Happy Hour Friday: The Poinsettia

Photo property of the Food Network

If you are in desperate need of a New Year's Eve cocktail to serve tomorrow night, look no further. This tasty poinsettia is truly indicative of the season and only requires three ingredients (most of which you probably already have at home). Serve it in a wine glass with crushed ice and a few strips of orange zest and you are sure to have your guests beggin' for more!

Have a safe and happy New Year! Cheers to 2012!

Adapted from The Food Network

You Will Need:
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup Champagne
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • Crushed ice
  • 2 strips orange zest, each about 1/4-inch wide and 2 inches long

Here We Go:
  • Combine the vodka, champagne and juice in a large-stemmed red wine glass
  • Add crushed ice and stir until the mixture is well chilled
  • Twist the orange strips over the glass, drop them in, and serve

Makes 1 Cocktail
Happy Feasting!


    Cheese and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

    Still have family in town for the holidays? Make this easy breakfast casserole the night before and pop it in the oven right before you and your guests are ready to eat. Who doesn't like cheese, eggs and sausage? You can also add various bell peppers for more festive colors and complexity.

    Adapted from: Tride and True From Eleana's Kitchen

    You Will Need:
    • 7 slices wheat bread, trimmed and toasted
    • 1 lb mild italian sausage, cooked
    • 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 tsp mustard
    • 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 cups milk
    • 2/3 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
    • 2/3 cup Swiss cheese, grated
    • 4-5 pieces turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled

    Here We Go:
    • Place bread into bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish
    • Place crumbled sausage over bread
    • Cover sausage with cheeses and onion
    • In blender, mix mustard, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, and milk until well blended
    • Pour mixture over sausage, cheeses and onion
    • Top with crumbled bacon
    • Cover and refrigerate overnight
    • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until top is brown or knife inserted into middle of casserole comes out clean

    Makes 6 Servings
    Happy Feasting!


    Brie & Raspberry Phyllo Cups

    Three easy ingredients and you have yourself quite the festive appetizer. These bite size cups are perfect for a holiday get together or your New Year's eve party. Pop them in the oven for five minutes and voila! Not a fan of raspberries? Any other fruit would work as a topper or even a jelly or jam.

    Source: Gimmesomeoven.com

    You Will Need:
    • 1 package (1.9 oz.) mini phyllo tart shells
    • 6 oz. brie, rind removed
    • 15 raspberries

    Here We Go:
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    • Place the tart shells on an ungreased baking sheet
    • Measure 1 teaspoon brie, and carefully place it in a tart shell
    • Top with one raspberry
    • Repeat with remaining shells
    • Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until brie is melted
    • Serve immediately

    Makes 15 cups
    Happy Feasting!


    Peanut Butter Nugget Cookies

    Who doesn't love peanut butter and chocolate? Throw some almonds and toffee on top and I'm sold. Taste of Home says, "Baking cookies to share doesn't get much easier than this. Stir together four ingredients. Bake. Top with a nugget." I couldn't agree more with that statement. Share these cookies with neighbors and friends this holiday season and they will surely thank you.

    Adapted from Taste of Home Nov. 2011

    You Will Need:
    • 1 cup peanut butter
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 12 toffee nuggets; halved

    Here We Go:
    • In a large bowl, cream peanut butter and sugar until light and fluffy
    • Add the eggs and vanilla; beat until ingredients are blended
    • Roll into 1 1/4 inch balls
    • Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets
    • Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until top are slightly cracked
    • Immediately press one chocolate nugget halve into the center of each cookie
    • Cool for five minutes before removing from pans to wire racks

    Makes 2 dozen cookies
    Happy Feasting!


    Italian Tortellini Soup

    There is something about a hearty bowl of soup during the winter months that brings a sense of comfort and also manages to satisfy a full belly. I found this recipe on another one of my go-to food/craft/home blogs, Madaket Market. This soup is the perfect staple to get you through the craziness of the holiday season. It it so simple that it can be made on a weeknight but the flavors make it seem like you simmered it on the stove top for hours. Feel free to substitute any of the vegetables to your liking or even swap the torellini for another type of pasta or rice. We ate ours with fresh "semi-homemade" cornbread muffins.

    Source: Madakethome.com

    You Will Need:
    • 4 cans (14 1/2 oz each) Italian style stewed tomatoes, coarsely chopped, plus liquid
    • 2 cans (14 1/2oz each) beef broth
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    • 1 whole Vidalia onion, diced
    • 1 medium zucchini, halved and thinly sliced (and/or squash)
    • 3/4 pound green beans, snapped and cut into thirds
    • 3/4 pound ground Italian sausage, crumbled, browned and drained
    • 1 package tortellini with cheese (6-8 ounces)
    • 3/4 Tbsp minced garlic
    • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

    Here We Go:

    • Combine tomatoes plus liquid, broth, basil and pepper in a dutch oven.
    • Bring to a boil.
    • Reduce heat.
    • Add garlic, zucchini, green beans, onion, sausage, and tortellini.
    • Cook about 10-15 minutes or until tortellini is tender.
    • Serve with grated Parmesan

    Happy Feasting!


    Beer Butt Chicken

    Are you tired of your normal weeknight roast chicken recipe? Well, you can definitely liven up your weeknight chicken repertoire but having some fun with this Beer Butt Chicken. The hardest part of this recipe is having the aromas fill your house while it is cooking and knowing that you can't eat it yet! If you have a few spices, some butter, a chicken and a beer can you can have this chicken ready in under an hour and a half. So while the chicken is cooking in the oven, you can prepare your sides, do laundry or catch the latest episode of Law and Order: SVU that you might have missed. This chicken recipe is honestly the most tender, flavorful and juicy chicken that I have ever had. There are so many variations on what rub you can use to flavor your chicken, too, so if you want to make up your own recipe - go for it!

    You Will Need:
    • 1 cup butter
    • 2 Tbsp garlic salt
    • 2 Tbsp chicken seasoning
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 (12 oz) can beer
    • 1 (4 lb) whole chicken

    Here We Go:
    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
    • In a small bowl, melt 1/2 cup butter
    • Mix in garlic salt, chicken seasoning, salt and pepper
    • Discard 1/2 the beer, leaving the remainder in the can
    • Place can on a disposable baking sheet
    • Set chicken on can, inserting can into the cavity of the chicken (Or you can use a beer butt chicken stand like the one I have and it makes things a little easier but you definitely don't have to!)
    • Rub butter mixture onto chicken
    • Place baking sheet with beer and chicken in oven
    • Cook for about 1- 1 1/2 hours or until chicken internal temperature is 180 degrees

    Serves 4-6
    Happy Feasting!


    Honey Roasted Cashews

    The month of December makes me think of nuts. Whether they are spiced pecans, honey roasted peanuts, or just plain salted cashews people love giving the gift of nuts during the Christmas season. These honey roasted cashews are easy to make and you can double or even triple the batch to give to neighbors, family and friends. Serve these with  holiday cocktails and you are sure to have your crowd coming back for more!

    Source: Simply Scratch

    You Will Need:
    • 1 lb. Cashews
    • 2 tablespoons of Honey
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons of real maple syrup
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons of Unsalted Butter
    • 1 teaspoon Salt
    • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
    • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
    • 2 tablespoons Sugar

    Here We Go:
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with tin foil
    • Measure out all ingredients and combine the honey, syrup and butter
    • Microwave until butter is melted {about 25-30 seconds}
    • Then add salt, vanilla and cinnamon to the honey mixture and stir
    • Place cashews in a medium size bowl, pour the honey mixture over the nuts and toss
    • When coated spread on the prepared cookie sheet {forming a single layer} and bake for 6 minutes
    • Remove from oven, toss again and place back in the oven for 6 more minutes
    • Remove and pour into a clean bowl, toss with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and a little salt to taste and let cool, stirring occasionally
    • When completely cool pour into a glass jar with an air-tight lid

    Makes 4 Cups
    Happy Feasting!


    Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese

    This spiced pumpkin cream cheese takes all of ten minutes to make and is the perfect topping for your morning bagel or toast. Every bite tastes like you are eating pumpkin pie. Ezra Pound Cake also suggested serving it as a dip with crackers or pretzels, saying that it really shines when paired with some salt.

    Source: Ezra Pound Cake

    You Will Need:
    • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened (Microwave for 15 seconds.)
    • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, homemade or canned
    • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    Here We Go:
    • In a medium mixing bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, pumpkin and sugar until smooth with wooden spoon or electric mixer
    • Add the pumpkin pie spice and vanilla
    • Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour

    Makes 1 1/2 cups
    Happy Feasting!


      Three Cheese Baked Rigatoni

      It is 69 degrees outside today and I will definitely take this beautiful Fall weather any time, especially when Thanksgiving is only one week away! This baked, hot, cheesy, Italian goodness will keep you warm this winter once temperatures start to drop. In this hearty dish, rigatoni noodles are packed full off fresh zucchini, mushrooms, yellow onion and mild Italian sausage. It is then topped with fresh mozzarella and baked to perfection! This is a great dish for large groups or cut the recipe in half for only four servings.

      Adapted from KitchenRunway.com

      You Will Need:
      • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
      • 12 oz, weight ground mild Italian sausage
      • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
      • 1/2 whole Large Onion, diced
      • 2 whole large zucchinis, quartered and sliced
      • 10 oz, weight baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
      • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (24 Oz.)
      • 15 oz, weight low fat ricotta cheese
      • 7 oz, weight shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
      • 1/2 tsp sea salt
      • 1/2 tsp black pepper
      • 1/4 cups shredded parmesan cheese

      Here We Go:
      • Preheat oven to 400ºF
      • Boil rigatoni in salted boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain
      • While pasta is cooking, coat a large pan with olive oil and saute Italian sausage over medium to medium high heat until brown
      • Remove sausage from pan, leaving juices in the pan and add onions to pan and cook until soft and the onions start to brown
      • Add zucchinis and mushroom and saute until tender and add sausage back to the pan
      • Add pasta sauce, salt and pepper and stir to combine
      • Simmer for about 2 minutes and then add the ricotta and stir to combine
      • Add half of the mozzarella cheese and turn off heat and stir to melt the mozzarella cheese
      • Add pasta and stir to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper
      • Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray and pour the pasta into the dish
      • Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and bake for 15 minutes

      Makes 6-8 Servings
      Happy Feasting!


      Slow Cooker Beef Chili

      I have been asked for more slow cooker favorites this Fall. It warms my heart because I love my slow cooker and how easy these type of recipes are to make.  I got into my car Monday morning and the thermometer read 37 degrees! It is finally safe to say that we are officially in soup, stew and chili season - hooray! I made this batch of chili in my slow cooker and served it with warm cornbread. It is hearty enough to eat by itself but also is the perfect topper to a hot dog or burger. Mix in shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream for an even tastier chili. Note: I decided to make this a bean-less chili but you can always throw in a can of kidney, black or pinto beans if your heart desires.

      Adapted from Allrecipes.com

       You Will Need:
      • 2 lbs ground beef
      • 2 Tbsp Olive oil
      • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes, un-drained
      • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
      • 2 medium onions, chopped
      • 1 green pepper, chopped
      • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced
      • 2 Tbsps chili powder
      • 2 tsps salt
      • 1 tsp pepper
      • Shredded Cheddar cheese and sour cream for topping

      Here We Go:

      • In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat
      • Cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain
      • Transfer to a slow cooker
      • Add the next nine ingredients
      • Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4 hours
      • Garnish individual servings with cheese and sour cream if desired
      Makes 10 Servings
      Happy Feasting!


      Halloween Peanut Butter and Toffee Candy Bark

      Happy Halloween!!!

      Adapted From: bon appetit

      You Will Need:

      • 1 lb semi- sweet chocolate chips
      • 3 2.1-oz Butterfinger candy bars, cut into irregular 1-inch pieces
      • 3 1.4-oz Skor or Heath toffee candy bars, cut into irregular 3/4-inch pieces
      • 8 0.55-oz peanut butter cups, each cut into 8 wedges
      • 1/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts
      • Reese's Pieces and/or yellow and orange peanut M&M's

      Here We Go:
      • Line baking sheet with foil
      • Stir chocolate chips in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and warm (not hot) to touch
      • Pour chocolate onto foil; spread to 1/4-inch thickness (about 12x10-inch rectangle)
      • Sprinkle with Butterfinger candy, toffee, peanut butter cups, and nuts, making sure all pieces touch melted chocolate to adhere
      • Scatter Reese's Pieces and M&M's over, making sure candy touches melted chocolate
      • Chill bark until firm, about 30 minutes
      • Slide foil with candy onto work surface; peel off foil
      • Cut bark into irrgular pieces

      Makes Roughly 30 Pieces
      Happy Feasting!


      Happy Hour Friday: Hot Spiked Cider

      With temperatures quickly dropping, I was in desperate need of something warm. This cider is so easy and quick to make and would make a great treat for Halloween night. Garnish your cider with whipped cream, fresh nutmeg or a cinnamon stick. Whip up a batch of this spiked cider and have a mug while you wait for your trick -or- treaters to arrive!

      Source: Rachael Ray

      You Will Need:
      • 2 quarts apple cider
      • 2 cloves
      • 2 cinnamon sticks
      • 4 shots apple brandy
      • Whipped Cream
      • Sprinkle of nutmeg

      Here We Go:
      • Heat cider with cloves and cinnamon
      • Pour a shot of apple brandy into a mug and fill with cider
      • Top with whip cream and ground nutmeg 

      Makes 4 Servings
      Happy Feasting!


      Pumpkin Spice Bread

      It is hard to believe that this is the last week of October and I had yet to make anything pumpkin until now. This pumpkin spice bread is so indicative of the season. It carries such an aroma of Fall and it the perfect snack, dessert or even breakfast. This recipe makes two loaves so could be the perfect gift for a friend or neighbor. If you make this bread this weekend your house will be filled with flavors of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg just in time for Halloween!

      Source: In Good Taste

      You Will Need:
      • 3 cups all-purpose flour
      • 1 tsp baking powder
      • 1 tsp baking soda
      • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
      • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
      • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 3 cups sugar
      • 1 cup canola oil
      • 3 large eggs
      • 1 (16-ounce) can pure pumpkin

      Here We Go:
      • Preheat the oven to 350 degree F
      • Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans, line the bottoms with wax paper or parchment paper, then grease the paper
      • Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl and set aside
      • Beat the sugar and oil in a large bowl until blended
      • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended and then beat in the pumpkin
      • Add the flour mixture and stir until just blended
      • Pour the batter into the prepared pans
      • Bake for about 70-75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
      • Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes before un-molding to cool completely before serving
      • Remove the wax paper before slicing

      Makes 2 Loaves
      Happy Feasting!


      Cheesy BBQ Sloppy Joes

      Until the other night, I think the last time that I had eaten a sloppy joe was at summer camp. Man-o-man had I forgotten just how delicious they really are! This recipe is so easy and will make enough to have sloppy joe's for the rest of the week (and don't think we didn't eat every last morsel). I tend to be a baby when it comes to spice and the pickled jalapenos add just the right amount of punch to the BBQ based sauce. Top your joe with shredded cheddar cheese and serve them with tater tots and a side salad and you really might be able to picture yourself back at camp!

      Source: Southern Living April 2010 (Given to me by Alexa Stoneburner)

      You Will Need:
      • 1 1/2 pound lean ground beef
      • 1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes
      • 1 cup ketchup
      • 1/2 cup bottled BBQ sauce
      • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
      • 2 Tbsp chopped pickled jalapeno peppers (optional)
      • 1 Tbsp liquid from pickled jalapeno peppers (optional)
      • 1 package potato hamburger rolls or Texas Toast
      • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

      Here We Go:
      • Brown ground beef in large skillet, over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes, or until beef crumbles and is no longer pink
      • Drain well and return to skillet
      • Stir in diced tomatoes, ketchup, BBQ sauce, worcestershire and , if desired, the jalapenos and juice
      • Cover and cook for 10 minutes
      • Serve on toasted hamburger buns or over Texas Toast
      • Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and serve
      Serves 4
      Happy Feasting!


      Italian Pasta Bake

      Cheesy goodness - this dish is full of it! It is the perfect comfort dish for the season. Warm cavatappi pasta melded with fresh pesto, fire roasted tomatoes, ground beef and fresh asiago cheese make this casserole fabulous. It it the perfect quick solution to a weeknight meal that will feed the entire family, or feed just you and your roommates with enough leftovers for lunch for the rest of the week. Even though the panko breadcrumbs are optional I would highly suggest including them as they give this dish the perfect crunch!

      Source: Simply Scratch

      You Will Need:
      • 1 pound Ground Sirloin
      • 1 {16 oz.} box Cavatappi Pasta
      • 1 {15 oz} can Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce
      • 1 bag Fresh Baby Spinach
      • 2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and minced
      • 1-1/2 cups Freshly Grated Asiago Cheese
      • 1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs {optional}
      • Olive Oil

       Here We Go:
      • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
      • Bring a large pot of water to boil and season generously with kosher salt
      • Add pasta and cook to just shy of al dente
      • Reserve a cup of pasta water
      • To the pasta add the pesto and Asiago cheese and mix
      • Meanwhile; over medium heat cook the ground turkey and garlic until the turkey is fully cooked, about 8 minutes
      • Add the entire can of tomatoes and stir
      • Place all the spinach on top of the simmering tomato and turkey mixture; reduce heat and cover to cook the spinach about 2-3 minutes
      • Next, add the pesto pasta to the tomato mixture and toss
      • If desired add a little of the pasta water to thin out the sauce
      • Immediately add the pasta to a lightly oiled baking dish
      • Sprinkle with remaining cheese
      • For more texture; sprinkle with a cup of panko bread crumbs and drizzle with a little olive oil, this step is totally optional
      • Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until the top is golden (about 20-25 minutes)
      • Remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving

      Serves 6-8
      Happy Feasting!


      Slow Cooker Thai Chicken with Vegetables

      I love when Fall has officially arrived and you can spend the weekend in jeans, boots and a light sweater. I am happy to say that has become my weekend routine. With temperatures quickly dropping, I have been feeling the need to make hearty, warm soups and slow cooker favorites. This thai chicken is so flavorful and filling. With tender chunks of chicken, carrots, peppers and onions this curry is perfect for a crisp October night. Serve it over brown rice with garlic naan for an even more satisfying meal.

      Adapted from: Food.com

      You Will Need:
      • 1 (14 ounce) can light coconut milk
      • 1/4 cup flour
      • 1 Tbsp red curry paste
      • 2 tsp curry powder 
      • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
      • 1 tsp salt
      • 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
      • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
      • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
      • 1 medium green pepper, quartered and sliced
      • 1 medium red pepper, quartered and sliced

      Here We Go:
      • Whisk coconut milk, flour, curry powder and curry paste in slow-cooker until smooth
      • Whisk in garlic and salt
      • Add chicken, onion, and carrots
      • Stir to mix
      • Scatter red and green peppers over top
      • Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours until chicken and vegetables are tender; stir occasionally

      Serve 4
      Happy Feasting!


      Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

      It doesn't get much better than a peanut butter and chocolate combination. Cookies, cakes, pies or brownies - I love them all! These blondies are so easy to make and I can almost guarantee that these will be your new favorite dessert (at least for this week)! Creamy peanut butter and melt-in-your-mouth milk chocolate chips make these cake like blondies pretty much perfection . I will say, that my husband and I think they are best served warm. Make it an extra special treat and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

      Source: Two Peas & Their Pod

      You Will Need:
      • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
      • 2 cups light brown sugar
      • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
      • 2 large eggs
      • 1 tsp vanilla extract
      • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
      • 1 tsp baking powder
      • 1/4 tsp baking soda
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

      Here We Go:
      • Preheat the oven to 350°F
      • Grease a 9x13-inch pan and set aside
      • In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and brown sugar, stirring constantly until smooth
      • Remove from the heat, and stir in the peanut butter, until creamy and combined
      • Set mixture aside to cool
      • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
      • Add the eggs, one at a time, to the peanut butter mixture, mixing well after each addition
      • Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine
      • Pour the mixture into the prepared dry ingredients, and stir until batter is smooth
      • Fold in 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips, reserving the rest for sprinkling on top
      • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading the batter evenly to the edges of the pan
      • Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips and lightly press them into the batter
      • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden and the edges are slightly browned
      • Remove blondies from oven and place them on a wire rack to cool
      • Once cooled, cut into squares and serve


      Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos

      I started my new job last week (hooray!) and before I headed back to the grind I decided that I should make a few slow cooker favorites while I had time to be at home and supervise the slow cooker. Yes, I said supervise the slow cooker because we all know that after you throw the ingredients into the pot there isn't much left for us to do but wait.

