazing.

5.  If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
Tahiti or Fiji - yes, once again, I'm cheating and picking two.  When hubs and I got married, he asked where I wanted to go on our honeymoon.  I named those two and Greece, and he planned the whole trip and surprised me with the Greek vacation.  I would love to visit the other two places and try the ethnic food, see the beautiful landscape and relax with my best friend.  And of course, there is always Disney....

6.  If you could have a TV show on the Food Network, what would it be?
I'd actually want Samantha Brown's tv show's on the Travel Channel.  I know she has a few of them now, but how great of a job is that?!  She gets to travel the globe, go to luxurious resorts and hotels, dine on some phenomenal food and experience things some people only dream of!  I'm sure the traveling gets difficult, especially being away from friends, family and home for extended periods of time - but absolutely amazing gig that she has.
photo taken from the Travel Channel
7. What was the best meal you ever had?
Wow - this is a hard question because so many factors go into a "best meal," including service, food, atmosphere, location, who you are with, etc.  So, right now, I'm going to say the best meal I ever had was our recent dinner experience at Etta's in Seattle.  The food was great, company utterly fantastic and restaurant atmosphere was inviting.  It was everything I expected out of Seattle and the seafood I wanted - a perfect way to welcome hubs and I to the city!

8. Who has been the greatest influence on your love for food and learning to cook?     
Once again, there are two people.  My mother - she is amazing.  Eating dinner together as a family was always important and my mother always delivered on some fantastic food.  It was comfort, it was home and it was my momma.  I adore her and what she wanted to do to make sure her family was happy.  This past Christmas, I pulled together a collection of recipes from her, close friends and family and compiled it into a family cook book on Blurb.  They are the best recipes of my mother - and she is amazing (yes, I know I said that twice, but she deserves it so many more.) My poppa is pretty amazing too if I don't mind saying so.
LOVE mom and dad - they are TOO cute!
The other is my childhood best friend, Sarah.  When we were growing up, I always had a passion for cooking and entertaining, and she was always by my side.  She used to come over and we would pretend that I was the host of a cooking show.  It was probably named something corny like "Cooking with Angie!," but it was still our show.  She was nicknamed "guinea" for tv show purpose, because her role in the show was to be my 'guinea pig' and try whatever I was making that "episode."  She was a trooper, letting me experiment with whatever I could find in the kitchen.  I probably learned a lot about taste because of her - she was good at letting me know when flavors didn't mesh!

Hopefully the ramblings gave you some insight into why I blog and why I love what I love - cheers!

Pumpkin & Shrimp Bisque

Thursday, November 18, 2010 - 
Some of you know that I like to have Meatless Monday at home. I think it helps get us to try new food (which normally isn't a struggle - I'll try anything) and think outside the box.  I could never be a vegetarian, but that doesn't mean that I dislike my veggie meals (or veggie friends of course.)  But sometimes, hubs immediately thinks that we'll end up having pasta on Meatless Monday, so it is more fun when I purposely do not incorporate the fantastic carbs.

But, what some of you don't know is that in the fall, I subject my hubs to a pumpkin meal at least once a week.  I do this until I see that look of "more pumpkin!?" in his eyes, which normally happens right after Thanksgiving.  I just adore pumpkin, I can't help it.  And this past Monday, I decided to combine our seafood and pumpkin dish into one, and since it is meat-free, why not make it Meatless Monday?

Once again, perusing some blogs, I found a dish I just couldn't pass up over at Closet Cooking - Pumpkin & Shrimp Bisque.

After shelling the crab, started off by creating a stock utilizing the shrimp shells, wine, onions, carrots, celery, sage, bay leaves (I had Turkish, it works) and some broth.  I had chicken bouillon on hand, which I'm sure gave it a smoother finish.  And yes, I realize chicken is meat, but just ignore that for right now.

After letting that simmer for a little over 30 minutes (to be honest, I cleaned out our coat closet and did some reorganizing during that point.  I like to multitask, I can't help it,) I drained the solids and was left with a great tasting broth.

I then added pumpkin, cayenne and cream.  I have to say, I really tried to stick to the recipe on this one (despite measuring, I don't really enjoy measuring...) and I have to say, it was a valiant effort.  Main reason why I didn't, no saffron was in my kitchen.  But that would have made it that much more heavenly.  However, I raised the spice bar just a little bit and was happy to have the back heat of cayenne on my palate.

This simmered for about 15 minutes (yes, I wrapped up putting the coats away before chopping up the shrimp that I had cleaned earlier) while I prepped the shrimp.  Sauteed the shrimp and continued to drool as the remainder of the dish came together.
Then, it was time for the pumpkin bowls!  I put some shrimp in them, then ladled the soup on top before adding a combination of sage, lemon zest, garlic and toasted pine nuts.

It really was a great dish - had a nice lemony flavor from both the sage and zest which lightened what many people think of a "heavy" pumpkin cream soup.  The crunch of the pine nuts contrasted well with the smooth soup, and I loved the taste of the shrimp combined with the pumpkin.  Though the richness of the toasted nuts could have added too much to the already rich soup, this didn't happen at all - I chalk that up to the lemon.

I love pumpkin soup, so this was a great variation of what I normally make.  The shrimp was fantastic in it, and the leftovers were as good the next day.

Any other pumpkin lovers out there?  How do you feel about combining with seafood?

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - 
While hubs and I were making the Parmesan Tator Tots, we had a batch of jalapeno popper dip in the oven.  Inspired by my love of buffalo wing dip, I figured we could translate the spicy and cheesy popper into a dip as well.  I was sure other people have done this before, so I did a little research and found Closet Cooking presented a great option.  When we got home, I whipped up a batch of my own with what we had in the kitchen.

This is so simple - we mixed together some pickled jalapenos, mayo, cream cheese, cheddar and Parmesan cheese.  Everything that a jalapeno popper has - that's it!

On top we sprinkled some panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese on top.  I should have mixed these together and finely grated the Parmesan so it would have browned up better, but it was still delish.  Once topped, we put it into the oven.

Crisp corn tortillas were the perfect vehicle to get this dip in my mouth.  And it was just like a popper - I promise.

Next time, I'll probably add more jalapenos, both fresh and pickled, and mix the topping together.  And trust me, there will be a next time!

What spicy appetizer do you enjoy?