Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Balls

I mentioned in my previous post that I've started bringing lunch to work again. Everything has been so busy that for the past year+ I haven't had time to eat lunch on most days. I eat a big breakfast and then snack in the afternoon, but I'm trying to reset my metabolism and eat better in the middle of the day. SO I must bring lunch.

I did a lot of research on Pinterest about bringing healthy lunches. I also ordered some adorable little bento box containers off of Amazon, so I can take my lunches in proper portion sizes each day. Here is my first box:

We've got some hibachi fried rice (link above), some smoked teriyaki tofu, a little silicone cupcake holder full of edamame (see the little packing tricks I found on Pinterest?!), and these peanut butter balls.

In anticipation of bringing my lunch each day, I made a big batch of these peanut butter balls. I figured they would provide a nice "dessert" but still help boost my energy. They are SO easy to make and they are really, really good. I am going to make these again for future lunches and snacks!


Peanut Butter Oatmeal Balls
Adapted from Pink Oatmeal

1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup ground flax meal
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Form into 1" balls. Refrigerate. You can also freeze them if you want to make a large batch at once.

Hibachi-Style Fried Rice

The actual name of this recipe is "Hibachi-Style Fried Rice with Yum-Yum Sauce" but I made the sauce and it was NOT yum-yum so I'm going to ignore it. I didn't even serve the sauce. I just threw it right out. It was so overly sweet and had a crappy texture and ugh. Gross.


The rice sounds SO easy and SO ridiculous, but it's amazing. It tastes just like fried rice at hibachi. I don't know if it's because of the sugar or the butter or both. It's a mystery. But it was really great. I added some green onions at the end. You could easily serve this with stuff you'd have at hibachi, like teriyaki chicken or shrimp or whatever. It's great. I'm looking forward to trying a similar recipe for hibachi noodles.

I definitely would make this again as my standard fried-rice recipe. AND I'm starting to bring lunch to work again, so we're back to running the lunchbox test on meals. This was the first one tried - it is GREAT warmed up the next day. Hooray!


I portioned out the rice into my lunch container before I served dinner, and then we ate the rest, and then I realized I forgot to take a picture, so I tried to take a picture of it in my lunchbox. Sorry guys.

Hibachi-Style Fried Rice with Yum Yum Sauce
The Cooking Jar

4 cups cooked long grain rice
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
2 tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Yum Yum Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup water

Make sure the rice has cooled and break apart any lumps with your hands.

Over medium high heat, crack the eggs in a wok and stir to scramble in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Season with salt and use the spatula to dice the eggs into smaller pieces. Dish the eggs and set aside.

Pour in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and saute the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Scrape up any brown bits left by the eggs with spatula and mix. Add the peas and carrots and stir to combine. Add the rice and eggs and toss to combine.

Add butter, soy sauce and sugar coating the rice well with melted butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine all the sauce ingredients and stir to mix well.

Dish and serve the rice hot with the sauce.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nutella Banana Swirl Muffins

We had all these fun plans for Saturday to close out Beer Week, but then it started snowing and didn't stop. We're not within walking distance of anything so we were stuck at home all day. I got really frustrated, and when I'm upset I bake. So I used our overripe bananas and the last of our jar of Nutella and made these super-easy muffins.

They are VERY good, but best when they are warm. The Nutella isn't too overpowering and the muffin itself isn't too sweet. I halved the recipe to make nine muffins and that turned out well.

(To divide the egg in half, I just beat the egg in a small bowl and poured half of that into the mix.)

I would make these again. They made the day a little more bearable.


Nutella Banana Swirl Muffins
The Novice Chef

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 medium over-ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin pan with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt until well combined. Set aside.

In large bowl, whisk together banana, sugar, brown sugar. Beat in egg, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Slowly whisk in the flour mixture, until there are no lumps. Fold in pecans.

Fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Top each muffin with about 1 teaspoon of Nutella and use a toothpick to swirl it into the batter.

