Karra Eats and Drinks

Black Bean Brownies
Back by popular demand!
(get it?! Black Bean Brownies?! haha. I'm so clever!)

This is not my recipe, but it is definitely my go-to crowd pleasing sweet treat.
People can never believe that there are black beans in them, so it makes it fun.

Here is the link for the recipe;
 I simply added candied walnuts, dried cherries, and topped them with raw sugar and flaked sea salt for a little extra deliciousness, but this is certainly not necessary.

Simply search 'Black Bean Brownies'
 (Melissa d'Arabian), and the recipe will appear.

I love this recipe so much,
 and it serves as a great conversation piece to boot. 
I also like to pretend they are a "healthy" alternative to regular brownies, but nutritionists might say otherwise...

Happy Friday Everyone!

Blue Cheese and Walnut Stuffed Dates wrapped in Bacon

I wish I had an image of these after they came out of the oven! 
Sadly, by then the party was in full swing,
 and I am terrible at putting photos before hearty appetites. 
Especially my own. 
And especially after a glass or two of wine. 
I feel it is safer to put that camera away...

None the less, trust me.
These little bites are bad ass.

If you are looking for something slightly different, something rich tasting but easy on the pocket, 
and something that can be made ahead for your next party (maybe Superbowl Sunday?!), 
these are easy to assemble, 
and are a nice diversion from the now seen-at-every-single-party-bacon-wrapped-scallops.

Or, you could serve them in a salad over some fresh greens with a nice balsamic vinaigrette (maybe Valentine's Day?!).

Any way you make them, mouths will be happy!

Makes a tray load

12 slices of bacon, thinly sliced, cut in half, par-cooked, drained and cooled
24 dried dates, pits removed (most brands the pits are removed for you)
1/4 cup of softened cream cheese
1/4 cup of softened blue cheese or gorgonzola
1/2 a cup of chopped walnuts or pecans

Balsamic glaze (if making an appetizer)
or Balsamic vinaigrette (if making a salad)

Tooth picks

Optional: Fresh spring greens for serving as a salad

You can make up to step 4 ahead of time; just wrap, refrigerate then bake before serving.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Cut your strips of bacon in half and par cook. Make sure they are still bendy so you can wrap them around the dates with ease. Drain and cool.
2. In the meantime, mix softened cream cheese, blue cheese and walnuts in a small bowl
3. Working one at a time (obviously), stuff the dates with the cream cheese, blue cheese and walnut mixture.
4. Wrap each stuffed date with a piece of bacon and pierce with a toothpick so they don't fall apart in the oven. Place on a large sheet pan lined with parchment.
5. Bake in the oven until the bacon is crisp and the dates are heated through, about 15 minutes.
6. Put on a serving platter and drizzle with the balsamic glaze.
Serve immediately
or toss the greens with the balsamic vinaigrette and place dates on top of the salad. Again, serve immediately.


Happy Superbowl Sunday and/or Valentine's Day!
To some, these may be interchangeable...

French Lentil Soup with Piave and Red Wine
Winter hollers soup.
I missed my New Year's lentils for longevity, health and prosperity, 
so maybe I can make up for it if I load up on them during my mid-week health craze.
I pulled this recipe together by marrying a few recipes I found in my cookbooks and online over the past few days, adapted it to our flavor palates, and actually made two versions; 
one vegetarian and brothy for me, 
and one thicker, stew-like version with thick cuts of Gary's smoked bacon for Todd.
Although the foundations were the same, and both very delicious, the outcomes were very different;
One, a resemblance of a super food, 
and the other,
 a resemblance of a heart stopper.

This is the beauty of cooking.
Choose your beast.

Serves 4-6 for a hearty meal 

1 cup of french green lentils (found in health food stores or the organic section at most high end grocery stores). You can use regular green lentils, but they tend to break down and get mushy, especially if you want leftovers or plan on freezing the soup/stew. The french green lentils hold their firmness with grace.

3 carrots, sliced into coins (or smaller if you have little ones)
1 rib of celery, including leaves, cleaned and chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bunch of green onions (+-8), white parts only, sliced into coins
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 sprig of thyme, 1 spring of rosemary and 2 sprigs of sage
Olive oil for simmering

2 ripe tomatoes, diced (or a can of San Marzano tomatoes, chopped)
4 tablespoons of tomato paste
1/4 cup of red wine
6 cups of vegetable broth

grated Piave, Parmesan or Romano for serving
Crusty Bread

*For the even heartier, carnivorous version par-cook thick cut smoked bacon and add to the soup during the simmer step (I cut the recipe in half and used 3 strips, chopped. If you wish to make the entire recipe carnivorous, use 6 strips). For my PA friends, I recommend using Gary's thick cut, double-smoked bacon here!

1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Remove from heat and soak the lentils for thirty minutes. Drain and rinse the lentils.
2. Meantime, saute the onion, green onion, celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, rosemary and sage until the onions are translucent and the carrots are tender (about 15 minutes).
3. Stir in the drained lentils, tomatoes, tomato paste, and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for an hour (*Add bacon here if you are using it. Make sure you par-cooked, drained and chopped it first).
5. Add red wine and simmer for about 15 minutes longer
6. Remove sprigs from thyme and rosemary. Taste soup. Salt and pepper if necessary.
7. Serve warm with shaved or grated Piave cheese and toast or crusty bread

*The recipe freezes and is left-over friendly, making it a healthy go-to meal!


Chai Breakfast Smoothie
So I made it through an entire day of juicing yesterday until about six o'clock last night I dove face first into a bowl of Thai green curry...

Curry counts as a liquid, right!?

Well, if anything, I created a luscious lunch smoothie that gave me a very happy belly,
 and a little extra energy to get me through the afternoon.

Since I normally skip breakfast in lieu of coffee, chai or tea, this smoothie might become part of my normal morning repetoire, cleanse or no cleanse.
It is very simple, healthy, delicious and can be whipped up in less time than brewing a pot of coffee.

1 banana
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced for easy blending
1/2 cup of chai tea concentrate (I use Starbuck's brand)
1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
One handful of ice

nutmeg for sprinkling

Pull banana into pieces and put it in your blender with ginger, chai, almond milk and ice.
Pulse on high until smooth.
Sprinkle with nutmeg.


Eggs Florentine
I poached an egg!

I finally conquered my fear of this seemingly daunting task...
then I smothered that beautiful, shimmering, healthy egg with butter, cream, cheese and bacon.

We have to keep things real people!

I derived this recipe from a Florentine egg dish I had at a brunch years ago in New York City.
The place was over-crowded, noisy, and flirted with filthy, but their food was delicious.
So delicious, that I have been thinking about making this dish since.

The only problem is that I don't like breakfast. 
At least not at breakfast time.
Much to my breakfast-loving spouse's dismay, he is usually in charge of this meal...not to mention that he would never make this.
So, for years I have just kept this tucked in my sensory memory bank, just waiting to break free.

Well, to cut this long story short, over this past Thanksgiving weekend of pure gluttony, I actually woke up early and cooked! Zoiks! 
The timing seemed right and I had most of the ingredients.

I am very glad I did, because I may have to make this again;
Just maybe for dinner, and in the summer when the tomatoes are ripe for picking.

Serves two hungry, hungover people


4 eggs

1 small onion, sliced thin or chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

5 tablespoons of butter, divided
1 tablespoon of flour
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
2 cups of Parmesan/Romano cheese
s/p to taste

4 generous handfuls of fresh baby spinach

2 Thomas' English muffins, or homemade crusty bread, toasted and buttered

4 strips of bacon or pancetta, cooked until crispy and drained

2 generous slices of a juicy, ripe tomato:
*I used canned San Marzano tomatoes today because this was the only ingredient I didn't have: I drained four small plum tomatoes (2/serving) and cooked them briefly in a sauce pan. You don't have to do this with a fresh tomato; just slice and enjoy.

1. Prep all ingredients (cut, chop, slice and measure)
2. In a large pan, saute onion until tender in two tablespoons of butter, add garlic for 1-2 minutes at the end. Be sure not to burn the garlic.
3. Add the remaining three tablespoons of butter and stir until melted.
4. Add flour and stir to make a paste
5. Add nutmeg
6. Add the heavy cream and stir until hot
7. Add the Parmesan cheese, a little at a time, stirring gently. 
8. If the sauce is too thin, add more cheese. s/p to taste.
9. Add spinach, a handful at a time and cook until wilted. Keep warm.
10. Meanwhile, cook your bacon and poach your eggs and place in a fine mesh sieve placed over a bowl to drain
11. Also, toast and butter your bread component

*To poach the egg, bring water to a boil with the juice of half a lemon. Crack the egg and gently slide it into the water. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the white is cooked and the yolk is set, but still runny. With a slotted spoon, remove and put into a fine mesh sieve to drain.

For assembly:
1. Place your bread component on the bottom of a medium-large shallow rimmed bowl. 
2. Top the bread with the slice of tomato (or cooked San marzano tomatoes). 
3. Top with poached eggs. Season with salt and pepper. 
4. Top with spinach/onion/cheese mixture. 
5. Finish by topping with cooked bacon or pancetta. 
6. Serve with a giant cranberry mimosa
7. Eat immediately

I hope you guys enjoy this recipe as much as we did!
Let us believe that it is healthy because of the spinach, tomato and the poached egg.

My sister is a kitchen goddess.
She is one of the best home cooks I know, and we had the delight of eating some of her best creations a few weeks ago.

She opened the evening with hot, doughy, salty German beer pretzels. 
Fresh from the oven.

(Sung like an angel on high)

Dreams are built around pretzels like these.

I, of course, in true younger sister fashion, had to copy her;
So as soon as I got home I ran to Wegman's for all purpose flour and beer.

So good!

Close up! You can almost smell them!

Ready for action.
I honestly can't believe they made it this far.

Oh ya, we went there.
Cheddar and ale fondue for the serious dippers.

The same exact pretzel recipe makes bagels!
I just made them round and added our favorite bagel toppings, sesame seed and garlic.
Next time we are going with EVERYTHING!

The addiction spreads.
PKR's beauties;
those are olive and rosemary bagels back there!

So much for going carb free before the holidays!?!
Oh well, we only live once, right!?
And to live a life with fresh hot pretzels and bagels, is to live a life of happiness.

This is such a crowd pleaser, 
and the kiddos totally love them.

I highly recommend them over the holidays. 
You just have to invite me over.

http://www.tasteof home.com/recipes/soft-beer-pretzels#

Thank you Whitney for the delicious inspiration!

The other day I wanted to make soup.
It was cold and dreary outside, 
and there is little that a pot of soup simmering over a warm stove all day can not heal. 

But, unfortunately, my son isn't a big fan of liquid based dinners, a trait he must have inherited from his father, since my husband doesn't believe soup to be a meal either...
What if it were a chowder!? 
Clam chowder, corn chowder...Maybe a bisque?!
Nope. Still too close to soup.
This is my thought process...

So, then I thought about making a beef stew...that might be a sell!? 
But we just had pot roast the previous night...too similar...
So I graduated to Boeuf Bourguignon...
just a fancy French term for beef stew...we are still there.

Then Coq au vin came to mind...that might have worked, but I didn't feel like having chicken.
What about Bouillabaisse!? 

Bouillabaisse, Jambalaya maybe...
How 'bout Paella!?
I have never made Paella!?

And what a great choice. 
Not only did I conquer my fear of this seemingly complicated mixed sea and land dish from Spain, but all were satisfied;
I got my warm-over-the-stove experience; 
my husband was happy because I made something different, delicious, and not soup; 
and my son...well, my son did not eat it assembled, but he did eat the sausage, cleaned of sauce...and the accompanied bread.

Close enough for me!

Yields enough for one large human or an entire hungry family

1 cup of brown rice
4 cups of unsalted chicken stock (pref. homemade)
24 small little neck clams, scrubbed and cleaned
1 lb. of link sausage (or chorizo) cut into 1 inch lengths
4 chicken thighs, trimmed and sliced or cubed
1 lb. deveined, peeled, uncooked medium to large shrimp
large dry scallops (one or two per person)

1 onion, sliced or chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced or chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 stalk of celery with leaves, chopped
2 fresh garden tomatoes, chopped (or one large can of diced tomatoes)
1 can of San marzano tomatoes

Seasoning mix (combine the following):
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp. cayenne (+ extra tsp. for chicken)
2 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

juice of 1/2 a lemon

crusty bread, warmed (optional: make into garlic bread)

1. In a large paella pan, or deep saute pan, saute onion and red pepper in 2 tbsp. olive oil until fragrant, about 7 minutes, stirring.
2. Add garlic and celery and saute 2 minutes, stirring.
3. Add seasoning to the onion, red pepper, garlic and celery mixture.
4. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, saute chicken thighs and sausage until mostly cooked (season with a tsp of spice mix and a tsp. more of cayenne)
5. Add rice to the onion/pep/garlic/celery mixture and stir to coat.
6. Add stock, 1/2 cup at a time, continuously stirring as the liquid is absorbed, and rice is cooked through (about 45-55 minutes). Check to make sure rice is tender. Add more stock if necessary and continue to stir and cook until rice is tender.
7. Add tomatoes, chicken, sausage, seafood and clams. Simmer until clams open and shrimp and scallops are opaque.
8. Squeeze lemon juice over entire pan of mixture and serve with warmed crusty bread.

This is such a great dish to be served and shared family style, and is relatively easy to make. 
Cooking the rice is a bit laborious, so if you are short on time, you could cook the rice separately and just mix into the onion/pepper/garlic/celery mixture.

Either way, it is well worth every and any effort.


More Cheese Please
This is one of my most treasured recipes.

And although this is inspired by many, many, many recipes and restaurant visits, the end product is an evolution of serious cheese experimentation and devotion to the love of all things cheese and carbohydrate.

 I've rarely met a macaroni and cheese that I didn't like, but I'm just sayin' this recipe is damn delicious and it is my favorite, thus far.

So, the story of this love affair:

I literally made macaroni and cheese once a week, if not more, 
for an entire year, 
if not more, 
in the quest to find and/or create the 

Yes, I was no-joke obsessed with trying every macaroni and cheese at every restaurant we stopped in, from Maine to St. Maarten, feverishly asking questions and taking notes, 
and making every recipe from Bobby Flay's 'Macaroni and Cheese Throwdown' to almost every recipe in Alice Water's Chez Panisse Pasta cookbook...not to mention every magazine, cookbook, website, article, blog, conversation I could devour.
If it had the word 'macaroni,' 'pasta,' 'cheese' or the like, I was there, sleeves rolled up, fork in hand.

In retrospect it was both sad and ridiculous, and a little bit pathetic, but who is judging?!

So, what was I looking for!?
The perfect mixture and blend of cheeses, 
The correctly shaped pasta...
Additions like vegetables and meats?! 
Herbs and/or spices!? 
Crunchy toppings versus 100% creamy!?...
Why is this creamy? 
Why is this gritty?! 
What the hell happened here?!

I could go on forever about this year of cheese, 
but I'll spare you the inevitable details, 
and just let you know that all of the pounds I gained during this year, was worth every savory, cheesy, delicious taste.

This is where I landed.


Makes enough for a small army. 

1 box of campanelle pasta (or small shells if not available)
3 tablespoons of salt for pasta cooking water

1 stick of unsalted butter
1/4 cup of flour
3 tablespoons of snipped fresh thyme + extra snipped for topping
1 tsp of freshly ground pepper
6 cups of whole milk

1/2 bag of petite baby sweet peas (Bird's Eye brand)

1 pound of Cooper brand American cheese, shredded
3 cups of Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
3 cups of Mild Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup of Parmesan/Romano cheese, grated

1 tablespoon of truffle oil

Panko bread crumbs for topping
ham, cut into slivers or cubes

1. Boil a large pot of water, add dried pasta, and cook per package directions, adding salt to the water at the same time as the pasta. Put frozen peas into an empty colander. Pour the cooked pasta over the frozen peas and stir to drain and thaw out the peas.
2. Meanwhile, make a roux by melting butter, stir in flour until incorporated and foamy, stir in fresh thyme and pepper.
3. Slowly add milk and stir continuously until hot, but do not allow to boil.
4. Add cheese, half cup at a time, gently stirring all the while to make sure it is melting and not clumping. If the sauce gets too thick, stop adding cheese. You don't want it to be too thick, as it will thicken as it stands.
5. Once all of the cheese is added and the sauce is creamy, taste and adjust seasoning.
6. Put the cooked pasta/peas in a baking/serving dish and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, stir to mix well.
7. Serve hot from here with a drizzle of truffle oil, or, top with enough Panko bread crumbs to coat, a little extra thyme and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese; bake until golden brown, then drizzle with truffle oil.
8. Either way, serve hot.

Let me know what you think!?

One thing I have learned, is that you truly can't go wrong pouring cheese over noodles...


Cheese Monger Mama
My life is almost complete.
I made mozzarella!

And it was surprisingly simple and quick. 
And it made the best cheese I've ever tasted.... 
I think it was the personal pride oozing out with every bite...

You would think that I was the first person on earth to ever make cheese. 
It was like a science experiment! 
A deliciously rewarding science experiment.

Now, I just have to master making pasta and wine...

