November 25, 2012


For this post, I had to make a drawing.  And by "make a drawing", I mean mash up some things from clip art and word art for you, to convey the depth of my love of bolognese.

There is an entire portion of my brain devoted to it.  I decided it was somewhere in the frontal lobe, because it definitely controls my decision making, or rather impairs it when the other parts of my brain smell it or think about it.  Even though I was content before I started writing this post, I am now voraciously hungry for more pasta.
It's a blessing and a curse, people.  We have Ina Garten to thank for this particular mutation of my disease.

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra to use in the pasta water
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt (plus more to taste) for the sauce and 1 tablespoon sea salt for the pasta water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (plus more to taste)
  • 3/4 pound dried pasta
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add the ground beef and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spatula, for 5 to 7 minutes until the meat is no longer pink and has started to brown.
  2. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute.
  3. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir t scrape up any browned bits.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.
  5. While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce.  Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup of wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. 
  6. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour back into the pot you boiled it in.  Add the sauce and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and stir to coat evenly.
  7. Serve hot with Parmesan grated on top.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

My house is smelling like chocolatey baked goodness again.  Turns out I've used a couple recipes from Pennies on a Platter now, so after this post I'm pretty sure I'll be perusing more of that site.  :)

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling cookies in
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar

  1. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  2. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat together the sugars, butter, and 1/4 cup of the peanut butter until light and smooth.  Mix in the vanilla until incorporated, then mix in the egg until combined.  Gradually stir in the flour mixture.  Set dough aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  4. For the filling, cream together the remaining 3/4 cup of peanut butter and the powdered sugar until smooth.  If you use a mixer, the filling will become crumbly but can still be pressed down to create more of a packed filling.
  5. To assemble the cookies, spoon a generous tablespoon of chocolate cookie dough and flatten into a circle with your hands.  Scoop a small amount of peanut butter filing (I use about a teaspoon) and place in the center of the chocolate dough.  Wrap the chocolate dough around the peanut butter filling, pinching the seam together.  Roll the cookie between hands to form a ball.  Roll the ball of dough in a bowl of sugar to coat, and place about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet.
  6. Use the bottom of  a glass or measuring cup to slightly flatten the cookies.  Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the cookies just begin to crack.  Do not over bake.  Let sit on cookie sheet for a couple minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

November 23, 2012

Jingle Shadow Box

I got hooked on this project a month or so ago, and have been slowly building up the supplies and plan of attack.  The original used a decal from a scrapbooking supply company, and I didn't want to spend several dollars for each decal, considering I wanted to make a handful of these cuties.  Luckily for me, I was able to find a template for the text and jingle bell through a google search.  Taped that to the back of my shadow box glass, painted over it, and voila.  I just got the jingle bells at Michael's' black Friday sale today!  These are definitely going to be made at the upcoming craft party with my friends, now that I've figured out all the ins and outs.


  • Small shadow box (I found my 6x6 one at Michael's on sale for just under $5!)
  • Stencil, template, or other design if not free handing
  • Variety of jingle bells (I got a baggie of the smallest, a couple tubes each of medium and large, and a baggie of glitter ones in varying sizes, which should easily fill 5 of these)
  • Ribbon
  • Scrapbooking or wrapping paper
  • Paint (black, red, green, or white would be best)


  1. Disassemble shadow box.  Tape template design face up against back side of glass.  Lay glass down on a solid colored surface (white is best).  Paint on glass, using template as a guide.  If using stencil, tape stencil to front side of glass and paint within stencil guides.  Allow paint to dry.
  2. Place glass back inside shadow box.  Arrange jingle bells against glass.
  3. Trace outline of shadow box backing on paper.  Cut out paper and lay over shadow box opening.  Gently place backing in and seal shadow box.
  4. Gently shake box if necessary to arrange jingle bells as desired.
  5. Tie ribbon around edge of shadow box.  Hot glue in place if desired.  If using a thick ribbon, it should stay in place just fine without the glue.  Silkier ribbons may not.

