Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

1. THE RED SOX WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2. I’d like to take a small amount of credit for their win. I wore the same Red Sox tank top for the last three games of the Series, including to work yesterday (without washing it). They kept winning, so clearly it was a lucky shirt. Weird? Only if it doesn’t work!

3. Happy Halloween! For me today will be like any other. You know, aside from the fact that the RED SOX WON THE WORLD SERIES last night. I haven’t really celebrated Halloween in probably over a decade. I don’t get dressed up, I don’t get trick-or-treaters, and didn’t even get a chance to carve a pumpkin this year. I’d like to speed up time and bring on Thanksgiving!

4. I freaking love hot chocolate with whipped cream. I always used to get it when my mom took us out to breakfast when we were kids and I still sometimes order it now. I’ve had some whipped cream left over from my Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pie and I’ve been adding it to a mug of hot chocolate for dessert all week.

5. Perhaps related to my love of whipped cream and chocolate, I split my favorite pair of jeans last weekend. I was helping some friends move and took the large step up to climb into the moving truck. I heard a terrible ripping sound and suddenly the spot right where the top of my thigh meets my butt cheek was free and breezy. Even worse, the jeans were Gap Long & Lean, which have been discontinued, so I need to find a new denim love.

6. I’m newly in love with Redd’s Strawberry Ale. Have you tried it? SO GOOD. It even smells delicious. I can’t get enough.

7. On this day one year ago, I was driving from Charlotte, NC home to Connecticut after getting stranded in Orlando due to Superstorm Sandy. I was lucky enough that my best friend lives in Charlotte, which is almost the halfway point between Orlando and me, so I stopped at her place for a day to break up the drive and give things back home a chance to settle down a bit. It worked out well, as I got home about 3 hours after power was restored in my neighborhood after being out for nearly three days. What a crazy time that was, and no matter how bizarre my experience was, I know it was nothing compared to what so many faced (and are still facing) today.

8. Why are Starbursts like crack? So delicious.

9. THE RED SOX WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cake Batter Blondies with Marshmallow Buttercream

For anyone who knows me, it's no secret that I love frosting. Love it. I can't get enough. So when I saw these on Cookies and Cups, with a new kind of buttercream (marshmallow!) I knew I had to try them. I actually made these a long time ago, well over a year I think, but I remember well how good they were. And with the gorgeous Tiffany-blue frosting, they look as great as they taste.

Cake Batter Blondies with Marshmallow Buttercream
Recipe from Cookies and Cups

1 box vanilla cake mix (I used Funfetti)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup mini marshmallows 

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup Marshmallow Fluff
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk 
Food coloring, if desired

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a 9×9 pan with baking spray. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, vegetable oil, egg and milk until just combined. Batter will be dense. Stir in the white chocolate chips and marshmallows until distributed evenly. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes until center is just set. Cool completely.

Mix butter and Fluff on medium speed until smooth. Slowly add in powdered sugar with mixer on low. Add in milk and turn speed up to medium and mix until all combined and smooth. Add food coloring, if desired, just a few drops at a time until the intended shade is reached. Spread the frosting over the cooled blondies, and top with sprinkles.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Cheeseburger Macaroni

I am fully aware that this post, this "recipe", is a total cheat. It's one of the easiest things you could possibly make and can't even really be considered a recipe. But it is hands down my favorite comfort food. I loved when my mom used to make it when I was growing up, and it's still what I make now, as a 32 year old, when I just want a hug in a bowl. 

In my opinion, it's WAY better than the Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni many of you may be familiar with. For some reason I could never really get on board with that stuff. But this, with the Kraft mac & cheese, is just oh-so-good. I should note that while it is optional, adding ketchup on top (which I promptly mix in thoroughly) is a must for me. It makes a near-perfect meal absolutely perfect.

