Thursday, October 30, 2014

Maple dijon roasted apples, potatoes, sprouts & sausage

Raise your hand if the fact that Halloween is tomorrow frightens you.  How is October nearly over?

Time is running out up for me to come up with a creative Halloween costume.  Our office party was earlier this week, and I really phoned it in with my getup.  I wore a black top and pants with an orange scarf, and declared myself "festive."  Thankfully, my office neighbor did the same thing.

As for the actual holiday tomorrow, we're spending the evening at our friends' house.  The men will be dishing out candy and attempting to spook the neighbors with their garage-turned-Ebola-quarantine-unit.  From the current e-mail chain, I get a sense they are going all in.  Requested items include white painting jumpsuits, face masks, goggles, biohazard stickers, and even cooked spaghetti and sausage to act as human internal organs.  Two quick thoughts: Gross, and what a waste of good food!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oreo cream cheese frosting & red velvet cupcakes

Goodness gracious, why didn't I do this sooner?

These cupcakes.  With this frosting!  It tastes like Oreo cheesecake.  How would you like a mini Oreo cheesecake atop a cupcake?

Ruminate on that for a moment while I digress.

(I tend to do that from time to time.  One of these days I'll cut to the chase, I swear.  Unfortunately for you, today is not that day.)

Halloween is just a few days away, which means Baking Season has begun... and I couldn't be happier.  Swimsuits have been stashed until next summer, and cozy wardrobe staples have taken center stage in my closet.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Meal plan + 5th blogging birthday!

You guys.  You guys!  Do you know what today is?

It's Monday.

Which is the first work day after the weekend.
And Matt's new night off from coaching .

It's also one of two nights out of the week that we eat at the dining room table (gulp).

It's Gotham night on TV.

And formerly Gossip Girl night (still love Blair Waldorf after all this time)

It can't possibly be the beginning of the last week of October... but it is.

Oh, and how could I forget?  It's my little blog's 5th birthday! :)  (You should make this cake to celebrate.)

Five years ago today, I stumbled around the interwebs, looking for an easy program to start what the kids were calling a "blog."  Five years ago today, I had zero followers, minimal skill, a hunger (both literal and figurative) to become a better baker and cook.  Five years ago today, I (a bit nervously) started sharing my adventures, successes, and mishaps.  Five years ago, I met you!

You wonderful people who have become my friends, cheerleaders, testers, critics, and supporters.  Thank you for reading, eating, and laughing along with me.  You've made this more fun than I ever could've imagined.

From the bottom of my heart (and stomach), thank you! :)

Here's last week's dinner menu.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for one more sweet Halloween treat!

Weekly Meals: October 19th - 25th

Sunday: Garlic, parsley & panko-crusted cod with corn & carrots
Monday: Burgers with sweet potato fries
Tuesday: Tomato basil chicken with pasta and roasted broccoli
Wednesday: Maple dijon roasted potatoes, apples & chicken sausage (recipe coming this week!)
Thursday: Garlic & rosemary pork chops with brown rice & green beans
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: (Tailgating - hot dogs & toppings bar, baked beans)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

20 Devilishly delicious Halloween treats

I'd planned on having a super cozy and soul-warming soup recipe for you today.  Spoiler alert: There is no soup recipe here.

Over the past week, I've been trying to recreate one of my favorite soups from a local restaurant.  Twice I've attempted, and twice my version of lemon chicken and rice soup has missed the mark.  It was better than okay but not good enough.  I'm not giving up on it, simply taking a break.  Soup for lunch five days in a row, anyone?

Instead of soup, let's talk about dessert!  Halloween is just 10 days out, and I'm making final adjustments to my sweet treats to various parties.  Since I suspect you're doing the same, I decided to crawl through the archives, spiderwebs and all, and pull out some of my favorite dessert recipes for this time of year.  Friends, beware!  These are so tasty it's frightening ;)

P.S. Check back next week for one more pint-sized spooky Halloween treat 
  • Black magic brownies - the newest recipe of the bunch that has dethroned my old favorite and become my go-to brownie 
  • Black bottom (cheesecake) cupcakes - Creamy and chocolatey together in one bite.  Need I say more?  No, but I will -- a little orange or even green food coloring would make these look so darn cool.
  • Chocolate chip cookie cake - This would be great to make for a kids' party.  Have various colors of frosting, sprinkles, and other candies and let them decorate before eating.  The idea may be mine, but I wash my hands clean of any mess that ensues.
  • Chocolate peanut butter pie - I don't mean to sound like a broken record but, again, orange food coloring would be a great addition, as would a a spiderweb made from drizzled rings of chocolate syrup (click here for the idea).
  • Glazed chocolate cake - Sprinkles on chocolate on chocolate.  This cake will tame even the angriest mob.
  • M&M frosted chocolate cupcakes -Some might say this is great to use up leftover candy after the holiday, but I know there are never any such leftovers in our kitchen.  So, plan to buy an extra bag and make these, pronto!
  • Mini Oreo cheesecakes - My girl (and world traveler!), Angela, is totally to thank for this recipe.  Mini, Oreo, and cheesecake.  All the things!  I've made them multiple times, but the Halloween version is still my favorite.
  • Pumpkin chocolate chip cake - It may be cake, but this oh-so-fluffy item is for breakfast, too.  Not that any of the other items on this list also wouldn't be fantastic when eaten in the morning, this is just a little more acceptable/justifiable.
  • Pumpkin gooey butter cakes - I tend to think of these closer to Thanksgiving because of their pie-like nature, but I think I'm going to buck that trend and make 'em next week.
  • Pumpkin spice cheesecake brownies - These brownies hold a special place in my heart (and stomach) because they are the first dessert recipe I shared with you almost five years ago.  Equally gorgeous and delicious.
  • Red velvet cake pops - Can't even handle how cute these are.  A little time-consuming but so worth it... unless you eat them in multiples of 3 like someone I know.  Ahem.
  • Triple chocolate mousse cake - Last but certainly not least, this showstopping cake would be perfect for an adult-only soiree since it's intensely chocolate and less sweet than regular chocolate cakes.  Can you say dec-a-dent?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Meal plan: Week of 10/12-10/18

Weekly Meals: October 5th - 11th

Sunday: Pumpkin & bean enchiladas
Monday: Slow cooker creamy pork chops with roasted Brussels sprouts
Tuesday: Sausage-stuffed acorn squash
Wednesday: Lemon chicken wild rice soup
Thursday: Slow cooker shredded beef sandwiches & the world's best macaroni and cheese
Friday: Pizza spaghetti squash
Saturday: Garlic-crusted salmon with tomato-basil relish and roasted broccoli

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Zingerman's black magic brownies

Until last night, these brownies were my favorite kind of homemade brownie.  Chewy, chocolatey, and oh-so-good.

They taste exactly like brownies made from a boxed mix, without all the funky ingredients and with the added bonus of being homemade.  It seems that the familiar taste and texture of semi-homemade brownies are what the masses desire and love.  You've gotta try them!

And then you've gotta make these black magic brownies.  Because they're my new favorite.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Meal plan: Week of 10/5-10/11

Weekly Meals: October 5th - 11th

Sunday: Sun-dried tomato parmesan salmon with steamed broccoli
Monday: Harvest apple chicken burgers with cranberry Stilton cheese & roasted green beans
Tuesday: Spaghetti, green beans & corn, cheesy garlic bread
Wednesday: Shredded beef & bean enchiladas
Thursday: Pasta with shrimp, peas & pesto
Friday: (Out to Butterjoint)
Saturday: Three bean & beef chili with cornbread

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Harvest apple chicken burgers with cranberry Stilton

Remember that time I bought 22 pounds of apples?  Yes, really.

I swear it didn't seem like that much at first.  Matt and I each filled a bag to our hearts' content.  He loaded up on softer apples like Cortlands, Empires, and McIntoshes.  I, however, went straight to the super firm and sweet Honeycrisps, Jonagolds, and Braeburns.  We checked out and lugged our haul up to the car before returning for pumpkins.

It was a storybook fall afternoon.  The air was cool but not cold, a light breeze scattered just-turning leaves all about, and everyone around us seemed to be in a cheerful mood.   We sipped on apple cider, feasted on barbecue and mac & cheese, sampled all sorts of apples, and wandered around (in our matching puffy vests) without a worry in the world.  Oh, and I got to sport my first heavy scarf of the season!  Can you think of a more perfect way to spend an afternoon?

We totally permitted ourselves to get swept up in the moment... and it was fantastic.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Meal plan: Week of 9/28-10/4

Welcome!  Hope you had a terrific weekend.  Mine was full of all sorts of fun adventures that seemed connected thanks to a numerical theme.  Here's what I've been up to, by the numbers:

  • 2 episodes into Gotham and I can say I'm hooked.  For those watching, how awesome is Jada Smith?!
  • 949 steps over 2.6 miles covered on this year's StepTrek.  Did you know that Pittsburgh has the most steps of any city in the United States?
  • 1 hail storm during aforementioned StepTrek.  It may have halted us for a few minutes, but we marched on.  HAIL, you guys!
  • 4 different kinds of meatballs sampled in 1 hour.  We celebrated a friend's 30th birthday on Saturday night at a local meatball-themed restaurant.  Thankfully, it's a great place for sharing plates.  My favorite meatball + sauce combo was (surprisingly) the vegetarian (made up of cauliflower, mushrooms, and white beans) with spinach-almond pesto.  TDF!
  • 750 cents, which bought two warm falll-themed drinks from Starbucks, for a fun afternoon getting to know my new church friend.  I was invited to be a mentor to a young member of this year's confirmation class.  After just one meeting, I can already tell that I"m going to love spending time with her.  She's sweet, dynamic, and a pretty talented photographer -- I'm hoping I can learn a thing or two from her.
  • 22 pounds of apples and 2 pumpkins purchased at a local orchard yesterday.  Get ready for loooots of new apple recipes.  I've got some great ideas up my sleeve.
  • 4 sticks of butter used and 4 pie crusts made yesterday in under 30 minutes.  The first apple recipe is a no-brainer.

Whatever your weekend tally, I hope it added up (see what I did there?) to a good time.  Have a great Monday!

Weekly Meals: September 28th - October 4th

Sunday: (Out to OTB Cafe)
Monday: Superfood salad with salmon
Tuesday: Slow cooker chicken enchilada soup
Wednesday: (Out to Butcher & the Rye)
Thursday: Garlic brown sugar chicken with parmesan kale & broccoli
Friday: Roasted tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
Saturday: (Out to Sienna Mercato)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Five: Chocolate chip cookies

Hey, look at that -- today is the first Friday of October!  Yet, somehow, I'm wearing a skirt sans tights/leggings and my neck is naked (a.k.a. scarf-less).  How is this possible?  Because Mother Nature seems to have missed the fall memo thus far.

However, the local weathermen and GMA's Ginger Zee (love the new low-lights, girl) have promised me cooler more seasonal temperatures for this weekend, and I plan to hold them to it!  I feel like I said a proper goodbye to summer last weekend and am more than ready for autumn.  Changing leaves, a chill in the air, and scarves for miles.

We're headed to a local orchard for its annual apple festival, which means this girl's going to go off the deep end and buy 20 pounds of apples (half Honeycrisps for her, half McIntoshes for him).  Yes, 20 pounds, really.  Homemade apple pie, here we come!

Thankfully, I've been giving our oven a good workout for the past week baking dozens of cookies.  I made chewy banana chocolate chip cookies (have you made them yet?!) and smells-like-Heaven-and-tastes-even-better orange chocolate chip cookies.  Chocolate chip cookies are the ultimate crowd-pleasing dessert, but sometimes it's fun to shake things up.  For today's Friday Five, here are some of my favorite variations of the classic.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.  Happy baking and happy weekending!

1. Chocolate chip, pretzel & potato chip cookies - Once upon a time, I was all, "What's the deal with putting salt on desserts?"  Now, I can't don't want to remember that time.  These cookies will make even the most ardent skeptic a card-carrying member of the salty-sweet club. 

2. Mint chocolate chip cookies - One awesome things about posts like this is that I get a chance to look through the archives and rediscover recipes I may have forgotten but love so, so dearly.  These cookies!  I  need them in my life ASAP.  Mint and chocolate are one of my favorite flavor combinations.  With ice cream season over in my brain, I can satisfy my mint chocolate chip craving with these.

3. Thin crispy chocolate chip cookies with sea salt - Another treat made for a tailgate as something new and experimental that turned out to be a huge hit.  Enjoy them at home with a tall glass of milk (or hot chocolate!) because these are totally made for dunking.

4. Chocolate chip meringues - Light as air and perfectly sweet!  Cooler fall temperatures (and lower humidity) are ideal for making these little gems.  Oh, and fair warning -- it's impossible to just have one.

5. Chocolate chip cookie cake - This cake is basically one giant delicious cookie.  It's up to you to decide how many it serves, whether 1 or 10; you'll find no judgement here!  I love how the surprise addition of almond extract makes it extra special.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Orange chocolate chip cookies

I love today for so many reasons.

First and foremost, it's my baby sister's birthday!  Jenny turns a not-so-baby 28 (what?!).   It seems like just yesterday that I asked told my parents to bring home a girl from the hospital.  Okay, so maybe I simply created that memory from my parents' frequent retelling of the story.  Regardless of its origins, 28 years later, I'm happy to say I made the right call :)

Today is also my youngest cousin's birthday!  Seventeen years ago, sweet Lauren came into the world and set the bar ridiculously high for Jenny's birthday presents.  I can hardly believe the youngest of my cousins is heading to college next year.  They grow up so fast!

Last, but not least, I've got another chocolate chip cookie recipe to share.  And this one's a doozy - orange chocolate chip cookies!