Friday, December 27, 2013

Magical White Bean Soup Revisited

I mentioned this soup back in mid-November, but it's so good I think it deserves it's own page.


With just vegetables, a touch of oil, and white beans, it's flavorful, satisfying, vegan and gluten free, and did I mention that it's seriously yummy?

It's kicked up a few notches when you stir in a spoonful of home made vinaigrette and give it a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  You don't need to do much to it.  When we had friends over for dinner back in November, we had bowls of parmesan, prosciutto, and chopped rosemary as well as a little pitcher of vinaigrette on the table for everyone to top as they pleased.  It went over splendidly.

I found this recipe in the book Bread & Wine  
by Shauna Niequist.  I cannot recommend this book enough.  Not only is it a fabulous read, full of stories about life and love, family and friendship, almost every chapter has a killer recipe at the end.  Every single thing I've made from this book has been the best thing I've ever made.  

If you're looking for a hearty, delicious, feel-good meal, try this soup.  You will NOT be sorry.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Smoked Salmon & Cucumber Wraps

I don't know about you, but I overdid it yesterday.  Yep.

I made a lot of delicious food but I didn't take any pictures of it because I was excited to be with my family after a stressful week before Christmas.

My normally dependable schedule for preparing my church's Christmas Pageant was thrown out the window when I discovered that all of our angel costumes were missing.  I called my mom to come out and help me look because moms always seem to have super powers when it comes to finding stuff.  Nope.  They were totally gone.

I didn't panic because I knew I had bins of white sheets and fabric, an old pattern for the costumes we already had, and a pretty decent knowledge of sewing.  As with so many things involving kids and scheduling, it was not smooth sailing.  Even with a costume for each angel at rehearsal, we didn't have enough when it was show time, but luckily a light beige tunic made a great substitute.  The pageant went off with out any major glitches and the kids were adorable.  In the end, a good time was has by all.  Success!

When it came time to finally kick back with my family, I relaxed and enjoyed everything Christmas had to offer, including Santa's cookies, fresh blueberry muffins, and (for some reason) the cheese ball puffs that were set around the room in big bowls just begging to be thrown in the air and caught in your mouth.

Today, with my pants feeling a little tight and my energy a tad lower than usual, I am ready to get back on track.  I genuinely like eating healthy foods that taste good and make me feel good.

Lunch today was really simple.  Pulled from one of my favorite cookbooks, it's a simple sandwich idea that you can whip up in minutes.  It's light, flavorful, filling, and you feel good about eating it.

Tonight, I'm going to make a big ol' pot of Magical White Bean Soup.  Without any fixin's it's a delicious gluten-free and vegan soup that fills you up without letting you down.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Guilt-Free Shrimp "Fried Rice"

I really enjoy a blog called The Londoner.  It's sort of a guilty pleasure.  It is one of the top lifestyle blogs in the UK and it features a young woman named Rosie who flits about town in super short dresses eating lots of things you might not believe she really consumes.  She presents a good balance of city glamour and country charm, as well as a good crop of super yummy recipes with tantalizing photos.  (Hello, Slutty Brownies...)

Girls today get a lot of terrible messages from social media about food.  Supermodels on Instagram seem to live only on homemade vegetable juice and the occasional bite of raw fish and we praise them for setting such healthy examples.  I greatly prefer the message of a beautiful woman who balances indulgences with smart, vegetable heavy meals while telling her readers to drink tons of water and get out and move.

The Londoner posted this recipe a few months back and I've fallen completely in love with it.  It's a regular in our house and just doesn't seem to get old.  I used to swear up and down that I hated cauliflower, but since falling in love with it in this recipe I've been eating it in quite a few dishes.  For now, I will swear that I hate beets.  Maybe then Rosie will change my mind about those too.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Rosemary & Walnut Oven-Fried Chicken

It's always a weird experience to make something a few times and then go back to the recipe and find you've been doing it wrong, or have been missing a big step each time.  I'm having that experience right now, except that every time I have made this recipe it's been delicious!

This is a super busy time of year and like a lot of people, I like having recipes on hand that are totally delicious, crowd pleasing, easy, and I don't feel the slightest bit guilty about.  This one is awesome.  