Cheeseburger Macaroni

1 lb. ground beef (I use 93% lean)
7.25 oz box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, original flavor
2 cups water
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk
Ketchup for topping, optional (but not really)

Cook the ground beef in a large pan over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through. Drain excess grease from pan. Reduce heat slightly and add in the macaroni and 2 cups of water, stirring to combine and making sure the pasta is mostly covered by the water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the water is mostly evaporated, 8 - 10 minutes. Add the butter, packet of powdered cheese, and milk. Stir to melt the butter and combine thoroughly. Serve, topped with ketchup!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October Love with Food Box

I realized that I have not yet shared the contents of my October Love with Food box. I love getting these boxes! It's so much fun to be introduced to new foods, most of which I likely wouldn't have discovered on my own.

Descriptions from the October box:

1. Chocolate Pizzelle Crisps from Silk City Snacks: Enjoy these light and crispy Italian waffle cookies, all under 100 calories

2. Glee Gum, Triple Berry from Verve Inc: Glee Gum uses brown rice and cane sugar to coat this surprisingly guilt-free treat

3. New World Caveman Cookies by Caveman Bakery: Made with a mix of pumpkin seeds and maple syrup, these cookies are sure to satisfy any caveman

4. Organic Hard Candies from Torie & Howard: Made with luscious and all natural fruit flavors, this organic hard candy will be good to the last drop

5. Pixo Pearls from Vinaigerie Gingras: These apple cider vinegar pearls add a burst of flavor with every bite

6. Happy Squeeze from Happy Family: This convenient pouch can trick anyone into eating their fruits and veggies on the go

7. Toasted Coconut Chips from Dang: Crunchy, lightly salty, and sweet, these coconut chips will definitely have you saying 'daaaang'

8. Kind Bars from Kind Snacks: One KIND bar a day, chock full of nuts, fruits, honey, and other spices, will keep your hunger away

The only thing I've tried so far are the Pizzelle Crisps. They were pretty good, but not as sweet as I would like a dessert to be. However, I squirted some whipped cream onto some of them and that brought them up to par!

I'm a little bummed because the Caveman Cookies have dried cranberries in them, which means I probably shouldn't eat them. I'm allergic to cranberries, or at least I was when I was younger, and I haven't taken my chances with them since. But pumpkin seeds and maple syrup are right up my alley, so I might need to just try one and risk some hives!

I don't entirely know what to do with the vinegar pearls. They're pretty bizarre, just suspended in some liquid in their pouch, but I'm intrigued to try them.

All in all, another successful box. So much fun to get food in the mail!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pie

You might have noticed I've been MIA on this blog for the last week or so. I was in Boston for work all of last weekend and it was such an exhausting trip that I think it broke me a little bit. I have been SO tired all week, and when I've been able to just come home after work, I've done nothing but lay on the couch and catch up on TV. I just haven't had the energy for blogging. But I'm back, and with a really yummy dessert to make up for it!

For my friend Maria's birthday, I knew I wanted to make something with chocolate and peanut butter. It also needed to be something relatively easy, because my schedule the week that I made it only allowed me a little bit of time late one night after a work dinner in New York City to make it. I scoured the internet and the resulting dessert is a combination of a number of different recipes from which I took some ideas here and there. I ended up with a very rich (seriously, make sure you have milk on hand) and very delicious treat, if I do say so myself.

A few items to note:
1. On top of the crust and drizzled over the top, I actually used Pampered Chef's chocolate peanut butter sauce. However I realize not everyone may be able to get their hands on that when needed (unless you want to order it from me!), so I wrote the recipe with hot fudge and I think that would be just as delicious.
2. Make sure you crush up your pretzel pieces really well. It was late and I was lazy and I had a few chunks in there that were really too big, and I think made the crust harder to cut.
3. I made this in a springform pan, so that's how I wrote the recipe, but I think it would work equally well in a pie plate or square baking dish. It just might be a little harder to slice and remove from the dish.
4. I made this as a frozen dessert because that seemed to be the direction a lot of people take with their peanut butter pies. However, I think it could easily be stored in the fridge rather than the freezer, and it would be a lot easier to slice than this was!
5. I used whipped cream from a can to make the decorations on top because, as I said, I needed a quick solution. However, after sitting at room temperature for just a short time, the fancy flourishes sort of melted and lost their shape a bit. I might recommend making homemade whipped cream, which can be a little more stable.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pie

