Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 recipes of 2013 - my picks!

Yesterday, I listed the top 10 recipes of 2013 as determined by you.  Today, I'm sharing my top 10 favorite recipes of 2013.  There's a little bit of everything, starting with breakfast and all the way through to dessert... twice!  You might be surprised by what tops the list, too.

Thanks for making 2013 a milestone year here!  Big (delicious) changes are coming in 2014 and I can't wait to share them with you.  Wishing everyone an early Happy New Year! :)

10. Pumpkin pancakes - Breakfast foods are my go-to foods when I don't know what to make or don't have the energy for something more involved.  Traditional pancakes (actually typed "pumpcakes") get a spiced upgrade in these delicious seasonal flapjacks.

9. Crock Pot black bean soup - Hearty, inexpensive, healthy, and ridiculously easy.  This soup has been a lifesaver/dinnersaver on so many busy nights.

8. Garlic roasted cabbage - Roast it, and it will be delicious!  So simple and so life-changing.  Who knew cabbage could be so delicious?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 10 recipes of 2013 - your picks!

As 2013 comes to a close, "best of" lists and recaps are popping up everywhere.  You know how I love a good list, so I had to get in on the action.

From casseroles and cakes to creamy soups and all the cheeses, here are recipes you lovely folks deemed the most popular by clicking, emailing, posting, and Pinning.  Check back tomorrow for my top 10 recipes!

10. Taco turkey casserole - "I want to live inside that," said Laura, Matt, and anyone who's ever taken even one bite of this hearty dish.  Serve as an entree or with sturdy chips for an epic party dip!

9. Chocolate Ho-ho cake - The Hostess Company may have been saved from extinction, but their Ho-Hos have nothing on this decadent chocolate and cream cake.

8. Copycat Mad Mex chick pea chili - Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.  And being able to make one of your favorite restaurant dishes at home (a smidge better than they do!) is just plain priceless.  This is, without a doubt, the most unique and delicious chili I've ever had!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

From our home to yours, Merry Christmas!   Hope it's happy, healthy, and oh-so-sweet :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

3-ingredient Oreo truffles

Eee!  Christmas is tomorrow!  I see the calendar and yet I still can't believe it.

So you may wonder why I'm giving you one more new recipe.  Especially one that I'm going to insist, nay, implore you to make right this minute or, at the very least, sometime over the next week.

Don't you know that Christmas is tomorrow?

Yes, yes, I do.  See the first line of this post.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas morning eats

Two days and counting!  Better saddle up for one last trip to the store to pick up the necessary ingredients to make a special breakfast or two, be it on Christmas morning or another day over the holiday break.

Do you have any special Christmas morning breakfast traditions?  For as long as I can remember, we've always had cinnamon rolls, oranges, and coffee/hot chocolate.  We wake up slowly, nibbling and drinking and chatting, as my dad builds a fire in the family room.

It's funny to think how we rushed through this tradition when we were younger and now that we're older, we take our time -- so much so that my mom sometimes has to remind us to start opening gifts!  My 10-year old self would be shocked.

Wherever you find yourself on the 25th, I hope you have a festive and delicious start to the day.  Sweet and savory, here are some of my favorite breakfast recipes suitable for kids from 1 to 92 :)

Eggs & meats

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fast Friday: 5-ingredient Chicken Tortilla Soup

Happy Friday to you!

These past few weeks have been gloriously busy.  Days and evenings -- even weeknights, gasp! -- have been filled with parties, travel, reunions, shopping, and the most phenomenal concert ever.

To make time for fun things, I'm finding myself borrowing time from certain activities, like sleep.  The bags under my eyes make me look terribly ragged, but I promise I'm awake, alert, and ready to party.  I can sleep in January!

I can also clean and do laundry in January.  I thought about buying more underwear but realized that, too, requires washing and drying before wearing.  If you're interested, I'm looking to hire a laundry associate.  Please inquire for further details.  I will pay you handsomely in cookies.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chocolate peanut butter pie

I fancy myself a relatively creative person with a very active imagination.  Throw in a major passion for food and you can guess what occupies my thoughts 90% of the time.

So, when a friend says something like, "Katy, I need an idea for something to make to take to a party," my mind goes from 0 to 60 in no time at all.  Pedal to the metal, baby.  With no direction whatsoever, I can quickly come up with no less than 10 ideas ranging from appetizers to entrees and (obviously) desserts.

And if he/she provides a few parameters for said dish?  You might think that'd tap the breaks and narrow my focus, but you'd be mistaken.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Banana whoopie pies with Nutella buttercream

Smack in the middle of my holiday cookie baking, I got a craving and a wild idea.  My husband can vouch from past experience that this means two things: First, a phone call from me begging him to stop at the grocery store.  Second, dessert.

Spontaneity always means sugar in my world.  For some, this might be a sign of a bigger problem.  For me, it's as welcome and reliable as the sunrise :)

The craving was for something sweet and soft.  I love snappy and chewy cookies, but even I needed a break from 'em.  And as much as eating more of the cookie dough would've satisfied me, there was no reason I couldn't take a break from baking... to do a little more baking.

Monday, December 16, 2013

55 Christmas cookie recipes

My mom and I are both elbow-deep into our Christmas baking... and I'm loving every moment of it.  Have you started playing in the kitchen yet?

Food is love, and what better way to spread love than to gift cookies and treats to those near and dear to you!  Whether you're planning to bake cookies for everyone on your nice list or simply make enough to take to a holiday party, there's something for variety of sweet tooth here. 

Happy baking!

Drop cookies
Cutout, iced, filled, rolled, or stuffed cookies

Bar cookies

Candy & other sweets

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Five: Cookbooks to gift

(Obligatory reminder of how many days are left before Christmas and onset of self-induced panic after looking at one's ever-growing to-do list.)

Ha-appy Friday, everyone!  Hope you're having a great week and taking time to enjoy the special moments of the holiday season, however big or small they may be.  The brief 5 minute bursts of hanging ornaments (does your tree take days to decorate like ours?) or Christmas episodes of your favorite TV shows are just as important as the lavish parties and gift exchanges.  Any time together with people you love is time well spent, right?

All of that being said, I take special pride in being a really good gift giver and want to spoil those on my list with things they'll really enjoy.  There are few better things than seeing someone's face light up when they receive a surprise they love, right?

I won't pretend to have all the answers to your shopping and gifting conundrums, but I will offer up a few more suggestions for the food-minded person on your list.  Whether he/she is a rookie or an expert, these cookbooks are some of my favorites, new and old, and are for real people who cook real food.

This Friday Five is all about good resources for good recipes and great food.  Bon appetit! 

1. Martha Stewart Baking Handbook - The owner and head baker of a local bakery recommended this book to me years ago.  When I asked him about going to culinary/pastry school, he told me to save my money and bake my way through this book because it would teach me "everything a baker needs to know."  Best advice to date!  If I could only recommend one book to an aspiring baker, this would be it.

2. Barefoot Contessa Foolproof - My love for Ina knows no bounds, and her latest offering only confirms my adoration.  Reliable recipes, satisfying meals, and easy entertaining are the hallmarks of Ina's food philosophy.  I especially love her tips for planning a party, down to a table layout and timeline leading up to the meal.  Lists are a host's best friend!

3. The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook - Like Martha's book, if I could only recommend one book to an aspiring cook, this would be it.  America's Test Kitchen doesn't assume that the reader knows everything and provides hundreds (maybe thousands?) of helpful photos.  Recipes for all skill levels and appetites.

4. Michael Symon's 5 in 5 - I once thought Chef Symon was only capable of making fancy and complex dishes from watching him on Iron Chef, but learned his cooking can also be incredibly approachable and downright easy.  He's one of my newest food crushes, thanks to his new show The Chew.  This book has been a savior for weeknight dinners in our home!

5. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays - If Martha is the queen mother and Ina the queen, Ree is absolutely the princess in cowboy boots, new to the royal food court.  I'm a regular reader of her blog and can't get enough of her show on Food Network.  I think the reason she's become so successful is because she cooks what we really want to eat!  Hearty dishes that can feed a small family or a big crowd come together with helpful shortcuts and her signature wit.  Summary: I love this book so!

Bonus: Cookbook holder - Matt got this for me a few years ago, and I can't tell you how useful it is.  Keeps cookbooks open and protects them from flying batter and sizzling oil!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cinnamon nut diamonds

I'm so excited to share this recipe with you because it means I get to gush about two of my most favorite things in the universe: my mom and cookies.