Yes, this is another recipe from Cooking Light Magazine.  More specifically, it's by a woman named Laraine Perri, who when googled turns up all kinds of delicious results from some pretty major publications.  I plan to really explore some of her recipes later because if this one dish can be so good when I leave out steps, I'm excited to see what else of hers I can cook incorrectly yet deliciously.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Espresso Spice Cookies

My church sits alongside a really lovely little college full of high achieving, smart, and sometimes stressed out students.  Our youth pastor started a fantastic cookie ministry a few years ago that I'm a huge fan of.  The youth of our church get together in the church kitchen, each bringing ingredients for their favorite cookie recipe, and they spend an evening baking.  Church members also contribute to the effort with their homemade and store bought treats.

On one night during the college's finals week, groups of youth and a few adults take shifts camping out in one of the school common areas with trays and trays of cookies for the taking.  We listen to the students describe what they are studying and what projects they're trying to finish, and chat about their plans for winter break and the things they're looking forward to, or what they're taking next semester.  It took a little time to grow this effort, the students being understandably wary of whether or not the cookies came with strings attached.  But they don't.  The cookies are string-free.  We show up to say "We are here for you, we care about you, we know it's hard but you can do it."

Thursday, December 12, 2013


At the moment, I am sitting in an incredibly charming little coffee shop in New Oxford, Pennsylvania, writing my blog in Microsoft Word.  Though this little shop is adorable - with classic oak and marble counters, a patterned white tin ceiling, and tiffany-style lamps – it does not have internet access. 

When Paul has business in certain areas of the country, I try to tag along so we can visit friends and family we wouldn’t otherwise get to see.  Luckily today we are not that far from home, just a couple of hours.  While he is out on meetings, making friends and charming people with his delightful English accent, I chose to hunker down in this cute shop, with its lovely view of the town center and its slightly dilapidated but historic buildings, Christmas wreaths and garlands draped on the wrought iron fences, and American flags flying proudly on every corner.

The longer I’m here the more I can tell how odd it is that I am here, a stranger, quietly sitting at her computer staring at pictures of food.  Every time the door opens, a little bell rings and the new customer is greeted cheerily by name, either by the employees or the other customers.  The barista behind the counter seems to know what most people want before they order it.  I’ve heard of places like this, but have never gotten to sit and experience one.  I have made the mistake in the past of referring to this area as “the country” to one of its residents, but there is a decidedly slower pace and familiarity that you don’t easily find in the city or its suburbs.  The people are cheery, happy to run into one another, and I can feel their positive energy reaching me even though I sit away from them, quietly at my table, typing away.

This wasn’t the recipe I had in mind for today, but the slower pace of life around me is telling me that madeleines are what I should share with you.  Madeleines are a delightful cookie-cake hybrid, fluffy and sweet with a touch of lemon, but they require patience and a slower pace.  You can’t rush a good madeleine. 

Like so many things lately, I found this in one of the dozens of Cooking Light magazines my friend Eleanor gave me.  I promise not all of my recipes will be from CL, but they’re a great resource, especially at a time of year when people are more conscious of what they’re eating while trying to make their food festive and sweeter than usual.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Kale Pesto

I don't know about you, but I like kale.  I always buy too much and often can't find ways to use it all before it becomes, well, unusable.

I also love pesto.  I love it on pasta and sandwiches, tofu and potatoes, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I have found the solution to my kale conundrum.  This is a great recipe!  And it's SO EASY!  I first made this kale pesto and put it on a pizza with goat cheese and olive oil, almost exactly as the recipe called for.


I've made it since then and have used it on whole wheat pasta with hot italian sausage, and I plan to spread some on slices of fresh baked toasty bread and top it with scrambled eggs and thin slices of pancetta.  Maybe a sprinkle of parmesan on top.  Now I'm hungry. On to the food.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Behold, the Sparkledoodle!

That is what I have decided to call it.  You heard it here first!  (As far as I can tell...)

Snickerdoodles seem to be making a comeback this holiday season.  I have seen them all over the internet, including an adorable red and green version that got me rethinking the batch I was about to make.  My snickerdoodles needed to be festive, special, even fun.

My snickerdoodles needed to sparkle.

Like any good glitter-lovin' gal, I happened to have sparkly food stuffs on hand.
I went to my favorite trusty snickerdoodle recipe and got crackin'.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Guinness Mac n' Cheese

Paul has been uber supportive as I've embarked on this whole food blog journey.  He's helped me upgrade from a point-and-shoot camera to a DSLR and been just as passionate about learning how to use it as I have.  He dutifully eats whatever I make, even if it bombs.  He doesn't try to stop me from pacing around as I wait to find out the result of my latest submission.  (15th blog was the charm!  Woo hoo!)

I'm not very good at being romantic or putting my feelings into words, so I try to say thank you with food.

When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it for Paul.  He loves beer.  He loves pasta.  It was no surprise that this was a big hit with him.

If you do not like beer, this recipe is NOT for you.  It starts out cheesy and creamy but has a malty, bitter finish.

I was going to say that this is the perfect dish for the men in your life, but that's pretty unfair to all of my kick-ass girlfriends who love dark beer.  This is a delicious comfort dish for the beer lover in your life.

Did I mention it's from Cooking Light?  Yeah, everyone's a winner here.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Sweetmeats

Sweetmeat is a weird word.

Depending on the culture you're in, it can mean very different things.

For the western world it is "a piece of candy or a piece of fruit covered in sugar," or "a food rich in sugar."  (Thanks, Merriam-Webster!)

Well, there is not a drop of fruit in these little darlings, but I would definitely say that they are rich in sugar.  If you're looking for a healthy dessert or treat, this is not for you.  If you're looking for the perfect holiday coffee companion, you are in the right place.  

If you like giving food gifts around the holidays you might try cutting these into tiny squares and pairing them with a small bag of coffee.  Delish!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chickpea Curry

When I'm away, Paul eats more fast food.  When Paul is away, I eat more delicious vegetarian dishes.  He's out tonight and we all know what that means:  Pajama pants, Love Actually, and a delicious vegetarian dinner.

Two weeks ago, my bestie Eleanor caught me looking at her Cooking Light magazine.  To our mutual happiness, she sent me home with a massive stack of Cooking Light magazines.  Once in my possession, I knew that if I opened one I would lose at least half a day to the stack and I had too much to do with Thanksgiving and the Advent Workshop approaching.  Both are now successfully behind me and as a reward I spent half of yesterday with magazines all over my floor, armed with sticky notes and a pen, blissful in recipe heaven.

I have a lot of food magazines that I've collected over the years, most of which have been read cover to cover but their recipes remain untested.  

It ends tonight!  

For my first magazine dinner, I decided to go with a gorgeous curry that was insanely fast to make.  It literally takes less than 10 minutes.  It's mild, creamy, and incredibly satisfying.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cheesy Spinach Pull-Apart Bread

Our friend Lindsay was home for Thanksgiving break from her first semester of college and we wanted to have her over to hear about what's been going on in her life.  We stocked up on Diet Coke (her favorite) and I wanted to make something fun to pick at while we chatted.  

I found a very intriguing recipe for pull-apart bread but wasn't a fan of a lot of the ingredients.  In a moment of boldness, I decided to change them!  The result was fantastic.

This is a great appetizer, game-day party snack, movie night nosh, or girls-night treat.  It takes a little time to put together, but it's serious fun when it's done.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Never say never!

For the first time in my life, my mom asked me to contribute to Thanksgiving dinner.  I also got to sit at the grown-ups table, which was nice, but I was secretly pleased that I still had a chocolate turkey waiting for me at my plate.

For 29 years I have heard my father lament the times he was forced to eat brussel sprouts as a child.  To this day, he swears he hates them and will not eat them.

In addition to a dessert, my mom asked me to bring a vegetable.

Challenge accepted.

Not a fan of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, I poured over recipes using brussel sprouts in interesting ways.  I brought my dish in its disassembled form, tossed it together just before dinner was ready, and made my dad try it before he knew what it was.  HE LIKED IT!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving goes to the dogs...

There are a lot of dogs in my life this Thanksgiving.  Four, maybe five, to be exact.  I say maybe because there could be an adoption tomorrow if things go well.

If you have a dog, you know the look you get when yummy smells and crinkly packages happen in your kitchen.  Throw bacon into that mixture and you've got a recipe for giant, sparkling eyes looking at you dejectedly, begging for a treat.  Will a boxed biscuit cut it on a holiday such as this?

I knew I wanted to try something for the furry family members this Thanksgiving, but because I am also making shaved brussel sprouts with bacon and a extra rich chocolate cake, I also knew I wanted to keep it simple.  I found a recipe that met my criteria: five ingredients I already have, fast from start to finish, and fun.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pumpkin Scones and Extra Grandparents

When I was little, I had three sets of grandparents: my mom's parents, my dad's parents, and Grandpa Arden and Grandma Elsie.  It never struck me as strange that this older couple who had no relation to me were known as my grandparents.  They were sweet and loving, never missed our birthdays, and we never missed theirs.  They had children of their own who never saw them, and that right there is my mother's kryptonite.

"If you make some stuff with pumpkin again soon, can you make some for Gordon?  I think he'd really like that," my mom said to me the other day.  I was confused, not knowing who Gordon was, so she explained.  He is a neighbor of my grandparents that she got to know recently and is apparently just the nicest guy you could ever meet.  You need to bang on his front door like the place is on fire if you want him to answer.  He's jovial.  He carries a good, long conversation (a trait that is useful when talking with my mom).  He also has children who never see him.  With all those traits in his wheelhouse, I think we might be seeing a lot more of Gordon.

That stuff with pumpkin she wanted me to make, those are my pumpkin scones.  They're the perfect baked goodie to share with friends and neighbors, and I agree that they should be just right for an introduction to Gordon.  I have a feeling I might end up seeing him at the Thanksgiving table this week, but I whipped up a batch of scones to bring over anyway.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


A few years ago I really wanted to learn more about my heritage and one of the ways I tried to do that was through food.  My mom's side of the family is Swedish so I was a little wary about what foods I was going to find.  Little did I know I would discover a cookie so perfect it would make all other cookies irrelevant.  (I may love gingerbread a little bit more than the next person.)

I would like to introduce to you Pepparkakor.  Traditionally, the dough is rolled thin, cut into shapes, and hung on a Christmas tree like ornaments.  I chose to use a giant cookie scoop and turn this velvety dough into spicy, chewy pillows from heaven.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Whole-Wheat Orzo w/ Artichoke Almond Pesto

On so many nights Paul asks the question: What do you want to do for dinner?

About 80% of the time I answer that I want "the orzo."  Tonight was no exception.

I have been going through a serious lemon phase recently.  I want it on everything (I even put one in a Yuengling - it was good), especially bitter greens and garlicky pasta, and there are more recipes to post on that front, but it all starts here.  This pasta dish makes great leftovers and I always look forward to having it for lunch at work.

If you're new to cooking, this dish will make you feel quite proficient.  This beautiful, rustic, nutty pesto is virtually impossible to foul up.

Okay, enough with the chit-chat!  On to the good stuff...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Roasted Parmesan Edamame

Is it just me, or is this snack popping up everywhere?  If you haven't seen it, please let me introduce you.  It's a super simple, delicious, and somewhat guilt-free munchie that you can easily whip up to substitute for chips, and it's good for the whole family.  At our house tonight it is going to accompany some not-so-guilt-free tuna melts.

You need three ingredients:
  • 1 bag frozen, shelled Edamame
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • Sea salt

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rainbow Looms, Whiskey Pork, & Homemade IPA

Sunday was a pretty darn good day.  Paul ran the Philadelphia half-marathon and was feeling good, I had a great morning at work, and the weather was absolutely idyllic.  Was it possible to get better than that?  Yep.

My BFF Beth and her mini, CLo, came over to visit in the afternoon.  We had a great time playing, coloring, talking, and giggling, but I still had a work project to do, and CLo was ready to help.  My mission: learn how to use a Rainbow Loom.  (Did I mention my job is awesome?)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Magical Gluten-Free Entertaining...

Our friends Nick and Kristy came over for dinner on Friday.  Not only are guests a great excuse to whip the house into shape, it was the perfect opportunity to try a recipe I've had my eye on for a while: Magical White Bean Soup.  It ended up being just the right dish.  It's easy, hearty, comforting, delicious, and beautifully met the gluten-free needs of our guests.

I got this recipe from one of my favorite books, Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist.  Bread & Wine is "a love letter to life around the table with recipes."  Every chapter makes you want to gather your friends together and share a good meal while soaking up some quality time.  I love every recipe from this book that I have made so far.  Shauna's husband is gluten-free, so she knows about making delicious food that satisfies a variety of dietary needs and pleases the palate.

On last night's menu:
Magical White Bean Soup with parmesan and prosciutto
Salad with almonds, sunflower seeds, and homemade vinaigrette
Chocolate-chip coconut macaroons
Lots of red wine, generously provided by our guests

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Best Chicken Chili. Period.

It's that time of year.  The temperatures have dipped to the low 30's (it even snowed!) and half of my coworkers, myself included, have come down with a serious case of the sniffles.  It is definitely chili time.