Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Individual winter vegetable pot pies

In case you've just joined me, I'm sharing super comforting and hearty recipes that aren't going to break the bank... or the waistband in your pants.  There was the velvety baked potato soup.  And don't forget the penne with goat cheese and butternut squash.  Today I've got something that will even jive with your busy party schedule.  Hear me out.

We've all done it.  Skipped dinner before a holiday party knowing that we'll indulge in many treats once we see the buffet of choices.  But then, after some grazing, it hits you around 10 o'clock -- intense hunger!?!?!   The kind that hits you like a ton of bricks that you can't ignore.  The kind that reminds you that you haven't had anything substantial in way too many hours. 

Instead of skipping dinner so you can try that totally sinful chocolate pecan pie (ahem, this one) without guilt, why not have something packed full of vegetables that will keep you full for hours on end so you don't overeat at the party and can focus on the delightful jolly makers you only get to see a few times a year (and hey, those slightly-annoying-but-worth-paying-attention-to-for-a story-to-share-with-friends-later guests, too).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Penne with butternut squash and goat cheese

I've had this recipe waiting for a while.  Why the delay?  I wish I had a better reason than "I got married" but that's it.  I've already let myself go.  (Sorry, Matt.)

But really, it's a funny story.  Working ahead and writing up posts to share with you while I'm at sea, I saw this, and thought, "Whoh!  I remember that!  I thought I'd posted that already.  Oops, guess not.  Huh... I could go for that again."  So, I indulged my id and made it again, without photography this time.  

You'll have to forgive me for the Thanksgiving napkin that snuck its way into the picture.  Along with myself, I've apparently let my napkins go, too.

Tsk tsk.

Anyway, I give you penne with butternut squash, goat cheese, and walnuts.  Loaded with flava!

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Christmas!  :)  (Even though I'm writing this ahead of time, I'm going to bet there is no snow in the Caribbean.  Yep, we left this morning for our honeymoon cruise!)

At any rate, wishing you a very merry holiday with family, friends, and, as always, delicious food!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Baked potato soup with bacon & cheese

Fact #1: It is very much winter here in Pittsburgh.  A snowy weekend, brisk windy days and chilly nights, and the malls are packed to the max with eager shoppers.  

Opinion #1: Kind of makes you want to stay inside, curl up on the couch with a holiday movie (ahem Elf), and savor a big bowl of hot soup.  

Fact #2: Tomorrow, Matt and I depart cold, snowy Pittsburgh and head to Florida, where we'll board a cruise ship bound for the Caribbean for our honeymoon!  Over the next seven days, we'll be visiting St. Martin, St. Thomas, and Nassau and Princess Cays in the Bahamas.  I can barely contain my excitement!

Opinion #2: While I'll be basking in the glow of the islands (and hopefully not being abused by the sun's rays), I bet you'll be relaxing inside with your very favorite people, enjoying the break from work and school, and looking for ways to stay warm.  

That's why I've decided to save a few of the most hearty, comforting recipes I know to share with you while I'm away.  If I were home, I'd totally be making these.  But, I'll probably just save them for when we return to catch up on the week of winter that we've missed.

First up is the creamiest, steamiest bowl of potato soup that I've ever tried!  Not just any potato soup, but baked potato soup.  Loaded with all the usual suspects: sour cream, cheddar cheese, and bacon bacon bacon!  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

12 days of cookies: Day 13 - Chocolate crinkle cookie

Whilst you're still scratching your head in confusion, asking yourself how there are 13 days in the 12 days of cookies (haven't you heard of a baker's dozen?), I'll go right ahead and share the final recipe in this series.  It's a special one, a newbie just for you.

Chocolate crinkle cookies! 

Sometimes the universe tries to give us subtle hints that evolve into a slap across the face until we finally get the message.  That's what happened with these cookies.

First, I saw them flipping through my Betty Crocker Cooky Book a few weeks ago but was in the final days of wedding planning.  Then, I noticed that Iowa Girl Eats posted about them last week but became distracted with work and writing thank you notes.  Finally, the universe had had enough and pulled out all the stops.  There, on a gorgeous platter at coffee hour after church on Sunday were chocolate crinkle cookies.  [muffled mumbling amidst chewing]  "These are amaaaaaaaaazing!" I proclaimed.

I finally stopped fighting nature and got to work playing in the kitchen.  Best. Decision. Ever!

Monday, December 19, 2011

12 days of cookies: Day 12 - Chewy chocolate chip

On the 12th day of cookies, my oven baked for me... the best chocolate chip cook-ieeeeee!  And, O.M.G., the best damn dough ever.  Raw eggs, you don't scare me :)

Listen, I know we're all very comfortable with the classic Toll House recipe, and it's certainly a worthy one.  But have you ever just wanted a little more out of the quintessential cookie?  A few years ago, encouraged by my then-boyfriend (now husband... so cah-razy!), I went on a search to find a recipe for super chewy chocolate chip cookies.  You know, similar in texture to the Keebler Soft Batch cookies but with less chemicals and more home-cooked flavor.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

12 days of cookies: Day 11 - Chewy sugar cookies

11 days of cookies!  I can't think of a better way to spend that many days, other than a tropical vacation... which I'll be enjoying a week from tomorrow as Matt and I embark on our honeymoon.  But, until then, there are cookies to be shared, folks.

This next recipe is a real showstopper.  Since I first posted it almost two years ago, it has been the most searched for recipe on my blog.  Who knew something so simple could be such a showstopper?   Giant sugar cookies!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 days of cookies: Day 10 - Homemade Oreos

On the tenth day of cookies, my husband (!!!) gave to me... homemade chocolate wafer sandwiches a.k.a. Oreos. 

And, let's be honest, while Matt has done a wonderful job in his new role, there is no way that he'd be giving me homemade Oreos... unless I baked them, and he physically brought them to me.  :)

Monday, December 12, 2011


...that Saturday wasn't just a dream :)

(Thanks, Becca!)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

How 'bout them apples

Hey, guess what?
I'm getting married today! :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

12 days of cookies: Day 9 - Chocolate hazelnut smooches

(Phoning it in just a bit today... kiiiiinda preoccupied with last minute wedding details, folks!)

This particular cookie has been a favorite of mine for at least three years.  Three!  That's a lifetime in culinary years.  So, it's fitting that you only need three words to convince you that these oh so festive and yummy numbers are a must-bake this holiday season:

1. Nutella

2. kiss


3. cookie

Here's the recipe.  Just do it!

Previous posts in the 12 Days of Cookies feature:

Day 1 - Oatmeal raisin cookie
Day 2 - Orange creamsicle cookie
Day 3 - Black and white cookie 
Day 4 - Mom's molasses crinkles

Day 5 - Monster cookies
Day 6 - Snickerdoodles
Day 7 - Cloud cookies
Day 8 - Caramel stuffed apple cider cookies

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

12 days of cookies: Day 8 - Caramel stuffed apple cider cookie

Today is my first day off work before the wedding... that's in 4 days!!!  Totally fitting that I'll be spending my day doing what I love the most -- running and baking!  So, without further ado, let's get to the real reason you're here... for the latest installment in the 12 days of cookies feature. 


That's the word my coworker's teenage son used to describe these cookies.  Right after that, he asked his mom if he could hire me to bake a few dozen of these.  If these cookies can tame an adolescent boy, imagine what they can do for you!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

12 days of cookies: Day 7 - Meringue (cloud) cookies

Light as a feather... sweet as a cookie!  That's how the saying goes, right? :)

In a sea of delicious drop cookies loaded with the fixin's (and, ahem, calories), this delicate and crisp melt-in-your-mouth cookie will shine and pleasantly surprise eaters everywhere.  With just six ingredients (five, if you omit the chocolate), they are practically calorie free at 35 whoppers a cookie.  In other words, make your own cloud cookies and chow down!

Want to make them extra festive?  Throw in a few drops of food coloring.  Here's the recipe to make your own batch of meringue cookies... be sure to double it because they disappear quickly!

Previous posts in the 12 Days of Cookies feature:

Day 1 - Oatmeal raisin cookie
Day 2 - Orange creamsicle cookie
Day 3 - Black and white cookie 
Day 4 - Mom's molasses crinkles

Day 5 - Monster cookies
Day 6 - Snickerdoodles

Monday, December 5, 2011

12 days of cookies: Day 6 - Snickerdoodles

On a rainy (!) Monday, there are very few things that can convince me to leave my bed.  One is the fact that I have a full-time job and kiiiiiinda want to keep it.  But, an even better case is knowing I can whip up a hot bowl of cinnamon brown sugar oatmeal to stave off that "Oh my gosh why does air outside of my covers feel so freakin' freezing" chill.

There's just something about the smell of cinnamon that's so totally comforting and warming.  And, truth be told, there is something slightly better than aforementioned oatmeal for an all-over bundled up feeling: snickerdoodle cookies!

Toasty warm for the soul and apartment/home.  Think about all of the foods that you love to smell cooking so much, such as apple pie.  It's the cinnamon, yo!  Forget about those fruity tooty candles that will set you back $20 for a small-ish jar (Ridic, I know).  Instead, spend a fraction of that on a few ingredients and make your own snickerdoodle cookies!  Chewy, sweet, and a perfect candidate for dunking in both milk and hot cho.   Click here for the recipe.

Previous posts in the 12 Days of Cookies feature:

Day 1 - Oatmeal raisin cookie
Day 2 - Orange creamsicle cookie
Day 3 - Black and white cookie 
Day 4 - Mom's molasses crinkles

Day 5 - Monster cookies

Friday, December 2, 2011

12 days of cookies: Day 5 - Monster cookies

I declare today fun cookie Friday!  If you're in the kind of mood that has you craving sweets but unable to decide what kind of sweet, these cookies are totes (that's how the kids say "totally" these days) what the doctor ordered!  And, by doctor, I mean the exact opposite -- the queen of saturated fat, bless her heart, Paula Dean.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

12 days of cookies: Day 4 - Mom's molasses crinkles

As an adult, there are so many signs in the outside world that it's the holiday season.  Festive department store displays, serious discounts on butter at the grocery store (!!!), and a plethora of terrible jewelry commercials on TV, just to name a few.  I've realized that the best things, however, are a little less flashy and easily found at home.

My favorite tell-tale sign that Christmas lingered just around the corner, both growing up and now, has always been my mom's baking.  She'll be the first to admit that she's not crazy about cooking, but she is a an expert baker and I get my passion from her (remember what she was doing the night I was born?).

There was nothing better than coming home from school to discover that Mom's sweet shop had invaded the kitchen and filled the house with smells of butter and sugar.  Gone were the little tree centerpiece on the island and the holly tablecloth on the kitchen table.  In their place were dozens upon dozens of cookies on every cooling rack we owned of every shape and flavor.  Most people, okay including my dad, sister, and I, would've been slightly overwhelmed by the selection, not knowing what to eat first.  But there was always one that simply had to be my first taste of Christmas...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

12 days of cookies: Day 3 - Black and white cookies

Another day, but not just another cookie.  This is the famed black and white cookie, or half and half cookie as some may know it.  It's super popular in the New York City area; in fact, the first time I ever saw one was in an episode of Sex and the City.  But of course.