Bake muffins for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve warm or store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Yield: 18 muffins

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Beer Cheese & Mac

This week is Lehigh Valley Beer Week 2015, where a number of restaurants and local craft breweries band together to do tap takeovers, food pairings, parades, and learning events. Over the past couple of years I've really grown to love beer and my tastes have changed. It's been fun and exciting. (If you're on Untappd, find me!) So Beer Week was extra fun for us this week.

We went to dinner at the Trapp Door GastroPub on Tuesday. They were having a tap takeover from Ithaca Beer. My gentleman got a flight of several beers, and I had a red rye IPA. It was delicious and we met one of the guys from the company. Um can I also just reiterate how great Trapp Door is? We like their brunch.
trapp door

Wednesday we had reservations at the Spinnerstown Hotel, which is oddly closer to us than we thought. They were having a special "Sours & IPAs Night," adding a bunch of rare sours and IPAs to their already hugely extensive beer list. We had a GREAT dinner - their food is amazing, and we have to go back, especially when their outdoor porch is open in the summer - and managed to get some rare beer before they ran out. We both had a glass of Pliny the Elder, which was so wonderful but I'll never have it again because it's never on the East coast. My gentleman also had a flight of sours, which was funny to watch. I am so not into sours. Here's my Pliny:

There are a few other events we're hoping to hit, but with more snow on the way today, it's unclear if we're going to make it.

Last night, I decided to participate in beer week at home by trying this recipe for beer macaroni and cheese.

I have to deviate for a second. So, I don't watch much Food Network anymore because I can't stand Guy Fieri, but I do watch Chopped and I do watch the occasional show that actually involves cooking (Pioneer Woman, Giada, Southern at Heart). I've been watching a lot of Southern at Heart. The chef is Damaris Phillips, and I am a little bit in love with her.

So I watched her make this macaroni & cheese recipe the other day and it seemed thoroughly appropriate for a homemade Beer Week meal. It calls for Amber Ale, so I rifled through our refrigerator and found a Sam Adams Irish Red. It worked very well. There are a LOT of cheeses in this recipe. A LOT. It is VERY HEAVY. The harissa is not too spicy and just adds a little extra kick. You could probably toss in a tiny bit of sriracha instead, if you can't find harissa. Make sure you season it well with the salt and pepper because it does need that extra level of seasoning.

I really liked this a lot and am looking forward to seeing how it reheats today. My gentleman wasn't as much of a fan, largely because he felt it was "too boozy." That's fine. I don't care. It was good. Happy Beer Week! :)

I only put panko on half, because Gentleman doesn't like crunchy toppings on his macaroni & I promised in my 10 Year Post I wouldn't subject people to things they hate!


Beer Cheese & Mac
Food Network: Southern At Heart

16 ounces shell pasta noodles, such as conchiglie
8 ounces amber beer
8 ounces half-and-half
16 ounces cream cheese
3 tablespoons wet harissa
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, shredded (about 2 1/2 cups)
6 ounces smoked gouda, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 ounces super-aged gouda, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente according the package direction.

Combine the beer, half-and-half and cream cheese in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, whisking, until the cream cheese is melted and well incorporated, about 5 minutes.

Add the harissa and mustard powder to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper and whisk to incorporate. Stir in the Cheddar and smoked gouda and cook, stirring, over low heat until all the cheese is melted.

Add the pasta and toss to combine. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish. Combine the super-aged gouda, breadcrumbs and oil in a small bowl and sprinkle over the top of the pasta. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Garlic & Butter

The other night I brought home a spaghetti squash, and then I had to figure out how to use it. Thank goodness for Pinterest, right? I tried this super-easy recipe and it was WONDERFUL. I think I've only tried making spaghetti squash a couple of times before. This recipe was very simple and delicious. I would definitely make this again.


We had it with an OLD OLD favorite, Toasted Ravioli.

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Garlic & Butter
Steamy Kitchen

1 small spaghetti squash (about 3-4 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup finely minced parsley (or basil)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F. Pierce squash a few times with sharp paring knife (to let steam escape). Bake spaghetti squash for 60 minutes, or until a paring knife pierces easily through skin with little resistance. Let squash cool for 10 minutes.

Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Use a fork to remove and discard the seeds. Continue using fork to scrape the squash to get long, lovely strands. If the squash seem difficult to scrape, return the squash to bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Heat a large saute pan with the butter and the garlic over medium-low heat. When garlic becomes fragrant, add parsley, salt and spaghetti squash strands. Toss well, sprinkle in the parmesan cheese and taste to see if you need additional salt. The spaghetti squash should have a slight crunch (i.e. not mushy) - but if you like it softer, cover the pan and cook 2 more minutes.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Coffee Toffee Thumbprint Cookies

These look so much fancier than they are. They look like they take a lot of effort, and they really don't. Mix up the dough, roll into balls, poke a hole in the middle, drizzle in some caramel. Ta-da!

The espresso powder and toffee add such a wonderful flavor and it goes so well with the caramel. (And they're really good when you're drinking coffee in the morning!) I recommend refrigerating the cookies, because by the end of today, the caramel had melted all over my cookie container. Seriously, these are pretty great. Everyone really liked them a lot! I ran out by the end of the day!


Coffee Toffee Thumbprint Cookies
Recipe from Crumb

Cookie Dough:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup toffee bits
2 tablespoons instant-espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

18 soft caramels, unwrapped
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350F, and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until well combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

In a second mixing bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, salt and toffee bits. Add to the wet ingredients, and beat on low speed until combined.

Roll the dough into 1-inch round balls, and arrange on prepared baking sheets. Using your thumb, press a deep indent into the middle of each ball.

Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden-brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

While the cookies are cooling, place the caramels and cream in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave on High for 30 seconds, or until melted and smooth. (If necessary, continue to microwave in 10-second increments until the caramels are melted, stirring between bursts.)

Spoon a small amount of caramel into the center of each cookie. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before serving to allow the caramel to set.

Yield: about 4 dozen

Sunday, February 15, 2015

10 Years of Blogging

The other day when I was updating this, I had the horrifying realization that I have had this blog for ten years.


This is what I looked like ten years ago:
This is at the Sam Adams Brewery in JP Boston, when I discovered I liked beer. I was 21 years old, only had two small tattoos, and the photo was taken on one of the first affordable digital cameras. I am drunk in this photo.

I started this blog just after I turned 21 and I will be turning 31 this year.

When I started it in 2005, I was a senior in college in Boston, living in an apartment with a fiance I never ended up marrying. Food blogs were not "a thing." Blogs in general were not particularly popular. The point of my blog was really so I could keep track of what I was eating (see my first post ever here) because I had become acutely aware that, due to my long commute and stressful school schedule, I was eating like shit. Lots of candy. Seriously, so much candy. So I started the blog as a way to keep myself accountable.

And now it's been ten years.

This is the absolute most recent photo of me, with a friend on Super Bowl Sunday:
I am 30, own a house, and am drunk in this photo as well.

As I've gone through all 2067 posts, I've discovered a lot of amazing and horrifying things. Those of you who've been with me since the beginning are aware that the blog spans the aforementioned cancelled engagement, then a cohabitation and marriage to someone else, the massive failure of that marriage in conjunction with my failed ability to conceive children, a journey through being single in my late 20s, and then a new cohabitation with my current gentleman. I've moved from Boston to Maryland to Pennsylvania, and then most recently to another home in Pennsylvania. I graduated college, got my master's degree, worked as a therapist, quit, and now work at a hospital. My financial status has been all over the map. And who knew I'd become the Cookie Baking Queen?

I have made a similar post to this, four years ago when we filed for divorce: My Food Blog: A Retrospective. Seriously, I repeated a lot of the stuff I just wrote in the above paragraph. But that post was still FOUR YEARS AGO. FOUR. YEARS. AGO.

I've been a vegetarian now for almost 18 years.

I'm not going to lie - I've been continuously trying to edit posts to exclude previous relationships. Which is hard since I have 2100 posts and can't hit all of them. It's a sad thing, to be editing people out of one's blog, but no one needs a constant reminder of the failures of your 20s. Right?

Here are some of the things I've learned while reading back over old posts:

1) I am a bitch. I actually started crying when I realized this. In my quest to expand food horizons and explore new recipes, I've subjected my partners to foods they absolutely cannot stand, trying to find a way to make them like them. To be fair, I also did this to myself on a significant number of occasions, trying to make myself like fish or goat cheese. But in retrospect, it was a dick move and I AM SORRY.

2) Related to this: my feelings about cooking meat in my home are severely relaxed now - partially because I didn't really have a choice. It was always part of the deal - if you live with me, you don't cook raw meat in the house. Toward the end of my marriage I did try to relax on this and bought local meat, but it didn't work out. My current gentleman made it clear from the beginning that he gives no shits. He has his own pan, cutting board, and knives. He's respectful about keeping our foods separate. But damned if he was about to move in with someone who wouldn't let him eat what he wants. And I'm glad, because I needed to f-ing relax.

3) I've been using sriracha since 2005. I made a post about it one time explaining what it was because it wasn't a popular condiment and no one understood its magic. I did this about Nutella once, too. WELL NOW THE WORLD KNOWS.

4) In the early 2000s, low-fat cooking was still all the rage and I was sucked right into that bandwagon. I used to pride myself on being able to convert a full-fat recipe into a low-fat one. Now I recognize that isn't about cooking low-fat, it's about cooking with Real Ingredients. I try to avoid processed stuff. I stopped drinking soda. I use real butter, not margarine. And I try not to cook with meat substitutes anymore, because they are super-processed. I'll use tofu or tempeh sometimes, but generally I try to get my protein from beans, vegetables, nuts, and grains. I think this is a healthier outlook, but food trends change constantly, so who knows?

5) I don't cook as much because I just don't care. I don't care if I've tried a new ingredient or a new cooking method. I love to bake cookies for work (see: all the Cookie Monday posts) but I just don't care as much as I used to. It isn't apathy. It's just that it isn't something that's as important to me as it used to be. I think this is what happens when you get older.

6) I used to subscribe to a ton of magazines and got the majority of recipes from them and from cookbooks. Now, food blogs are everywhere and Pinterest has taken over. All of my magazine subscriptions have lapsed and I'm fairly sure the print industry is going to disappear or turn solely digital in the next few years.

So here we are, ten years later. Denise encouraged me to do a "Best of" post, which I probably will do at some point, but right now I just have to be introspective and process all of this.

Ten years, man. A lot has happened in a decade.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pasta con Broccoli

I was making dinner the other night and most of the pots and pans were in the dishwasher already from my gentleman's cooking endeavors. I got really excited when I found this recipe since it's all made in one dish. It's kind of magical how it works, really. You dump all the ingredients into the pot, boil it, and everything mixes together to make a pasta sauce AND cook the pasta in the process. It turned out perfectly. There's certainly room for tweaking the flavors, adding more seasoning, or switching out vegetables. The original recipe called for 2% milk and chicken broth, and I used whole milk and vegetable broth. I really liked this. It reheated well, too. I will hang on to this recipe. It is so easy, so fast, and only leaves you with one dirty pot to clean.


Pasta con Broccoli
The Wholesome Dish

1 pound campanelle pasta
3 cups broccoli florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces tomato sauce
3 cups milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

Add the pasta, broccoli, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, tomato sauce, milk, and broth to a large pot. Cover and bring to a full, rolling boil. Stir and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer covered for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until there is ½ to1 inch of liquid left in the bottom of the pot. Keep an eye on the pot in the beginning of the cooking process because milk tends to boil over easily.

