Monthly Archives: June 2012

Blackberry Hand Pies

Guess what I did this past weekend????  I went blackberry picking!  Ok, maybe that’s not the coolest thing to do, but it’s fun and it supports our local farmers.  I read a Washingtonian article entitled 61 Hidden Gems.  One of the “Hidden Gems” was to go strawberry picking at Homestead Farms in Poolesville, MD.  Strawberry picking season is over in my neck of the woods, but blueberry and blackberry picking season isn’t!  For $2.49 a pound (not pint!), you can pick blueberries and/or blackberries.  That’s a great deal, so I decided to drive the 30 minutes out there – what a great drive through the Maryland countryside too!

I filled two large tupperware containers full and spent around $14 on 5.5 pounds of blackberries.  I froze the majority of my blackberries for smoothies and future backed goods.  I also set aside a small amount to eat throughout the week.  The last 2 cups were reserved for these Blackberry Hand Pies.  These hand pies are delicious and the perfect treat for a summer BBQ.  Enjoy and if you’re in the DC Metro area, I highly recommend the trip to Homestead Farms!

Pie Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chilled shortening (Crisco)
  • 7 tbsp. ice cold water
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  1. In the bowl of  a stand mixer, beat flour, salt, butter, and shortening until crumbly.  Add cold water and mix until a ball forms.
  2. Divide the dough into two balls and wrap each one in plastic wrap.  Chill dough for about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove dough from plastic wrap and roll out first round on a floured work surface with a lightly floured rolling pin.  Roll dough to a 12″ diameter.  Using a 4″ cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out 6 dough rounds, re-rolling dough scrapes together to get 6 rounds.  Lay dough rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Repeat process with the second dough round.  Set aside the other 6 dough rounds on lightly floured surface.
  4. In a bowl, toss together the blackberries, cornstarch, cinnamon, sugar, and salt.  Divide the blackberries among the 6 dough rounds on the baking sheet.  With a pastry brush, dampen the edges of the first round with cold water and lay another dough round on top.  Gently press down the dough over the blackberries.  With the tines of a fork, press the outer edge of the two dough rounds together.  Repeat with the remaining 5 pies.
  5. Refrigerate the hand pies, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375.  Back the hand pies until they are golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack.  Serve warm.


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Berry Oatmeal Dog Muffins

Look who turned 3????  I can’t believe my “puppy” is growing up!  Winston is 3 and it seems like only yesterday that we brought him home from the animal shelter.  (He’s not happy with me in this photo since I woke him up to take it!)
(This is when we first brought him home.)
About a month after we got married, the hubby and I visited the Alexandria Animal Shelter.  We knew we wanted a puppy and we were both adamant about getting a dog from an animal shelter.  Animal shelter dogs need homes!!!  The first time we visited the shelter we saw Winston.  He was actually named “Robot” (what an awful name to give a dog).  The shelter found Winston on the street when he was 3 months old.  They told us that it is very unusual for a puppy that young to run away from home, so they think that he was abandoned.  Unfortunately, this happens a lot; people get a puppy thinking it’s all fun and games and then realize it is a lot of work and will selfishly turn these little guys onto the streets to fend for themselves.  Because Winston’s awesome, he had a waiting list of people who wanted to adopt him.  We put our name on the list def not expecting to get him.  Low and behold, the hubby went back to the animal shelter about 2 weeks after our initial visit to look for another dog.  Winston was available and had been brought back to the shelter by the first family because it was too much work for them (no comment).  The hubby immediately called me, and I drove down there within minutes.  We were able to take Winston out of his crate and play with him outside.  He was so tiny and cute… we instantly fell in love.
(His reaction after I gave him his first Berry Oatmeal Dog Muffin.)
The people at the animal shelter told us that Winston was very aloof and would not be an affectionate dog.  They could not be more wrong (what do you expect when you name a dog Robot?).  Winston instantly took to my hubby and I.  He became our little shadow who followed us everywhere and yes, even climbed into bed with us.  I’m convinced that Winston didn’t receive enough love/attention during those first few months, so was making up for lost time.  He instantly became our “baby” and definitely taught us quite a few lessons about waking up at all hours of the night, cleaning up messes, etc.  Today, Winston still loves to cuddle and yes, he still sleeps at the foot of our bed.  He’s a 30 pound lap dog who thinks he’s a chihuahua.  He loves to cuddle and steal slippers for attention.  In other words, he’s the best!  That’s why I made him these Berry Oatmeal Dog Muffins.


  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned roll oats
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup blueberries


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Combine all ingredients (except blueberries) together and beat until combined.  Gently fold in blueberries.  Fill muffin tins to rim.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in a wire rack.  Store in an airtight container.

Yield:  16 mini dog muffins

*Adapted from Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook


Filed under Dog Treats

Summer Bean Salad

This Summer Bean Salad is healthy and can be eaten as a side with your favorite grilled protein, as a salsa with tortilla chips or as a delicious salad by itself.  I love the fresh cilantro as well!  I recently bought several herbs at the farmer’s market.  Fresh herb plants are convenient to have because it seems like whenever I need them, I don’t have the right ones or they’ve already gone rotten in the refrigerator.  What better way to store all of your herb plants than with a potting bench… did I mention that my hubby recently bought me one?
I love this thing!  It organizes all of my gardening gadgets, pots, plants, etc.  It looks really nice too.  I used to have my tomato plants sitting on top, but they were not getting enough direct light, so I moved them.  My tomato plants are not looking good this year either.  Funny thing is that last year I bought my tomato plants from Home Depot and they did awesome – this year, I bought my tomato plants at the farmer’s market and they are doing awful!  I really don’t have a green thumb (just pretend to), so any tips you have for my struggling tomato plants would be appreciated!  I’m hoping I can make this Summer Bean Salad again, but with my homegrown cherry tomatoes!

Salad Ingredients:
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can sweet corn, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced (add after salad has refrigerated)
Dressing Ingredients:
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  1. In large bowl, mix salad ingredients, except avocado.  In another small bowl, mix dressing ingredients with wire whisk until blended.
  2. Pour dressing over salad; toss to mix. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours to blend flavors.
  3. Carefully mix in diced avocado and serve.


Filed under Side Dishes

Shrimp Scampi Fra Diavolo

Good things happen when the hubby cooks dinner, like Shrimp Scampi Fra Diavolo.  My hubby cooked this for us this past weekend and it was amazing!  The hubby and I have a rule that each week we try a new cuisine or try cooking something new.  I couldn’t believe that we’d never tried making fra diavolo before, but I guess we hadn’t (or at least not in a long time).  Fra diavolo means “brother devil” in Italian so you can imagine that this sauce is spicey.  It’s a simple sauce – in its basic form it consists of tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  You can add onions, parsley, lemon juice, wine, etc. as well.  The scampi part of the dish was my favorite part!  The hubby fried some panko bread crumbs in olive oil and mixed them with fresh parsley that he sprinkled over the entire dish.  This was a great dish to end the long week!
Do you like to eat/cook new cuisines/dishes?  If so, what’s your favorite cuisine/dish?


  • 3 tbsp butter, divide
  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumb
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 1 1/4 pounds uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 lb. linguine


  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add panko and stir until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to small bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons parsley.  Wipe out skillet.
  2. Heat a large stock pot with salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook linguine according to directions.
  3. Meanwhile, sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper.  Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter with olive oil in same skillet over high heat.  Add onion and sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.  Stir in garlic, tomatoes, and crushed red pepper and sauté 1 minute.  Add shrimp and sauté until barely opaque in center, about 1 minute per side.  Add white wine and lemon juice and simmer until liquid is slightly thickened and reduced, 2 to 3 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in remaining 6 tablespoons parsley.
  4. Drain linguine, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.  Mix linguine with shrimp.  If pasta is dry, add pasta water 1/2 cup at a time.  Sprinkle panko crumbs on top.  Serve immediately.

*Adapted from Epicurious


Filed under Main Course, Pasta

Lemon & Dill Hummus

This Lemon & Dill Hummus is delicious, healthy, and incredibly easy to make.  You can improvise with whatever herbs or flavors you like.  Some people like their hummus plain with a little seasoning, others like roasted garlic, dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, etc.  I recently bought a dill plant at the farmer’s market and decided to add fresh dill and lemon to my hummus.  I also used Tahini.  Not all hummus recipes use Tahini, but I like the flavor that it adds to the hummus.  What is Tahini?  Tahini is a paste of ground sesame seeds.  It looks kind of like peanut butter, and you only need to add a little bit to your batch.  You can find Tahini in the international food aisle in your supermarket.  Don’t be dismayed by the price of it though – the bottle will last a long time in your refrigerator and will generate numerous batches of hummus.  Enjoy!

  • 2 (16-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped dill leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • A few dashes of hot sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pita wedges or vegetables to accompany
  1. In a food processor, add 1 can of beans, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, dill, cumin, and hot sauce.  Pulse until smooth.
  2. Add the second can of beans and pulse until beans are incorporated but still chunky.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve hummus with pita wedges or vegetables.


Filed under Appetizers

Peanut Butter Silk Cake

I hope you had a wonderful weekend!!  I did!  I was at home celebrating my Mom’s birthday with this amazing Peanut Butter Silk Cake that my sister and I baked.  This cake is amazing!  It’s semi-homemade because we used a yellow cake mix, but we doctored up the cake mix by adding peanut butter and made a homemade peanut butter filling and a chocolate frosting for the top and sides.  This cake was a huge hit served with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream.  Who wouldn’t love this for their birthday?  I think my Mom and the rest of my family did!  

PS. June 12th is National Peanut Butter Cookie Day.  You should def make these in celebration:


  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped peanuts, optional


  1. Heat oven to 350°F (or 325°F for dark or nonstick pans) and generously grease bottoms of 2 (8- or 9-inch) round cake pans with shortening or cooking spray.
  2. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, 1/2 cup peanut butter, the oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pans.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Run knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  4. In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and stir in brown sugar. Heat to boiling, boil, and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat and refrigerate 10 minutes.
  5. In chilled medium bowl, beat whipping cream on high speed until soft peaks form and set aside. In another medium bowl, beat 1/2 cup peanut butter and the brown sugar mixture on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add whipped cream to peanut butter mixture and beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth and creamy.
  6. Place one layer on a serving plate and spread peanut butter filling until smooth.  Place other cake layer on top and set aside.
  7. To make the chocolate frosting, microwave the chocolate in a small microwavable bowl until melted, about 1 minute. Cool 10 minutes.
  8. Beat the powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and milk in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in melted chocolate until well blended.
  9. Frost sides and top of cake with chocolate frosting. Press peanuts onto frosting on side of cake. Store covered in refrigerator.
*Adapted from Betty Crocker


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake

I didn’t really have a good reason to bake this Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake besides the fact that I saw it in a magazine and thought it looked scrumptious.  The original recipe was for blueberry coffee cake, but the lemon and blueberry combo is too delicious to ever turn down.  Most of the time, I bake with a purpose, meaning that I usually bake when there’s an event at work, a birthday party, a brunch, a big game on tv, etc.  However, sometimes I just get the urge to bake for the heck of it purely because I like to bake.  Maybe that’s crazy, but I think my family and friends appreciate it.  🙂

Baking is definitely one of my stress relievers, as is spending time with my family, working out, reading, drinking wine, etc.  And baking does not really require too many expensive ingredients – ok, don’t get me wrong, there are some expensive ingredients that I love to use like almond paste, anything with fig, nuts, etc.  But the pillars of baking (flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, vegetable oil, shortening, etc.) are all relatively cheap and last for quite a while.  Baking is great!  Enjoy!


  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts
  • 4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 8-oz container plain, Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 of a lemon, juiced
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. milk (or additional for desired consistency)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13×9 pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. To make the topping, combine brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. In another small bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt and baking soda and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat granulated sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla, and 1/2 of a lemon’s juice and beat until combined.
  5. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and lemon zest and add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Beat until combined.  Beat in Greek yogurt mixture.
  6. Pour half of the batter in the pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle with the blueberries and then half of the topping.  Pour the remaining batter over the layers and spread evenly.  Sprinkle with the remaining topping.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Meanwhile, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and milk until drizzling consistency (add more milk if necessary, 1 tsp. at a time).  Once cake has completely cooled, drizzle frosting over and enjoy!

*Adapted from Our Best Desserts


Filed under Baked Goods, Breakfast, Desserts

Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

This past weekend, my hubby and I were very productive and got a lot of things done, such as:
  • Fixed the lawn mower (thanks hubby)
  • BAKED these amazing Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars
  • Cut up the tree that fell in our backyard (thanks hubby)
  • Took my adorable niece swimming
  • Ate Wegmans subs with my sis and bro-in-law (love Danny’s Favorite)
  • Met awesome friends for dinner to eat fried pickles and fish tacos (delicious!)
Hope you had a wonderful weekend! PS. Make these bars… they are chewy and delicious! If you’ve never tried caramel bits before, I found mine at Target. They’re delicious and highly addicting. 🙂

  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Caramel Bits


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 pan.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine brown sugar and melted butter and mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
  3. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat until combined (use a spatula to scrape down the sides). With a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate and caramel chips.
  4. Spread batter in the prepared pan (wet your spatula to spread the batter out more easily). Bake about 25-30 minutes or until set. Cool before cutting into squares. Enjoy!

*Adapted from


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts