Classic Soft Pretzels

Classic Soft PretzelsEvery Fall it seems like Oktoberfest celebrations pop up all over the place.  The real Oktoberfest takes place in late September/early October in Munich, Germany…but that doesn’t stop all of the celebrations and festivities in other locales.  Heck, sometimes my wife and I host our very own Oktoberfest!  (By host, I mean purchase delicious Oktoberfest beer and enjoy every sip.  Lederhosen optional.)  But of course you can’t have tasty Fall beers without traditional bar snacks, right?  These Classic Soft Pretzels are one of my absolute favorite snacks!Continue Reading »

Eggplant Parmesan Burgers

Eggplant Parm Burgers from Spicedblog.comEggplant gets a bad rap.  Sure, it has a somewhat spongy texture that is a bit odd.  But it’s also loaded with all sorts of good nutrients, too!  And on top of that, eggplant can be delicious when it’s prepared well.  A couple of years ago, I had some delicious eggplant “meatballs” which really changed my opinion about this veggie.  The eggplant was cooked down, mixed with a number of spices and other ingredients, and then fried into a delicious meatball.  I remember thinking at the time that the meatballs would make a delicious burger.  I finally got around to trying it out the other day, and it tasted amazing!

Eggplant Parm Burgers from Spicedblog.comThese burgers are somewhat similar to the classic eggplant Parmesan, but the difference here is that the eggplant is cooked first.  Then the eggplant is blended with spices before being shaped into patties.  I’ve tried eggplant both ways, and I strongly prefer this style…I feel like the strange spongy texture of the eggplant isn’t as noticeable when the eggplant is cooked first.  I find these “burgers” so much tastier than a traditional eggplant parm sandwich!

Eggplant Parm Burgers from Spicedblog.comI put these Eggplant Parmesan Burgers squarely in the middle of the comfort food category…which means they are perfect for chilly Fall and cold Winter days.  Regular readers of Spiced will know that I am a huge fan of grilling and smoking all sorts of food, but there’s something about a foot or two of snow that kinda dampens my interest in grilling burgers or making pulled pork!  I suspect that these “burgers” will be a good alternative as the days get colder.  And if burgers aren’t your thing, then just form the eggplant mixture into meatballs instead of patties and serve them over a steaming plate of pasta and tomato sauce!  (If you’re looking for more traditional burgers, I suggest taking a look at these Smoky Whiskey BBQ Burgers or these Spicy Buffalo Chicken Burgers.)

Eggplant Parmesan Burgers


  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1-1.5 pounds), peeled and cut into quarters
  • 2 slices day-old bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp Italian seasonings
  • 1 1/3 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2-1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil (or just enough oil to cover the bottom of the fry pan)
  • 1/2 pound fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 4 hamburger buns (homemade or store-bought)


  1. Fill a large saucepan about half-full with water. Add 1 Tbsp of salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add quartered eggplant and boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Once the eggplant has cooked, transfer it into a large bowl. Add crumbled bread, egg, grated cheese, garlic, pepper, salt (1 tsp), and Italian seasonings.
  4. Using an immersion blender, process the eggplant mixture until smooth.
  5. Depending on the thickness of the eggplant batter, add flour until batter becomes the consistency of thick oatmeal. (This is usually about 1/2-1 cup of flour depending on size of eggplant and amount of liquid in the batter. Note: The batter will be very sticky, so be deliberate in shaping the burgers.)
  6. Add enough oil to a large fry pan to coat the bottom. Heat oil to about 350°F.
  7. Take approximately 1/2 cup of the eggplant batter and form into patty.
  8. Pat both sides of patty with Panko crumbs and transfer into frying pan.
  9. Fry patties for 2-3 min per side, or until both sides are deep golden brown in color. (Note: This step may need to be done in several batches depending on the size of your pan.)
  10. Once cooked, transfer patties to a paper towel-lined plant and pat dry.
  11. Place one patty on each bottom bun and top with 2 Tbsp tomato sauce and a slice of mozzarella cheese (note: do not put top bun on burger yet)
  12. Place burgers on cookie sheet and broil for about 2 minutes to melt the cheese on top.
  13. Finish with top bun and serve hot.

Pumpkin Bread + Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Bread with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese FrostingI have a confession to make.  I didn’t like pumpkin until just a couple of years ago.  As a kid, pumpkins were things you carved every Halloween.  Sure, we sometimes toasted the pumpkin seeds, but I never understood why people ate pumpkin.  I remember wondering why someone would want to eat the stringy stuff that you pull out of the pumpkin before carving it.  My sister and mother loved pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake, but I distinctly remember steering clear of the stuff.

Fast forward a few years.  I finally broke down and decided I needed to understand the pumpkin craze which takes over every Autumn.  I remember my first pumpkin anything was a homemade pumpkin muffin…and it was delicious!  Holy cow, why had someone not introduced me to this stuff before!?!  (I’m fairly certain my sister had tried, but when you’re a kid, you should never trust your siblings.  She also tried to convince me to pay her a quarter to see her toy troll doll collection.)  Not only did I love the flavor of pumpkin, but most pumpkin baked goods also include my two favorite spices ever: cinnamon and nutmeg.  Needless to say, I’ve been making up for lost time by eating any and every pumpkin baked good that crosses my path!

Pumpkin Bread with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese FrostingThis pumpkin bread is one of my absolute all-time favorite Autumn baking recipes.  This bread works great as muffins, but I think my favorite is in loaf form.  (Who am I kidding here?  I devour these guys no matter what form they’re in.)  And of course, no self-respecting pumpkin muffin or loaf is complete without a tasty, cream cheese frosting!  This particular cream cheese frosting features brown sugar because…well, why not?  This Pumpkin Bread shows up in our kitchen quite regularly throughout the Fall.  We’ve even used these as neighbor and co-worker gifts for the holidays, and everyone always asks for the recipe. And here it is!

Pumpkin Bread + Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 2 medium loaves or 5 mini loaves


    For the Pumpkin Bread
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 15 oz canned pumpkin (1 can)
  • For the Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 12 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 12 Tbsp (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cups powdered sugar


    For the Pumpkin Bread
  1. Grease and flour a loaf or mini-loaf pans (see note below).
  2. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt). Stir until well combined.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients (oil, eggs, water, and pumpkin) and mix until well combined.
  4. Pour half of the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until fully combined. Repeat with remaining half of wet mixture.
  5. Pour batter into mini loaf pans or full-sized loaf pan. (See note below)
  6. Bake at 350°F for approximately 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into middle of cake comes out clean. (The size of the pan you use will change the baking time, so watch the cake carefully.)
  7. For the Frosting
  8. In the bowl of a countertop mixer with the paddle attached, cream together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy in texture.
  9. Add the brown sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Mix until fully combined.
  10. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing after each addition until fully incorporated.


**This pumpkin bread has a tendency to stick, so make sure your baking pan is greased and floured well.**

**This recipe works well in loaf pans or muffin tins. Just be sure to grease the pan well!**

Cinnamon Apple Stuffed French Toast

Apple Pie Stuffed French ToastI love weekend breakfasts.  There’s something about a hot cup of coffee (I’ve been loving Green Mountain’s pumpkin coffee lately!) and a delicious baked treat that makes me want out of bed and get the day started.  (During the week I usually stick to yogurt and granola…which is delicious, but it just can’t top a special weekend breakfast yum.)  As I’ve mentioned many times in recent posts, we are in the midst of apple season here in upstate NY.  And with all of the apple-related recipes coming out of my kitchen lately, you might think I’d be over apples by now.  Nope.  Not even close!  I’ve always been a fan of stuffed French toast, so this past weekend I pulled out the griddle and made this delicious Cinnamon Apple Stuffed French Toast for breakfast.

The beauty of this Cinnamon Apple Stuffed French Toast recipe is that it really is quite easy to make.  The apple filling can be made in advance, or if you’re really short on time, you can use canned pie filling.  I’ve seen stuffed French toast in the past that features two slices of French toast with delicious filling in between.  But I’ve always been confused by this.  That’s like a French toast sandwich, not stuffed French toast.  Several weeks ago, I came across the idea of using an extra-thick slice of bread and cutting a “pocket” into the center for the filling.  Let me tell you…this worked great!  I found that it was easier both to cook and serve this style of stuffed French toast.  Just don’t cut all the way through the extra-thick slice of bread.  And also make sure to not cut the slice too thick, or else you might have a hard time cooking your French toast all the through.

Apple Pie Stuffed French ToastIn case you were wondering, it is totally acceptable to make this Cinnamon Apple Stuffed French Toast for dinner.  I’m a big fan of breakfast for dinner on occasion…especially when it starts to get cold outside!  Speaking of cold nights, is anyone else as excited as I am about the return of our favorite Fall tv shows?  Between reruns and the lack of good sports (sorry, baseball), I find the summer to be a bit boring at times.  (That’s usually when I head outside and fire up the grill!)

Apple Pie Stuffed French Toast

Yield: 4 pieces

Serving Size: 1 piece


  • 4 extra-thick (2") slices of challah or French bread, or 8 1" slices
  • 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, for greasing pan
  • powdered sugar, for garnish (optional)
  • For the Apple Pie Filling
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2-3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • For the Batter
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla


    For the Apple Pie Filling
  1. In a medium saucepot, add the water and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, place remaining ingredients (apples, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cornstarch) in a medium bowl and stir until combined.)
  3. Once water begins to boil, add apple mixture to the saucepot and return mixture to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and allow apple mixture to simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until apples are soft.
  5. Uncover and allow mixture to cool.
  6. For the Batter
  7. Combine all of the batter ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until well combined. Pour into larger, square pan (to make it easier to dip the bread into the batter).
  8. Putting It All Together
  9. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut "pockets" into each of the 4 slices of bread. (Alternate method: Cut the bread into 8 1" thick pieces and simply stack the French toast rather than stuffing it.)
  10. Fill each pocket with approximately 1/2 cup of apple pie filling.
  11. Heat a griddle or large saute pan over medium heat. Add small amount of butter to pan to prevent toast from sticking.
  12. Carefully dip both flat sides of the bread into the batter. Place bread in heated pan and cook on medium heat for 3-5 minutes per side, or until bread is golden brown in color.
  13. Garnish with powdered sugar. (optional)
  14. Serve immediately.