New Year's Dinner


Category: , ,

Whether or not you're superstitious (I'm not), the New Year's Dinner is a fun tradition.  I look forward to it every year.  Last year I decided to make Ree Drummond's Hoppin' John as a sort of spin on my family's classic meal.  

Closeup of the beans, with the bell peppers.  So good- we may have spooned it over quinoa.
Just in case you're not sure about the New Year's Meal superstition, the idea is that certain foods- black eyed peas, greens, and pork- represent luck and prosperity in the new year.  

The collard story in three pictures
Huge bunch in the pan...

Cooks down very small!
I'm not sure what my New Year's meal prep says about me, except that I'm a huge klutz, but I shattered glass into my New Year's meal and had to redo it all again a day or so later.  I was so upset. Fortunately, I'm here to tell you that the shattered glass wasn't some symbol of the failure and disaster to come this year.  It's been a good year.  

We served our hoppin' john with sauteed collard greens, a baked sweet potato, and cornbread.  It was a country feast.

from The Pioneer Woman aka Ree Drummond

4 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Large Onion, Diced
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Diced
2 stalks Celery, Diced
4 cups Soaked Black-eyed Peas
5 cups Chicken Broth
Salt And Pepper, to taste
Cayenne Pepper To Taste
2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
Soak black-eyed peas in cool water for at least 6 hours.  Drain the peas from the water.

Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, green pepper, and celery and stir. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in soaked beans, then add chicken broth, salt & pepper, and cayenne to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover the pot for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, check the liquid level; if it's too soupy, cook with the lid off for another 15 minutes or so. If it's too thick, splash in a little more broth.  Stir in vinegar, then taste for seasonings. Add more spice if needed.

You can serve it over rice, with greens and cornbread, or eat it as is.

  • I cook dried beans and peas a lot.  I like their flavor and texture better than canned beans.  To cook from dried, follow the same plan in the pinto bean post- sort and rinse the dried beans, cover them with a couple inches of water in a large bowl and let them soak overnight.  Below is a picture of a good way to sort:
    Spread the beans/peas out on a large baking sheet.  It makes it easy to see rocks or bad beans

Chocolate Sugar Cookies


Category: , ,

What do you think of when you think of a Christmas cookie?  I'll tell you what comes to my mind, and maybe some of our thoughts are the same, or maybe they'd be completely different:
  • Sugar cookies, rolled out, punched into shapes like bells, trees, stars, mittens, reindeer, and decorated with frosting or sprinkles
  • Gingerbread men and houses
  • Fruitcake Cookies (I can't believe I've never given the recipe- will try to fix that soon!)
  • Those store-bought slice and bake sugar cookies that are dyed in the middle to look like a Christmas tree or Santa's hat
  • Those small, pre-made butter cookies that have red or green sprinkles and sometimes look like a wreath

Despite all the people who love chocolate, and I am one of them, Christmas is not chocolate's big day.  These cookies, though, just may be its ticket in.  They were originally labeled "chocolate sugar cookies" and Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen changed their name to brownie roll out cookies because she felt the name suited it better.  

These cookies have a solid chocolate taste and have the dense texture of a brownie.  I know!  Deb (I write that like we're on a first name basis or something) thinks they'd be ideal for an ice cream sandwich, and I don't doubt that, but I could see these getting some decorating love and replacing the regular sugar cookie or even gingerbread at Christmas.

Either way, the cookies are tasty, and the dough can be frozen for later use.  They're addictive, so beware!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
from Smitten Kitchen

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Whisk dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.

Roll out cookie dough on floured counter. Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top. (It does disappear once baked, though, so don’t overly fret if they go into the oven looking white.) Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes (the former for 1/8-inch thick cookies, the latter for 1/4-inch cookies) until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Ranch Dill Cheez-its


Category: , , ,

This recipe was shared with me several years ago by my good friend and former co-worker, Cindy.  Thank you Cindy!  She brought them to a party and I think I could have eaten the whole container.  There's just something about the way the cheesiness of the crackers combines with the dill and ranch dressing mix that really creates a memorable, crave-worthy taste.  Disclaimer: don't eat on a date!

Anyway, if you need something to make for a party, these are perfect.  They're easy and fairly quick (30 mins total time) to make, the recipe makes a lot, and they're very transportable and can be made ahead of time, oh and almost everyone finds them irresistible.

Ranch Dill Cheez-its

2 boxes Cheez-its or other cheese crackers
1/2 c. vegetable or canola oil
1 TB. dill
1 package ranch dressing mix

Preheat your oven to 200.  Pour your cheese crackers into a roasting pan or divided between two 9x13 pans.  Combine the ranch and the dill and sprinkle evenly over the crackers.  Mix to combine and distribute.  Pour the oil evenly over the crackers and also stir/mix to combine.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Take the crackers out and stir them around and bake 10 minutes more.

Pinterest Find: Pumpkin Molasses Cookies


Category: , , ,

I took these cookies to a Christmas party over the weekend, and they were a surprising hit.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy them, so that's a win.  I wasn't sure how they would be received since they're a cakey cookie.  In fact, I bet they'd make killer whoopie pies.