Remove the pasta from the heat and stir in the mushrooms and the parmesan. Let the pasta rest for 3-5 minutes before serving. The remaining liquid will absorb into the pasta and the mushrooms will soften.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Butterscotch Pudding Cookies

I hoarded butterscotch pudding mix last year for some reason when it went on sale and I haven't used it at all, so for Cookie Monday I decided to bust open a box of it. Halfway through making this recipe, I realized I didn't have any butterscotch chips, so I had to rely on the cookie itself for the butterscotch taste. The oats and pretzels added a nice consistency, and I added some extra chocolate chips and cinnamon for flavor. They crisped up pretty quickly, and one batch burned on the bottom, but it turns out that people do like crispy and/or burned cookies sometimes. If you want them softer, bake them for only 7-8 minutes. I wouldn't make these again but it was nice, quick, and convenient, and that was good enough this week.


Butterscotch Pudding Cookies
I Heart Naptime

1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup quick oats
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3.4 ounce box butterscotch pudding mix
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup coarsely crushed pretzels

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again.

Combine the oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Slowly mix into the butter mixture. Stir in the chips and pretzels by hand.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Bake at 375* for 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Store in a sealed container.

Yield: 4 dozen

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Fried Cauliflower Sandwich

No seriously, this is one of the greatest sandwiches I've made in recent memory. It is SO EASY and so quick and so delicious. I don't know what lacinato kale is, so I just used regular kale. I ran out of nice bread so I've used sub rolls and sliced white bread in place. I don't bother broiling it anymore because I just toast the bread and let the cheese melt on it afterward (pure laziness). It's always delicious. It makes me so happy. Every component adds to the amazingness so don't cut anything out. I love this so much.


Fried Cauliflower Sandwich

1/2 head cauliflower
2 cups lacinato kale (or similar)
2 cloves garlic
6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
2 ciabatta rolls (or similar good, crusty white bread)
2 tablespoons pickled banana pepper rings
4 slices provolone cheese

Trim the cauliflower, leaving the core intact, and cut into 1/4-inch slices (don't worry if they don't stay perfectly intact -- as long as the have a relatively "flat" side they should brown up nicely). Set aside.

Slice the kale into thin ribbons and peel and mince the garlic. Set aside.

Pour enough oil in a heavy fry pan so that it completely coats the pan's bottom and will slightly edge up the sides of the cauliflower pieces when you add them. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it's very hot, add the cauliflower slices and let them sizzle, untouched, for 4 to 5 minutes (you may need to adjust heat so that they cook long enough to get brown and cook through). Flip the slices and cook them for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to a plate and sprinkle with a little salt.

Turn off the heat and add the kale and garlic to pan. Cook in the residual pan heat for a minute or two until the greens are wilted, then scrape onto a plate.

Turn the oven broiler on. Split and toast the ciabatta rolls. Take the two bottom halves and layer on the fried cauliflower slices, then the greens, and lastly, the peppers. Top with 2 slices of cheese and broil in oven just until melted. Top with the other ciabatta halves and enjoy.

Yield: 2 sandwiches

Monday, February 02, 2015

Super Bowl 2015

Last night we threw our second annual Super Bowl party. I made a lot of edible alcohol treats, while my gentleman took care of the carnivores. Although I did bust out my surgical gloves and make a batch of Sideline Smokies again. I'll get to that.

So I just blew up my blog posting all the new recipes I made for the Super Bowl. I figured I should collect them all in one place, along with the other recipes I've posted in the past.

This is what our table looked like before I finished putting all the food out. That table in the back corner is why all my photos were SO TERRIBLE. I'm sorry, guys. I really am. But it was worth it! I had so much fun.

So here's what we served:

*Vegetable tray
*Fried chicken (gentleman's own recipe)
*Pulled pork in the crockpot (gentleman's own recipe - see this post regarding his recipe-free cooking), served with pickles, peppers, coleslaw, homemade barbecue sauce (again, his own recipe), and rolls
*Sideline Smokies
*Texas Caviar with tortilla chips
*Buffalo Chicken Dip, brought by our buddy (sorry I don't have a recipe)
*Beer & Cheese Dip
*Wine Gummies
*Cake Shots
*Cupcake Pudding Shooters
*Blondies that our friend brought
*A bowl of Skittles in honor of Marshawn Lynch

The smokies, Texas Caviar, and pulled pork were easily the most popular of the foods. The guests who were here last year went straight to the football-shaped crockpot to eat the smokies, since they remembered them from last year.

I have no idea how many people were here but it was at least 16. It was so much fun! And for next year's party, I'll make sure we have more warm foods because I think there were too many cold dishes. I also wish I'd made some kind of hot cider or Sangria since it was snowing! Stuff to keep in mind for next year. AND MAYBE THE EAGLES WILL FINALLY MAKE IT NEXT YEAR! Just kidding that won't happen. :(

Texas Caviar

My gentleman's aunt made this around the holidays, and it was amazing. I just stood there eating it forever. She so kindly gave me the recipe, and I decided to make it for our Super Bowl party. I wasn't sure if it would be popular amongst a group of mostly-male late-20-somethings. But I made it and stuck it on the table with some tortilla chips.

As it turns out, I had no reason to worry. It was gone by the end of the night and multiple people asked for the recipe. This is a solid party food. This is the kind of recipe I will have to make for every party forever. I highly recommend it!

The thing that I love about it is that it isn't soggy. You make the dip, pour the dressing over it, and then drain the whole thing before you serve it. That way, you don't serve a liquidy, over-dressed dip. It was perfect.

{I'm sorry for the bad quality; I thought I'd taken a good picture at the time.}

Texas Caviar
From my gentleman's Aunt Barb

1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 can pinto beans
1 can black eyed peas
1 can white shoepeg corn
1 can black beans
1 can chopped green chiles
1 cup mixed green, yellow, and red bell peppers
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup onion
Chopped cilantro, to taste (I did not add this)

Boil and cool dressing ingredients.

Drain and combine salad ingredients.

Mix all ingredients together with dressing. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Drain before serving. Serve with tortilla chips.

Makes a HUGE bowlful.

Cake Shots

I have this cookbook called Booze Cakes. My coworker Janet also has a copy (she's the one who told me about it) and she makes cakes from it for birthdays and parties in our office. There's an amazing recipe for a Golden Rum Cake. She made me a delicious Harvey Wallbanger cake for my 30th birthday. There's a pink champagne cake I want to try, and I might try the Long Island Iced Tea Cakes for my gentleman's birthday. You should definitely buy this cookbook, and tell me what you make from it. It's great.

One of the more complicated recipes in here is for Cake Shots. There are two different styles of serving. There's a fancy version, where they made a sheet cake, made a separate pan of jello shots, and then cut them into little circles and layered them all fancy in shot glasses with garnishes and stuff. Beautiful, but time consuming. AND I AM REALLY LAZY LATELY. And I was already making a lot of food for our Super Bowl party.

So I went with the poke-cake variation. I baked the cake, then I mixed up the Jello and let it set up in a bowl for a little bit. When it was just becoming solid, I spread it over the top of the cake. There are a ton of flavor variations in the cookbook, but I went with the Cosmopolitan flavor. It involved raspberry Jello, cranberry juice, vodka, lime, and Triple Sec. I omitted the lime, and I used strawberry Jello because I'd accidentally purchased that. Even though some Triple Sec was baked into the cake, I also sprinkled some on top of the warm cake to soak through. This was good because I think the cake would have been a little bit dry without it.

The mistake I made was serving it directly from the cake pan. It didn't look very appealing, and I think people feel weird serving themselves from a cake pan. My gentleman and I have no qualms about it and ate A LOT OF CAKE. You might have noticed the theme of edible alcohol from our party. I was feeling experimental. Anyway, the cake was very good. I do think the different variations would be fun, and I certainly would consider making it for a Fancy Party if I had Fancy Shot Glasses to serve them in. But otherwise, I was disappointed with the general reception to the cake and wouldn't waste the effort again.

I'm going to type up the recipe with the generic ingredients, and with the poke-cake instructions. Sub in your own liquor, juice, and Jello preferences. You can add candy, fruit, chocolate, whipped cream, whatever. This is a very flexible base recipe.

{I'm sorry for the quality; those random holes in the middle of the cake are my doing.}

Cake Shots
Adapted from Booze Cakes

For the cake:
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons liquor of choice (this is where I used Triple Sec)
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Jello:
1 1/2 cups powdered gelatin (I used strawberry)
2 1/4 cups water or juice (I used cranberry)
1/2 cup liquor (I used vodka)

For assembling:
Fruit, chocolate chips, flavored liqueurs, candy, etc.

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 sheet cake pan.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar 3-5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and milk; stir in vanilla and liquor. Mix in flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Gently fold egg whites into the batter. Fill the pan 2/3 full and bake 25-30 minutes. Mine took about 35 minutes to fully bake through in the middle.

In a saucepan, bring 2/3 cups water or juice to a boil; stir in gelatin until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool about 20 minutes. Stir in alcohol. Refrigerate until gelatin just begins to set. Drop in fruit or other mix-ins, if desired.

Spread gelatin evenly over cooled cake and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Wine Gummies

I am not a wine connoisseur. I am one of those people who divides wine into Red or White. To make these gummies, I used "red." And when I say "gummies," what I really mean is "Jello shots made with wine." I couldn't find unflavored gelatin, so I picked up a box of blackberry Jello mix and then omitted the stevia and maple syrup.

So basically I barely followed this recipe at all.

They weren't "gummies," and ended up setting up like a traditional Jello shot. I made them in an 8x8 pan and then dumped them out on a serving tray, but the squares broke apart and it was just a pile of wine Jello. BUT THEY WERE DELICIOUS! And isn't that the most important thing?

{I'm sorry this picture is so awful. I'd already eaten some of the gummies, and also they didn't keep their shape when I dumped them out of the pan.}

Wine Gummies
Thrive Style via Pinterest

1 cup wine
4 tablespoons gelatin
1/2 teaspoon stevia
2-4 tablespoons maple syrup

In a saucepan, warm the wine on LOW heat. Add the gelatin one tablespoon at a time, and stir very well before adding more. After the gelatin has completely dissolved, add the other ingredients.

Once your mixture is ready, either use a spoon to fill a mold or dump the whole batch into a pan (for square cut gummies).

Put them in the fridge to set for at least 2-3 hours prior to serving. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter or slice into squares. (Or dump them on a table like I did.)

Cupcake Pudding Shooters

I made a batch of this for our Super Bowl party. I didn't bother making the chocolate bowls because that's just way too much effort. Instead, I mixed up the pudding and poured it into tiny plastic shot glasses. Then I topped them with sprinkles and chilled them in a pan for a little bit. People ate it with spoons. This was fine.

I didn't have the white chocolate liqueur, which I realized mid-recipe. I made up for this by adding more of the cake vodka. This may or may not have been the right move. It was VERY strong. It was also very thin. It was so liquidy at first, but once I chilled it for a few hours it set up a little more. I don't know if it would have been different with the chocolate liqueur. If you try it, let me know.

Anyway, like I said - VERY STRONG. But very good! They were all gone by the end of the night. I still wouldn't bother with the chocolate shells if I made these again. I got about 2 dozen little shot glasses out of this plus some extra left over in a bowl that I was too lazy to dish out. Probably this makes around 30 shots, I'd guess.

{I'm sorry this is terrible quality. I'd already eaten a few.}

Cupcake Pudding Shooters
Endless Simmer

6 ounces chocolate, melted (optional - if making chocolate bowls)
1 3.9-ounce box instant vanilla pudding
3/4 cup milk, very cold
1/2 cup Pinnacle Cake Vodka
1/3 cup Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
8 ounces Cool Whip, thawed
1 tablespoon nonpareil sprinkles

To make chocolate shells: Melt chocolate. Using a small paint brush, cover the walls of silicone bowl forms and chill for 5 minutes. Remove and apply a second coat and chill once more. The chocolate cups can be made 3 days in advance and kept at room temperature or stored in the refrigerator.

To make the pudding: Place pudding mix and milk in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add in Pinnacle Cake Vodka and Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur and vigorously whisk to combine. Fold in Cool Whip until no streaks remain.

To assemble: Fill a pastry bag with pudding mix and fit with preferred tip. Pipe into chocolate shells.

Top with sprinkles.

Beer & Cheese Dip

I actually made this at the last minute for our Super Bowl party. It took approximately zero time, other than refrigerating it before the guests arrived. For some reason I had a packet of Ranch dressing mix. I didn't add the bacon or the green onions. I used Yuengling lager, because that's what we had available for cooking.

Tangential anecdote for my friends who don't live in PA: Yuengling is made right near my house. It's everywhere here. When you go to a bar or a party, unless it's a hip craft-beery bar, they just call it lager. They don't even call it Yuengling. So even though we prefer to drink other beers in our house, it's one of those drinks that you HAVE to have when you invite people over.

Okay so people ate about half of this. I had it out with some tortilla chips but I noticed a lot of people were dipping vegetables in it - which, in hindsight, is a really good idea. It's good with some broccoli. I think it would have been more popular if I'd added the bacon, or if it were a hot dip. It's really good (if you like beer and cheese), but I think I should have had a warm dip to counteract the other food we had out. Oh well. I wouldn't make this again.

{I'm sorry the picture is so awful. I forgot until after I'd had a few drinks.}

Beer Dip
Balancing Beauty & Bedlam via Pinterest

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
8 ounces sour cream
1 packet dry Ranch dressing mix
1/2 can beer
2 cups shredded cheddar
Bacon bits
Chopped green onion

Mix cream cheese, sour cream, dressing, and beer til creamy and smooth. Then mix in 1/2 cup of the cheese. Top with the remaining shredded cheese.

Refrigerated for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Before serving, garnish with bacon bits and green onions, if using. Serve with pretzels or chips.

Neato Frito Overstuffed Burritos

I made this awhile ago and completely forgot to post about it - partially because I forgot to take a picture. I do have a photo of the assembly process, which I took for my friend Denise and not even for the purpose of this blog. Oops.

Then, I discovered my gentleman had used the last of the burrito-size tortillas making a breakfast burrito. Thankfully, we still had a package of soft taco tortillas, so instead of one big burrito, I made a bunch of tiny ones.

So when I made these, I did not use pulled pork, obviously, because I'm Lauren. I did use everything else, though. They were definitely overstuffed and fell apart easily, even in foil, but that's my own fault. These were very good. The addition of ranch dressing and barbecue sauce was interesting. But what I really took from this is: Fritos are excellent in burritos. I wouldn't stick to this recipe in the future, but I definitely will add Fritos into my food when possible. Haha.


Neato Frito Overstuffed Burritos
Foodie With Family via Pinterest

1 large flour tortilla
1/4 cup refried beans
1/4-1/3 cup hot rice
1/3-1/2 cup hot pulled pork
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar or Pepper jack cheese
2 tablespoons guacamole
1/4 cup pico de gallo
1 tablespoon Ranch dressing
1 tablespoon barbecue sauce
1/4-1/3 cup Fritos corn chips

Spread the refried beans in a strip that is about 2 inches wide and stops within 2-inches of either end of the tortilla. Next, spoon on the rice, then the pork, and follow it with the cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, Ranch dressing, and barbecue sauce. Finish by lightly crushing the Fritos and scattering them over the other toppings. Fold the side of the tortilla closest to you over the fillings, using the tortilla to pull the fillings back in and tighten them up. Fold both ends in over the center, then continue rolling the burrito until it is completely rolled up.

Wrap a sheet of aluminum foil tightly around the burrito to help keep it closed. Serve with additional pico de gallo, Ranch dressing, and barbecue sauce.

Yield: 1 burrito