Spiced Pumpkin Hummus

Amid the pies, cookies, muffins and lattes that have unfairly typecast pumpkin as being exclusively sweet, I’m flipping the script and respecting the savory side of this autumn favorite. This tasty twist on hummus is a simple appetizer that you can put together last minute for your Thanksgiving pre-feast. It’s satisfying, but low-fat, good for you and vegan.

All you need to make it is a can of garbanzo beans, a little pumpkin puree, some tahini and your preference of savory spices, and I’ll give you a few flavor ideas that will work splendidly.

Hummus is a blank canvas for your favorite flavors. This time, canned pumpkin and garam masala are making it special.

As with any hummus, you need to have a food processor or blender to be successful. For tips and tricks to make your hummus super smooth, you may want to check out my recipe for easy hummus at home. If you’re in a hurry, don’t worry; I’ll also walk you through it in a slideshow below. This is easy stuff.

At our house, a green plate means the dish is suitable for vegan guests.

Ingredients

1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), preferably low sodium

2 cloves garlic, minced (optional but recommended)

1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)

1/2 tsp. savory spice* (pick a favorite or use one of my suggestions below)

Extra virgin olive oil (2 or 3 Tbsp., depending on taste)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

*Notes

I used garam masala for this batch of hummus, but you might try chai spice, chipotle or ancho chile, cayenne, chili powder, cumin or smoked paprika. Make it your own!


Instructions

Follow along with my pictures, or skip ahead for the written instructions and downloadable PDF for your recipe files!


  1. Pour the garbanzo beans and their liquid into a small saucepan over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or long enough to see moderate bubbling as it boils lightly.
  2. Drain the beans through a mesh strainer, but do not discard the liquid; you’ll need some of it for blending the hummus.
  3. Transfer the beans to the food processor bowl and pulse a few times until it has appearance of a coarse meal. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of the reserved liquid and pulse a few more times.
  4. Add pumpkin, tahini, spices, and several twists of freshly ground black pepper. Pulse until combined, and then run the processor constantly while streaming in additional bean liquid, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture reaches your preferred consistency. This will only take a minute or so. Stop and scrape down sides as needed. Taste hummus and adjust seasonings to taste.
  5. To finish the hummus, run the processor constantly and slowly stream in olive oil. This adds a touch of healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as a silky creamy texture.

Transfer hummus to a covered bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. Drizzle hummus with olive oil and sprinkle with additional spice or chopped pepitas, or both, for a pretty presentation. Serve chilled or room temperate with pita chips, crackers, vegetables or my soft pita breads.

Pita chips, cut-up veggies and crackers are all great for serving any kind of hummus.

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Spinach Balls with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Hi, everyone! I’m bustling about this week, putting together plans for Thanksgiving, so my awesome husband is stepping into the Comfort du Jour kitchen to share one of his fabulous appetizer recipes! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 🙂

Terrie

Water logged, salt bloated, mushy.

I think we can all agree that canned vegetables suck. I grew up on them, though, force fed night after night by my mom, who was trying to make a thin budget stretch enough to feed three hungry kids.

Perhaps my mother was worn down by the time I came around after my two sisters, but mom did let me get away with complete rejection of canned peas and asparagus. I choked down string beans and carrots. Grudgingly. I actually liked two types of canned veggies. Corn and, somewhat inexplicably, spinach.

Maybe it was the Popeye cartoons. You remember how Popeye always was getting whaled on by Bluto until, miraculously, he discovered a can of spinach, opened it with a variety of odd devices he would somehow pull out of thin air and, voila, POW! Bluto was punched off the planet.

Maybe it was the fact I could mix spinach, with a liberal amount of margarine, into the baked potato we had every night. The spinach-potato glop was my favorite—until I discovered frozen creamed spinach in early adulthood in the supermarkets of Southern California, where I moved after college.

It was only a matter of time until I discovered fresh spinach. Tasted good in a salad. Tasted even better sauteed in butter. In short, I discovered the world beyond the can. Years later, I had the good fortune to be invited to a restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida, the Ke’e Grill, where “Spinach Maria” achieved the rank of “best spinach dish ever.” Even more fortunate for me, I have a wife, the inspired, genius founder of Comfort du Jour, who loves the challenge of creating dishes even better than we have out. Hence, I’ve enjoyed Terrie’s Spinach Maria and consider it better than the original. Not unlike her version of New York-style pizza.