1 stick butter, very soft
2 cups crushed pretzels
2 Tbsp brown sugar

8 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used Neufchatel)
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup Cool Whip, thawed
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp hot fudge
Whipped cream, for decorating
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Minis (the kind that come unwrapped), for decorating (I used 22)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the softened butter, crushed pretzels, and brown sugar together until well combined. Press the mixture onto the bottom and about an inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan.  Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then put in refrigerator or freezer to harden and  finish setting up.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add the sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and mix well. Gently fold in the Cool Whip until fully combined and no white streaks remain.

Spread 1/3 cup of hot fudge (you might want to soften it slightly in the microwave to make it easier to spread) onto the pretzel crust. If you have time, you could put this in the refrigerator for a few minutes to set up slightly. If not, just carefully add the peanut butter/cream cheese mixture over the hot fudge and spread gently to even out the top. Put in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 4 hours. If you do freeze the pie, let it sit out for about 15 - 20 minutes before serving to make it easier to cut.

Just before serving, slightly melt the remaining 2 Tbsp of hot fudge in the microwave. Add it to a small sandwich bag and cut a small piece off the corner of the bag. Drizzle the hot fudge over the top of the pie, creating any pattern you choose. Add whipped cream flourishes around the edge, and top with mini Reese's peanut butter cups.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Sometimes the things I cook or bake are just meant to be. On the day after I made my Slow Cooker Pumpkin Oatmeal, I felt like baking something and thought a pumpkin cookie of some sort would be just the thing. I searched a number of recipes and finally found one that called for one cup of pumpkin puree, the exact amount I had left after the oatmeal. It was pumpkin destiny. Even more perfect was that I still had some Cinnamon Brown Butter Frosting left in the fridge from my Apple Spice Cupcakes. I had a feeling that frosting would go very well with these pumpkin cookies.

So I scooped out a dozen balls of cookie dough just as is, with the intention of frosting them once cool. I then added some chocolate chips, about half a cup or so, to the rest of the dough to make some chocolate chip pumpkin cookies. Two different cookies, one base recipe. So quick and easy, and so delicious. The pumpkin makes the cookies very soft and moist. I hate the word "moist" but it's really the best word to describe these cookies! If kept in an airtight container, the cookies stay very soft and in fact get even softer over time. If you prefer a more dense cookie, I would probably just keep them on a plate wrapped in foil.

These cookies (and the frosting) freeze very well. I made the cookies over two weeks ago, and I am eating a frosted one as I type this. I let it sit out at room temperature for about 10 minutes to thaw and it's just as delicious as it was the first night I made them.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Adapted from All Recipes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or use 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp cloves)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
Chocolate chips, optional (I would use a cup of chips if adding chocolate to the whole batch)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt; set aside. 

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter/sugar mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips, if using. Portion out onto cookie sheets. I used a two tablespoon cookie scoop and got about 30 cookies out of the recipe.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, then allow to cool completely. If adding frosting, wait until cookies are cool to do so.

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: 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. 

    Thursday, October 17, 2013

    Thursday Thoughts

    1. I’m so disappointed in the Starburst candy corn. They’re allegedly supposed to taste just like real Starbursts, but they do not. They don’t even taste good at all. It’s not often that I turn down candy, but I had just a few pieces and then brought them into work to get rid of them.

    2. Real candy corn, on the other hand? Can’t get enough. So good.

    3. I blame myself for the Red Sox losing last night. I was secretly hoping that they would make it to a Game 6, because I’ll be in Boston for work on Saturday and it would be fun to watch the game at a bar in Boston. I guess I got my wish. Oops.

    4. I need a day to organize my kitchen. I’ve accumulated more stuff since becoming a Pampered Chef consultant, and my shelves and cabinets were already bursting at the seams. I think I need to buy new storage racks/shelving. Any kitchen organization suggestions that have worked for you?

