Friday, December 20, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Okay, I realize that all things pumpkin are associated with fall and that Christmas is just days away. But, on this last day of fall I want to share my favorite pumpkin discovery of 2013: these awesome pumpkin pie cupcakes.

So here's the deal. They are handy and portable like a cupcake, but they have the consistency of pumpkin pie, crust and all, without doing all of that work. The outside is firm, yet tender and the inside has a custardy consistency. How is that even possible? It's like baking magic!

If you make these, please take the extra few minutes to make fresh whipped cream. I promise that it takes these cupcakes from good to great. Imagine soft, custardy pumpkin pie in a portable form topped with a cloud of sweetened whipped cream.

These cupcakes are elegant enough for a party or a special dinner. They are just too cute! And I promise, they are so close to the taste of traditional pumpkin pie that you may actually prefer to make them.

Don't limit this recipe to fall... or even dessert. I like to enjoy one with my morning coffee, too.

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
adapted from The Krazy Coupon Lady
yield 12 cupcakes

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Don't use paper liners - the cupcakes will be impossible to remove.

Mix the pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, lemon extract and milk. Add the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder and baking soda to the mixture. Fill each muffin cup with 1/3 cup of the mixture. Bake for twenty minutes and let cool for twenty minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Top with fresh whipped cream and sprinkle more pumpkin pie spice on top and serve. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Spiked Spiced Cider

Cold weather calls for hot drinks. And since it's Thanksgiving Eve and it's snowing (well, at least flurrying) here in Delaware, I think it's time to share a recipe for a hot toddy. I like to brew a pot on the stove on the weekends and refrigerate the leftovers in a pitcher in the fridge. If you don't drink alcohol, don't despair; this recipe still tastes great without the liquor. Consider making this a last-minute addition to your Thanksgiving menu, a fun beverage to enjoy while you put up your Christmas decorations or a nice drink to sip by the fire after a long week.

Spiked Spiced Cider

8 cups apple cider
1 cup spiced rum, optional
1 cup apple pie moonshine, optional (I buy Midnight Moon at Costco, if you can't find it, use spiced rum)
1 pear, sliced
1" piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 orange, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks

Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator. Leftover cider can be enjoyed cold or reheated in the microwave.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cherry-Apple Cranberry Sauce

It's Thanksgiving week! Are you excited? I've been recording Food Network Thanksgiving shows on my DVR for the past week and watching them over and over again while I plan my menu. This is the first year that we're hosting Thanksgiving at our home and I am thrilled to build this menu and cook this meal for our family.

Are you a fan of cranberry sauce? I bought some of the old-school jellied version for the traditionalists, but I decided to make a fresh, homemade cranberry sauce this year. Interestingly, I don't love cranberry sauce with my turkey dinner, but I enjoy using it on French toast and other unexpected places.

This sauce is a bit of a departure from the home-canned version I posted in 2011. It's a smaller batch and you don't have to can it. I love canning, but I know that not everyone has the time or desire to do so. This small batch of sauce can be prepared a few days in advance of Thanksgiving. I've already made mine in anticipation of the big day.

This sauce is tart (as expected!), but there are also bites of sweetness due to the dried cherries. I'm looking forward to serving this on Thanksgiving and finding a creative application for the leftovers. I'm thinking of using it on baked brie, leftover turkey paninis, and using it to make a flavored butter. This is a quick recipe. I hope you try it!

Cherry-Apple Cranberry Sauce
inspired by Cookin' Canuk

1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup apple cider
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, stirring frequently. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all berries are popped and sauce is thickened.

Carefully pour cooked sauce into container. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve cold. This sauce will hold for a week or more in the refrigerator.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Carrot Souffle

Last year I took a few cooking classes at my local ShopRite. I enjoyed each class, but this recipe was hands-down my favorite.

Years ago I enjoyed an awesome carrot soufflé at a cafe in North Carolina. I attempted to make it at home, but I wasn't able to get the smooth, fluffy texture like in the restaurant. Here's the thing: carrots seem to take forever to cook and once they're cooked they can be a pain to whip to a smooth consistency. I finally realized that a food processor made all the difference. Between using a food processor and having the right recipe I finally struck gold.

This side dish is slightly sweetened, but not sickeningly sweet. I think it's a nice alternative to candied or mashed sweet potatoes and it would be an awesome addition to your thanksgiving meal. The fresh ginger gives it a subtle holiday flavor and the sweetness makes it pleasing to the vegetable-averse members of your family. I enjoyed this so much that I ate it for breakfast the next day. And Max loved it, too.

Carrot Souflé
inspired by ShopRite Culinary Workshop
about 8 servings

1 pound of carrots, peeled and chopped into 2" pieces (or 1 pound baby carrots)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 teaspoons grated fresh peeled ginger root
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Boil carrots for 25 minutes or until carrots are very soft. Drain carrots and put them in the bowl of a food processor.

