Sunday, August 29, 2010

S'mores Cookies

First of all, I would like to mention that this is my 100th post!! WOW! I have to say I've had a lot of fun with this blog so far, and I'm extremely happy to have reached that milestone. I know the blog has evolved a bit (OK, a lot!) from it's original direction, but I'm pleased with that. I really feel that it's an accurate portrayal of our life, food, decorating, and family. And of course I would like to thank anyone who reads, comments, or follows my blog. I really appreciate it- and a big thank you!!

But anyway... I was looking for the perfect dessert to bring along on a camping trip with friends this past weekend, and I immediately thought of something s'mores inspired, of course. I've seen s'mores inspired cupcakes before, but decided against them because I figured they would be too much of a pain to transport. I debated doing s'mores whoopie pies for a bit, but I deemed them too delicate. Cookies would be perfect!


2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups graham flour (this was found in the organic section of my supermarket)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
3 large Hershey’s chocolate bars, broken up

8 large Marshmallows cut into pieces

: Preheat oven to 350. Beat butter and sugars in mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until combined.

Mix dry ingredients- flours, salt, and baking soda- together in a bowl. Slowly add to wet mixture, followed by chocolate chips, and beat until just combined. Place dough in refrigerator  for about 15-20 minutes to allow to firm up.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form cookies with roughly 2 Tablespoons of dough each, and flatten slightly on the sheet. Press marshmallow and chocolate bar pieces into the top of each cookie. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until edges just start to brown. Remove from oven, let sit for about 5 minutes, and then move cookies to cooling rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Adapted from My Baking Addiction, original recipe here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

I think that chili in the previous post put a spell on me. 

As warm as it still is (although the humidity is starting to fade somewhat!), I'm suddenly getting into my "fall" state of mind. I was craving some serious comfort food the other night, yet I still wanted to keep it somewhat light and full of veggies. When I found these two recipes for grown-up versions of the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese, I was sold. They were exactly what I was looking for!

Chunky Tomato Vegetable Soup


For the soup:

1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup carrots (diced)
1 cup celery (diced)
2 cups yellow onion (diced)
8 cloves of garlic (minced or pushed through a press)

3 cups of Italian bread, torn into 1" chunks

1/2 cup dry red wine
4 cups of chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
2 28 oz. cans of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes with juice

2 Tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon of black pepper

For the topping:

small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of Italian bread, cut into 1" cubes
2 slices of prosciutto, torn into pieces (optional)
black pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Pour olive oil, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a large stockpot. Saute over medium heat until vegetables are slightly soft- about 10 minutes. Toss in chunks of bread, stir and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes.

Pour in chicken stock, tomatoes (with juices), and red wine. Mix in the basil and black pepper, stir everything up, and bring to a light simmer. Cover partially and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375. Toss fresh basil leaves with olive oil in large ziploc bag. Add cubes of bread, prosciutto, and a touch of black pepper, and shake to combine (bread won't be fully coated- that's fine). Spread out bread mixture on a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes, until croutons are golden brown and crunchy.

When soup is done, top with crouton mixture and fresh Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Serves about 8-10. Adapted from Annie's Eats, original recipe here.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Spinach, Tomato, and Prosciutto Grilled Cheese Sandwiches


4 large slices of Italian bread

1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 red onion, sliced

4 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese, sliced
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 large ripe tomato, sliced

2 Tablespoons of spreadable butter (regular butter at room temperature, or a spread)

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan, add onion slices, and allow them to slowly caramelize- about 15 minutes. Heat up panini press, grill pan, or Foreman grill to medium-high.

Top two slices of bread with one half of the cheddar cheese. Layer spinach leaves, prosciutto, tomato slices, onions when they're done, and finally, the rest of the cheese. Top with other two slices of bread, and butter the outsides of the sandwiches. Place on the cooking surface (you'll want to weigh them down if you're using a grill pan), and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until cheese is melty and outside is crisp and golden brown.