But I digress. My point is that tastes change and grow over the years, but I still love spinach, and love using it in dishes that I can do, too. Like spinach balls.

These spinach balls are great as appetizers, or just snacking in general.

I first made these by searching recipes when I was tasked with creating an appetizer dish for an annual holiday potluck at work. First time out of the box, they drew raves, especially from one of the office vegetarians. I guess he enjoyed the savory taste, a blend of seasoned bread crumbs, butter, eggs, cheese and spices. They were clean and neat, easy to just keep popping in your mouth. I’ve been making them, especially around the holidays, ever since, and Terrie has done one of her “elevate” tricks by making use of leftover spinach balls and recasting them as an ingredient, in, say, breakfast waffles. She’s working on a way to incorporate them in some form (Crumbled, sliced? Who knows? That’s the joy of living with a creative kitchen mind) one of her specialty pizzas. I can’t wait.

Enjoy!

Spinach Ball Ingredients

1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach*

2 cups seasoned herb mix*  

2/3 cup grated Italian cheese*

1/2 cup (1 stick) of salted butter, melted and cooled

3 eggs, beaten

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

½ tsp. black pepper

*Notes

Some frozen bagged spinach comes in 12-ounce size, and the extra will not harm the final outcome.

I use a combination of Pepperidge Farm herbed turkey stuffing mix (about 2 parts) and panko bread crumbs (1 part).

I also use our blend of grated parmesan and romano cheeses, but regular grated parmesan would also work.


Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Defrost spinach and dry as thoroughly as possible with paper towels.
  3. Blend dry ingredients, grinding the bread crumbs so they are largely fine in texture. Add spinach, then eggs and butter, mixing until thoroughly blended and dough-like in consistency.
  4. Take 1 to 2 tablespoons worth of the spinach mixture between your palms, pressing it together to help it take an oval form, then gently roll it between your palms to form golf ball-sized bites, spacing each about an inch apart on the cookie sheet. Be careful to ensure the mixture is pressed initially and to roll it gently to avoid crumbling. If the mix itself is too crumbly, add an egg and another tablespoon of butter, remix and start again.
  5. Spinach balls should cook 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the oven. Turn them once midway when one side has a slightly brown coloring.

The red pepper sauce is something new, and it came about quite coincidentally. Except I don’t believe in coincidences. So here’s the story. One Monday, Terrie asked me to make the spinach balls for the coming weekend. The next day, I peeked at my email and there was one of The New York Times’ 12 emails a day (Yes, I have an online subscription. Sue me; I’m a former journalist.) that crowd my inbox. This one said “Giant couscous cake with red pepper sauce.” I didn’t give a hoot about the couscous cake, but “red pepper sauce” caught my attention. I love sauces. Love to try them, love to create my own. I looked at the recipe and immediately thought it would be perfect for the spinach balls, which we typically serve with a marinara. So we tried it. And like Mikey in the old Life cereal ads, “we liked it.”

Pepper Sauce Ingredients

2 medium red bell peppers, quartered and seeds removed

1 medium tomato, halved and seeded

2 full heads of garlic

1 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

4 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper


Instructions

  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Toss peppers and tomato in 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and the kosher salt and arrange skin side up on the cookie sheet.
  3. Cut off ends of garlic heads, drizzle with olive oil and place in foil either on the same cookie sheet if there is room or alongside.
  4. Place the cookie sheet in the oven to roast. After 35 minutes, the peppers and tomatoes should show a nice brown. Remove them from oven and allow to cool slightly; let the garlic continue to roast another 15 minutes until the individual cloves are deep golden color.
  5. Once slightly cooled, remove skins from peppers and tomato and put in a food processor. Remove garlic and squeeze bulbs into the processor as well, taking care not to drop the garlic paper in.
  6. Add red wine vinegar, a good pinch of salt and solid shake of pepper.
  7. Pulse the processor several times to begin the blend, then leave it on and slowly drizzle in remaining 3 Tbs. of olive oil until mixture is smooth. Additional olive oil can be drizzled on top of the sauce upon serving.
Thanks for letting me share these with you. I hope you enjoy them.

