Monday, December 26, 2011

Cowboy Cookies

Wow, I disappeared for quite awhile there.  So sorry about that, I got sucked into the Christmas vortex, caught in a web of butter, sugar, and an all-stretchy-pants Christmas wardrobe and I forgot to post.

Well Jim, Cricket and I just spent our Christmas vacation with my new in-laws in Pennsylvania and I had a wonderful time.  This was officially my first Christmas spent away from home (Kansas City), but on our wedding day my dad told me that now my home is wherever Jim is, and that proved true.  Our vacation was busy and fun and relaxing.

You may think that since I've been on vacation I've taken a vacation from baking, and you'd be nearly correct.  I have the last cookies of December to tell you about.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tricolor Cookie Bars

Sometimes I feel like I get into a little bit of a rut with my cookies.  I feel like maybe because I have a few really easy crowd-pleasers that I can sit back and get comfortable.

But then I see pictures of something like these little babies and it all goes out the window.  Because there's no way of making these "easy".  Although they're really not incredibly difficult to pull off, they're just a little annoying and time consuming.  I'm not saying don't make them.  I'm saying save them for special occasions.

Like Christmas!  That's right, sorry coworkers, your cookie days are over (for now).  I've moved onto baking for the relatives and friends that we're going to see on our Christmas vacation.  I thought it would be nice to kick the Christmas cookie experience off with a little something new and different.

The original recipe before modification was called "Rainbow Cookies".  Now it's not that I don't think that's an accurate or creative name, but I'm not really crazy about the word rainbow.  It makes me feel like a five year old.  So I like to call them tri-color cookies.  From what I understand, these cookies, much like the black and white cookies, are a New York thing.  Also, rumor has it they're Italian as well (like the chocolate spice cookies and the ricotta cookies), or at least found at Italian bakeries.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Crunch Cookies

So I talk a lot on here about how Jim won't eat peanut butter.  Well, today I found out first-hand what happens when he does.  It's not too pretty.  I'll need to ease up on that one.

One of our friends (who is such an awesome baker I think she should be writing a blog) made us a bunch of Christmas treats, including some homemade chocolate candies filled with peanut butter and what tasted like chocolate brownies.  Anyway, Jim ate one of the peanut butter ones unknowingly and proceeded to gag and gag and almost throw up until he doused himself with original flavor mouthwash.  UGH.  That stuff tastes like gasoline.

Anyway, now I know.  I'll try to be a little nicer about that whole peanut butter thing.
One way I can do that I think is to make delicious peanut butter-less confections instead.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Homemade Thin Mints

Here are a few truths about life.

Most of the reason I bake is so I can get my hands on the batter.

Your hair is ALWAYS going to look best 2 minutes before you get in the shower.

Shampoo smells better than conditioner and there's nothing we can do about it.

Every year, girl scout cookies get harder and harder to track down.

I'm not joking about that last one.  You don't want to know the things I would do to get my hands on a few boxes of tagalongs, samosas, and of course everyone's favorite, the thin mints.  I have literally gone to the girl scouts' website to find a way to order them online.  Can't be done.  You literally have to track down an actual child scout, and once you get to the point at which you're honestly considering trying to do just that, you know you're a creepy weirdo.

But I can't get them out of my head.  The thin mints.  They call to me.

So, I made some.  No biggie.  They're really not quite the same... but they're a great substitute for when the craving hits and there are no scouts to be found.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Snickers Blondies

I guess instead of the "gift ideas for classy ladies" post, I should have written a "gift ideas for gentlemen and scholars" post.  I would have, if only shopping for the men in my life wasn't so bleeding hard.  

I've watched so much Netflix recently that I've pretty well run out of American shows to I've been watching a lot of British series.  I think I'm occasionally inserting Britishisms into my day to day speech now...thus the "bleeding".  I have a tendency to do that.  I certainly have embraced the "y'all" since living in Georgia.  It's great.  I know it sounds a little...Southern, but I'm into it.  

Back to dude presents.  What in the sweet world do you guys want?  I, for one, would certainly love to know.  The internet has no answers.  I just see the same ridiculous nonsense year after year.  How many grooming kits, pocket knives, and leather wallets can a man receive over the years?  I'm betting...tons.  And I'm not trying to sass-mouth anyone who has gifted those items.  They are literally the only ideas we can muster sometimes.  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dark Chocolate Cherry Walnut Cookies

I'm getting incredibly excited for Christmas.  Especially the break from work part.  I can't wait to travel up north to a place that actually has a decent chance of having a white Christmas.  Being from Kansas, we rarely had a white Christmas when I was growing up.  In fact, I can only remember one.  I was so excited I got up at about 6am and started shoveling the driveway, just for an excuse to be out in the snow.

But let's talk about cookies.

Okay so it is incredibly difficult to take a good picture of chocolate cookies.  Especially these.  They're just not incredibly photogenic to be honest.

They are, however, delicious despite their looks.

Who doesn't like chocolate, cherries, and walnuts?

No one that I know, that's for sure.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Italian Ricotta Sugar Cookies

Back again.  With more cookies (of course), more pictures of my dog attempting to steal said cookies, more nearly incoherent ramblings about ridiculous nonsense and now, with gift ideas!

That's right, gift ideas.  I've gone borderline OCD with it, folks, prepare yourselves. 

Specifically gift ideas for your wife/girlfriend/girl friend/mom/aunt/cousin/neighbor/coworker who is probably an extremely classy lady.  A classy lady who just so happens to be pretty intensely obsessed with cooking and fashion.  It would help if she was also a wannabe food-blogger.  Because let's be honest.  If you weren't in some way affiliated with a foodie lady, would you really be frequenting this blog?  

First off, before I drop this craziness on you, some suggestions for your-lady-specific ideas that lovingly stray from the tried and true "interrogate her family and friends" method.  

1) Check and see if she has an Amazon wish list.  If you don't know about these, they're awesome and you can add stuff to your wish list from other websites that are not amazon.  Crazy, huh?  Anyway, check if she has one and if she doesn't, start pressuring her to make one (ideally in November sometime).  It shouldn't be too difficult, it's really very fun.

2) Ask if she has a Pinterest account.  Almost every posh lady I know does, and if she doesn't it's probably because she just doesn't know about it yet.  Pinterest is uniquely hard to describe, but it's basically a giant wish list bulletin board where you can "pin" cool pictures of stuff you want to do/eat/be/wear/buy.  It's really brilliant.  Only bad part is, you have to have a twitter or facebook account to use it.

Enough chit chat and thinly veiled commands, let's get to it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I read a story somewhere about a woman who, for her 38th birthday, completed 38 random acts of kindness to celebrate.  She did things like taping change to a soda machine, handing out bottles of water to random joggers, and buying a gift card at the grocery store and turning around and handing it to the woman behind her in line.  

I absolutely love that idea!  It would certainly give me a more productive outlet for my energy than meticulously planning my next haircut/color (brownish auburn and side bangs?) and watching just an obscene amount of netflix.  But I don't think I need to wait for my birthday to start doing things like that.  And although the "type A" side of my brain starts twitching violently at the thought of starting something like this on a random day in December (that part of my brain would have preferred starting Dec. 1 and making it a neatly book-ended, month-long endeavor), I think I should start now.  And I don't think I should count bringing in baked goods to work as an act of kindness.

Because now that Cookie Month is humming away at top speed (like some sort of delicious machine running on butter,sugar, eggs and Christmas cheer...), I do that almost every day.  So much so that it's no longer even considered an act of kindness.  And frankly I think some people are starting to dislike it a little...people who do things like "juice cleanse" or "paleo diet" or "low carb" types of situations.  If any of you guys are reading this...that's awesome that you do that and I am probably just jealous of your discipline.  Come to think of it, I should probably be doing some or all of those things...but who starts that now?  This is literally the worst time of year to try something like that.  That's what New Year's is for.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake

When you start trying to really step up your baking for the sake of your blog, there can be some unanticipated side effects.

For instance, today my boss threatened to tinker with my schedule in such a way that I work the same shift as her from now on. 

It may have been the cake. 

One of my coworkers had a birthday a couple days ago, and didn't get a cake.  Inexcusable, I know.  So I made up for it today! 

Here's another unrelated side effect you may not have anticipated:

If you forget your ID card at work...I will probably cover up your face with scotch tape and proceed to illustrate features that may include but are not limited to, a moustache, goatee, monocle, bow tie, and top hat. 

And you should thank your lucky stars that that's all I did, because don't think for a second I didn't strongly consider creating a very elaborate scavenger hunt ending with you finding your ID card taped neatly beneath your desk. 

I'm wiley.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Cookies

It's here people.  December.  When did that happen?

What have I been doing, oh so festively?  I've been trying to shed the weight that I amassed during Turkey Week 2011...I've been creating a baking schedule (stemming from my neurotic affinity for list-making) for the month of December (hint...cookies), and I've been coping with the fact that Jim and I are back to working totally opposite shifts and seeing each other very rarely.  

But you know what that means?  More time for cookies.  Cookies are probably my favorite baked good.  I hate to narrow it down to just one, but they are certainly up there.  They are so versatile, there are so many varieties, they are smallish so you don't have to feel too guilty about eating a couple, and they make your house smell crazy good.

Speaking of crazy good smelling houses...these cookies.  Way better than any candle.

I couldn't believe that I hadn't made oatmeal raisin cookies for the blog yet!  I know, oatmeal sounds boring and raisins are for old people....but just give these a try.  Literally the best oatmeal raisin cookie recipe I've ever tried.  These come very highly recommended, they were the often-requested favorite of my coworkers in California.  Did I mention that I have a serious problem with bringing in baked goods to work?

I do.  It's a cheap ploy to get people to like me, I know.  But it works.  Big time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Sandwich

Dear Thanksgiving,

I love you so much.  I'm so sorry I started eyeballing Christmas decorations early this year.

I know that the last leftovers of our feast are almost totally depleted, but I'm not ready to let you go yet.

I'll never let go.



That's why I made this turktastic sandwich with what remained of my leftovers today!  Some of you may remember me rambling on and on about basically involves bread, butter, dijon, stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, a skillet and a whole lot of love.  This is the sandwich I've pined for since last December, and it tasted like a sweet slice of heaven topped with a dollop of dreams come true.

You thought your leftover turkey was dried out and gross and only fit for soup?  Wrong!  You thought nobody wanted that last couple tablespoons of cranberry sauce?  Think again!

Make this sandwich immediately.  If you're all out of leftovers...I am so sorry because this must be torture.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Cookie Ideas

That time of year is officially here!  Christmas cookie time.

I love nothing more during this time of year (even more than the rest of the year) to have people over and feed them, visit friends and bring treats, and creating a crazy decadent Christmas spread with plenty of cookies.

There are always the usual my family that means:

Frosted Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
Hershey's Kiss Peanut Butter Cookies
Russian Tea Balls
Chocolate Crinkles

Now, I'd like to submit to you some of my favorite cookie recipes, a little out-of-the-ordinary, a little off the beaten path, but very Christmas appropriate.  Of course, I'll be baking up a lot of the regular favorites I listed above, and more...but the truth is I'm still recovering from Thanksgiving cooking and haven't eaten anything but leftovers all week!  So here you go, without further ado:

Peanut Butter Nutella Swirls

Mini Black and White Cookies

Italian Chocolate Spice Cookies
Chocolate Mint Cookies
Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Try them out this year with your family...they're pretty much a guaranteed hit!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Full on Thanksgiving Spectacular

So I'm still recovering from a very full weekend of cooking, baking, cooking, eating, cooking, a little more baking, some light puppy wrangling, and entertaining.  As I said, yesterday, after work, I fixed our very own little Thanksgiving feast.

I mentioned pumpkin pie yesterday.  Besides that, we had the turkey of course, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, sweet potatoes, and rolls.  It was crazy, crazy good.  I was working pretty much nonstop from the time I got off work (ironically) to about 6pm when we sat down to dinner.

Cricket also got a little plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing.  She loved it, but we may have created a monster.  Now she just sits next to us while we eat, looking cute.  She knows that sitting is one of the tricks for which she gets a treat, so she tries to sit for us whenever she wants something.  It's funny because we have hardwood floors, so her fuzzy little butt slips back little by little and she keeps having to back the sit up.  It's super cute, but maybe one of those things you just have to see for yourself.

So let's start with the all-important bird.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

So...I made Thanksgiving dinner after all!

I wasn't going to, since I had to work and all, but I was sitting at work and just thinking about how sad I would be coming late to a Thanksgiving dinner when everyone else has already eaten and just picking at someone else's leftovers...really, I can't imagine a sadder state of affairs on Thanksgiving, so.  I decided to just do it myself!

I'll get to the whole meal soon, but let's start with my personal favorite part of this and every meal...dessert.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mini Pumpkin Donuts with Cinnamon Maple Glaze

Make donuts?  Yeah, I totally did that, no big deal.

These donuts are the result of a complex emotional struggle that brought me to this point.  It all started last year around Christmas.  Jim and I stopped in DC on our way to his parents house to visit friends.  There, we found ourselves starving for lunch and decided to go into a Cosi.  Now I know that they're a chain and therefore unforgivably lame to the world of food bloggers, but oh well.  I had the most delicious sandwich I'd ever eaten in my life there.

It like the whole Thanksgiving meal in a sandwich.  There was Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce all on this toasted thin bread.  If that doesn't sound delicious to you...I don't even know what to say to you.  Get out of here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Broccoli Cheddar Chicken

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, right?

What they don't tell you is that the way to a lady's heart is through her food.  Basically, if you eat what I make for you...I like you.  Pretty simple, huh?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chocolate Mint Cookies

Let me just begin by saying that I know everyone says this.

But this year the Christmas stuff went up the day after Halloween.

I have mixed emotions about this.  I love Halloween.  I love Christmas.  Where does Thanksgiving fit in?

Green Monster Smoothie

Have you ever experienced that phenomenon that something you once looked at and thought "yuck"... the more you see it, the more it grows on you?  Until one day you just snap and cut bangs, put on your shirt dress and skinny jeans with ugg boots and go out to buy leg warmers.  I've been there.  Leg warmers are so cute.  And who wouldn't want these $80 boot socks?

Socks for $80?!?!?!  Yeah, I know, I know.  Hey, it's not like I own them.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

So I have been so crazy busy lately you wouldn't even believe it.  
Work has been hectic.

I've been baking like a mad woman.

I've been trying to work out a lot more.

I just made two cookie varieties and jayhawk pie for a tailgate on Saturday.  So exciting.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I've been neglecting my blog.  Poor little neglectstravaganza.  I wanted to share a couple things with you, though. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Happy Halloween!  

Unfortunately I have to work tonight.  Sad face.

Fortunately, that means I have an excuse to bring my coworkers treats.  

I wanted to mix a trick and a treat for these cookies.  The trick being played on Jim in the form of the house smelling strongly of peanut butter.  The treat, obviously, is my favorite Halloween treat, Reese's, pressed into the middle.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cajun Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Jim and I carved pumpkins the other day.  

I know I give Jim a hard time a lot, in and out of the blog, but he told me that he's only carved pumpkins maybe twice before in his life.  How does that happen?  

So, needless to say, I bought two big pumpkins and imposed my Halloween spirit on him, once again.  

Now for those who don't know, Jim is a Wake Forest grad.  For those of you who are like me out there, you may have never heard of that school before.  Well apparently it's a pretty big deal and we need to educate ourselves.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Pumpkin Buttercream

So obviously I've mentioned my love of Halloween.  Clearly I also love candy, as a God-fearing, born and raised American child must.  I know we talked a little bit about my love of candy corn specifically last time, but I'd like to expand on some of these important topics.

First off, my near-irrational love of Halloween.  Where does it come from?  It probably stems from a few things.  Yes, I love the general spookiness and I love a good scare...that's obvious from the numerous times I've mentioned zombie movies.  And I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that I've been dragging Jim along through a scary movie marathon until Halloween night.  This can't be normal, I know.  But I can't help it, I love it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies with Browned Butter Icing

I know that my usual blog posts are pretty light on hot-button topics for heated discussions.  But all that's about to change, are you ready?

Candy corn.

It's a divisive issue.  You either love it or you hate it.  There is no in-between.  I've even heard people spread vicious lies about poor candy corn...rumors like "all the candy corn that exists was made in the 1930's".  I don't think that's even possible. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pulled Pork and Baked Beans

As Jim calls it, the complete redneck meal.  
Here in Georgia it's only tolerable outside for about three (blissful) weeks out of the year.  Those weeks just so happen to almost always fall in the month of October.  One of many reasons why it's my favorite month.

Jim and I decided to take full advantage of that fact by eating dinner outside on the deck.  What better way to pass a crisp beautiful still somewhat warm college football Saturday in the fall?  There is none, my friend.  

And what better meal for such a day than pulled pork from the slow cooker and baked beans?  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sugo and Meatballs

I've been on a mission recently.  A family cookbook related mission.  I've been trying to collect all the favorite recipes from our families and put together a cookbook by Christmas time.  I've gotten quite a few good ones.

One of my most sought-after recipes is the "sugo" which I believe is Italian for "slam banging pasta sauce".  The women of my family each make their own variation of this recipe...each has its own unique taste.  I can close my eyes and distinctly remember the taste of my Grandma Ginger's spaghetti, as well as my Aunt Helena's, my Nana's, and of course, my own mom's.  Each perfect in its own right.  There is a particularly surprising secret ingredient to one of those sauces that I discovered through my recipe-requesting...but you'll have to read the book for that little gem.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No-Rise Honey Wheat Biscuits

So today has brought me several little miracles.  I'd love to share them with you.  

First, today was our first actually cool day here in Georgia.  It was wonderful.  It gave me hope of an actual fall season, of leaves that might actually change colors before dropping off, of jack-o-lanterns that can sit on the porch for a week without caving in and rotting.

And what's better in cold weather than honey wheaty yeasty comfort bread?  

Not much, friends, not much. 

And what's that you say, they don't even need time to rise?  Boom.  Miracle.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Taking Some Time Off

It's not that I haven't been's just that I haven't been baking anything new.

I made an apple pie, it turned out great.  I made chicken and dumplings...old news.  I made that sausage pasta I was talking about awhile ago.  Delicious, but it's been done.

Truth is, I'm still recovering from my time in Kansas City.  It was awesome, the weather was perfect, but I don't think I got more than five hours of sleep on any night during my trip.  That's ok.  I got by on pure adrenaline.

So yes, it's a little bit lame and a little bit of a cop out, but instead of recipes and food photos, I'd like to share with you some of my favorite places and things to eat in KC.

First off, let's talk barbecue.  We're known for it.  I never appreciated KC barbecue until I left.  Now, boy do I ever.  There are two schools of barbecue in Kansas City as far as I'm concerned.  High end and low end.  For our high end, we had Fiorella's Jack Stack cater the rehearsal dinner.

Specifically, we had "burnt ends" which are a KC specialty.  This is not my photo.  You can tell because it's great.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wedding Accomplished

Thus ends my hiatus from the blog.  I have had the craziest yet most enjoyable week of my whole life.  All the work and planning that I (and others) did to make that wedding happen was completely worth it.  I can honestly say that it was the best day of my life, and I wouldn't have changed a thing.  (Except for my mom spilling coffee on her legs an hour before the ceremony...ow!)

My wonderful Nana (that's what Italian kids call their grammas) and aunt spent the week leading up to the wedding baking all the various types of heavenly traditional Italian wedding cookies.  I had an entire cookie bar at my wedding.  It was PERFECT.  They went like hotcakes.  It's an awesome tradition, get on board.  I haven't gotten the pictures back yet from all the photographers, but here are a few that I managed to snag before they were demolished (which happened before we even arrived).

Here we have the fig I've said before they symbolize the badge of honor in my family, only the most skilled and deftest bakers are allowed to make them each Christmas.  I have yet to ascend to the Fig Cookie Echelon, just to be clear.  The others are what I have incorrectly dubbed "Italian Chocolate Spice Cookies", which though descriptive, isn't what they should be called.  My Nana and aunt both told me they are "Tatus", so I guess I was wrong.  They are incredibly delicious and my re-diet is just going to have to wait until I've finished gobbling them all down.

Much to my chagrin I still haven't gotten these recipes yet, despite many efforts.  They just aren't written down.  I'm pretty sure they're a collaborative effort, measured in handfuls of this, pinches of that, and improvised along the way.  Which I both admire and think is amazing, however, I am terrified that if I don't get my hands on some sort of recipe, these little beauties will disappear, and with them, a little bit of my culture, upbringing, and soul.  We can't let this happen.  I promise I'll keep working on it.

In other news, after careful consideration and a few food-related binges I have decided NOT to abandon the diet just because the wedding is over.

I look and feel so much better now than I did in March...I don't want to lose that.  However, my goals are going to shift from losing weight to maintaining and toning what I have.  Also, I hope to successfully quit calorie counting, because, though effective, it can become tedious after so long.

So in effect, my wedding was a total success, a foodstravaganza complete with cookie bar, and breathtakingly perfect in every way.  All my love to all the friends and family who made it so.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Root Beer Float Cake

You may notice something different about this post.  No, that is not my dream kitchen's granite countertop and classy backsplash.  No, I never think to buy cute-as-a-bug's-ear paper plates.  No, my indoor lighting is never this good in my normal pictures.  That's because this is my very first official on the road post!  We are smack dab in the middle of wedding week.  It is officially upon us.  I'm baking in my home away from home, aka Dad's house.  It doesn't hurt that Dad just so happens to be a master electrician, thus the awesome lighting.

Someday I want to be cool enough at my job to have the word "master" in front of my title.  I think that's how you know you've arrived.  Also, I want to be able to do something as practical and amazing as installing my own crazy nice kitchen lighting.  I guess I'll just have to settle for being able to make a root bear float cake.

Root beer, because there's root beer in the cake part.  Get it?  Simple yet effective.

This is a four ingredient cake.  I just showed you two of them.  No joke.  To make the cake, pour a root beer in the cake mix and stir it around.  Bam.

Bake it at 350 in two 8'' round cake pans.  Make sure they're greased thoroughly.  Bake 18-20 minutes.

When the cake is completely cooled, transfer one of the layers to a cake plate.  Wash out the pan that you baked the layer in, and then line it with wax paper.  Press half a container of vanilla bean ice cream into the cake pan to make the ice cream layer.  Refreeze the ice cream for about a half hour.  Did you just now realize this is an ice cream cake?  Because it is.  That's right.  My first two layer cake was an ice cream cake.  Thank you.  

Use the wax paper to remove the ice cream from the pan, placing it on the bottom later of cake.  Top with the second layer of cake, wrap the whole thin in plastic wrap, and allow to freeze completely for 3ish hours or over night.

Use one 8oz container of Cool Whip to ice the whole thing.  Cover (I used my stepmom's awesome cake globe(?)...I need to get one.  Put it back in the freezer for about a half hour, or however long until you serve it.  

Ice cream cake.  Easy, root-beery, 4 ingredients.  Boom.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Italian Sausage and Peppers Penne

So I'm playing it a little fast and loose with my pasta intake levels, so what?  Pasta is what makes life worth living.  Some may disagree, but when I get out of bed in the morning (on what is my "Monday") at 5am (yeah, that early) and it's actually cold (44 degrees) for the first time since last winter (no joke), it's the thought of the pasta I'm planning for dinner that gives me the strength to go to work for ten hours.

No, it's not baked.  No, it's not dessert.  I know, you're surprised.  Frankly I am too.  I thought for sure I would have told you about pumpkin cookies by now.  But that's for later.  

My favorite ingredient to add to pastas lately?  Spinach.  It's brilliant, delicious, filling, and healthies-up  whatever you're planning on indulging in.  Lately my favorite omgimstarvinganditsonlytwooclock snack is, you guessed it, spinach salad.  Throw some blueberries on there, it's a treat.  It helps if you like straight balsamic (or any other kind of) vinegar.  Sick, I know.  But I save a TON of calories by leaving out the oil.  Who needs it anyway, am I right? 

But we're talking about pasta.  With my pizza topping of choice, sausage.  I don't know how many of you out there are Italian, but in my family we make a simple yet delicious dish which consists of Italian sausage, potatoes, peppers, and onions, baked in a casserole dish.  So simple, so good.  Here's my pasta-version.

Italian Sausage and Peppers Penne

12 oz penne pasta
1.25 lb hot Italian turkey sausage
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
1/4 cup parmesan
8 oz fresh spinach
1 medium onion chopped
6 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp olive oil

Boil a pot of salted water.  Add the pasta, cook according to instructions for "al dente" or 10ish minutes.  Reserve 1/2 cup starchy water and then drain the penne, set aside.

While water is boiling, heat oil over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add garlic, onion, and peppers.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes.  

Remove sausage casings and discard.  Add sausage to veggie mixture, breaking it up and cooking until golden brown, 6-8 minutes.

Once sausage is finished cooking, Add spinach, cooking and stirring until wilted.  Return penne to the pot it was boiled in, add the sausage mixture.  Add parmesan cheese and starchy water.  Stir until mixed and coated thoroughly, serve immediately.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

Now I know I already revealed the secret to Cheater Chocolate Chip Cookies...and granted, this recipe also takes some unexpected turns, but if you're willing to take the high road, roll up your sleeves and put in an honest day's work to make perfect chocolate chip cookies, this is a great recipe.

I know I was just talking the other day about how I'm so super into new and different cookie varieties and then I make two of the simplest and most classic kinds...but sometimes I guess you just have to stick with what works.  And have you ever met someone who DOESN'T like chocolate chip cookies?  I doubt it.  If so, you might have to turn yourself in for associating with a known terrorist.  Also, these were requested, and I've never been above honoring a food-related request.

The wedding is seriously close now.  Close as in I leave in less than a week.  That kind of close.  I'm very excited.  I wish I had lost more weight.  But I guess you kind of have to look at life as a balance.  

Had I cut out everything remotely delicious from my diet, neglected my puppy in order to wear myself to the bone working out after already incredibly long shifts, and shoved actually planning my wedding to the side in favor of focusing on gym time, sure, I may have lost more weight/gotten into better shape.  However:

a) I would have been miserable
b) I probably wouldn't have been able to stick to that for even a week and 
c) When I inevitably backslid, it would have been way worse (we're talking donut binge bad)

So, I think I'll accept that right now, this is my happy weight.  I'm happy with the weight I have lost, it has made a substantial difference to me and most importantly, it was sustainable.  

That said, I plan on continuing my efforts after the wedding as, admittedly, my nights schedule was NOT helpful for me in working out.  So there is more that I could conceivably do.  For now, let's all take a moment and be happy that is IS possible to lose 18 pounds for your wedding and still enjoy a chocolate chip cookie now and then.

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from allrecipes)

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks of butter, softenend 
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 package instant vanilla jello pudding
2 eggs 
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Combine butter and sugars and mix until light and fluffy.  Mix in the jello powder.  Stir in egg and vanilla.  

Add flour gradually, stirring until incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts, if desired.  Drop in 1.5'' balls onto ungreased cookie sheet, bake about 12 minutes at 350.  Allow to cool on sheet for a couple minutes before removing to wire cooling racks.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mini Black and White Cookies

I love to bake cookies.  They could very possibly be my favorite thing ever to bake.  There are just so many variations, so many possibilities, so much room to be creative.  And lately in my cookie baking I've been interested in more off-the-beaten-path combinations and ingredients.  Snickers cookies, oreo stuffed brownies, pumpkin pecan oatmeal cookies, peanut butter any given moment if I'm wearing a spaced out look, chances are very good that I'm daydreaming about what weirdo cookie I'm going to make next.  And call me a snob, but usually just a vanilla chocolate combo isn't enough to inspire me.  I was so, so wrong.

Let these little babies be a testament to triumphant simplicity.

Perhaps you recall my recent love affair with black and white cookies.  I love everything about them.  The huge, buttermilky, cakey pillows of joy covered half in the most perfect vanilla glaze and half in delicious semi sweet chocolate.  Is there even one thing about them that doesn't make your mouth water just thinking about it?

And of course, the gigantic size of the traditional black and white cookies is part of what makes them perfect.  However, it turns out that the mini versions are equally as perfect, with less than half the guilt!  I'm not exactly sure how the math works out on that one, but rest assured, it does.

Once again, I have to give the nod to Martha Stewart on this one, this is her only very gently modified recipe.

Mini Black and White Cookies
(adapted from Martha Stewart)



1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
6 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla 
1/3 cup low fat buttermilk, shaken


2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp and 1 tsp light corn syrup
2 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp water, more as needed
1 Tbsp dutch-process cocoa powder

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix butter until creamy.  Add sugar, mix until fluffy.  Mix in egg and vanilla.  Add flour in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, using electric mixer.  Drop tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 350 for about 11 minutes, let cool completely on cookie sheet.  

Once cookies have cooled completely, whisk icing ingredients EXCEPT COCOA together and spread onto half of the cookies (bottoms).  Add cocoa to remaining icing and more water if needed, ice other half of cookies.  Allow icing to set completely.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I'm sick. =(

I don't know if everyone does this or if I just have a touch of the drama queen to me, but when I'm sick I just think about how much I take for granted every day when I don't feel like garbage.  Hot garbage.  I should appreciate my good health more.  When I have it, that is.

Brandy (best friend) says, and I for one believe her, that I'm worrying about wedding details so much that I made myself sick.  I'm sure Jim could vouch that there could be some truth to that idea.  I'm ridiculous, everything will be fine.  I've learned my lesson.

So when you're sick, what do you want?

Obviously, your mom to take care of you, saltines, ginger ale, and chicken noodle soup.  Probably in that order.  For the record, if you happen to have a Jim lying around, he makes a pretty good substitute when a mom is in Kansas. 

So after you drag yourself out of bed, drink like 3 cups of green tea, eat like 5 spoonfuls of honey, and feel sorry for yourself, go ahead and crack open 6 cans, dump them in a crockpot, go back to sleep on the couch, and two hours later you'll have some chicken tortilla soup.

I know, I said chicken noodle, but spicy stuff is good for you when you're sick...I think.  I'm not a doctor, in case you were wondering.  Also, if you have a cup of cooked rice leftover from dinner last night, you should throw that in there too.  I'm not going to be too exact with this one, mostly because it's a recipe for when you have absolutely no time or energy but you still have to stick to your stupid wedding diet.

Six Can Chicken Tortilla Soup
(adapted from allrecipes)

2 cans chicken broth
1 can Tyson white meat chunk chicken
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can Rotel with lime and cilantro
1 can black beans
4 shakes chipotle chile powder
5 shakes chili powder
6 shakes cumin
4 shakes garlic powder
3 shakes salt
3 shakes black pepper
1 cup cooked rice (optional)
Shredded cheese for topping

Drain the chicken, corn, Rotel, and beans.  Rinse the beans.  Dump everything into the crockpot.  Cook on low 2 hours.

Did you like how I measured the spices in shakes?  Oh man, how unprofessional.  I'm going to look at this tomorrow and be so ashamed.  But you know what?  Sometimes you have to take it easy on yourself.  And the soup is easy and delicious, for the record.  Crumble some tortilla chips and throw those on top too.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes

I told you I was incorporating pumpkin!  And boy did I ever.  These little cakes are very pumpkin-y.  Pumpkin cupcakes with pumpkin cream cheese frosting.  I can't take the credit for this recipe...I just changed a few things about  this one.

Apparently due to the hurricane or some craziness the supply of pumpkin this year has been cut very short.  But, because as I mentioned before, I tend to do everything out of season... I already had bought some pumpkin over the summer for a pumpkin pie craving and it was just sitting in the cupboard.  But hopefully you'll catch what little supply the stores have this year and get a chance to try these.  They are delightful.  You thought I was going to say delicious again, didn't you?  Nope, delightful.  Boom.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from skinny taste)


1 18.25oz box spice cake mix
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup water


1 8oz. package 1/3 fat cream cheese
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
5 Tbsp packed brown sugar

Mix together cupcake ingredients for about 2 minutes, until smooth.  Spoon into muffin pan with liners, fill cups about 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 about 20-25 minutes.

Mix together frosting ingredients, blend until smooth.  I used a ziploc bag with the corner cut off to pipe the frosting on for these.  Only frost the ones being eaten immediately, save the rest of the frosting covered in the fridge.  

Makes about 18 cupcakes.

Just over 2 weeks to go until the wedding!  When did that happen?  My goodness.

We just called to order the catering for our rehearsal dinner, and, like always, we were dumbfounded by how incredibly nice people are (in the service industry especially, but in general in my opinion) in Kansas City.

When I moved to Georgia I thought I'd encounter that famed southern hospitality.  Well let me tell you, I don't know if it's just the part of Georgia we live in, or other circumstances, but I have NOT been impressed.  People bump into you and don't even say excuse me.  I say excuse me (somewhat needlessly, since it wasn't my fault and it's a sentiment NEVER reciprocated), but they say nothing.  What in the world is that about?  Southern hospitality, you really need to step up your game.  I have not been impressed.  Georgia, I'm talking to you.  Savannah, you're not included in this.  I love you.

That is all.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chicken Parmesan

Jim requested some chicken parmesan as part of his challenge.  I've never really been a huge fan, mostly because I associate it with having been served in the cafeteria when I was a kid.  But this is an entirely different story.

I've always been more partial to spaghetti and meatballs.  But this chicken parmesan might take the cake.  

I guess I like keeping my spaghetti intact so I can twirl it around my fork...but I don't mind it if it means I get to eat delicious breaded chicken.

This is a short one.  I'm really tired, but I'll be working days soon!  Here's to normal work hours.  

Chicken Parmesan
(adapted from allrecipes)

1 egg ,baeten
4 Tbsp Italian breadcrumbs
2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 jar spaghetti sauce
2 oz mozzerella

Preheat oven to 350.  Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together breadcrumbs, half the parmesan,oregano, garlic, and onion powder.

Dip chicken breasts, first in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture.  Place on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake 45 minutes.

Remove chicken to 8x8 greased pan.  Top with half the spaghetti sauce, mozzerella, and remaining parmesan.  Bake an additional 20 minutes.  Serve with remaining sauce over pasta.

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