Add butter, ginger, sugar and vanilla. Pulse until smooth. Add eggs, flour and baking powder. Pulse until smooth.

Pour mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with nonstick spray. Bake for 45 minutes or until center of soufflé is set. Serve hot.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

List Obsessed | How I use my iPhone to get it all done.

I like lists.

Lists keep me on budget. They give me a place to dump preoccupying thoughts. Lists encourage me to plan ahead. They make me look like I have it all together when I'm called out on the spot.

I used to keep lists on paper. This worked well, but inevitably I'd lose the paper and be all out of sorts without my list. Now I keep all of my lists on my iPhone. If you don't have an iPhone there are list apps on other smart phones (and even regular mobile phones now), so you could apply these organization techniques to whatever mobile phone situation you have right now.

Organization is a big factor in family meal planning. You need to know what is in your fridge, freezer and pantry and you need to know what you still need to purchase. Having organized lists can help you stay on budget and can prevent the frustration of not having an ingredient you need when you get ready to prepare a meal.

I use something simple and free that comes with your iPhone: the "Reminders" app. If you have a Mac computer or you haven't updated your iPhone/iPad lately the icon looks like a checklist:

If you have an iPhone with the newest iOS (operating system), the icon looks like a list with colorful buttons in the left margin:

Either way, click on it and open it up. I keep the following lists running at all times:

Mall - When I get to the mall, what do I need and from what stores? I don't go to the mall as often as I used to, so this is helpful when I am in a time crunch.

ShopRite - I do most of my grocery shopping here, so this is a basic grocery list.

Target - I go here enough that the store deserves its own list.

Costco - I love Costco, but the store is overwhelming, so this list keeps me on track.

Menu Plan - This keeps me from losing my mind about what's for dinner. I also have a board on Pinterest where I re-pin recipes that I intend to use in the upcoming week.

Farmer's Market - I don't get here often, but they have great deals on grains, produce and spices, so I'm prepared whenever I finally get there

Pediatrician - Baby health questions for upcoming medical appointments

Resolutions 2013 - I keep my New Year's Resolutions in this app. When I'm losing focus, I pull them up. I also check them off as I complete them.

Trader Joe's - Another store I don't get to very often, but I like specific items, so a list keeps me on track if I ever end up in the store.

Blog Updates - Blog article ideas, design inspiration.

Errands - If I need to go to five places in one day, I actually make a list of the order of the errands to keep me on track. Life is hectic.

Freezer Meals - This helps me remember that I have three chicken pot pies and 72 homemade meatballs in our extra freezer. I add meals to this list as I add food to the freezer... otherwise they'd be lost in the abyss and found in the summer of 2015.

Packages - Because I order a lot of stuff online and I need to remember who may be leaving a package at the door while I'm at work during the day. I check off packages as they arrive.

HomeGoods/TJ Maxx - I love these stores for home items, so I make a list of what I'm looking for (pillows for the living room, artwork for Max's room, etc.) to keep me on track when I get there.

How does it work? Well, each of the categories above is the name of a list. First, create the categories that work for you. You can always edit or delete them. Next, click on the list and add items to your heart's content. I just add items to the list as time goes on. When I accomplish or purchase an item, I check it off and it disappears. Making eggs for breakfast and realize that you're almost out? Add "eggs" to the appropriate list. Clicking through Pinterest and see an awesome recipe, but you're all out of unsalted butter? Pick up the phone and add "unsalted butter" to the list. Does your baby have a strange rash on his hand, but you're already scheduled for an appointment next week? Add "rash" to the Pediatrician list.

Once you complete an item, just click on the check box/button and it disappears. The app also archives everything that's ever been on the list, just in case you need to un-click something. I get so much satisfaction from clearing a list, but I always leave the blank list there for future items.

You can also tell the Reminders app to give you an actual reminder (pop up on screen or an alarm) at a specific time. You can even take it one step further and tell it to remind you at a location. Yes, this means my phone will remind me to buy eggs the second I pull into the parking lot at ShopRite! Crazy, right? It can also remind you to grab your glasses when you get to your mom's house. The possibilities are endless.

My favorite part is that if you have multiple Apple devices/computers (iPad, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iPhone) your Reminders app syncs seamlessly among your devices. This is a huge advantage if you end up using all Apple products. If I'm at work and I realize I need to pick up a pork roast on the way home, I just add it to the Reminders app on my work computer and I know it will show up on my iPhone as I'm walking into the grocery store on my way home.

Mobile phones aren't cheap, so you may as well make the best of them. I use my iPhone as my personal assistant and it really helps me stay on track.

