Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I've been stirred from my internet slumber to wander the world once more. It's come to my attention that Halloween is approaching, given the appearance of pumpkins and spooky decor. So in spirit of the holidays, I present to you...



But in all seriousness, this is one deliciously simple appetizer that's perfect for any spooktacular party! I was inspired while thinking about things I could make in the Jell-O molds I uncovered in our basement that must have been hidden in a box untouched since college days. Once I found the molds, the wheels in my mind started turning - and the only other thing that sounded better than a half pound of brain Jell-O...was a half pound of BRAIN CHEESE!!!

I ran to my fridge to see what I had on hand, because the scariest part of this story is ALL THAT CHEESE WAS ALREADY IN MY FRIDGE. The more I let that sink in, the more I was disgusted in what I was about to create...which made me hunger for it even more.

For a few days I sat on this brainy idea and during that time debated where to go for lunch with a friend. Bagels were suggested at a nearby cafe, where they have the best lox and cream cheese bagel spread. Upon the craving for smoked salmon and cream cheese, which is a favorite combination of mine, I realized I had just accidentally connected the dots in my mind to find exactly what would take this block of brain shaped cheese to a whole 'nother level.

We didn't end up getting bagels.

Because this blog was most definitely an afterthought - meaning I had already starting eating the brain cheese by the time I realized I had some internet gold in my fridge (I'm a sucker for imaginary internet points) - I do not have any pictures of the process it took to create this delicious monstrosity.

The only thing I really needed to purchase for my brain cheese was the salmon. Almost every grocery I've been into has a section by the seafood with fake crab meats and other miscellaneous packaged sea meats that aren't fancy enough for the display case, but aren't crappy enough for the freezer aisle. I chose one of those flattened packages of the thin smoked salmon. As one redditor pointed out, it may have been lox I used, which is brined, not smoked salmon, though the packaged described it as such. While there is a difference in flavor, which is preferential, lox is equally as good, in my opinion, to smoked salmon. Either will work in this recipe, depending on your taste buds.

Allow me a moment to show off my actual Halloween decorations. Pretty hard to get into the spirit when all you have are two windows to shine through. Clearly my neighbors need to STEP. IT. UP.

But for real, I'm pretty proud on how my ghost came out. Just the right amount of homemade and...creepy. The ghost is in the front guest bedroom, and ever since it has been up, I've left the door open to remind me to turn off the lights before I go to bed. And every night, I've heard that door shut...on it's own. Me and my puppy are both sufficiently creeped out.


Anyway, Back to the Thing

Right. So.

This was surprisingly easy to accomplish with a little creativity. First, I sprayed the mold with olive oil spray because I wasn't sure if the salmon alone would be enough to keep the cheese from seeping through and making it stick to the plastic. Then line the mold with the salmon by laying pieces next to each other horizontally until the mold is covered and the salmon doesn't slide down. I gently pressed the salmon into the creases to help add to the effect. After that, into the fridge while you melt the cheese.

There are a couple ways you can go about melting the cheese, I chose the slower of the two methods, mostly because I feel as though I can tell the difference in texture. That being said, you can microwave (in intervals) the cheese in a casserole dish OR you can create a double boiler over a pot of water to melt it. Either way, the cheese should be at room temperature to quicken the entire process, regardless which method you choose.

Cube up the sharp cheddar cheese and add to a bowl with the cream cheese and goat cheese. Decide on your preferred melting method and proceed until cheese is melty with no chunky!*

*Edit: This was entirely unintentional verbiage. I was possibly talking to my ~5 month old puppy while typing this.

Once the cheese is at a smooth consistency, add the teaspoon of sriracha and a handful of golden raisins. Those were what I had on hand, but you can use your favorite hot sauce or dried fruit bits. Stir a few times then pour the mix into the salmon lined mold. Cover with some plastic wrap and place into the fridge.

Let the cheese set in the mold for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. The cheese should not jiggle when you go to remove it from the mold!


Serve your brains with some crackers - or if you're looking to really scare your guests...carrots and celery!! QoooOOoooOOOOOo

I was lacking in decorative plates and Halloween-ish decor, so here's a bonus pic of my brain and my wand from Harry Potter in Universal Orlando. The pumpkin is actually the cap from my pumpkin juice. SPOOKY!

So there you have it! Delicious, yet disgusting, BRAIN CHEESE!!!


Recipe TL;DR:

The Set:
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 10 oz block sharp white cheddar cheese
  • packaged smoked salmon/lox (I used a kind with dill and lemon seasonings)
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins/crasins/any bits of dried fruit you please
  • 1 tsp Sriracha (optional)

The Prep:
  • Bring all the cheeses to room temp
  • Cube the block of cheddar
  • Create a double boiler with a pot of water and metal/glass bowl that fits over the pot, bring water to boil

The Steps:
  1. Spray your Jell-O Brain mold with an olive oil spray
  2. Open your smoked salmon and press gently into the mold, pressing into all the grooves and creases. Stick in the fridge to chill.
  3. Melt the cheeses in the double boiler. I created mine using a metal mixing bowl that just barely touched the top of water when placed into a large pot. Or just microwave it. Whatever.
  4. Once cheese is melted, add sriracha and golden raisins, remove from heat, and stir.
  5. Remove Brain mold with the salmon pressed inside, then pour the cheese mix into the mold on top of the salmon. Stick in the fridge and chill for at least 6 hours.

The Best...Part:


To complete your brainy cheesy goodness, once the cheese is set, flip the mold onto a plate. Serve with chips and veggies.

Be sure to check out my other, not so spooky recipes, only on The Starving Chef - Will Write for Food and follow me!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Maple Glazed Rosemary Sweet Potatoes - just in time for Thanksgiving!

Brrrr! There has been a significant weather change since my last post!! I am not prepared for my first Northern Ohio winter..and today they are calling for 5 inches of snow! It's my birthday and the timing of the storm before Thanksgiving could not be more ill timed. I'm hoping the weather, in typical Ohio fashion, will just spit and not bury the town tonight - so fingers crossed.

This year I claimed sweet potatoes to be my contribution to the Thanksgiving feast we celebrate every year at my aunt's house. I've decided to change it up from the pecan and brown sugar crusted dish we've become accustomed to. This year, I am making maple glazed rosemary sweet potatoes.

It's a new twist on an old dish. Here's all you'll need:

  • 5 Sweet Potatoes
  • 2 Shallots
  • 1 Sprig of Rosemary
  • 1 Head of Garlic (about 12 cloves), 2 minced cloves
  • 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Chop your tubers up and place in a microwave safe dish with the whole heads of garlic. Toss in olive oil and microwave for a few minutes until the garlic is fragrant.

Season with salt and pepper, add your shallots, toss again in oil and microwave for three more minutes.

While your potatoes microwave, mix together the rest of the ingredients into a sweet and tangy rosemary sauce. Pour some over the potatoes when they are done and toss again to cover all the potatoes evenly.

Place in the oven for 45 minutes and pour over the rest of the sauce after about 20 minutes.

Serve, and enjoy!!

I served mine alongside brussels parmyere (recipe to come!) and chicken with homemade gravy and stuffing.

This was my little "practice run" for Thanksgiving, so I'm going to be improving upon both of these recipes this week by adding Purple Japanese sweet potatoes and organic maple syrup straight from the tree - I can't wait to make them again, SO MUCH YUM. WOW.

Recipe TL;DR
Yield: 3 Servings
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins

Preheat Oven to 425 F

  1. Begin by chopping your potatoes into cubes and placing them into a bowl with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 12 cloves of garlic. Cover bowl and microwave for 3 minutes.
  2. Season sweet potatoes with salt and pepper, add sliced shallots, toss again with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and microwave for an additional 3 minutes or until garlic and shallots are fragrant.
  3. Mix together rosemary, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and minced garlic and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and pour half of the sauce over the sweet potatoes when they are still in the bowl after coming out of the microwave. 
  4. Pour sweet potatoes on a greased cooking sheet and place into preheated oven for 20-22 minutes.
  5. At the midway point, flip potatoes and scrape up sticky brown bits and add to the bowl with the rest of the rosemary maple sauce. Stir and pour mixture over the sweet potatoes, and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes or until browned. 
  6. Serve immediately as a highlight of your Thanksgiving meal!

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Angry Orchard Pork Chops

Hard cider is easily my drink of choice. I've never really been keen on beer and have always leaned towards the sweet stuff. Once I discovered the deliciousness that is Angry Orchard, beer was even less enticing. With hard ciders, beer quickly dropped to the bottom of my list of drinks to order at a bar. Angry Orchard on tap? It's a done deal.

I wanted to experiment with my new love of hard ciders. Try something different for a change. I had some pork chops laying around and decided it was the perfect time to mix two of my favorite things! I ended up with a sweet and savory gravy and lightly breaded chops. MmmmMmmMMM!

Welcome to my experimental side ;)

Dat Ingredient List:

  • Pork chops, boneless
  • 1 Bottle Angry Orchard (or similar hard cider)
  • 2 Teaspoons Rosemary
  • 1 Teaspoon Sage
  • 3 Tablespoons Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika
  • 3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • Salt & Pepper
You Ready?

Soak your pork chops in hard cider at room temperature for about 45 minutes

While your pork soaks, mix together your flour, paprika, rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper and pulse gently in a blender until a soft powder forms. Reserve 1/4 - 1/2 cup for gravy.

Take the chops from the cider, letting the excess drip off, then place directly into the flour mix. Coat evenly on both sides.

In a medium pan, heat a touch of oil and sear chops on both sides until a brown crispy crust forms.

While the chops cook, mix together 1/2 of the Angry Orchard with garlic and then drink the rest of that cider! 

Bring to a boil and then add your brown sugar.

Slowly, tablespoon by tablespoon, add the remaining half cup of your flour mixture until your gravy begins to thicken. Stir constantly!

Once your gravy is done, it will look almost like caramel...except with a garlic twist!

Serve alongside some beer battered onion rings and a pasta medley! Awwww yeeeeeahhhh

Recipe TL;DR:
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 2 servings

  1. Begin by soaking your chops in hard cider for a good 30 minutes - ideally your chops should be room temperature when they are ready to be cooked.
  2. Mix together flour, paprika, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, and pulse in a small blender or Magic Bullet until it become a fine powder. Set aside 1/4 to 1/2 cup for use in gravy.
  3. Coat each chop with the flour mixture as you heat a small amount of oil in a pan over medium high heat. Cook the chops on each side until a thick, golden brown crust forms - about 4 minutes per side.
  4. As your chops brown, in a separate pan add your garlic and Angry Orchard. All to simmer for a few minutes, add the brown sugar and bring to a boil.
  5. While constantly stirring, add the flour mix to the boiling cider very slowly!! About 1 tablespoon at a time until the sauce thickens.
  6. Immediately serve chops with a ladle of gravy. Enjoy!
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Garlicky Potato Fries with Cilantro Lime Dipping Sauce

It's been a while since my last post! Luckily, I have a pretty good excuse...I actually got a job!! After graduating this past May, and moving to a new part of the state, I experienced several months without a job and it was during those long boring weeks that I worked on my blog the most. But now that I work 40 hours a week, often late into the evening, not only has my blogging suffered, but so has my frequency of being able to prepare a meal that requires much prep work. The past month or so I've enjoyed being able to spend my days off relaxing and doing mindless (but entertaining) things like Redditing or playing SimCity...

Nevertheless, I still documented the meals I did have time to make the past few weeks, so I have quite a little collection to share. Now that I feel like I've caught up on my rest, I'm going to try to churn these posts out as fast as I can! Too bad after today I won't have another day off until next week. So we'll see.


One of my favorite things to make - and I'm like, 98% sure these are the reason my boyfriend loves me so much - are garlicky potato fries! These fries really pack a punch of heat and flavor. And accompanied by the cilantro lime dipping sauce, they are a serious contender to be my favorite side dish.

They're super easy, here's all you need! 

Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Yields: About 3 Servings 
  • 4-5 medium sized potatoes - Red skinned are my favorite, but any potatoes you might have laying around will do.
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
For the Sauce:
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 5 Tablespoons Lime juice or 1/2 of a juiced lime
  • Freshly Chopped Cilantro

Off We GO!

Chop your potatoes into medium cubes. 

Add your chopped garlic to a bowl with olive oil and microwave until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Then add your chopped potatoes to the bowl, toss gently to coat with the garlic oil and microwave, covered, for about 6 minutes. The edges of the potatoes should be starting to turn slightly translucent.

While you wait for your potatoes to 'precook' mix together your spices! Do not add any salt or pepper..yet.

After you rush to turn off the microwave before it hits :00, pour your spice mix over the potatoes and make sure to distribute it evenly. Then add the salt and pepper right before pouring them onto a cooking sheet.

Grease a pan and spread out the potatoes in a single layer, then set them to cook for 15-18 minutes.

At the half way point, take out the pan and flip those taters!!

ProTip: These potatoes will increase your chances of getting laid.

Serve alongside the cilantro lime dipping sauce. Allow the flavors to sink into your taste buds. Savor it and smile, you've just made the best oven fries of all time.

Recipe TL;DR:
Preheat Oven to 440 F
  1. Chop your potatoes into medium sized cubes. Not so big they will take a long time to cook fully, but not so small they will burn.
  2. Pour olive oil into a medium sized bowl and add your chopped garlic (or garlic powder if you're out of fresh garlic) and microwave until just fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add your potatoes to the bowl with the garlic oil, cover and toss gently to coat the potatoes, then keep covered and microwave 5-7 minutes or until the edges of the potatoes are just becoming translucent.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the corn starch, paprika, onion powder, and cayenne pepper. Pour over potatoes when finished in the microwave and shake to distribute evenly.
  5. Grease a cookie sheet and spread the potatoes over it in a single layer. Sprinkle on salt and freshly ground pepper.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes then flip the potatoes to prevent burning on one side, and set to cook for another 20 minutes.
  7. While your potato fries are baking, stir your sour cream and add in your lime juice. Not stirring your sour cream before adding the lime will cause your sour cream to curdle! Then add in your cilantro.
  8. When the fries are done, remove them from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  9. Prepare for your dinner guests to fall madly in love with you. 
  10. Serve with dipping sauce, and enjoy!

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