Serves 2-4, depending on how large your bread is. Half a sandwich each was plenty for H and I with the soup. Adapted from Cooking Light, original recipe here.

These were both amazingly delicious! I definitely felt like they were perfect "transition into fall foods." Very hearty and filling, but not too heavy and rich.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Nightstand Makeover- Done!

I finally found the time this weekend to finish up (well, almost anyway!) the makeover of the nightstands in the guest room.  

Once upon a time, they looked like this:

Eek! I know. And what a terrible picture...

I decided they would look a lot better in a lighter color, so we sanded them down and chose a super-pale spring green paint. We got new hardware from Lowes, and they're looking so much better now!

The only snag in the plan was the back of the nightstands. Since they were cheapo Ikea ones, the back was a particle board that I'm sure wouldn't take well to being painted. So instead, I decided to find a fabric to cover them in before I nail them back on. I think it would create some great visual interest and make them truly unique. However, I'm having some problems finding the fabric that apparently only exists in my head. Not a big deal though, they work without it for now, and it gives me time to find exactly what I want.

Here they are in the room now- much better picture! And they give it a great feel- more the French country I was going for, and less American country.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer Chili

For as long as I can remember, I've loved the summer. What kid doesn't? Combine that natural love with the fact that I grew up 10 minutes from the beach, I just about lived for summertime. I have always had a soft spot for that first brisk morning in September as well, but it was always overpowered by the melancholy of a new school year just begun.

All that love for the summer began to fade when I was in college. My school had an all-year-round, four quarter system as opposed to the traditional two semesters set-up. Summer wasn't nearly as wonderful while spent attending classes in a sweltering city as it was while lying on the beach with nothing to do. Go figure.

But enough nostalgia. Now, as a full-fledged grown-up, I no longer live near the beach, nor do I have a good 2 month break in responsibility during the summer. And that, dear friends, means that fall has officially emerged as my absolute-favorite-I-totally-live-for-this-time-of-year season.

And after the unusually hot and oh-so-humid summer we've had this year, I'm even more completely ready for fall now than I usually am. And although I love cooking with the abundance of fresh fruits and veggies we have available in the summer, there are so many things I look forward to making in the fall. One of those things is chili. Man oh man, do I love the smell (and taste!) of chili cooking away in the crock-pot on a chilly day.

So, when I found a recipe for "summer chili," which combines the chili I love during the fall with the vegetables I love during the summer, I knew I had to give this a try. And what do you know? It has zucchini- even more perfect!!

Summer Chili

1 lb ground turkey
1 lb Italian sausage

2 (28 oz.) cans of diced, fire-roaster tomatoes
1 (6 oz.) can of tomato paste
1(8 oz.) can of tomato sauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 (12 oz.) bottle of beer- I used Samuel Adams Summer Ale

2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 large zucchini, halved and sliced
1 large yellow squash, halved and sliced
1 package of frozen corn
1 (10 oz.) bag fresh spinach, chopped

1 1/2 cups kidney beans
1 1/2 cups pinto beans

2 Tablespoons chili powder
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
black pepper

Directions: Brown sausage and turkey in saucepan until cooked through. Drain, and place in crockpot. Add rest of ingredients to crock pot, set to low, and allow to cook for 8-10 hours. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. Enjoy!

This was really good- it's still a little heavy (it is chili after all!) but the vegetables were a great addition. Adapted from a la carte kitchen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

You don't think I forgot about continuing my 101 ways to use zucchini now, did you? Don't worry, I didn't- we just had quite a busy weekend, and I had little time for cooking. And since busy weekends lead to exhausting Mondays, I was in search for something easy to make for dinner last night. I had this recipe on the menu for this week and it looked like the easiest to throw together, so this it was.

These were totally easy and filling and healthy. And even though I had to turn on that oven, it was a perfect summertime dinner!