    5. Tailbones can be a pain in the ass. Literally. At least 6 or 7 years ago, I fell down a flight of stairs, landing on, and bruising, my tailbone. It was incredibly excruciating to walk, sit down, stand up, pretty much make any movement at all for quite some time. Then it gradually got better. But still, all these years later, if I sit too much, my tailbone becomes exceedingly sore. It’s sore right now, which doesn’t bode well for the train ride into New York City that I have to take later today.

    6. I’m a little short on thoughts this week. I think I’ve been too busy and my head is too jumbled to really piece anything together. So that’s all she wrote.

    Wednesday, October 16, 2013


    I don't think I've mentioned yet on this blog how much I love Harry Potter. Love the books, love the movies, love everything about the world that JK Rowling created. Love it. And I have been lucky enough to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando not once, but twice. And with those trips came lots of butterbeer. They have two versions there - regular and frozen - and they're both delicious. You can even get a souvenir butterbeer mug, which I obviously did, both times I went. It makes drinking it even more fun.

    After having butterbeer for the first time, I wanted to recreate it at home and have done so a few times since. If you Google "butterbeer recipe" you're going to get about 179,000 results. The different options have varying degrees of difficulty, some made with from-scratch concoctions of clarified butter, brown sugar, vanilla, etc. But I'm lazy, and when I want butterbeer, I want it NOW. So I take the easy way, and it's seriously delicious. If you're looking for a version that doesn't have artificial ingredients with things in them that you can't pronounce, this is not the recipe for you. But if you want quick and yummy, read on! This has been approved by many of my Harry Potter-fan friends, and my friend's six year old son, too!

    Recipe is for one serving; can be easily multiplied

    12 oz. cream soda, chilled
    3/4 tsp. imitation butter flavoring, divided
    1/2 cup Cool Whip, thawed

    Measure 1/2 tsp. of butter flavoring into your cup. If a few extra drops sneak in, that's ok. Some cream soda brands are stronger than others and you might want a little over 1/2 tsp. in there. Pour your cream soda over the flavoring, stirring very lightly to mix. In a separate small bowl, mix 1/2 cup Cool Whip with remaining 1/4 tsp. butter flavoring, stirring to combine well. Spoon Cool Whip mixture over the top of the soda, and enjoy!

    1. To make a butterbeer float, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to your cup.
    2. For an adult version, add an ounce (or more!) of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. My friends and I have tried this, and we approve!

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    Buffalo Chicken Crostini

    Happy Columbus Day! I am lucky enough to have today off, and I hope you do too! After being away for most of last week, I plan to spend the day doing a whole lot of relaxing and catching up on sleep.

    The week before last, we had catering from Panera Bread for lunch at work, and with the food came a number of whole French baguettes. There was so much other food that the baguettes were barely touched, so I brought one home and decided I wanted to make some sort of crostini with it. On my agenda for the day was a good bit of football watching, and since I have trouble watching football without some sort of buffalo-flavored food, I thought buffalo chicken crostini were in order. This is basically a version of buffalo chicken dip on little toasts. I normally use plain cream cheese in my dip, but I saw that Philadelphia now makes a jalapeno cream cheese in a tub, and I thought that would work really well in this. I was right, but you could certainly use unflavored cream cheese if that's what you have or if you're not a fan of jalapenos.

    They were so good, and made for a great lunch while I sadly watched my Patriots break their winning streak that day. I made a small batch for myself, but you could easily double the recipe to make more crostini at once, or save some of the buffalo chicken mixture to eat with chips (or a spoon) or make a separate batch of crostini later in the week.

    French baguette
    1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, poached and shredded or diced*
    4 oz. jalapeno cream cheese (or plain cream cheese)
    1/4 cup ranch dressing
    1/8 cup Frank's Red Hot (you can use a little more for some extra kick - I did!)
    2 scallions, green parts only, sliced

    *To poach the chicken, place it in a pot in a single layer and cover with water until it's about an inch over the chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, keep the chicken covered, and allow to sit for another 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the water and allow to cool slightly.

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice 12 pieces of French bread between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 7 - 8 minutes.

    In a small pan, melt cream cheese and combine with dressing and Frank's Red Hot; stir until smooth. Add diced chicken and stir to coat. Spoon the buffalo chicken mixture onto the pieces of toasted bread, then sprinkle the sliced scallions onto each piece. Add a few extra dashes of Frank's Red Hot, if desired.

    Friday, October 11, 2013

    Apple and Sausage Pie

    Sometimes the foods I make are dictated by what I have a craving for. But sometimes I choose a particular recipe because I want to use a new toy in my kitchen. That was the case here. I bought a deep dish pie plate from Pampered Chef and it was so pretty that I wanted to use it right away. I had made this pie recipe years ago, and remembered wishing at the time that I had a deeper pie plate, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try the recipe again. 

    It was every bit as good as I remembered. The buttery richness of the pie crust, the heartiness of the sausage, the texture of the ever-so-slightly still-crisp apples, and the three cheese mixture on top all combined for a perfect comfort food on a chilly night.

    Sausage and Apple Pie
    Recipe from Simply Recipes

    1 unbaked pie crust (I used a refrigerated Pillsbury crust, but feel free to make your own)
    2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced
    1/2 medium onion, chopped (about half a cup)
    1 tsp sugar
    3 Tbsp butter
    3/4 lb sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
    1 clove garlic, minced
    2 cups shredded asiago cheese
    1 cup ricotta cheese
    1/4 cup feta cheese
    2 eggs, slightly beaten

    Preheat oven to 425°F. Place your pie crust dough into a pie plate, smoothing the bottom and sides and crimping the edges, if desired. Line the pie plate with aluminum foil, pressing the dough against the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the foil and poke the entire bottom of the pie crust with a fork to create air vents. Return crust to oven, bake for an additional 4 minutes, or until the crust just begins to brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. 

    Melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the apples, onions, and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes. In the last 30 seconds or so, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Transfer mixture to a separate bowl. Increase the heat to medium high and in the same skillet add the Italian sausage. Break up the sausage links and cook, stirring occasionally, until sausage is browned on all sides and is cooked through. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess fat.

    In medium sized bowl, mix together the cheeses and beaten eggs.

    Place sausage on bottom of pre-baked pie crust. Add the cooked apple and onion mixture over the sausage. Add the egg and cheese mixture on top of the apple mixture and spread it to evenly cover the pie.

    Bake at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Thursday Thoughts

    1. I can officially never live outside of the eastern time zone. I’m in Chicago for work this week, and on Tuesday, when I arrived, I sat through a very frustrating two hours of traffic to go the mere 15 miles from the airport to my hotel. I couldn’t wait to check in, pick up some dinner, and watch New Girl. But no, out here New Girl is on at 8. How do people handle having “prime time” TV start at 7 pm?? Who is settled and ready to watch TV by then? East coast forever.

    2. When I’m traveling for work, I have a tendency to eat as if I’m on vacation. Deliciously bad things all around. I may do a post about eating my way through Chicago if I have enough decent photos to share.

    3. I’m not cut out for city living. I can’t handle not being able to just jump in the car and easily park wherever I need to go. Relying on cabs or subways, or paying exorbitant parking fees, makes getting around so much more difficult.

    4. It is nice to have a bajillion food options within a 5 minute walk though. Within two blocks of my hotel I could probably get any type of food I could possibly want. On second thought, it’s probably best that I don’t have that option at home. I find enough ways to shove food in my face as it is.

    5. I love king-size beds. I try to get one every time I stay in a hotel and I love all the extra space. I think if I ever get married, a king-size will be a must.

    6. Why do hotels always have the most terrible water pressure? I’m lucky enough to not have to wash my hair every day, but when I do, it always feels like I never quite get all the shampoo and conditioner out. I miss my shower at home.

    7. Kanye West is the WORST. The worst. I actually think he’s a little mentally unhinged.