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Creamy Crab and Artichoke Dip

Of all the recipes I stashed away in my mind during the time I spent working in a catering kitchen, the hot artichoke dip takes the gold as my most durable. During my two years as a kitchen assistant, I probably made this dip more than 100 times. It was a favorite among clients, and for good reason. It’s easy to make ahead, easy to serve in large quantity and an undeniable crowd pleaser. It also happens to be extremely adaptable to other ingredients, as we learned with the Kentucky Hot Brown Dip a few weeks ago. By keeping the base recipe the same, I’m able to adjust the other ingredients to create whatever impression I wish, and I encourage you to do the same with ingredients that sound good to you.

What I haven’t confessed is that the cream cheese part of the recipe I share today is technically my own adjustment to the original, which (I’m sorry to say) was completely off the charts in fat content. If you spend even a little bit of time in a commercial kitchen, you will quickly come to realize the overwhelming dependence on mayonnaise. I’m not kidding—pro chefs use that stuff for everything—from dips and dressings (which makes sense) to spreading on fish before rolling in bread crumbs (why not eggs or Dijon?) and replacing butter for grilling sandwiches (I’m sorry—what’s wrong with butter?). As crazy as it seems, the solution presented in the catering kitchen to the oiliness that would appear when the artichoke dip was drowning in melted mayonnaise was, “add more bread crumbs.” Yowza. When I decided to make it at home, this recipe got an easy makeover.

For any creamy hot dip, light cream cheese fits the bill as a substitute for so much mayonnaise. It maintains the silky creamy texture, gives better structure and (in my humble opinion) improves the overall experience of the dip because it doesn’t separate or become greasy. I don’t need to create an infographic to describe to you the nutritional comparison. (Spoiler—the cream cheese wins.)

And although the original recipe is for artichoke dip, the base is a neutral canvas for whatever you want in the dip. This time, I kept the marinated artichoke hearts, added cooked crab, swapped out cheddar in favor of cheeses that paired better with the delicate crab, and topped the whole thing with garlic-buttered (not mayonnaise-laden) panko crumbs. We wanted something on the “heavy hors d’oeuvres” side for a backyard happy hour, and this was perfectly transportable and an absolute winner. As you can see, the ingredient list is short and sweet, just like our time spent laughing and relaxing with our friends on a beautiful spring evening. Charlotte was convinced this must be difficult to make—just wait until she sees the simplicity of this recipe! 🙂

Whether you’re gathering safely with friends as we did or hoarding the whole batch for yourself (I’m not judging), I hope you’ll feel free to swap ingredients to suit your palate for your next “happy hour.”

This dip is really, really easy to make with only a handful of ingredients. The crab is already cooked, so it comes together quickly. If you’re pressed for time, it’s OK to use pre-shredded cheese.

Ingredients

8 oz. brick light cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened

1/3 cup canola oil mayonnaise

2 tsp. dried chopped onion (or 1/4 cup sauteed onion)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A few shakes of Old Bay seasoning (optional, but so good with crab)

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese (to save time, I used a pre-shredded blend from Trader Joe’s)*

4 oz. prepared crab meat*

3/4 cup marinated artichoke hearts, chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 Tbsp. salted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup parmesan-romano cheese

*Notes

I’m eating my words from other posts regarding the use of pre-shredded cheese. Normally, I cringe at their use because of the no-clump coating that generally prevents even mixing or melting. The truth is, I was pressed for time on the day I made this scrumptious dip, because my stylist was able to squeeze me in for my first hair appointment in more than 90 days! As always, my tips are only suggestions. If it comes down to taking a shortcut or missing the opportunity, please always take the shortcut!

Use any cooked crab meat you prefer. In some dishes, fresh is crucial—but in this hot dip, I’ve found that the prepared blue crab available in my supermarket’s seafood section is perfectly suitable.

Instructions

Using either a stand mixer or handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese and mayonnaise together until smooth and creamy. Add the dried onion, plus salt and pepper to taste, and mix to combine. This is the base recipe, and you can use it as a backdrop for any other ingredients you wish, provided you follow the general ratio of added ingredients, and none of them are excessively wet.

