Fall in Love with These Savory Fall Favorites from Epicurean Group

As the weather cools and the leaves start to crisp, we begin to crave warm, comfort food…the type that’s perfect for those chilly autumn days when all you want to do is curl up on the couch in a warm sweater and watch Netflix all day.

To help ease the transition from summer to fall, we’re sharing five seasonal favorite recipes that are perfect for this time of year!

GarlicPotatoFennelSoup

GARLIC POTATO FENNEL SOUP
{serves 4}

Ingredients:
¼ cup butter, unsalted, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled & diced
½ bulb fennel, chopped
1 russet potato, peeled & diced
3 cups chicken stock
2 green tart apples, peeled & diced
½ cup heavy cream
to taste kosher salt & black pepper

Preparation:
Sauté garlic, onion & fennel in 2 Tbsp butter for 5 minutes. Add potato & stock. Bring to a boil.

Add apples, boil for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat, puree in blender or food processor until smooth.

Return to pot, add cream & heat throughout.

Season to taste with kosher salt & black pepper.

Garnish with fennel fronds & a thin drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

PomegrantedMimosa

POMEGRANATE MIMOSA
{makes 6 drinks}

Ingredients:
1 pomegranate, seeded {reserve some raw seeds for garnish}
1 cup sugar, granulated
½ cup pomegranate juice
½ cup water
1 {750 ml} bottle prosecco {or any dry bubbles}

Preparation:
Combine pomegranate, sugar & water in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes. Reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft & the liquid has thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.

Using a fine-meshed strainer over a large bowl, pour pomegranate syrup through strainer, pressing seeds with the back of a spoon until most of the liquid is in the bowl. Discard seeds, saving a few to be used as garnish.

To Make Cocktail:
Divide pomegranate syrup evenly between 6 champagne glasses. Top each one with bubbles. Stir gently if desired. Garnish with a few pomegranate seeds.

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BIG ITALIAN SALAD
{serves 4 as salad course, 2 as a main course}

Salad Ingredients:
1 head romaine heart, washed, dried & cut into ¾” pieces
½ head radicchio, julienned
1 Tbsp fresh italian parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
5 pepperoncini, chopped
1 cup english cucumber, seeded & chopped {peeled if you wish}
1 carrot, julienned
½ red onion, thinly shaved
½ cup grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup olives {green or black}, pitted & chopped
1 cup garbanzo beans, cooked & rinsed
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed & roughly chopped
1 cup fresh mozzarella, diced
½ cup parmesan, shaved
½ cup genoa salami, sliced thinly

Dressing Ingredients:
1 Tbsp italian parsley, chopped ¾ tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped ¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp dried oregano, chopped 2 tsp honey or agave nectar
2 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
¼ cup good quality red wine vinegar
¾ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:
For the dressing, place all ingredients except olive oil in the food processor. Blend well, then slowly drizzle in olive oil with motor running to create an emulsified vinaigrette. Season to taste.

Place all salad ingredients in large bowl. Toss lightly to combine.

Immediately before serving, add half of the dressing & toss well, using your hands. Add small amounts of dressing as necessary; tasting & seasoning with kosher salt & pepper until salad is well dressed & flavorful.

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THAI CHICKEN & BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
{serves 4}

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp canola, coconut or extra virgin olive oil
½ lb ground chicken or turkey
2 Tbsp thai red curry paste
4 scallions, sliced on bias white & green parts separated
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated on microplane
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed
2 cups chicken stock
1 {15 oz} can coconut milk
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 lime, juiced & zested
2 tsp sambal or sriracha sauce
As desired: fresh basil, bean sprouts, cilantro, sliced jalapeño, lime wedges & sriracha for garnish

Preparation:
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add curry paste, stirring until the paste darkens, about 1 minute. Add chicken & stir occasionally, until nearly cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, scallion whites & ginger.  Stir until softened, about 3 minutes. 

Add squash & chicken stock. Cover & bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmering until squash is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, lime juice & zest, sambal & fish sauce. Taste for seasoning & adjust as needed.

Serve a bountiful plate of garnish in the center of the table so guests can add toppings to the hot soup as desired.

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TOFFEE PUMPKIN PIE BARS
{makes 32 bars}

Ingredients:
2 cups crushed gingersnaps
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 {15 oz} can unsweetened pumpkin
¾ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated on microplane
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ground cloves
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups half & half
½ cup crumbled toffee pieces
½ cup pepitas, toasted & chopped

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper, spray with pan spray.

Combine crushed gingersnaps, sugar & flour. Add melted butter & stir well to combine. Firmly press crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared pan; set aside.

Combine pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, kosher salt & cloves.

One at a time, add eggs & beat lightly until well combined. Gradually add half & half, stirring until just combined. Pour filling into crust lined pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

While warm, sprinkle top with toffee & pepitas, let cool on wire rack. Cut into bars when cool. Cover & store chilled.

Innovation Chef, Jenna Johansen Shares a Family Favorite for National Applesauce Cake Day

(Photo courtesy of AllRecipes.com )

(Photo courtesy of AllRecipes.com )

In honor of National Applesauce Cake Day on June 6th, Innovation Chef, Jenna Johansen shares one of her all-time favorite family recipes with us.

One of my absolute favorite summertime sweets to make is chocolate applesauce cake. I love our handed-down family recipe; moist and delicious, and I usually always have the ingredients on hand. This version needs no frosting, so it travels easily and sits on a picnic bench perfectly, which is just what a hot summer day calls for.

I have fond memories of my mother making it often as a kid and we never had leftovers for long because everyone loves it! This version came from my Great Grandma Pearl, handed-down over generations. Today, she is 106 years old, living in Fargo, North Dakota. Maybe applesauce cake has more benefits to it than just good taste!

I like to pick the chocolate chips off the top. As I was growing up and doing a lot of the baking, I would use WAY more than the specified 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and you may want to, too!

Applesauce first came into vogue during World War I and the Great Depression when many rations were scarce. Now, I think of applesauce as being the perfect use for the fallen apples from our tree. I just peel, cook and puree to have my own homemade applesauce, so easy and simple.

P.S. This recipe pairs perfectly with corn on the cob, deviled eggs, cold beer, potato salad and anything that’s cooked on the grill!

My Mom’s Chocolate Applesauce Cake

Ingredients:
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs cocoa {I love the baking cocoas from Savory Spice}
1 can of applesauce
2 unbeaten eggs
2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Topping:
2 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips {my mom uses semi-sweet but I like to use milk chocolate}

Directions:
Mix all cake ingredients well.
Pour into a greased 9″x13″ cake pan.
Sprinkle the top with topping ingredients {I always add more chocolate chips}.
Bake 350 F for 30-40 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Happy Hummus Day!

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To commemorate National Hummus Day, we’re sharing a healthy and delicious Roasted Red Pepper Hummus recipe created by our Executive Chef at Sports Authority Field, Nikki Olst.

 “We love this in the kitchen for a number of reasons; the touch of spice and tang from the roasted red peppers, how easy it comes together, and it goes great with everything!”

-Nikki Olst, Executive Chef at Sports Authority Filed

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Yields 2 cups
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes {includes 30 minutes of chill time}

Ingredients
1 {15.5 oz.} can chickpeas, rinsed
¼ cup roasted red peppers
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ tsp salt
pinch cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions
Process all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 45 seconds.  Transfer to a serving bowl & chill until the flavors have blended, at least 30 minutes.  Serve cold with assorted crackers, tasty veggies & pita bread.

Epicurean Sports Featured at Flavors of Denver 2015

Nikki

Chef Nikki and Juan getting ready for Flavors.

Last night our very own chef, Nikki Olst, Executive Chef at Sports Authority Field at Mile High was invited along with a few other top local chefs to prepare a multicourse dinner to help fund the research, education & advocacy efforts of the American Liver Foundation.

The event, Flavors, was held at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum and showcased signature dishes from culinary experts beyond traditional restaurant fare and encouraged guests to “unleash their inner foodie.”

“I’m truly overwhelmed by how grateful I am to be apart of this culinary world! The passion and drive I witnessed tonight was very special; it’s not everyday we get to step out from behind the curtain (or shall I say stove) to cook tableside for 10 guests.”

-Chef Nikki Olst, Executive Chef at Sports Authority Field at Mile High

One course Chef Nikki was particularly excited about preparing was the faux oysters, a dish that consists of oyster lettuce, ginger prosecco mignonette, apple chip & fig. Nikki was introduced to oyster lettuce on a recent trip to Napa.

Overall, the event was a great success and everyone including Nikki had a great time!

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Champagne Bar: Two of the Loveliest Words in the English Language

Come warm yourself by our champagne fireplace.

Ain’t that the truth?

Earlier this month we shared some ideas for a Hot Chocolate Bar; after doing extensive research on DIY stations, including ignoring my children and eating an entire bag of butterscotch chips, I couldn’t resist creating a mini-series on this idea of DIY stations for guests.

