Nov 2013
Thanksgiving Round-Up


Hard to believe Thanksgiving is just a week away! While it’s a well known fact that I am somewhat of Christmas fanatic, Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart as well. The same good food and family time without all the pressure and expense of finding the perfect gift for your friends and family. We celebrated Thanksgiving with my in-laws a few weeks ago, so we’ll be spending the day with my family.  Whether you are hosting, or just bringing a dish to pass, check out the links below for some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

Thanksgiving 101: Planning the Menu
Thanksgiving 101: Turkey Tips and Tricks

Main Dish:
Salted Turkey with Citrus and Herbs
Brined Roasted Turkey

Side Dish:
Classic Mashed Potatoes
Herbed Mashed Potatoes
Honey Yeast Rolls
Cornbread Herb Stuffing
Soft Garlic Knots
Buttermilk Cornbread
Texas Roadhouse Rolls

Pumpkin Roll
Miniature Pies
Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Buttercream
Pumpkin Spiced Bundt Cake
Vermont Spice Cake
Spiced Pumpkin Dip
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Pumpkin Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting

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Nov 2013
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies 008

Pumpkin whoopie pies are certainly not a new recipe. In fact, I first made this recipe about 5 years ago when I went to visit my boyfriend (who is now my husband), out in Iowa for Thanksgiving. With no family in town, we had great “friendsgiving” with some friends from his grad school, and I took along these whoopie pies.

To be honest, the reason why I made this dessert was purely selfish. I am not a huge fan of the fruit pies that seem to take center stage at Thanksgiving. However, bake up something pumpkin spice and slather it in cream cheese frosting, and I’m there. Therefore, I tend to make either these or a pumpkin roll whenever I am in charge of dessert for Thanksgiving.

The best thing about whoopee pies is that they are small, so if you’re too full from the turkey/mashed potatoes/stuffing/rolls/sweet potatoes/etc., you can still have a little bit of dessert without making you feel like, well, a stuffed turkey! You can also make them a day of two ahead of time – just be sure to store them in the fridge.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Yield: 18-24 pies


    For the whoopie pies
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the cream cheese filling
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon


    To make the cookies:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and oil until well combined. Add pumpkin puree and whisk until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until well combined. Sprinkle flour mixture over pumpkin mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.
  3. Using a small ice cream or cookie scoop, drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Transfer to oven and bake until cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cookie comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely on pan.
  4. To make the filling:
  5. Sift confectioner' sugar into a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add cream cheese and beat until well combined. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla, beat just until smooth. (Filling can be made up to a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate; let stand at room temperature to soften before using.)
  6. To assemble the whoopie pies:
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Transfer filling to a disposable pastry bag and snip the end. When cookies have cooled completely, pipe a large dollop of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookies. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap.
  8. Refrigerate cookies at least 30 minutes before serving and up to 3 days.
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Source: Martha Stewart

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Oct 2013
Funfetti Sugar Cookie Bars

Funfetti Sugar Cookie Bars

With the holiday season slowly encroaching, you could also consider this time of year,  “sugar cookie season”. Elaborately decorated sugar cookies in the shape of pumpkins, turkeys, and snowmen start to emerge and make their way onto dessert tables everywhere at this time of year. The only downside to these gorgeous cookies is that the don’t always taste the best. Typically a sturdier sugar cookie recipe must be used when making cut-outs, sometimes leading to dry, flavorless cookies. Plus, they are a TON of work to make. If you’re just looking the sugary sweetness of a sugar cookie, with a thick layer of buttercream without all the fuss and muss of cut-out cookies, these are for you.