Thanksgiving Spread

This was a great Thanksgiving, with a lot of great things to be happy for, a combination of family and friends that felt really special, and a touch of pride in seeing different projects and recipes pulled together to create a great holiday for me at least.  Really, the Pinterest creations are ultimately selfish- I love the way it all looks and don't care too much if anyone else cares.  They make me happy and that's all I can control, though of course I hope my gusts enjoyed them, too.  :-)

Now if you've been following along for a little while, you've seen my rustic crafts.  I was making them to create a really pretty table setting for Thanksgiving, and it was great seeing them come together!  Everyone really liked the place card holders and ornaments.  My son especially liked playing with the place card holders, haha.

My husband, son, and I alternate our holidays between Maryland and Pittsburgh (where my in-laws live). For the last couple years, we've done a bit of a potluck for the holidays here in Maryland. It's a nice way for the vegetarians in our lives to fend for themselves without getting told they can just make a meal out of sides (poor vegetarians), doesn't put the strain of a huge meal all on one person, and it's a nice chance to try out some recipes without the fear that should they not be up to par, you've blow the whole shebang.  Phew! :)

I made an appetizer found on Pinterested: Neimann Marcus Dip.  I wish it had a more descriptive name, but Cheesy Bacon Onion Almond Dip doesn't quite have the elegance of the former name.  BUT, hmmm... rearrange those and call it B.A.C.O. dip, and you've got a winner!  omg I'm a genius.

Next up was my side dip contribution to dinner: cheesy corn casserole.  Thank the Thanksgiving Day Parade Gods  for Paula Deen and her stick of butter per recipe pre-diabetic cooking.  This was a delicious hit.

The final spread: look at the amazing deliciousness.  The vegetarian side of the table is in the foreground; green bean casserole, tofurkey, bread and butter, vegetarian stuffing, warm cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, a more different cold cranberry sauce, the turkey on a big honkin platter, my mom's stuffing from the turkey (drooool), corn casserole, and I know there are a couple gravies out there somewhere; one veggie approved and the other meatatarian.  My little brother recommended little toothpick flags identifying the different dishes, which of course I now must do at all future holiday meals.  Way to crank the hostess crafting to a new level, Robbie.

After we had properly stuffed ourselves, experienced various degrees of food coma on the couch, had some coffee and worked ourselves up for dessert, we had an amazing chocolate tart with vanilla bean ice cream.  I left it Pac-Man style without nuts for those of us who aren't huge pecan fans.  This was a very fancy recipe that required scouring the stores for mystical ingredients such as moscovado sugar (found at The Fresh Market) and flaky sea salt (found nowhere; substituted with regular sea salt).  Now the hard thing with fancy recipes, aside from the advanced cooking techniques and amount of time and labor involved, is properly substituting when you don't find their fancy ingredients.  In hindsight, I should have reduced the amount of coarse salt used because it isn't an equivalent flavor to the flaky variety (I'm thinking the coarse has a much stronger flavor).  While good, those of us who didn't use the ice cream to cut down on the salty richness couldn't eat more than a few forkfuls of the gourmet Pac-Man.  Oh well: MORE FOR ME, and a delicious lesson learned.  I was thankful for my love of vanilla bean ice cream to make the dessert edible.

So there you have it: our Thanksgiving Round Up for 2012.  It was a great one, had a wonderful time with my loved ones, and can't wait to see what Christmas brings this year!  To gear up for that, I'm hosting a Pinterest Party next weekend.  Stay tuned!

Sea Salt Chocolate and Pecan Tart

Are you ready for a gourmet dessert?  Because this is it.  It took an evening to prepare start to finish, and aside from a slip on my end with ingredient substitution, was amazingly worth the effort.  As you can see I left a portion of mine plain because a couple of my holiday guests don't like nuts.  Plain or topped, this was such a tasty dessert and the crust was really good.  I'm happy I had some left over chocolate crust dough; I fully intend to make some mini tarts in the next week!
While not pictured, I definitely recommend serving the tart slices with a nice scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. It makes the perfect pairing with the rich tart, and makes it a bit more approachable for people who are overwhelmed by the dense, strong flavors.

For the Crust
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • About 2 cups dried beans, lentils, or rice to fill the crust while it bakes (will not actually be eaten as part of the recipe)
For the Filling
  • 7 ounces 60% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 cup light muscovado sugar, packed (I could only find dark, so I used about 3/4 cup dark muscovado sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar to cut the stronger flavor of the dark sugar)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon (unfortunately I couldn't find flaky sea salt, so I used regular coarse sea salt.  My warning is that if you do the same, only use about 1/4 to 1/2 tablespoon of the coarse sea salt; the full tablespoon of that stronger flavor was too much salt for this recipe; served plain it was just too salty and rich.)
For the Topping
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

For the Crust
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Add the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons water, and mix well until all the liquid has been incorporated.
  2. Gradually add the flour and cocoa powder until a dough is formed.
  3. Wrap the pastry dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a disk, and refrigerate for 1 hour.  The pastry can be made up to 2 days ahead, or even frozen in advance.  If frozen, thaw and knead the pastry to soften it before rolling.
  4. Roll out pastry dough between 2 sheets of wax paper until it is about 2 inches bigger than your tart pan.  The original recipe recommends using a 10 inch tart pan that is 1 inch deep.
  5. Carefully line the pan with the rolled out dough, pressing the pastry well into the bottom edges and folding the excess over the top.  Gently tear or trim off the excess.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes to relax the pastry and to help prevent it from shrinking during cooking.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line the tart with a sheet of parchment paper (scrunch it up first and then spread out a couple times to soften it), then fill with dried beans, lentils, or raw rice.  Don't make my mistake of thinking you can use that ingredient later; being in the oven certainly puffed up all of my rice!  Bake the pastry blind (meaning without filling) for 20 minutes.
  7. Lift out the parchment paper and beans/rice/lentils and bake the shell for 5-8 minutes more, until dry.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.
For the Filling
  1. Put all of the ingredients in a heatproof mixing bowl, and place it over a pan of very hot water.  Slowly stir the ingredients at intervals until they melt together and appear glossy and thick.
  2. Pour the filling into the cooled, baked crust and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight (which I did).
For the Topping
  1. Heat a saucepan over medium high heat until warm, and gradually add the sugar.  Watch the sugar closely until it begins to melt around the edges.  Stir gently until you have a golden liquid caramel.  Some caramel recipes require adding water, but this one does not; be patient as the water in the sugar crystals takes time to dissolve over the high heat.  This is a great tutorial to help you out.
  2. When the caramel is formed, add the salt and mix well.  Pour in the pecans, and mix thoroughly.  Quickly pour the mixture onto parchment paper and spread out with a spatula.
  3. Allow to cool thoroughly, then break or chop up into shards or chunky pieces to sprinkle over the tart.

When ready to serve, lift the tart out of the metal ring (usually the bottom disc is separate and lifts out of the ring).  Quickly cut the tart with a hot, wet knife for perfect, restaurant-quality slices.

Look at how beautiful and golden that topping is!

Corn Casserole

This tasty, easy side dish was definitely a winner on the Thanksgiving Dinner table.  Warm and cheesy and rich, with both the cornbread and actual corn kernels, I couldn't get enough of it.  Friends who have made this say that it definitely gets worked into their dinner menus all year long; not just for the holidays.  I can see why that is! I'll be very happy to make this again.

  • 15 1/4 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 14 3/4 ounce can cream-style corn
  • 8 ounce package Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a 9 x 9 inch baking pan or a 2 quart casserole dish.
  2. Mix together the corn, Jiffy, sour cream, and butter in a large bowl.  Gently stir in the cheese.  Pour into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 55 minutes, or until golden brown and set.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Note: You can bake for a shorter time in a 9 x 13 pan, but it will be more like corn bread than a casserole.  The original recipe says both ways are delicious!  I've only had the casserole version.

B.A.C.O. Dip

I made this delicious dip for the first time yesterday, as a pre-Thanksgiving dinner snack.  It was definitely a hit, and the first thing we broke out for the leftover attack at 9 p.m.
Also, I'm proud of the way I renamed it.  Neiman Marcus Dip, while sounding impressive, doesn't really convey a thing about the ingredients: bacon, almonds, cheese, and onions: B.A.C.O.  My name wins.

  • 5-6 green onions, snipped into small slices
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonaise
  • 3 ounces bacon bits (I used soy Baco bits for my vegetarian guests; I'm sure would be super amazing with real bacon bits!)
  • 1 small package slivered almonds (the one in the original recipe looks like it's just 2-3 ounces.  I just portioned out about a half cup of almonds from a bigger bag I had and used extra mayo to reach the consistency I wanted)

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and chill for a couple hours.  
  2. Serve with crackers, veggies, or corn chips.
SO EASY!  Perfect for busy holiday events.

November 21, 2012

Rustic Place Card Holders

I came across a beautiful picture of stick place card holders on Pinterest and just had to make them myself.  I happen to prefer my ragged edge to Martha Stewart's gilded one, thank you.  I did use a jig saw to trim the ends of some of my branches, but I think the ones I left "raw" were perfectly nice, too.  I also will share with you my secret weapon: little twigs.  I used them where necessary to prop up the place card holders when they were a bit wonky.

  • 2 slim branches or thick twigs per holder, plus small twigs to use for adjusting
    • Go for branches with lots of personality!  Interesting bark, texture, or color make each one really special.
  • 1 spring of pine needles per holder
  • Parchment paper
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • Garden shears or another tool to trim ends of holders, if desired

  1. Print out or write out each guest's name on a 3" x 2" piece of parchment paper.  Tear edges to be ragged.
  2. Trim branches down to even sets of 2.  No branches should be smaller than 4" long, and probably no longer than 7".
  3. Slip place card between two branches, flip holder over, and hot glue the seam between the branches, preferably with a bit of the parchment paper as well.  Tilt on side to dry.
  4. When dry, add a dab of glue to the base of the pine sprig and nestle in next to place card.
  5. If necessary, hot glue small twigs to base of holders to prop them up nicely so you can read guests' names.

November 18, 2012

Fudgy Bon Bons

This weekend's cookie insanity comes to a close with my 3rd and last batch in as many days.  These are definitely my favorite cookies; a guilty pleasure I save for the holidays that make Christmas sooo special.  They're best served warm and gooey.  Fair warning: you will be asked to make these again.  They're so good, they deserve the extra large photo treatment.  Omg I'm drooling.

  • 12 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional; I leave them out)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • About 60 unwrapped Hershey hugs candy kisses
  • 2 ounces white chocolate chips (1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  1. Heat oven to 350°.
  2. In a medium pan, melt semi-sweet chocolate chips and butter over low heat.  Stir until chips are melted and smooth.  Add sweetened condensed milk and mix well.  Remove from heat.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix flour, nuts, chocolate mixture, and vanilla.  If mixing by hand, be ready to put some muscle into it.  This dough gets strong by the end!
  4. Shape 1 tablespoon of dough around each Hershey kiss, covering completely.  Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  If dough begins to crumble as you're working, warm it up by kneading in your hands before pressing around the kiss.  If you still have a lot of dough to work through, you can microwave the bowl for just a few seconds and stir to make it pliable again.
  5. Bake at 350° for 6 to 8 minutes.  Do not over bake.  Cookies will be soft and appear shiny, but will become firm as they cool.  Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks.
  6. Melt white chocolate chips and oil in a baggie in the microwave, heated for 30 seconds or until the chips are melted.  Tilt the bag left and right to incorporate oil and chips thoroughly.  Snip a small corner off the bottom of the baggie and drizzle the glaze over the cooled bon bons. 
  7. Alternatively, you could melt the chips and oil in a bowl, and drizzle the glaze on the bon bons with a spoon.