To continue with the crab artichoke dip recipe, add the Old Bay seasoning and shredded cheese and stir or mix on low until it’s evenly incorporated. Use a rubber spatula or spoon to gently fold in the crab meat and artichoke hearts. You want these ingredients to keep their shape, so easy does it here.

For serving at home, transfer the mixture to a 9-inch pie plate. Because we were planning to share the dip at a safely-distanced backyard happy hour, I divided it among three smaller oven-safe ramekins—one for us, one for our friends, and a third to leave behind for them to enjoy later in the weekend.

Melt butter in a small skillet and sauté the garlic over medium-low heat. Stir in the panko crumbs and toss them around until all are coated evenly. (Want to save a bit of time here? While the butter is melting, put the panko crumbs in a small Rubbermaid-style bowl. After sautéing the garlic, pour the butter mixture over the crumbs then seal the bowl and shake the heck out of it. It’s one more dish to wash, but you will make quick work of blending the butter with the crumbs more evenly.)

Sprinkle the buttered crumbs evenly over the crab-artichoke mixture, then sprinkle with parm-romano blend and cover with foil and tuck it into the fridge until you’re ready to bake.

Bake at 350° F for 35-40 minutes, or until dip is bubbly and parm-romano crumb mixture is lightly browned. Serve warm with crackers, pita or toasted baguettes. Wouldn’t you know?—we were in a rush to get over to our backyard happy hour, and I was so excited about seeing our friends in person, I forgot to snap a picture of the bubbly dip while it was hot from the oven. I guess I’ll have to make it again, and then I’ll update the post. 🙂

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Les’s Homemade Pimiento Cheese

Every Super Bowl party, every Thanksgiving appetizer hour and several other times throughout the year—you’ll find this quick and simple spread on our table. Though he doesn’t know the exact origin of his pimiento cheese recipe, my husband, Les, recalls that it was shared with him by a colleague at one of his former jobs. And that’s the nature of recipes, isn’t it? We enjoy a food that someone else prepared and we ask for the recipe. Maybe it’s their original recipe or maybe they got it from a cousin or a neighbor or their church potluck cookbook or the back of a soup can. When the recipe tickles your fancy, it doesn’t matter where it came from—just enjoy the fact that someone is willing to share it.

Les has graciously shared this one with me, to be shared with you. I was busy watching and jotting down the amounts of each ingredient he used, so I missed getting pictures along the way. But would you really need them for a recipe this simple? Let’s just go straight to the money shot.

Pimiento cheese is a southern food staple, delicious on a burger or little luncheon sandwiches, or even just spread on a cracker.

Unlike so many southern-style pimiento cheese recipes, this one is easy on the mayonnaise and lets the cheese take center stage. Nothing turns me off, food-wise, more than too much mayonnaise. The addition of diced tomatoes provides a nice touch of acidity to balance the richness of the cheese, and the tiniest splash of an unexpected ingredient adds a savory undertone. This spread is sturdy enough that a delicate cracker will break when you dip it. You need a hefty cracker or crostini, or do as we do and use a serving knife to spread it on your preferred snack canvas.

We enjoyed some of this recently when we had a small, physically distanced gathering with another couple. It was a fabulous backyard happy hour, long-overdue, and complete with snacks and David’s awesome martinis.

Go on, open a box of crackers, and make it a big one—in case you decide to devour the whole batch in one sitting. Nobody would blame you.

Ingredients

2/3 cup mayonnaise (we use an all-canola oil brand)

1/2 can Rotel tomatoes, very well drained*

2 oz. jar of diced pimientos, drained of excess moisture

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (surprise!)

2 blocks (8 oz. each) cheddar cheese, freshly shredded*

Freshly cracked black pepper

*Notes

Les uses the “hot” version of Rotel, which has habanero pepper but honestly isn’t really that hot. If spicy isn’t your thing, use the original.

Try using a couple different types of cheese, to keep it interesting. This time around, Les used sharp yellow cheddar and extra sharp white cheddar. But if you want to get creative and use smoked cheddar, or mix it up with gouda or another favorite firm cheese—we would both say, “go for it!”