The dough uses a lot of pumpkin and not a lot of other fats or a ton of sugar, so I'd bet (hope) they would fall on the healthier side of the spectrum, but regardless, they are a nicely spiced cookie for the fall or holiday seasons.

I tried to show in this picture that the dough is more like a batter.  Even after having it in the freezer a couple hours, it was soft and sticky.  I would definitely recommend freezing rather than refrigerating the dough to make it just a little easier to work with.  Once you roll it in sugar, though, the stickiness goes away and you have these little gems below:

Pop them in the oven and they expand like crazy.  If you hate cookie edges running into each other, I'd recommend baking 6-9 per sheet. 

Overall, though, these are tasty little cookies.  They are very soft baked and nicely spiced, with a good pumpkin flavor as well.  After they're all gone, I thought about the whoopie pie/sandwich cookie idea.  Oh, well.  I guess I'll just have to start another batch!

from My Baking Addiction Blog

2 1/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp black pepper
8 Tbs butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup molasses
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling                                

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and pepper.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar, molasses, and pumpkin puree and beat for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat for 1 minute more. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until the flour and spices disappear. If flour remains in the bottom of the bowl, mix the last of the dry ingredients by hand to avoid over beating. You will have a very soft dough.

Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The dough is sticky, so the longer time it can chill the easier it is to work with.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put the sugar in a small bowl. Working with one packet of dough at a time, divide it into 12 pieces, and roll each piece into a ball. Roll the balls in the sugar and use a the bottom of a glass to press down on the cookies until they are between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to cookie sheets. Do not over crowd.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12-14 minutes, or until the top feels set to the touch. Remove baking sheets from the oven. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on the sheets before transferring them to a cooling rack.  Repeat with second batch of dough.

Meatless Mondays: Spicy Stir-fried Cauliflower


Category: ,

Happy December!  Did you have a good Thanksgiving?  So, today's recipe is a nice, lighter and vegetably offering that will likely stand in stark contrast to everything else you've been eating.  I saw it a while ago on Pioneer Woman's website and since I've had this 1 or 2 year long love for cauliflower, I decided to try it a couple weeks ago.  It's a keeper!

Since the cauliflower stands up well to heat, it still retains a nice bite to it that sort of mimics the texture of meat.  Not that you will fool your tastebuds, but it's a nice texture and flavor.  I really believe the secret to vegetarian or vegan dishes, though, is not to sub in a vegetable for meat and expect the same result.  You will 100% of the time be disappointed if you're expecting the flavor of chicken, shrimp, or beef, and you're eating cauliflower or beans or whatever.  The secret is instead to prepare the vegetable in such a way that it is the star and not a stand-in.  This dish does a really good job of doing just that.  The cauliflower has a good amount of fiber, so it's filling, and when paired with a grain, such as quinoa or rice, it's a good meal in and of itself.

Being a stir fry, this is a quick and easy to prepare dish, so you can have this meal in about 15 minutes, not counting the time it takes you to cook your grain.

Spicy Stir-Fried Cauliflower
from the Pioneer Woman

serves 2

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tb. soy sauce
1 lime, juiced (or about 1-2 Tb Rice Vinegar)
2-3 green onions, sliced thin
1 Tb. Sriracha or hot sauce

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the oil, then the cauliflower and garlic. Stir the cauliflower around the pan, allowing it to get very brown in some areas. Cook for 3 minutes, then turn heat to low. Add soy sauce, squeeze in the juice of the lime, and add most of the sliced green onion, reserving the rest for serving. Stir and allow to cook for 1 minute, then squeeze the hot sauce over the cauliflower. Stir until the hot sauce has been incorporated. Add a little more hot sauce if you want a deeper color and flavor.
Serve hot in a bowl. Sprinkle extra sliced green onions on top, and serve with a lime wedge.

For a more filling meal, serve with 1 cup quinoa or rice.

Orange Pumpkin Cloverleaf Rolls


Category: , ,

I realize that there are probably 835 other things you need to do before you worry about making your Thanksgiving bread from scratch, but allow me to make the case for these rolls.

These rolls were a big hit at my family's Thanksgiving dinner last year.  They're bready and a nice accompaniment to the turkey and other sides, but they're lightly flavored with orange and pumpkin, so there's this depth of flavor and even brightness you don't get with most other rolls.  In other words, they will stand in for the average dinner roll and raise the flavor stakes about 300%.  

If you're used to making breads, these are easy.  Heck, even if you're not used to it, you should be able to follow the recipe and end up with no problems.  I use a stand mixer to knead my dough, and these can be made ahead of time and frozen for later use.  

Orange Pumpkin Cloverleafs
from Gourmet Magazine

3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted, divided
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4-ounce package)
1/4 cup warm milk (105–115°F)
1 tablespoon mild honey or sugar
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup canned pure pumpkin
2 large eggs, divided, plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon water

Butter muffin cups with 1 tablespoon melted butter.