Monday, November 28, 2011

12 days of Cookies: Day 2 - Orange creamsicle

It's the Monday after a long and glorious holiday weekend.  The temperatures are in the 60s here in balmy Pittsburgh and Christmas seems so far away.  But, one look at the 10 day forecast and you'll see that winter (aka snow!) is just around the corner.  That means it's time to start your ovens and get to baking cookies!

The second recipe in this series is for one of Matt's favorite cookies and one of my very first original Katy recipes - the orange creamsicle cookie or, as Matt deemed it, the creamsicookie! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The 12 days of Cookies: Day 1 - Oatmeal raisin

Happy black Friday, friends!  If you're like me and looking to avoid the chaos that's at the malls today, might I suggest a better endeavor?  Get out the boxes of Christmas decorations, start decking the halls, and get an early start on your holiday baking!

Because, really, this is totally my favorite time of the year.  Parties and gifts galore, wonderful food, and friends who make you want to install a revolving door at your house so the visitors keep comin' :)  It's that spirit that has inspired me to feature a special series of blog posts for you:

My 12 most favorite cookie recipes all in one place for you and your baking desires.  I'm starting a bit early so that you have plenty of time to stock up on sugar, spice, and ingredients so nice (cough Nutella cough).

First up is my all-time most favorite cookie and one that has loads of meaning to me.  Oatmeal raisin cookies!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy travels, happy people, happy eats, happy times to all of you! :o)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chocolate chip pecan pie

Because I can't leave well enough alone, I had to give you another dessert.  I know there are more than enough ideas here, but are you really going to fault me for giving you just one more?  I think not.  Especially when it's a pecan pie with chocolate chips!  In other words, my new favorite pie.  Hands down, no contest.

I've made pecan pies before, and they've been darn good.  Disappearing good.  But not great.  Pecan pies have the reputation of being too gooey and runny, and so sweet that your teeth ache with only a few bites.  And those whole nuts on the top of the pie?  Gorgeous, sure, but a nightmare to cut through for pretty slices.  Nothing pisses me off more than an ugly piece of mediocre pie served to guests.

What?  Some folks have road rage.  I have pie problems :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pepperoni pizza burgers

Because you're going to be eating yummy Thanksgiving leftovers for days.  Turkey sandwiches.  Turkey pot pie.  Turkey paninis!  Stuffing sandwiches.  Yes, carb on top of carb... seriously, try it!  And all of the fixin's for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Delicious, comforting food that'll have you rummaging for your Thanksgiving pants ASAP.

In light of this turkey surplus, I thought we could all use a dinner idea that's a bit un-Thanksgiving-y that won't involve you phoning the local pizza joint.  Oh, but you'll still get the same flavors you love about pizza.  Intrigued?  Mm hmm.

Friday, November 18, 2011

10 Tasty Thanksgiving side dishes & desserts

That's the no-brainer!  But what about the supporting cast?  We're heading into the biggest food shopping weekend of the year (this is my guess, anyway), when it's common to see shelves cleared of bread and canned green beans.  Before you make your list and check it twice, I want to share some of my very favorite Thanksgiving fixin's in case you've come here looking for inspiration :) 

As guests are arriving and mingling, you don't need much in the way of small bites, but a batch of my mom's disappearing chicken dip with some veggies and crackers will hold over kids and adults until lunch/dinner.  What time do you eat?  Is it more of a lunch or a later dinner?  Our family usually sits down around 2... that way there is time for a post-meal nap before dessert and football!

Believe it or not, the side dishes are totally my favorite part of the big feast.  Turkey is delish, sure, but it's the enormous buffet surrounding the bird that really makes my mouth water.

For the kids, vegetarians, and people who (like me) love carbs like there is no tomorrow, have a batch of crowd-pleasing mac and cheese ready:

    A Kemp family Thanksgiving dinner wouldn't be complete without an array of pies, especially apple crumb and sour cherry.  But, hey, don't limit your dessert vision to pies.  Any (or, ahem, all) of these sweet endings are sure to satisfy the sweet tooth in everyone!

    What's your favorite Thanksgiving meal dish?  Good luck shopping this weekend! 

    Two Years Ago: Basic buttercream icing

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Tomato vegetable casserole

    Matt is quite a catch, let me tell you.

    He makes me laugh all the time, challenges me, and is the most caring and selfless person I know.  He's super handy around the apartment and will pretty much eat anything I put in front of him without any complaints.  It's a good thing because we're getting married in, whoh, 23 days!

    As far as food goes, he has only two serious dislikes: cucumbers and black olives.  And he's not crazy about broccoli, but will gladly devour it with enough cheese and seasonings.  Matt's always willing to try anything and readily succumbs to the "close your eyes and open your mouth" new recipe test.  Let's add "way too trusting of Katy" to his list of wonderful qualities.

    Regardless of whatever meals I impose on him, he is still a man.  And men love meat, choosing a steak over vegetables 100% of the time.  So I try to keep this in mind when I plan dinners.  While I may be okay with pasta and a salad for the night, he's gotta have protein.  Meal plans regularly have entries like this: "Monday - fall harvest salad with apples, walnuts, roasted butternut squash, goat cheese -- add chicken for Matt."