Here, I served the mozzarella with snipped basil, lemon zest, Herbs de Provence olive oil and Hawaiian black lava salt.
The only three ingredients, besides water;
I found the vegetable rennet and citric acid powder on Amazon, and I picked up the raw milk at Klein Farms down near Easton, PA

My Sous Chef

Squeezing out the excess whey

And my very own taste tester!

I have to attribute my cheese making success to The Pioneer Woman;
 Her photo blog made the step by step process less intimidating, and so simple. 
Thank you Ree!

For my PA friends, you can buy raw milk at Klein Farms down near Easton, and Earthlight Organics in Stroudsburg carries their products as well. 

I am really glad that I tried this.
 It was so rewarding! 
I was really intimidated, but it truly is very easy to do. 

I hope you all had a great weekend, 
and if you are looking for a fun Sunday project, this is it.

Say cheese!

ps. Do I smell a cheese party in our future!?!

Labne Love
On a recent trip to Barnes and Nobles with my son, I haphazardly grabbed a cookbook off of a display table as we rushed to the wooden train set. 
Yes, I use the train set as bribery to get my son to the bookstore.
That's right.

Regardless, much to my perusing delight, I grabbed 'Balaboosta' by Einat Admony. 
It is not only a beautiful book, filled with delightful stories and photographs about family and inspiration, but the recipes are manageable, loaded with fresh flavors, and a nice diversion from our regular cooking repertoire.

Today, in preparation for a dinner party tomorrow, I am making super simple, super delicious Lebanese labne.
I have joked that I could eat an entire tub of yogurt or sour cream given the right circumstances.

Well, here we all can with social acceptance!

Buy or borrow this book.
You will love the recipes, images and stories!

Stay tuned for after images!


Birthday Starters
It is my birthday! 
Thank you Mom for bringing me into this world 38 glorious years ago!

This morning I decided to start the day off right with a three mile run and a crisp green drink.
This time I just blended pineapple, kale, lime, and apple together with a little coconut water.

I'll cheers to that!

Don't worry, I paired it with a perfect slice of cold, leftover pizza dipped in blue cheese.

Age hasn't softened me that much...

Cheers to Cherries!
Cherry season is here in full force, 
and I can't resist putting them in everything from infused water and lemonades, to smoothies, to boozy drinks and foods like granola, crispy duck, and cherry chicken lettuce wraps...
and don't get me started on desserts! 

Thank you Mother Nature for these sweet treats.

Here are just a few of the ways we used cherries this past week:

Friday's Happy Hour Cocktail;
Cacique shaken with freshly squeezed lemons and limes, simple syrup and split cherries
then topped with seltzer and served over ice.
The cherries added the necessary sweetness and depth of flavor.

Dark Chocolate, Cherry, Banana and Kefir Smoothie Deliciousness

Deb Perelman's Awesome Granola with Dark Cherries, Maple + Coconut
(See Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for Recipe)
A perfect nightcap:
An Old Fashioned made with a muddle of cherries, orange zest, brown sugar, bitters,
shaken with top shelf bourbon (such as Blanton's),  topped with a splash of club soda,
 and served cold over ice.

On tonight's menu: 
Pork tenderloin wrapped with Gary's double-smoked bacon served with a cherry-almond compote...

Stay tuned!

Let's enjoy these cherries while they last;
It seems like as soon as they come, they disappear!

Happy Monday Everyone!

The Sour Temple
Hurray, it is Friday!
I love it when company comes to town!

Here is a short preview of our weekend;

I think I'm going to call this concoction the
 "Sour Temple"... or maybe the "Shirley Sour"...
...you see where I'm headed...

We are going to make fresh sour mix 
(this will actually be Elias' job; to squeeze a dozen lemons and a dozen limes and a few oranges...good parenting, I know, I know), 
sweet cherry simple sugar,
chill and shake it over ice with Cacique, a clear booze distilled from sugarcane that is popular in Costa Rica,
then top it off with some bubbly seltzer for festivity's sake.

I can tell it is going to be a delicious weekend.
Just add a baby pool and life will be complete!

Have a great weekend everyone!

ps. I'm sorry Kath and Paul, we were going to wait and drink the Cacique with you, but we can't resist! 
We will have to make another trip to Costa Rica for the next batch!

The Clam Experience
Now, I have eaten many a steamed clam in my day.
 I have always loved clams; 
raw in the half shell,  
chopped and tossed in garlic and herbs, 
loaded into soups and stews,
stuffed with sausage and breadcrumbs...
I could go on forever.
 As a matter of fact, Bill used to tell a story that I ate two dozen of his steamers when he brought me to the Bowling Alley one night...I was around 4 years old.

However, I may never, ever, ever look at clams the same way again. 
Here, I have been eating and enjoying them forever, however I had never actually cut into one.
I have steamed a million, but I never physically took a knife and cut through the center of a clam.

Have you!?

Well, this brings me to the main point of my story;
 Our friend Johnny spent the 4th of July weekend clamming with his family and brought us back a cooler filled with giant-sized clams.
I thought; I'll make linguine with a spicy clam sauce!
I scrubbed the clams.
I steamed the clams.
I took my favorite cooking knife and cut into one....

What I got was not what I imagined.
I didn't think it was going to be pretty, but I didn't expect the layers of disgustingness I found.

Now, apparently the sauce turned out delicious, but I spared you the imagery of the gruesome process.
I'll trust that you will try it on your own before you ever eat another clam...

Look at these monsters! 

After scrubbing them clean, I steamed the life out of them.

Don't they look delicious!?
This image doesn't justify their size.
Steamed, these puppies were each about the size of my palm...


They look so nice, chopped, sprinkled with crushed red pepper...

Homemade spicy clam sauce!

You would never know...

This photo gallery is a lame demonstration of the slaughter that took place in my kitchen Monday afternoon.
I may never eat clams again...
But the men at Shooting Club said it was delicious and gobbled the plate clean
 (even the old school Italian man)!

Serves 10 hungry shooters (adjust accordingly)

Ingredients & Gear:
About 30 large clams, scrubbed and rinsed
A large pot (with a steamer attachment) to steam clams and cook pasta 
A large colander to drain both clams and pasta
A large pot to make sauce
A large serving bowl + additional bowls for serving 
The obvious cooking and eating utensils

Approximately 6 cups of fresh garden tomatoes, blanched and peeled (or San Marzano canned if you can't find good tomatoes..very important ingredient;)

1 cup of oil
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, finely diced
1 small can of tomato paste
A handful of lightly torn basil
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of crushed red pepper, pulsed into a finer dust

2 boxes of linguine


First, make your sauce in a large pot by sauteing your carrots in oil with a tsp of salt and a pinch of pepper until slightly tender, add garlic and cook for about two minutes. Do not allow your garlic to brown or it will add a bitter flavor. 
Add your tomatoes and cook down on low heat, smooshing with the back side of your spoon. 
Optional: Pulse with an immersion blender if it is too chunky, or if you don't have an immersion blender, allow the sauce to cool and blend in batches in a blender until smooth.
Add tomato paste. 
Add basil. 
Add crushed red pepper.
Stir and taste. Note that it will get spicier as it simmers and sits. But, if you want to blow the socks off your guests, feel free to add more crushed red pepper.
Don't let the sauce boil. This whole process should be low and slow, and can be made well ahead of time. In fact, the sauce I used today was the last of my batch in the freezer from last summer's bounty.

Second, while the sauce is simmering steam clams in batches until they pop open. 
Drain and allow them to cool. 
Try not to barf.
*Don't toss any part of the clam...apparently it adds to the flavors of the dish...
Try not to barf.
Repeat until all clams are steamed and chopped.

Sprinkle with a pinch of crushed red pepper and mix them with the sauce.

Third, boil water, salt and cook pasta to package directions. Drain, reserving about one cup of the pasta water. In a large family-style bowl, toss the pasta with about two cups of sauce and the pasta water. Drizzle the rest of the sauce over the top. Serve family style with garlic bread and Romano cheese (optional...some seafood snobs disagree with the cheese/seafood combination...don't ask me, the more cheese the better!).

Fourth, allow your diners to finish their meal before revealing how absolutely disgusting it is to chop clams...

Let me know how you did!

White Whole Wheat Bread

I know, I know, 
who the hell bakes bread on the hottest day of the year!?

That is what Panera is for, right!?

Well, I guess I do.

This time I went absolutely wild and split the white flour with white whole wheat, for no other reason than I was low on the white bread flour and I had a bag of the other stuff burning a hole in my pantry shelf...

The results were less fluffy and doughy than the original white bread I make, but it was a nice change.
This bread has a slight nuttiness; 
a dense and earthy flavor that makes me feel like I am being healthy.

It was very very good, and I'll definitely be making it again, and again....

just maybe on a slightly cooler day.

Here is the link to my favorite, go-to, fool-proof bread recipe. 
Simply substitute White Whole Wheat flour for half of the White flour!



Black Bean Brownies
Black bean brownies?!

Do they make you fart!?

Why mess with something so perfect as the brownie?!

Yes, this was my initial reaction as well.

However, and much to my surprise, these are delicious;
moist, doughy, fudgey...
Everything you want in a brownie, but with more fiber, less flour and slightly less guilt.

My friend Christie actually mentioned this healthier alternative a few months ago and I thought she was absolutely, 100% crazy...

Then I ran a race down in Bethlehem, PA where they were giving them out as treats to the finishers.
I grabbed a few.

I tasted one and thought, "These are actually really good!"

So, to make sure I wasn't just feeling desperate and light-headed from running, I gave one to my son.
He gobbled it up and came back for seconds.

Then I tested the last one on my husband, and he liked it too!

So, in honor of Christie, here is a recipe I found on the Food Network's website.

I apologize for doubting you!

*The only thing I changed was I added chopped hazelnuts.


Enjoy Everyone!

Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Cayenne Candied Nuts
I knew I should have never, ever, ever started to experiment with this concept; 
sweet and spicy candied nuts....
but now I am in too deep, 
and extremely addicted...

 The love affair began when I found something similar at Homegood's...a sweet, crunchy, 
candy - nut concoction.
They were so good that I hid them at the back of my cabinet, out of view from any potential snackers.
I ate them all.

I loved them, but I kept thinking that something was missing...heat!
So I created a mixture of what I think is my perfect mix of sweet, salty, spicy and nutty.

Feel free to adjust the ingredients to your liking. These are so quick and versatile.
Eat them warm right out of the oven...
Oh, those little crumblings on the bottom of the pan!?! 
To. die. for...

These should definitely come with a warning label.

Makes enough to fill four 500 ml sized jars after snacking...

2 cups of pecans
2 cups of walnuts
1 cup of chopped hazelnuts
1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
2/3 cup of white sugar
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
1 egg white

The steps toward addiction:
1. Beat the egg white until foamy and toss into the nuts until they are shiny and coated.
2. Mix the sugars, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne and slowly add to the nuts, tossing to coat.
3. Line a large tray with parchment and spread out the nuts in an even layer
4. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Stir about half way through.
5. Remove from the oven
6. Taste one small piece of nut and never look back...


This is a perfect Friday treat!

Quinoa Salad
In attempting a semi-gluten free lifestyle, 
I created this fresh summer quinoa salad.
I believe the mixture of savory and sweet is what makes it most appealing.

If the weather ever decides to cooperate and actually warm up one of these days, this is a fresh,  healthy, and hearty alternative to the routine pasta or potato salad.

I look forward to making it over and over again this summer!

Give it a try!

Makes a huge salad for a large crowd. You may want to divide in half if you are only making it for your family or a few people.

1 cup of quinoa cooked to package directions
2 cups of good, ripe strawberries, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
One nice chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 of each, chopped: red pepper, orange pepper, yellow pepper
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro

The juice from one lemon and half of one lime
1 cup of good quality olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa to package direction, toss with olive oil and lemon juice and let cool.
While the quinoa is cooling to room temperature, prepare the rest of your ingredients
Stir together and serve at room temperature.

Don't let this salad scare you. 

Even my potato salad loving husband showered me with compliments!


Let's Get Pickled!
We have yet to get our plants into the garden, but I am already on the menu planning stage.

I am hoping to drown myself in all things pickle this fall, so let the recipe collecting and experimenting begin!

This barely counts...but like I said, we are at the very beginning...

And, in honor of Friday, lets make it super easy. 
We'll just add some vodka to our pickle juice in the fridge....

Don't judge....

Name one person who does not love those teeny tiny Vlassic sweet midget pickles, and I will show you a crazy person disconnected from their youth.

I have been known to drink this sweet pickle juice right from the jar...
however, in my desperate attempt to be a sophisticated adult, I decided to put it in a sophisticated adult martini glass.

At least I can look the part, yes!?

Shake in a shaker with vodka and ice, pour into a chilled glass, garnish with a little snack of pickles, and you are good to go!

Think of it as a dirty martini with pickles, instead of olives.


I can't wait to try this with our very own pickle concoctions this coming Fall!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Roasted Beet and Lemon Tarts
My love for beets has been a development.

I ate one years ago and I thought it tasted like dirt, so I stayed away from them for a very long time...
actually, it wasn't until I grew them in our garden myself that my perspective shifted...

Call me narcissistic. 
But, enough about me...

I found this recipe in a magazine (I think it was Country Living?! Help if you know!?),
however, I adapted it to my liking. 
I love the balance of lemon juice with the earthiness of the beets, so I amped up the acid, added a little spice, and changed the recommended goat cheese to blue...
because I hate goat cheese...
but that is your call...

And I know it is obnoxious when bloggers say things like "this is so easy...blah blah blah"....
...but this is actually so easy.

And so delicious.

Makes 6 tartlets

3 red beets and 3 golden beets; roasted, peeled and sliced (toss them in oil and bake them in the oven at 375 for about 30 minutes or until you can poke them easily with a fork...let them cool...peel, slice)

Six squares of frozen puff pastry shell
The zest from one lemon
The juice from 1/2 a lemon
crushed red pepper
Blue cheese, crumbled (or goat cheese, crumbled)
Olive oil

1. Roast, peel and slice your beets. 
2. Toss the beets in the lemon juice, s/p and a pinch of crushed red pepper.
3. Remove the pastry from the freezer and cut into squares
4. Top the pastry squares with the beets. 
5. Sprinkle the cheese and the lemon zest over the tarts 
6. Bake at 375 until the puff pastry is golden brown, about 25 minutes.
7. Assemble the tarts on a platter and drizzle with olive oil and more lemon juice


I cannot wait to experiment more with this recipe!
I am thinking balsamic reduction...piave cheese instead of blue...
Roasted red peppers or poblanos with the beets perhaps?!
The addition of herbs!?
I could go on and on!

What do you guys think?!?
Any recommendations!?

French Onion Soup
I am not French.

My step-father was French Canadian, and to my little bit of knowledge, I have heard that doesn't really count... 

I took four years of French in high school under a man with a thick Boston accent....
ask me how I fared in Paris...
it wasn't pretty. 
In fact, it was an absolute fucking nightmare.
I left broke and in tears, on a Southbound train headed for Italy...

Well, I guess when it is all said in done, I am probably as French as French toast.

Or, French Onion Soup!

mmm...French Onion Soup!

Cry Festival:
Four pounds of onions ready to go!
Onions, after one hour in the oven at 400 degrees.
The house smells yummy!
Two hours and counting...
I hope this is good...
After the third hour...
Getting brown!
Out of the oven and onto the stove top...
The onions are finally nice and dark after three reductions on the stove top.
Like I said, I hope this is good!
Toasted homemade crusty bread with Provolone.
Leave it to me to cook all day and forget the Gruyere!
The cheese is the most important part of French onion soup!
How could I forget!?!
Oh well, we are too far now...

This soup was very very good.
All day good?!
I don't know about that...
But it was pretty good.

Maybe if I hadn't forgotten the key ingredient (Gruyere cheese), it would have been better...

Nonetheless, I would recommend it on a rainy indoor day;
 It is affordable, comforting and your house will smell amazing!

Let me know what you think!

6-8 Servings

4 pounds of onions (I used a combination of yellow and red)
3 tablespoons of butter
1 tsp of salt

1/4 cup of dry sherry

5 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups of beef broth
4 cups of chicken broth
salt to taste

Gruyere or Provolone Cheese
Crusty Bread

Chop your onions and cry your eyes out.
Coat the inside of a large dutch oven with the 3 tablespoons of butter
Add onions and 1 tsp of salt

Cook for one hour.
Take out and stir.

Cook for another hour.
Take out and stir. Scrape the brown bits from the sides of the dutch oven and stir into the onions.

Cook for another hour (three hours total in the oven).
Take out and stir. 
Put on the stove top over medium heat and stir until the onions start to brown. Continue to scrape the bottom and sides of the dutch oven to capture all of the beautiful caramelization.

Pour in 1/2 a cup of water. Stir, scrape and reduce. Repeat this three more time.

When the onions are dark brown, add the sherry, scrape and stir until reduced one last time.

Add 2 cups of water, the beef and chicken broth, thyme and bay leaf. Allow to simmer on low for 30-40 minutes. Salt to taste.

At the end of the simmer, toast your bread until crunchy. Top with cheese and melt.

To serve: Pour one cup of soup into a large bowl. Add a sprinkling or slice of cheese. Top with more soup. Serve with toasted cheese bread!


* I adapted this recipe from Cook's magazine and my own taste preferences...

Iced Coffee Love

After four
great runs since Monday, 
one being a 7-miler, another being an 8-miler,
iced coffees are a girl's best friend.