Stir together yeast, warm milk, and honey in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)

Mix flour, salt, pumpkin, 1 whole egg, yolk, orange zest and juice, and remaining 5 tablespoon butter into yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Form dough into a ball.

Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch down dough (do not knead), then halve. Roll half of dough on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured hands into a 12-inch-long log (keep remaining half covered with plastic wrap).

Cut log into 6 equal pieces, then cut each piece into thirds. Roll each piece into a 1-inch ball by cupping your hand and pushing dough against work surface as you roll in a circular motion. Put 3 balls side by side in each of 6 muffin cups.

Make more rolls with remaining dough in same manner. Cover rolls with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until dough is about 1 inch above rim of muffin cups, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Whisk together remaining egg and water and brush on tops of rolls. (You will have leftover egg wash.)

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer rolls to a rack and cool at least 20 minutes.

recipe note:
Rolls are best the day they’re made but can be frozen (cool completely, then wrap well) 1 month. Thaw, then reheat on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven until warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes.

Retro Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Balls


Category: ,

Did you have sweet potato balls in your Thanksgiving traditions past?  Not the most flattering name, mind you, but these were at my grandmother's house every Thanksgiving as far back as I can remember.  At some point my aunt started making sweet potato casserole, and the sweet potato balls faded into obscurity.  

As a kid, I didn't entirely love sweet potato, and I absolutely hated coconut, but somehow this dish was something I looked forward to every year.  If I'm really honest, I think it was the marshmallow inside.  Yes, I said a marshmallow.

I'm guessing that me making and posting this dish is pretty much fate, because I hadn't eaten or thought about sweet potato balls for years, and then for some reason last week I did think about them, and then I saw a recipe from David Leite for something similar, but deep fried.  No, thanks.  I then Googled it and found today's recipe from Paula Deen.  It's the same beloved idea, but a bit updated with a flavorful orange twist. 

These are really tasty, easy, and they waddle down that fine line between side dish and dessert.  Oh, and the coconut mixed with cinnamon and sugar?  What falls off during baking becomes this coconutty soft candy.  Enough said.

from Paula Deen

serves 6-8

4 large sweet potatoes
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
2 cups shredded coconut, sweetened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Large marshmallows, 1 large per sweet potato ball (about 8 total)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Bake the potatoes until tender, then peel and mash them. Stir in the brown sugar, orange juice, zest and nutmeg.

In a separate bowl, toss the coconut with the sugar and cinnamon. Press mashed potatoes around each marshmallow, creating a 2 to 3-inch diameter ball. Roll the balls in the coconut mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Watch carefully for the last few minutes of cooking; the expanding marshmallows can cause the potato balls to burst open.

  • I had 3 large sweet potatoes and still got about half a dozen balls out of it.  
  • Next time I will cut back a bit on the sugar, and even just a bit on the orange juice.  It was very good, but cutting back on the two will make it a little more savory.  

Egg Muffins


Category: ,

As the holiday season (i.e. Season of Eating) has kicked off, we often find ourselves trying to do what we can to avoid or offset the dreaded holiday weight gain.  We go from Halloween candy to turkey and sides, to Christmas parties.  Some of us throw all caution to the wind and just enjoy ourselves, while others try sort of crazy quick fixes, and then of course there's the rest of us, who just try to find that balance between indulgence and temperance.

While I can't offer a one-dish-solves-all solution to your efforts, I can offer you this breakfast.  It's quick, easy, and very customizeable.  Known as egg muffins, these crustless mini-quiches or mini frittatas are a great make-ahead breakfast that are a good source of protein and are low carb.  These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and do express the minimal nutritional knowledge possessed by the writer.  Is that an OK disclaimer?

I made these for the first time last week, after perusing my Pinterest breakfast board for a breakfast item that would be quick and nutritious and a little bit of a departure from my normal breakfasts.  They are good for making ahead and storing in the fridge or freezer.  Reheat 1-3, depending on your appetite, for a nice breakfast.  I enjoyed them, Drew enjoyed them, and they will likely become a fairly regular item in the Givens household, especially on those mornings when you need a quick, grab and go breakfast.  

Egg Muffins
adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen

To fill a standard egg tin, about 12 egg muffins

10 eggs, beaten
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup half and half (optional)
3/4 cup grated cheese- I suggest cheddar
1/2 bunch (4 standard size) green onions, sliced thin, white and green parts (can use about 1/4 cup diced yellow onion if no green onion)
1 1/2 cups assorted other ingredients, such as small diced bell pepper, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, and spinach, sauteed or sweated (optional)
1/2 lb breakfast sausage or bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Well oil or line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.  If you have not already done so, saute or sweat your veggies of choice except for the sliced green onion.  Beat your 12 eggs with about 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt and several grinds of pepper, as well as the half and half.

Place your onion, vegetables, meat and cheese into the wells of the muffin tins and then fill about 3/4 of the way with the egg mixture

Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes (varies on oven) or until the eggs are just set.


  • Learn from my mistakes.  Oil or line your muffin tin if it is not "non-stick."  Even if it is, it's still not the worst idea.  I spent FOREVER cleaning out that tin.
  • These work in mini muffin tins too- baking time is shorter
  • The base of this muffin is the egg.  All other add-ins are optional.  What else might you try?  Olives?  Jalapenos?  Feta Cheese?  I had a combination- some contained cheese, greens, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and sausage, while others had just cheese and slow roasted tomatoes
  • These are good, and I loved that I can store them in the fridge or freezer and reheat them.  I am not completely convinced that they're at optimum, but I could have overbaked them or maybe they need a little more to be perfect textured.  Either way, they're pretty good.  

Taco Pizza


Category: ,

I just love a good homemade pizza.  It's a fun thing to make, and the whole family can get involved.  It's also a really good time to get creative with toppings.  This particular one is inspired by the taco pizzas I used to get in elementary school and the ones occasionally seen at pizza buffet restaurants.

The base for the pizza is chili, instead of tomato sauce, and let me tell you, it was such a good idea.  I used this chili recipe, which is one of my favorites, but you could probably use any chili or chili- like soup.  It's a creative way to use up leftovers.  I put down some of the chili, and then topped it with cheese and sliced green bell pepper.  I baked it in the oven until the crust was browned and the cheese was bubbly.  

I then topped it with sliced Romaine lettuce, avocado, and more cheese, because more cheese is always a good thing.  It was so good!  Make this soon for a fun way to use up some of your big batch chili leftovers.

Taco Pizza
all ingredients may be adjusted to feed your crowd.

1 pizza dough ball or prepared pizza crust
1-2 cups chili
1 cup cheddar or other cheese of your choice
1 cup shredded lettuce
1/2 avocado, diced
Salsa or taco sauce

Preheat your oven to its highest setting and place a pizza stone in the oven on the center rack.  Allow it to preheat for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prep your crust according to recipe or package directions.  Top with a thin layer of chili and cheese and bake for about 10 minutes, or until crust is browned and toppings are melted and bubbly.

Remove from oven  and allow the pizza to rest on a cooling rack about 2-3 minutes.  Top with lettuce, some remaining cheese, and the diced avocado.  You can also top with salsa or taco sauce for additional taco flavor.  Slice and serve.

Stuffed Butternut Squash


Category: ,

I saw this recipe about a year ago on the Rachael Ray Show as a side dish for the upcoming holiday meals we're about to be going crazy over or as a meatless main dish.  I had pinned it but did nothing else with it.

Two weeks ago, I was in a dinner funk.  Do you ever have those?  Everything we might normally eat didn't sound appealing, and in preparation for our then upcoming trip to Nashville and the aforementioned holiday season (translation: season of eating), I wanted to make sure we were a. eating at least mostly healthy, and b. eating up what we had in the house.

I started going back over my Pinterest "to try" board and came across the stuffed butternut squash recipe and went "yes!" in my head.  I had almost everything I needed on hand to make it, so it was dinner a couple nights.  I paired it with the kale salad and called it dinner, and it was oh. so. good.  

You just about have me sold with anything containing butternut squash, but add in the cheese, herbs, and onion?  Over the top.  This may be one of my new favorites.  

I tweaked the recipe for ingredients I had, so it's just slightly different.  I'll post it as I made it and you can click on the recipe title for a link to the recipe and a video from the show itself.

adapted from Rachael Ray
serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

1 medium butternut squash
EVOO Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 cup cottage cheese
1 tsp. rosemary, chopped
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

Heat the oven to 425F.

Halve the squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and drizzle with EVOO. Season with salt, pepper and a little fresh nutmeg; roast to just tender, 30-35 minutes. Remove and cool to handle.
Reduce oven heat to 375F.

Carefully scoop the flesh of the squash into a bowl, keeping the skins intact. Mash squash flesh with 1 cup of cheddar, 1 cup of Parm, all of the ricotta, and the rosemary. Adjust seasonings and stuff the shells with the mashed squash. Top with a sprinkle of remaining cheddar and Parm, and bake to golden on top, about 10 minutes.

Garnish with scallions.

  • If you're a sort of regular reader, you've probably read before about how I'll choose foods I can cook in stages, and this dish is another good example of breaking up the prep over different days or times of day.  I roasted the squash the night before and stuck it in the fridge.  The next day, I picked up with the rest of the prep and served it.  It turned what would have been about an hour or so prep into two sets of 30 minutes or so each.
  • You don't want the squash super, super soft (though tender) after roasting, because you want to make sure the skins or shells hold up.
  • The original recipe called for ricotta cheese.  When I went shopping, the store was out of ricotta, so I took a cue from my favorite lasagna recipe and used cottage cheese.  It worked well, but I wonder if the ricotta would yield a slightly smoother and maybe creamier end result.

Candy Corn Cookies, A Pinterest Find Just in Time for Halloween


Category: , , , , , ,

I can't think of any Halloween or fall candy that I like better than candy corn.  It has to be a "good quality" candy corn, and not just any cheap imitation, but the particular taste, that chewy texture...yum!

I saw these cookies on Pinterest and loved how they looked so pretty and chewy, speckled with candy corn.  I made the dough up Monday night and baked up about half of it or so for some of the youth in our church last night.  Drew and I had to sample them beforehand.  You know, to make sure they were OK for others. 

These cookies are wonderful!  As you can see, the candy corn for me did not stay in tact as well as I thought they might, but the soft, chewy dough, mixed with the chewy, sugary candy corn...Halloween treat for sure.  Oh and the dough itself is so tasty that I probably need to keep this in mind when I go to reach for some more.

When they first come out of the oven, they are puffy, but don't worry; they will settle.

from Averie Cooks blog

1/2 cup unsalted butter, soften
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream or half-and-half
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1 1/2 cups candy corn (1o to 11 ounces)
1 cup white chocolate chips (or salted peanuts)

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl and electric hand mixer), cream together the first 5 ingredients (through vanilla) on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the next 5 ingredients (through optional salt), and mix on low speed until just incorporated, about 1 minute; don't overmix.

Add the candy corn, white chocolate chips (or peanuts), and mix until just incorporated.
Using a medium 2-inch cookie scoop, form heaping two-tablespoon mounds (I made 20). Place mounds on a large plate, flatten mounds slightly, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking. Do not bake with warm dough because cookies will spread and bake thinner and flatter. Important note - Strategically place candy corn so that it's not baking directly on cookie sheet because it will melt, burn, or turn runny if it is. The candy corn pieces need to be in the interior of the cookies, shielded and buffered by dough.

Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or spray with cooking spray. Place mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart (I bake 8 cookies per sheet) and bake for about 9 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if slightly undercooked, pale and glossy in the center. Do not overbake because cookies will firm up as they cool. Baking longer than 10 minutes could result in cookies with overly browned undersides. 

Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet  for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooking. Cookies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 4 months. Unbaked cookie dough can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 4 months, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.


  • If you visit the original post site (the link to the original post is the recipe title), you will see that Averie's cookies are a bit thicker.  I used about half the dough she uses for one cookie, so that I'd have more.  This may have affected the candy corn staying in tact.
  • I baked mine 9 minutes, just like the recipe suggested.  Some still looked too underdone, and even after about 5 mins. were too soft to pick up from the baking sheet.  After further cooling- maybe 30 minutes- they were fine to pick up.

Homemade Baked Tortilla Chips


Category: , , , , ,

This post was borne out of necessity.  One day we were having fajitas, and we realized I forgot to buy tortilla chips, which as you know is a travesty, being that there's all that salsa just begging to be dipped.  We did, however, have a bunch of 6- inch corn tortillas, and so I decided to try to bake some up, and you know what?  They turned out awesome.  They're sturdy, have good flavor, and they almost have layers.  We loved them.

I used a Misto sprayer to get the oils nice and evenly distributed, and sprinkled them with Kosher salt.  I then baked them up and we ate them like our lives depended on it.  The corn tortillas, as opposed to the flour tortillas, stay nice and crispy, even a day or two after you bake them, which is nice if you want to make a batch to have for later snacking.

If you make these for a party, then you will want to start early.  I could only fit about 4 whole tortillas on a baking sheet, and that's only like 1 serving.  So yes, I ate a whole pan.  I'll go be filled with self loathing now.

Baked Corn Tortilla Chips
to make 1-2 servings

4- 6 inch corn tortillas
Canola or other flavorless oil OR cooking spray/spray oil
Salt (I use Kosher but regular would be fine)

Preheat an oven to 350 and center your oven rack.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment (optional, but makes for much easier cleanup).

Cut your tortillas into quarters (or whatever size you desire- sixths would be fine too).  Lay them flat in a single layer on your baking sheet, and spray with oil.  You can use a Misto sprayer, a pump sprayer, or even a spray bottle with a nozzle, or even cooking spray- you just want an even, light layer of oil on the chips.  Sprinkle with salt.  Turn over and repeat on the other side.

Bake in preheated oven about 10-15 minutes, flipping about halfway through.  They are done when they've crisped up and are golden with some light browning.


  • Depending on your love of salt, you may want to go easy at first.  Remember you are salting both sides (or just salt one side if you were heavy handed on the first side).  These can tend to be a little salty if you aren't careful.
  • Despite their sturdiness, they get soggy more easily than the store bought chips.  Be warned.

Almond Snack Mix


Category: , , ,

Hi!  I'm coming to you today with a good snack idea.  Eating between meals can be such a pitfall for those of us who want to eat healthy, but get really hungry about 3:30 pm or crave something sweet in the afternoons.  This snack mix is a really good answer to that.  I got the idea from one of my former Zumba participants and have since made it a lot, and likely adjusted the ratios of ingredients.

It's simple and customizeable, so let it fit your tastes.  I love the combination of almonds, dried cranberries, and dark or bittersweet chocolate chips.  I'm not a nutritionist, but this has protein from the almonds, and the chocolate and dried fruit answer that sweet craving in a less guilty way.