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Caramel-stuffed apple cider cookies

    I'm an emotional eater.  Think about it -- aren't most of us?  I'm not talking emotional as in, "Oh my gosh, I'm so upset about the crappy day I've been served up, so I'm going to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream all by myself."  I save feats like that for happier moods, ha!

    Honestly, though, I'm the kind of eater who has lots of feelings tied up in food and culinary-related things.  Tastes that bring back cherished memories.  Fried Oreos make me think of light-up night in downtown Pittsburgh.  Dairy Queen soft serve cones with rainbow sprinkles take me back to tennis lessons with my dad when I was young.  And fresh sushi rolls make me long for sunny California, where I first tried it.

    No matter how big or small, food as the ability to transport me to anywhere or anytime.  Even a humble little cookie.  

    And, especially, a totally yummy cookie with a sweet and chewy surprise hidden in the middle.  Caramel stuffed apple cider cookies!  Get ready to tune out those unseasonably (and so freakin' random!) warm temperatures because one bite is going to have you clamoring for the closest blanket and a cuddle buddy.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Wheelin' and dealin'

    I have a cookie recipe for you that just couldn't wait any longer... but it must.  Last night when I planned to do some blogging, I was busy...

    Buying my very first car!!!  (still in shock slash jumping up and down)  A 2012 Hyundai Accent GLS in mocha bronze (who comes up with these color names anyway?).  Her name is Ava :o)

    But, let's be honest, you don't come here to read about my new wheels.  You come for cookies.  Tomorrow there will be cookies, friends.  Scout's honor!

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Cranberry, turkey & cheddar panini sandwich

    Have I yet mentioned how much I love my new Cuisinart Griddler that I received a few weeks ago at my bridal shower?  No?  Let me count the ways...

    1. It's a panini press, grill, and griddle all in one!
    2. Cleaning is a cinch -- pop off the plates, wash, and towel dry.  Easy peasy.
    3. I feel so gosh darn cutting edge using this.  I once envied Giada every time she'd whip up a panini and press it with ease.  Now look at me!  Giada better watch out, giant smile and all.
    4. Storage is a breeze.  No worries about scratching the nonstick surfaces because the whole thing folds up and protects itself.
    5. The temperature settings on it are legit.  Some griddles have ambiguous settings of "warm, warmer, hot"... what is that?!  Oh yes, I'd like my burger done "hot" please.  Lame.

    All of those are dandy reasons on their own (seriously, you must get your own Griddler), but if you still need more, particularly something visually tempting, this is for you.  100% my new favorite sandwich -- the Thanksgiving panini!

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Pork chops with cranberry sauce

    I love to plan.  And, truth be told, I'm pretty great at it.  As far as meals go, you know that I work in one week increments, and it works well most of the time.  But, sometimes, I even outdo myself.  Stupid self, setting the bar so high.

    Last week I made this scrumptious (and oh-so-simple) cranberry sauce for pork chops.  And there was some left, so I saved it.  And I used it again last night for another rockstar of a recipe.  I'm not sure which was better.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself, so I'll save that recipe for later.  Back to the chops.

    Pork chops are such a tricky cut of meat.  So many folks (myself included) fear the overcooked dry and rubbery slabs of pork from our grade school cafeterias of long ago.  Sweet lunch ladies would then dump some can of mysterious gravy over said pork chops in an effort to rescue them.  Someone should've told them that said slop would've managed to ruin even the best steak in the world.

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Butternut squash mac & cheese

    Let me tell you a funny thing about being an amateur cook -- you're still an amateur!  There is still a chance that those should-be-in-a food-hall-of-fame dishes I saw on TV won't look and taste quite like they should when I attempt them in my own kitchen.  Let's face facts: I have no formal training in food.  I'm not raining on my own parade.  I just myself an optimistic realist.  Make sense? :)

    Thankfully, I haven't yet encountered any true culinary disasters.  Yes, there have been dishes that don't taste that great and baking endeavors that I wouldn't photograph, but nothing truly inedible.  ("Thank goodness!" says Matt.)  Then again, I haven't really pushed the envelope when it comes to my cooking.  I save that stuff for the restaurants I frequent, usually ordering items I'll most likely never create it at home.  There's a fine line between a challenge and garbage-bound food.  As I get older, I become more and more aware of what I am (and am not) capable.

    But, at some point, you grow tired of saving recipes for a rainy day, no matter how out of the box they are.  The kind of rainy day that affords you extra prep time, an infinite supply of perseverance, all of the ingredients at arm's length, and the willpower not to snack whilst cooking.  I know myself and can safely say all three of those things will never ever happen.  Cough snacking cough.  Again, just keepin' it real.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Chili lime chicken with black bean & corn salad

    It's the sweetest day of the year and you're desperately trying to figure out what to have for dinner so you get something substantial in your stomach before the glorious sugar overload begins.  (Or, perhaps it's the finale to weeks of sampling the candy dish in your office... ahem.)

    Contrary to my frequent unfulfilled wishes, candy is not an appropriate meal substitute. 

    Here's a super quick meal you can whip up in 20 minutes that will leave you feeling satisfied and ready to attack the pile of sweets without an excess of guilt-- chili lime chicken and black bean and corn salad.  Summery (pffffff October) southwest flavors for the win!

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    Red velvet cake pops

    I present to you red velvet cake pops, some in the (relative) shape of ghosts!

    Let me say how much more respect I have for the acclaimed Bakerella and other homemade cake pop artists!  She has practically made cake pops the "it" item in the baking world this past year.  Do yourself a favor and check out her masterpieces.  They are uh-maze-ing!

    Mine?  Well, maybe not the prettiest little ghosts you've ever seen.  In fact, I'd say they are quite ghastly.

    It's scary how pathetic-looking they are!

    I'm frightened by the sight of them!

    But, do you know what an ugly cake pop tastes like?

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    The blog's 2nd birthday!

    Happy birthday to me Baking, domesticity, and all things mini!  I can hardly believe that exactly two years ago, I launched this little project.  We're into the terrible terribly adventurous and delicious twos now :)

    I celebrated my blog-iversary the only way I thought would be appropriate -- searching out a new baking challenge for myself, making miniature sweets, and sharing them with you!  And, I suppose you can check the box next to "domesticity", too, since I wore an apron during assembly and took said miniature sweets to a tailgating party.  Yes, yes, and heck yes!

    One little glitch -- said tailgate was for a late evening Pitt game last night and this girl didn't walk in her door until after midnight.  So, the cake pops will have to wait until tomorrow.  For now, browse through some of my favorite recipes from the last year:

    11-8-10 Breakfast apple granola crisp
    11-17-10 Real meatballs
    12-13-10 - Breakfast pizza
    1-5-11 White chocolate covered Ritz Bitz sandwiches 
    2-4-11 Black (and gold) bottom cupcakes
    2-24-11 Simple bolognese with rigatoni
    2-25-11 Peanut butter cup crunch brownies
    3-31-11 Coconut chicken
    3-29-11 The best cinnamon rolls in the world
    5-10-11 Monte Cristo sandwich
    5-16-11 Monster cookies
    5-23-11 Spring asparagus bacon hash
    6-15-11 Classic French onion soup
    7-6-11 Watermelon, arugula, and goat cheese salad with balsamic glaze
    7-22-11 Corn and tomato pie
    8-18-11 Homemade Oreos
    8-23-11 Ham and cheese in puff pastry
    8-25-11 Bacon-wrapped potato wedges
    9-8-11 Favorite lasagna
    9-13-11 Pumpkin whoopie pies

    10-5-11 Beef taco salad with chunky tomato dressing

    Looking back at everything I've made and done this past year --  I'd forgotten just how much -- I am reminded of my never-ending love for food and, more so, sharing said love with kind folks like you!  You keep me going and constantly inspire me, so I must thank you :)

    One Year Ago: Happy 1st birthday to me!
    Two Years Ago: The beginning

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Back to basics

    My name is Katy.

    Hi, Katy.

    And I have an enormous crush on Ina Garten.  Like, want to be friends with her.  A typical day would go like this: Ina and I would visit the local fish monger and small food specialty shops in East Hampton/Pittsburgh's strip district, maybe doing a little shopping for denim shirts and pearls as well.  We'd cook in our brightly-lit kitchens, plating up food on classic white place settings.  Then, we'd welcome our husbands (hers, Jeffrey, and mine-to-be, Matt, obvs) home from their jobs in education (they're friends, too, of course) and have fabulous themed dinners with glowing conversation, chuckling amongst ourselves something absolutely hilarious that we heard earlier that day. 

    So, maybe enormous isn't the right word.  #inalove

    From that same fascinating woman comes a short and sweet interview with the Barefoot Contessa herself.  For someone as accomplished and famous as her, it's so refreshing to see she keeps it simple in the kitchen!

    "The party is only as happy as the host. I learned this the hard way at one of the first parties I ever threw. It was a brunch, and I decided to make omelets for everyone. I never got out of the kitchen — and I didn't have another party for a year. I tell people when they're hosting to make a menu out of recipes you know really well and to pick up something at the bakery for a great dessert. It's a much better party if the food is simple and you're relaxed.

    Having a man who can cook is overrated. My husband, Jeffrey, makes the coffee, that's it. It's more important to have one person who cooks and another person who appreciates it.

    Even better than chicken soup for the soul: Homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese, with grown-up cheeses like Gruyère and extra-sharp cheddar. I made this for a friend recently who was upset and hadn't eaten in a week. She devoured it!

    Food tastes best when it's properly salted. That means salting it a little at a time throughout the entire cooking process, not just at the end. It enhances the flavor of whatever you're cooking and makes food taste seasoned — not salty.

    Gratitude is the best hostess gift. I always send flowers or a note the next day to express my appreciation.

    Cook with your heart! They say that gardens look better when they are created by loving gardeners rather than by landscapers, because the garden is more tended to and cared for. The same thing goes for cooking. I only cook for people I love."


    If you could befriend one celebrity chef or food personality, who would it be and why?  Mine's obvious, but Alton Brown is a close second.  Nerdy food love!

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    Pumpkin ginger snaps

    Well, hello there, comrades!  I've got a question for you.  Just one question.  So, dig deep within your souls and be prepared to answer honestly.  Ready?

    Ready, Freddie.

    Are you sick of pumpkin yet?

    I ask this because I've got a mind-blowing recipe for pumpkin gingersnaps that will, um, blow your mind!  I mean, these cookies will cure whatever ails you.  Be it the first round of the flu, it's-only-Tuesday-itis, or a why-won't-the-weather-cooperate-for-my-friends'-wedding-on-Saturday worry.  I'm still working on a term for don't-want-to-work-just-want-to-exercise-and-bake-all-day-itis.  Any suggestions?

    Oh!  The cookies.  Yes, the cookies.  They'll fix all of those problems.  I did promise that.  Aren't they pretty?  So, are you sick of pumpkin yet?