Well, that and Wegman's pizza.
But let's stay focused.

Did I mention that I ran 8 miles yesterday?!
Yes, the furthest since last year's half marathon in June.
I'm so proud of myself.

Regardless, this is one of my favorite iced coffee concoctions.
The only way to improve upon this recipe would be to add a little Bailey's...which I might have to do tomorrow when I am at the Elk's rubber ducky race...

Have a great weekend everyone!

Did I mention that I ran 8 miles yesterday!?!


Coffee to brew 8-10 cups (I prefer dark roasts here, but it is your call)
2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
Starbuck's organic chai (you can find this at Target, or most grocery stores)
Milk or cream (I am a fan, but I don't recommend skim here. It seriously adds zero flavor)

Add two tablespoons of ground cinnamon to your coffee grounds and brew. Allow to cool to room temperature, or put it in the refrigerator. Once it is cool, pour over ice. You don't want to pour it over the ice when it is hot because it will water it down too much. Add a splash of Starbuck's organic chai and a splash of milk or cream. If you are one of the lucky kids to own an espresso machine, add a shot of chilled espresso. Delish!


Chocolate, Cherry, Kettle-Cooked Chip Cookies
So much for not eating sugar.
That lasted for about three seconds,
or as Brandi would say:
 "A hot second"

Regardless, who wants to bring salad to a picnic when you can bring cookies?!?

Nobody likes the salad lady. 
We pretend we do, but we don't.
We like the cookie lady.

Here is a simple twist on the traditional chocolate chip cookie. 

Nothing ground breaking; 
I simply added dried cherries and kettle cooked potato chips to the batter.

Pretzels work well too.

Preheat oven to 375

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt (Plus more for sprinkling)
1 cup of softened butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 lg. eggs
2 cups of miniature chocolate chips (I prefer Hershey)
1 cup of dried cherries
1 cup of kettle cooked chips or broken up pretzels

1. Combine flour, baking soda and salt
2. Mix flour, baking soda and vanilla 
3. Add eggs, mixing in one at a time
4. Slowly mix in the flour/soda/salt
5. Gently stir in the chocolate chips and cherries
6. Drop small mounds onto an ungreased cookie sheet
7. Stick potato chips or pretzels into the mounds
8. Bake in preheated oven for +-9 minutes
9. Bring to the picnic and enjoy the praise and admiration of all the salad ladies.


Sauteed Beet Greens with Garlic and Hot Pepper, Roasted Roots and Applesauce Oatmeal Bread

What a rainy, crappy weekend!

Well, save the weather we had a very nice weekend here in Northeast PA.

My mom came to visit, and we made our ever welcome pilgrimage to Wegman's and Homegoods,
Todd and I got a much needed date night, 
I got in two solid training runs,
We planted our seeds for our garden,
I cleaned out four disastrous cabinets, 
and I tried two (sort of) new recipes.

The rain couldn't slow us down!

Maroon carrots from Wegman's!
How funky are these babies!?

First attempt at cooking beet greens = possible new obsession.
Step aside escarole....

Roots ready for roasting

Roasted roots with lemon vinaigrette

Spiced baked chicken, roasted root vegetables with lemon vinaigrette, and sauteed beet greens with garlic and hot pepper

Elias' contribution to dinner;
Applesauce Oatmeal Bread Batter

Applesauce Oatmeal Bread
King Arthur strikes it out of the ballpark again:


If I learned anything this weekend it is that I really love sauteed beet greens (why was I so afraid?!), I love date nights and clean cabinets, 
Wegman's is still my favorite store, second to Homegoods,
and I wish my mother lived closer...but I've known that forever...

I hope you guys all had a great weekend and that the rain didn't stop your fun!

Spring Clean Up
Now that we are back to earth, it is time to clean things up around here.

First stop, myself.

Here is a new rendition of a green juice I posted a few months ago. 
I've been adjusting the flavors, and I think this one is pretty solid;
perfect for Spring cleaning.

Think of it more as a lemonade than a juice or a smoothie.

Straining is a must. 
(You can eat the pulp later if you feel you need the nutrients...blargh)

In fact, the fancy pants in me would double strain it, and pour it over ice with an extra wedge of lemon.


"You Only Live Once!"

Makes a large batch of approximately 4 cups

One ripe pear, cut into cubes (don't worry about peeling because you will be straining it anyhow)Two lemons, skins removed, cut into quarters
One hunk of fresh ginger, diced
2 large leaves of kale, ribs removed and chopped
1 handful of baby spinach
3 cups of cold water

Blend all of the ingredients together (you may need to work in batches).
Strain using fine mesh into a large container. 
Mix well. 
Optional: Strain a second time
Serve immediately.

Enjoy and ignore those snowflakes.

Spring will come...right!?!

Squeeze Me
So, if I can't actually be in Florida, I figure I can bring a little bit of Florida to Pennsylvania.

Or, my in-laws can send us oranges and we can try to make every tropical drink under the sun.

It started out innocently enough; 
my husband squeezing the oranges with my son on an early Saturday morning...

...me putting the rinds into a container to create a little orange-vodka infusion...

...then brilliantly getting the idea to add a little prosecco to that beautiful juice...

..then that night brilliantly getting the idea to make citrus martinis...

There really isn't a juice on the market that tastes as good as freshly squeezed orange juice.

We definitely got our vitamin C this weekend!

Thank you Glenn and Mildred for the wonderful oranges.

We could definitely taste the sunshine.


Ina's Winter Minestrone
You can't go wrong with a big pot of soup when it is chilly outside. 
It warms your kitchen, your bones and your soul. 

This recipe eats like a stew, and develops deeper flavor as it sits, so feel free to make it ahead of time.

Pair this with a bottle of crisp Sauvignon Blanc, a big loaf of crusty bread, and you will have dinner for days!

This is Ina's recipe. 
I followed it step by step. 
Except the garlic bruschetta...we made a honey wheat bread and a crusty white bread instead. 
But, who cares!?
It is all good...unless you burn it...


ps. Stirring in fresh pesto at the end definitely raises it a level, so try not to skip that step!


Spicy Shrimp Caesar
I love me some spicy shrimp!

And on a caesar?! Yes, please!

This caesar recipe is derived from Peppe's Italian Restaurant in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania where they used to make it tableside, circa 1980's style. 
They would crush the garlic, anchovies and capers...squeeze in the lemon juice from a lemon carefully wrapped in a pretty mesh net....

Sadly, they no longer offer it on their menu.
They say they do, but they don't. 
They use premade dressing now.
Very sad, because I believe it may have been the best caesar ever. 

So, since we could no longer get this fabulous salad, I took matters into my own hands, and experimented for what seems like an eternity to finally perfect the art of the caesar. 

I hate to brag, but I think I got it.

It still isn't as good as their's used to be, but it ranks a close second.

Ah, the labors of love.

Now, my husband and I have it all the time topped with whatever protein strikes our fancy...or whatever is left in the refrigerator from the night prior: 
shrimp, chicken, steak...

Makes a meal sized salad for 2 or 4 pre-dinner snackers

For the Shrimp:
12 large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 tablespoons of good olive oil
1 tsp of crushed red pepper flake
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp of salt

Toss the shrimp with the olive oil and seasonings. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or up to an afternoon.

For the Caesar:
1 large head of romaine lettuce, cleaned, chopped and spun
1 cup of croutons made from homemade bread (bread cut into cubes, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper and baked until crunchy)

1 clove of garlic
1/2 can of anchovies
1 tablespoon of capers

Mash the above ingredients into a paste

1 tsp of dried mustard
1 tsp of freshly ground pepper
the juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp or so of Worchestershire sauce
1/2 a cup of good quality, aged balsamic vinegar
2 cups of good quality olive oil
1 egg (optional)

2 large scoops of parm +/or romano cheese + more for the cheese lovers to sprinkle on as they eat

Put all ingredients into your Vitamix or similar blender except for the olive oil and the cheese. Blend the shit out of it until it is creamy and combined. Slowly add the olive oil in a drizzle, mixing as you incorporate it. Once all of the oil is incorporated, toss with the romaine and the croutons until coated. Add cheese and toss again.

Take the shrimp out of the refrigerator, along with the marinade, and toss in a hot pan until they are translucent. Put on top of the salad.

Serve with extra grated cheese


*Disclaimer: We still love you Peppe's, we are just those annoying customers who get hooked on a dish.
Trust us, our criticism is genuinely out of love.

Touchdown Treats
Ya, I don't really get into football.
Fanatics tend to scare me; 
they are loud and aggressive and somewhat unreasonable. 
I just don't understand the entire culture.

Call me un-American.

 Maybe it is because I grew up in a town where they barely had enough boys to make a soccer team...and I went to a college where lacrosse was almighty... 
but I can dig any party, 
so when Superbowl Sunday rolls around you can guarantee that I will be in the kitchen snacking on all things bar-food inspired.

Also, we didn't have a party, but if we did I can imagine a sea of fat: 
pulled pork nachos, Thai peanut chicken wings...maybe a giant fountain of cheese!?

But since there was only a few of us, I tamed my inner food-pushing beast and only made a few select items...

Double Smoked Bacon Jalapeno Poppers

Before the Oven

Half of these are stuffed with cream cheese and chives, and the other half are stuffed with a mixture of cheddar and monterey jack cheeses.

Fingerling Potato Skins

Before the oven

Who doesn't love potato skins?!
I made these with fingerling potatoes to make them ultra snack-able.


Jalapeno Poppers
Makes 12 poppers

6 Jalapeno Peppers
4 ounces of cream cheese
monterey jack cheese
cheddar cheese
fresh ground pepper

Cook 12 slices of thin-sliced bacon until golden brown but still bendable. Set aside to drain and cool.
Cut the jalapeno peppers in half, lengthwise and remove the seeds and ribs. 
Arrange the peppers, cut side up on a parchment lined pan or baking dish.
Mix the cream cheese with chives and black pepper. 
Fill the peppers with the cream cheese mixture and wrap with the precooked bacon. Secure with a toothpick if necessary, or tuck the bacon under the pepper to hold it in place.
Bake at 375 until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Serve immediately.

Fingerling Potato Skins
Makes 12 potato skins


6 Fingerling potatoes
Cheddar/Monterey Jack cheese
Chopped green onions
Cooked bacon pieces
Sour Cream for serving

Bake the fingerling potatoes until tender (you should be able to cut them in half with ease)
Cut the potatoes in half and gently scoop out the flesh from each side of the potato. Leave only a thin amount of potato flesh on the skin.
Arrange the potato halves on a parchment lined pan or baking dish.
Fill the halves with cheese, chopped green onion and bacon. 
Bake at 375 until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Serve immediately with sour cream.

I made mozzarella sticks too, but I burnt the shit out of them, so they didn't make the photo spread.

I hope you all had a great Superbowl Sunday!


Gotham City Casserole
I have gotten a ton of positive response and inquiries regarding the 'Gotham City Casserole' I made the other day for my son's Superhero party.

Believe me, it is Superhero worthy!

I actually got the recipe from Deb Perelman's 'The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (2012).'

Deb is an amazing food blogger that lives in Manhattan and has taken the food world by storm. 
As a home cook, she makes accessible recipes that always turn out delicious.

As you guys know, I am not very good at baking, but her recipes are my new first stop when I am looking for something off of the Food Network spectrum. 
If you haven't checked her out yet, you need to: 

This recipe was not only like diving face first into a New York City bagel shop, but it carries a golden halo because you make it the night before.
This means you can visit with your company and actually enjoy the conversation because you don't have to cook! 
Or hit that snooze button one more time!
Just pop it in the oven, sit back and enjoy.

(This is a loose rendition of Deb's recipe. 
For her actual recipe you have to get her book, which is worth it, and highly recommended; 
Not only for the recipes, but for her banter, food commentary, and beautiful photographs)

8 cups of good bagels cut into cubes (I used a variety of pumpernickel, everything, sesame, poppy and garlic)
8 ounces of chilled cream cheese, cut into small bits
1/4 medium red onion sliced into thin half moons
1 1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
8 large eggs 
2 1/3 cups of milk or half-&-half
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper

lox and capers and/or bacon for serving

Spread a third of the bagel cubes in a 9x13 inch pan. Dot the bagels with a third of the cream cheese bits, and mix in the red onion and cherry tomatoes. Repeat in two more alternating layers. Whisk eggs with milk, salt and pepper and pour the mixture over the bagel mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning discard plastic wrap and bake at 350 for an hour to an hour 1/4 or until a knife comes out clean. Let it rest 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with lox and capers on the side, and/or bacon

I almost skipped the side of lox and capers, but I am glad that I didn't; 
It made it just that much better.

Thank you Deb for my new go-to breakfast casserole!

Friends, you will be seeing this on my counter for years to come!

Black Raspberry Love Drink
Let us toast to the winter solstice!

Here is a creamy, frothy, black-raspberry, boozy beverage to get your parties started.

Imagine a black raspberry - vanilla twist from the Pied Piper.
In a glass.
Adult style.

All of those years pushing cones will come scurrying back.


A small plate of water
A small plate of cane sugar
1 part Milk (+- depending on mood)
1 part Chambord (+- depending on mood)

Dip your glass' rim in the water and then into the sugar to coat. Place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. 
Meanwhile, in a metal shaker, shake vigorously the milk, chambord and ice until frothy and well chilled.
Remove the glass from the freezer and carefully pour the beautifully frothy liquid into the beautifully chilled glass.
Sharing is optional.

Have a great holiday weekend everyone!

Again, don't forget to toast to the winter solstice tomorrow...

Winter is finally, officially here!

Cookie Craze

So there is no denying it; I am going to get so fat this holiday season.

Call it beginners luck, or conquering the fear of my electric mixer, but I actually made edible cookies from scratch last week!

And what better way to celebrate than by inviting a bunch of women over to share and exchange the deliciousness?
Well, with wine, of course.

Look at how beautiful our cookies came out!

Just make sure you platter and gift them immediately, unless you intend on eating them all yourself....or risk your three year old son eating the Hershey kisses off the top of all the cookies in reach...

Here are the cookie recipes I conquered:

Melty Coconut Macaroons
(They weren't supposed to be melty, but I did something wrong....regardless, they were delish)

*Ina Garten's Recipe for Coconut Macaroons @ foodnetwork.com

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
(Hard as a rock...but my son loved them...)

*Recipe found on the lid of Quaker oatmeal, just substituted dried cranberries in place of raisins

Cornmeal Butter Cookies with Raspberry Jam
(You will notice that these didn't make the platter....ehh hemm....sorry....)

*Recipe found in Cook's magazine

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies with Sea Salt
(Seriously salty addictive)

*Recipe found on foodnetwork.com

So I know that I am not the first person on earth to make cookies, or have a cookie exchange party, but damn it was fun!
I think this has to become an annual event!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Peanut Butter Bonanza
My husband is a peanut butter fanatic; The more peanut-buttery, the better.
So, for his birthday I wanted to make him a peanut butter something...cake, pie, truffles, candy?!
I had great luck over Thanksgiving making a pumpkin cheesecake (Thank you Paula Deen!), so I thought maybe I could make a peanut butter cheesecake...

Unfortunately, who knew that finding a decent peanut butter cheesecake recipe would be so difficult!?
The reviews read too mild, too strong, too stiff, too soft...

I guess everybody likes their peanut butter in different capacities.

As a reminder, I am not very good at baking.
In fact, I usually fuck it up pretty bad.

So, the thought of recreating a recipe, or adapting a recipe usually scares me...knowing deep down that any type of tinkering usually ends up in a disaster.
But, due to the fact that I couldn't find my vision, I was forced to try and adapt.
So I dove.

What happened?!
Pure brilliance.

I am a kitchen ninja.

The secret is the chocolate graham cracker crust...oh, and the miniature chocolate chips peppered throughout...oh, and the melty peanut butter chocolate topping...
oh, and the......well, you get the idea.
You will think you have gone to chocolate peanut butter heaven.

Makes one badass cake
Preheat oven to 325. 
You will need a spring form pan, parchment paper and a large baking or roasting dish for a waterbath.

For Crust:
One 10 ounce box of chocolate Teddy Grahams (or ten ounces of chocolate graham crackers...but the Teddy Grahams are sadistically fun to crush...)
1 stick of salted butter
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar 

Directions: Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of your springform pan and place into the pan. Crush the graham crackers (I put them in a ziplock and hammer them with a mallot), put them into a bowl with the cinnamon and brown sugar. Melt the butter and mix well. Press into the bottom of your prepared springform pan, coming up the edges ever so slightly.

For Filling:
1 1/4 cup of peanut butter (don't use all natural)
2, 8 ounce packages of cream cheese
1 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of sour cream
3 eggs
2 tsp. of vanilla 
1/2 package of miniature chocolate chips (5 ounces)
1/2 a package of peanut butter chips (5 ounces)

Beat the cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in the sour cream. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the chips. Dump into the crust.

Bake for an hour in 325 degree oven with a waterbath. Check doneness around 45 minutes. The top should look set.

Refrigerate for a minimum of four hours and up to two days.

Remove from pan and top with any or all of the following. 


