Pumpkin and Stout Soft Pretzels

Soft pretzels, pumpkin spice, oatmeal stout

We know, we know…everyone is overdosing on pumpkin spice, it’s a fall cliche, it’s just too hip. But . . . so? We’re not ashamed to admit we love pumpkin spice! In fact, we’re downright happy to ride the pumpkin-spice tidal wave until it crests sometime next week, following the palate-resetting mini-candy-bar blowout that is Halloween.

Stout is very complementary to pumpkin; the flavors work really well together, especially with the addition of warm fall spices, yeast, and a touch of brown sugar.

You can use whatever stout makes your heart sing. (I used our own homebrewed oatmeal stout, which is a damn fine specimen, if I do say so myself.) Canned pumpkin works a treat–but be sure to use plain pureed pumpkin and not pie filling.

Don’t skip the boiling process–it takes only a few seconds and is super simple to accomplish. Make sure to let the pretzels cool before buttering and sugaring them. And this is one case where less is more, as far as the butter basting goes. Too much butter (hard to believe there is such a thing), and your spiced sugar will just clump up and fall off. Restrain yourself.

Click HERE to visit Growlers and Lace for the recipe for these fun-to-make-and-eat soft pretzels.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Beurre Noisette

sweet potato gnocchi, gnocchi recipes, Thanksgiving side dishes, sweet potatoes

Rich little pillows of deliciousness, these hearty sweet potato gnocchi are spiced with fresh nutmeg and finished simply with beurre noisette (which, I believe, means “drink me” in French. Only kidding…”beurre noisette” is just a pretty word for butter cooked until it’s hazelnut brown).

Beurre noisette, also called browned butter, is what young, ambitious butter aspires to be. It makes a ridiculously easy and utterly delectable sauce for anything from pasta to fish, and is a fantastic way to elevate any simple protein or pasta dish to “company” status.

Sweet potato gnocchi are perfect for the fall table. Try them alongside roasted ham, chicken, or pork. Consider starting a new tradition and serving these as a side dish with your turkey this Thanksgiving!

Click here to find this recipe on Eat Real.

Countdown to Thanksgiving

T-minus 23

Thanksgiving Ent, Bellagio
The Ent, Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas

There are many misconceptions about Thanksgiving. Chief among those is the widely held notion that Thanksgiving is a celebration of family and food, good times and happy meals together, plus some football. Nope. In reality, Thanksgiving is a celebration of survival. Of eating and not being eaten. Of not freezing to death. Of not dying from a ingrown toenail or “catarrh”–whatever that is.

I like family and food as much as the next guy (football not so much), but I really dig surviving. I like waking up. I like feeling better. And I like not being eaten. You too? I thought so.

So this year, I’d like to celebrate survival by helping you traverse the treacherous waters of holiday stress and mayhem. Can we agree that hosting Thanksgiving Dinner–especially if you find yourself solely responsible for it–is right up there with facing down a charging bear or trying to survive a six-month winter in a tent, gnawing on fish jerky and hardtack. [I mean, in terms of the cortisol explosion going on in your body. Obviously, facing a bear may be preferable to hosting two dozen family members with high expectations, assorted food allergies, and picky palates.]

You will survive. I will give you recipes, tips, maybe a giveaway or two…we’ll get through this together. And on Thanksgiving Day, we will sit and eat the bounty of our season of survival with everyone else, and we’ll smile and stuff our faces and take a day off of fighting-and-flighting to simply enjoy ourselves…before we buckle down once again, girding our loins and our larders to face the harrowing struggle of the yuletide season.

Now, go fix yourself a Hot Buttered Rum and put your feet up. You need your strength.


Blue Cheese Cocktail Crackers

cheese crackers

If you like cheese crackers, I have something for you. But first, let me apologize in advance for ruining you for commercial cheese crackers forever. I had a longstanding relationship with Cheez-Its too, and I ruined myself for them. Let’s just say that these savory, buttery, flaky little crackers are to Cheez-Its what your grandmother’s chewymeltydeliciousstraightoutoftheoven chocolate chip cookies are to Chips Ahoy.

Serve these with a glass of wine or your favorite craft beer. And however many you think you’ll need, make more.

cheese crackers

Blue Cheese Cocktail Crackers

The second best thing about these crackers is how quickly they come together. (The first is how they light up all the pleasure sensors in your brain.) The color of the dough will be an odd and somewhat disconcerting shade of cadet blue. Not to worry! They bake up a heavenly golden brown.

Yield: About 5 dozen

  • 4.5 ounces blue cheese (use a good-quality cheese, not blue cheese crumbles)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Additional kosher salt and black pepper for sprinkling
  1. Combine blue cheese, butter, flour, cornstarch, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the dough comes together in a ball.
  2. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or more).
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment.
  4. Roll chilled dough out to about 1/8″ thickness between sheets of parchment or waxed paper. Cut into 1″ squares with a pastry wheel or pizza cutter. (You can also use cookie cutters.)
  5. Transfer crackers to prepared baking sheets and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.
  6. Let crackers cool completely before placing in an air-tight container. Will keep at room temperature for 3 days; freeze for longer storage.