Funfetti Sugar Cookie Bars

Yield: 18-24 bars


    For the cookie base:
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • 3 tbsp sprinkles
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract (use clear vanilla extract if you want crisp white frosting)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Food coloring (optional)


    To make the sugar cookie bars:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 12x17 rimmed baking sheet and set aside. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Mix in the vanilla, vanilla bean seeds, and lemon zest. With the mixer off, pour the dry ingredients into the bowl along with the sprinkles. On low speed, combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing until they are just incorporated.
  3. Gently press the dough onto the baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to allow the bars to cool completely in the pan.
  4. To make the vanilla frosting:
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer), beat the butter for 8 minutes on medium speed; it will be very pale and light. Add in the sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt and mix on low for 1 minute and then on medium speed for 6 minutes; the frosting will be very light and fluffy. Blend in the food coloring, if using, until it is fully incorporated.
  6. Frost the bars using an off-set spatula, and sprinkle with additional sprinkles. Store at room temperature for up to 2-3 days.
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Source: Smells Like Home

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Oct 2013
Pumpkin Streusel Bread with Cream Cheese Swirl

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Struesel Bread

It’s that time of the year that I love the most – fall! Like many people, I love the beautiful fall colors on the trees, the cooler temperatures, bountiful mums and pumpkins on my porch, and of course – anything pumpkin flavored! I’m not a huge coffee drinker, so I tend to skip out on the infamous pumpkin spice lattes, but pumpkin spiced baked goods? Bring ‘em on.

I have a classic version of pumpkin bread that I love, but why not kick it up a notch. Cream cheese filling and streusel toppings make any baked good better, but combine them, and this bread is straight up banging good. Even though its bordering on the line of dessert, it has pumpkin in it, which is healthy, so therefore its an acceptable breakfast food, right? Right.

Pumpkin Streusel Bread with Cream Cheese Swirl

Yield: 12 servings


    Pumpkin bread:
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Cheese swirl:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Streusel topping:
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of salt


  1. Begin by preparing the pumpkin bread batter. Combine together the butter, sugar, egg, milk, vanilla and pumpkin and mix until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, spice and salt. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir just until combined.
  2. To make the cream cheese layer, blend the ingredients together with a mixer until well combined. Set aside.
  3. To make the streusel topping, combine the sugar, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.
  4. To make the bread, pour half the bread batter into a greased loaf pan, add the cream cheese mixture and swirl into the bread batter with a knife. Top with the remaining bread batter and sprinkle on the streusel topping. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for approximately 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean.
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Source: Hungry Couple



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Sep 2013
Tri Color Pasta Salad

Tri-Color Pasta Salad

If you had to pick one essential BBQ side dish, it would have to be pasta salad. Perfect to throw together at a moment’s notice, and even better that you can make it the night before – great when you’re already trying to balance numerous dishes the day of your party. I made this for a recent work function and it was a huge hit. It’s a little different from your typical pasta salad, as the base is made primarily of Caesar dressing and pesto. Add in the olives, tomatoes and fresh basil and it’s almost like an Italian version of a classic pasta salad.

Note – You can definitely make this salad the night before, just be sure to reserve some extra dressing to toss the pasta in just prior to serving.

Tri Color Pasta Salad

Serving Size: 5-6 servings


  • 1 - 12 oz. package tri-color rotini pasta, cooked and drained
  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can black olives, sliced
  • ¼ cups red onion, finely diced
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
  • 4 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 2/3 cup creamy Caesar dressing
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


  1. Cook the pasta then coat with Caesar dressing while warm. Add the remaining ingredients and toss until evenly coated.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
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 Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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Sep 2013
Football Cupcakes

Football Cupcakes

With Labor Day behind us, fall is just around the corner. Time to bring on the mums, pumpkin flavored baked goods, cinnamon scented candles and of course, football! The season officially kicked off last night, however our first home game for the Buffalo Bills is this Sunday. My husband and I have season tickets, so we spend a lot of Sundays in the fall grilling hot dogs in a parking lot, playing corn hole, drinking beer and freezing our butts off while we watch football. Even though our team usually loses more than we win, we still have a blast going to games.

So in honor of the kickoff to football season, I threw together some football cupcakes. These cupcakes may look complicated, but they are actually very simple to make. You’ll need a 2 pastry bags, one fitted with a star tip, and one fitted with a small round tip. (I used a Wilton #2.) Use your favorite cupcakes recipe, but if you need a good chocolate frosting recipe, I’ve included my favorite. Since you only need a small amount of vanilla frosting, I set aside a small amount of frosting before adding the cocoa, so I don’t have to make 2 separate batches.

Looking for a new dip or appetizer to take to the game this weekend? Check out my football food tab.

