Autumn Nachos

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Here we are more than 2/3 of the way through October, and I just now got around to sharing what I consider an appropriate fall recipe. If life keeps moving at this rate, I may just blink and find it is spring. Which I am by no means opposed to. I was just hoping to enjoy the fall baking season with is pumpkins and squashes and assortment of spices a bit more than I have thus far.

This whole “time flies” thing that everyone seems to relate to makes me wonder, “What is the key to slowing things down?” As the temperatures cool and the light leaves the sky a bit earlier each day, I am reminded of a theme I have seen repeated quite a bit over the past few weeks: fall is a good time to shed your bad habits just as a tree sheds it leaves.

I am not sure what this means for me exactly. As quickly as  time passes me by, I can’t really say I do not make a conscious effort to make the most of it. For years I have subscribed to the belief that all of life is worth living, not just life that is tucked into the weekend. Few things annoy me more than hearing co-workers lament with a big sigh, “well, I’m here” or “I wish it was the weekend.”

Do I love getting out of bed to go to work on Monday morning? No, I do not. I do appreciate the fact that I have a good job to get up for because I was not always so fortunate. Suffice it to say I traveled a loooong road to get from where I was to where I am. It was not enjoyable. Yet, I always knew my life was in those moments and would not wait to start when I landed a good job or some other thing like a nicer home to live in or an attractive, honest, friendly and funny man to entertain me (I ask for too much, I know).

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The roundabout point to this loooong story is that about the same time I was noticing the “let your bad habits fall with the season!” messages, I was exposed to another message: if you live for the weekends, then you miss all of the potential beauty of the week. And here we are mid-week with some beautiful nachos.

You’ve likely ascertained this rambling has nothing to do with nachos. The only thing I could think to tell you about nachos was that a good friend and her husband like nachos so much that they named their pet cat Nacho. These people do not mess around. Would they like these? 

I don’t know because I didn’t share! My feelings are the nachos are a bit light on the topping front with just roasted butternut squash, balsamic glazed onions and Gruyere. I found I most definitely like roasting the butternut squash with sweet maple syrup and hot cayenne pepper and will be doing that again, nachos or no nachos. I hope you find something in them to delight in too. Enjoy!

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Autumn Nachos
  • ½ large butternut squash (or 1 small squash)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced and chopped
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 8 ounces tortilla chips (half of a store-bought bag)
  • 1½ cups shredded Gruyere
  • optional: sour cream
  1. Peel and chop the butternut squash into small pieces.
  2. Toss the chopped squash with the maple syrup, cayenne pepper and cumin.
  3. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees F until tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. While the squash is roasting, prepare the onion by sauteing it in the oil over medium heat.
  5. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, then add the balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to the pan with the onion.
  6. Continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. When the squash is ready to come out of the oven, reduce heat to 350 degrees F.
  8. Spread the tortilla chips across another parchment-lined baking sheet.
  9. Top with the squash, onion and shredded cheese.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  11. If desired, serve with sour cream.


Apricot Almond Quick Bites

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Something I heard Marcus Samuelsson read aloud from his memoir, “Yes, Chef”, struck a chord with me. He said his first food memory is associated not with a taste but with a smell – his grandmother’s home. I am paraphrasing here – I listened to the audio book and have no print version to confirm his exact words – but that was the gist of it. His memory immediately got me to thinking about my own earliest memories of food.

I remember my aggravation over a canceled pumpkin cookies baking session because my sister decided to be born, but other than that, I can’t place anything prior to kindergarten when we shook small jars of cream (for what seemed like hours) to make homemade butter at our Thanksgiving party.

Unless we count gum in the food family. I loved the flat, yellow packets of tiny multi-colored Chiclets I was allowed to pick out if I was good at the grocery store and the NutraSweet gumballs that came in the mail.

Like Samuelsson, I too have memories of food at my both of my grandparents homes. As a child, I loved eating Breyers vanilla ice cream flecked with the beans, but only when I could eat it with the “tulip spoon”. (As you likely deduced, it was decorated with tulips). I am sure I ate my first poached egg with my grandfather, but only after a lesson on how to do it just right. Tear up a piece of bread, place a dab of butter on top, and then lay the poached egg over the butter to melt.

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I would eat those torn up, egg-soaked pieces of bread with their crusts on, but there was no way I was eating bread with crusts with my other grandpa. He threatened bread crusts put hair on your chest, and I was just not down with that. Meanwhile, grandma’s warning that drinking coffee would stunt my growth went unnoticed. To this day, I like my coffee just like she does, with plenty of cream. By the time we are through, our dark brown coffee is lightened to a shade just shy of tan.