Is anyone else using a list application to keep their life in order? Which one do you use?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Barilla Pasta with Chorizo and Chickpeas

If you're looking for a weeknight pasta dish that's not run-of-the-mill, check out my most recent recipe on the ShopRite Potluck Blog for Barilla Pasta with Chorizo and Chickpeas. You can use whatever shape pasta you have on hand and if you don't have or don't enjoy chorizo, Italian sausage (turkey or pork) is a great alternative. The leftovers are good for lunch the following day and the chickpeas are an affordable healthy way to add bulk and flavor to this dish.

Check out the recipe here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New York City Wine and Food Festival 2013

Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the New York City Wine and Food Festival, compliments of ShopRite. I've attended the past four festivals with support from ShopRite and I've contributed to ShopRite Potluck blog since 2010.

The NYCWFF is a charity event and 100% of the net proceeds go to feeding hungry children and families in NYC and throughout the nation, via Share Our Strength. If you ever have the opportunity to attend it's great to know that the proceeds from your ticket prices are going to a great cause.

This year I was accompanied by my mom and I'm so excited that she finally got to experience this event. For the past three years my husband was my +1, but this year he had a professional obligation, so mom stepped in. My mom deserved every bit of fun and excitement this past weekend. While my  husband and I are out working hard all day she's at our house working hard with Max. And believe me, that 15 month-old is a lot of work!

We stayed at the Hudson Hotel. It was very boutique-ish with dark wood, dim lighting, ivy climbing the walls, neon lights. It's an interesting fusion between traditional and modern.

The check-in desk
The bar is amazing. I had one drink there Saturday night. The drink menu reads like a cookbook and my rumtopf cocktail was definitely a one and done. I'd love to try to re-create it at home.

Of course most of my time was spent out enjoying the festival and my weekend got off to a fabulous start with a cake decorating class with Martha Stewart. Yes, true story. I was there and I can't believe it happened!

There were about 45 people in the class and it was held at the International Culinary Center. I'm still in awe of the facility, the perfect organization and structure of the class, Martha Stewart, the buttercream frosting, and Martha Stewart. Did I mention Martha Stewart?

We were greeted at the door with glasses of prosecco. Martha was very warm and friendly and came around to every single member of the class to give pointers and feedback. I already had respect for her, but after this class I had even more.

The class included an unexpected book signing and we all received copies of her latest book, Cakes. We also got to keep the cake decorating tools at our work station and each person left with her own decorated cake. The cake was exceptional and that buttercream was the best I've ever eaten. Here's hoping the recipe is in the book!

Our next stop after Martha's class was the Grand Tasting, which is the main event for the NYCWFF. There are hundreds of food and beverage vendors and an overwhelming amount of free samples and SWAG.

I spent a few hours at ShopRite's booth promoting the Potluck blog and we were busier than we've ever been! If you're a new reader that I met this weekend, welcome and thank you!

My favorite food idea from the Grand tasting was the apple cider cocktail you see above in the bottom right corner. It was made from orange-infused apple cider mixed with vodka. The rim was coated in cinnamon sugar. I'm looking forward to trying that one at home.

We ended Saturday with a private dinner at De Gustibus Cooking School by cookbook author Judith Choate.  She was amazing, approachable, funny and so experienced. I was so impressed by her style and her skills that I'm ordering her latest book, An American Family Cooks. The entire menu featured ShopRite products, many of which we've used previously in our posts for the Potluck blog. It was great to see those ingredients shine in these gourmet dishes and I am excited to try the recipes at home.

If all of this wasn't enough, I spent Sunday morning in Pasta Making 101 at Macelleria. We were able to taste a few of the chef's creations and I'll just say that I have a new appreciation for homemade pasta!

You can read about my past experiences at the NYC Wine and Food Festival here and here. (Please forgive the lack of information about the 2012 festival. I was there, but I was deep in the new parent/newborn baby haze at that time.)

ShopRite generously provided me with event tickets and hotel accommodations, but all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tailgating... at home!

I'm on a quest to enjoy autumn this year. I normally associate fall with cool weather, short days, and back to school chaos, but now that we have a toddler I am also trying to embrace the family time, cozy nights and fall colors.

A few weeks ago my mom, brother and cousin went to an Eagles home game and raved about their tailgating experience. I'm not sure if I'll get to an NFL game this year, so I decided to do my best to re-create the party atmosphere at home this past Sunday.

Earlier this year, we invested in a Traeger grill. I had never heard of them, but I'm so glad that we bought one. They aren't cheap, but our Traeger (we have the 'Lil Tex Elite) has replaced our big, dirty charcoal smoker and we often use it instead of a regular charcoal grill. Yes, the Traeger is expensive, but we paid way less than retail at our local Costco. And remember, we love to grill, so we feel that it was a worthwhile investment for our family. We used our Traeger earlier this month to smoke a turkey breast and a pork shoulder.

The key to smoking is to cook your meat low and slow. This requires a controlled temperature and a lot of patience. It's also best if you burn wood to flavor your meat. Using our Traeger is like Wood Smoking for Dummies because you just load the smoker, set the digital thermostat and let it run. I baste the meat occasionally, but it's so low-maintenance that I feel comfortable running to the store or watching a movie while our dinner cooks.

We put our turkey and pork shoulder on the Traeger right after breakfast and they were ready to eat by early to mid-afternoon. We enjoyed the meat later as pulled pork sandwiches with and turkey, bacon and cheddar paninis. The leftovers were amazing.

While we're on the topic of tailgating, here are a few of my favorite party recipes for football season:

Super Bowl Meatballs - You can make these in advance and freeze them.
Roasted Tomato Salsa - This one uses Roma (plum) tomatoes, which are available at a decent price year-round.
Spicy Salsa Wings - Pick your favorite salsa (jarred works great here!) and adjust the heat to your liking.

In all honesty, I'm not a big football fan, but I love the opportunity to cook and eat game day food, so tailgating at home is a winning idea for me. Do you have any favorite football food recipes? Link them up in the comments!

P.S. Traeger doesn't know I exist, I'm just sharing my experience with our new grill.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Happy Fall, Ya'll | Apple Picking

I love summer. However, I'm really trying to embrace the beauty and colors of fall and start some new family traditions, so last Sunday (the first day of fall!) we went apple picking!

My family and I headed to nearby Milburn Orchards in Elkton, Maryland. Apparently there are tons of kid-friendly activities, but since we were traveling with a non-walking toddler who is getting over a sinus infection, we kept it simple and did a little apple picking and farm market shopping.

Max got to enjoy the orchard from the comfort of daddy's chest, thanks to a sturdy baby carrier.

As much as I love gardening, I had not ever been apple picking. I think it was worth the experience and I'd love to make this a family tradition.

Milburn Orchards has different varieties of apples available for picking each week, starting in September. This past weekend there were a few Jonagolds and plenty of Red and Golden Delicious. We picked mostly Golden Delicious because they are versatile and can be eaten raw, cooked into applesauce or baked into desserts.

We parked our car in the orchard, took a short walk to a wagon that carted about 20 of us deep into the orchard. Each person was given a sturdy plastic bag and instructions on where to find each variety of apple. You pay for what you pick. There's a ten pound minimum per family and apples are $1.55/pound.

I was pleased to find out the the apple trees are small (apparently they are some type of dwarf tree), so you can easily reach the apples without climbing or straining. 

So, um.... apparently I we got carried away because we picked 30 pounds of apples. You do the math. Tip for future apple picking trips: one plastic bag = 10 pounds. Good thing they accept debit cards in the orchard!

Despite the fact that we picked enough apples to last an entire season, we managed to lug them back to our car before checking out the farm market. We picked up a half dozen apple cider donuts (worth the cash and the calories), some fresh apple cider, and an apple walnut caramel pie. Everything was tasty and we definitely got our apple fix.

Our surplus apples are currently stored in well-ventilated crates in our cool basement. Over the next several weeks I'm looking forward to using them in all kinds of fall recipes.

Has anyone else been apple picking? Apparently this is a "thing" that I somehow didn't know was a big deal.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Potluck for ShopRite | Beef Stew

Happy (almost) fall, ya'll!

Summer is my favorite season, so I'll admit I'm feeling a little down about saying goodbye to locally grown sweet, fresh fruit, beach days, Max's baby pool on the deck, backyard barbecues on hot nights, and endless sunny days. However, since autumn arrives this week I'm trying to look forward to all the highlights of the upcoming season. I've already enjoyed a pumpkin spice latte, I put up a little bit of fall decor over the weekend and we're planning to go apple picking for the first time this year.

I am part of a team of bloggers who contribute to a blog for my favorite regional grocery store, ShopRite. The blog is called Potluck and I review products and typically write a post every month for the site. I'm proud to say that I've been part of this project for three years. My latest post is a beef stew that's perfect for fall. Hop on over to Potluck and check out my latest post!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Meal Planning | At the office

I spend a lot of hours away from home. On most days I eat both breakfast and lunch in my office and occasionally I'll work late enough to have dinner here, too. Since I've had Max, I've noticed that my hunger is urgent and I need to eat good food at more regular intervals. On my most outrageous days I'm up around 5:00 am and I start my 10-hour workday (including commute) by 7:00 am. If I don't plan properly, I'll be famished by 9:00 am and angry at the world. When I'm hungry, I often make unhealthy choices...

I used to stop at Wawa on the way to work several days a week. (For those who aren't familiar, Wawa is an awesome Philadelphia-area convenience store with a cult following.) I enjoy their coffee and their breakfast sandwiches and it was the only place I passed during my 36 mile commute. Last year Wawa moved to the opposite side of the highway, thus making it a time suck to stop there for food, so it became clear that I needed to stop relying on a convenience store for emergency meals and start planning better. Between Wawa being inconvenient, the office vending machine malfunctioning one too many times, and my desire to eat better and save cash, I knew I had to do something else.