Football Cupcakes

Yield: 30 cupcakes


    Your favorite cake recipe, homemade or boxed mix
  • For the buttercream
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream


    To make the buttercream:
  1. Cream the butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.
  2. Gradually add the powdered sugar to the butter, and continue to mix on low, alternating the powdered sugar with the cream/milk.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and salt, then beat for 3 minutes on high speed, until well mixed.
  4. Separate about 1 cup of the buttercream and set aside. This will be your white frosting for the laces.
  5. Gradually add the cocoa powder to the remaining buttercream, and mix until well incorporated, adding a little more milk/cream if needed.
  6. To decorate the cupcakes:
  7. Add the chocolate frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Add the vanilla frosting to a bag fitted with a small round tip.
  8. Using a steady hand, start at one end of the cupcake and gently squeeze the frosting back and forth, going wider in the middle and narrower at the ends to mimic a football shape.
  9. Use the vanilla frosting to draw laces on the football.
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Sep 2013
Spice Rubbed Beef Tenderloin

Beef Tenderloin

There’s nothing that I love more than beef tenderloin. I am not one for fatty cuts of beef, so give me a tender piece of meat without an ounce of fat on it and I am happy camper. Sadly, the steep price tag of beef tenderloin keeps me from making it more than once a year, usually for Christmas dinner. So, you could imagine my excitement when I found tenderloin marked down to 50% off.

This is a very simple beef tenderloin recipe, with very little ingredients. When you have a good cut of beef, you don’t want, or really need, to overpower it with seasonings and spices. You really want the taste of the meat to shine through on its own, and not be overpowering.

Since it is an expensive cut of meat, you really don’t want to screw it up and overcook it. Therefore, an internal meat thermometer is vital. I have one that you leave inside the meat while the meat cooks, and you can monitor the temperature without even opening the oven door. I use it all the time when making roasts or turkeys. Invest in one. They are totally worth the money.

Spice Rubbed Beef Tenderloin

Yield: 4-6 servings


  • 1 whole beef tenderloin (4 to 5 lbs)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Season salt (to taste)
  • Lemon pepper seasoning (to taste)
  • 1/3 cup black peppercorns
  • Olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Trim the meat to remove the fat and the silvery cartilage underneath the meat. It doesn't have to be perfect, just remove as much as you can. (Or, have your friendly butcher do it for you.)
  3. Sprinkle the meat generously with seasoned salt, and use your fingers to massage it into the meat. Sprinkle lemon-pepper seasoning on top and again, rub in with your fingers. Place the peppercorns in a ziplock bag, and use a mallet or meat hammer to smash the peppercorns.
  4. Heat some olive oil in a heavy skillet. When the oil is hot, place the tenderloin in the very hot pan to sear it. Throw a couple of tablespoons of butter into the skillet to give it a nice little butter injection before going in the oven. A minute or two later, when one side is starting to turn nice and brown, flip and repeat.
  5. Place the tenderloin on an oven pan with a rack. Sprinkle the pummeled peppercorns all over the meat. Press the pepper onto the surface of the meat. Put several tablespoons of butter all over the meat. Stick the long needle of the thermometer lengthwise into the meat.
  6. Place it in a 475-degree oven until the temperature reaches just under 140 degrees, about fifteen to twenty minutes. Stay near the oven and keep checking the meat thermometer to make sure it doesn’t overcook. Let meat stand ten minutes or so before slicing, so the meat will have a chance to relax a bit.
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Source: Pioneer Woman

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Aug 2013
Monster Cookies


Oatmeal cookies tend to get a bad rap. Usually because they are paired with raisins. How many times have you been duped by an oatmeal raisin cookie that looks like a chocolate chip cookie? It’s so wrong. Nothing against raisins, but I prefer chocolate with my oatmeal, please. K, thanks.

Now, add some peanut butter to that oatmeal and chocolate, and now we’re talking. I’ve had these monster cookies saved on Pinterest forever, but for some reason never got around making them. Well, I’m here to say that they have quickly become one of my favorite cookies. The oatmeal makes them nice and chewy, which exactly how I like my cookies. You can really use any mix-ins that you have around the house – peanut butter chips, toffee bits, white chocolate chips, etc. You could even use Reeses’s pieces instead of M&M’s for fall twist!

Monster Cookies 2

Monster Cookies

Yield: 3-4 dozen cookies


  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
  • 4 1/2 cups oats (quick cooking or old-fashioned)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup M&M's chocolate candies
  • ***Note that there is no flour in these cookies, which may seem odd, but the oatmeal replaces over for the flour.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat together butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla extract, and baking soda, and mix well. Mix in peanut butter until well-blended. Add oats and stir until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and M&M's.
  2. To make regular sized cookies: Drop by rounded teaspoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 7-9 minutes.
  3. To make "monster" sized cookies: Use an ice cream scoop to drop balls of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Let cookies cool on baking sheets before moving to wire racks. Store in an airtight container.
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Source: Everyday Home Cook

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Aug 2013
Blueberry Swirl Banana Bread

Blueberry Banana Bread 020

I’ve talked before about how I always seem to have ripe bananas taking up residence in my fruit bowl, but having leftover blueberries in this house? Unheard of! My husband is a blueberry addict. I’ll bring home a large container of blueberries from the grocery store, and the next day they will be gone. The man eats them like popcorn, downing them by the fistfull until they’re gone. It’s hard to get mad at him for eating fruit, but uh, dear, blueberries are expensive!

This time of year though, local berries are in abundance, and our refrigerator is overflowing with juicy strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. I had some ripe bananas ready to go, and couldn’t resist adding in some blueberries. I decided to cook down to blueberries to make a swirl, but feel free just to throw in a handful or two of blueberries if you desire.

Blueberry Swirl Banana Bread


    For the bread:
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (from about 3 bananas)
  • 1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the blueberry swirl:
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • -or-
  • 1/2 cup wild blueberry preserves


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, the baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter on medium speed until well combined, about 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the bananas, yogurt and vanilla until completely combined. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, beating just until the batter comes together.
  3. To make the blueberry filling, combine the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan. Over low heat, mash the blueberries using a potato masher until the berries start to break down. Remove from the heat, and pour the berries through a mesh sieve to remove the skins of the berries. Return to the saucepan, whisk in the cornstarch over low heat. Continue to heat the berries until thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  4. Transfer half of the batter to the prepared pan, spreading into an even layer. Spread the blueberries over the batter, reserving about 1-2 tablespoons. Add the remaining half of the banana bread batter on top of the preserves and spread evenly. Add the remaining blueberries to the top of the bread, use a thin knife to swirl.
  5. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Keep a close eye on it, and if the top begins to brown too quickly, you can tent a piece of foil over it to prevent it from browning too much. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes, then turn it out of the pan and cool completely on the rack.
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Blueberry Banana Bread 027


Source: Slightly adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

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Aug 2013
Deep Dish Brownie Sundaes for Two

Deep Dish Brownies 2

Dessert is a rare treat around here. I’d love to be one of those people that has dessert every night, but then I would probably weigh 100 pounds more than I do right now. The other problem is, if I do make dessert, I have to make a whole cake, a whole pan of brownies, or a couple dozen cookies. That has the potential for disaster as I have zero self-control when it comes to sweets. Especially chocolate. Or ice cream. Or cake. Ok, you get the idea.

Once in a while though, we’ll make a decadent dinner on a Saturday night that strays from our usual healthy faire. IF you’re going to splurge on dinner, might at as well splurge on dessert as well, right? This dessert is perfect, as it only makes 2 servings. It’s decadent enough that one dish is enough though. Serve them right out of the oven topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Perfection. If you prefer a chocolate chip cookie version, check out this recipe.

Deep Dish Brownie Sundaes for Two

Yield: 2 servings


    For the brownies:
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a medium heatproof bowl, add the butter, unsweetened chocolate, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water (bowl should not touch) and stir until everything is smooth and melted. Remove the bowl from the pan and let cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar until thickened and color lightens. Whisk in the melted chocolate then whisk in salt, vanilla, and flour.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the two ramekins. Place 1 teaspoon chocolate chips into the middle of each brownie; press the chips lightly into the batter. Bake 15-20 minutes or until the tops look dry and crisp. Let cool for 15 minutes then serve with vanilla ice cream.
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Deep Dish Brownies 5

Source: Chocolate Moosey

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