Today’s Treat: Champagne

Service with a smile.

Service with a smile at Union Station.

Just writing it makes me happy.

Nothing says ‘celebrate’ quite like champagne. My friends, family, and that one know-it-all guy at Corridor 44 who thought I should eat something before having another glass of the nectar of the gods can attest that champagne is, by far, my own personal favorite drink. But you can’t drink it all the time. Because those other mothers at preschool would be jealous concerned.

I don’t need to add anything to my champagne – like dinner – but this is not about me. It’s about you AND me – and anyone else who appreciates a glass of bubbly. Like all of us at Epicurean Group. Parties are our game. And our job. Put those in whatever order you wish.

Let's pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

Let’s pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

The holidays are a perfect time to create a self-serve station for your guests. It allows for more socializing and less stressing. Always a good thing.

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later...

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later…

Today is New Year’s Eve so if you are hosting a soiree or simply want to do something special on New Year’s Day, may we introduce you to the MmmmMimosa Station? Simple elegance, with an emphasis on simple.

Yum.

Yum.

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

MmmmMimosa Station

Ingredients and Accouterments:

  • Ice buckets or other large bin filled with with ice
  • Four containers for fruit (try IKEA or the dollar store if you don’t have any on hand – or use the coffee cups from your wedding china set because, let’s face it, you’re not drinking coffee when champagne is available)
  • Four glass bottles for juice
  • Labels (for labeling juice and for guests to tag their glasses – I use paint sample cards – free! And any color you want. And did I mention free! )
  • Glasses (one per guest)
  • DIY labels
  • Sharpie Pen
  • Champagne or prosecco
  • Sparkling cider
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Raspberry lemonade concentrate
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple (feel free to improvise)
  • Sugar cubes
How sweet are these sugar cubes?

How sweet are these sugar cubes?

Paint samples make great labels.

Paint samples make great labels.

Directions:

  • Chill champagne, prosseco, juice and cider overnight or in an ice bath
  • Pour juice in glass containers, write or print out labels and tie to the bottle
  • Place champagne in an ice bucket on the table
  • Place glasses, fruit, napkins, juice, labels, sugar cubes, and marker on the table

Pour yourself a glass and say hello to 2015 (and maybe a tiny-but-worth-it-headache)!

 

 

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Hot Chocolate Bar: Where Dreams Come True and Reindeer Fly

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“Self-serve” does not just apply to gas stations, you know. Parties that include a self-service component (all or some) make a lot of sense because 1: guests are more comfortable when they can eat and drink what they want, when they want, and 2: because your hostess hands are not bogged down in the kitchen; you can hold a glass of champagne and a cupcake which is much easier than if you try to balance both with one hand (I have tried this, sadly, more than once. It doesn’t end well. And people judge.)

Epicurean Group started doing stationed-catering waaayy before Pinterest was born. We practically invented DIY food and beverage stations. Sadly, we did not invent Pinterest. If we did, we would be sitting on a private beach and someone would feeding us grapes, which is the opposite of self-serve.

We have done lot of stations in our years in Denver. Yes, it’s true the 80s were all about The Pasta Bar, but we’ve grown. Oh how we’ve grown.

If I were asked to rate our station celebrations, I would put the mashed potato one at the top. But I was not asked to rate them. I was just asked to write. But it is hard to write when I am practically starving and mashed potatoes sound pretty good right now. Just saying.

Guests seem to delight in an area that is set for one distinct purpose. This, among other reasons, is why bars are still in business. You, too, can create your own holiday eats and drinks stations for friends and family. This year, we thought we’d treat you to a few station ideas on the topic of stations. (We were going to write one lovely little blog on these ideas, but there’s just too much to tackle. And sample.) So, first up: The Hot Chocolate Bar:

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The Hot Chocolate Station – Where Dreams Comes True and Reindeers Fly 

Ingredients :

  • Hot Cocoa Mix (you can make your own like we do at Epi, but c’mon, don’t get crazy at home)
  • Toppers for All*
  • Mix-Ins for Some
  • Mugs or Paper Cups
  • Stir Sticks and Straws
  • Napkins
  • Hot Milk or Hot Water
  • Extras

*Topper Ideas (notice the word ‘ideas’ here – add or subtract what ever floats your marshmallow):

  • White Chocolate Chips
  • Peppermint Sticks
  • Butterscotch Chips
  • Marshmallows (or those darling snowman peeps!)
  • Chocolate Sprinkles
  • Whipped Topping

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For the adult crowd only:

  • Rum
  • Kahlua
  • Peppermint Schnapps
  • Baileys
  • Flavored Vodkas (Smirnoff’s Marshmallow or Whipped Vodka work well with hot cocoa. Or ice. Or straight out of the bottle if you are dealing with small children or out-of-town guests. Or out-of-town guests who have small children.)

