Monthly Archives: September 2011

Pumpkin Oatmeal w/ Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program,  Ghirardelli®  sent me some Intense Dark chocolates: 72% Twilight Delight, 86% Midnight Reverie, and Sea Salt Soiree.  You’ve heard me say before that I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, let alone a bar of chocolate.  However, I tried the Sea Salt Soiree and it was amazing.  I thought the sea salt in the bar was going to be very small flakes and that texturally, the bar would still taste like a plain bar of chocolate with a salty after taste.  Au contraire, the sea salt flakes were large and visible throughout the bar.  It reminded me of a Crunch candy bar, but infinitely better.  I decided why not crumble these squares up and top on some Pumpkin Oatmeal?  The Sea Salt Soiree with the pumpkin was delicious.  Enjoy!


  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 squares of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Sea Salt Soiree Chocolate, crumbled into pieces
  • Maple syrup, for drizzling


  1. In a medium sauce pan, bring milk and salt to a boil.  Stir in the oats, reduce heat to low, and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and pumpkin, cook 2 to 3 minutes or until desired consistency.
  3. Divide oatmeal into two bowls and top each with brown sugar, chocolate crumbles, and maple syrup.

Servings:  2

Adapted from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen



Filed under Breakfast

Fig and Honey Mini Crostatas

I have searched high and low for fresh figs – even at the farmer’s markets, these babies were nowhere to be found.  Alas, I finally found some at Wegmans (obv) and decided to make these Fig & Honey Mini Crostatas.  These pictures definitely do not do this little treat justice!  I mixed the sliced figs with honey and lemon juice and then baked them inside the crostatas.  I reserved a couple of fresh ones to drizzle with honey and serve alongside.  I didn’t have any ricotta cheese or Greek yogurt, but a dollop of that on top would be amazing. Enjoy!
Do you like fresh figs?  If so, have you been able to find them at your local farmer’s market / grocery store?


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons ice water
  • 12 fresh figs, cut into wedges
  • 5 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp of water
  • Ricotta cheese or Greek Yogurt for topping (optional)
  1. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of peas. Add the water; pulse until the dough comes together. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Cut out eight 5-inch rounds, re-rolling the scraps if necessary; transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a bowl, toss 8 of the figs with 3 teaspoons of the honey, the lemon juice, and cinnamon. Arrange the figs on the dough rounds, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Fold the edges over the figs and brush the dough with the egg wash. Chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Bake the crostatas for 35 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until the crusts are golden. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  5. Gently toss the remaining figs with the remaining 2 teaspoons of honey. Transfer the crostatas to plates, top with the figs and dollop with ricotta cheese and serve.

*Adapted from Food and Wine


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Butternut Squash Risotto

I hope you had a wonderful weekend!  Fall is officially here and with it, comes squash, pumpkins, apples, cinnamon, and all my favorite foods and flavors.  This Butternut Squash Risotto is creamy, delicious, and perfect for this autumn weather.  Even though risotto requires a little extra love and care to prepare, this recipe is well worth it.  I also used frozen butternut squash since it’s so much easier to prepare.  Definitely give this risotto a try!

What are your favorite foods/flavors of the fall?


  • 1 package of frozen butternut squash
  • 6 cups nonfat chicken broth
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (9 oz)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 5 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 oz)
  • Sea salt and fresh cracker pepper for seasoning
  • Baby spinach (3 cups), stems discarded and leaves very coarsely chopped


  1. Microwave butternut squash according to directions and set aside.
  2. Bring broth to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer, covered.
  3. Meanwhile, cook onion in butter in a heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add rice, garlic, and cumin and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in 1/2 cup simmering broth and cook at a strong simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy-looking but still al dente (it should be the consistency of thick soup), about 18 minutes total. (There will be leftover broth.)
  5. Stir in squash, then stir in cheese, salt, pepper, and spinach and simmer, stirring, 1 minute. (If necessary, thin risotto with some leftover broth.)
  6. Serve risotto immediately.

Servings: 4

*Adapted from Gourmet


Filed under Main Course

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

I almost fell over last week when my hubby told me that he’d like me to make vegetarian chili; it’s not that we eat meat every day or anything. It’s just that in certain dishes, like chili, my hubby appreciates a little beef (as do I). However, I took full advantage of his request for vegetarian chili and made this Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili. I added some barley to my chili and it came out fantastic. The barley added texture and additional protein. I love using my slow cooker because I prepare everything the night before and just dump it in before I leave for work. There’s nothing better than coming home to dinner ready to go! Do you prefer regular chili with meat or vegetarian chili? Definitely give this recipe a try!


  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can cannellin beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can low-sodium corn
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dried barley
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Adobo seasoning
  • Your favorite shredded cheese for sprinkling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients except the shredded cheese, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours.
  2. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper.
  3. Just before serving, top each serving with shredded cheese.


Filed under Main Course

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Let’s cut straight to the chase… I made Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese, and it was awesome!  I was a little hesitant as to how the flavors in this dish would taste, but they were amazing and perfect for this crisp fall weather.  I used frozen butternut squash which saved me a lot of time and elbow grease.  I also added 1 cup of Yuengling beer, but you could use any cup of your favorite amber beer.  A pumpkin ale might be tasty to use as well.  There’s something about homemade mac and cheese that is so comforting and so much tastier than boxed mac and cheese (no offense to anyone who likes this!).  While boxed mac and cheese is a definite time saver, sometimes it’s nice to make the homemade version with your favorite ingredients.

What’s the craziest ingredient that you’ve added to your mac and cheese?


  • 1 box Barilla whole wheat medium shells
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 slightly rounded tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup amber beer (I used Yuengling)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups butternut squash purée or 1 14-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin purée
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, divided
  • Sweet paprika, for sprinkling
  • Chopped parsley for garnish


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it and cook pasta to al dente.  Drain and reserve.  Preheat broiler.
  2. Melt butter in a saucepot over medium heat.  Whisk in flour, cook for 1 minute, then raise heat a bit and add beer.  Reduce until almost evaporated then whisk in honey and milk.  Season with allspice, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Thicken sauce to coat spoon, about 5 minutes, then taste to adjust seasonings.
  3. Whisk in squash and stir in about 2 cups grated cheese with a wooden spoon until melted.  Combine pasta with sauce and arrange in a casserole or individual ramekins.  Sprinkle remaining cheese and a light dusting of paprika.  Broil to brown and bubble.  Garnish with chopped parsley.


Filed under Main Course

Molasses Cookies

Fall is here, and I couldn’t be happier since this is my favorite time of year.  The weather suddenly got cooler in D.C. and I’m loving it!  What better way to celebrate the season than with these Molasses Cookies.  These cookies are so simple to make and the best part is that they are moist and chewy.  They are perfect with a glass of milk or a mug of hot apple cider.  Enjoy!


  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, to roll dough balls in


  1. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the shortening, brown sugar, egg, and molasses until combined.  Add flour mix and beat to combine.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place granulated sugar in a small bowl.
  5. With a cookie scoop, form 2″ balls and roll in granulated sugar.  Place on baking sheet about 2-3″ apart.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.

Yield:  About 3 dozen cookies (depending on how big you roll them)

Recipe:  My Mamas!


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Cinnamon Sugar Banana Muffins

It’s almost the weekend!!!  We have some fun plans in store for this weekend: a close friend’s birthday celebration, a wine festival, a 2-year anniversary dinner, and last but not least… a painting project.  Since we’ve bought our house, the hubby and I are starting to really settle in and figure out what we want/need to change to make this house our own.   This past weekend, I made these Cinnamon Sugar Banana Muffins for us to munch on while running around Home Depot and working on the house.

I’m learning a lot of things about house repair, but that’s not saying a lot since I didn’t know anything to begin with!  My father is an architect and my father-in-law is an engineer, so we’ve gotten a lot of expert advice and help for free!!  My hubby also knows a thing or two about houses, so I’ve assigned myself to being in charge of decorating the house.  I have to say that interior design is a lot of fun; I’ve been reading a lot of books and magazines and frequently visiting Houzz for ideas.  I also had a friend recommend some really cool antique/vintage stores in the area, so I’m looking forward to scoping those out.  I guess if I’d have to sum up what style I’d like my house to be decorated in, I’d have to say traditional meets French country.

I love these two rooms!  What do you think? What is your favorite decorating style?


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3 extremely ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 3 tbsp milk


  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 and spray 12 muffin cups with baking spray.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the egg, oil, mashed bananas, and  milk until blended.  Add the flour mixture and beat until creamy and combined.
  4. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them level with the rim.  Bake until golden or 20-25 minutes.
  5. Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
  6. Meanwhile, to make the topping, stir together the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.  Have the melted butter ready in another small bowl.  Hold the bottom of the muffin and dip into the melted butter and then coat in the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Repeat with remaining muffins.

*Adapted from Muffins


Filed under Baked Goods, Breakfast

Kara-Áge Chicken Stir Fry

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Kikkoman, I recieved a packet of Kara-Áge Soy-Ginger Seasoned Coating Mix.  Kara-Áge is one of the most popular cooking techniques in Japan in which protein, usually chicken, is deep-fried.  It’s similar to tempura.  I decided to make a Kara-Age Chicken Stir Fry with some veggies I had on hand and some Asian noodles.  This seasoning packet is not only great because it has my name in it :-), but it’s also a huge time and money saver!  Have you ever had kara-age and/or tempura?  Which do you prefer?  Enjoy!


  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 1 package of Kikkoman Kara-Áge Soy-Ginger Seasoned Coating Mix
  • 1 package of your favorite noodles
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 cup chicken broth
  • salt to taste


  1. Soak noodles in cold water for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat with 1 tbsp oil.
  3. In a plastic bag, place the chicken and seasoning packet.  Shake until chicken pieces are entirely coated and add to saute pan.  Pan-fry chicken until browned on both sides.  Remove from pan and cover in a medium bowl to keep warm.
  4. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp of oil, and heat until just smoking.
  5. Add the onions, pepper, green beans, and celery and stir-fry until veggies are tender.
  6. Add the last tbsp of oil and garlic and stir-fry until just tender.
  7. Transfer vegetable mix to the bowl with the chicken, cover, and set aside.
  8. Add the chicken broth to the wok and bring to a boil.   Drain the noodles and add into the broth.  Cook until chicken broth is absorbed, 4-5 minutes
  9. Transfer the noodles to a large serving bowl and mix in the chicken and vegetables.
  10. Season with salt and serve.


Filed under Main Course

Restaurant Style Salsa

During my summer travels for work, I had some very authentic and delicious Mexican cuisine. I found that most restaurants had this amazing salsa that was not chunky and thick, but thinner and perfect for scooping up with freshly baked tortilla chips. I’ve been eyeing Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Restaurant Style Salsa for some time, so I decided to make a batch of this salsa to enjoy throughout the week. This recipe is awesome and makes a huge batch of salsa. If you don’t like your salsa too spicy, grab two jars of the mild Rotel diced tomatoes with chilies. If you’re like me and like your salsa medium, buy a can of mild and a can of regular or if you like your salsa mouth-watering hot, then buy both jars of the regular Rotel diced tomatoes with chilies. This salsa is easy to make and is perfect for eating throughout the week. Enjoy!


  • 1 can (28 Ounces) whole tomatoes with juice, drained
  • 2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced tomatoes and green chilies), drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 whole jalapeno, finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • Juice of 1/2 lime


Note: this is a very large batch. Recommend using a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.

  1. Combine tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like (about 15 pulses). Season to taste with more salt if necessary.
  2. Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips.

*Slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman


Filed under Appetizers

Cherry Vanilla Fudge

Every summer since I was a little girl, my parents have rented a house in Cape May, NJ.  I love Cape May for many reasons but mainly because it has a beautiful beach, its streets are dotted with old Victorian houses, and it has numerous delicious restaurants to eat at.  One of our favorite places to grab an after-dinner treat is the Fudge Kitchen.  This place has zillions of different flavors of fudge and you can even watch them make the fudge through their storefront window.  If you have a sweet tooth, this place is heaven on earth!  It smells amazing and the fudge tastes even better.  Even though they have so many different types of fudge, one of my favorites is Cherry Vanilla Fudge.  There’s something about creamy vanilla fudge with chopped Maraschino cherries that tastes fantastic and makes me feel like a kid again.  Since Labor Day is one of the last weekends of summer and this fudge reminds me so much of my summer memories in Cape May, I’ve decided to make a batch to share with my family this past weekend.

What recipes remind you the most of summer?  Do share!


  • 1-1/2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup butter, divided
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 12 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
  • 1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped maraschino cherries
  • 1 tbsp maraschino cherry juice


  1. Line a 9-in. square pan with foil. Grease the foil with 1 tbsp butter.
  2. In a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, sour cream and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a rapid boil and cook and stir until a candy thermometer reads 234 degrees, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat; stir in white chocolate and marshmallow creme until melted.
  4. Fold in cherries and cherry juice.  Pour into prepared pan.
  5. Chill until firm.
  6. Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Gently peel off foil; cut fudge into 1-in. squares and store in the refrigerator.

*Yield: 2 pounds


Filed under Desserts