Potato-Bacon Vareniki

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With cooler weather finally approaching, I thought I’d post about one of my favorite stick-to-your-ribs fall dishes: vareniki.

What are vareniki, you ask? They’re Russian potato dumplings, kind of like pierogi, and in this context they’re adorable!

I was introduced to the world of tiny Russian dumplings when I was throwing a Russian-themed 35th birthday party for a friend, and was immediately hooked. I’m all for carbohydrate-laden goodies, so potato dumplings served with butter and sour cream sounded amazing. Add in a neat gadget for making dozens of itty-bitty dumplings at once, and it was a given that I’d be making them ASAP!

To be fair, the plastic dumpling thingie is actually used to make pelmeni, meat-filled Russian dumplings that I don’t like as much because they’re not different enough from the meat-filled Chinese dumplings I get all the time, but the tool is still a ton of fun to use here!

I found a dough recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen (a very useful blog for anyone trying to get into Russian cooking), and basically threw together a filling based on my own personal tastes. Potatoes, of course, with cheese (whatever I had in the fridge) and browned onions because they’re more flavorful than raw onions. Plus bacon, because potatoes and onions just cry out for bacon, am I right? The finished dumplings are tender and delicious whether boiled or pan-fried, and when served with a little sour cream and dill they’re fantastic comfort food.

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Spinach Cheese Puffs

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I think I may have mentioned before that I love appetizers and hors d’oeuvres. Just love them. My favorite kind of work event is one where they serve drinks and “heavy appetizers” or “passed hors d’oeuvres,” because I know that there’ll be something involving cheese, bacon, or some kind of pastry… sometimes all three. So naturally I like to have a few recipes for similar items in my repertoire for when I want to host my own delicious event.

This particular recipe was born out of the need to come up with something that I could make ahead of time and that would be able to survive for several hours in a hot car before being served at a casual barbecue. That meant most cheese- or meat-based items were out, and any fresh vegetables were similarly not going to work. I decided that the best option was something with puff pastry, and once I noticed the half-empty package of fresh baby spinach slowly wilting in my refrigerator, the decision was made!

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Carrot Cake with Pepita Brittle

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This past Easter I was in a baking mood (when am I not in a baking mood?) so decided to make– what else?– carrot cake.

I love a good carrot cake, though everyone seems to have a different idea of what to add to the basic flavor profile. Some people use raisins, some nuts, or crushed pineapple. Some people use carrot puree, others go traditional with grated carrots, and some cakes use shockingly low amounts of carrot to begin with. Last year I even made one that incorporated graham cracker crumbs in the batter. I decided this time to try a recipe from Alton Brown, who rarely lets me down when it comes to good basic recipes.

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Veggie Taco Stack

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Anyway, I also know that I write about way too many of Smitten Kitchen’s recipes, but they always look and sound so amazing on Deb’s blog that I can’t help myself. So you’ll have to forgive me if I post about another one now– a recipe that’s going to become a weeknight staple at my house for sure. I could’ve put off posting about it until I’d had the chance to make a more photogenic version, but it’s so good I knew you’d want to try it ASAP.

Deb calls it a Taco Torte and she adapted it from the Mom 100 Cookbook, but “torte” just sounds too fancy for what is actually a very homely, comforting dish. And it doesn’t just have a bunch of vegetables in it (enabling me to call it “healthy” despite the cheese all over it)– it’s actually vegetarian and full of flavor, making it a great dish to serve to any audience!

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Rapunzel’s Favorite Hazelnut Soup

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A while back I bought some parsnips to use in a recipe and inadvertently bought twice as many as I actually needed. The parsnip puree I’d intended to make was delicious– light and creamy and earthily sweet, as parsnips are– but what was I supposed to do with the rest of them?

The answer came in the form of a line from my daughter’s copy of Tangled (okay, I admit it, it’s not her copy, we bought it before she was born because we liked it so much). In it, Mother Gothel returns to the tower, gleefully proclaiming that she’s got a surprise– parsnips! To make Rapunzel’s favorite hazelnut soup for dinner! Well, parsnip and hazelnut soup sounded delicious, and I had some leftover hazelnuts in the freezer just begging to be used, so it was time to get started!

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Indian Pumpkin Pudding

IMG_2670 (1)I will note at the outset that this is “Indian Pudding” as it’s made in New England– basically an enriched and sweetened cornmeal mush, baked in the oven until thick– rather than a pudding of the style made in India (which can include pumpkin). I basically decided to make it on a whim during a recent snowstorm, figuring it would help combat the cold, wintry weather outside.

I’ve never actually liked Indian Pudding in its original form– it’s not really sweet enough for me and it’s kind of one-dimensional. I decided to make it more interesting by the addition of pumpkin purée, as I love pumpkin pie and figured the pumpkin would go well with the flavor profile of the standard pudding recipe. The resulting pudding is (for me at least) the ideal breakfast food– it’s warm and comforting, with more heft than regular pumpkin pie (and all the flavor) so you don’t feel guilty about eating it for breakfast!

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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Bars

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When we were invited to a pumpkin-carving party in anticipation of Halloween, I knew three things– 1) I was going to carve a fabulous pumpkin; 2) I was going to bring dessert; and 3) that dessert would also have to include pumpkin.

Last year for this event I made cupcakes– these cupcakes, to be exact— but while they were delicious and well-received, they were kind of a pain to transport in my two-tier cupcake carrier, while carrying a pumpkin. Also, cupcakes aren’t the ideal serving size for parties where there’s a buffet’s worth of food options– too big for people who want to sample multiple desserts. So this year I decided to solve both problems and make pumpkin bars.

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