A staple snack my other grandmother kept around was dried sugared apricots. She would cut them into strips, probably moisten them with water, and then roll them in sugar so the crystals stuck. I really haven’t had much use for dried apricots any other way until now.

These quick bites are simply a mixture of spiced ground almonds, coconut and dried apricots. I was not all that optimistic with the snack, but I decided to try them out as I was tiring of my other options. Funny how a handful of almonds and apricots does not appeal to my sense of snacking in the least bit, but grounding them up into bite-size bundles does.

I found apricot almond quick bites to be a healthy, filling snack that made the food processing, mixture chilling and ball rolling well worth the effort. I hope you find the same as well. Enjoy!

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Apricot Almond Quick Bites
  • 1½ cups almonds
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • 20 dried apricots (roughly ¾ to 1 cup), possibly more
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon cardamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ginger
  1. Using a food processor, pulse the almonds until they resemble a fairly fine flour.
  2. Add the coconut and the apricots and continue processing.
  3. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, add the spices and give it a few more pulses to distribute them evenly.
  4. The mixture should hold its shape when a bit of it is pressed together, but if not, simply add a few more processed apricots to bind it together.
  5. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes to help it hold its shape.
  6. Once chilled, form the mixture into small balls of about one tablespoon. The mixture will come together when squeezed and rolled very gently. However, it will fall apart if rolled together like a ball of clay between two palms.
  7. The quick bites will keep up to a week in the refrigerator of three months in the freezer.
If you have a small food processor, simply work in batches, adding half the coconut and apricots to half the almonds, then repeat. In place of dried apricots, the original version called for five whole apricots (soaked) and three dates to hold it all together in case you want to go that route.


And the Oscar Goes to…Coconut Curry Popcorn

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It’s Saturday afternoon, and though I baked today, I feel a bit drained after pouring my heart into some birthday posts you have already seen and are about to see in the coming days. Couple that feeling with an outdoor temperature that is a good 25 degrees cooler today than it was yesterday, and all I really want to do as the day winds down is snuggle in on the couch and watch a movie. And where there is a movie, there must be popcorn.

I’m a pretty traditional popcorn eater. A pat of melted butter and a couple of shakes of salt please me, but when I want to amp up the flavor, I turn to a recipe for Coconut Curry Popcorn Seasoning. The blend offers a little sweet – in the form of coconut and sugar – and a little heat – in the form of curry and cayenne pepper. Add those ingredients to some ginger, cinnamon, and garlic powder, and you have a wonderful combination of flavors waiting to meet your popcorn.

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If you have plans that will lure you out of the house instead of on to the couch tonight, perhaps you can enjoy some Coconut Curry Popcorn tomorrow evening during the Oscars. I haven’t had the opportunity to see every film nominated for best picture, but I loved The Help almost as much as I did the book, and Midnight in Paris was a delight. I was thoroughly entertained by Moneyball,  though Tree of Life ranks on the list of worst movies I have ever seen.

My favorite movie, in terms of number of times watched, is StarWars. Before I was old enough to attend school, I had the lines from most scenes memorized. When we got home from the baby-sitters’ house, I’d rush to pop the tape in the VCR (well, Mom probably did that for me), and proceed to act out the scenes. Today my favorite movie, in terms of actual favorite, is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a bit unusual, but I like the way it makes me think about things.

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Coconut Curry Popcorn Seasoning makes a nice gift from the kitchen. Present it alone or as part of a gift basket that could include popcorn, a DVD, movie tickets, or even candy (I love to eat Junior Mints right along with my movie popcorn).

Looking for other popcorn toppings? How about trying some Dijon Buttered Popcorn or Spiced White Chocolate Popcorn. Or maybe you feel like baking with popcorn instead? Try some Popcorn Bread or Caramel Corn Chocolate Chip Cookies. Just make sure to try this Coconut Curry Popcorn the next time you have a movie night. It’s reel good – enjoy!

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Coconut Curry Popcorn Seasoning
Recipe type: Snack
  • 1¾ cups Sweetened Shredded Coconut
  • 7 tablespoons Curry Powder
  • 2 tablespoons Salt
  • 3½ teaspoons Sugar
  • 1¾ teaspoons Ground Ginger
  • 1¾ teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 teaspoons Garlic Powder
  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Pulse to combine.
  3. Sprinkle over popcorn.