Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cheesy Dijon Macaroni


If the battle told of in the classic tale of Helen of Troy was not fought for a beautiful woman, it might have been fought for cheese. Just saying. In addition to cheese tasting amazing, it is full of essential calcium and great proteins, giving us just another reason to include this staple in our daily diet - with moderation of course!

I happen to be moving into a apartment across town, and I've been looking for ways to clear out all of the food I have sitting in my fridge. As I let my creative culinary juices flow the first thing I could think to do was to infuse some macaroni with the copious amounts of cheese I happen to have lying around. This is not your auntie's potluck mac-and-cheese, my friends. It's a flavor-packed rendition of the original and a fusion of more than a couple recipes and commenter  suggestions. But really, its the comforting macaroni and cheese we all love to eat in all of its gooey, cheesy glory. Read on for something kind of like a recipe.

Southern Living claims you can whip up a stellar mac and cheese in "three easy steps."I did use a variation of these steps, but don't call constantly whisking butter, flour, then milk, then spices, then cheese in a large skillet over a preheating oven "easy!" I don't mean to scare you off, the results are well worth it! But be prepared to sweat a little. Go ahead and click on that link for a easy cheesy mac prep guide. Note that you will need to cook and drain noodles according to instructions prior to dumping them in the cheese mixture and getting it happy in the oven. Also, the spices listed include salt, pepper, and optional red pepper. I added a little salt, pepper, cajun pepper, 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon thyme. I also poured in whatever cheese I had on hand which was sharp cheddar, a shaved parmesan mix, the parmesan u shake out of a can, and a little Colby & Monterey jack mix.

And there you have it: my fancy-sounding Cheesy Dijon Macaroni! Onwards, friends, and create awesome cheesy creations of your own!

With Cheesy Love,


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Green Detour: Southwest Kale and Romaine Super Salad

And now, for a break from your regularly scheduled baking - it's dinner, it's lunch, it's an awesome salad that will actually leave you feeling nourished and satisfied! After months of being forced to eat out frequently due to inordinate amounts of time spent in the library, I've been on a mission to cook my own meals on my own terms. I love eating fresh, green things because not only do they make me feel great, but I know I am getting the nutrients I need to stay energized and healthy! Now, I've never met a cookie or pastry I didn't like, but you can't survive on flour, sugar, and chocolate alone!! Balance is key. And I'm here to keep it delicious whether it came from a friend's backyard garden (Thanks, D!) or out of a piping hot cupcake pan.

This dish was dreamt up while perusing various food websites and recipes. I especially like because even though they sometimes use lots of fancy ingredients and I don't even think I've ever tasted fennel (sad), everything is test kitchen prepped and I can use their proportions to create my own creations. I started this salad off with a corn and black bean salsa, which I will include the recipe for below. It's great by itself or with a good chip, but i decided to rinse and chop some fresh greens (use whichever you like), top with half an avocado, dump a hearty serving of salsa over top and finish with some chopped almonds for crunch.

My salad philosophy is pretty simple: start with fresh greens with a high nutritional value (romaine, spring mix, spinach, all types of kales and chards and whatnot), and go crazy from there! I am always trying to spice it up with mix-ins that are yummy, fun in your mouth plus hearty and healthy, and will continue to (try to) inspire some salad fever in you, dear reader, with my creations.

Southwestern Salsa 
(makes enough for 8 servings)


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (fresh from 2 ears corn, or thawed from frozen)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup diced seeded bell peppers (I used mini sweet ones)
2 or 3 small hot peppers, diced (to taste - you can use jalapeno, poblano, chiles, etc)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice of half a lemon


Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add corn, black beans, hot peppers, and bell peppers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté, mixing only occasionally, until vegetables are just tender, 6 to 7 minutes.

Scrape into a large bowl.

Add green onions and cilantro, and toss in lemon juice.

Look at all that flavor

Viola! You have a yummy salsa to top a hearty dinner salad and take as a midday snack with chips the next day. Or to bring to a picnic and serve to the great friends and hungry ants that attend. A great alternative to regular old tomato salsa, or make that as well as some guacamole and you have a tri-dip party! Stay healthy, my friends.


Almonds, and Sugar, and Butter, Oh My!