Sugar Cookies

Today I'm sharing my battle with the concept of stamped sugar cookies.  I really loved the idea of using a pretty stamp on a sugar cookie and having this great design in my final cookie.  I call shenanigans on the many many internet posts that only show you the "before": a pic of someone stamping dough, with no "after": the lumpy funny-looking cookies that result.  I read plenty of posts on this topic and have come to a couple conclusions:

  • It's not as easy as I thought
  • It helps to use special cookie stamps
  • When not using special cookie stamps, at least use stamps with a simple design
  • Stamp a ball of dough, not flat dough
  • Use on fresh dough, not chilled dough
  • Rolling the dough in sugar makes things stick less

So there you have a nice little bulleted list that took me at least 4 trial batches to develop.  Hey, at least I have a list now!  And at least a handful of cookies worthy of that basket I'm putting together.
Here are my final products of the testing.  On the left, cookies I stamped with a snowflake and star using fresh dough.  On the right, the same stamps on chilled dough I made into balls and rolled in sugar.  The chilled dough snowflake doesn't have anything close to the same definition as the fresh dough, and the star isn't as crisp either though still passable.  The ones I tried pressing directly into my rolled out flat dough weren't even worth showing.  They were just gigantic cookie blobs without any indication whatsoever that I'd stamped them.  Yay useless ugly cookies my son and I get to eat guilt free. :)  AND, I should say that design gripes aside, these are amazingly delicious.  It's an old family friend's recipe that we've been using for about 30 years now (well, my mom has used for 30 years; only 10 for me).  And that part, I will definitely share!

  • 4 sticks butter (never use margarine)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (never use imitation vanilla)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (optional, for coating stamped cookies)
Directions for Cut Out Cookies
  1. This dough needs to chill, so allow at least 1 hour before baking, and if possible make dough the night before baking.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar with mixer on low speed.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Stir in flour.
  3. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper so it won't stick to everything.  Layer rolled out dough on a cookie sheet and chill in fridge till dough is nice and stiff (at least 1 hour, or even overnight).
  4. Peel waxed paper off of dough, and place dough on a floured surface.  Sprinkle dough with a small amount of flour, and tap cookie cutters in flour to prevent sticking.
  5. Preheat oven to 350° and spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray.
  6. Cut out cookie shapes from chilled dough and transfer to cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until set and slightly golden along the edges.  Thinner cookies will be closer to 10 minutes while thick cookies will take 15 or more.
  7. Immediately transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before decorating.

Directions for Stamped Cookies
  1. Cream together butter and sugar with mixer on low speed.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Stir in flour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350° and spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray.  Spray rubber part of stamps with nonstick spray as well.  You may need to repeat this step periodically during stamping.
  3. Tear off pieces of dough and roll into balls no larger than 1 tablespoon (about 1 1/2 inches) in size.  Roll dough in sugar and place on waxed paper.  
  4. Stamp dough with a cookie stamp or craft stamp.  You'll want to press down until the ball of dough just begins to crack around the edges.  Gingerly peel dough off of stamp, or wiggle stamp to shake dough loose.
  5. Arrange cookies on prepared cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until just golden brown along the edges.  Immediately transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before storing.

November 17, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

I've mentioned how much I love my Martha Stewart cookbooks, and her Cookies one is no exception.  I've been making these chocolate gingerbread cookies for years now, and they are definitely one of the most popular in my Christmas spread.  This year, I'm putting together a gift basket of cookies for a fundraiser at work, baking a bit here and there and freezing them.  I'll be sure to post the M&M cookie and snickerdoodle recipes for the ones I've already made when I make another fresh batch (I froze the leftover dough- yay leftover dough).  I remembered to break out my camera today, though!

A couple notes before you start.  The dough needs to be made at least 2 hours before you plan to bake the cookies, though preferably the night before.  Also, while you might balk at buying a jar of unsulfured molasses for just one recipe, take it as an opportunity to try a new ingredient!  It is a secret weapon in chocolate chip cookies, for example.

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated peeled ginger
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water
  • 7 ounces best quality semi-sweet chocolate, cut into 1/4 inch chunks, and/or chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  1. In a bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.  Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or just in a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer), beat the butter and fresh ginger on medium speed until lightened (about 4 minutes).  Add the brown sugar and beat until combined.  Add the molasses, and beat until combined.
  3. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in boiling water.  I like to pop a glass bowl or measuring cup with the water in the microwave for about 40 seconds until it boils, and then just stir in the baking soda.
  4. Beat half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture.  Beat in baking soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture.  Mix in chocolate, then turn onto plastic wrap.  Pat or roll out to 1-inch thickness.  Seal the wrap and refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or overnight.
  5. Lightly flour your work surface, and lay down the unwrapped dough.  Using a pizza cutter, cut 1-inch strips length-wise and then cross-wise to get 1-inch cubes of dough.  Roll the dough into balls and chill in the refrigerator on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets for 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 325°. Roll the balls of dough in granulated sugar and arrange 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake until surfaces just begin to crack (10-12 minutes), rotating halfway through.  Let cool 5 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.  Cookies are best the day they are made, but can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 5 days.  I'm going to store mine in mason jars to seal in the amazing scent!

November 15, 2012

Creamy Goat Cheese, Chicken, and Vegetable Pasta

I cannot put into words how delicious the sauce is for this pasta dish.  Suffice it to say I just wanted to lick the pan while it was still hot, it was so good.  Yay to the Pinterest gods for bestowing another amazing dish into my culinary repertoire.  Yay for Gimme Some Oven, too.  I will caution you though, that this meal involves 3 things happening simultaneously so lots of jumping around and stirring in sequence.  This is a meal to make when you've got some energy.  This is definitely one of those meals where you get your ingredients all lined up before hand, and have to read the recipe thoroughly first.  No doing it as you go on this one.

  • 1/2 lb pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bunch (about 15 skinny stalks) asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2" pieces
  • 8 oz fresh button or baby bella mushrooms, halved
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup pasta water
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

  1. Set a pot of generously salted water to boil for the pasta.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat 1-2 tablespoons oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken and cook 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden and the center is no longer pink.  Remove the chicken and set aside in a bowl.
  3. Add pasta to the boiling water.
  4. Now things get fun.  You're going to cook both the vegetables and the sauce at the same time.  Prepare yourself!
  5. Add shallots and garlic to the large pan you cooked the chicken in, adding more oil if needed (I did not one time when I made this; needed more another time).  Saute for 2 minutes, then add the asparagus and mushrooms.  Continue cooking for another 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove skillet from heat.
  6. While the vegetables are cooking, heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk quickly to combine, then let cook for 1 minute.  Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water, the goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, and a generous pinch of salt and black pepper.  Whisk to combine.  Cook for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low and stir occasionally until the pasta is ready.  If the sauce is too thick, gradually add small portions of pasta water until you thin it out to your taste.  Mine was just fine without thinning, though.
  7. Drain the pasta when cooked, and immediately toss pasta in the large pan with the vegetables,  chicken (but not the juices), and the cheese sauce.  Serve garnished with additional Parmesan cheese.
  8. Try not to lick the serving spoon.  I dare you.
I just had to share that I made it again a couple nights ago, in my brand new apron!

And now I have a new pic to share too, this time with a different kind of noodle. :)

Starry Skies Box

Boy was my son excited about the huge box my new lamp shades came in.  First he wanted to play with all the packaging, then he was very eager to climb into the box.  Because he fit, I knew I'd finally found the perfect box to convert into a twinkly cave for him.  I got the idea from Pinterest, but unfortunately the website the pin goes to doesn't have the pictures up anymore.  Sorry I can't give proper credit!

All I did for this one was poke holes in the top of a box and pop a bunch of Christmas lights through the holes.  The blog used rounded lights instead of my pointy ones, which is probably a wiser move with a toddler.  ;-)  I'll be keeping an eye on how hot the lights get and how hot the box gets.  We don't want fire hazard crafts, people.  So that's your warning!

"Mom, I approve." 

November 14, 2012

Zucchini Pie

Yum yum yum I love this dinner.  Veggies and cheese all mixed together into something that's not quite a quiche but who cares- it's comfort food!  So easy to make: mix everything in a bowl and dump it in a pie pan.  Bake and presto: dinner.

  • 3 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 2-cup bag of pre-shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • lots of pepper to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for topping

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl, then add the remaining ingredients.
  3. Spray a pie pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Add the mixed ingredients and evenly smooth out with a spatula.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until golden brown and the middle is set.
  5. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes on a wire rack before serving.

November 11, 2012

Rustic Ornaments

Getting ready to host Thanksgiving, and I've come up with a couple ideas to decorate the table.  The first one was pulled together today: clear glass ornaments filled with outdoorsy stuff.  I saw a pin of these terrarium globes with aloe plants inside, and it got me thinking that I could fill some glass ornaments with bits of wood, acorns, twigs, moss, and berries.  I was able to collect these things for less than $15!  Michaels had all of the fake things I needed and the ornaments; the big tree in front of my house had all the wood chips, twigs, and acorns my heart desired.


  • 4 Clear glass ornaments: 2 large and 2 medium
  • Fake berries, either snipped from 1 floral stem or provided in a small bag
  • Fake moss (small bag)
  • Jute twine (desired length)
  • Acorns and caps
  • Twigs
  • Mulch or bits of fallen tree bark


  1. Pull out stopper on top of ornaments.
  2. Fill each ornament with a couple berries, twigs, acorns, and bits of mulch.
  3. Add in a layer of moss.  You can use twigs or tweezers to push around and arrange as you want.
  4. Layer on a few more twigs and bits of much.  Any berries added to anything but the bottom, sides, and top will just be hidden by the moss.
  5. Repeat as desired, going for a random look: not neatly arranged.
  6. Replace ornament topper and run twine through ornament hook.
  7. Tie to chandelier, curtain rod, hooks, or whatever else at varying lengths.
  8. Admire your skills of an artist.
Up next: twig and pine sprig place card holders!

November 4, 2012


I seriously can't remember the last time I made meatloaf, but I can promise you it wasn't anything to write a blog post about.  I was used to the old school meat, egg, and oats approach to meatloaf.  Well tonight I went the Paula Deen approach, and what a difference.  I scoff at other meatloaf now.  Scoff!  Also, this dish must be made with mashed potatoes.  A good salad helps too.  But the taters, those are required.

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 8-oz canned diced tomatoes with juice (I couldn't find an 8-oz can, so I just measured out 1 cup from a larger can)
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix all meatloaf ingredients well and place in a loaf pan or small baking dish.  Shape into a loaf.
  3. Mix the topping ingredients and spread evenly on loaf.
  4. Bake for 1 hour.

Crock Pot Beef Daube Provencal (Beef Stew)

Now don't let the French name throw you on this one.  It's just beef stew, but there's nothing plain about it.  We're having a crock pot cook off at work tomorrow, and I chose this amazing stew as my entry.  This guy takes a lot of work, but MAN is it worth it.  I'll let you know if tomorrow's judges agree!
Update: 1st place!  Yay fancy name beef stew!

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 12 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 2-lb boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided (1/2 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon portions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided (1/4 portions)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • dash of ground cloves
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Optional: serve with egg noodles, rice, or other pasta.
  1. Heat oil in a small Dutch oven over low heat.  Add garlic, and cook 5 minutes or until garlic is fragrant, stirring occasionally. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon, and set aside.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high.  Add roast to pan, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides.  Remove roast from pan.
  3. Add wine to pan and bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Add garlic, roast, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and all the other ingredients (except optional pasta or rice).  Bring to a boil.
  4. Carefully transfer roast mixture to a 4-quart electric slow cooker.  This step could get really messy and painful if you just dump the stew into the crock pot.  Take it easy so you don't splatter everywhere (and burn yourself in the process).  Cover and cook on HIGH 5 hours.  Discard bay leaf.  Serve over pasta or rice if desired.
You could also make this in the oven if you'd like.  Instead of transferring to the crock pot, just cover the dutch oven and bake at 300 degrees for 2 1/2 hours or until the beef is tender.