I've told you how my mom goes overboard with holidays in the best possible way.  She makes her own cards, wears the cutest seasonal pins, records every holiday special on TV, and decorates nearly every inch of the house.  We tease her and say that "Christmas threw up" (or Halloween or Easter) but honestly love it and wouldn't have the holidays any other way.

However, at Christmas, there's one tradition that reigns supreme and it's what my mom looks forward to the most after all the trimming is finished -- the cookie baking.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: My 20 must-have kitchen tools & toys!

Christmas is exactly 15 days away!  How's your holiday to-do list looking at this moment?  Mine is in decent shape since I've mailed the cards and completed roughly half of my gift shopping.  I'm hoping to finish most of the shopping this weekend, so I can focus entirely on my favorite activity -- baking.

If you're coming up empty-handed trying to think of gift ideas for the kitchen enthusiast in your life -- or need to add a few items to your own wish list, ahem -- here are 20 of my must-have tools and toys for bakers and cooks of all skill levels.  I own every single one and couldn't imagine my life in the kitchen without them.  Happy shopping :)

1. Mini spatulas

2. Silicone baking mat

3. Crock Pot

4. Griddler

5. Goldtouch nonstick baking sheet

6. Non-slip cutting boards, small and large

7. All-Clad frying pan

8. Cake/cupcake carrier

9. Pizza stone

10. (Pretty) stock pot

11. Classic chef's knife

12. & 13.  Stainless steel measuring cups & spoons

14. Mesh sugar shaker

15. Cake stand/punch bowl

16. Small (1.5 quart) nonstick saucepan with lid

17. Mini food chopper

18. Glass pie dish

19. Individual ramekin dishes

20. Cookie scoop - my very favorite!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sausage & gnocchi soup

Remember that time I was totally spontaneous and made the most amazing soup on the fly?

Yeah, me neither.  Not the second part, but certainly the first.  The part about being spontaneous.  The part that involved no forethought or planning.

Yes, it's really me.  And, no, I haven't been brainwashed by aliens.

Have you ever been craving something but weren't sure exactly what that something was?  Psychologists, doctors, and those crazy coaches on The Biggest Loser might insist that feeling is merely boredom and you're not really hungry.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fast Friday: Bistecca alla Pizzaiola (steaks pizza style)

It's Friday!  And, on this fabulous Friday, I approach you sheepishly and ask for your forgiveness.

For what?

For keeping this recipe from you for much too long.

I could say it was an accident.  That I didn't plan on hoarding this recipe.  That I did everything in my power to share this deliciousness with you, come Hell or high water.  But my silence was very much intentional.

When I first made this, it seemed too simple to warrant an official recipe and proper blog post.  Sure was delicious and knocked our socks off, though.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pumpkin gingersnaps

I shared this recipe in 2010 when I made these cookies for the first time.  Since then, I've looked forward to making them each holiday season, and this year is no different.  I baked the first batch last night and, after one two three helpings, was reminded why these ginger snaps are some of my favorite seasonal cookies.  The pumpkin and molasses are such a unique combination and create a cookie that's chewy and full of spice!

Just in time for the season of baking and sharing, I thought this recipe deserved a little love and attention.  Here's (most of) the original post and how to make it:

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?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Baked Tuscan mac & cheese

Hey there and happy December!  It feels good to be back after the Thanksgiving holiday.  I put a few vacation days to good use and treated myself to an extra long weekend.  It's incredible what you can find time to do with 6 days away from the office.  (Think I'll remember what to do when I return tomorrow?)

There was so much time with family cooking, relaxing by the fire, and eating.  On Friday, we froze our tails off at the Pitt game, but it was worth it to enjoy time with our friends.  Matt and I even caught the new Hunger Games movie (so good!) and decked our halls with Christmas decorations.

So much fun and most of it was fueled by Thanksgiving leftovers.  Turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, spoonfuls of stuffing right out of the refrigerator... ahem.

Friday, November 29, 2013

8 Recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers

Happy post-Thanksgiving, y'all!  Hope yours was delicious and Today is so many different things, and it all depends upon whom  you ask.

Black Friday.  May the force be with you, brave shoppers.

Cleaning day.  Because who really wants to do dishes on Thanksgiving night?