For sure, do not use the pre-shredded cheese in a bag. They coat that stuff with a substance that keeps it from sticking together in the bag, and it adds a weird texture to finished recipes. In our opinion, all cheese is best when you buy it whole and grate it yourself.

Instructions

Stir together the mayonnaise, tomatoes, pimientos and Worcestershire sauce in a large mixing bowl, and season to your liking with black pepper. You won’t need to add salt because the cheese has enough. Add the shredded cheddar cheese and mix until evenly combined. I will note that Les and I differ on how to put together certain types of dishes, this being one of them. He grates the cheese first and then blends in each ingredient after that; my thought is that mixing the wet ingredients first and then blending in the dry makes life far easier. (Coincidentally, our methods differ in the same way for cookies. But that’s another post.) You can serve the spread immediately, but the flavor is best after a few hours in the refrigerator.

Simple ingredients, simple to make, and delicious!

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Pimiento cheese is practically its own food group in the South. If you have never heard of it (or maybe even pimientos themselves), here’s some background info to bring you up to speed:

What are pimientos?

Also sometimes spelled “pimento,” these are smallish round sweet peppers, about the size of a golf ball, and they are commonly referred to as “cherry peppers” because they have a similar shape. When jarred, the peppers are usually diced quite small. Most likely, you’ve seen pimientos before, stuffed into the inside of pitted green olives. Of course, now I’m craving a martini.

Are pimientos spicy?

Most people would agree that pimientos are not spicy, but sweet in flavor. For reference, they land somewhere about 200 on the Scoville scale, which measures the capsaicin, or heat value, of peppers. To compare, jalapenos are somewhere around 3,000. Having said that, if you decide to grow some pimientos, give them some distance from spicier peppers in your garden, as they have a tendency to take on more heat once they have cross-pollinated.

What else can you do with pimientos?

You can use pimientos the same way you’d use any other sweet pepper—in salads, soups, spreads or omelets. They are nearly bite-sized, so you might also remove the stem and clean out the seeds, then stuff them with herbed cream cheese or tuna salad. If you just have way too much time your hands, I suppose you could buy a bushel, dehydrate them and grind them into a powder. Voilà—homemade paprika.

How can I dress up pimiento cheese?

Adjust the flavor profile by blending in different kinds of cheese—smoked gouda, asiago or bleu cheese would each lend an interesting twist to pimiento cheese. Or add small amounts of other ingredients, such as pickled jalapenos, pickles or even cooked crumbled bacon for variety.

How can I use leftover pimiento cheese?

I’m sorry—I don’t think I understand this question, because we never have leftovers! 🙂 But sometimes, Les makes a double batch so we have enough to use for other things, such as topping a burger, melting over a toasted bagel, slathering inside omelets or elevating our happy in a macaroni and cheese. Go on, make some!


Kentucky Hot Brown Dip

Not everyone has the time (or the patience) to make a fussy Kentucky Hot Brown Benedict, or the traditional open-faced brioche sandwich that served as inspiration for it. Here’s a super simple way to enjoy all the same flavors, but in a make-ahead dip version. You’ll notice that my recipe does not mention adding salt—this is not accidental. I’ve used deli sliced turkey to keep it simple. Between that and the bacon, the recipe doesn’t need more salt.

Ingredients

4 slices thin uncured bacon, cut into 1/2” pieces

About 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup sweet onion

3 oz. thinly sliced deli turkey, chopped into smaller pieces—about 1/2 cup packed

1 pkg. (8 oz.) Neufchatel cream cheese

1/4 cup light mayo

1/4 cup light sour cream

Small handful fresh Italian parsley, cleaned and chopped

1 small (10 oz.) can Rotel tomatoes (mild version), drained completely

3/4 cup Swiss-Gruyere cheese blend from Trader Joe’s

2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (and extra to sprinkle on top)

Freshly ground black pepper

Tools

Cast-iron skillet
Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
Rubber spatula
Cutting board and knife
Small non-stick skillet
Oven-safe baking dish (volume about 4 cups)*

Instructions

Place cast iron skillet over medium heat and cook bacon pieces until crispy. Set aside on paper towels to drain; when cool, chop the crispy pieces into smaller, basically uniform bits.

