The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

Pumpkin Sage Pasta a Satisfying Winter Dish

Although it’s generally enjoyed as part of a bountiful fall harvest, pumpkin should definitely stay in your cooking repertoire throughout the winter months, too.

Pumpkin Sage Pasta
Pumpkin Sage Pasta

Its earthy flavor adds a special “oomph” to savory soups and stews, risottos and casseroles. And we all know the starring role it plays on the sweet side – in pies, muffins, pancakes.

After a usually mild December gives way to January and February’s bone-chilling cold, I find myself craving warm, hearty pasta dishes more than usual. And there’s a place for pumpkin in those, too.

Try this awesome Pumpkin Sage Pasta, which adds fresh sage, Gruyère cheese, white wine and shallots for a richly satisfying dish.

The recipe is included below, and you can see it being prepared by clicking on this demo.

PUMPKIN SAGE PASTA

6 cups cooked short-cut pasta, such as trottole, spirals, penne or bow ties, kept warm
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
8 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
3/4 teaspoon instant chicken flavor bouillon
1 can (12.5 fluid ounces) evaporated lowfat 2% milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons grated Gruyère cheese
Ground black pepper to taste

  1. Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and sage leaves and cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute.
  2. Stir in wine and cook for 2 minutes or until reduced slightly. Stir in water and bouillon and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to infuse flavors. With tongs, remove and discard sage leaves.
  3. Stir evaporated milk and pumpkin into skillet and heat through. Stir in Parmesan cheese and Gruyère cheese until melted. Add cooked pasta to skillet, then stir to coat and heat through.
  4. Season with pepper and sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh sage leaves, if desired, before serving.

Leftover Eggnog? Make Tasty Scones, French Toast!

So here’s the thing …

I love a mug or two of eggnog this time of year. A sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg on top (maybe) and a splash of rum, whiskey or brandy inside (definitely).

The holidays just aren’t the same without it.

But after a few days, I’m pretty much over it until next Christmas. I mean, the stuff is pretty heavy – like drinking melted ice cream – and there’s only so much abuse your arteries can take.

So what to do with your eggnog leftovers?

I shared an awesome recipe (below) for Eggnog and Dried Cranberry Scones a few weeks ago. And here’s another idea: Eggnog French Toast. Oh yeah.

For breakfast Sunday morning, I soaked a couple thick slices of whole grain bread in a bath of whisked eggs, eggnog (instead of milk) and a dusting of cinnamon. Then I cooked it up in a skillet just like regular French toast. Man, was it good!?


Eggnog Scones with Dried Cranberries

3 cups unbleached white flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1 cup eggnog
1/2 cups dried cranberries
grated rind of half an orange

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. Add butter and stir until the mixture forms coarse crumbs, leaving some large crumbs. Add dried cranberries, orange rind and eggnog, and stir gently until the dough pulls together and no dry parts remain in bowl, being careful not to over-mix.

2. Gather dough and knead a few times to make a cohesive mass. Roll out to a thickness of 1 inch and cut into triangles or desired shape. Place on lightly greased baking sheet.

3. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar before placing in oven. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Serve warm.

Makes 24 scones. Recipe from Shelburne Inn & China Beach Retreat in Seaview, Wash.

WVU Tech Groups Engineer Gingerbread Feats

Kudos to the creative groups on campus at West Virginia University Institute of Technology for the awesome gingerbread houses they created for the school’s “Light Up Old Main” Christmas celebration this past weekend.

I made the trip down to Montgomery Friday night to help judge the competition and was impressed by the entries. My top two picks ended up sweeping all categories, so congrats to the winners listed and pictured below …

  • Most Creative: Women’s Softball
  • Most School Spirit: Women’s Softball
  • Most Holiday Spirit: Sydney S. & GK
  • Best Overall: Women’s Softball
  • People’s Choice: Sydney S. & GK

And special thanks to Ratliff Hall Resident Director Michael Sheldon for once again inviting me down to participate. The evening’s festivities also included a town Christmas parade followed by the “Light Up Old Main” ceremony on campus. Very nice evening!

Sydney S and GK House
Sydney S and GK House
Softball Team
Softball Team

 

“Like” T.G.I. Fridays and Help Feed the Hungry

Local T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants have kicked off their third annual “Can For A Fan” virtual food drive benefitting nine regional food banks.