For Topping:
- Whipped Cream: Heavy Cream + Conf. Sugar + Vanilla extract
- Melted chocolate and/or melted peanut butter chips
- Crushed peanuts
- Miniature chocolate chips

ps. This recipe was so quick and easy = perfect for your next holiday meal or gathering.
You might even impress your mother in law!


After housing a loaf of bread that didn't mold for six months, I decided that it was time to start my own baking. 
Sadly, I've been trying unsuccessfully for what seems like an eternity.
Too hard. Too dense. Inedible. Burnt.

Well, now I am officially queen of my kitchen....
Okay, perhaps this is a bit of an exaggeration... 
but that is how I feel after making my first official, successful batch.
You can actually eat this bread!

These loaves didn't dent my counter, or break my bread knife when I cut through them....dare I say that they are actually good!?

I feel like I cleared the proverbial bread hurdle.

Call me Martha 

King Arthur's 'Hearth Bread'
Crunchy Crust, Doughy White Center

King Arthur's Half White, Half Wheat

Half White, Half Wheat's Glorious Inside

Funny Looking But Fabulous In My Book!

Carbs for Days

Beware, I may weigh twenty pounds more the next time you see me. 

Both the white bread recipe ("Hearth Bread"), and the wheat bread recipe I used were taken from King Arthur Flour's website. 
Thank you King Arthur, I will be seeing you again soon!

My next feat: Black Russian Bread!
What is your favorite bread recipe!?

Did you know that Goat is the number one protein consumed world wide?
News flash: A lot of people think the cow is sacred and that we are crazy for eating beef...

It is also lower in fat and higher in protein than beef or pork! 
Or at least that is what I read...
Who knows if it is true, however I can tell you one thing; It is delicious.
I expected it to taste more like beef, but it was actually more like pork. 
Light, yet rich and savory.

Also, the word on the street is that is the new trendy protein to cook, according to yuppy housewives across America. 
Check out the NY Times article:

My good friend Paul actually cooked this dish...but I stood in close proximity so I feel like I played my part....

Serves a generous crowd

One, bone in, hind end/including shank of a Goat (approximately 7 pounds)
Salt and Pepper
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 handfuls of radishes, cleaned and chopped in half
4 red potatoes, cleaned and chopped in half
3 carrots, cleaned and roughly chopped
2 ribs of celery, cleaned and roughly chopped
thyme, rosemary and/or parsley sprigs

3 cups of red wine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place the goat in a large, deep broiling pan. 
Season both sides of the goat well with salt and pepper. Place in the preheated oven for two hours.

Meanwhile, gather and prepare the rest of the ingredients.

After two hours, take out the goat and dump in all of the ingredients. Cover and braise for two more hours.

Remove from the oven, allow to rest for about 10 minutes and pull the meat off of the bone.


*It was difficult to find goat meat; Most markets do not sell it, so you will most likely have to go to a Mediterranean or Middle-Eastern market.
If you are one of my PA people, there is a great market in the same plaza as Olga's Greek Cuisine that sells goat, but they only have it fresh on weekends, so plan ahead. 
The man behind the counter is super nice...even though he looked at me like I had three heads when I asked for goat meat.
Crazy white girl...

Kale Train
I admittedly try to stay away from food trends;
Bacon wrapped scallops.
Eggs on everything. 
Foamed smoke.
Miniature versions of cheeseburgers. 
Fancy tater tots....

 but I always dive in head first at some point or another...and then realize why they became a trend in the first place.

Kale is the perfect example.
Kale salad, kale chips, kale juice....blah blah blah blah blah.....
Who cares, right!?

Well...now I understand.
It is like the snack Gods heard my call (and saw the size of my ass), and sent these to earth to save me from myself.

 Scooch over Frito Lay.

Ingredients and Directions:
2 heaping handfuls of kale, chopped and cleaned
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil 
1 tsp. of kosher salt

Toss to coat with olive oil and salt. Spread kale in a single layer on a parchment lined pan. Bake at 375 until crisp. Dig in.

These will go perfectly with my bacon wrapped scallops...or my smokey crabcakes, topped with foam...or my fancy tots...or my miniature cheeseburgers...
Throw an egg on top!
Oh the possibilities!


Greek Inspired Orzo with Artichokes
Orzo, check.
Artichokes, check, check.
Cheese, check, check, check!

This is a great side dish, or accompaniment to any grilled protein, however in a giant bowl with seared spicy shrimp makes it a great crowd pleasing main dish.
I adapted this recipe from Mary Hobika, and I admit that hers was better, but this might be a close contender.
Thank you Mary for the inspiration!

Serves a million hungry people

1 box of orzo, cooked al dente
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped (peeled optional)
1 red pepper, seeded and finely chopped and/or two cups of grape tomatoes, quartered (or roasted tomatoes are delightful too)
4 green onions, chopped 
1 cup of chopped dill (or more to liking)
1/2 cup of chopped mint
1/2 cup of chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil to coat
The juice from two lemons + tsp. of lemon zest

2 cups of feta cheese
1 can of artichoke hearts, artichoke hearts quartered

Optional: Grilled shrimp that was tossed with olive oil, salt and crushed red pepper before grilling

Boil water and dump in the orzo. Add a tablespoon of salt. Stir and cook to package directions.
While the orzo is cooking, clean and chop all of your vegetables and your herbs. Juice and zest your lemons.
When the orzo is cooked, toss with olive oil and lemon juice. 
Toss in all of your ingredients. 
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional: Add grilled shrimp
This recipe is so adaptable. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to your liking. Especially the herbs. If you like dill, add more dill...and on, and on....


Baby's Got Sauce
It doesn't get much more natural that this.
Becoming responsible for a little person makes me seek out healthier options all around, especially when it comes to snacking 
Translation: Get your paws off of my snacks, kid, eat your applesauce...

Did I mention that it is a great way to use all of those apples you picked with your family last weekend?
I know, at the time it makes perfect sense to pick five million bags of apples....

Child Labor!?
How cool is this contraption!?

Put Some Muscle Into It Kid!

Yields 2 large jars or 4 small

12 Apples (use a mixture of apples to get a variety of sweetness/tartness and flavor; I used Honeycrisp, Red Delicious and Granny Smith)
2 cups of apple juice or pear juice (organic)
Juice from one lemon
1 cinnamon stick
*Optional: add light brown sugar to taste if you like your applesauce on the sweeter side

Peel, core and slice apples. 
Cook over low heat with the apple/pear/lemon juices and the cinnamon stick. 
Stir occassionally and cook until the apples break down. If you don't like your applesauce chunky, allow to cool and puree in a food processor. If you do this, make sure you bring the sauce back to temperature before canning.
*Remember to remove the cinnamon stick! :)
Taste and stir in the sugar at the end of cooking if you like it sweeter.
Put in jars and refrigerate for up to a week, or can it if you want to store it for longer.


Green Goddess: That is Me

Another beautiful weekend deserves a beautiful, clean start. 

Here is a great, healthy drink to kick it off, before the onslaught of late Autumn wine tours, spiced cider and hot toddies.

Believe me, your belly will rejoice and thank you later!

This is a great green juice recipe that I found and adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook 
"It's All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great"

Thank you Gwyneth for the 302 pages of guilt...
I mean, inspiration...


5 large leaves of kale, ribs discarded, leaves torn or roughly chopped
1 lemon, zest and pith removed
1 large apple (I used Honey Crisp), roughly chopped
1, 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped
1 sprig of fresh mint
1/2 cup water

Blend in a powerful blender or push ingredients through a juicer. Press the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and drink! YUM!

Miniature Candy 'Apples'
Candy apples are great, but you really have to commit to one once you start...and sometimes that can be a little much.
I see caramel covered children. 

These are poppers. No commitment necessary.
But you will go back for more than one, 
I promise.

These were the quickest treats to throw together, and the talk of the party. 

Thank you Pinterest! 
Pass it on!


Grapes (seedless)
Dipping caramel (found in the produce section)
Chopped pecans
Tooth picks or cute sticks

Stick grapes with toothpicks or sticks, dip in caramel, roll in pecans. Serve and accept the compliments to come.


Adirondack Berry Booze
I totally ripped off this idea from my two best friends in Old Forge, 
but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right!?!
Ya, I know it is obnoxious......I apologize...
But what a great idea!

Also, my mother slaved away picking these berries; a mixture of raspberries and blackberries, and is probably balking at the fact that I am making boozy beverages from her labors. 
I'm sorry mom.

So, at the risk of insulting my mother and my two best friends, we are making "Berry Booze"...Adirondack vodka infused with Adirondack berries.

I know who is going to get the first two bottles!

Have a great Friday Everyone! 
(Especially my mom and PKR)

Stay tuned for more images as the vodka steeps!

Tzatziki with Mint and Honey
We have been experimenting with Greek foods a lot this Fall, and this may be the one simple, successful thing I have made.
I will be tucking this recipe away in my memory bank for years to come.

I know that you can buy tzatziki at any local supermarket, but homemade is truly so much better. 
Not to mention you can control your flavors, and adapt them to your liking.
 I urge you to not skip the mint and/or honey in this recipe. My husband does not care for mint (or so he claims), but he enthusiastically agreed that it balances out the flavors and gives it a fresh kick. 
Try it once, and then omit it the next time if you don't agree.

We served it atop toasted flat bread brushed with olive oil, baked chicken pulled from the bone, and a nice Greek salad. 
This made a simple, clean dinner, but would be perfect for lunch, or served as an appetizer.
I imagine pairing it with all things dip-able 
(I'm thinking toasted pita, raw or roasted veggies, grilled shrimp...)...

How do you eat your tzatziki?!


1 small container of plain Greek yogurt 
1 cup of sour cream
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup of fresh dill, chopped
1 cup of fresh mint, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp of cumin
juice from one lemon
2 tablespoons of honey

1. Gather all of your ingredients. Chop your herbs, garlic and cucumber. 
2. Mix them well.
3. Allow the mixture to sit to enhance the flavors, from one hour to overnight. The longer it sits, the more intense the flavors.
4. Enjoy with anything dip-able, or serve with grilled/baked chicken, pork, fish or beef. 


Mama Moussaka
Okay, so this photo doesn't do the inner gooey-ness of this dish any justice, and I didn't get a chance to take another pic before we wolfed it down, but trust me on this one....
 Man, oh, man....this is some good shit.

I can't believe this dish isn't more common, especially for those trying to reduce carbs. It is like a pasta-less version of eggplant parmesan/lasagna.
Much to my delight I made this recipe in trying to prepare for our annual 'Feast.' 
Our theme is Greek food this year, and if this dish is any indication of what is to come, we hit the nail on the head with this choice.

Serves 6-8

2 lbs ground lamb or beef (I used a beef, veal, pork mixture)
2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large fresh tomato, sliced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

1. Slice eggplants, lengthwise about 1/4 inch thick; rinse, drain and pat dry
2. Cook onion until translucent
3. Add meat and cook until brown; drain fat/juices
4. Add sauce to the meat and mix. Adjust flavors with s/p.
5. Create a layer of eggplant in a baking dish trying to not leave any gaps between the eggplants, then top with meat sauce then repeat. Finish with a layer of the fresh, sliced tomatoes.
6. Top with panko and parmesan cheese
7. Bake for 30 minutes until panko is golden brown and you can easily poke through the eggplant. If the panko browns before the eggplant is cooked, top with a loose piece of foil.

Options: Add crushed red pepper to the sauce for extra spice, or use porto mushrooms instead of meat for your protein for a vegetarian version. 

What is your favorite Greek recipe!?
Please share as we prepare for our annual Greek food festival in November!

Monster Caprese and Baked Tomatoes
 I can't say it loud enough: 
I love fresh tomatoes. 
These are sadly the last of our crop, but we have had a good ride.
Here are two easy recipes that we enjoyed both because they were delicious, but easy and healthy as well.

So pretty...
Monster Caprese!
Simply slice a variety of different color heirlooms, and stagger with fresh mozzarella, avocado and chopped herbs. Drizzle with aged balsamic and good olive oil. S/P.
Enjoy with or without crusty bread.

Baked Tomatoes!
Slice tomatoes and place them in a baking dish. Saute garlic in olive oil and drizzle on top of tomatoes. Top with panko, salt and pepper and chopped herbs. Bake at 350 for twenty minutes or until the panko is golden brown.

Rabbit with Tarragon, Dijon, Garlic and Cream

I can't take full responsibility for this recipe as it was technically Todd's deal, however, I set up all of his mis-en-place so I feel I have partial rights.
This cookbook has never failed to produce the most delicious meals. 
Good ol' trusty LL Bean!

Rabbit Baked in Tarragon, Mustard, Garlic and Cream

Serves 6

2 rabbits, pieced
1 tsp. fresh chopped tarragon
3 tblsp. dijon mustard
2 tblsp. minced garlic
1/3 cup minced parsley
3 tblsp. red wine vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream
freshly ground pepper
1-2 tblsp. chopped parsley

*You can substitute chicken if you prefer

Preheat oven to 350

1. Coat the rabbit pieces with mustard. Mix the garlic and parsley together with a little salt and sprinkle half over the rabbit.
2. Combine the vinegar and broth and pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining garlic/parsley mix and put the rabbit pieces on top.
3. Bring to a boil, then cover the baking dish and bake for about an hour.
4. Check after about 45 minutes to see if tender and turn the pieces of the rabbit. When tender throughout, remove the rabbit and keep warm.
5. Pour the cream into the juices in the casserole dish and boil to reduce the liquid by half or more; it should have the consistency of a light cream sauce.
6. Salt and pepper rabbit and return to casserole. Spoon with sauce and adjust seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve.

Hippity Hop!

(This recipe came from the 'LL Bean Game and Fish Cookbook' by Angus Cameron and Judith Jones, Random House; 1983)

Vegetarian Summer Rolls

There is nothing like bathing suit weather to make you want to scale back and eat healthier. 
I swear if I lived closer to the equator I would be one hot mama.
With the stress of wearing bathing suits and shorts, comes the natural instinct to add more fruit and vegetables, and eliminate the macaroni and cheese based diet that I follow the rest of the year.
Here is a tasty, crowd friendly snack, that serves as a nice alternative to the regular crudite platter seen at most summer barbeques.
You can mix and match the type of vegetables you use, and add shrimp or crabmeat if you are feeling fancy.
I serve this with a spicy peanut sauce, but feel free to use any asian-style dipper.
Store bought makes it even easier!

Yields 14 rolls

7 sheets of rice paper (found in any Asian section of most supermarkets)
Three Carrots, cut into matchsticks, or peeled into strips
One Cucumber, cut into matchsticks
One Red Pepper, cut into matchsticks
28 Chives, or a green onions cut into strips
1-2 ripe avocado, sliced into thin strips
One handful of cilantro, chopped
Toasted Sesame Seeds

Other options: Radishes, Green or Yellow Squash, Shrimp or Crabmeat; add rice vermicelli....

1. Prepare all of your vegetables; cutting into strips or peeling into strips
2. Set up your workstation; I use one deep plate for soaking the rice paper, one for rolling, a cutting board for cutting and lastly the serving platter.
3. Working with, and soaking one sheet of rice paper at a time in water, soak until pliable; lay vegetables in a stack in the center of the rice paper (about 1/4 way down), tuck one edge of the rice paper under the vegetables and roll tightly, folding in the ends as you go. Fight the urge to overstuff or the rice paper will rip.
Once rolled, cut in half and place on serving platter.
4. Once all of the rolls are complete, sprinkle with sesame seeds
5. Serve immediately with dipping sauce


White Sangria with Strawberry Juice, Strawberries and Blueberries

Can you believe it is August already?!
Yikes, but another summer weekend is upon us, so let us enjoy every minute before the temperatures drop.

Something like this might be a great addition to your next gathering.

This white sangria is made with Sauvignon Blanc, Strawberry Juice, Sliced Strawberries and Blueberries.
Strangely the strawberries floated to the top and the blueberries sank, making this the perfect patriotic punch.
We will toast to that!
God Bless America!


Beet This
In learning this whole gardening thing, I thought I over-planted my beets; however, once they were cleaned, roasted and pickled, it didn't seem so over the top.
I adapted this pickling recipe from one that I used last year for my green beans; 
I thought that the heat from the peppers would balance the sweetness from the beets, and I believe it was a success. 
Plus, the acid from the lemons added dimension and balanced out the sweetness as well.
I made one batch and it was enough pickling liquid for three jars of roasted beets and one jar of green beans.
Now, we can eat our garden at leisure!
Do you have any good pickling recipes you want to share!? 
Send them our way!

Roasted Beets, Peeled, Cleaned and Ready to Rock
A Season of Snacks
The Magical Fruit

This recipe is for pickling the roasted beets. If you want to adapt it for pickled green beans, simply trim, clean and blanch the green beans and add a 1/4 cup of sugar to the recipe. Also, these should be stored in the refrigerator until they are eaten; if you wish to can them, follow the link provided below.

4 jars with lids
8 cups of beets, cleaned, roasted and peeled; larger beets cut into smaller sections 
Dried Chile Peppers (Such as arbol or thai; 1 per jar)
1 lemon, sliced thin
2 cups apple-cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon of multi-colored peppercorns
2 tablespoons of kosher salt

1. Clean four jars well; put cleaned, roasted beets in the jars with lemon slices. Try to put the same amount of lemons in each jar.
2. Bring water, vinegar, sugar (for green beans), salt, chiles, and peppercorns to a boil. As soon as the liquid boils, pour over the beets into the jars, making sure each jar gets a chile pepper, and equal amounts of peppercorns.
3. Seal jars and refrigerate at least overnight and up to a few weeks to let the flavors develop.
4. Enjoy on tiny party forks.