Almond Snack Mix

1 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup dried fruit (cranberries, mixed fruit, raisins)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight or resealable container.  Try to enjoy no more than 1/4 to 1/2 cup at a time!  Note: the ratio I am using here is 2 parts almonds to 1 part each dried fruit and chocolate chips.  Feel free to play with your own combination.  

Trisha Yearwood's Marinated Vegetable Salad: Church Potluck Dish #3


Category: , , ,

I saw an episode of Trisha's Southern Kitchen a while back, and she made this recipe.  It reminded me of a sort of older style (old church rather than old school- ha!) potluck dish, but I liked that she used fresh and frozen vegetables rather than canned ones to make it.  I wanted something vegetable based to take to the church dinner, but wanted it to still retain some freshness rather than a cooked taste and texture.  

While I think I would still need to tweak this a bit to really suit my tastes, this is overall not a bad dish.  It makes a ton (like 4 quarts), and is good for potlucks because of its volume and it's just a bit different, but not out of the realm of familiar.  It's easy to make, and you have to make it ahead of time, so it's a good time saver.  When it's first made, it is the prettiest- all the green.  Unfortunately the green of the green beans and peas fades just a bit, but it's still a few nice colors.

I changed the amount of sugar, so be sure to click the link to see her original recipe.

Marinated Vegetable Salad
adapted from Trisha Yearwood

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
16 ounces frozen cut green beans, defrosted and drained, or fresh green beans
16 ounces frozen green peas, defrosted and drained, or fresh shelled green peas
1 1/2 cups thinly chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
One 2-ounce jar chopped pimientos
2 small sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

Bring the sugar and vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the oil and salt and set aside to cool.

Add to a bowl the green beans, peas, celery, pimientos, onions and bell peppers. Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables, cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Serve with a slotted spoon to drain the excess oil.

  • I decreased the original amount of sugar by about half, and I'd probably decrease it further next time.
  • I will also decrease the olive oil next time, likely to about 1/3 cup.
  • The onions said "sweet" in the store, but they were hot!  If your onion is hot, I'd encourage you to cut it back to 1 onion AND/OR to rinse the onions under cold water and let them drain a couple minutes before adding them to the rest of the mix OR to quick pickle them in the vinegar before the vinegar and sugar are mixed together and heated.

Pinterest Find: Maple Dijon Chicken


Category: ,

Can you ever have too many chicken dishes?  Especially when they're easy and deliver a huge amount of results in relation to the ingredients and time you spent putting the dish together?

This was one of the first dishes I ever pinned to my food board, and after nearly 3 years on Pinterest I am finally trying it out, and I'm glad I did.  It's really good.  It's a solid recipe for your repertoire that is one of those go-to, sure bets.  It's almost stupid-easy and is quick to prepare.  Serve with a salad or other vegetables on the side.

Maple Dijon Chicken
from Witty in the City blog

1.5 lb package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6 thighs)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 Tb vinegar (rice/rice wine/white wine/apple cider)
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 450.  Line a 9x13" baking dish or pan with aluminum foil for easy cleanup.  If you wish (and I did), trim excess fat from thighs and salt and pepper both sides.  Place into a single layer into the dish.

In a small bowl or mixing cup, mix together the maple syrup, the Dijon mustard, and the vinegar.  Pour over the chicken, turning the chicken to coat.  Bake the chicken in the preheated oven for a total of about 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thighs reaches 165.  About halfway through cooking time, baste and or turn the thighs in the sauce for even cooking and flavor distribution.

Remove from oven and sprinkle rosemary on top of the chicken.

Chocolate Chip Pie; A Story of Success, Shame, and Woe


Category: , , , ,

If you've never known such drama associated with a pie, you probably have more of a life than I do.  Yesterday was the Harvest Celebration at my church, which is a potluck dinner in which we celebrate God's blessings through the year and we also kick off our revival.  I always think potlucks are a good time to try out new recipes, because you automatically have taste-testers, and if a dish turns out to be a flop, it doesn't ruin your meal because there's a whole slew of other dishes to be had.

After looking through different cookbooks, magazines, and my Pinterest dessert board, I decided to make this pie, because I had almost everything on hand that I needed to make it and it looked really easy.  Plus, the name sounds like it would be a pretty safe bet.

Let me tell you, it was a solid success.  It tastes like a slightly under baked chocolate chip cookie, thick, gooey, and just wonderful.  I was so glad to have a new and proven success on my hands.  

I ended up having just a little over half the pie left over, and this is where the tale of woe and shame starts.  I baked my pie in my glass pie dish, and the dish slipped off the stack of dishes I was carrying and fell on the sidewalk, shattering the dish and landing the pie right side up.  Woe.  Woe.  

Now for the shameful part: I tried to salvage the pie.  I actually thought for a minute, "surely I can just pick the pie up and put it on a plate, right?"  WRONG.  Glass had shattered all through that pie, so I had to throw the whole thing away.  I didn't cry, but I'm still shaking my head.  I'm just keeping it real.

Either way, this pie is a great little dessert- think skillet cookie with a pie crust.  YUM!

Chocolate Chip Pie
From Just Desserts by Paula Deen

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell

Preheat  your oven to 325.  In a medium bowl, mix together flour and sugar.  Add all other ingredients, stirring until moistened.  Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake 45-60 minutes, until set.  The top will also be lightly browned.

Serve with ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.


  • I used mini chocolate chips, because I liked the idea of smaller chips of chocolate scattered throughout.
  • If you use a glass dish like I did, it's best to reduce the heat of the oven by 25 degrees Fahrenheit and extend the time a little, which allows for a better browning of the crust while not burning everything else.

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins


Category: , ,

I hope you're not sick of pumpkin spice everything, because I have some of it for you today. These pumpkin spice doughnut muffins are the best of both worlds- the texture of a cake doughnut but the size and sturdiness of a muffin.  

These were a little more work than the average muffin, but not much more.  They require an electric mixer, so you would benefit from having a handheld or counter model.  I used my handheld mixer.  They are easy to throw together, and tasty!  I loved the end result.  I also liked that they weren't quite as fatty as some muffin recipes.  They are more pumpkin-y than a lot of the muffins I've made in the past and have a nice balance of spices.  Try these today!

from Cooking Classy Blog

Makes 12-18 muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 pinch ground cloves
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves for 30 seconds, set aside.  In a separate mixing bowl, blend together pumpkin puree and Greek yogurt, set aside.  In another mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer, whip butter, 1 Tbsp vegetable oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 - 4 minutes.  Blend in remaining 3 Tbsp vegetable oil.  Mix in eggs one at a time blending just until combined after each addition and adding in vanilla with second egg.  Using a rubber or silicone spatula and working in three separate batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, add 1/3 of the flour mixture alternating with half of the pumpkin mixture and fold (scraping along outsides and bottom of bowl) just until combined after each addition.

Divide batter among paper lined muffin cups, filling each cup until mostly full and bake in preheated oven 17 - 20 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Allow to rest several minutes in muffin tin then transfer to a wire rack to cool 10 - 15 minutes.

  • I made the actual muffin as the original poster wrote them, but I left out the glaze.  I am just not much of a glaze girl on cake doughnuts or muffins.  For the glaze recipe, just click on the recipe title, which doubles as a link to the original post.
  • These freeze well.  Wrap them individually and place in a zip-top freezer bag.  Thaw either on counter or in microwave about 30 seconds.

Butternut Squash, Farro, and Kale Salad


Category: , , ,

As the days shorten, mornings become crisper, and we break out longer sleeves, this salad is a great transition dish.  It's packed with fall produce and flavors, but is served cold or at room temperature, bridging the gap between the light, less cooked meals of summer and the hearty greens and squashes of fall. 

The salad needs to be made ahead in order for the kale to soften just a bit and for the flavors to blend together.  It also makes a lot, so this salad will last a good 4 meals, if not more.

Butternut Squash, Farro, and Kale Salad
serves 4-6

1 medium butternut squash
1/2 bunch kale
1/2 cup farro
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tb white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Roast your squash:  preheat oven to 375.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Peel and halve your butternut squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds.  Cut into bite size (about 3/4") cubes and place on baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to distribute the oil and seasonings.  Bake in your oven for 30-40 minutes, tossing them about halfway through.  Remove from oven and let cool.  This step can be done a day or two ahead of time.  If you do that, refrigerate the squash.

Prep your farro:  follow package directions to cook farro.  Let cool.  Also may be done ahead of time.

Pickle your onions: place your finely diced onion into the bottom of a large bowl and pour over the vinegar and 1 Tb water.  Allow it to sit while you prep the rest of the salad ingredients.  Prep the kale by tearing the leaves from the thick stem, washing the leaves, drying them using a salad spinner or towel, and then roughly chopping them.  

Assemble the salad:  into the bowl in which you have the onion, add the kale, butternut squash, feta, and pumpkin seeds.  Pour over about 2-3 Tb olive oil and stir everything to incorporate.  Allow to sit in fridge at least an hour before serving, and the longer it sits, the better it gets.  

  • I always like to give credit where it's due.  This recipe was inspired by a Smitten Kitchen recipe.
  • Farro is a grain, and it is sold in several places.  I found my bag at Trader Joe's.  If you can't find farro, you can substitute barley, quinoa, and even rice or some other grain.  

Salmon with Lemon and a Creamy Dill Sauce


Category: ,

This was our Sunday after church meal this week, but it could just as easily be a Tuesday night after work meal, too.  Fish is so quick to prepare that you can have a special meal on the table in about 20 minutes.  I found this one on Pinterest of all places, and I think we both really enjoyed it- the salmon flavor was allowed to come through, while being complemented by the olive oil/lemon mixture, and the creamy dill sauce played nicely with those flavors, too.

The whole dish can be made in about 20 minutes, including oven pre-heat time, and it has a short ingredient list, but packs quite a bit of flavor.  This will definitely be on my "make again" list. 

What are some of your favorite quick meal suggestions?

Baked Lemon Salmon With Creamy Dill Sauce
adapted from Cooking Classy blog

to serve 2-3 adults

1- 8-10 oz portion of salmon
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Creamy Dill Sauce
1/3 cup plain Greek Yogurt
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. dried dill
2 - 3 tsp milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Grease a 8X8-inch baking dish and place salmon fillet in baking dish. Season tops of salmon with salt and pepper then rotate to opposite side. Drizzle tops evenly with lemon mixture and gently rub over salmon.  Let rest at room temperature 10 minutes, then bake in preheated oven 10 minutes, or until salmon has cooked through (cook time will vary based on thickness of fillets and how well done you liked them). Serve warm topped with Creamy Dill Sauce, which you can make while salmon bakes.
For the sauce:
In a bowl, mix together Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic, dill, honey, and enough milk to reach desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you make this ahead of time, store in refrigerator, allow to rest at room temperature 20 minutes before serving (just so it's not ice cold over warm salmon).

One Year Ago:  Honey Apple Cake
Two Years Ago:  Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore over Polenta
Three Years Ago:  Swiss Chard Ravioli
Four Years Ago:  Hamburger Buns

Mocha Trifle


Category: , ,

Does this qualify as a Meatless Monday offering?  Regardless, this little treat is a good dessert when you want something make-ahead and you need to feed a crowd.  I would estimate that you could easily feed 15 people with this.  

While not a traditional trifle, the family dessert is no place for semantics.  Chocolate cake is cut into cubes and soaked with coffee.  That is then topped by coffee-laced white chocolate pudding and whipped cream, and all is topped off with chocolate shavings and chopped up chocolate covered espresso beans.  Don't leave those out, for they are what send this dessert over the mocha edge.  I will post the dessert as I made it, but will also post alternative ingredients to the side and explain in the notes section.

Mocha Trifle
serves 15

1 chocolate cake, baked in a 9x13 pan
1 large tub cool whip or approx. 2 cups heavy cream, whipped (you want about 6 cups total whipped cream)
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso
3-4 packages white chocolate instant pudding mix
4 cups almond milk OR 6 cups cow's milk
Dark chocolate bar (optional)
3 Tb. Chocolate covered espresso beans, chopped

Bake a chocolate cake according to recipe or package directions.  When cooled, cut into about 1 inch cubes.

Make your instant pudding (if you're a purist, feel free to make your own pudding; you want about 5-6 cups):
            Dissolve either instant coffee or instant espresso in your milk before adding it to your pudding mixture.  The amount depends on your own desire for the coffee flavor to shine through, but I'd go with about 1/3 cup intsant coffee or 3 Tb. instant espresso.  If you, like me, need a dairy free option, you need 4 boxes of pudding mix.  Mix 1 box mix to 1 cup almond milk, dissolving the instant espresso/coffee into your milk prior to mixing with the pudding.  If you don't need a dairy free option, you could get away with 2-3 boxes pudding mix, and follow package directions with amount of milk, adding the instant coffee/espresso prior to mixing with pudding mix.  Set aside.

In a large bowl or trifle bowl, layer as follows:
Place a layer of cake cubes in the bottom of the bowl.  If you have a plastic squeeze bottle, pour half your brewed coffee/espresso into the bottle and squirt over the cake.  Top with half the pudding mixture, and the top that with the whipped topping/cream.  Repeat layers.  On top, for garnish, scatter chopped, chocolate covered espresso beans and, if desired, use a small hole zester/grater (such as a Microplane) to grate little chocolate shavings on top.  Cover and refrigerate about a day or two before you need to serve.


  • My dad can't have dairy, which sometimes presents a challenge in making desserts.  I mean, take away milk, cream, butter, sour cream, and cream cheese, and you're left with a baking challenge.  While not the food snobby thing to do, I used a cake mix, pudding mixes with almond milk, and whipped topping.  If you're a purist, feel free to make all these homemade.  There are also low sugar and sugar free options in most of these products, which make it helpful for those with diabetes.  
  • This tasted pretty good the day I served it (1 day after I made it), but it tasted way better and the mocha flavor really came through the next day, so you could make this as far as 2-3 days in advance and still have a killer dessert.  Garnish before you serve rather than when you make it.
  • Feel free to try another pudding flavor, such as cheesecake, vanilla, or even chocolate.  I like the color contrast of the coffee-colored pudding.
  • We liked this pretty well as is, but I thought about adding a crunchy element/layer through the dessert.  If you want to play a little bit, add in some chocolate biscotti or more chocolate covered espresso beans between the pudding and whipped cream layers.
  • By the way, when pouring/squirting the coffee over the cake, you don't want to absolutely inundate the cake with coffee.  It shouldn't be so soggy it falls apart.  You just want to impart some coffee flavor into the cake.