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

2 large zucchini
1/4 cup (uncooked) quinoa
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 can (15 oz.) cannelloni beans
5 cloves of garlic (finely minced or pushed through a press)
1 cup grape tomatoes (quartered)
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

olive oil
black pepper
kosher salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 400. Bring water to a boil in a small pot. When water is boiling, pour in the quinoa, lower to a simmer, and cover. Let cook for 12-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse almonds in a food processor to almost a powder. Set aside in a mixing bowl. Drain beans and place in food processor and pulse until they reach a mostly paste-like consistency. Add to bowl with almonds, then add the minced garlic, and mix well.

Cut zucchinis in half lengthwise, and scrape out the insides. Place insides in food processor and pulse to a pulp. Add zucchini pulp to bean mixture, add quinoa when it's finished cooking, then fold in tomatoes, and one half of the Parmesan cheese. 

Line up hollowed out zucchinis on a baking sheet, and sprinkle them with black pepper and kosher salt, and rub with olive oil. Fill with the stuffing, and top with remaining Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. Uncover and bake 8-10 minutes until topping a golden brown. Enjoy!

Adapted from Cooking Light.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Vegetable Gratin

Welcome to the second installment of 101 ways to use up excess zucchini! I hope you enjoyed that zucchini bread :)

I can't even express to you how delicious this next recipe is. You're just going to have to take my word for it. Or make it for yourself! I highly recommend the latter. It is time consuming, but not at all difficult. And it's very, very worth the effort!

Summer Vegetable Gratin

(serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main course)


1 extra large (or 2 smaller) zucchini
1 extra large (or 2 smaller) yellow squash
4 large ripe tomatoes
2 tsp. salt

1 large red onion
olive oil (about 5 Tbsp. total)
fresh ground black pepper

1 large slice of bread (I used regular, whole grain sandwich bread, white would work fine, Italian would probably be awesome)
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese (I used the green jar for this part)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried thyme

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. fresh grated Parmesan cheese


Slice zucchini and yellow squash into 1/4" to 1/2" thick slices and place in large bowl. Sprinkle slices with 1 teaspoon of salt, and stir to mix it in. Pour mixture into a strainer, and place back over the bowl until about 3 Tablespoons of liquid is released- about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a double layer of paper towels over a baking sheet. Slice tomatoes to same thickness as squash, and arrange in a single layer on the paper towels. Sprinkle with other 1 teaspoon of salt and let stand for about 30 minutes.

Heat about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium/medium-low heat. Slice red onion, place in saucepan with a touch of ground pepper, and slowly let caramelize- about 20 minutes.

Heat oven to about 300, and place slice of bread inside until it dries out a little and becomes slightly crumbly- about 10 to 15 minutes. Grind the bread up in a food processor with the basil, oregano, grated Parmesan, and 1 teaspoon of the thyme. Pour into small bowl and set aside. Afterwards, preheat oven to 400.

Mix the minced garlic, other 1 teaspoon of thyme, and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil together and set aside.

Brush olive oil onto a 9 X 13 glass baking dish. When onions are done caramelizing, spread in the bottom of the baking dish.

When ready, use a double layer of paper towel to squeeze out any addition liquid from the squash, and toss with one half of the garlic/olive oil mixture. Spread the slices over the onions in the baking dish.

Using another double layer of paper towels over the tomatoes, squeeze out extra liquid there. Then, arrange tomatoes in a single layer over squash. Drizzle remaining garlic/olive oil mixture over tomatoes, and bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until tomatoes are drying slightly.

Mix about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil with bread crumb mixture to moisten slightly throughout. Remove baking dish from oven and spread bread crumb mixture over tomatoes, and grate Parmesan cheese over breadcrumbs. Heat oven up to 425, and bake until bread crumb topping is golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Erin Cooks, original recipe here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Zucchini Blueberry Bread

Welcome to the first installment of 101 ways to use zucchini. For our first recipe, we'll be making blueberry zucchini bread, which is delicious and moist, and not even that bad for you. Yum!


- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar

- 2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 small or 1 large zucchini)

- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg

- 1 pint fresh blueberries


- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 2 regular-size loaf pans.

- In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, applesauce, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared mini-loaf pans. Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with a bit of sugar, to give it a nice crust while it bakes.

- Bake about 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Adapted from, original recipe here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chicken Pesto Paninis

H and I were looking for an easy and casual, but still tasty Friday night meal last week. I looked at the half loaf of Italian bread we had, and the abundance of ripe tomatoes, and immediately knew what I wanted to make.

Chicken Pesto Paninis

1 chicken breast, cut into strips
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 slices of Italian bread
4 Tbsp. of basil pesto
1 large, ripe tomato, sliced
4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 Tbsp. of butter, at a spreadable consistency

Preheat panini press (or Foreman Grill) to medium. Heat olive oil and garlic in a saucepan, add chicken strips, and brown until cooked through.

Meanwhile, spread pesto on each slice of bread. Layer tomato slices, and mozzarella on top of two slices. When chicken is done, spread strips on the mozzarella and top with remaining 2 slices of bread. Butter the outsides of the sandwich on both sides and place on heated panini press (or weighted grill pan, or Foreman Grill). Cook about 3-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and cheese is melty.

Sorry for the terribly blurry picture, but OMG, these are heaven in your mouth! So tasty and filling, and absolutely delicious!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Margarita Cupcakes

I have to say, H and I had a pretty awesome last weekend. We went to the Tom Petty concert on Sunday, and wow- what an amazing show!! It was awesome- one of the highest energy and just plain fun concerts I've ever been to. And while that was all fun and good, of course my mind was on the tailgating beforehand with some friends. The food! The drinks! Oh my! What should I bring?? I had been reading quite a bit about margarita cupcakes recently in the cooking blog world, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try some.

Margarita Cupcakes


For the cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

3 limes, zested and juiced

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325˚ F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir with a fork to blend. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the lime zest, lime juice and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

2 Tbsp. tequila, room temperature
3 Tbsp. margarita mix, room temperature
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar (approximately)

Mix the tequila and margarita mix together and set aside. In stand mixer bowl with whip attachment, combine the butter and 2/3 cup of powdered sugar on medium. Pour in 2 Tbsp. of tequila and margarita mix, blend well until mix. Continue to alternate powdered sugar and liquid until finished, frosting should be smooth, not too fluffy and not too liquid-y. Frost cupcakes with butter knife, leaving a bit unfrosted at the very edges. Let set for about 15 minutes, then roll edges in sugar to mimic a margarita. Enjoy!

Cake recipe from Annie's Eats, original recipe here. Frosting recipe adapted from Apple a Day and Martha Stewart, original recipes here and here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bleu Cheese Burgers

I love a good burger. And I especially love finding different ways to make the same old burger. The possibilities are endless! I found this bleu cheese burger on Pioneer Woman, and since H is a big fan of bleu cheese, I knew he would love it.

Bleu Cheese Burgers

1 red onion, cut into slices
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons brown sugar

4 Tablespoons mayonnaise
Tabasco sauce to taste

1 lb. ground beef (makes 4 burgers)
pinch of Kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
3 tespoons Tabasco sauce
1 egg

crumbled bleu cheese
spring greens
4 Kaiser rolls

Heat butter in saucepan until melted. Add brown sugar and red onion, and slowly let caramelize.

Mix up mayonnaise and Tabasco to form a spicy mayonnaise. Use as much Tabasco as you prefer for heat, tasting to test.

Mix beef with egg, salt, pepper, and Tabsco and form into burgers. Grill those babies up!

Towards the end of the burgers grilling, place the Kaiser rolls directly on the grill grate for a few seconds to blacken (not letting them get as dark as I got mine). When burgers are done, spread spicy mayo on the rolls, and top burgers with bleu cheese crumbles, caramelized onions, and spring greens. Enjoy!

Adapted from Pioneer Woman, original recipe here. These were definitely very tasty, and a nice twist on the same old!