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Dips, Spreads & Sandwiches

Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seed Butter

Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seed Butter

I prefer pumpkin spice in my nut butter, not my coffee.

I’ve been using this batch of the creamy spread to slather on bread, spoon into oatmeal, and drizzle on breakfast sweet potatoes.

Breakfast Sweet Potato with Pumpkin Seed Butter

The recipe is simple, but you’ll need a solid food processor. And a little patience. As you watch the butter swirl round and round, achieving a creamy butter may at first seem impossible. But eventually, the seeds begin to slowly release their oils. This turns the consistency of the butter from chalky to velvety smooth.

Feel free to adjust the spices to your liking. You can also play around with toasting the seeds. Sometimes I’ll also add a few walnuts to the food processor, too.

Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seed Butter

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Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

Ain’t no party like a sweet potato party. Or a crostini party. Or a tahini party. Or a Friendsgiving party. Or a Thanksgiving soiree with all your family members you see but once or twice per year and still don’t really know what to talk about besides sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

I can’t say I’m a fan of the word ain’t. (In fact, I had to look up its spelling just for this blog post.) But, I’m a huge fan of parties, even those semi-strange family ones, and I’m  equally a fan of all the ingredients listed above.

Tahini. Sweet potatoes. Honey. Toasted walnuts and baguette. Now that’s a party in a single, not-entirely-too-awkward bite to eat.

I.e., you’re going to want to put this guy on your Thanksgiving party plate list.

Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

Aside from crostini packages that offer a ton of flavor in one fork-and-spoon-free bite, I’m a huge fan of healthy appetizers. Let’s face it, parties aren’t always the most health-friendly activities, Thanksgiving included. In fact, recent research for my day job informed me that the average American consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day, or the equivalent of the calories you’d use to jog 10 hours straight. Yowza. That’s a party in which I’m not too interested.

Luckily, this recipe packs in the nutrition, sneaking in a little protein while it’s at it. That bean-powered protein and creamy sweet potato fiber will keep you satisfied till the main meal arrives, and keep you feeling good, too.

If that sounds great to you, I invite you to kick off your next party FFFreshAir style, and let this crostini start your taste bud tango. I promise, it’s got way better dance moves than I do.

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Roasted Eggplant Hummus with Toasted Cumin

Roasted Eggplant Hummus with Toasted Cumin

Real talk here – emojis are one of the best attributes to ever appear in the smartphone world. It’s not infrequent that I’m texting half in emoji-speak, and dying in my bed from my own emoji-induced laughter.

Emojis are great, and so are the other goofs who can appreciate them as much as I do. Hopefully that’s you, otherwise you’re probably praying for my sanity right now.

Roasted Eggplant Hummus with Toasted Cumin

While I am forever anticipating the creation of a carrot emoji, I can say I frequently get down with the eggplant icon while I wait. Its purple radiance, with its bright green top, does wonders to add life to my muted text messages.

Eggplant emojis, for the win.

Japanese eggplant

You know what else is an eggplant win? When you add its roasted form to your hummus. You’ll find a recipe for that below, which is essentially a babaganoush meets hummus situation that can only be described as yum-o.

Roasted Eggplant Hummus with Toasted Cumin

By adding roasted eggplant into the chickpea mix, you create a slightly creamier spread to smear across your toasted bread or pita. I wanted to throw a little texture back in, so I toasted up some cumin seeds and added them, too. Like poppy seeds on a cracker, their small pop works well here, and really takes the spice infusion to another level. The toasty aromatics and nuttiness you derive from the whole form of cumin seed is worth the extra step.

Spread on pita with thinly sliced cabbage, spinach, and maybe some feta, too, or serve simply as is with warm, toasted bread and a drizzle of EVOO.

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Butternut Brie Sandwiches with Caramelized Shallots and Arugula

Butternut Brie Sandwiches with Caramelized Shallots and Arugula

I don’t do a ton of dairy.

However, like s’mores around a campfire, butternut and brie is one of my all-time favorite autumn combinations. I don’t eat it often, but when I do, I’m a happy camper.

Butternut Brie Sandwiches with Caramelized Shallots and Arugula

There’s something about the natural nuttiness of butternut squash that lends itself well to the buttery, slight earthiness of brie. Melt the one onto the softness of the other, and magic happens.

Throw in some caramelized shallots and a crusty bread to offset that cream, and true sandwich sorcery is cast.

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Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

The best Saturdays are ones where you wake up, grab a cup of coffee, and immediately start scheming lunch creations with your friend. (Foraging figs, going on a photo adventure, and scheming up breakfast, all follow close behind.)

This was the first full weekend I’ve been completely free in awhile. Two Philly mornings in a row with no set agenda. No photo gigs. No work engagements. No client meetings, camping trips, or out-of-town excursions.

While I love all of the above, it felt great. And it felt even greater once this socca landed on my Saturday plate.

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

On Friday night, I saw Aziz Ansari do stand-up. His act was hilariously relatable, to say the least, ranging from riffs on the factory meat industry to creepy boys to relationship vs. single life status. He hit all the right topics, and made my abs hurt from laughing so much.

Although, there was one joke with which I just couldn’t agree. And it had to do with carrots.

Carrots

You see, Aziz claims, you walk into a house and someone’s cooking bacon, and often you’ll say, “Plate me up a few pieces!” Aziz is convinced bacon exudes a pheromone-like lust that veggies just don’t have. He says, walk into a house where someone’s steaming carrots, and you won’t find anyone screaming, “Pull me up a plate of those.”

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

But Aziz, I must tell you, you’re wrong. This carrot-loving [weirdo?] individual would far prefer carrots to bacon. And no, not for health reasons. For taste.

Carrots are hands-down my favorite, and since the mention on Friday night, my Saturday morning mind inserted them straight into that afternoon’s lunch plans.

Roasted carrots? One of fall’s best assets, if I have to say so myself. Perhaps steaming wouldn’t do the trick, but throw carrots on a baking sheet and into the oven, and I bet at least a few would be enticed by the caramelized smell they give off. Plate me up, please.

Black lentils

With the orange beauties in mind, my friend and I got to work on this fall-inspired socca pizza.

Here, carrots are roasted up, and then pureed into a slightly sweet, slightly spicy curry sauce that lends itself perfectly to a flavorful flatbread destination. Topped with salty feta, fresh cilantro and some crispy baked onions, this is a better-than-restaurant-quality meal, fit into a single cast iron pan.

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

You’ll find multiple steps below in making this recipe. Don’t get intimidated. Each is simple, and you can get going on many of the layers simultaneously. For instance, as the carrots roast, prep everything else.

Roasted carrots

Far better than bacon? A definite. Stemming from carrots? Heck yeah.

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

You tell me – what healthy fall ingredients are on your mind? Any featuring veggies that you know could out-do bacon in a heartbeat? Please share!

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