Gym day.  Indulge and enjoy!  And then sweat a little... so you can indulge in leftovers.

Decorating day.  Christmas season is officially here... squee!

Turkey sandwich day.  To many, leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving.

But, the leftovers need not be boring.  Move over, basic turkey and mayo sandwiches.  Here are some over the top and creative turkey sandwiches, plus a few more recipes to spice up the mountain of turkey meat hanging out your fridge just waiting to be eaten

Not your mama's turkey sandwiches

Cozy soups by the spoonful - swap out the shredded/diced chicken for turkey!

Casseroles - simply use shredded white and dark meat in place of the original protein

Whatever today is for you, I hope it's enjoyable.  Savor the holiday weekend!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

MTO breakfast egg sandwiches

I first posted this recipe over 3 years ago in 2010, and it's still one of our favorite breakfast options at home.  It's quick and easy (perfect for those still buzzing about getting ready) and doesn't require any fancy ingredients.  Plus, it can be personalized to suit any appetite: only egg whites, various cheeses and breads, hot sauce, etc.  I thought you guys would appreciate one more fuss-free breakfast option to keep you, your family, and guests satisfied on today and/tomorrow morning before the big turkey feast.  Have it your way!  

And, from our home to yours, I wish all of you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!  :)

Here's (most of) the original post and how to make it:

After succumbing to laziness, sore muscles, and a serious lack of sleep on Monday morning and skipping my run, my sneaks and I returned to glory this morning.  Two miles, though they were a little slower than usual.  Hey, it's the thought that counts, right?

After a good shower, I needed a breakfast that counted for some serious nutrition for my morning: a breakfast sandwich.  And no, I didn't run back out to the Einstein's Bagels, Panera Bread, or even Wendy's just down the street from me.  I whipped up my protein packed meal in my own kitchen.

Remember that breakfast panini that I got last year sometime? "This is so much better than that!"  And no, I can't think of a better way to start your day than by watching a clip like that :)

Breakfast sandwich

Coat small (cereal size will do) microwave-safe bowl in nonstick spray.

Crack and gently whisk one egg in bowl, just enough to mix yolk and white.

Season with salt and pepper, if you like.  "Nuke" egg in bowl for roughly 1 minute (if you have a super strong microwave, it may be closer to 50 seconds).  While it's microwaving, toast two slices of bread, a bagel, or a sandwich thin (what I used).

Remove egg (it should slide right out of the bowl) onto one side of whatever you've toasted.  Add a slice of your favorite cheese, I used cheddar, but American or any other kind will do.

Add some spinach or maybe a slice of tomato or two, if you like.  Top with other half of sandwich thin and take a second to admire the beauty of what you've just created... and hey, it's only 7:15!

Imagine what you can do the rest of the day.  Oh goodness, look at that cheese oozing out and the crunch of the bread and the spinach.  Yum!

Bonus -- you've only dirtied three items: the egg bowl, a fork, and your final plate.  Double that if you had settled for a much more time-consuming omelet.  Happy hump day!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thankful for an easy Crock Pot breakfast!

Heading out to the store for the last-minute trip to pick up the items you forgot?

Yeah, we've all done it.  I'll probably be there tomorrow afternoon with my mom.  Every year we make this trip and laugh at the things we've forgotten.  List of passed over items in the past include cranberry sauce, butter, onions, and even stuffing mix -- eek!  Any guesses as to what we'll forget this year?

From one forgetful Fran to another, here's one more recipe for ya to make sure breakfast isn't overlooked:

Crock Pot breakfast casserole!

Add a few more things to that list to have a fuss-free and satisfying breakfast on Thursday morning that'll hold everyone over until the big meal.

Bonus: It cooks overnight in the Crock Pot and won't take up any valuable counter space or pots and pans.  In our house, kitchen tools are at a premium on Thanksgiving day.

Set it and forget it until dawn, then scoop out a big helping and chow down.  It's like a breakfast lasagna with layers of potatoes, eggs, sausage, and cheese.  The perfect meal to fuel a day of cooking!

...and more eating :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

5 ingredient Crock Pot ham & bean soup

Ham and navy bean soup is one of my favorite soups in the universe.  I've been eating it since I was young, when my dear mom made it.  As soon as I moved out and had to fend for myself, I started making it, too.