So I applied my meal planning techniques to my workday meals. I still end up eating out about twice a week, but that's nothing compared to the damage I used to do before Max was born. And I'm human, so some weeks I go out to lunch twice in a row, or I skip breakfast, or I do well all day and end up eaitng Chinese takeout for dinner.

Here are some tips that keep me on track with workday meals and snacks:

1. I always have breakfast at my desk. I usually don't have time to eat breakfast before I leave home, but I normally walk out of the house with a green smoothie (I need to share that recipe!) and a cup of coffee. When I get to my desk I have instant oatmeal ready (yes, I need to share that one, too!) or I have Greek yogurt in my lunch bag. That normally holds me until about 11:00 am.

2. I immediately pack dinner leftovers into lunch portions. I try to cook dinners that reheat well in the microwave (spaghetti vs. crab cakes) and I place single servings into clear, shallow containers so I can just grab them on my way out in the morning. We waste less food and there's no "what's for lunch?" discussions when the food is sitting front and center.

3. Make your own vending machine. I keep single-serve snacks at my desk. Single servings aren't always economical, but I like the portion control. Shop sales or shop in bulk. I like to keep trail mix, nuts, Sun Chips, and even a few cans of soda (for weak moments).

4. Buy an office refrigerator. Some offices have a refrigerator for employee use. If yours doesn't have one and if you have the space and it's permissible, put a refrigerator in your office. Sure, it may cost you close to $100, but think about what you'll save when you can have perishables on hand. You can keep yogurt, coffee creamer, fresh fruit and milk for cereal right at your desk.

5. Keep utensils and cups handy. I always have paper plates, paper towels, plastic utensils and a water bottle at my desk. I drink water from the water cooler throughout the day and I also use the water to make instant oatmeal. If you keep your work space well-stocked you won't end up eating  yogurt with a fork.

Since I've returned to work I've had problems grocery shopping, doing laundry and cooking at regular intervals like I used to. I use my iPhone's Reminder app to keep running grocery lists for ShopRite, Target and Costco and I also have Siri give me reminders, too. If I find myself buying an item from a convenience store or vending machine I always consider adding it to my shopping list. Why pay $1.00 for a banana when you can get four for that price? Why pay $1.20 for a ginger ale when you can purchase smaller cans in single-serve portions for much less?

Consider how much money you could save if you carried your own food to work. Even if my husband and I spend just $5 per day eating out, that's $50 per week or nearly $250 per month for the two of us. I'd rather spend that cash sitting down and enjoying a few real restaurant meals during date nights.

Do you plan out your meals? I know a lot of people are on the dinner planning bandwagon, and that's saved me a ton of frustration and money. But how about lunches? Are you prepared with healthy options for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon hunger attack? If not, why not try?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Buttermilk Corn Fritters

I guess it goes without saying that I've been really, really busy this summer. You may notice that I've been active on Pinterest and Facebook, but I haven't been as active on the blog as in the past. I've been cooking and baking, but I've also been working, taking care of Max, and we've been settling into our new home.

Despite the chaos and excitement, I'm still finding time to cook, especially on weekends. I've always loved cooking breakfast and I find that rich, heavy meals are best served in moderation (Saturdays and Sundays only). I also love that eating a great breakfast gives me fuel to do whatever we need to pack into our weekends. Normally a big breakfast means we'll only eat two meals in a day.

I grew up eating corn fritters. My mom tells me that her mom made them for her. I never met my maternal grandmother (she passed away long before I was born), but I remember my mom mixing up corn fritters for us since forever. She used a boxed pancake mix and until recently I did, too. Now, however, I've modified my favorite scratch pancake recipe to create our family favorite: buttermilk corn fritters.

When I was dating my husband I think he may have found it strange that we put corn in our pancakes and called them "fritters". There's another type of corn fitter out there, but it's more of a fried little nugget of cornmeal and whole corn kernels. This isn't that. This is a fluffy, moist buttermilk pancake that is enhanced with creamed corn. It may sound a bit odd, but it's so good! Good enough to make you  look forward to getting up at 6:30 am on a Sunday when your baby wakes you up with "dadadadada". Good enough to make your mom drive to your house to bring you bacon at 7:15 am (because you ran out) just so the family can have the perfect breakfast. Yes, they are that good.

I hope you enjoy one of my favorite breakfasts.

Buttermilk Corn Fritters
serves 4
adapted from Buttermilk Pancakes from Short Stop

2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 (14-ounce) can of creamed corn

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Whisk together eggs, milk, buttermilk, vanilla and butter.

Keep wet and dry ingredients separate until you are ready to make your pancakes. Gently combine wet and dry ingredients (do not overmix!) by hand. Gently stir in creamed corn.

Preheat griddle to medium heat. Ladle pancakes onto griddle and cook until done. This batter is thick, so it will take a few minutes longer than thinner recipes. Mine take about 3-4 minutes per side.

I preheat my oven to 200 degrees to keep the pancakes warm until I am ready to serve the entire batch. Serve hot with butter and syrup and enjoy!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Baby Food | Roasted Zucchini with Smoked Paprika

Roasted zucchini with smoked paprika? Sounds fancy for a baby, right? Since my husband is picking up zucchini three for $1 on his way home from work, I figured I'd add it to the baby food rotation. Max likes it, it's easy to make, and it smells so good that I'm even willing to take a bite.

I've been making Max's baby food since he started solids (well, since he was born if you count breast milk) and I like letting him enjoy all of the seasonable flavors that we like, just adapted so he can consume them easily. I keep all of Max's food, including frozen breast milk, in the top drawer of of our freezer for quick and easy from-scratch meals. The only foods that I don't make from scratch are puffs (those dissolvable, cereal-like baby snacks), Mum Mums (these awesome rice biscuits that Max loves), and the occasional jar of baby food if we're traveling. In all honesty, Max hates jarred baby food, so I bought it for emergency purposes only. At this point I'd rather just give him food off my plate than give him jarred food.

My goal is for Max to have an adventurous palate. I was a relatively picky eater as a child (and teenager), but I started trying new foods in college. While there are still a few foods I'll never touch (hello, mayonnaise!), I love trying new foods. My hope for Max is that he develops an appreciation for real (not-processed, from-scratch) foods now and that it helps him make healthy choices for the rest of his life.

Even if you're not ready to make ALL of your baby's food, you can at least experiment with a few options. Here's how I do roasted zucchini with smoked paprika.

I use about 3 zucchini for this recipe, but you can use whatever you have. First, I preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with foil, sprayed with non-stick spray. I slice and dice the zucchini. I also like to add a little onion or green onion for extra flavor. I sprinkle the entire mixture with smoked paprika (which can be hard to find for some reason, so regular paprika is just fine) and I drizzle the whole thing with a little olive oil. I toss it together to coat all of the vegetables.

I roast everything in the oven at 400 for 30-45 minutes or until it's softened and starting to brown.

Then I transfer it to my Vitamix. A food processor, blender, or immersion blender can also do the trick. But I love my Vitamix... that's a different story.

Once it's blended to your liking (I puree Max's foods pretty smooth, but I leave a little texture), it's ready to eat. I usually freeze it in ice cube trays and then transfer it to quart-size freezer bags for future meals.

When Max is hungry, I mix up my cubes of food to make him a meal. One of my favorite combos is 1 carrot, 1 chicken and 1 zucchini. For "dessert" Max has unsweetened applesauce. He's one happy baby and his food smells good enough for me to eat! As a matter of fact, we have an entire drawer in our new freezer dedicated to Max's meals... it's convenient for everyone.

I'm looking forward to trying out even more food combinations as Max starts feeding himself more and enjoying foods with more texture. Anyone else out there a fan of homemade baby food?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Time flies!

Max turned 1 this weekend! It sounds like a total cliche, but I can't believe that one year ago I brought him home...

Now he's turning into quite the toddler!

I miss the cuddly newborn days, but I appreciate how well Max is already communicating with us. I look forward to all our our future adventures.

We love you, Maxwell Thomas! We hope you enjoyed your birthday weekend.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hilltop Cooler

I came up with a fun cocktail to sip on our new deck. I call it the Hilltop Cooler, due to the family joke that we live "on the hill" since our new home is located at the top of a moderate incline (not a real hill by any means, but in flat Delaware it seems like a mountain).

It's frothy, bubbly and citrusy all at the same time. I made it with lemon sorbet, but I'm definitely going to try it with other flavors (mango sounds like a good idea) in the near future.

This drink seems light and fruity, but don't let it fool you. The combination of vodka and sparkling wine can sneak up on you, so sip slowly and enjoy responsibly.

Hilltop Cooler
by Keeley
serves 2

2 scoops lemon sorbet (I use Haagen Dazs)
1/4 cup vodka
about 1 cup sparkling wine
1 thin slice of lime, rind included
lime slice for garnish, optional

Place sorbet, vodka, sparkling wine and lime in a blender. Blend until mixed well, about 30 seconds. Pour into champagne flutes and garnish with a lime slice. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What Had Happened Was...

I've been scarce on the blog front lately, but for good reason. My husband and I just sold our home and bought another in the last 2 months. It's been crazy, exciting and stressful, but now we're looking forward to enjoying our new home.

So how did this all happen?

Max was born last July increasing our family to 2 adults, 1 baby and 2 dogs. I stayed at home with the baby through December and returned to work in January. We discussed upgrading to a larger home over the past few years, but we were concerned about taking a financial loss due to the downturn in the housing market. The addition of a baby made our modest townhome seem even smaller. Also, we started spending much more time at home after Max was born and we definitely felt we could use more storage space, a larger kitchen and a yard where the dogs could go out instead of always having to be walked.

I was reading news articles about interest rates being at record lows and the improvements in the housing market. I educated myself about the local real estate market by researching local prices on Zillow.

We entered into this experience expecting to take a loss on our property and assuming that it would take months to sell. We spent the entire month of February preparing our home for sale (small repairs, removal of excessive stuff, etc.) and listed our home in March. Thirty-one days later, we received an offer. We accepted the offer and sold the home in late-May. The selling experience was a whirlwind of stress and excitement.

After our old house went under contract in April, we needed to find our next home. I feel that finding our new home was more difficult than selling the old one. We were selective because as second-time home buyers we know the hassles of moving and real estate settlement. Ultimately, we found a new-ish home that is perfect for our growing family. We're still close to family, but we're in a single family home in a beautiful, established neighborhood with a layout that works for our new lifestyle. We now have a formal dining room, large eat-in kitchen and a huge deck with a flat backyard.

Of course, our new kitchen looked like this for over a week:

It looks a little better today, but we still have a lot of settling in to do.

I can't tell you how excited we are about this new place. Yes, the entire experience was an expensive hassle, but I still can't believe that less than four months after our first contact with our realtor we have not only sold our old home, but we've purchased and settled on a new one. We know we've been incredibly blessed by meeting the right realtor for our situation and by having the foresight to plan for the sale of our home.

I'm looking forward to getting back to cooking and baking in our new kitchen. We stopped doing heavy grocery shopping once our home was listed and we spent three weeks in between houses at my mom's (where she did most of the cooking). We purchased a new grill for this home, so we're looking forward to having the entire summer grilling season in our new backyard.

Through this process I learned some things that may help you if you're thinking of buying and/or selling a home:

1. Financially plan and prepare. We did automatic savings from our paychecks for two years (it went fast, I promise!) to prepare for this buying/selling experience. We bought at the peak of the market, so we ended up taking a modest financial loss on the sale of our home. We feel that we made up for it by getting a much lower interest rate and a great price on our new home. Remember, if you're taking a loss on your old home, it's likely that the person selling to you is taking a loss, too.

2. Commit. It was so hard to pack up our old home for sale without knowing where we were moving and when we'd get there. In addition, friends and neighbors told me horror stories about families whose homes were on the market for over a year. Once you decide that you're going to sell your home, just commit to it and things will start to fall into place. If your home is priced appropriately for the market and in good condition, it will sell.

3. Find the right agent. Plenty of people are licensed to sell real estate, but if you're dealing with a tedious situation (we knew we were risking a financial loss), find a realtor who will help you stage your home well and sell it for a fair price. We also wanted a realtor who knew the local area and could educate us about neighborhoods. We ended up hooking up with a local agent through a (free) referral service at

4. Learn the basics. Look up recent sales in your neighborhood (Zillow is a great resource if you don't yet have an agent to assist you). Understand terms like settlement help, commission, and interest rate. Get pre-qualified for a mortgage before you start your search. Learn about credit and know your credit score. Understand home inspections and appraisals. There are tons of good resources online to read about all of this stuff.

5. Know your priorities. It's very easy to lose your mind when you're dealing with negotiation, buyer's demands and keeping your home pristine for showings, all while going to work and dealing with family issues. I admit that I had a few meltdowns, but it was worth all the drama.

One more thing for sellers: I had friends tell me that they required 24 hours notice prior to showing their home. We did not do this. We wanted as many potential buyers as possible to see our home. In order to keep our home ready we hired a cleaning service to deep clean every two weeks, we moved the dogs to my mom's home, and we packed up all of our extra "stuff" and lived a minimalist lifestyle while our home was on the market. We never turned down a showing. For the most part, we got at least two hours notice. Yes, this was difficult with an infant. Yes, people wanted to see our home right at Max's bedtime. We made it work. I really think that's how we sold our home in 31 days.

If you're thinking that all of this sounds like a hassle, yes, you're right. But my husband and I worked really hard to get into this new home and we feel that all of the sacrifices are worth it. We don't drive fancy cars and we haven't been on a big vacation in a couple of years, but we now have a home where we can raise our children and entertain friends and family for years to come. We feel that it's worth the headache. Who knows, maybe one day we'll look back at the spring of 2013 and laugh about how crazy this time was. For now, we're just looking forward to our first summer in the new place.

Does anyone else out there have any real estate stories to share? Are you thinking about plunging into the market?

Clayton's Organic Beef | Check it out on Potluck

Happy first day of summer! I just did a product review and recipe featuring Clayton's Organic Beef over on Potluck, ShopRite's blog. Although I cooked the steak indoors, this recipe can easily be adapted for the grill.

Hop on over to Potluck and check out the recipe. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region, you can buy Clayton's Organic Beef at your local ShopRite.

I received Clayton's Organic Beef compliments of ShopRite. I am a contributor for their blog, Potluck. All opinions are my own and Keeley and ShopRite go way back... as in, before the days of blogging.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

iPhoto Update | March and April

It's been more than a few weeks since I've sat down to write, but I'm still here. I've been busy enjoying life, but not taking the time to blog about it.

I'm happy to say that I've adjusted well to being a working mom. It's been a little over three months since I've returned to work and I think I'm figuring this whole thing out. Of course, it helps that my mom watches Max while we work, so I have nothing to worry about during the work day. I get to have my mind on the office for eight hours a day while my mom makes sure our baby is getting lots of love. Oh, and using FaceTime to talk to our little dude during the day helps, too.

I've been cooking a lot... a few new things, a few old things.  Oh, and I've made tons of baby food. Max is eating a lot of solids and I've learned how to make baby versions of some of my favorite foods. Max started off not caring about solids, but now he grunts and screams as soon as we put our food on the table.

Our lives have changed tremendously since we brought this little 5-pound baby home back in July. We were always morning people, but now we don't even need to set an alarm because we know that our little early bird will wake us up with his "da da da" chatter. We still love to grocery shop as a family, but now we have to find ways to keep our little boo interested while we cruise the aisles...

Then there are all of the new traditions. Everything this year is Max's first... first Christmas, First New Year's, first Easter... so many photo opportunities.

I'm already looking forward to planning his first birthday party.  If you follow me on Pinterest, I have a board just for planning the event.

Oh, and it was 85 degrees today! On April 10th! You don't know how happy this makes me. We didn't have a rough winter, but there's nothing like an unseasonably warm day and blooming flowers to put everyone in a good mood.

So I have a lot of food-related stories to share. I also have tons of other fun stuff going on, but I'll be trying to share some recipes while I'm out getting spring fever. Just wanted to let you know I'm still here... what's new with you? Anybody else enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ooh La La Crepes! | Cooking Class with Chef Diane

Last October I went to the NYC Wine and Food Festival as part of my blogging gig with ShopRite. Did I mention that? If not, please forgive me for the missing blog post. It was our first time leaving 10 week-old Max overnight and I was frazzled. We did, however have a fantastic time and that experience warrants its own blog post.

Anyway, Chef Dianne Pollick, who has a personal chef service and who works as one of ShopRite's Culinary Workshop instructors also attended the NYCWFF. Somehow we didn't meet that day, but she followed up with me and invited me to attend one of her classes at a store in Delaware. Last fall I attended not one, but two of her classes and I had such a great time that we decided to book a private class for my new moms group.

If you live in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast region, it's likely that your local ShopRite store hosts cooking classes on a weekly basis. You can find the current class schedule at your local store or online at the ShopRite web page. In my area a two-hour course costs $20. The classes are hands-on and there's plenty of time to ask questions and learn new techniques. You get to eat everything you create and you come home with a handful of recipe cards so you can re-create everything at home. The classes in Northern Delaware are taught by Chef Dianne and she's pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

This past Saturday we enjoyed a lesson on crepes.

It was extra special because all of the attendees were from my new moms group. We spent a few hours away from our infants and got to socialize, enjoy a meal and learn some new recipes. Each woman in the group is a mother to at least one child and all of us have children under seven months old. Needless to say, we had a great time getting out, even if it was to a cooking class in comfortable clothes.

I love these classes because they are hands-on. Each person in our group of eight got to help prep ingredients and we all got to take turns making crepes. I made at least ten crepes and I now feel confident enough with my technique to make them at home.

We did savory crepes like crab florentine...

And roasted asparagus with goat cheese...

And you know we had to have dessert, so we also made a blueberry ricotta crepe, which would be even more awesome if made with marscapone cheese...

As much as I love to cook, I had never made crepes prior to this class. I love crepes and I order them when they are on the menu, but I really appreciate knowing how to make my own.

I learned that crepes are simple to make once you learn the technique and that they can easily be frozen. You use the same base recipe for both sweet and savory crepes, so they are versatile. I plan to make my own recipe for fillings that work for my family and I promise to share it right here on the blog.

If you live in Delaware, the Brandywine and Riverfront ShopRite stores offer classes and you also have the option to book a private class for a group of 8 to 10. If you live in another area, contact your store's customer service desk for available classes.

Just a note, this is NOT a sponsored post. I'm just sharing my experience with Chef Dianne and ShopRite's Culinary Workshop. I was not compensated for sharing my experience. I am just a woman who loves crepes.

Want to hear more about ShopRite's Culinary Workshop? Click here to read a review of my experience at an earlier class with Chef Dianne.
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