Place small skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. When it begins to shimmer, add chopped onions and sauté until caramelized. Add chopped turkey to the pan and continue to sauté until turkey pieces have browned edges. Set aside to cool.

In mixer bowl, whip cream cheese until smooth. Add mayonnaise and sour cream and whip again until blended, stopping once to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add Swiss-Gruyere blend, parmesan, parsley and tomatoes and mix gently until blended (don’t whip too much or tomatoes will lose their shape and turn the cream cheese pink). Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a silicone spatula to gently fold the turkey and onions, plus half of the crispy bacon, into the cream cheese mixture. Transfer the dip mixture to an oven-safe baking dish*, and top with remaining crispy bacon and another sprinkle of parmesan.

* We are still doing physical distancing (which is really bumming me out, but still necessary), so I’ve divided the dip mixture into separate ramekins to share with friends and neighbors for their own private Virtual Kentucky Derby gatherings (of two). These adorable dishes were handed down from my grandma, and I just love them! Each holds about 1 1/4 cups of dip mixture.

Proceed with baking, or cover and store in the fridge up to 3 days, until ready to serve.

Baking and Serving

Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake, loosely covered with foil, for about 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes longer, or until hot and bubbly.

Serve piping hot, spread on crackers, baguette slices or these dainty little brioche toasts I found at Trader Joe’s.

These seem appropriate, in keeping with the traditional “Hot Brown” open face sandwich on brioche.

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Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Balls

Think of these as very grown-up candies! During the mixing step, it will seem a little bit like you’re making mortar—it’s sooo thick and gooey. But once you have shaped and chilled them, they’ll be wonderful. What I like about this recipe is that it doesn’t involve making ganache, which is an extra step of melting chocolate in heavy cream in a double boiler. Using pantry ingredients keeps it simple, but make no mistake—these itty bitty bites are still impressive. Unlike the ganache-style truffles, these have some texture to them, thanks to the graham crumbs and pecans.

This recipe makes about 24 bourbon truffles. They pack a pretty boozy punch so don’t serve them to children or non-drinkers.

Ingredients

1 cup dry toasted, unsalted pecan pieces

3/4 cup Kentucky bourbon, divided

2 sleeves graham crackers

1/2 cup dark cocoa powder, divided

1/2 cup powdered sugar, divided 1/4 cup Karo corn syrup (light or dark is fine)

Instructions

In a small bowl, pour about half the bourbon over the pecan pieces and let them relax (in a drunken stupor) for about 3 hours.

Break the graham crackers into pieces, pulse in a food processor or blender until they are fine crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a large mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pecans from the bourbon and transfer them to a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Reserve the soaking bourbon. Bake the pecans until they’re dry and lightly toasted, about 12 minutes or up to 15 minutes (be careful not to burn). Cool, then chop finely or pulse in a food processor, but not to the point of powder. They should have a texture similar to panko crumbs.

Combine 1/4 cup each of the cocoa and powdered sugar in a small bowl or zip-top bag, and set aside for dusting the finished truffles.

Add the chopped pecans, all remaining bourbon (including the soaking portion), corn syrup, and the remaining cocoa and powdered sugar to the bowl of graham cracker crumbs. Prepare to get messy. Stir these ingredients together until no dry pockets remain. It will be sticky and gooey, but keep going. When the mixture is fully blended, rub your hands with a little dab of butter and roll a heaping tablespoon at a time into a ball. Place the bourbon balls on a parchment-lined tray, cover with plastic and chill for about 2 hours.

When balls are chilled and firm, gently roll them around in the reserved cocoa-sugar mixture until they’re well coated. Cover and chill again until ready to serve. If desired, give them another roll in the cocoa-sugar when you’re ready to present them. I think they’re cute in these little mini-muffin papers, and your guests will be able to pick them up without tongs.

Boozy truffle, anyone?

Elevate your happy, Comfort du Jour style!

I decided to make these Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Truffles even more impressive by rolling them in different types of coatings. Try doing a third of them in the cocoa-powdered sugar blend, a third in super-fine (caster) sugar and a third in finely chopped pecans. One recipe, but three treatments, gives the impression of variety but with very minimal extra effort.