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Directions:

  • Place hot chocolate or hot water in an insulated carafe
  • Place mix-ins and toppings in clear glass containers, white paper bags or any other small containers that hiding in the recesses of your pantry. Or head to IKEA or the dollar store and invest in a few inexpensive stemless wine glasses – they come in handy for this idea and others. Like wine.
  • Add stir sticks, straws, mugs and liquors
  • Print out some labels or write some of your own (I use paint sample cards and a hole puncher)
  • Enjoy

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Tune in next week for our next station blog!

 

 

 submitted by Stephanie Blackford

 

Putting It All On The Table: Delicious Decorating Ideas

 

Cinnamon sticks smell so good...nobody will notice you burned Christmas goose...

Cinnamon sticks smell so good…nobody will notice you burned Christmas goose…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Isn’t that how the song goes? We should know, considering the Christmas music starts earlier and earlier. I, for one, love all things holiday, except the wine stains on the carpet and the required weight gain (I am a certified expert at both – we all have our special talents).

After spending many years in the catering and event planning business, combined with my many years of overcommitting to social engagements that seem to always be at my house, I can set a table in my sleep. Well, not sleep per se, but bleary-eyed zombie-like state from too little rest and too many quality checks of the margaritas during the party prep. I never learn. Does tequila really go with stuffing prep or potato peeling? I say yes. Martha Stewart would be appalled, but Martha had three fewer children than I, and she has a driver, so I am right.

If anyone can pull together a beautiful table, it’s Epicurean. Why? Because Larry DiPasquale is a perfectionist and was born with incomparable taste.

Not that we have to set a gorgeous table, because once Epicurean’s food arrives and the wine is poured, we could be serving our fare on cafeteria trays and everyone would still be happy. It’s that good. I’ve told you about the risotto, right?

Anyway, table settings need not be fancy or frilly, but they do need to be pretty and functional. Here’s a sneak peek to some stunning but simple tablescapes that won’t have you reaching for the tequila.

Fresh rosemary adds just enough green to a simple tablescape.

Fresh rosemary adds just enough green to a simple tablescape.

 

Use a painter's dropcloth as a tablecloth - so inexpensive you won't feel guilty throwing it out at the end of dinner.

Don’t want a bare table? Use a painter’s dropcloth as a tablecloth or cut them into napkins – it’s so inexpensive you won’t feel guilty throwing everything out at the end of dinner.

 

Feeling bold? Break out of the green and red tradition and go for a more modern palette.

Feeling bold? Break out of the green and red tradition and go for a more modern palette.

 

 

...or deck out your table in creamy white.

…or deck out your table in creamy white.

 

Vintage decor is always in style. This DIY centerpiece would be a fun take-away for guests.

Vintage decor is always in style. This DIY centerpiece would be a fun take-away for guests. I just noticed similar ornaments at West Elm – so cute!

 

This menorah makes a Hanukah table even more special.

This sweet menorah makes a Hanukah table even more special.

 

Cleaned-up tin cans covered with blue paper celebrate the Hanukah season.

Cleaned-up tin cans covered with blue paper celebrate the Hanukah season.

Old song sheets makes forks more festive!

Old song sheets makes forks more festive!

Greenery isn't just for mistletoe.

Greenery isn’t just for mistletoe.

Gold accents paired with chalkboard paint keep this look from being too frilly.

Gold accents paired with earthy add-ons keep this look from being too frilly.

Dig out an old Scarbble game and use the pieces for a cheeky design.

Dig out an old Scarbble game and use the pieces for a cheeky design.

This plaid screams cozy holiday. A tartan throw used for nights by the fire turns a table into something special.

This plaid screams cozy holiday. A tartan throw used for nights by the fire turns a table into something special.

Family photographs ups the aaawww factor.

Family photographs ups the aaawww factor.

Holiday books get an elevated status when built into a funky Christmas tree.

Holiday books get elevated status when built into a funky Christmas tree.

Add a spring of something green (and not poisonous) to your stemware. This quick decoration adds some personality to the table and a new spin on cocktails. Try lavender or a small skewer of cranberries.

Add a spring of something green (and not poisonous) to your stemware. This photo is clearly for decoration only, but by using something edible, you can add some personality to the table and a new spin on cocktails. Try lavender or a small skewer of cranberries.