Friday, May 31, 2013

Fast Friday: Whipped peanut butter frosting

Remember that time I raved about spreadable culinary gold and delish salmon tostadas?  Not to take anything away from it because, well, it totally is spreadable culinary gold.  Specifically of the savory variety.  Love that stuff!

Ooooooh.  Speaking of that stuff, how about this for a delicious brainstorm -- the black bean and salsa spread as "sauce" for a Mexican-inspired pizza.  Right?!

Anyway, when I gushed about the recipe, gold was the first luxury item that came to mind.  But, I should've realized that there are more precious things.  Shinier things.  Brighter things.  Like diamonds!  Diamonds are a girl's best friend, y'all.

Turns out there's a reason diamonds weren't on my brain when I wrote about salmon tostadas.  It's because the universe knew that, days later, I'd whip up something so rich, so easy, and so lick-your-fingers-delicious that I'd need to use a new phrase to describe it.  "Spreadable culinary diamonds."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


A little something different for today.  This reminds me of the absurd and oh-so-much-fun email surveys I exchanged with friends in junior high school.  I'd like to say I'm wiser and mature-er, but that's up for debate.      I'm just in a sharing kind of mood and hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did filling it out.  Copy and paste the whole thing and share with friends or leave a comment and share with some new friends and me!

Come on, you know you're having a tough time getting back to work/everyday responsibilities after the long holiday weekend, too ;)

Current Book(s): 
I just finished Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling and totally loved it.  I'm talking laugh-out-loud-by-yourself-while-reading kind of funny.  It's a quick and easy read (perfect beach material!), and I finished it in 2 days.  Now, I want all of my friends to read it so we can quote Mindy together.  I'm about to start The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared for my office book club.  I have no idea what to expect, but the reviews are good and the title certainly caught my attention.  

Current Music:  
The soundtrack for the weekend was KISS's party pod radio, which had a delightful number of 90s pop hits.  Salt 'n Peppa, anyone?  But this week, I've settled into a nice Tom Petty groove in anticipation of his upcoming concert that I'm stoked to attend!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Salmon tostadas

Recently, I professed my love for chicken.  We eat it for dinner at least three nights a week, sometimes more.  Grilled, stir-fried, baked, breaded, sauced, shredded, poached, and any other way you can cook it.  It's one of the best culinary canvases, bar none.  I love it... but something else has a true hold on my heart (and stomach).


Pitter patter goes my heart.  I can't tell you when my salmon journey began, but dates are irrelevant.  All you need to know is that salmon is my hands-down favorite meat/poultry/fish/protein.  If I were forced to pick only three foods I could eat for the rest of my life, salmon would be one of them.  In fact, it's the only one that hasn't changed over the years.

(If you're curious, the other two fluctuate frequently, but right now I'd probably say strawberries and mozzarella cheese.  Avocado and kale are close runners-up.)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

27 Delicious & easy recipes for Memorial Day!

Happy early weekend to you, friends!

I know it's only Thursday, but I'm taking tomorrow off to extend the holiday weekend to 4 days, so today feels like Friday.  I recently discovered that I'm approaching the maximum number of vacation hours, so I figured I better start using some of it.  (Apologies if you're working tomorrow -- the day will breeze by in no time, I promise!)  As great as that sounds, returning to work on Tuesday is going to be rough.  First world problems, right? :)

To be honest, this entire week has seemed like an extension of last weekend's staycation.  The weather has been downright tropical --  sunny! humid! 90+ degrees!  I've been outside every chance I get, soaking it up.  Yesterday, I spent my lunch hour in the park reading my latest library book --  Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling.  That lady certainly has a way with words and is absolutely hilarious.  I was officially that person who was reading and laughing out loud in public.  I'm only three chapters in, and I'd already recommend it to everyone!

Whether you're hanging out with a big group of folks or having a party for one, I've hand-picked some fabulous eats that will help you kick off the weekend and get into the spirit of summer.  27 yummy recipes for May 27th!  Whatever you're doing and wherever you'll be, be thoughtful, be thankful, and be happy.  Enjoy Memorial Day!

Small bites

Fresh salads

Burgers & grillers

Sweet treats

Want more recipes?  Use the handy dandy search bar or the labels to the right to find just what you're looking for!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mt. Dew cake

When it comes to Mt. Dew, I think there are two kinds of people.  People who love it, swear by it, and would hook themselves up to an IV of it if they could.  And people who just... well, don't get what the fuss is about.

I'm of the latter mindset.  In my lifetime, I've had two sips of the sugary electric yellow drink.  The first time was in high school when friends and I were at the movies.  My friend asked if I wanted any, and I told her I'd never tried it.  From the look on her face, you could've sworn I told her I hated animals, dessert, and happiness.

(BTW, does anyone else out there take issue with folks who say they don't like animals or dessert?  To each his own, but I just don't trust people like that.  It's... weird.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lighter old fashioned meatloaf

Springtime Summertime seems to be in full swing around these parts, and I'm totally on board!  The will-it-or-won't-it weather of spring is not my jam, so I'm loving these super sunny and nearly-hot days of the past week plus.

This weekend, Matt planted cherry tomato seedlings and transferred the flourishing basil to bigger pots.  I'm so, so, soooooooooooo excited to devour the fruits of his labor.  Homemade pesto!  Fresh salsa!  Basil cookies!  And, my oh my, caprese salads.  I could legitimately eat the classic combination of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella every day for the entire summer.  I love it!

Alas, it isn't yet technically summer for another month, and those little seedlings aren't ready to feed us.  But my appetite has switched over to summer mode, and I'm craving fresher dinners.  Like meatloaf!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Springtime staycation!

Was that today or yesterday? 

And so goes the question I asked myself again and again this weekend.  In other words, there was so much fun jam-packed into three days that I could've sworn I'd been off work for an entire week.  Many, many good times were had :)  And, those good times were had all over this glorious city of bridges -- I hit 10 different neighborhoods, 5 on my run alone.  Staycation!

Friday got off to an early start (6:00... without an alarm, ugh!) with a few chores before a glorious 8-mile run in the sun! The rest of the day flew by: I baked a cake (recipe to come this week), watched TV and read, had friends over for said cake, brews, playoff hockey, and hit the hay after midnight.  Wild child alert!

A cup of green tea and a homemade breakfast sandwich, and we were off to savor Saturday.  We headed to the North Side of the city to the Mexican War Streets area for a neighborhood-wide yard sale.  But not before a quick stop at the bank to get cash and free lollipops.

The weather could not have been better for a day spent outdoors: sunny, almost 80 degrees, and a light breeze!  While yard sales aren't really my thing (I did score this doughnut pan for $1), Laura and Matt had quite a knack for spotting treasures and bargaining.  Matt bought a few books, terra cotta planters, and a telescope.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Five: What else I cook

Friday!  Are you feelin' fine?  Fancy?  Free?  I'll take D. "All of the above."  :)

I'm off today and have only one mission: clean out my closet.  I did spring cleaning around the apartment a few weeks ago but left my closet for a later time.  That thing is going to require an entire day, possibly more!  Specifically sorting out its contents into keep, fix/clean, donate piles.  Time to get wool sweaters and coats to the dry cleaners before I pack them away until next season.  Mother Nature screwed surprised us with two unseasonably cold days earlier this week, but I think warmer weather is here to stay.  Glass half full attitude, right?

Much like the three piles of items from my closet, the dishes I cook on a regular basis fall into three categories, too: new recipes that are blog-worthy and will be photographed; tried and true favorites that have already been featured; and new recipes that are enjoyed but simply not documented.

The last group is a funny bunch because, more often than not, the resulting dishes are delicious but not shared with you for one reason or another.  It might be because the recipe might seem too simple to even be deemed a recipe.  Usually, however, it's because I have self-imposed blog-free meals and don't take the time to photograph while I'm cooking.  As much as I love ya and this blog, sometimes a gal needs a night off to just enjoy the food.

That being said, just because I didn't photograph the recipes doesn't mean I won't share them with ya.  Hope you enjoy this week's edition of Friday Five!

1. Mango chipotle tuna salad via Starkist's website - My sister's boyfriend works for Starkist and occasionally gives us different samples to try.  This time it was a pouch of hickory smoked tuna (who knew?!).  I went straight to Starkist's website and found the recipe for this salad and, boy, did it deliver.  Such fresh summery flavors and the fastest prep ever!  At least I had enough thought to snap a picture before I dug in.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cranberry and walnut chicken salad

I feel like chicken tonight this week!  I've got one more chicken recipe to share with you, and it's a tried and true classic: chicken salad.  If the curried chicken salad recipe was the rebellious, leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding teenager, this recipe is its clean-cut, all-American, jeans-and-polo-shirt-wearing older brother.

Reminds me of neighbors from my childhood -- can you guess which brother I had a major crush on?

I've made this chicken salad at least 20 times in recent years and keep returning to it, again and again.  Just. So. Delicious!  It's creamy and slightly sweet, loaded with all kinds of goodies and textures.  Crunchy celery, salty walnuts, and sweet and chewy cranberries.

I made and served this for our Mother's Day lunch, and, as expected, it was a hit with everyone.  Some enjoyed it sandwiched between fluffy potato rolls and others dolloped scoops onto iceberg lettuce leaves and wrapped and crunched their way through the meal.  I highly recommend both methods.

If macaroni and cheese is winter's ultimate comfort food, classic chicken salad is most certainly that of spring!

One year ago: Garlic salmon with tomato basil relish
Two years ago: Steak and goat cheese sandwiches
Three years ago: Ham apple and brie sandwich

Cranberry and Walnut Chicken Salad
(adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Gourmet)
-makes 6-8 servings

4 cups cubed (1/2 inch) cooked chicken
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup small diced celery
1 shallot, small diced
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (white wine vinegar is fine, too)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 Tablespoon dried tarragon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Serve and enjoy! Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.  (It gets even better overnight, I promise!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Chicken meatball subs

Whenever I think of meatballs, I get this warm fuzzy feeling all over.  My stresses melt away, my mind becomes clear, and my stomach and mouth smile simultaneously.  I mean, meatballs, guys!

I think it's safe to say that meatballs make nearly everyone happy.  They've inspired movies, games, and even songs.  Okay, so that song isn't the most cheerful, but it's mourning tone confirms what I said about meatballs: everybody loves 'em!  

While I won't deny that meatballs are great atop a plate of pasta, sometimes I want less fuss and more meatball.  I can't be the only one who finds it slightly frustrating to have a bite of meatball on the end of my fork and can't seem to get the pasta twirled around it to stay in place long enough to travel to my mouth.  I end up ditching the pasta and saving it for another bite; it's delicious but not the most ideal vessel.  Meatballs or bust!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Curried chicken salad

Good morning!  I hope all of you had a fabulous weekend.  I want to wish a belated happy Mother's Day to all the deserving ladies out there!  My very own mom and dad visited Pittsburgh yesterday for a lunch that my sister and I hosted at our apartment.  We included some of her favorite recipes, one of which I plan to share with you this week.  It was a relaxing afternoon spent with the people I love most -- doesn't get much better than that!

Speaking of ladies, it's fitting that Mother's Day should lead off what I've determined will be Chick Week around these parts.  Chicken, to be exact :) 

A few months ago, I read an article proclaiming chicken to be the most popular animal protein in America.  That didn't come as any surprise since I know we are a chicken-loving household.  We also eat a fair amount of fish, pork products, and ground beef, but chicken takes the cake.  (That sounds weird, but you know what I mean, right?)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fast Friday: Strawberry banana protein smoothie

Being a baker, cook, and food blogger is so much fun.  For reals.  So.Much.Fun!  I'm able to create, eat, and share with you things that I enjoy and love so dearly.  So, thanks for giving me a place to do those things and for reading :)

But I feel that there are a few misconceptions I should clear up about my life as a food blogger.

First, while many think Matt is "the luckiest guy ever" to have a wife who loves cooking (BTW, he is - ha!), he's also required to be very patient.  Normal meals involve cooking, plating, and eating, but there's one additional time-consuming step in our household: photographing the food.

Poor Matt lingers beside me as I hover, pivot, and mumble about the lighting while trying to get the perfect shot.  It's not unusual for us to reheat then-lukewarm food in the microwave when it's finally time to eat.  #iamashamed

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Because it's Thursday.

Because it's been a busy week.

Because I feel silly.

Because this made me giggle.

Because I want you to giggle and feel silly, too.

Stop what you're doing and take a moment to appreciate the little things.  I appreciate you!  Have a sweet day :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Avocado chicken parmigiana

I'm totally digging this seasonal eating thing!  One of my goals for 2013 has been to eat more seasonal produce and challenge myself to enjoy ingredients in new and creative ways.

It's not that I didn't eat fresh fruits and vegetables when they were in season, it's just that I didn't gravitate toward them when planning meals and doing weekly shopping.  It's been an eye-opening experience in so many good ways.  Would you believe that produce not only costs less but tastes better at the peak of its growing season?  Gasp!  How convenient :)

Plus, trying things outside of my comfort zone has introduced me to so many amazing foods -- items that I couldn't imagine living without now.  Like asparagus.  And tomatillos.  And, ohmygosh, kale!  Be still my fluttering heart.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Strawberry jam crumb bars

There's something about running that really makes me want to bake.  Specifically, watching other people run.

I want to show my support for them.  I want to clap my hands, shout and cheer for them!  I want to somehow give them all of my energy when theirs is in short supply so they can feel refreshed and have the strength to stride toward the finish line.  

And, when I've clapped, shouted, and even chased down a few friends for sweaty hugs and high fives, I'm famished!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Five: Cinco de Mayo eats

Friday!  At time of posting, I'll be in Maryland at my grandma's house.  My parents, aunt, uncle, and I are spending the day doing some spring cleaning and painting while new carpet is installed in two rooms.  A little elbow grease and quality bonding time is so much better than any day at the office, don't you think?  That and the chance that Grandma may have a pan of her famous Oreo dessert waiting in the freezer for us ;)  Fun family Friday for the win!

It'll be a quick trip for us, since I'll be back late Friday night, just in time to enjoy the weekend.  A weekend full of variety: a baby shower, the Pittsburgh marathon (only cheering this year), a long run of my own, out of town visitors, and Cinco de Mayo celebrations on Sunday!

While there's no real reason I should be celebrating Cinco de Mayo, there's also no reason I can't!  Much like St. Patrick's Day brings out the Irish in everyone, so does May 5th bring out the sense of Mexican pride in all of us.  That and it gives everyone a chance to reaffirm our love of Mexican cuisine and frosty margaritas.  Who doesn't love a good party?!

Wherever you are and whatever your background, I hope you enjoy this week's edition of Friday Five:  Cinco de Mayo dishes!

1. Beef taco salad

2. Taco turkey casserole

3. Slow cooker black bean soup

4. The ultimate chicken enchiladas

5. Pumpkin enchiladas

Enjoy your very own south of the border celebration.  Save a margarita for me, please :)  Happy Cinco de Mayo, friends!  And a special good luck to all of the runners participating in the Pittsburgh Marathon on Sunday!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

BBQ shrimp tacos

I had a plan for last night's dinner.  A plan that was laid out nearly a week ago when I channeled my future self and took educated guesses as to what I'd want to eat for the following week.  You know me and my plans -- we're likethis.

I also had plans to wake up and go to the gym before work every day this week.  But, when the alarm went off at 5:40, I swiftly got up, turned it off, and crawled back into bed... without managing to even open my eyes.  Apparently, I knew on Sunday night that I was going to be lazy this week, because I set a second alarm for 6:20, the time I wake up when I don't exercise in the morning.  I'm a sloth soothsayer!  (Say that five times fast.)

When did I become so utterly lazy?  As Matt said, "Who are you and what have you done with my wife?"

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Copycat Mad Mex chick pea chili

Last week, a group of us went out to celebrate our great friend Natalie's 29th birthday.  The birthday girl chose the place and, boy, did she choose wisely: Mad Mex!

Mad Mex is a local gem when it comes to Mexican food.  There are a few locations in western PA, one of which is nestled in the heart of Pitt's campus.  When I think of Mad Mex, I'm reminded of many nights we spent there during college, sipping on their famous margaritas.  Natalie always seemed to end up there after a pharmacy school exam, and many of us caved under pressure and joined her there, too.  :)  To this day, I have yet to taste a better and fresher strawberry margarita!

The food menu is totally overwhelming, partly because it's massive and partly because everything I've ever ordered has been delish.  Nachos, burritos, quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas... yum!  This particular evening I was craving something warm and satisfying but not too filling since there was dessert to be enjoyed after dinner.  (I brought homemade funfetti cupcakes for the birthday girl's treat!)