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Egg-stravaganza!

This week, I imagine two reasons you might have a bunch of extra eggs in the fridge—you stockpiled them to get through COVID-19 self-isolation or you got creative with coloring them for Easter. Either way, here’s a list of ideas to help jazz up a classic comfort food—deviled eggs!

My husband, Les, and I have gotten pretty adventurous with deviled eggs in the years we’ve been together, and each time we make them, we ask each other, “why don’t we make these more often?” Honestly, they are a perfect light bite—packed with protein, ridiculously easy to make with basic ingredients and no special tools, and an amazingly versatile blank canvas for a wide array of other flavors. They work for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or even a late-night snack. Perhaps best of all, given that we enjoy them so much, they are relatively easy on the waistline (depending on your filling choices, of course).

If you’ve never made them yourself, now is a great time. Here’s my very basic recipe for deviled eggs, along with some creative, flavorful change-ups to help you use up some other stuff in the fridge while you’re at it. Let me know if you find a new favorite!

Ingredients

6 chilled hard-boiled eggs, peeled (obviously)

Filling

2 to 3 Tbsp. canola mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon or other prepared mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sweet or smoked paprika

Instructions

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise, and empty the yolks into a small mixing bowl. Set the whites aside on a covered plate while you make the filling.

Add 2 Tbsp. mayo and the mustard to the egg yolks and mash with a fork or back of a spoon to combine into a soft, smooth mixture. Add more mayo if mixture seems too dry. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon filling into a zip-top bag and squeeze out as much air as possible. Carefully snip a small bit of one corner off the bag, and pipe the filling into the egg white halves; sprinkle with paprika and enjoy!

Jazz em up! (left to right) Bloody Mary; Jalapeno pimiento cheese; Bacon, egg and cheese.

Fun Flavor Variations

Change it up with a simple swap of fillings.

Bloody Mary

Filling: egg yolks, 1 Tbsp. mayo, 2 Tbsp. tomato paste, 1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish, a dash or two of hot sauce and/or Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Press cut side of egg white halves onto a plate sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning so when you turn them back over the rims are nicely coated and colored. Pipe filling into egg white halves; garnish with olive half and celery leaf.

Jalapeno-pimento cheese

Filling: egg yolks, 2 to 3 Tbsp. prepared pimiento cheese, 2 tsp. chopped pickled jalapeno slices (drain them well and pat dry on paper towels). Salt and pepper to taste. Pipe filling into egg white halves; garnish with piece of pimiento and jalapeno.

Bacon, egg and cheese

Filling: egg yolks, 3 Tbsp. mayo, 2 Tbsp. very finely shredded cheddar cheese, ½ slice crispy bacon (wrap in a paper towel and use a rolling pin to crush it into very fine crumbs). Pipe filling into egg white halves (you will have extra – you’re welcome); sprinkle with sweet paprika and garnish with a small strip of crispy bacon.

Smoky guacamole

Filling: egg yolks, no mayo, 2 Tbsp. mashed avocado, ¼ tsp ground chipotle or chili powder, 2 tsp. very finely minced red onion, squeeze of fresh lime juice to preserve color. Salt and pepper to taste. Pipe filling into egg white halves just before serving; garnish with a cilantro sprig.

Lox and bagels

Filling: egg yolks, 2 Tbsp. mayo, 1 Tbsp. finely chopped smoked salmon or lox, 1 tsp. very finely minced red onion. Pipe filling into egg white halves; garnish with “everything bagel” seasoning and capers.

Sweet southern

Filling: egg yolks, 3 Tbsp. mayo, 1 tsp. each yellow mustard and sweet pickle relish (pat dry on paper towel). Salt and pepper to taste. Pipe filling into egg white halves; garnish with chopped sweet pickle and/or a slice of pickled okra.

Roasted garlic hummus

Filling: egg yolks, no mayo, 2 Tbsp. prepared hummus, 3 smashed cloves of freshly roasted garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Pipe filling into egg white halves; garnish with paprika if desired.

Bloody Mary (center); Sweet southern and Roasted garlic hummus (alternating, outside)

What’s your favorite deviled egg combination?

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