Here is the link if you wish to can:

Tell us, what is your favorite food to pickle!?

Butta Makes Everything Betta!
Especially when it comes in log-form, straight from Lancaster. 
This butter, for my local friends, can be found at Gary's Meat Market, or at most large farmer's markets down toward Bethlehem; I would be willing to bet that for my Philly friends, Grand Terminal would be the place to find these giant logs of love.
It is creamy, sweet and, well...buttery! 
It has a lovely taste that makes noodles sing, and 
lobsters and clams...well, they don't stand a chance.
Peace out, Land o' Lakes!

Happy Clam-Bakin-+-Lobster-Crackin!

Flourless Espresso, Dark-Chocolate Cakelettes
Holy Gluten Free Heavennnnnnn!

Imagine the richest brownie you have ever eaten meets the silkiest fudge you have ever eaten...
this is their love child.

(Plus, the mixture of strawberries, blueberries + fresh whipped cream and powdered sugar makes this a perfect patriotic dessert for the summer holidays:)

3, 10 oz. packs of frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed (I didn't follow this step in this image, but I highly recommend it)

12 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
1 cup cold pressed coffee, espresso or 1 tbsp. instant espresso powder in 1 cup of water
1 cup, packed golden brown sugar
8 large eggs, beaten

Additional to serve:
fresh raspberries +/or strawberries
fresh whipped cream
powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Puree raspberries and syrup in batches. Strain. Chill.
3. Line bottom of 9 inch x 2 inch cake pan with parchment. Or set up cup cake pans with liners
4. Set up all of your ingredients; chop chocolate, dice butter and keep chilled, beat eggs, pack brown sugar etc.
5. Bring butter, espresso, and brown sugar to boil in a medium saucepan; stir to dissolve sugar.
6. Add chocolate; whisk until smooth
7. Cool slightly, and whisk in the eggs
8. Pour batter into cake or cupcake pans
9. Set up a water bath and bake cake/cupcakes until they can be pierced with a knife and the knife comes out clean; 45 minutes to one hour.
10. Chill overnight.
11. Serve with raspberry sauce, fresh raspberries/strawberries, fresh whipped cream and powdered sugar.
12. Your welcome!

Happy Fourth of July Everyone! 

Spicy Corn and Cheddar Chowder
I just bought Martha Stewart's cookbook "Meatless," and there is a reason she has built an entertaining empire. 
I dogeared almost every page... 
Here, I made her 'White - Cheddar Corn Chowder,' but made a few personal adjustments. 
I can't help but tinker.
It is a beautiful, low fat, vegetarian, gluten-free recipe. 
Only 233 calories per serving!
Give it a go, and really try to use fresh sweet corn; I think it made all of the difference.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (I used 1/4 tsp = more heat)
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc. Use what you drink)
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I only used two potatoes and cut them into tiny 1/4 inch pieces)
2 cups vegetable stock; preferably homemade
1 cup skim milk
3 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 6 ears)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated (about 3/4 cup)

1. Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium. Cook onion, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add celery and cook, stirring, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add coriander, cumin and cayenne. Raise heat to medium-high, and add wine. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 2-3 minutes.
2. Add potatoes, stock and milk, and bring to a boil (skim any foam from the surface). Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Add corn and cook until tender, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer 2 cups of soup to a blender (I did 1/2 of the batch). Let cool slightly, then puree until smooth. Stir back into into the pan and reheat if needed. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, divide among 6 bowls, top each with cheese, and sprinkle with pepper.
(Chowder can be cooled completely, then refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; reheat over low)

Here is the link to 'Meatless':

Enjoy Everyone!

(ps. Dear Carnivorous Friends, I think the next time I make this recipe, I will top with fresh crabmeat! Doesn't that sound good!? ;)

Sweet Tea Perfection
Phew it is a hot one!
Take advantage of this scorching weather and make a big batch of sun-tea, grandmother style.
My favorite tea to use is 'Mighty Leaf's Green Tea Tropical.' 
It has a beautiful, light, herbal taste. 
No sweeteners needed!
I made this batch for a party that I had recently, but I have another batch brewing on my patio as I write this post.
This dispenser is great because it is big enough that we can enjoy the tea all week long.
Simply fill your vessel with water, and hang tea bags from the rim and cover. Allow the tea to steep from breakfast to happy hour.
Discard the tea bags.
Pour into an ice-filled mason jar. 
Add a few sprigs of your favorite herbs and/or lemon wedges.
Add a splash of lemonade if you wish.
Add a splash of grain if you wish.
Sit back in that rocker, crank up that country music and toast to summer!

Happy Friday Everyone!

(The vessel in this image is from Target; Mighty Tea can be found at most grocery stores, but could also be purchased on-line; Country music can be found on the radio; Joy can be found in your heart)

Two Meatloaf Recipes in Honor of Paula
In honoring Paula, I had to post a meatloaf recipe.
I try not to use this blog as a soap box, but let the witch hunt end!
Leave the woman alone.


1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork and veal mix
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups of Parmesan/Romano cheese
2 cups of bread crumbs
4 tablespoons of mayonnaise

6-8 strips of bacon

Preheat oven to 350
Mix together all of the ingredients except the bacon and put into a large baking dish
Form into the shape of a loaf
Top loaf with bacon and bake at 350 until cooked through about 45 minutes.

I personally prefer Paula's recipe (included below), but I know she would appreciate this recipe as a nice alternative. 
We are on your side Paula!

Paula's Recipe:

1 pound ground beef
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
8 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard

Pre-heat at 375 
Mix all ingredients and place in a baking dish. Shape into a loaf.
Mix all topping ingredients and pour over the top
Bake for one hour

Keep on Cookin' Girl!

Strawberry-Basil Shortcake With Milk
Strawberry season is here, and what better way to indulge than with a simple, delicious bowl of strawberry shortcake.

My husband grew up having this for dinner, and I thought that was a silly concept.
In my world Strawberry Shortcake was a dessert. 
A mid-day snack.
A treat.

Well, I am converted.

 He made this for dinner, and true to his family's tradition, he used milk instead of whipped cream or ice cream. 
Again, really!? 
Homemade whipped cream is what it is all about. And if not whipped cream, vanilla ice cream is what it is all about.

Well, again, I think I am converted.

The way the milk soaks into the bisquit is texturally addictive, and after my first trial, I switched to 1% to lessen the fat, and the flavor was not compromised at all. 
It was still yummy.

Also, I added a few sprigs of basil (to which my husband balked), and that too added a depth of great flavor, but it is not necessary.

And with great strawberries abundant, you don't even have to mascerate them = less sugar!
Get them while they are fresh!


1 flat of strawberries, halved and cleaned 
milk (whole, 2%, 1% or skim, depending on your diet)
Bisquick* (follow directions and ingredients on box)
Sugar (amount to personal preference; My son and I didn't use any because the berries were so sweet and ripe on their own, my husband sprinkled generously because that is how he rolls)
Optional: Basil

1. Prepare bisquits per the Bisquick directions. Or better yet, use a homemade recipe!! Don't buy the store made angel foodcake or shortcake; you want them out of the oven, warm. This recipe doesn't require any other cooking, so do it right. And when you get down to it, making Bisquick shouldn't put a kink in your side.
2. Slice and clean strawberries. If the strawberries are ripe, leave them be; if they need a little sweetness, add sugar, toss to coat, and allow them to mascerate for about a 1/2 hour or while the bisquits cook.
3. To serve, put the warm bisquit in a bowl, top with strawberries and drizzle with milk. Taste and adjust sugar to diet and liking. Save some for the rest of your family.

Any and all homemade bisquit recipes are welcome;
Please share if you have one that you love and recommend!

Artichoke and Swiss Stuffed Chicken Breasts
I admit it. 
I love Teresa Giudice's cookbooks.
I know, I know, I know she is a crazed maniac, but her recipes are surprisingly delicious. 
And easy.
A few years back I purchased her first cookbook for my mother as a joke because we both loved the show; and it turned out great.
Then recently, my mother got me her new grilling cookbook as a joke because we loved her first cookbook; and it also turned out great.

Who knew!!?

I have a new respect for this woman. 
Bravo depicts her as trash, but here she is raising four pre-teen girls, supporting her husband, and cooking good meals all the while...all with her hair perfectly straightened!
Good for her. 
Which one of us hasn't wanted to flip a table once or twice!?

She doesn't talk as much trash in the newest cookbook, or throw any of her "good" friends under the bus, but she is still pretty transparent in this version, so it makes for fun reading atop the good recipes. 

This is a take off of Teresa's 'Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Artichokes and Fontina.'
Here, I baked the chicken, instead of grilling it, and I used swiss cheese as opposed to fontina. 
Just personal preferences.
I served it with sauteed spinach with farm fresh butter, and it was fabulicious!

Thank you Teresa for constant entertainment and these yummy recipes.

Recipe (From "Fabulicious! On the Grill):
Makes 6 Servings

Basil-Rosemary Marinade:
1 (6 oz) jar marinated artichoke hearts (here I used a 12 oz jar because I LOVE artichokes. The more the better in my book!)
1/4 cup of dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
1/4 cup evoo
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Chicken Breasts:
6 Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese (here I substituted swiss, because I don't care for Fontina, and it worked very well)

1. To make the marinade: Drain the artichoke hearts, reserving the marinade from the jar. Set the artichoke hearts aside. Whisk the wine, oil, reserved artichoke marinade, basil, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl.
2. To make the chicken: Working with one chicken breast half at a time, use a thin sharp knife to cut horizontally through the center of the chicken, cutting almost, but not quite, to the other side. Transfer chicken to a 1 gallon resealable plastic bag. Add the marinade and close the bag. Refrigerate, occassionally turning the bag, for 1 to 2 hours
3. Coarsely chop the reserved artichoke hearts. Transfer to a bowl and combine with the fontina cheese. Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the marinade. Open up a chicken breast half like a book. Place about 1/6 of the artichoke mixture on one side of the chicken, and close to cover with the other half. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts and the artichoke mixture. Let stand at room temperature while prepping the grill. 
4. Preheat the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (400)
*I baked, instead of grilled the chicken, and it worked very well!!!

Don't worry. 
I won't tell anyone you like it too. 
I guess there is a reason she is a 
New York Times Best Seller; 
Somebody besides me must be buying them!
Is it you!?

Here are the links to her grilling cookbook as well as her original cookbook:

BLT Salad

Leave it up to me to make a salad unhealthy.
Actually, leave it up to my mom. 
This is her deal.
Best. Salad. Ever.
Make this for any summer barbecue and you will miraculously have friends you never knew existed.

Makes 4 Large Salads

One head of Romaine lettuce, cleaned, spun and chopped
1/2 lb of bacon, cooked and drained
1 handful of ripe, summer cherry tomatoes, cleaned and halved
1 handful of croutons (preferably homemade)
1/2 cup of grated fresh Parmesan

1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. chopped thyme (my addition; not necessarily necessary)

salt and freshly ground pepper

Prep salad ingredients. Mix mayo, lemon juice and thyme in a small bowl and toss with salad ingredients. S/P to taste. Serve with additional cheese and pepper. 

Listen to the silence....wait for applause!
Take a bow.

Ginger Love

I am not a big soda fan....well, unless I am at a movie theater and it comes from a fountain in a 42 ounce cup...but this ginger ale might be a front runner if I were to start drinking soda at home. 
My mother turned me onto this a few months back, so I was delighted when I found it at our local grocery store.
If you see it, give it a go. 
It has a really nice, clean, sweet taste.
And if you are like some people I know, it goes well with rum. 
Just sayin'....
Sippy Sippy!!

Monster Brownie Cakes

Candy Eyes Inspired This Everyday Tray of Cakes!
These are for my son's classroom, however I think they would work great for a monster-inspired birthday party!?

For these guys I just used Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownie mix, and candy eyes I found at the grocery store. The frosting is a simple cream cheese/unsalted butter and confectioners sugar mix with a touch of vanilla. 
Nothing fancy. Just fun.

Oogily Boogily!


So, my husband declared this week "Meat Week," and since I am trying to reduce my carbohydrate intake, this works to my advantage. 
I can't, however, have steak on the grill every night, so I have to be a little creative.

Here is a quick, easy version of beef carpaccio; 
one of my favorite appetizers at many an Italian restaurant. 
Here, I just used the rarest roast beef I could find instead of slicing it from a raw piece of beef. 
I know that it isn't the "real" thing, but it is still yummy.

My husband called it 'Roast Beef Salad'....but I think Karra-paccio sounds so much nicer.
I am pretty fancy.

Yields One Large Appetizer to Be Shared

1/8 lb. of the rarest roast beef you can find (or slice raw beef from a tenderloin...freeze first so you can slice as thin as possible)

One large handful of washed and spun spring greens or fresh baby spinach

One large roasted red pepper, sliced (or a mix of roasted red peppers and banana peppers, sliced)

3 tablespoons of capers, drained

Olive Oil (+-1 tablespoon)
Truffle Oil (gentle drizzle)
Good Balsamic Vinegar (+- 1 tablespoon)
Shaved Parmesan Cheese
Freshly Ground Pepper + Kosher Salt

On a large plate, 
Lay a bed of greens; top with peppers; top with beef; top with capers and shaved parmesan; Drizzle with olive oil, truffle oil and balsamic vinegar (to taste, but be gentle with the truffle oil); Season with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.

Share and Enjoy!

Salmon, Sweet Potato, Spinach and Asparagus
I didn't make this.
But it was so good that I am going to try to this weekend!
Being from planet earth, I know that the base had roasted red peppers, sweet potatoes and spinach; the salmon and asparagus were grilled; the sauce was buttery, lemony and herby, and it was finally drizzled with a balsamic reduction.
Seems easy enough.
I'm going to give it a go.
Wish me luck.
Any insights or recommendations!?

"Homemade" Pizza
Okay. I know this one is not earth shattering or original, but it is so delicious, especially if you like doughy deliciousness.
...Not to mention that I really wanted to try out my new pizza stone, and I was desperate for a quick, meat free recipe after a day of shopping...

It is also a fun way to get your kids involved in the kitchen; just set up a station of toppings and let them decorate their very own personal pizza.
Again, I know this is far from original, but the variations are endless. 
And it is fun.
Here is one that my son made. 
Sometimes less is more... 

Homemade or Wegman's pre-made pizza dough
Flour for rolling
Cornmeal for bottom

1. Make and/or roll out dough on a floured surface
2. Add sauce, cheese and toppings
3. Bake
4. Eat


Caesar Pleaser
I don't know if this can technically be considered "vegetarian," since it does contain anchovies, but c'mon...close enough, right!? 
I guess I'd serve it to my non-vegetarian friends without muttering a word, but if somebody shows up with conviction, I guess I would be nice enough to disclose that it does contain fish...
I grilled the romaine, which is unnecessary, but adds a nice depth of flavor. 
Also, I can't take full credit for this recipe; It is adapted from one of our favorite restaurants that used to make it table side, 1980's style.
It is delicious.
I like it. 
Try it on for size and let me know what you think.


1/2 can of anchovy fillets; draining is optional; more flavorful if you don't drain them
1/2 tablespoon of capers
1 garlic clove, minced

1. Mash the above ingredients into a paste (See above image)

Splash of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
splash of balsamic vinegar
1 egg
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper

2. Mix all of the above ingredients

Olive Oil (1-2 cups)
Parmesan Cheese/Romano Cheese (3 cups)
3 Heads of Romaine Lettuce, chopped, cleaned and spun ( optional: brush with oil, salt and pepper and grill until wilted and warm)
2 cups of croutons (homemade recommended)

3. Add olive oil in a slow drizzle to the above ingredients, stirring as you add
4. Add Parmesan/Romano Cheese and toss with lettuce and croutons to coat
5. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan/Romano cheese

I apologize that I neglected to take a photo of the finished product; I was too busy chowing down. 
Oh well, I guess I'll have to make it again! 


Utica Greens with Beans
This recipe is a version of Utica Greens, an Italian specialty from Utica, in upstate New York.
In this version, however, we went vegetarian and substituted white beans for the pork product. 
I know, it shouldn't be legal.
It was still good, but don't tell the grandmas from Utica.... 
They will beat you down. 
Then make you eat it the right way.


4 heads of escarole, cleaned very well, and chopped (Don't worry about spinning because you are going to boil it anyway)
6 cloves of garlic, chopped (+2 tablespoons for marinade)
1/4 cup +- of chopped cherry peppers
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups of parmesan cheese
2 cups of seasoned breadcrumbs
olive oil
salt, pepper, crushed red pepper

1. Marinate cannellini beans overnight in olive oil, 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper
2. Drain but don't rinse beans and set aside
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Toss in escarole and cook until wilted. Drain and allow to cool.
4. Meanwhile, cook garlic and cherry peppers until the garlic is fragrant. Toss in the cannellini beans at the end to warm and allow flavors to meld. Do not over toss or you will destroy the beans.
5. Once the escarole is cool, ring out excess water by placing the escarole in a clean dishtowel and ringing. You will see that the escarole 1/4's in size
6. Mix the escarole well with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Add more crumbs and/or cheese if you like. 
7. Once this is well mixed, gently mix in the garlic, hot peppers and beans.
8. Bake in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
9. Serve warm as a side for any pasta dish, or as an appetizer to be shared amongst friends.

To see my original, and more traditional, version of Utica Greens, scroll to the bottom of this page; it was one of the first recipes I blogged....because it truly is one of my favorite dishes to make and to eat!


Portobello, Red Pepper +Three Cheese Frittata

Last night I paired this simple dish with biscuits and a grilled romaine salad, and it was a hit even with my carnivorous husband. I thought for sure he would make fun of me for making a 'quiche' for dinner, but the words "this is good" actually came out of his mouth...And he went up for seconds!
That is always the best complement.

Yields one Pie Plate (6-8 servings)
3 Portobello mushrooms, sliced or chopped
3 Green Onions, sliced or chopped
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, sliced or chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
8 eggs
1/4 cup of whole milk
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
freshly ground black pepper
kosher salt

1. Slice or chop your vegetables and saute in 2 tablespoons of oil until slightly tender. Salt and Pepper.
2. Beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper
3. Spray pie pan with non-stick spray
4. Dump in egg mixture, chopped basil, monterey jack and cheddar cheese, then the vegetable mixture. Stir lightly. Top with mozzarella cheese and decorate top with sliced mushrooms and peppers.
5. Bake, covered for 30 minutes at 350. Uncover and bake until eggs are set and the cheese on top is melted.
6. Serve hot or at room temperature.
*Great Alternative: Grill Vegetables instead of sauteing them

 I have made many different versions of this recipe depending on what I have in my crisper, garden and cheese drawer.
You can use almost any vegetable or cheese you have available, because this dish is pretty forgiving. 
I try to get a variety of colors and textures for interest, but try it with your favorite vegetables and cheeses, and I am sure you will not be disappointed. 
 I actually made a great one for my son's third birthday party which you can check out as well further down this page 
This dish is perfect for a Spring brunch, lunch or an early dinner. 


Black Bean and Sweet Corn Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Melty Deliciousness
With Toasted Panko for Crunch
With Chopped Cilantro

Yields 4 large or 6 small servings

4 Medium/Large Poblano Peppers or 6 Small, roasted and peeled
16 ounces of canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 ears of sweet corn, grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper and cut from the stalk
2 green onions, chopped
2 cups of monterey jack cheese
1 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
8 tablespoons of whipped cream cheese
2 cups of panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon of butter

Sour Cream, Hot Sauce and Extra Cilantro for serving

1. Roast and peel poblano peppers. Slit up one side and remove seeds and ribs of peppers. Rinse and pat dry. Set aside.
2. Mix black beans, corn, green onions, monterey jack cheese and 1/2 cup of cilantro.
3. Spread equal amounts of cream cheese inside each pepper
4. Stuff each pepper with the black bean/corn/cheese mixture
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes
6. In a pan, melt butter and toast panko until golden
7. Remove from the oven and top with toasted panko. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with hot sauce and sour cream (or creme fraiche).

This dish was good, but it felt like it was missing something. I served it with quinoa on the side, but I think I may add it to the stuffing mixture in the future. 
Also, instead of serving it with hot sauce, I think I will try to make a spicy red pepper/tomato based sauce and/or a queso fresco...
So many options! 
Try it out and let me know what you think.

Eat Up! 
Cha Cha Cha!

Artichoke + Poblano Cakes with Asiago Cheese Sauce
We recently went to dinner and they served artichoke cakes with a Cajun remoulade as an appetizer. 
I liked it, but I couldn't help but redesign the recipe just a little in my head as I ate. 
I'm a jerk that way.
I went home and immediately sketched out a plan.
Yes to the concept, no to the cajun sauce. 
Sub panko for traditional breadcrumbs for better texture? Yes.
Poblanos for heat!? Yes.  
More cheese. Yes. 
What kind? Asiago or Pecorino. 
Definitely. More. Cheese. 
What about a cheese sauce on the side too!?! Oooooo...Okay, Yes.
Lemon for brightness!? Yes. 

So since I didn't have a recipe, I created these puppies as I would a crab cake, just subbing in the artichokes for the crab, and adjusting the other ingredients to suite. 
I added roasted Poblano peppers for heat, lemon juice for extra acidity and both Pecorino and Asiago cheese for richness. Plus, I made a cheese sauce on the side for good measure.

They turned out super delicious, and much more affordable than their crabby cousin.
So easy and adaptable. 
I will be making these again.
Give them a go and let me know what you think!

Artichoke Cakes with Asiago Cream Sauce
Sock Monkey Dipping Sauce for the Distinguished House Guest

Yields approximately 6 large cakes or 12 small cakes

1 16 oz. Can of Artichokes Hearts in Brine, drained, rinsed and chopped
2 cups of panko bread crumbs
1 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated pecorino
1/4 cup shredded Asiago
1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded, and chopped
1/4 of red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 green onions, cleaned and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
juice from half of one lemon + lemon slices for serving
vegetable oil for frying (not a lot...you don't want to drown them)

Cream Sauce (below)
Sriracha Sauce

1. Rinse, drain and chop artichokes. Allow to sit in a colander to drain further.
2. Saute red bell pepper, green onions, and garlic in one tablespoon of oil. Salt and Pepper. Saute until bright and slightly tender
3. Mix together the artichoke hearts, panko, mayonnaise, cheeses, poblano pepper, parsley or cilantro, mixture from step two, juice of lemon, and s/p. Add more mayonnaise if the mixture is too dry. Add more panko if it is too wet. 
Stir well to distribute ingredients equally.
4. Form mixture into patties (about a palm full of mixture per patty for 6 cakes)
5. Set on a tray lined with parchment. Sprinkle additional panko on top of each cake.
6. Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour to set
7. Preheat oven to 350
8. Pour approximately 4 tablespoons of oil into a pan. Heat oil in pan until shimmery. Drop cakes into oil and fry until golden on each side. Work in batches if necessary
9. Drain on a paper towel lined plate if you used too much oil
10. Transfer back to the parchment lined pan and place in the oven for 25 minutes until cooked through. 
11. Serve warm with lemon slices, cream sauce and drops of Sriracha sauce (optional)

Asiago-Pecorino Cream Sauce:
2 cups of whole milk
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of flour
freshly ground pepper
(kosher salt)
2 cups of Asiago Cheese, shredded
1 cup of Pecorino cheese
**1 cup of chopped, roasted poblanos would be good here too

1. Melt butter
2. Add flour and stir until a foamy paste forms
3. Add pepper 
4. Add milk and stir until the milk is hot but not boiling
5. Slowly add cheeses, stirring all the while until thick. If the sauce is too runny, add more cheese.
6. Taste and adjust. Add a little bit of salt if necessary.

This entire recipe would pair really well with a crisp salad as a main course, or really well as an appetizer if made into smaller cakes.

And as always, let me know what you think! 

Weekend Chowdown
Few things make me happier than good friends and good food. 
Lots of food. 
It was a little chilly out, but a ton of calories and laughter kept us warm.
Here are a few of the items that filled our bellies.

Candied Bacon with Pecans

Parmesan + Thyme Crisps
Jalapeno + Cheddar Shortbread

Crab + Avocado Cocktails with Chili Garlic Sauce
Grilled Grapes and Sausages

All of the recipes were taken from Ina Garten's, the 'Barefoot Contessa's' new cookbook "Foolproof," except for the crab cocktail recipe which is one that I have adapted over the years. I believe the original recipe came from either Bon Appetit or Gourmet magazine, but I have changed it so much that it is probably just a hint of the original. 
Here are both the links for Ina's new 'Foolproof' cookbook, as well as my crab cocktail recipe. 


Crab and Avocado Cocktails with Chili Garlic Sauce

Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, Cleaned and Picked Over for Shells
2 Avocados, Cubed
3 Scallions, cleaned and sliced
1 cup of Cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 cups of Clamato Juice
1 1/2 cups of Ketchup
2 tablespoons of chili garlic sauce
The juice from 1 lime

Combine Clamato Juice, Ketchup, Chili Garlic Sauce, Lime Juice, Cilantro and Scallions. Stir to mix well.
Pour an equal amount of this mixture into individual cups (5-8 cups depending on the amount you want to serve). Reserve one cup to drizzle over the top of the cocktails.
Top Sauce with avocados and crab meat; drizzle with the remaining sauce. Serve with extra lime slices and/or chopped cilantro
Keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. Serve chilled.

Enjoy, thank you Ina, and let me know what you all think!
Nom, nom, nom....

Strawberry Cupcake Copout
I don't think Betty Crocker's strawberry cake mix counts as a new recipe, does it?!

Well, it is true...this is the first time I've ever made this flavor...

(Work with me, I'm desperate this week)

C'mon....Do you really need the recipe?!

I feel like I have made a million versions of ratatouille, a million different times in my life, but I had never dubbed it 'ratatouille,' or actually followed a recipe.
Last night, however, after a week of constant nagging from my son, I made an official 'ratatouille.' 
Thank you Pixar.
It was so easy, and so delicious. 
I loosely followed Emeril's ratatouille recipe, and made adjustments according to my vegetable bin, and the images of how Remy the Rat assembled the dish running through my imagination.
I can't wait for our garden to bloom so I can make this with our very own vegetables.
(Start with a layer of olive oil, chopped onions and red peppers, salt, pepper and herbs)

(Assemble by stacking vegetables in a radial fashion)

(Scatter a layer of chopped onions, peppers, olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs...repeat, then bake. See details below)

Bake at 375 until the vegetables are tender and juicy! 

1 Medium Eggplant, sliced thin
1 Medium Zucchini, sliced thin
1 Medium Yellow Squash, sliced thin
1/2 Red Onion, chopped
1/2 Red Pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups of olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp. chopped herbs (I used thyme and rosemary) 

To assemble:
1. Drizzle bottom of a round baking dish with olive oil. Make a layer of red onion and red pepper. Salt and Pepper.
2. Working radially, stack Eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash around the perimeter of the dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt, pepper and herb.
3. Scatter another layer of red onion and red pepper.
4. Repeat step #2
5. End by topping with a scattering of onion, pepper, herbs, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
6. Cover and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
7. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Even the French Peasants Cook Better Than Rich Americans!
Bon Appetite!

Bloody Mary with A Mile of Olives
Springtime, is that you?!
Aaaaa, I think it is!
Let's celebrate outside this afternoon with the world's best Bloody Mary! 
The secret ingredient? 
Clamato Juice. 
Trust me. I wouldn't steer you in the wrong direction. This is seriously delicious. 
And yes, for those of you on a Spring diet, this does count as part of a strict juicing regiment.
3 cups of Clamato juice
1 cup of v8 juice
VODKA (to your liking)!!!
3 tablespoons of hot horseradish
juice from 1/2 a lemon, + lemon for garnish
2 tsp. of worchester sauce
1 tsp. of hot garlic sauce or tabasco (+- to taste)
1 tbsp. celery seed
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
pinch of kosher salt
splash of olive juice (optional)

Garnish Options:
-A mile of olives (think fun olives too...maybe olives stuffed with jalapenos or garlic?!)
-lemon and/or lime
-celery stalks or leaves
-steamed shrimp
-jalapenos or cherry peppers

Combine all of the ingredients and stir well. Chill by placing in the refrigerator or shake with ice. Adjust taste to your liking and spice level. Garnish and served up in a chilled glass or on the rocks.

This is a fun drink, so adjust the flavors to your liking, but trust me on the Clamato juice. I almost vomited the first time somebody suggested this, but now I wouldn't use anything else. 
A+ Yum. 

Enjoy and Have a Great Weekend Everyone!
Did Somebody Say Croquet?! 

Roasted Vegetable Thai Green Curry
I could drink Thai Green Curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And dessert.
This recipe was kind of an "empty out the refrigerator and pantry" kind of experiment, so feel free to adapt it to your liking.
I am sure people who really know how to cook Thai food would balk at this attempt, but on an unseasonably cold night, it hit the spot and warmed our bellies.
With Simple Roasted Vegetables

With Crunchy Noodles and Crab Meat

Assorted Vegetables, chopped, tossed in 1/2 olive oil + 1/2 peanut oil, salt and pepper and roasted (I used brussel sprouts, mushrooms, red pepper, broccoli and sugar snap peas) until golden brown

1 jar of Thai Green Curry Blend (store bought)
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 green onions, sliced thin (reserve 1/4 to serve on top)
1 can of coconut milk
1 tsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice, plus lime slices for serving
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro for serving

Optional: Shrimp, crab, scallops or other seafood/fish, chicken or tofu. 
Crunchy noodles or peanuts to top
Rice noodles or Rice to accompany

1. Prepare all vegetables: Cut, toss with oils, salt and pepper and place on a large pan, lined with parchment in a 350 degree oven to roast. Roast approximately 20 minutes until the vegetables are golden brown and can pierce easily with a fork.
*Another option: Stir-fry vegetables in oils
2. Meanwhile, to prepare the curry: Saute green onion and garlic until fragrant. Add ginger. Add Thai Green curry paste and stir until aromatic. Add coconut milk slowly and stir to incorporate. Add lime juice and fish sauce. Simmer.
3. Optional: prepare rice or rice noodles
4. Taste green curry mixture and adjust taste if necessary. 
5. Plate vegetables (and rice/rice noodles) and smother with curry sauce. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

Top with chopped peanuts or crunchy noodles. 
Seer or grill seafood and add to curry. Or add directly to the curry to cook if you plan to simmer it for awhile.

Drink...I mean Eat up!

Is that Spring I Smell!?
Or is it Red Jacket?
This all natural apple juice is fresh, clean and crisp. Unlike a lot of juices it is not overly sweet. In fact, it is a little tart, and if you pay attention it kind of tastes like lemons.
If you see it, pick it up. It is expensive, but it is a nice treat. 
Actually, it could be a great addition to your Easter Brunch. You could serve it solo, add a splash to your Prosecco for a spin on a Mimosa, or shake with ice and vodka and serve in a cold glass for a delicious apple-tini. Garnish with a slice of apple +/or a lemon peel and you are ready to rock.
Adam and Eve would be proud.
Happy Friday Everyone!
Have a great Easter!

Sweet Potato Gratin-ish
So I didn't actually follow a recipe for this dish. 
We recently went to a favorite restaurant down in Naples, Florida and they served this delightful side with a pan roasted fish. 
It was a simple layering of thinly sliced sweet potatoes, and ever-so-thinly sliced cheese.
I usually imagine gratins being super cheesy and creamy, but this wasn't the case. 
It was simple, savory and sweet.
It stole the spotlight, so I thought I would give it a go. 
I need to switch up my cheeses. used what I had in my refrigerator: Swiss, Romano and mozzarella. The flavor was still nice, but the mozzarella made the dish watery and chewy. 
So, when you follow this "recipe" keep in mind that it is a work in progress. Feel free to substitute cheeses and herbs to your liking and let me know what you find!
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced super thin with a mandolin 
1 lb of cheese, sliced very thin
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme 
1/2 cup of Romano cheese

In a medium sized baking dish, begin with a single layer of sweet potatoes. Sprinkle lightly with romano cheese and lay cheese sliced on top of sweet potatoes. Salt, Pepper and Herb. Repeat until the baking dish is full. End with a layer of Cheese on top.
Bake covered at 350 for 45 minutes. For the last 15 minutes uncover until the top cheese is golden and bubbly.

Again, remember this is a work in progress, so be forgiving, experiment, and let me know what you find out and think about this one!

Chocolate Pistachio Truffles
I don't bake. 
For some reason I just can't do it well, no matter how hard I try. 
I even mess up Betty Crocker. 
And dare I attempt a pastry from scratch?! 
Forget it. 
I think my measuring cups and spoons are at fault, but I can't be sure.
Unfortunately for my husband and son, I keep trying, and I still act disappointed when they don't like my creations, even though I know they are crap.
Here is my most recent attempt, and my new recipe of the week:
"Chocolate Pistachio Truffles"
I had to adapt the coatings because they turned into little balls of super tart lead, and the pistachios wouldn't stick. 
I don't even think you can call them truffles.
I don't know what you would call them... 
Regardless, I encourage you to give them a go. 
Maybe someone can give me some insight on how I buggered this one up?!
Don't Let Their Looks Deceive You

Recipe from Clodagh McKenna's delightful cookbook "Homemade: Irresistible Recipes for Every Occassion"
7 oz. good quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/4 cups of finely chopped pistachios

1. Slowly melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over a saucepan until it is smooth and glossy
2. Gently heat the cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until warm
3. Pour the cream onto the melted chocolate and mix well until fully incorporated
4. Mix in 2/3 of the pistachios. Set aside to cool and firm up (you can refrigerate the mixture to speed up the process if desired)
5. Once firm, take teaspoons of the mixture and roll into walnut-sized balls, then leave to set on a tray lined with parchment paper.
6. Once set, roll the truffles in the remaining pistachio nuts to coat

*I rolled 1/3 in the pistachios, 1/3 in powdered sugar and 1/3 in cinnamon sugar to coat because 
I used 85% dark chocolate and I thought it needed a balance of sweet....
Also, I refrigerated them after I rolled them, which might have been my downfall....maybe they will soften before dessert-time?!
Here's hoping because I don't have another dessert!