    If you answered "yes" that you couldn't stand another pumpkin recipe... Tough cookies!  Trust me when I say that you aren't quite finished with all things pumpkin until you've had these cookies!  They aren't too pumpkin-y.  In fact, they taste more like a warm spiced cookie.  The kind that will play nicely with either a tall glass of cold milk or a steaming cup of herbal tea.  And the pumpkin added to the dough merely lends a chewy and moist texture to the delicately sugared cookie.  A perfect culinary transition from the sugary celebrations of Halloween to the warm and cozy season of giving thanks.

    If you answered "no" because you are begging for more ghourdly good confections... My allies!  You who can't get enough of our favorite member of the squash family need no real convincing, but please permit me to harp just a bit.  These cookies have velvety pumpkin puree to thank for the oh-so-chewy texture with a tiny crunch on the outside from the bath in sugar.  As if that weren't enough to send your taste buds into a jealous fit, the portable treats are bursting with fall flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and yummy ginger.  Love!

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Pumpkin gooey butter cakes

    If you couldn't guess by now, I really love food and documenting my adventures with it!  The funny thing is this -- even if I didn't have a public outlet for sharing those things, I'd still take more pictures of food than some folks do of their children.  #sadbecauseitstrue

    But, sometimes, it's really really fun!  I get a little carried away with the pictures and then go b-a-n-a-n-a-s over the subject of said photography.  Like, carrying a plate of dessert and a hacky sack pumpkin all around my apartment, using various props and lighting in different rooms.  Fiddling with my humble camera's settings and adding more specs to my fantasy someday-I'll-cough-up-the-serious-dough-to-buy-it camera.

    Whatever the reasons, I suppose you can say that I'm really proud of my creations in the kitchen.  Especially when they look and taste like this: pumpkin gooey bars!

    Note: Watchful florescent pumpkin is not for consumption.

    It was like glamour shots, food edition, invaded my apartment the other night.  I couldn't stop! Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you how it all began.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Chocolate pudding dump cake

    I shouldn't have.

    But I wanted to.

    Really wanted to.

    All I needed was a reason.

    I finally got one -- our friend Marc's birthday!

    So, that thing I wanted to do.... I finally did it!

    What did I do, exactly?

    Made the most sinful, decadent, so-good-that-it-must-be-bad-for-you chocolate cake ever!!!

    And, uh, I have a confession regarding said chocolate phenomenon.

    It's homemade! in, made in my home.

    But not from scratch.

    Viva la boxes!  These boxes.

    I did my research and was informed that this is the best chocolate cake mix.

    It lived up to the hype.

    And these boxes worked wonders... with my help of course.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Virgin mimosa a.k.a. the famosa

    It's a Saturday morning and you're waking up at a later-than-usual hour to enjoy a relaxed and possibly decadent breakfast.  Some eggs, maybe French toast, fresh fruit, possibly a pastry -- go nuts, it's the weekend!  You're not a fan of coffee and regular juice just won't cut it.  Wouldn't it be nice to sip on a fancy little drink without taking off your pajamas and leaving the comforts of home?

    Mm hmm.

    Or, hey, it's a Monday morning, and you had a great weekend.  "Wasn't it fun?" you recall.  But, now it's Monday and time to return to the weekly routine.  If only you could give yourself a little something to put some pep in your step.

    Wouldn't that be nice.

    There's only one thing to do.  Make yourself a famosa!  A what, you ask?  Say it with me -- fuh-mow-suh!  Like mimosa, but with a new first syllable.

    What's a famosa?  A fake mimosa, of course!  But, more importantly, what's IN a famosa?

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Beef taco salad with chunky tomato dressing

    According to Wendy's, it's there.  Don't you love that the company has revived it's famous slogan from 1984?  I hear that was quite a great year :)

    Finding myself in search of beef but not quite willing to give in to fast food so early in the week (it was only Tuesday!), I thanked my lucky stars and planning prowess that I had the makings for a spicy and hearty beef dish.

    Beef taco salad!  Trust me.  You want to make this right now.  So glad I dismissed that craving for Wendy's because this was a million times better!... and without any guilt!!

    Smoky seasoned lean ground beef and black beans.  Crisp chopped romaine hearts.  Sharp white cheddar cheese.  Yum!

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Healthier apple muffins

    At the beginning of my freshman year of college, I did what any kid new to living on her own would do -- went absolutely crazy with the freedom to do whatever I want... staying up late, getting ice cream for dinner, you get the idea.  All relatively tame things :)

    But the biggest change in my lifestyle that year was discovering that my eating habits were totally and completely my own.  No longer was I required to adapt to an entire family's dining routine or eat what was being served.  If I wanted to eat an early dinner before night class or wait until noon for breakfast on a weekend, nobody was going to stop me.  And, if I wanted to indulge in the dining hall options including Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Subway, and my weight in chicken tenders, watch out world.

    But, as you could probably guess, I was one minor injury away from packing the infamous 15 pounds onto my petite freshman frame.  Luckily, I kept up my exercise habits throughout this period of culinary liberation, but even that might not have saved me from death by muffins... and a potential muffin-top.

    Friday, September 30, 2011

    Farfalle pasta with Brussels sprouts & mushrooms

    Remember that plan for pasta that I alluded to earlier this week?  Last night, I brought it to life in my kitchen, and boy, aren't those appropriate words.  I give you...

    Green is good pasta!  
    Mother Nature pasta!
    Into the woods pasta!
    Earthy pasta!

    Um, ahem, I'm a little undecided on the name still, but I'm totally sold on the taste and flavor combos in this dish!  Sauteed mushrooms and garlic, shredded Brussels sprouts, and a lil bit o' basil pesto to bring the whole thing together.

    What I love about this dish is how (ahem) earthy it feels.  Please dispose of any images of hippies in Birkenstock sandals before we continue.  Thank you kindly.  What I mean by earthy is healthy, refreshing, clean, and packing so many levels of flavor!

    And all of it is so gorgeous and fresh-from-the-farm this time of year.  The basil bounty from summer won't go to waste if you're making homemade pesto.  Or, er, that container of it that you scored from the grocery store won't end up in the wrong hands :)

    I started by peeling the outer layers from the sprouts and shredding them.

    Meanwhile, I brought a pot of salted water to boil and dropped in these little bow ties to cook.  (Wouldn't it be great if tuxedo bow ties were made of pasta?  I'm going to suggest this to Matt for our wedding.  Three guesses as to how that will go.)

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    Alliteration and Americana

    Tonight, the University of Pittsburgh hosts the University of South Florida for a rare weeknight college football game, and I've been assigned the dessert course, natch.  "To heck with second-rate tailgate food," is what I say!  I pulled out all the stops last night and whipped up my most favorite pie: apple crumb!

    What could be more American than college football and a classic apple dessert?  Absolutely nothing!    Panthers and pie!

    P-I-T-T, let's go Pitt!  (Try not to stink up the joint like you did for last weekend's bout with Notre Dame, k?  Thanks!)

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Vegetarian mushroom & white bean ragout

    I absolutely love fakeout recipes!  You know, the kind that tastes like one thing but is totally something else.  Sometimes it's an unexpected combination of ingredients or a novel serving suggestion.

    Whatever it is, the result is something that pops!  Makes your taste buds go, "Wow!" and has you scratching your head in wonder, "How can this be?" ...and then instructs your brain to send a signal to your hand to put your fork right back into the dish for more because you just can't stop.

    Last night's fakeout?  Tastes-just-like-pizza mushroom ragout!

    A ragout is a thick chunky stew-esque sauce made with loads of vegetables, sometimes with meat, too, and fragrant spices and herbs.  Low and slow is how it's cooked, giving all of the parts more than enough time to make merry.

    Start with some olive oil and chopped onions (and maybe a few tears if you're sensitive like me).

    When the onions are soft, add the mountain of mushrooms and spices.  Big, gigantic mountain of flavor!

    ...that will cook down to barely a mole hill.  A delicious mole hill, at that.

    Pour in the diced tomatoes, but hold the juice, please.  If you forget to, don't worry.  It's really not the end of the world, so turn that frown upside down and listen to what I'm going to say: You can remove a bit of the juice during cooking, or crank up the heat and let the mixture bubble away so the whole thing will thicken.

    See?  It's that easy!  All smiles all the time.

    (Truth be told, that's what I did.  The original recipe called for the juice, and I just found the whole thing to be a little too runny for my taste.)

    Now, let the whole thing simmer before adding the beans and wait.  Just wait.  Maybe toy with the settings on your humble little camera, being careful to keep the spoon you've been using to sample the whole thing out of frame... what?  I didn't say anything.  Move along, nothing to see here.

    Continue being patient.  Channel your inner monk/monkess.  (Yes, I know monkess isn't the female equivalent to monk, but it sounds pretty rad, right?)

    As the ragout neared the finish line, and my stomach's growls could no longer be ignored, I had think quickly about how to serve it.  Much like a bolognese sauce, a ragout can be eaten on its own, but totally shines piled atop a plate of pasta, rice, or even polenta.  Already having a plan for a pasta dish later this week, I wanted to do something a little different for this meal.  Rice didn't seem quite right -- too small, likely to get lost in the veggies.  No polenta in the cupboard.  What aboooooooout... toast!  Yes!

    Buried toast, to be more specific.  Letting all of the flavors soak into the bread, ready to be devoured.  Let's be even more specific, shall me?  This ragout was a totally surprising home run!  I expected it to be good, but not this good.  Ohmysweetgoodness kind of good!

    The sweet chunky tomatoes and the tender mushrooms.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love mushrooms?  Incredibly tender onions with the lemony thyme and fragrant garlic.  And the white beans added such texture and "meat" to the dish that I totally forgot I wasn't even eating meat.  All atop a buttery piece of bread that played games with my mind and might as well have been pizza crust?  Heaven!

    As I finished my plate a liiiiittle early (girl was hungry!), Matt arrived, which is about when I started shaking in my boots.  What would my meat and potatoes fiance think of a vegetarian dish after a long day teaching and in class?  I felt like Mikey's brothers from the Life cereal commercials, waiting to see his reaction...

    He loved it!  "It tastes just like pizza!" he exclaimed.  "And it's actually satisfying... weird since there is no meat in here."  And then, when he realized I was taking his picture, decided to ham it up just a bit.  Yep, that's my future husband right there :) 

    Vegetarian Mushroom & White Bean Ragout
    (adapted, slightly, from Cookin' Canuck)
    -serves 4

    A few notes: Dara's original recipe called for crimini (baby portobellos) mushrooms, but I substituted white mushrooms because they were on sale.  Also, as mentioned above, you can serve the ragout over pasta, rice, polenta, basically any grain that strikes your fancy.  Maybe even quinoa or barley.  Think outside of the box!  Thanks to Dara at Cookin' Canuck for the delicious recipe!

    3 Tablespoons olive oil
    2 medium white onions, chopped
    16 oz. button mushrooms, thinly sliced
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, juices discarded
    1 (14 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

    Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan set over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes.

    Add mushrooms, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are very tender, about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and juices and cook until the mixture starts to thicken, about 10 minutes.

    Stir in beans and cook until beans are warmed through, about 10 minutes. Serve over toasted bread.

    The ragout can be made up to 2 days in advance. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat before serving.

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    You know you're an adult when...

    ...after an exhausting but super fun day of tailgating (hooray!) for a Pitt football game (a loss... sad face), I came home hungry but lacking any motivation to cook on a weekend night.


    A walk to Starbucks for one salted caramel hot chocolate.  In other words, dinner.  Life is too short not to do awesome things like that.  Isn't being an "adult" grand? :)

    What is your most ridiculous makeshift dinner/meal? 

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    And there went the last of my productivity

    Say buh-bye because it's g-o-n-e.  This is going to be bad.  Really really bad.

    Or really awesome?!  Yes :)

    I've become totally enamored with Pinterest.  Have you heard of it?  Probably yes, because it's been around for a minute or two.  Pinterest is a virtual cork board on which you can organize, "pin", and share things you like with the rest of the world.  You can even scope out others pin boards for inspiration according to categories and custom searches.

    I was skeptical at first, dipping my toes into its waters and scurrying away for fear of becoming totally addicted.

    So, you can guess that I'm utterly addicted by now!  I just signed up for an invitation (both annoying and genius promotion).  Until I have my own board, here is today's find that is rather appropriate:

    Have a fantastic Friday!  If you're in the Pittsburgh area, there is a ton going on this weekend, so check out IHeartPgh's blog for details.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Cheesy chicken, artichoke & pesto panini

    Take a seat, please.  Culinary school is in session!  Today we'll discuss the yummy sandwich made famous in Italy known as the panini, or panino.  Here is Italy... the boot!  (Have I mentioned how badly I want these boots?  No?  Another time then.)

    We've got the where, now the what: pa-ni-no - a usually grilled sandwich made with Italian bread (according to the big shots)  Or, as we know it here in America, the panini, a pressed sandwich.

    Did you know that panini is actually the correct plural version of the word, and not paninis?  I'm usually a stickler for grammar, but I'm going to go with the masses outside Italy and stick with saying paninis.  Correct Italian or not, these pale limbs are foolin' precisely no one.  And this delicious creation was made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America.  Panini it is!

    Chicken pesto artichoke mozzarella panini, to be more specific annnnnnnnnd enticing!

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Autumn is brewing

    Fall is almost here!  (Was I the first to wish you a happy autumn?  I bet I was...)  That means it's high time to kick back, relax, and enjoy a cold seasonal one:

    There are plenty of pumpkin beers out right now for the sampling, and I tried two of them recently - Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (pictured above) and Southern Tier's Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale.  Both are yummy, and that's coming from a self-proclaimed indifferent beer drinker.

    A serving suggestion from my coworker that will make your pumpkin-y beverage experience even better -- wet the rim of the glass and dip it into a mixture of cinnamon, sugar, and a dash of nutmeg.  Fall flavors abound!  Thanks for the tip, Julie!!

    What is your favorite fall treat?  Are you a traditionalist with candy corn and pumpkin pie or do you prefer something a little more unique?  I need three things in order to be in the fall spirit: one serving of candy corn (just one will do), apple pie, and Halloween Oreos :)

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    White chicken chili

    I love being first!  First place, first to reply to invitations, and first born (because I had so much say in that matter).  It can be a bit annoying at times... even for me.

    But, most of the time I'm knocking down the door first is because I'm just so excited for that particular thing/event/person/whatever.  So, let me be the first to wish you a happy autumn!  Today the calendar still says summer, until Friday when fall begins.  And wouldn't it be nice to start the descent into cooler weather with a warm bowl of chili?

    Uh huh, mm hmm.  I thought so.  White chicken chili for the win!  And cornbread muffins with oh-so-festive papers, circa last season at Target.  How cute are these?!

    Like I said, incredibly excited, this time regarding holidays and food. 

    To add to my already-overflowing bowl of excitement, I've kinda become obsessed with Pat and Gina Neely lately.  If you're not familiar, think Paula Deen as a married couple.  They are absolutely hilarious to watch, a perfect cooking ying and yang.

    And, because it's the bottom line that really matters, their recipes are totally gratifying and yummy.  They wowed me with Pat's burgers.  And I've made a few other things not featured that were equally rockin'.  It may take some time to earn my culinary trust, but once you've got it, I'm yours for life, baby!

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Friday five

    Things I'm totally loving right now and/or can't wait to get my hands on as soon as possible. 

    1. Panera's garden vegetable soup with pesto.  Warm and so satisfying.  Matt and I have a Saturday full of errands planned and have already picked this for our lunch spot... because it's delicious and also because we have a coupon for buy one you pick two, get one free!

    2. This metallic cardigan from Banana Republic.  Chunky but still feminine.  Cozy.  Sparkly.  And bearing pockets!  Could this sweater be any more perfect for the holidays?  "Could I BE wearing any more clothes?"

    Never gets old, I swear.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Mini pumpkin whoopie pies (gobs) with cream cheese frosting

    I'm a fan of many things: tennis, cashmere, Reese's pumpkins, and Inglourious Basterds, just to name a few. 

    Two things I like not?  Brevity and cursing.  (Interesting combination...)

    Well, it's time for a change of pace.  These pumpkin spice whoopie pies are damn good!!!

    Or, gobs, as some of you may know them.