For those keeping track, that's over 25 years of soup enjoyment, 10 years of which were thanks to yours truly, and zero mention of it in over 4 years of blogging.  To sum it up, shame on me for not sharing.

This is the ultimate everyday soup.  Regardless of the rhyme or reason, it's one of those recipes that warrants the reaction, "That would be perfect!"

Friday, November 22, 2013

30 Thanksgiving side & dessert recipes

Happy Friday to all of you!  Oddly enough, today seems like Monday, thanks to back-to-back weeknights out and about.

My dad was lucky enough to score tickets for the Pitt basketball game on Wednesday night.  It was his first game and mine for many years, so we had a blast cheering for our opposing alma maters.  Then, last night was the long-awaited girls' night out for dinner and Potted Potter!  Our food at Meat & Potatoes was totally worth the hype, and the show itself was hilarious.  The two actors/comedians were funny and energetic and most likely exhausted after cramming all 7 books into a 70 minute show.

This weekend will be a relaxing one; the calm before the delicious storm, if you will.  The only thing on our agenda is light-up night, which is near and dear to my heart.  Other than that, we'll just be bumming around and possibly catching up on laundry.  Like so many of you, we'll hit the grocery store to stock up on a few things for the Thanksgiving meal.  We're headed to my parents' house this year, and my mom put me in charge of the green bean casserole (recipe below!) and pumpkin pie.

If you've been reading this week, you know that I've shared with you three rockin' recipes to consider for your Thanksgiving feast: sweet potato biscuits, warm farro salad with butternut squash, hazelnuts, and cranberries, and sweet potato pie.  Basically, everything but the turkey!  Before you brave the crowds and head to the store, here are 30 more recipes for you to consider adding to your Thanksgiving day spread.  There's something to please every palate.  Bon appetit and bon weekend!

Sumptuous Sides

Perfect Pies

Delicious Desserts

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sweet potato pie

It's Thursday and you know what that means.  Exactly one week from today is Thanksgiving!  The day when home cooks across America will be glazing, stuffing, roasting, and even frying turkeys of all sizes for the ultimate feast.  I cannot wait!

Today is also the third and final day of new recipes for delicious dishes to add to your turkey day buffet.  The theme is "Everything But The Turkey" since the bird is the easiest and most obvious component of the meal.  Plus, side dishes and desserts afford us the chance to be creative.

So far this week, I've given you recipes for fluffy sweet potato biscuits and irresistable warm farro salad with butternut squash, hazelnuts, and cranberries.  Today is time for dessert, last but most certainly not least.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Everything but the turkey: Farro with butternut squash & cranberries

It's day #2 of "Everything but the turkey" week around here, and boy, have I got a doozy of a recipe for you.  The bread basket is taken care of, thanks to the fluffiest sweet potato biscuits I shared with you on Monday.

Today's recipe is a true side dish that's got a little something to please everybody.  It's packed with as many mouth-watering flavors as it is healthy ingredients.  The name is a bit of a mouthful, but you won't be able to stop talking about it once you try it: warm farro salad with butternut squash & hazelnuts! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Everything but the turkey: Sweet potato biscuits

Thanksgiving is just over one week away.  Can you believe it?  No offense to Santa, but the lists made in the next few days are the most important of the year -- the grocery lists!

"Turkey" is probably the top-most entry on that list, but what comes after that?  What delicious foods will keep the turkey company on your plate?  Side dishes seem to vary from one family to the next.  Some recipes are steeped in tradition, having a reserved spot on the buffet for generations and generations.  Other tables look different every year, thanks to inventive new recipes and appetites for change.

I have a tiny (or monstrous) confession: side dishes are my favorite part of the Thanksgiving spread!  Of course, I enjoy and devour my fair share of turkey (Team White Meat!), but my heart belongs to the supporting cast.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Five: Pre-turkey amusement

It's been one heck of a week, hasn't it?  I feel like every last hour has been devoted to this, that, and the other thing, leaving me only a few idle moments to be spontaneous.  I enjoyed those moments the best way I knew how: gazing outside at the first snow (!) of the season and curling up on the couch to watch a little TV.  Is there a better hour of television than the New Girl/The Mindy Project block on Fox Tuesday nights?  I think not!

Despite eating breakfast standing up twice and mastering the art of the 5 minute shower (how do some women do this every day?  I salute you!), I'm feeling full of energy heading into the weekend.  After looking at the calendar, I'm hoping to maintain this Energizer Bunny feeling for the next two weeks.  We've got so much planned before the turkey even hits the table.  Here is this week's Friday Five: mega fun activities leading up to Thanksgiving!  

1. Chili after church - This weekend is Commitment Sunday, when members pledge their tithings for the next year.  After the service, everyone gathers for fellowship and a potluck to feast on chili, cornbread, and desserts.  Last year there were nearly 30 Crock Pots filled to the brim with piping hot chili of all varieties.  Can you imagine how it smelled?!  The most unique I saw was elk chili.  I'm contributing a double batch of my favorite pumpkin cornbread since it was such a hit last year.  Check out any one of my chili recipes to have a feast of your own this weekend!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cashew Crunch Rice Krispie treats

Would you believe me if I said I forgot how great Rice Krispie treats are?

I'm not kidding, I swear!  And no, I don't have amnesia.

I just tend to get caught up in new and fanciful desserts.  Basically, shiny object syndrome with regards to sweets.  There isn't enough time or room in my stomach for all of my sugar-coated ideas!  Food blogger problems, right?

But seriously.  Rice Krispie treats are the best.  I admit they aren't typically the first thing that comes to mind when I'm brainstorming, though I can't for the life of me figure out why.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Orange balsamic slow cooker roast

My husband will eat almost anything I make, from the dainty to the exotic and hard to pronounce.  His is an appetite that's very easy to please.  But, when push comes to shove, his appetite is easily satisfied.  When I ask what he wants for dinner, his response is simple and predictable: "Beef and potatoes."

How terribly unoriginal and stereotypically male, right?

Let's be clear about one thing: I love beef.  Love love love it!  There's nothing like it.  No amount of salmon in the world can satisfy me when I'm craving beef.  That's easy to see considering the umpteen recipes featuring ground beef that I've posted over the years.  Sandwiches, lasagna, sauces, meatballs and meatloaves!

Personally, I prefer to eat my beef in the form of a burger.  It's no coincidence that burgers come with fluffy rolls, sauce, and usually cheese.  Always cheese, in my case. I'll take a burger over a steak any day of the week.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fast Friday: Creamy avocado pasta with peas

How's everybody feeling?  It's Friday, and I'm feelin' free!  So free that I'm going to confess a few things to you.  These are my confessions.  [Cue the Usher tunes.]

On Wednesday this week, November 6th, it was a balmy and sunny 72 degrees here in Pittsburgh.  It was lovely and nice and made for a pleasant lunchtime walk!


I prefer the cooler and grayer weather of yesterday and today, at least this time of year.  My summer clothes were stashed weeks ago, and I'm totally enjoying getting reacquainted with my thick sweaters and plush scarves.

Talk of bundling up leads to my next confession.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cookbook giveaway + pumpkin biscottini!

***This contest is closed.  Congratulations to Valerie, the winner!***

(If this is your first visit here, welcome and thanks for stopping by!)

It's time to transition from spooky Halloween treats to cozy Thanksgiving feasts, friends!

The sweet writers and food aficionados at the PG Plate & Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently invited me to review a new cookbook that they figured would be right up my alley:

I had the privilege of baking (and devouring) number of treats from the book and every single one has been a showstopper!  To read my full review, click here.

Oh, and did I mention you'll also find a recipe for the most delectable pumpkin biscottini?  I mean, just look at these:

Sweet pumpkin-y goodness.  I really wish I'd baked a double batch of those so I could enjoy some later right this minute.  If you're hungry  for pumpkin biscottini and more bite-size Italian desserts, then I've got some good news for you:

I'm giving away one (1) copy of Maria Bruno Sanchez's new cookbook, Small, Sweet, and Italian: Tiny Tasty Treats from Sweet Maria's Bakery.  Hooray, free stuff!

To enter, leave a comment with your name, e-mail address, and an Italian dessert that you'd love to make in your own kitchen.

Limit one comment per person, please.  You have until Sunday, November 10th, at 11:59 PM EST, to enter.  One winner will be randomly selected using Random.org and contacted.  Comments and your e-mail addresses will be deleted after the contest ends.

Good luck and be sure to check out my review of the cookbook and the pumpkin biscottini recipe!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

8 more recipes for leftover Halloween candy!

Looking for some creative ways to use up any lingering Halloween candy?  If my peanut butter blossom cookies or divine M&M frosting for cupcakes didn't polish off the surplus -- can we be neighbors, by the way? --  here are 8 more fantastic recipes that'll satisfy your sweet tooth!

Crispy Butterfinger cookies

Butterfinger caramel bars 

Pretzel-bottom Snickers blondies
Trail mix Rice Krispie treats

M&M cookies

Peanut butter cup crunch brownies

Two ingredient ice cream - add any and all candy you've got!

Nutella Kiss cookies

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

M&M frosted cupcakes

Raise your hand if you've got Halloween candy lying around the house.  And by "lying around the house" I mean "desperately stashed in cabinets to get it out of sight."

We don't get trick-or-treaters in our apartment building, but you wouldn't know it from looking at our stash of candy.  Office celebrations and his and hers treat bags from my sweet mother (thanks, Mom!) have kept us sugar-coated for the better part of a week.

A week that also saw the return of the magical migrating candy bowl.  You know how it goes, don't you?

The candy bowl initially occupied the entry way table.  Nothing says "Welcome home!" quite like a piece of chocolate.  Coincidentally, chocolate also says, "So much for that workout!"

Monday, November 4, 2013

Peanut butter candy blossoms

I've had this idea for cookies since early summer but just now got around to making it.  And, for once, it's not because I forgot about it or lost the recipe in the black hole that is my recipe collection.

My decision to wait was a conscious one.  Now that's scary.

It's not like I didn't think about these cookies at least once a week.  Yes, I'm always thinking about food, but these really took center stage for a few months.

I've been enjoying classic peanut blossoms for as long as I can remember, and they come with such wonderful memories.  My mom makes dozens of them every year around Christmas.  And my dad, always the helpful one, is sure to squash at least two or three of the Kisses atop the cookies to stake his claim.  He jokes that my mom bakes so much for friends and family that we never get to enjoy any cookies for ourselves.  However, let me assure you, we absolutely do get some and devour every last one of them.

Friday, November 1, 2013

October in pictures

Annual trip to Soergel's Orchards for pumpkins, apples, and so many treats!  It was nearly 80 degrees on the day we went.

I can't get over how pretty the grounds are.

Men and fresh apple cider doughnuts.  Serious business, clearly.  None of us could resist them.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Harvest chicken quinoa stew

Looking back on 4 years of blogging and all that I've made, I've come across recipes that I loved so dearly and questioned why I don't cook more frequently.  I first posted this recipe a year ago in 2012 when kale and quinoa were relatively new to me.  If only I'd known then how much I would love kale now.  I made it last week and thought that everyone, everywhere (especially you West Coast folks who are dealing with unseasonably cold air!) would appreciate a recipe for a warming and stick-to-your-ribs kind of healthy stew.  Plus, it's just so gosh darn pretty!  And, yes, I still stand by what I said then: I'd take a bunch of kale over a bouquet of flowers any day of the week.

Here's the original post and how to make it:

You might have noticed that I'm on a few food kicks lately (i.e. pumpkin). Well, you can rest easy that this isn't another pumpkin recipe.  It's a kale recipe!

Things between kale and I have gotten really serious these past few weeks.  Spinach used to be my main squeeze, but kale is really coming on strong.  And I love it.

If I were in 6th grade (pre-cell phone era), I'd be stealthily passing kale folded pieces of notebook paper.  On it would be scribbled notes like, "Do you want to be my boyfriend?  Circle one of these: Yes  No  Maybe   Pass back before recess."

If we were in high school, I'd be lingering by kale's locker, batting my eyelashes as he returned from gym class.  (That kale, he's such a fitness nut.)

And, if we were working adults, I'd be in full swoon mode when a lovely bouquet of kale showed up at my office unannounced.  All of the other ladies would be jealous.  Flowers are so last season, boyfriends and husbands of the world.  Kale is in.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

11 Frighteningly delicious Halloween recipes!

Whether you're going out to chaperone the kids as they travel around the neighborhood asking for candy or you're cuddled up with your warmest blanket for a scary movie marathon at home, I wanted to share some of my most favorite recipes, perfect for your last minute All Hallows Eve menu!

Breakfasts good enough to awaken even the dead: