Monday, September 30, 2013

S'more Cake

This cake was far more awesome than you might think based on the photo alone. What you don't see is the warm, rich chocolate cake underneath, or how melty and gorgeous the toasted marshmallows were after coming out from under the broiler. It's a S'more Cake, which was one of two cakes I made for my friend Colleen's 30th birthday celebrations. She loves s'mores just as much as (maybe more than?) she loves mint chocolate chip ice cream, so they were the perfect two cakes to make. In case you missed it, check out the other cake here.

Now, I have no intention of turning this blog into a constant plug for my Pampered Chef business, but when I encounter a product that I love or that changes my cooking life, I need to rave about it, no matter who makes it. This cake was made in my new Pampered Chef Rockcrok, which is an amazing product that can be used in the microwave, on the stove, on the grill, in the oven, and under the broiler. You'll see below that this cake, made in this pot alone, started in the microwave and finished under the broiler. I don't know of many cooking vessels that can handle that, and that's why I'm so excited about this! Clean up was a breeze too, which is always a bonus!

S'more Cake
Recipe from Pampered Chef

3 milk chocolate Hershey bars (1.55 oz each), broken into squares
1 small package (9 oz) devil’s food cake or 1 and 2/3 cups from a regular-size package
1 egg
8 oz. sour cream
1 bag regular-size marshmallows or 4 cups mini marshmallows
3 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces

Place oven rack in middle of oven; preheat broiler.  

Combine cake mix, egg and sour cream in large bowl; mix until blended. Pour batter into Rockcrok™  Everyday Pan or Rockcrok™ Dutch Oven. Microwave, covered, on HIGH 4-5 minutes or until center of cake is firm and springs back when pressed. (It took 5 minutes in my microwave.) Remove pan from microwave; arrange marshmallows in an even layer over cake. Broil 30-60 seconds or until marshmallows are golden brown.  

Meanwhile, microwave chocolate in small bowl on HIGH 30-60 seconds or until mostly melted. Stir until smooth.

Remove cake from under broiler; sprinkle with graham crackers and drizzle with melted chocolate. Serve warm.

The cake seriously taste like a ginormous s'more, just as I hoped. And I can't hate a cake that comes together from start to finish in less than 10 minutes!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Big Eating at the Big E

On Monday, three of my friends and I ventured up to the Big E, the biggest and best fair in New England. Sure, they have rides there. And livestock. And crafty things for sale. But what we really go for is the food. The glorious, deep-fried, salty, sugary food. I took pictures of some of the things we ate throughout the day and thought I'd share them here with you.

First up, my most favorite thing of all. The fried cheese curds. These are the first thing I have to have when I go there, and this year, they were the last thing too. Yes, we ate them twice. And got called out on it by the girl at the cheese curd stand. Poor form, lady. Don't judge your customers for loving your food so much that they order it twice.

Now we have some kettle corn from the New Hampshire house. It's just so freakin good. Even better when you manage to get a bag of still-warm, freshly made corn. YUM.

Confession time: for the first two and a half decades of my life, I didn't eat maple syrup. I have no earthly idea why. It is one of the four main food groups, after all. I just thought I didn't like it. Then I think at some point I suspected that I probably did like it, but figured I eat enough crap already that I didn't need another sugary delight added to my list of personal kryptonites. Then, maybe three years ago, I gave in. I tried it and I loved it. Now I can't get enough of maple anything. Not just maple syrup, but maple bacon. Maple porter. Maple candy. And this, maple cotton candy. It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!!

Connecticut has the best house at the Big E. All the most magical stuff is there, although this year it was lacking the place with all the chocolate-covered things, including bacon. Major fail. But it did have this, maple bacon ice cream. Sooo good. I also had a sample of their pumpkin pie ice cream and that was pretty incredible too.

Also in Connecticut is this amazing pizza, which I had for the first time at the Big E two years ago. This peanut butter bacon provolone pizza has been added to our annual list of must-haves. It's so different, and so good, that I've recreated it twice at home. Stay tuned for a post on that in the next few weeks!

At this point, I was getting pretty thirsty, and right outside the Connecticut house was a stand with freshly made cherry limeade! I LOVE Sonic's cherry limeades, and while this wasn't carbonated like Sonic's version, it was pretty darn good.

I freakin love donuts. Love them. The Vermont house has apple cider donuts. Other years, we've gotten lucky and gotten a bag of donuts when they're just freshly made and still hot. This year, they weren't as fresh, but they were still tasty.


Next up is something we only had a sample of, but it was awesome. A pulled pork parfait. Normally, it would definitely be an item I would want to buy and eat a lot of, but I already had my eye on another pork item, which is coming up shortly. As delicious as this was, I'm glad I didn't fill up on it so early in my eating day.

A staple at any fair is the corn dog and at the Big E, there are two options - the 6 inch and the footlong. My lovely corn dog models:

We needed a quick break from all the fried food, so it was time to stop at the Pickle Barrel. Giant half sour pickles, with lots of garlicky goodness. So delicious. And zero WW points!

I didn't try this next thing because I don't like bananas, but the Baconana was one of the new items this year and one of my friends was really excited to try it - a frozen banana coated in chocolate and rolled in bacon. Unfortunately, she said it was underwhelming and not what she was expecting.

Another new item was the deep fried strawberry shortcake. This stuff was Good. I would love some right now, actually. I can't really tell you how it was made, but whatever they did, they did it well.

My final picture is of the new item I was most looking forward to - the Three Little Pigs: spicy pork sausage, pulled pork, and bacon on a six-inch grinder. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. I washed it down with a cold Hofbrau Hefeweizen and couldn't have been happier.

It was another successful year at the Big E. I managed to eat my fill, but without overdoing it TOO much. It's probably a good thing that the Big E only happens once a year, but I'm already looking forward to next year's adventure!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

1. Have you heard of Stitch Fix? I feel like I’m a little behind the times because I only just heard about it fairly recently, but it seems like every blogger out there has already signed up. Basically you pay $20, give them some info on your size, style, and budget, and they send you five items picked just for you. Return (with free shipping) what you don’t want, and buy what you do. They’ll apply your $20 deposit toward anything you buy. I’m intrigued.

2. Blogging has not been conducive to getting to bed at a reasonable time. I’ve been spending way too many late nights planning what to cook and scheduling and writing posts. This is not a good thing, because it means I hit snooze every morning instead of getting up to exercise. I’m pretty sure my Weight Watchers ActiveLink monitor thinks I died.

3. Does anyone actually use a real phonebook anymore? I can’t believe they even still print them, but apparently they do. Someone made the rounds in my condo complex last week dropping off the new Yellow Pages. Such a waste of paper and such a nuisance to drag it out to the dumpster.

4. Who is watching Sleepy Hollow? I really liked the first episode and was thinking it might be a keeper. But the previews for the upcoming season look like it might get too scary for my taste. I’m a baby when it comes to scary things. A huge baby who will be driven nearly to tears by things popping out of the shadows. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch this week’s episode yet, so we’ll see how it goes.

5. I was reading an article on Thought Catalog the other day that was full of advice about men. This was my favorite: “Beware a man who never smiles when he eats. Most likely he’ll be bad in bed.” I can’t say I’d be into a man who doesn’t get excited about food anyway, but that seems like pretty solid advice.

6. I am no longer undefeated in my Fantasy Football league. I lost last week by 6 points. Grrrr.

7. I had my first in-home Pampered Chef party last weekend. It closed at nearly $800 in commissionable sales for me. Woohoo for earning some spending money! (Or really, money to cover the cost of Pampered Chef things I bought for myself…)

8. I intend for these Thursday Thoughts to be light and fun, and I enjoy jotting down thoughts throughout the week to share, but I need to let this last point get a little heavy. On Monday, my next door neighbor was found dead in his home at only 64 years old. I had seen him outside the day before chatting with some neighbors, and by all accounts he was fine. I didn’t know him well, but he was a kind, friendly man and I’ve thought a lot about him this week. I’m reminded that life could be over in an instant, with no notice, so it’s very important to live the life you want right now. Love and hug your friends and families. Spend your free time doing what you want to be doing, not what you think you should be doing. Let the laundry go until tomorrow, and stay up a little later. Make sure you spend as many of your days as possible in a way that would make you happy to have had that as your last day.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Burger

I love when I can re-purpose ingredients from one meal to another. That was the case here. A few months ago, I made this Skinny Spinach Artichoke Chicken from Emily Bites. The dish was awesome, full of cheesy, garlicky goodness. And it was low in Weight Watchers points to boot! What made it even better was that I had extra spinach artichoke topping leftover. I hated to waste it, so I put it in the freezer in a Ziploc bag and honestly sort of forgot about it. Until last week, when I was staring at the contents of my freezer, trying to come up with a meal that didn't require going to the grocery store. My eyes fell on some ground beef I had shaped into burgers, and then on the leftover spinach artichoke concoction, and things just sort of clicked. I cooked up the burger in my cast iron grill pan, and heated up some of the spinach artichoke topping. As I suspected, it was a match made in heaven and, paired with some sweet potato fries and a nice cold beer, it made for a great weeknight meal.

Spinach Artichoke Spread
Recipe from Emily Bites

4 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
½ cup fat free plain Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped onion
14 oz can artichokes packed in water, drained and chopped
10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup shredded 2% Mozzarella cheese

Combine the yogurt and softened cream cheese in a large bowl and mix together until thoroughly combined. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir together until everything is well mixed.

I definitely recommend using the mixture on chicken and baking it, as in Emily's original recipe. But if you've got some leftover, or are in more of a beef mood, try it out on a burger! Just heat the mixture briefly in the microwave to warm everything up and help melt the cheeses, then spread over a burger. Mmm Mmm Good.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake

I sort of feel like I'm cheating by sharing this cake. It can barely count as a recipe considering the actual cake part was made with a box mix! But it was delicious, and a really easy option for a birthday cake that's not hard to make but still looks pretty cool.

I made this for my good friend Colleen's birthday. She turned 30, not 8, but loves, I mean LOVES, the Minions from Despicable Me. So when I saw those plates and napkins and tablecloth in Party City a few months ago, I had to buy them in preparation for her big day. 

Even if I use a cake mix for a recipe, I usually like to doctor it up a bit with sour cream, or pudding mix, or vanilla (usually all three!) but this cake needed to be done in a pinch after a very busy weekend with a family wedding and a family birthday party three hours and two states away from each other! So this time I just mixed up the cake mix per the box instructions and baked them as directed for two 8-inch rounds. I'm not ashamed to say that I LOVE box mix baked goods, so it tasted delicious to me!

Once the cakes were cooled enough to be removed from the pans, I moved them to a wire rack and then lined one of the pans with plastic wrap. I then packed softened mint chocolate chip ice cream into the pan, all the way to the rim, and smoothed it over. I covered the top with plastic wrap and put it back in the freezer to harden up.

Then I made a ganache to go on top:

Mint Chocolate Ganache

20 Andes candies
1/4 cup half & half

Combine candies and half & half in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until candies are melted and no white streaks from the half & half or mint centers remain. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

When I was ready to assemble the cake, I stacked the cake layers with the ice cream in between, using the plastic wrap to carefully remove the ice cream from the pan. If your cake layers domed up a bit while baking, you might want to level out the tops by carefully slicing the domed parts off with a large serrated knife to allow the layers to stack more evenly.

I carefully spooned the cooled ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. I stuck the cake in the freezer for about 15 minutes to let it harden up, and then garnished the cake with some more Andes candies, cut in half diagonally to form long triangles. I tried sticking the candies on top right away, but until the ganache hardened a bit, the candies wouldn't stay upright.

If you're not ready to serve the cake right away, store it in the freezer until about 10 minutes before you're ready to eat it. Let it sit out for a little bit to soften up and make it easier to cut, then enjoy!

As an extra fun little tidbit to go with the Despicable Me theme (I LOVE a good theme!), I asked my friend Colleen (not the birthday girl; a different Colleen!) to make a special Minion card I had seen in her Etsy shop, Glitter Ink. She is a seriously talented card maker - check her out if you're looking to send someone a more personal touch!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Shrimp Scampi

The photo above doesn't do this dish justice, but trust me - this shrimp scampi is phenomenal. I first made it probably 9 years ago, and used a recipe by the great Tyler Florence for inspiration. It was a staple in my household for quite some time. I've made it less often lately partly because I've been trying to do Weight Watchers for the last two years, and partly because shrimp dishes are not leftover-friendly, something that's pretty important to me now as a single person who does not have time to cook every night.

It's worth indulging in from time to time though, because the flavor combination of the shallots, garlic, and butter is just out of this world. As you saute all of that together, you're going to want to bathe in it, because the smells that will come from your stove will blow your mind. Try to resist though, because as good as it smells, it tastes even better. Make sure you have plenty of crusty French bread on hand so you don't waste a drop of the saucy goodness.

Shrimp Scampi
Recipe from Tyler Florence


1 lb. linguini
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 small shallots (or one large), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
One pinch of red pepper flakes
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp butter
½ cup white wine
3 Tbsp lemon juice
Parsley (I didn't have any when I made this, but it makes for a very pretty plate if you add it!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan for topping


Cook pasta as directed. Make sure you start boiling the water early - you want the pasta done by the time the shrimp is ready.

Heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil and 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large skillet. Add shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes and saute until shallots are tender. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and add to skillet. Cook until pink (only takes a few minutes - don’t overcook). Remove shrimp from skillet. Add wine and lemon juice and boil for a minute or so. Add remaining olive oil and butter. When butter is melted, return shrimp to pan and sprinkle with parsley. Coat shrimp with sauce and give them a few seconds to reheat. Serve over the linguine. Add a sprinkling of parmesan cheese over the top and serve with French bread for dipping.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

I decided that while I do primarily want this to be a food blog, I'm going to take Thursdays to just write about whatever I want. A sort of stream of consciousness where I blurt out whatever is on my mind, likely completely frivolous things. So here you have it, my first edition of my Thursday Thoughts...

      1. Loving this post  from Ali, author of Gimme Some Life and one of my favorite food blogs, Gimme Some Oven. I related to every word she said, as I struggle myself with the dichotomy of wanting so badly to find The One and get married and yet also being the happiest I’ve ever been right now, in my very single life.

      2. With the new season of New Girl having started this week, I feel like my world is complete again. There are no words for how much I love that show. And Nick Miller

3. I love that fair season is here. I am not-so-patiently awaiting my annual visit to the Big E on Monday. Rest assured that there will be a full post next week dedicated to all of the day’s glorious gluttony.

      4. Tonight marks the start of the third week of the NFL season, and my fantasy football team is currently in first place in my league of 10 teams! I managed to draft some pretty clutch players, including my football boyfriend, Peyton Manning. Love him lots.

5. Ignore point #3 above as I tell you that I re-started Weight Watchers this week. Again. I got back on the wagon for about a week and a half in early August after returning from vacation and viewing some very unfortunate bathing suit photos of myself. But then came birthday after birthday (including my own – Cake? Yes, please.) and wedding after wedding for the next 4 weeks, and all discipline fell by the wayside. So this week I reset my starting weight and am back to tracking. Time to actually fit into my clothes.

      6. I am usually pretty principled about when it is acceptable to start enjoying pumpkin everything. Not mid-August when the first pumpkin beers start making an appearance. Not right after Labor Day, when it’s often still 90 degrees and I’m trying to get in one last beach day. The official first day of Fall is usually go-time, but I caved a little early this year. On Sunday I had my first pumpkin beer of the season (Harpoon’s UFO Pumpkin – YUM) and on Monday I had my first Pumpkin Spice Latte from Dunkin Donuts. It was chilly out. It was time.

7. I am having an internal battle with myself as to whether or not I should buy this leopard print Scentsy warmer. It’s new with the Fall/Winter catalog and while I love anything leopard, I really don’t have room for another warmer in my house. What to do, what to do…

8. My friends and I go to happy hour every Wednesday. This started about three and a half years ago, and many weeks, it's still the highlight of my week. I hope they know how much I love our weekly ritual together!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Apple Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Butter Frosting

I love cake. Specifically, I love cake as a vehicle for frosting. And this frosting, in my opinion, is in the Top 5 most delicious creations to ever come out of my kitchen. It. is. phenomenal. I am fairly obsessed with brown butter and have used it in pasta sauces, cookie icings, and even Thanksgiving stuffing before, but never in frosting. I don't know what on earth I was waiting for.

In case the little football picks didn't give it away, this was my other contribution to my tailgating outing this past weekend. People had already signed up for cookies and brownies, so I wanted to come up with something different. Something fall-like that would fit the lovely almost-fall day. I decided on apple and did a Google search for an apple spice cupcake. I found this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction and it sounded like a winner. Then I needed a frosting. Normally I would have jumped on the salted caramel pairing she had, but I wanted something a little more in the cinnamon family to play up the apples. A lot of cinnamon frosting recipes I found used cream cheese, but because these would be unrefrigerated for hours, and I'm kind of a freak about that kind of thing, cream cheese was a no-go. Finally I came upon this cinnamon brown butter frosting from My Kitchen Addiction and I was sold. 

The best part is, I had a good bit of frosting left after decorating all of the cupcakes. I may or may not have dipped into the frosting container with a spoon multiple times over the past few days. It's just SO good.

Apple Spice Cupcakes
Recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction
Makes 18 cupcakes

2 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk 
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 small apples, chopped into fine pieces, about 1.5 cups (I used Granny Smith)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with baking cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, sugars, milk, and vanilla until completely combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Gradually add in the wet ingredients and stir until just combined, being careful not to over-mix. Slowly stir in the apples.

Fill each baking cup about 2/3 full and bake for 20 - 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before frosting.

Cinnamon Brown Butter Frosting
Recipe from My Kitchen Addiction


  • 8 ounces (1 cup) brown butter
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of half and half
  • - See more at:
    1 cup (two sticks) brown butter*
    2 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp vanilla 
    6 cups powdered sugar
    1/4 cup milk (I needed slightly more to get it to the right consistency)

    *To make brown butter, add two sticks of butter to a saucepan over low to medium-low heat. Allow butter to melt and cook, stirring frequently, until it turns an amber color and develops an almost-nutty fragrance. Keep a close eye on it - it can go from brown to burnt very quickly! Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

    Pour the brown butter into the bowl of a standing mixer. Add cinnamon and vanilla and mix until combined. Gradually add in the powdered sugar until it is incorporated. Add the milk in as needed to allow the frosting to come to a smooth consistency suitable for spreading or piping. 

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) brown butter
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of half and half
  • - See more at:

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) brown butter
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of half and half
  • - See more at:

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) brown butter
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of half and half
  • - See more at: