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Virtual Spoon

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Halloween? Jack-o’-lanterns on the porch are what I think of when I hear the word "Halloween." And the fun of entertaining, decorating the house -- and the fun of cooking.

Share all of your recipes with us; I surely do want to hear from you from my home to yours, let's get cooking.


The Recipes


Three Cheese and Artichoke Calzones

Total Time: 1 hr 20 min; Prep: 45 min; Cook: 35 min; Yield: 4 to 6 servings; Level: easy


  • Yellow cornmeal
  • 4 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/3 cup shredded fontina
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for sprinkling
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • All-purpose flour
  • One 1-pound ball purchased pizza dough
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 large egg white, beaten
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Three cheese calzones


1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Lightly sprinkle a heavy nonstick baking sheet with cornmeal. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of the food processor add the artichoke hearts, Pecorino Romano, ricotta, fontina, sun-dried tomatoes lemon juice, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Pulse until combined and chunky.

3. Using a knife, cut the pizza dough into quarters. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into four 6-inch circles, each about 1/4-inch thick. Using a pastry brush the dough with the egg white. Place a quarter of the filling on one side of each circle of dough. Fold the dough over the filling, forming a half circle. Pinch the edges of dough firmly together and crimp to seal. Place the prepared individual calzone the prepared baking sheet.

4. Drizzle the calzones with extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Using a sharp knife, cut a slit on the top of each calzone. Bake until golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve alongside warmed tomato-basil sauce.

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Cowboy Nachos


  • 2 cups Pinto Beans (recipe follows)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • Minced garlic, to taste
  • Jarred or fresh jalapenos, chopped or sliced, to taste, optional
  • Canola oil, for warming brisket
  • 2 cups shredded Braised Beef Brisket (plus pan drippings as needed), (recipe follows)
  • 1 can Mexican red sauce or enchilada sauce (enough to moisten brisket)
  • Tortilla chips, as needed (about half a bag)
  • 2 cups grated cheese of your choice (or however much you want)
  • 2 cups Pico De Gallo (recipe follows)

Pinto Beans

  • 4 cups dried pinto beans
  • 4 slices thick bacon or diced ham)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Braised Beef Brisket

  • 2 cans beef consomme
  • 1 1/2 cups soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 5 cloves garlic chopped
  • 10 pounds beef brisket

Pico De Gallo

  • 5 plum tomatoes
  • 3 jalapeno peppers
  • 1/2 large or 1 small onion
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 lime
  • Salt
  • Total Time: 30 min
  • Prep: 10 min
  • Cook: 20 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Level: Easy


Heat up the Pinto Beans and doctor them to your desired "temperature," adding some ground black pepper, Tabasco sauce, minced garlic and jalapenos if using. Make them as spicy or mild as you like.

Preheat the broiler.

In a very hot skillet, add a bit of canola oil and the braised beef brisket. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, and then flip and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Next, pour some of the red sauce over the meat to make it nice and moist. If you have them, also add a bit of the pan drippings from the brisket-cooking process (or a bit of beef broth--again just enough to bring the meat to a nice moist consistency). Stir to combine and remove from the heat.

To assemble: In a heatproof dish, layer half of the tortilla chips, beans, brisket, cheese and Pico De Gallo. Repeat the layers but leave off the second layer of Pico de Gallo until after the dish is cooked.

Place on the middle or bottom rack of your oven and broil until the cheese is melted. Watch closely so they don't burn. Sprinkle the remaining Pico de Gallo over the top before serving.

Inhale, exhale and then ravenously consume!

Pinto Beans:
Rinse the beans in cool water; pour into a pot and cover with water by 2 to 3 inches. Cut the bacon into large pieces and add to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover. Simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding water to the pot as needed. (The beans should have a thick broth. Toward the end of the cooking time, add 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Check the seasoning before serving, and add more salt and pepper if desired. Don't over-salt.

Braised Beef Brisket
Combine the beef consomme, soy sauce, lemon juice liquid smoke and garlic in a large roasting pan (a disposable is just fine). Place the brisket in the marinade, fat-side up. Cover tightly with foil. Marinate in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Cook the brisket in the foil-covered pan until fork-tender, about 40 minutes per pound (6 to 7 hours). Transfer to a cutting board, slice against the grain and put the slices back into the cooking liquid. Serve immediately, spooning the juice over the slices.

You may store the pan in the fridge for up to 2 days, or freeze for use at a later date. If fat collects and hardens at the top, remove and discard.

Pico De Gallo:

Chop the tomatoes, jalapenos and onions into a very small cubes. Adjust the amount of jalapenos to your preferred temperature. Next, chop up a nice-sized bunch of cilantro. Just remove and discard the long leafless stems before chopping. No need to remove the leaves from the stems completely. Put the tomatoes, jalapenos, onions and cilantro together in a bowl and give it a good stir. Squeeze the juice of the lime half into the bowl. Add salt to taste and stir again.

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Deviled Ham Eyeball Sandwich


  • 20 slices white bread
  • 2 cups smoked cooked ham, chopped (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon pickled relish
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • Kosher salt
  • 10 pimento-stuffed green olives sliced in half
  • Ketchup, for squirting

Special equipment: 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter


Punch out rounds from the bread using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter. Lay out the rounds on a baking sheet. Set aside.

Add the ham, mayonnaise, honey, mustard, relish, Worcestershire and hot sauce in the bowl of a food processor Sprinkle with salt and pulse until finely chopped, but still chunky. Spoon a tablespoon at a time of the ham mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Roll each spoonful into round balls. Stuff 1 olive into the center of each ball for eyes. Lay the balls in the center of the bread rounds. Squirt ketchup around the edges of the bread to mimic veins. Serve to kids and pray they don't cry from how scary these are.

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Pumpkin Cheese Ball

A nice, easy one!

With a mixer, blend 16 ounces room-temperature cream cheese with 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar, 3 tablespoons minced onion, 2 tablespoons salsa, 2 teaspoons ground cumin and 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno.

Scoop onto plastic wrap and use the wrap to form the mixture into a 5-inch pumpkin-shaped ball; chill at least 2 hours. To serve, unwrap, roll in crushed nacho-flavored tortilla chips and press a bell pepper stem into the top.

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Chocolate Truffles


  • 1/2 pound good bittersweet chocolate such as Lindt
  • 1/2 pound good semisweet chocolate such as Ghiradelli
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier optional
  • 1 tablespoon prepared coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar
  • Cocoa Powder


1. Chop the chocolates finely with a sharp knife. Place them in a heat-proof mixing bowl.

2. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just boils. Turn off the heat and allow the cream to sit for 20 seconds. Pour the cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the bowl with chocolate.

3. With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the Grand Marnier, if using, coffee, and vanilla. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

With 2 teaspoons, spoon round balls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, until firm. Roll each dollop of chocolate in your hands to roughly make a round ball. Roll in confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, or both. These will keep refrigerated for weeks, but serve at room temperature.

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The Virtual Spoon and Joe are always looking for new recipes. Do you have a recipe you would like to share with our readers? Just mail your recipe to the Yellow Gazette, care of The Virtual Spoon. If you have a nice picture of the finished recipe, send us that too. And thanks to Cablecar Gal for her great recipes.