Both restaurants in the greater Charleston area (Southridge and Nitro) will donate one can of food to the Mountaineer Food Bank for each new local Facebook fan who “likes” the chain at www.Facebook.com/EatAtTGIFridays.

In addition to Facebook, the initiative expands to Pinterest this year. On the T.G.I Friday’s “Can For A Fan” Pinterest board, www.Pinterest.com/eatattgifridays/canforafan, users can “like” the Mountaineer Food Bank pinned logo and an additional can of food will be donated.

The drive continues through Dec. 31, or until 5,000 cans have been donated.

Mountaineer Food Bank works to end hunger in the Charleston community through partnerships, innovative programs and community engagement.

Interested in Wild Turkey? Ooh, Yes, YES! … Oh.

So, how’s this for a bait-and-switch?

The National Wild Turkey Federation recently called to ask if I’d be interested in learning more about Wild Turkey.

Heck yeah, I said, suddenly craving a cocktail. But they meant actual wild turkeys.

Oh, alright.

The domestic, farm-raised turkeys most Americans eat on Thanksgiving Day, they say, are nothing like the wild turkey feasted on by the Pilgrims and Native Americans. So here are a few facts about the tasty game bird enjoyed during that first feast:

  • Wild turkeys, now almost 7 million strong, were almost extinct in the early 1900s.
  • Wild turkeys can run up to 25 mph. Just how fast is that? Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest-known human, only averaged 23.35 mph during his world-record 100-meter run.
  • Wild turkeys rarely weigh more than 24 pounds while domestic turkeys regularly grow to more than 40 pounds.
  • Wild turkeys, which have as many as 6,000 feathers, can fly as fast as 55 mph. Most domestic turkeys are too heavy to fly.
  • Wild turkeys have much sharper vision than humans and can view their entire surroundings simply by turning their head.
  • Wild turkeys can make at least 28 different vocalizations, with gobbles heard up to one mile away.
  • Wild turkeys roost (sleep) in trees, often as high as 50 feet off the ground.
  • Wild turkeys were argued by Benjamin Franklin to be a more appropriate choice than bald eagles as our national bird.

 

The 3 S’s of Fall — Soups, Stews and Side Dishes

When temps start to fall, my taste buds turn to the three S’s of fall – soups, stews and sides.

A creamy potato soup. A chunky beef stew. A filling side dish. The heartier the better!

And soups, especially, are so easy to make at home.

“People are often intimidated when it comes to making tasty soups, but it’s not nearly as challenging as it may seem,” says Ryan Fichter, Executive Chef of Thunder Burger. “Great tasting soups are within reach for everyone to make.”

Here are his 5 tips for making it happen:

  1. STOCK UP. The soup base, or stock, is a big part of the equation. Good tasting stock makes good tasting soup. Homemade is best, but if that’s not an option choose a store-bought kind low in sodium.
  2. MIND THE MACARONI. If you are going to have pasta in your soup, be sure to cook it before adding it in. Many people skip this step, and it can throw off their whole recipe.
  3. FRESH IS BEST. When it comes to any of the ingredients going into your soup, fresh is the best option. If that’s not an option, go for frozen over canned.
  4. USE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT. Using the right kitchen tools is important. Some people prefer to use a slow cooker, which is fine. If you will be using a pot, choose one that is large and heavy. Also, an immersion blender makes easy work of creaming/pureeing soups.
  5. THE FINISHING TOUCH. Enhance the soup’s presentation by using a garnish. Also, most people prefer to have something with their soup, so choose the right addition, such as crackers, biscuits, muffins, bread or breadsticks.

“One of the great things about soup is that it is so versatile,” Fichter adds. “Soup can be a great appetizer, side dish or even a main course. Leftovers also heat up well for lunch the next day.”

Here here, I say.

And here here is his recipe for a simple Creamy Potato Soup. You can bulk it up with veggies or top it off with fresh herbs or crumbled bacon.

 

Creamy Potato Soup Recipe

2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 small celery stalks, chopped
1 medium leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 ½ pounds of Idaho potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 ½ cups heavy cream

1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add chopped celery stalks and leek, sauté about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes.

2. Add sweet potatoes, chicken stock, allspice, and nutmeg; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

3. With an immersion blender puree soup in blender until smooth.

4. Add cream and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead).

Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Love a Veteran? Treat ‘Em to a Free Meal

Two local restaurants are honoring America’s servicemen and women this Veterans Day by offering free meals to anyone who brings in their valid military ID this Monday, Nov. 12.

T.G.I. Friday’s is saying thanks to the men and women who protect our country with lunch on the house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day. All they need to do is show proof of service – either a U.S. Uniform Services ID Card, a U.S. Uniform Services Retired ID Card, a Current Leave and Earnings Statement, Veterans Organization Card, a DD214, a photograph in uniform or by wearing their uniform.

In addition to a free meal for veterans this Monday, Texas Steakhouse and Saloon will also give up to five friends and family members dining with military members their own 10% discount.

Texas Steakhouse and Saloon has a long-standing relationship with the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that helps injured armed service members. All year long, one dollar of the proceeds from every “Grandma’s Shortcake” sold at the restaurant is donated to the group, resulting in a $51,000 donation.

That’s a lot of cake!

Friends, Family, Fun … And a Fine Fall Feast!

I’m still in a German food coma following this past weekend’s Blocktoberfest, an annual blowout the wife – she of Austrian heritage – and I host for friends and family this time of year.

Although we scaled back the bash several years ago when kids came along, we’ve been ramping it back up recently by incorporating everyone’s little ones into the festivities.

My Little Lederhosen Boy
Ryan Keith, 5, wears authentic German lederhosen that once belonged to his Austrian-born uncle. Needless to say, he was a hit at the par-tay!

Saturday night’s soiree drew about 80 guests to our house, with adults sampling a dozen different German beers around the firepit, while the kids bobbed for apples, tested their limbo skills and toasted marshmallows for s’mores.

And a bigger crowd means more food, so we biggie-sized the buffet as well.

While I was outside grilling sausages and brats (shipped in from Germany, this year) Amy was inside setting up a table full of her homemade German potato salad, sauerkraut, cooked purple cabbage, sautéed peppers, cucumber salad and apple salad, along with assorted pickles, mustards and jumbo pretzels.

Guests added to the bounty by bringing pecan pie, pumpkin cheesecake, appetizers and more. From fine friends and family to fantastic food, it was an affair to remember.

Have a Great Recipe? Get it Published!

A local food market in Huntington is inviting folks to submit up to five of their favorite recipes for possible inclusion in an upcoming cookbook.

The Wild Ramp, located in the Shops at Heritage Station, is looking for those dishes that people always ask you to prepare for a potluck or family meal. They can be recipes you have cooked for years or a new dish that turned out particularly well, but they should embrace the “whole foods” concept as much as possible.

What’s that, you say? Just making sure you avoid or limit the use of prepared or highly processed ingredients. The goal of the “Wild Ramp Cookbook” is to encourage people that cooking from scratch is an easy and enjoyable thing to do.

But to ensure the book is out in time for the holidays, the deadline for recipe submission is pretty quick. As in they need them emailed to wildrampmarket@gmail.com by 7 p.m. this Friday. Recipes should be typed or legibly written, and you must include your name, phone number and email. If you’re submitting a recipe you received from someone else, be sure to note that as well.

The Wild Ramp is open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Go, Jennifer, Go! Garner the New Face of LYFE

LYFE Kitchen – makers of great-tasting, good-for-you food and a retail line of ready-to-eat meals – has announced that homegirl Jennifer Garner – globally acclaimed actress, philanthropist, lifestyle role model and bone fide hottie – is joining the brand as an ambassador.

Garner will serve as a charitable and strategic advisor for the company, along with being a member of LYFE Kitchen’s ambassador panel. The company hopes Garner’s high visibility will help them spread awareness to active moms and families, while furthering the brand’s commitment to practice social and environmental responsibility.

“Ms. Garner is a perfect fit for the LYFE Kitchen team, as someone with a busy, active lifestyle, and who cares about good, nutritious food,” said LYFE Kitchen Founder and Retail CEO, Stephen Sidwell.

Together, they are inviting folks to join them on a nationwide movement to “TASTE LYFE,” a pledge to live a healthy, active lifestyle, which includes good, nutritious food. LYFE is an acronym for “Love Your Food Everyday,” but the company’s goals go beyond providing great-tasting food. The brand embodies a lifestyle represented by three core pillars – “Eat Good. Feel Good. Do Good” – and encourages others to do the same.

“We admire Jennifer’s cause-related initiatives with her charity work, and we look forward to using her expertise as LYFE Kitchen grows the ‘Do Good’ pillar,” Sidwell said, in making the announcement this week.

Check out this video to hear Jennifer talk about the new initiative. Go, Jen, go!