General Karra's Chicken
These pictures do not give this dish credit.
I was so excited to eat that I just snapped a few quick shots, and didn't think to look at the quality until after my belly was full.
Oh well, you get the idea.
This homemade version of the Chinese take-out classic "General Tso's" is rich and homey.
My husband started this recipe a few years back, and it has become a regular at our house. 
We have adapted it over time to make it slightly better for you by ditching the breading, cutting back on the sugar, adding vegetables and using lower sodium soy sauce. 
Surprisingly, the taste was never compromised.
For a vegetarian version you can just subtract the chicken, add more mushrooms and broccoli and it will be just as delicious. 
I suspect that it would also be good with shrimp?!?
Let me know what you guys think!
With Rice
As Lettuce Wraps

1 1/2 lbs. of chicken thighs, deboned and cut into bite sized pieces (resist the temptation to use chicken breast; it works but is not nearly as good)
2 heads of broccoli, chopped
1/2 lb of mushrooms, cut into slices or quarters
4-8 thai chile peppers, sliced open but left whole (use less if you don't like spice)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
+- 4 tablespoons of peanut oil or sesame oil

6 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons of rice vinegar
4 tablespoons of rice wine
4 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of cornstarch

Optional: whole grain rice, white rice, fried rice or lettuce for serving

1. Prepare meat and vegetables by cutting them into bite sized pieces.
2. Prepare the sauce by combining soy sauce, rice vinegar, rice wine, sugar and cornstarch. Mix thoroughly and set aside.
3. Saute garlic in oil until fragrant and add the chicken. Saute chicken until brown and cooked through.
4. Remove from heat and drain juices. Set aside chicken.
5. Saute mushrooms until brown. Saute broccoli until bright green. Set aside.
6. Toss the thai chile peppers into the hot pan with 1 tablespoon of oil. Be careful not to inhale or you will burn your nostrils! Stir fry for about one minute.
7. Add chicken, garlic, mushrooms, and broccoli into the pan with the chile peppers and toss.
8. Stir the sauce well, pour it over the chicken/vegetable mix and stir constantly to coat. This will thicken almost instantaneously, so don't walk away! If it does not thicken, add a little more cornstarch.
9. Serve hot over rice and/or lettuce wraps.
10. Throw away your Chinese take-out menu because you'll never go back.


Cherry Juice
After a week of starting my half marathon training, and trying to "juice," last night I totally caved and realized that I needed a big fat meal to compensate.
Ahhh, I got it out of my system.
Now, I'm ready to get back on track.
This tart-cherry juice isn't for everyone, but drinking 1/2 cup, cut with water every day makes me feel and sleep better.
Did somebody say "placebo"?!

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Top Chef -a-Thon
For all of you addicted to 'Top Chef,' like I am every single season, who do you think will win?!
I am super excited for tonight's finale, but my heart is torn! 
Brooke or Kristin?! 
Truth be told, I kind of have a bit of a girl crush on both of these bad-ass chefs...

Regardless, we are sitting tight, pouring a glass of Top Chef inspired "Terlato" wine, waiting for the frenzy of fast-paced, ingredient-packed, pressure-filled cook off to begin......

(ps. Terlato is on sale at all PA liquor stores right now!!)

Let the best chef win!

Peanutty Noodles
We recently ordered peanut noodles from a local Chinese restaurant, but they were so sad. 
I was in love with the idea that they could marry two of my son's favorite things to eat: peanut butter and noodles. 
It sounded like a no-brainer.
Sadly, what we got was a large clump of overcooked noodles with a thick, beige, glue-like substance that tasted more like wax, than peanut butter. Wa.
I figured I could give this concept a go, 
but I took it an extra step by adding Elias' third favorite food, bananas.
I don't want to be one of those mom's who says, "even your child will eat this!"; because truth be told, that would be annoying. 
But, these are so good that even your child will eat them.
I fed him the noodles, with the peanut sauce and bananas, but then I added my own ingredients to make it more adult friendly.
See what you think. 
Bad Picture, But You Catch My Drift

Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine, 2002
1 cup of peanut butter
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/3 cup of warm pasta water
2 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. rooster sauce
squeeze of lime juice

1 lb. noodles (I used red rice noodles, because they are gluten free, but the recipe calls for soba. Also, whole wheat thin spaghetti would work)
4 scallions, sliced thin
1/2 red pepper, sliced thin
1/2 cucumber, sliced thin
1 cup of sprouts
1 cup cilantro, chopped
toasted sesame seeds

Banana, sliced 
grilled chicken, shrimp....

1. Mix the first 10 ingredients
2. Cook noodles to package directions; or soak rice noodles to package directions
3. For kid's version just toss the noodles and the sauce, and add the sliced banana (optional: toss with sesame seeds)
4. For adult's version, toss the noodles, sauce and remaining ingredients. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. 
Serve with extra chopped cilantro, extra chopped peanuts, rooster sauce, lime slices


Liquid Crack
This stuff is the real deal.
Plus, it is completely legal, and socially acceptable to drink in public!
My good friend Jo introduced me to this cold -brewed, crack-style deliciousness, and it is seriously serious. 
After a night of exceeding my limits, and an early morning toddler that thinks he is a super-hero, a mama needs a little assistance.
However, I do advise you to drink with ultimate caution. If you drink the entire bottle you won't sleep for weeks.
Where was this stuff in college?! 
Pure Black Cold Brew

Pure Black Cold Brew
Beckified and Jo?! I never thought of this as an option!??! Deliciousness!

Pure Black Cold Brew
100% Real. Just like me, bitches.

Happy Friday Everyone!
I hope you all have a super-hero style, energized weekend!


The new Food Network Magazine dedicated this month's issue to cheese!
'nuff said...

There are so many good looking recipes, including this beautiful Blue Cheese souffle!
Picture of Blue Cheese Souffles Recipe

Also, the issue includes 50 macaroni and cheese variations!


Popcorn Heaven
Introducing the world's best popcorn maker!
After using this bad-boy you will never eat microwave popcorn again, and dare I say the popcorn it makes triumphs movie theater popcorn?
Just add copious amounts of melted butter, kosher salt, and serve with a stack of napkins.
Heavenly movie night.
Now to settle the debate: Is Popcorn a Vegetable?!

Egg Rolls
I know this is not an overly exotic menu item, but it was the first time I attempted to make them, and it was worth it.
I am not a huge fan of egg rolls, and I really only made them because I had left over wrappers wearing a hole in my fridge shelf, but, wo-man, these were good!
I don't know why I was surprised. 
Whenever you make something at home, whether it be pure egotism, or the fact that you can control the ingredients, it always tastes better.
And with cole-slaw mix so readily available, these are a cinch to throw together for a last minute lunch, dinner or a quick snack for a crowd.

Cole Slaw Mix (sliced cabbage, carrots and celery)
1 cup fresh sprouts
1 tsp. honey
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp fresh chopped ginger
1 clove fresh garlic, chopped
Optional: Crab Meat (Or Shrimp, Chicken, Pork, Beef....)

Egg Roll Wrappers

Egg Wash

Sesame Oil

Peanut Sauce, Sweet and Sour Sauce, Chopped Fresh Cilantro for serving

Mix the first 7-8  ingredients together
Assemble two tablespoons of mixture on top of egg roll wrapper, and fold as per package instructions. Use the egg wash as you fold to hold it together.
Fry egg rolls in oil, turning to brown or bake in the oven until crispy. Or fry, set aside and bake to heat up once your company arrives.
Serve with Peanut Sauce, Sweet and Sour sauce and/or chopped fresh cilantro


Big, Mean, Green Machine
 I think I ate my weight in junk last night, so today I have to compensate.
Green Machine usually does the trick.
I either drink one small glass, or I cut it with water because I find it too sweet.
By noon I will have consumed apples, bananas, kiwi, mango, pineapple, spirulina, chlorella, broccoli, spinach, blue green algae, garlic, barley grass, wheat grass, ginger and parsley.
I don't even know what half of that crap is, and it looks like vomit, but they somehow made it taste good. Even better, I feel like I am doing something somewhat decent for my body!
Now I can sit back and devour my cookbooks as I search for our next gluttonous dish.
Happy Friday Everyone!
Have a great weekend!

Oxtail Stew
Who knew!? Oxtail is actually the cow's tail?!
Well, in sticking to my New Year's resolution, I tried this seemingly dreadful ingredient in a new recipe last week.
The outcome!?
After I got over the fact that I was eating an animal's tail, it was reminiscent of the most tender pot roast I have ever tried. And when it all comes down, what makes eating a tail more disgusting than eating a cow's shoulder, back or butt?
Not much.

Recipe from "The Union Square Cafe Cookbook":
'Braised Oxtails with Red Wine and Onions'
*Note: I substituted thyme for parsley + it worked very well

6 lbs. oxtails, cut 1 1/2 inches thick
6 cups of red wine
1/2 cup of red wine vinegar
2 cups cipollini onions, peeled
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
2 cups sliced carrots
1 tsp. juniper berries
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
5 parsley sprigs
4 tsp. kosher salt + freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 tbsp. chopped parsley

1. Trim the oxtails of excess fat and place in a large nonreactive bowl. Add wine, vinegar, cipollini onions, celery, carrots, juniper berries, peppercorns and parsley. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator, overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 375
3. Drain the oxtails, reserving the liquid and vegetables. Dry them on paper towels, season with s/p, and dredge in flour.
4. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat and brown the oxtails on all sides, 10-15 minutes. Do this in several batches if necessary. Remove oxtails from the pan. Add the vegetables and brown, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes. Transfer the browned vegetables to a bowl and reserve.
5. Return the oxtails to the pan with the marinade, juniper berries, peppercorns and 2 cups of water. Stir in the tomato paste until dissolved. Cover and bake for 2 hours.
6. Add the reserved vegetables to the pot, stir, cover and return to the oven for an additional hour, until tender.
7. Allow the pot to cool for 10-15 minutes. Uncover, tilt the pot slightly, and skim as much fat as possible using a bulb baster or ladle. Return to a simmer over low heat, adjust the seasoning, and serve with chopped parsley.

This is truly a tasty dish. I served it over egg noodles and with grated Grana-Padana cheese. Because, as you know, everything is better with cheese...and if you are grossed out by eating a cow's tail, let's discuss where cheese comes from...

Meat-Free Week In looking for a change in menu and diet, we went vegetarian for the majority of this past week.
I cheated Thursday night by eating shrimp on my salad...and then I had a tuna melt yesterday...but we came sooo close! 
We did this last year for a few months and it really exposed us to great new recipes, flavor profiles, colors and textures. We will have to keep doing this, as I really enjoy it.
Here are a few images of the yummy foods we made and ate. 
I'll be posting the recipes later today, so stay tuned...

Portobello, Poblano and Swiss on Toasted Heidelberg French Country Bread
Grilled Swiss on Pumpernickel with Salt
(for The Little Guy)

Vegetable Stir-fry with Red Rice Noodles

Sweet-Potato + Pineapple Thai Red Curry

Cauliflower Puree "Pierogies" with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Black Bean + Poblano Soup with a load of sour cream......ahhha!
Tomato Noodle Soup 
(...for The Little Guy...and a secret leftover breakfast for mama.......)

Vegetarian Chili w/Blue Corn Chips

It was a great week! Let's do it again!

 Coq Au Vin

My husband's favorite meal is a roasted chicken dinner. 
However, in sticking to my New Year's resolution, and only being able to make so many roasted chicken dinners, I decided to channel Julia Child last night and make her recipe for Coq Au Vin. 
Todd agreed to it, somewhat begrudgingly because it was not his requested roasted chicken dinner, but Julia rarely disappoints, so I stayed strong.
I made sure that I served it with copious amounts of red wine, and it seemed to please. 
He might have been being nice, he might have been drunk, or he may have actually liked it...but he said that he loved it. And he said it with enthusiasm!
I thought it was delicious; savory, warm and deep. Surprisingly, I also found that it was less laborious than making an entire roasted chicken dinner.
I forgot that I used my last onion this past weekend, so I used green onions, and added an extra clove of garlic. It seemed to work. 
In addition, I served it over roasted red potatoes, but when I make this dish again, I will serve it with wide, flat noodles to sop up the scrumptious red wine reduction...and because I am a noodle crazed maniac. 
 Oh, and I served it with a big bowl of grated Grana Padana cheese. 
Remember, cheese makes everything better. 

Bon Appetit!

Mama's Goulash

This recipe brings me home. 
After a little too much red wine yesterday, and two relatively long runs (relative to the fact that I haven't run in about a month) this dish will fill my belly with some much needed love.
It is the perfect comfort food and a cinch to make. 
The only way to make it better? 
If my mom was here to make it for me. She makes it better...and I would have my best friend here to watch The Housewives of Beverly Hills with me.

One lb. of ground beef, pork and veal mix
One onion, chopped
+-Four garlic cloves, chopped
3 carrots finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, chopped 
1 small can of tomato paste
1 large can of San Marzano tomatoes, whole or diced
1 large can of San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 cup Parmesan/Romano cheese
1/2 cup of sugar
salt and pepper

Add a tablespoon of crushed red pepper and/or use poblano peppers instead of bell peppers to add some kick.
Subtract the butter and cheese to make a lighter version
Double or triple mushrooms and subtract the meat for a vegetarian version

1 lb. bag of large rotini noodles, cooked and drained

1. Brown meat in a large pot and drain if necessary (To make vegetarian, skip the meat and add extra mushrooms here and brown in pot)
2. Add chopped carrots, garlic and onions and cook until onions are translucent and the carrots are tender
3. Add peppers and mushrooms (unless you did this in step 1), and saute.  
4. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper (and crushed red pepper if you are adding it)
5. Add the cooked noodles 
6. Add butter and cheese and stir together
7. Serve warm with your favorite bread and/or salad and extra Parmesan/Romano cheese
8. Put on Housewives of Beverly Hills and enjoy....or Toy Story for the five millionth time if your son is around....
*This recipe can sit for a while before serving. In fact, the longer it sits, the tastier it becomes. 

Oh, and for those who know me well, know that this dish served cold the next morning is very possibly my favorite meal of all time...as I eat it directly from the fridge with a fork. So sexy.

Tuscan Bean Soup 
with Sage and Seared Mushrooms 

In order to stay true to my New Year's resolution I felt it was necessary to do a truly new recipe before this week's end. The frittata didn't really count, since I had made the ingredients scrambled style before.
This beauty is a recipe from "The Moosewood Restaurant" cookbook, and a new one for me. 
It is a hearty vegetarian soup that leaves even the biggest meat eaters satisfied...or at least last night it did. 
The sage adds the special 'wow' in this dish, but I can see subbing thyme or rosemary if I had it on hand. Also, I love the suggestion of adding cooked grains like wheat-berries, or greens like escarole to add texture and dimension. 
Oh...and it wasn't part of the recipe, but I shaved and served grana padana cheese with the soup. Cheese makes everything better.

2 cups diced onions
1 cup peeled and diced carrots
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
15 large fresh sage leaves
6 cups cooked pinto, Roman, or small red or white beans (3 16-oz cans, undrained)
4 cups vegetable stock
salt/pepper to taste
Optional: Mushrooms

In a soup pot, saute the onions, carrots, and garlic in olive oil on medium - low heat until the onions are translucent and the carrots are tender, about ten minutes. Stack the sage leaves and cut them crosswise into strips. Stir the sage into the vegetables. Add the beans and stock. Cook on medium until the soup is simmering, about 5-10 minutes.
Carefully ladle about 3 cups of the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Stir the puree back into the soup pot. If you wish, add more stock for a less thick consistency. Salt and Pepper to taste.
Optional: Sear porto mushrooms in a pan and top on soup.

Other: Drizzle with olive oil; top with croutons. Stir in cooked grains such as wheatberries, spelt or cooked greens like escarole or mustard greens.
*Although the recipe doesn't suggest this, I cooked and added small round noodles to this dish the second time around, and it worked well; even my 3 year old son was sold.



On the docket this weekend: 
Sledding, skiing and snow-angel making with a toddler in sub-zero temps. 
What are you guys doing this weekend? 
My girls got me these A+ treats last year for a beautiful summer boat ride, and I might have to go get a few for our winter adventures...individually packaged, sealed glasses of wine are not only perfect for boating, but I am assuming they will be equally great for backyard winter playtime. 
As for the salted caramels...need I really explain?
You really want to pick up a few packs of these caramels for Valentine's Day...
...for yourself, of course. 
These are the Worlds. Best. Caramels. 
Ever. Ever. 
Thank you Jo for introducing me to these beautiful, delicious, bite-size delights....
I can't wait to try the chipotle caramels..........
Happy Friday everyone!

Oh, and here is the link to heaven:

"Green Eggs and Ham"
I made this delight for the book themed party this past weekend, and I will definitely be making it again, especially if we have a crowd to feed. 

Although I have made what we call in our home "cheesy eggs" a million times, which is essentially the same recipe, just scrambled and cooked in a pan; this was the first time I baked them in the oven "frittata" style. I was a little nervous, and I had to bake them longer than I anticipated, but the results were yummy, and I love the fact that I can assemble them before the party, and bake them while I socialize.
Feel free to adjust the ingredients to taste, or use different vegetables/cheeses. It is a pretty forgiving dish, and I typically use whatever vegetables we have lying around the bin. For example, broccoli, mushrooms, red onion, and monterrey jack or cheddar cheeses are great options. 

Also, I definitely recommend adding the poblano cheese sauce (recipe at the end), but it isn't necessary...unless you love to eat copious amounts of cheese like I do.You can see by this photo that I must have been listening to the angel instead of the devil that day.

12 eggs
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup of whole milk
Handful of fresh baby spinach, chopped
4 green onions, sliced and sauteed in butter; reserve 1/4 for topping
1 roasted poblano pepper, peeled and chopped
1 cup of Canadian bacon, or ham, cubed or sliced
1 lb of cooper cheese, sliced thin
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

1. Prepare a baking dish by coating the bottom with butter, and preheat the oven sauteed green onions, poblano pepper and canadian bacon into the eggs. *Make sure you reserve some of the green onions for the top of the dish!
5. Layer egg mixture, cheese, egg mixture, cheese, egg mixture, cheese...
6. Sprinkle the remainder of the green onions on top of the eggs.
7. Bake in oven for 35 minutes until eggs are set
8. Let set for 5-10  minutes before serving

Optional: Serve with additional poblano cheese sauce

Poblano-Cheese Sauce

1/2 stick of butter
3 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
1 lb of cooper cheese
1 cup of parmesan cheese
poblano peppers, roasted, peeled and chopped.
1 tablespoon of chopped thyme

1. Make a white sauce by melting butter, adding flour and stirring until incorporated and foamy. Add salt, pepper and thyme.
2. Add milk and cook until hot (do not boil)
3. Add cheeses slowly until melted; stir continuously until creamy and delicious
4. Stir in poblanos 
5. Adjust salt and pepper if necessary
6. Pour over eggs and revel in gluttony.

Enjoy Everyone!

Candy Apple Inspiration

It seems like every Fall cooking and entertaining magazine this past year had recipes and beautiful images of candy apples. 
I personally don't care to eat them, but aren't they pretty?! 
I took this photo at the New Jersey State Fair a few years back and think it would look great framed in a kid's bedroom or playroom. 

Big Moose Represent!
What is it about winter that screams "put on your knee-socks and drink!?" 
Oh, that's right...it is a million degrees below zero, and everything comfortable is within our four walls.
And what can make a cold Friday night better? 
A beer named after my 'hood of course!

Well, thank you Matt's and Saranac Brewery for naming your beer after the Adirondacks. 
We understand...names like "New Hartford," "Whitesboro," and "Proctor" just don't have the same romantic tonality...
Regardless, drinking this beer, and being miles away from home, brings me back. 

Have a great weekend everyone! 
Even the cat is in the winter spirit!

Whole Grain Spaghetti and Seared Tilapia 
with Garlic, Spinach, Roasted Red Peppers and Toasted Panko

This was a quick, spur of the moment dinner that came together as a result of me being too lazy to go to the market, and trying to eliminate what we had leftover in the fridge from the holidays. The results were a fresh, surprising delight!

Make sure you don't eliminate the toasted panko at the end. Really! The texture and taste really add that extra special something to both the pasta and the fish. 
(*This is a Mario Batali tip that I have to pass on!)

Also, the pasta is delicious in its own right, so don't feel like you have to add the tilapia, or you could substitute another seafood/shellfish/fish if you prefer a different flavor. I suspect that seared scallops or shrimp would both be great substitutes.

1/2 Box Whole Grain Spaghetti
2 Tilapia Fillets
1 Cup Reserved pasta water
6 Cloves of Garlic, Sliced or Chopped
1/2 Bag of Fresh Baby Spinach
2 Red Peppers, Roasted, Peeled and Sliced (or two jarred roasted red peppers, sliced)
1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, Split in 1/2
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
Kosher Salt + Cracked Black Pepper
2 Cups of Panko 
1/4 Cup White Wine
Romano Cheese

1. Cook pasta in Salted Water until al dente
2. Simultaneously season the Tilapia fillets with Salt and Pepper and Sear them in olive oil. Drizzle with lemon juice.
3. In a separate pan, melt 1/2 a stick of butter, add garlic, salt and pepper and cook until fragrant; make sure not to burn the garlic!
4. Add white wine, the juice of 1/2 lemon to butter/garlic mix. Stir and adjust flavors if needed.
5.. Drain pasta, making sure to reserve one cup of pasta water; Place pasta and starchy water in a large pan
6. Add fresh spinach while the pasta is still hot and toss to wilt
7. Add butter/garlic/white wine/lemon mix and roasted red peppers to the pasta and toss to coat. Add additional olive oil if the pasta seems too dry.
8. In a small pan, melt the second 1/2 stick of butter; add panko and toss to toast
9. Plate pasta and top with seared tilapia
10. Coat both pasta and tilapia with the toasted panko
Serve with additional lemon wedges and Parmesan/Romano Cheese

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Bon Appetit!

HaPpY FrIDaY EVerYoNe!

I typically serve these little snaps of deliciousness over the summer months, however it seems like a toast to making it an entire week on our resolutions is in order.

Feel free to fill with your favorite seltzer or sparkling white wine for the perfect celebratory fizz!
Mascerated Cherries and Mint Fizz
Cut, remove pits and mascerate cherries in sugar. Allow to steep for at least a few hours. Place in pretty little glasses with a sprig of mint. Top off with your favorite seltzer or sparkling wine. Easy, refreshing, and quick = more time for celebrating!

Rainbow Fruit Plate
One party is never enough. Especially when it comes to our little man! Here is a small photo sampling from our pre-birthday dinner bash. Don't worry, after this week I'll stop. I promise.
Party On Toddlers!
Elias' Rainbow Fruit Plate
Fried Oysters with Blackberry Sauce
Cinnamon Sugar Miniature Creme Puffs

New Year's Eve Dinner



PKR Cranberry Vodka on the Rocks and Kettle One Up with a Twist


Roasted Rabbit Terrine and Truffle White Bean Dip with Crusty Bread and Olives

Baked Shrimp with a duo of dippers:

Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and Lemon Garlic Remoulade

Fried Artichoke Hearts with Seared Lemons, Capers and White Wine over Wilted Spinach

*Rainbow Fruit Kabobs for Elias

To Drink: Pouilly Fuisse and Bear Boat Pinot Noir


Cowgirl Steaks with Gorgonzola, Truffle, and Cracked Black Pepper Butter


Baked Onions

Seared Porto Mushrooms with Balsamic Glaze

Red Bliss Potatoes Au Gratin with Rosemary

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

*Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter for Elias

To Drink: Brunello


Duo of Miniature Creme Puffs; One Sweet and One Savory

Vanilla Ice Cream with Strawberry, Balsamic Vinegar, and Black Pepper Drizzle

To Drink: Bust out the Single Malt Baby!

Happy New Year!

Stay Tuned For Pictures!

I hope you are all having a festive, fun, and friend-filled holiday season!
As we approach the New Year's weekend, I try to remember to balance the good with the not-so-good; This is why I run and do yoga. I read, and I write and play memory games. I love my family and friends, and try to tell them as much as possible. Then I drink copious amounts of red wine, eat blocks of cheese, and swear like a truck driver.
It is all about balance, my friends.
I like to think that this cranberry infused vodka is a great way to get my red fruits into my diet while celebrating the season.
Made by two of my favorite people on earth, I know they have my best interests at heart.
Cranberries are great for the kidneys, liver, digestive and urinary tracts; so go ahead, sip up, and think of all the good you are doing!
Like I said, it is all about balance.
Happy Friday!
xx, k
PS. I stand corrected from my last post...this was my favorite gift!

Seafood Stew
Cold weather doesn't mean that seafood has to be off the docket. This seafood stew (my own version of bouillabaisse/cioppino that continues to shift and develop every time I make it) is the perfect solution to heavy meat, cheese and/or carb-based comfort foods. However, you don't want to push this concept too far...a quality loaf of warm, crisp, crusty bread is a must for sopping up all of those holiday emotions.
Dippy Dippy.

Basic recipe (feel free to adjust ingredients to your taste):


1 lb. of hot sausage (loose or link cut into coins)

1 small yellow onion (chopped)

1 small bulb of garlic (chopped)

1 handful of fresh basil, torn into pieces



seafood stock (+-2 cups)

1 large can of whole San Marzano tomatoes

1 large jar of crushed San Marzano tomatoes

1/2 cup of quality dry white wine

crushed red pepper (+-2 tbsp)

Seafood/fish (I use, and recommend a mix of large scallops, shrimp, squid tentacles, chopped and fresh clams, cod fillets...however you can use any mix of your favorite seafood/shellfish); go light on the seafood stock; add the seafood, simmer and taste; add either more stock and/or seafood depending on the amount of diners or preference.

parm/romano cheese for serving

escarole (1 head, triple cleansed, spun and chopped)


1. Set up your stuff; chop garlic, onion, slice sausage if it is links, clean/de-vein the seafood, clean and chop escarole....

2. In a large soup pot, brown sausage with a splash of oil

3. Add garlic and onion and cook until fragrant. Don't overcook the garlic!

4. S/P and Hot Pepper

5. Add tomatoes, wine, seafood stock and basil

6. Simmer and adjust spices to taste

*Put bread in oven to warm/crisp*

7. Add seafood and cook approximately 10 minutes before serving. Watch carefully and don't overcook! Don't add your seafood too soon, it cooks almost directly and you don't want to kill it.
8. Taste and adjust spices. Add more red pepper if you want it spicier, add more stock, parm cheese and/or some butter if you want to mellow the acidity.

9. Add escarole and stir in about 5 minutes before serving (or place on top for presentation/tell your guests to stir into their stew)

10. Serve with fresh parm/romano and chunks of warm crusty bread.

Dark Chocolate, Cherry and Salt Oatmeal Cookies for Santa

Energy Treats for the Reindeer

Artichoke Piccata Love

Recently Todd and I went to a Spanish restaurant in town. Hurrah! A date! When we got there we were a little concerned because it was prime dining hour (7:00), but the restaurant was empty. Regardless, we decided to stay, and try it out for ourselves. We were going to have a date, dammit!

We ordered the 'Artichoke Picatta' appetizer and it was incredible! We practically licked our plates clean.
Everything else we ate was equally as delicious, and because we had the place to ourselves we had the undivided attention of the waitstaff. Also, because it is 'byob' we got to enjoy our favorite wine without having to pay the typical restaurant mark-up.
We were even joined by a visiting professor, who sat next to us, ordered the fried sardines, and drank his '40' from a paper bag. The next time I go, I am going to take his lead because they looked crisp and delicious...however I think I'll stick to our wine (but maybe drink it out of a paper bag to create the allure of being a bad ass).

This is my version of the artichoke appetizer we enjoyed.
You can serve it as a salad or an appetizer.
It is as fast and easy as it is delicious.

1 Jar of Marinated Artichoke Hearts
2 cups bread crumbs or panko seasoned with s/p
oil for pan searing

1 bag of baby spinach, rinsed and spun

3 tblsp. non-parielles capers
1/2 stick of butter
splash of white wine
juice from one lemon
extra lemon wedges for serving

1. Do not rinse the artichoke hearts;
Keep them in their oil marinade and dredge them in the breadcrumbs.
2. In a hot pan, sear the artichokes until the breading on each side is golden brown.
3. Simultaneously pan sear the capers and then add butter, white wine, and lemon juice to make a sauce. Taste and adjust flavors to your liking.
4. You can steam the spinach if you wish, or serve it fresh and uncooked.
5. Assemble by placing the spinach on a platter; top with the artichokes and drizzle with the lemon/white wine/butter/caper sauce.
6. Snack and smile!

*Alternative: Eliminate the frying and bake the artichokes!

Strawberry, Balsamic Vinegar, and Black Pepper Preserves

The black pepper in this jam adds a suprising kick, and seems to get more pronounced with time. I serve this on crostini spread with a nice triple creme; or serve it over vanilla ice cream for a decadent dessert. Yum.

8 cups of fresh, ripe strawberries, cleaned and cut
3/4 cup of sugar
4 tsp. aged balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of fresh ground pepper
1 packet of fruit pectin

1. Prepare your ingredients and your canning equipment; get water boiling for canning process (see link below for canning procedures).

2. Cook and chop strawberries slowly in a large pot over medium until almost boiling.

3. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and pepper.

4. Stir the sugar and pectin together, then add to the strawberry mixture.

5. Let the mixture simmer for about 15 minutes; remove any foam with a large spoon and disgard.
**You don't have to do this step, but it will make for a clearer preserve.

6. Can the strawberry preserve according to canning instructions (link below)

7. Let cool + add labels so you and/or your recipients know what you made. Dates are always good too.

8. Refrigerate or store; serve over triple creme, goat cheese with crisp crackers, bread or the like...or drizzle over vanilla ice cream for a decadent dessert. Yum.

A nice glass of "Cult" Cabernet in a toddler proof glass + a stack of funny scenario cards = A great way to start the weekend.

Have a great weekend everyone!
Remember that half of that shit you are about to buy will be on sale in two weeks!

The Oatmeal Cookie

This weekend's drink of choice is what I like to call 'The Shaken Oatmeal Cookie.' It is like a dessert in a glass...

3 ounces of butterscotch schnapps
2 ounces of Bailey's Irish Creme
1 ounce coconut flavored rum
1/2 ounce Goldschlager Cinnamon Schnapps
Optional: oatmeal cookies or whipped cream

Shake vigorously in a shaker filled with ice. Serve over rocks and garnish with an oatmeal cookie or whipped cream. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Have a great weekend everyone!

*This recipe has been adapted from one I found in Rachel Ray's Magazine a few years ago...and is a glorified version of a shot we used to take in college...five million years ago...


Karra Cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Hands down, the best carrot cake recipe I have ever made. Even my son loves these, and I feel a little better letting him eat a cake filled with carrots as opposed to chocolate. My sister claims that she has a rivalry recipe, however I am still waiting to judge that challenge. Until then, try these on a cold winter's day.

First preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and pull out the cream cheese and butter to soften (see frosting recipe below for amounts).

The cake: 2 cups of sugar, 1 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, 3 eggs.
Mix these ingredients together, adding the eggs one at a time.
2 cups of all purpose flour, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 2 tsp. baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp. of kosher salt.
Mix these dry ingredients together and slowly add them to the wet ingredients; add 3 cups of grated carrots, 1 cup of raisins and 1 cup of chopped walnuts. Mix well.
(The walnuts are optional, and if I am making them for a crowd, I usually eliminate them to avoid a possible allergic reaction. I don't want anyone dying on my time)

Add the batter to the cupcake pan, filling each cup 3/4 full...or 1/4 empty depending on your mood. Put the cakes in the oven and bake until you can poke them with a fork and it comes out smooth. I start checking after about 20 minutes.

The frosting: 1 lb. of cream cheese, 1/2 lb. of unsalted butter, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 3/4 cup of confectionery sugar. Blend together until smooth.
*It is very important that you let the cream cheese and butter soften until blending, otherwise you will get major clumps. You can also adjust the confectionery sugar depending on how sweet you want your frosting.

Wait until the cakes are cool and frost. Decorate with miniature carrots!


Lead Pretzels 

So I have never been much of a baker, and this is just another testament. Elias and I tried to make soft pretzels, and although the process was fun, they turned out like balls of lead.

Better luck next time.

Apple Cider Martini with Cinnamon Sugar Rim


Sippy Sippy!

Could this drink be your holiday favorite?! I think so.....

Fill martini glass with ice and water. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker mix 1/4 Apple Vodka, 3/4 Fresh Apple Cider + a squeeze of fresh lemon + ice (...depending on how hard you want to hit it, you can adjust your proportions...) Shake vigorously and set aside.

To prepare glass fill one plate with apple cider and another plate with cinnamon sugar.

Drain the ice water out of your glass, dip the rim in the cider then in cinnamon sugar.

Pour the drink in the glass and drink with caution. Easy to make, easy to drink.

Second Annual Feast

This is the second year for our annual 'Feast,' and the food was delicious as ever! The theme this year was 'Mexican Fare,' and everybody dazzled with their culinary skills. Thank you to the best of friends that came to feast, play and laugh! We love you and we can't wait until the 2013 Greek Feast!

Chocolate Snacking Tray

VonBarta's Banana Leaf Tamales

Detrick's Cow Tongue Tacos

Pascal's Chocolate Banana Empenadas

Beckified's Flan

Roger's Queso Fundito

Rivet's Braised Pork Mexican Salad

Feasters! I need a picture of Carolyn and Matt's Chipotle Chicken Salad. It was so delicious that I forgot to document! I actually just ate more for lunch. Yum.


3 Heads of Escarole, triple cleansed and chopped
Fresh garlic (+-6 cloves), finely chopped
3 cherry peppers, sliced (+- your liking)
prosciutto, sliced or chopped
2-4 cups parmesan/romano cheese
2-4 cups breadcrumbs
Optional: shredded cheese to melt on top. I put cheese on my cheese.
Directions: boil escarole in water until wilted. drain well; squeeze excess water out when cool. Simultaneously cook garlic, cherry peppers and prosciutto in olive oil. Be careful to not burn the garlic! Stir in drained and squeezed escarole, add cheese and breadcrumbs. Optional: melt shredded cheese on top.

Serve with crusty bread and copious amounts of wine.
Thank you Utica, NY

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