      My husband loves Mexican food and jumps at the chance to eat it as often as possible. I made these tacos for him last week and he adored them. They are juicy, tender and full of Mexican flavor. We topped them with fresh avocado, monterey jack cheese, salsa and sour cream although feel free to doctor up your tacos to your own preference.

      Source: Gimme Some Oven

      You Will Need:

    • 1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

    • 2 pounds beef (boneless chuck roast)

    • 1 tsp chili powder

    • 1/2 tsp cumin

    • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

    • 1 cup beef stock

    • 2 Tbsp tomato paste

    • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (If you like spice, use two)

    • 1/2 large sweet onion, diced

    • 4 cloves garlic, minced

    • Flour tortillas

    • Taco toppings (avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, lettuce etc.)

    • Here We Go:
      • Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat
      • Meanwhile, combine the chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika in a small bowl
      • Rub the spice mix into the beef, covering each side evenly
      • Once the oil is hot, place the beef in the skillet and sear on each side
      • Remove the beef from the skillet and place in the bottom of a slow cooker
      • Leave the pan on the heat, and add in the beef stock to deglaze, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan
      • Add the tomato paste and minced chipotle and whisk into the pan sauce
      • Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly
      • Add the diced onion and minced garlic on top of the seared beef in the slow cooker
      • Pour the pan sauce down over the onions, garlic, and beef
      • Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours
      • Remove the beef from the slow cooker and shred with two forks
      • Use a slotted spoon to remove the onions from the slow cooker, and mix into the shredded beef.
      • Serve the beef in the flour tortillas, topped with your favorite taco toppings

      Makes 8-10 Tacos
      Happy Feasting!


      Happy Hour Friday: Somersault Ale

      Somersault New Belgium Ale is the perfect beer for these final hot days and crisp, cool nights. We have loved having this beer around while we cooked out with friends and had crackers with cheese sitting on our porch.  It is easy on the palette and goes well with pretty much anything. Flavors of ginger and apricot come together for the perfect party for your taste buds. Enjoy this seasonal beer before it is too late!


      Pancakes with Blueberry Butter

      One great thing about the weekend, is that you can have lazy mornings and spend more time on breakfast than you usually would during your normal weekday routine. This blueberry butter is so unbelievably delicious with the perfect amount of sweet and salty with every bite. Perfect for Sunday morning pancakes or toast. It will keep in the refridgerator for up to one week and the best part is that the recipe calls for only three ingredients!

      Source: Not Without Salt

      You Will Need:
      • 1 stick butter, salted (or add 1/4 tsp salt), softened
      • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Confectioner’s sugar
      • 3/4 cup fresh blueberries

      Here We Go:
      • Combine the butter and the sugar
      • Mash the blueberries with the butter until the butter is lightly colored from the blueberry skins
      • You still want to maintain lots of nice blueberry chunks, so be careful not to over mash.
      • Store in the fridge for up to one week

      Happy Feasting!


      Old Skool Playa

      My birthday was back in August and seeing how much I love to cook, and love a good sandwich, my brother and his girlfriend gave me a cookbook as part of my birthday present. This was not just any cookbook. This was "The Big New York Sandwich Book". The book is chocked full fabulous sandwich creations "from the city's greatest restaurants and chefs."

      The Old Skool Playa is an oldie but a goodie and I couldn't help myself from making it for lunch. This is a grilled cheese West Village style according to the book. Murrays' Cheese Shop has been around since the 1940's and you will find hundreds of cheeses to choose from (tastings included!) They took a classic grilled cheese recipe, and rather than cooking it on the stove-top they broiled it in the oven for an even crunchier, tastier American favorite.

      You Will Need:
      • 3 slices thick smoky bacon
      • 2 slices bread of your choice
      • Butter
      • 3 oz sharp cheddar cheese
      • 3 slices tomato

      Here We Go:
      • Heat a skillet over medium-low heat and cook the bacon to desired degree of doneness; drain
      • Preheat the broiler
      • Butter the bottoms of each piece of bread and evenly distribute the cheese across both slices of bread
      • Put the pieces of bacon on top of one half of the bread slices
      • Place the bread on a baking sheet and toast until they're golden brown
      • Remove from oven, add tomato to cheese and bacon slice, and close the sandwich

      Serves 1
      Happy Feasting!


      Fig, Tomato, and Sweet Onion Salad

      I know that temperatures have been in the 60's this week here in North Carolina, and Fall has officially arrived, but I just can't seem to stop making some of my favorite summer dishes. This salad was featured in Cooking Light back in June and it was fantastic. The recipe called for fresh mint but since I prefer basil I went that route and it was delicious. The simple red wine vinaigrette is very light and really makes the flavors of the figs, cherry tomatoes and Vidalia onions stand out. If you want to make this a complete meal I bet adding grilled shrimp or chicken would be divine. Make this summer salad before it is too cold!

      You Will Need:
      • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
      • 2 tsp olive oil
      • 1/4 tsp black pepper
      • 2 cups fresh figs, quartered (about 1/2 pound)
      • 2 cups torn romaine lettuce
      • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
      • 3/4 cup sliced Vidalia onion
      • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
      • 1/4 cup (1oz) feta cheese, crumbled

      Here We Go:
      • Combine first three ingredients in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk
      • Add figs, lettuce, tomatoes, onion and basil
      • Toss gently to coat
      • Sprinkle with feta cheese

      Serve 4 as a side
      Happy Feasting!


      Feta & Sun-dried Tomato Dip

      This four ingredient dip is perfect with pretzel chips or crackers and is a great quick appetizer option when you are crunched for time but still want to impress your guests. The feta and sun-dried tomatoes give this creamy dip a very rich flavor that makes it seem like you have spent hours in the kitchen instead of five minutes. I would make this at least a few hours in advance to give the flavors time to blend. I made this the morning that we were having some friends over and it was even better when we had the leftover dip the next day.

      Source: Real Simple July 2011

      You Will Need:
      • 4 oz feta, crumbled
      • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
      • 2 Tbsp olive oil
      • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
      • Salt & pepper to taste

      Here We Go:
      • In a bowl, mash together feta, greek yogurt and olive oil
      • Mix in sun-dried tomatoes
      • Season with salt and pepper and chill before serving

      Makes 1 1/2 cups
      Happy Feasting!


      Turkey Caesar Salad Bagel Sandwich

      We are all always trying to spice up our lunch options. Lunch can oftentimes become redundant with the same old salad or turkey sandwich. Well, this turkey caesar bagel is delicious and such a creative way to eat your favorite caesar salad on a bagel. Layers of honey turkey, creamy caesar dressing, romaine lettuce, yellow onion, fresh parmesan and tomato make this my new favorite lunchtime combination! I will definitely be adding this into my weekly rotation and you guys should too!

      Adapted from Cooking Light August 2011

      You Will Need:
      • 1 sesame bagel, toasted
      • 2 or 3 slices of honey turkey
      • 1 1/2 Tbsp creamy caesar dressing of your choice
      • 2 or 3 thin slices of yellow onion
      • 2 or 3 pieces of torn romaine lettuce
      • 2 thin slices vine ripe tomatoes
      • 2 or 3 thin slices of parmesan

      Here We Go:
      • Spread dressing evenly on cut sides of toasted bagel
      • Layer turkey, onion, lettuce, tomato and parmesan on bottom halves of bagels
      • Top with the top half of the bagel
      • Slice sandwich in half and enjoy

      Serves 1
      Happy Feasting!


      Mongolian Beef

      Chinese food is definitely one of my favorites. There is something to be said for a good shrimp fried rice, pork dumplings and an extra crispy general tso's. This recipe for mongolian beef is relatively easy and almost just as tasty as our good friend Peter Chang's. Tender pieces of flank steak coupled with green onions and yellow onions make a delicious stir fry to serve oven mei fun noodles or brown rice. If you wanted to pack the dish with even more veggies I bet the addition of red pepper and broccoli would also be fantastic.

      Source: Love and Olive Oil

      You Will Need:
      • 2 tsp vegetable oil
      • 1/2 tsp ginger, minced
      • 1 Tbsp garlic, chopped
      • 1/2 cup soy sauce
      • 1/2 cup water
      • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
      • vegetable oil, for frying (about 1 cup)
      • 1 lb flank steak
      • 1/4 cup cornstarch
      • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
      • 2 large green onions, thinly sliced

      Here We Go:
      • Make the sauce by heating 2 tsp of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over med/low heat
      • Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches
      • Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then raise the heat to about medium and boil the sauce for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens
      • Remove it from the heat
      • Slice the flank steak into 1/4" thick bite-size slices
      • Dip the steak pieces into the cornstarch to apply a very thin dusting to both sides of each piece of beef
      • Let the beef sit for about 10 minutes so that the cornstarch sticks
      • Heat up one cup of oil in a wok or large skillet until it's nice and hot, but not smoking
      • Add the beef to the oil and saute for two minutes, or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges
      • You don't need a thorough cooking here since the beef is going to go back on the heat later
      • Stir the meat around a little so that it cooks evenly
      • After a couple minutes, use a large slotted spoon to take the meat out and onto paper towels, then pour the oil out of the wok or skillet
      • Put the pan back over the heat, dump the meat back into it
      • Add the onion and saute for one minute
      • Add the sauce, cook for one minute while stirring, then add all the green onions
      • Cook for one more minute, then remove the beef and onions with tongs or a slotted spoon to a serving plate, leaving the excess sauce behind in the pan

      Serves 2
      Happy Feasting!


      Parmesan Almonds

      I love almonds. They are a great snack on the go and are so good for your brain, hair, skin and even heart. I will say, though, that the best kind of almonds are the ones packed with tons of flavor. Raw almonds tend to be a bit on the bland side. I found this recipe for parmesan almonds on one of my favorite blogs, In Good Taste, and they are delicious and super easy! Make these flavorful almonds and have a great on the go snack for the rest of the work week!

      You Will Need:
      • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
      • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
      • 1 tsp dried oregano
      • 1/2 tsp paprika
      • 2 egg whites
      • 2 cups whole almonds

      Here We Go:
      • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
      • Beat the egg white in a medium bowl with a wire wisk until peaks begin to form
      • Toss almonds in egg whites
      • In another medium bowl, combine cheese, garlic powder, paprika and oregano
      • Toss almonds with spices until evenly coated
      • Spread into one layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, tossing every five minutes so the nuts roast evenly
      • Let cool before serving 

      Makes 2 cups
      Happy Feasting!


      Tomato Pie

      As we unofficially say goodbye to summer, now that it is September and the cooler temperatures have made their way to North Carolina, I find myself frantically trying to cook all things summery before it is too late. I had not made a tomato pie all summer, and I knew that before all of the delicious local tomatoes left the shelves I had to make one of these southern summer favorites. This is a recipe that I have had since college and I have to give credit to my friend Sarah Bourgeois for this wonderful pie. A tomato pie is relatively easy as long as you drain the tomatoes long enough (ie: about an hour). Not draining the tomatoes long enough can result in a soggy pie, which is still tasty, but definitely not as pretty!

       You Will Need:
      • 4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
      • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
      • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped
      • 1 (9 inch) pre-baked dip dish pie shell
      • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
      • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
      • 1 cup mayonnaise
      • salt and pepper to taste

      Here We Go:
      • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
      • Place the tomatoes in a colander in the sink in 1 layer
      • Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for about 1 hour
      • Layer the tomato slices, basil and onion in the pie shell
      • Season with salt and pepper
      • Combine the grated cheese and mayonnaise together in small bowl
      • Spread cheese mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown
      • Cut into 8 slices and serve warm

      Happy Feasting!


      Shortbread Cookies with Raspberry Jam

      The September issue of bon appetit was "The Restaurant Issue". It was chocked full of sweet and savory recipes from world renowned chefs across America. These shortbread cookies caught my eye because they reminded me of one of my favorite childhood cookies, Pepperidge Farm's Verona. I bet that you already have all of these ingredients in your pantry and if you are not a fan of raspberry jam feel free to substitute with another flavor but I will say that the raspberry is divine!

      Source: bon appetit September 2011

      You Will Need:
      • 2 cups all purpose flour
      • 1/2 cup sugar
      • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
      • 10 1/2 Tbsp salted butter, room temperature
      • 1 large egg yolk
      • 1 large egg
      • 3 Tbsp raspberry jam

      Here We Go:
      • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
      • Whisk flour, sugar and baking powder in large bowl
      • Add butter; using your fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal forms
      • Whisk egg and yolk in a bowl; add to flour mixture; stir to blend
      • Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
      • Measure dough by 2 Tbsp and roll into balls
      • Place on prepared sheets about 2 inches apart
      • Make an indentation in center of each ball and fill with 1/2 tsp jam
      • Bake cookies until golden brown, about 12-14 minutes
      • Transfer to wire rack to cool

      Makes about 16 cookies
      Happy Feasting!


      Happy Hour Monday: Classic Margarita

      Since I never got the chance to post a happy hour cocktail this past Friday, I thought why not today. After all, it is Labor Day and most of us are not at work so why not toast to the end of summer with some good ole' Jose Cuervo. Happy Labor Day!

      You Will Need:
      • 1 part triple sec
      • 3 parts tequila
      • 9 parts margarita mix
      • Salt for rim of glass
      • Lime wedges for garnish
      • Crushed ice

      Here We Go:
      • Run the lime wedge around the rim of the glass and dip into salt
      • Fill highball glass with crushed ice
      • Pour first three ingredients into glass and stir
      • Garnish with a lime wedge and serve

      Serves 3-4 highball glasses
      Happy Feasting!


      Greek Pizza

      This greek pizza is so full of flavor and gorgeous colored vegetables that if you close your eyes hard enough you might be able to imagine that you are eating this somewhere in the Mediterranean (wouldn't that be nice?). The "icing" on this pizza was topping it with fresh spinach half-way through cooking - what a great addition! When I make this pizza again I might add artichokes for even more flavor but this pizza is definitely tasty just the way it is.

      You Will Need:
      • 2/3 cup red pepper, diced
      • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
      • 1/3 cup black olives, sliced
      • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
      • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
      • handful of fresh baby spinach leaves
      • 1 ball pizza dough (white or wheat)
      • 1 1/4 cups pizza sauce
      • 1/2 bag of mozzarella cheese (12 oz bag)
      • 1 Tbsp olive oil

      Here We Go:
      • Preheat oven to 500 degrees F
      • Roll out dough to desired thickness using your hands or a rolling pin if you have one
      • Rub pizza stone with olive oil and place dough on pizza stone or baking sheet
      • Top dough with pizza sauce, cheeses and vegetables, except fresh spinach
      • Add fresh spinach half-way through cooking (after roughly 5-6 minutes)
      • Bake for 10-12 minutes on top rack, or until golden brown

      Makes 8 Slices
      Happy Feasting!


      Pineapple Black Bean Salsa

      Although summer is quickly coming to an end, at least we all have Labor day weekend to look forward to! Labor day weekend means good times with friends and family while munching on delicious food (well my Labor day weekend means this). This pineapple salsa is sure to be a crowd pleaser and is the perfect way to officially say goodbye to summer. Fresh pineapple, red onion, cilantro and black beans make this appetizer a true summer favorite.

      Source: A Hint of Honey (Originally from The Nourishing Gourmet)

      You Will Need:
      • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
      • 1 pineapple, cored, peeled, and diced
      • 1 large bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped (to taste)
      • 1 small red onion, diced
      • 3 cloves garlic, minced
      • 3 limes, juiced
      • 1 jalapeno, minced
      • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

      Here We Go:
      • In a large bowl, toss to combine black beans, pineapple, onion, garlic, lime juice, and jalapeno
      • Stir in cilantro and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
      • Refrigerate until ready to serve

      Serves 8
      Happy Feasting!


      Bird's Nest for Brunch

      I must admit that until I got married I had never had a bird's nest (I know, I know). My husband grew up having these tasty treats and I guess I was deprived. I had my first bird's nest last year and ever since I have been hooked. My parents came into town this weekend for my birthday and to see our two new pups (hank and polly)! We ate most of our meals at home because we wanted to spend time with the new puppies.
      Liven up your Sunday brunch with these cute bird's nests. It is a great creative way to enjoy your fried egg with toast. Serve this with some fresh fruit and bacon and you've got yourself quite the tasty breakfast!

      You Will Need:
      • 1 egg
      • 1 slice of bread
      • 1 tablespoon butter
      • salt and pepper

      Here We Go:
      • Crack the egg into a bowl and set the bowl aside
      • Use a 3-inch cookie cutter or the top to a jar to cut a shape out of the piece of bread
      • Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat
      • Place the bread in the pan and fry it lightly on one side
      • Flip the bread over and reduce the heat to low
      • Carefully crack the egg into the cut-out hole in the middle of the bread
      • Cover the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the egg has set in the bread "nest"
      • For an over-easy egg, flip the egg and bread and cook it on the other side
      • Salt and pepper to taste
      Serves 1
      Happy Feasting!


      Quick Pasta Salad: Orzo with Cherry Tomatoes, Feta & Scallions

      This pasta salad is so quick and easy! You can use another type of pasta if you want to, but orzo happened to be what I had in my pantry. This pasta salad is crisp and refreshing with bold Mediterranean flavors. It makes a great lunch on its own or pair it with dinner for a tasty side dish. You can also add black olives or pine nuts to this recipe for even more flavor.

      You Will Need:
      • 1 cup uncooked orzo
      • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
      • 1/2 cup feta, crumbled
      • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
      • 1/4 tsp salt
      • 1/4 tsp pepper
      • 1 Tbsp olive oil
      • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

      Here We Go:
      • Cook orzo according to package directions
      • Drain pasta and return to pan
      • Mix in cherry tomatoes, feta, scallions, salt, pepper, olive oil and red wine vinegar
      • Stir all ingredients together and chill in refrigerator for an hour or so before serving

      Serves 4-6 as a Side
      Happy Feasting!


      M&M Cookies

      What a weekend! Not only did we get our new yellow lab puppy this weekend, but I was also at a bachelorette party in Charleston, SC. Although I feel a little sleep deprived this morning, from staying up too late with girlfriends and a crying puppy last night, I thought I would share these M&M cookies with you this morning. No matter how tired you might have been this morning when you woke up, or how long your work week might seem ahead of you, these cookies are sure to put a smile on your face.

      Source: The Joy of Baking

      You Will Need:
      • 2 cups all purpose flour
      • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
      • 1/4 tsp salt
      • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
      • 2/3 cup granulated white sugar
      • 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
      • 1 large egg
      • 1 large egg yolk
      • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanillaextract
      • 1 cup M&M's® candies

      Here We Go:
      • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
      • Place one oven rack in the top third of the oven, and one oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and line two baking sheets with parchment paper
      • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt
      • In another bowl, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 2 - 3 minutes) with wooden spoon or hand mixer
      • Add the egg and egg yolk, beating until well combined
      • Beat in the vanilla extract
      • Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat just until incorporated
      • Gently fold M&M's® into the dough mixture
      • Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed
      • Form dough into balls, using tablespoon for each cookie
      • Bake the cookies for about 10 - 13 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time
      • The cookies are done when they are light golden brown in color and just set
      • Remove from oven and let the cookies cool a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool
      Makes roughly 40 cookies
      Happy Feasting!