Hello again, there! Much like my preteen journals of years past, I have been majorly slacking on keeping up with my blog and it upsets me as much (and hopefully more) than it does my lovely readers. Since last year I've been to Ghana in West Africa and back, I've interned at the County Health Department and helped teach new moms about safe ways to put their babies to sleep, I've written, and revised, revised, & revised a 50+ page thesis, and I've received my master's in public health (MPH)!!! So many good things are in the works for the future, and I'm just so grateful for my awesome support system that's helped get me through the tougher times.

Baking is a great stress reliever and has helped too, as well as coming up with new ways to invent healthy and delicious meals to supplement all those yummy goodies. Going forward, I'd like to include more variety of recipes including my salads and smoothies. I'm Certified in Public Health, so it's like my duty, right?!

That said, for now I will keep the sweets coming with these delicious and deviously simple Mexican wedding cookies. I got the original recipe from a Lauren Conrad guest post on Refinery 29, and was delighted with the melt-in-your-mouth results, which also reminded me of many Italian and Swede-style cookies my mom and I would bake around Christmas. I made these as gifts and brought the rest to work in an attempt to save my waistline.

Can I reiterate that these cookies are so EASY! Seriously, you don't even need to know how to crack an egg to make these cookies. Perfect to bake with little ones, as long as they have eaten all of their vegetables with dinner because this one is chock full of butter and powdered sugar (the good stuff). I've modified my recipe with the substitution of whole wheat flour to make myself feel better about this, but feel free to use just all-purpose or a gluten-free variety. The almonds can also be subbed for another nut if allergies are an issue, but I'm not sure how they would turn out without any nuts at all. Go low for the recipe.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar (for coating)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg (I think I used 3 pinches, but I like a lil' spice in my cookie)
1 cup almonds or nut or your choice, ground or chopped to bitty pieces


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, salt, flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground almonds to form your dough. If your kitchen is warm [as is mine when its 80+ degrees and my oven is on] or dough seems too soft to form, chill for about 10 minutes.

Roll into 1-inch balls.

Bake for eight minutes, until just golden on the bottom.

Let the cookies cool for just a few minutes, and then toss in the remaining ¾ cup powdered sugar. You want the cookies to be warm, or the sugar will not stick.

And that's all, folks! This recipes makes about 30 cookies. No need for a greased pan or parchment paper.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Blondies Have More Fun!!

By the time this post is published it will probably officially be March. You know what that means, right? Spring is coming!! In like a lion, out like a lamb as they say, and I can't wait for the cute fluffy lamb that is Spring to frolic back into the Pittsburgh area and bring some sun with it! 

Until I can have mild, sunny days and sunshine, I've been contenting myself with lots of baked goods. Now this isn't the best of things for my Spring Break bod, but the great thing is I share everything I make and spread the love (and calories) around! I was really on a brownies and bars kick in February and decided to switch things up and try some blondie bars, which are basically brownies except not cocoa-based and with more fun fillings. Or like a chocolate chip cookie bar. In this case, a white- and milk-chocolate-chip-craisin cookie/blondie bar! Easy stuff, right? I based my recipe on Guy Fieri's Blondie with Dark Roots recipe because, who doesn't love the show Diner, Drive-ins and Dives? I also tweaked it a lot to go with what I liked and because a little recipe experimentation never hurt anybody, well not yet, anyway. Go ahead and add a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of whatever nuts, chocolate, or other fun cookie filler you like (coconut, banana chips...go wild!)

Here's what you will need:

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi sweet or milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup craisins


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Use tablespoon of butter to grease the sides of a 9 by 13 baking pan.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. 

In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese together until fluffy (Can use hand mixer, stand mixer, or good ol' whisk and willpower). Add packed brown sugar and continue beat until well incorporated. Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix in dry flour mixture just until it appears well mixed (can't see anymore dry flour in batter). 

Now for the fun part; fold in all of your fun mix-ins, like craisins and chocolate chips.
What's in your bowl?

Spread the batter in your buttered pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. You know you wont be able to wait until they're cool to try one, but put them on a wire rack anyway and pretend.

To scale picture: stack of blondies = laptop keyboard... just kidding.
 In case you're in an exceptionally gratuitous mood, these blondies ship to friends fairly well when frozen after cooling and sent in a sealed ziplock inside a USPS-approved shipping bubble envelope or package. Enjoy often until they are all gone!!

And just an update to my previous post's Valentine's Day frenzy, just wanted to share these fun chocolate bon bons I made before the holiday and gave out to all of my many, many not-so-secret admirers. To sum up the recipe they are basically chocolate cake mixed with cream cheese, rolled into balls, chilled and dipped in melted white or dark chocolate, and garnished with loved-themed sprinkles.

Yum! Always cook with Love,


Monday, February 4, 2013

Spread a Little Love! Treats for Every Valentine of Your List

Happy February lovely people! If you're like me, you probably love February for its sun flurries, the promise of Spring on its way, and public displays of affection towards friends, loved ones and strangers [And Happy Black History Month!!]. If not, you're probably just glad its the shortest month so it can be done and over with ASAP! Either way, I think its important for even the biggest love humbug and hopeless romantic to remember that Valentine's Day is not just for couples. It can be a day to celebrate the love between family and friends, pets and pet owners, and lovebirds alike!

Me and my good friend from Brillant & Wild (she's a beautiful photographer - check out the link!) had a little soiree and prepared some of the most easily adorable V-Day themed treats I ever saw! Pink white chocolate - covered pretzels, marshmallows, and strawberries, because you can't go wrong with anything covered in chocolate and sprinkles, duh. We also had a fancy cheese plate, spicy buffalo chicken dip with chips, brownies and a pink sangria!

Unexpectedly, my favorite part of these delectable treats was not eating them up and developing cavities, it was sharing them with the friends who stopped by! We even sent some with a friend to her sister who was getting discharged from the hospital, and I'm posting some of the pretzel rods to a friend who is about to have a baby any day now (I hope they dont break too much in the mail-- I'll use a lot of bubble wrap)!! I want to send these cute pink treats to everyone I know, near and far, like a Valentine's Day cheer vigilante!! 

And last but definitely not least, who's to say you can't be your own Valentine? Treat yourself to some things you like - a nice bubble bath and a glass of bubbly, a sappy (or scary - whatever) movie, some yummy treats of your own, or a fun night out with the friends you love. Most of all I think if you try, not just on Valentine's Day but any day, to share a smile or spread a little love as you go about your day, you might finally get what all the hubbub about love is about! It cant be measured in chocolate or diamonds, its a feeling inside that makes your heart smile :)

Happy Valentine's Day Friends!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hello again! - Salted Caramel Brownies

Needless to say, I haven't posted for quite a while. I'm happy to say that I did make it back safely from southeast Asia, but certain sad events made it difficult for me to return to blogging. That's not to say I haven't been baking - its just the opposite!! For me, baking has always been a great comfort and stress reliever. Plus, it creates an excuse (and an incentive!) to invite family and friends to enjoy what I've created!! These same family and friends have been an invaluable part of my healing process, and I am so happy to have them.

I'm also happy to have found this great brownie recipes online!!! The brownies are an Alton Brown (from the Food Network) recipe, and I got the salted caramel frosting from the famous Paula Deen. Salted caramel is one of my new favorite flavors of the season, and the addition of chocolate makes it irresistible!!

For the brownies you will need:

Soft butter, for greasing the pan
Flour, for dusting the buttered pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
8 ounces melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the salted caramel frosting you will need:

1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 cup butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons sea salt


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, then butter and flour a 9in pan. With a hand mixer, stand mixer, or a whisk and some elbow grease, beat the eggs speed until fluffy and light yellow. Then add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes.

While the brownies are in the oven, get started on the frosting. In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, milk and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Turn off the stove and transfer to a large bowl. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, beating with a whisk at (or medium speed mixer) until combined. Beat in the vanilla. If the brownies are not yet ready, stir occasionally to keep frosting from thickening.

If you have an electric oven (or if the smells coming from the oven are too good to resist) you might want to check the brownies with a toothpick at 35 minutes. When it's done, remove to a wire rack to cool. After 5 minutes, cut the brownies if you wish to create a marbled effect. Gently spread frosting over the brownies; it will thicken as it cools. Sprinkle with the sea salt, gently pressing to adhere. Cool completely and enjoy!

Stay warm friends!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Greetings From Singapore!!!

Hello Foodies!!!

I've been having a wonderful trip in Southeast Asia, and sadly my trip is coming to an end in a short week!! Just wanted to share this picture of Laksa soup with you, as well as a link to a post I wrote about the food I've been eating on my trip blog.