Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

Martha never lets me down. I signed up for her ‘Cookie of the Day’ emails ages ago. I look forward each day to what Martha has in store. I haven’t made a lot of her recipes but when I do, they always come out well. One of my favorite recipes of hers is the Lime Squares with Graham Cracker Crust which I make frequently. There’s also the Maple Sugar Cookies that are perfect for fall. I can never get enough maple and pumpkin flavored baked goods in the fall. A couple weeks ago her cookie of the day was a pumpkin swirl brownie. I knew right away I had to make it! Since it’s Martha’s recipe I’ll just post a link to it here. I omitted the cayenne pepper since I didn’t have any. I also put chopped almonds on the top instead of the hazelnuts. I have a severe allergy to walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts so obviously I couldn’t put those on top. I thought the almonds added a great crunch to the brownies and the chocolate and pumpkin tastes great together. I recommend this to anyone who likes chocolate and pumpkin.

Before going into the oven


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cast Iron Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

I love cooking in cast iron skillets. They can last a lifetime and I find that food just tastes better cooked in a cast iron skillet. I wanted to make a baked macaroni and cheese that was lower in fat. I pretty much just made up this recipe and it turned out surprisingly well.


13.25 ounce box of whole wheat pasta spirals, shells or elbow noodles
2/3 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
12 ounce can of evaporated skim milk
1/2 cup fresh skim milk
4 ounces shredded low fat Cheddar cheese plus 1/2 cup for topping
4 ounces shredded low fat Monterrey Jack cheese
1 tablespoon of mustard
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt


1. Cook pasta per the directions on the box but cook one minute less. Drain, then mix with sour cream in a large bowl then set aside.

2. In a non stick pan on medium heat combine Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat then set aside.

3. In a medium sized pan combine evaporated and skim milk and heat on medium until the milk begins to bubble. Add 4 ounces of Cheddar, 4 ounces of Monterrey, mustard, black pepper and salt. Stir constantly until the cheese has melted. Remove from heat and immediately pour into the pasta and sour cream mixture. Stir to combine then pour into a 10 inch seasoned cast iron skillet.

4. Evenly sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese and bread crumb mixture on top. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F then bake uncovered for 15 minutes. You want to top to be a little crispy and bubbly.

5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Remember, cast iron skillets stay hot for quite a long time so be careful when handling the skillet.

Crunchy, cheesy goodness...mmm

I made bruschetta with this and it was a great combo. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I made some yummy low(er) fat baked macaroni and cheese this past weekend...in a cast iron skillet. It was deelish! I'll post the recipe tomorrow.

Say "cheese!"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Post it Note 'How-to'

Some people have asked me about the drawings on my blog and whether or not I do them myself. Yes, I do. Aside from baking I do love to draw. I'm drawn towards whimsical things and I like to give life to inanimate objects. I used to scare my friend Miranda with Blizzards from Dairy Queen. I would scoop out faces in the ice cream and then talk in a funny voice as the Blizzard. It would really scare her. One time I took it a little too far and made a really scary face with a big gaping mouth. I was talking in an evil growling tone. She freaked. She literally got out of the car and went running towards the woods. I laughed and ate my scary Blizzard.

I've been enjoying making fruits and veggies come to life. How can you not crack a smile when you see a pumpkin or an eggplant smiling?

I wanted to do a post about my process of making them. I call them Post it Notes because I sometimes draw them on actual Post it Notes. Hopefully the Post it Note people will not sue me. I'll change the name if I have to. Or offer them baked goods.

So I start out by physically drawing something. I know I could just draw it in Photoshop but I like to draw on paper.

This one had a little more detail than normal so I drew it on a large piece of paper and not a Post it Note since I needed more room. Once drawn, I scan the image and it looks like this:

It's impossible to scan it and not get little specs and imperfections so I open it up in Photoshop and clean it up, fill in gaps and fix any imperfections. Then it looks like this:

So much better! Then I start filling in colors. I always do the background in yellow because of the whole Post it Note theme. Maybe one day I will be daring and switch things up. But not today:

Oh look...he's almost finished. This part is the most fun because I can play with lots of different colors. Once I'm happy with the colors I touch up any final imperfections and then I have this:

A happy apple! Now c'mon and smile. :)

Do drop in at the Dew Drop Inn

Fourteen years ago today I saw my first Tori Amos concert in Akron Ohio, The Dew Drop Inn Tour. I cannot believe it has been fourteen years. It seems like just yesterday. I was totally mesmerized by her and I was a fan before that show but that sealed the deal. I’ve been devoted ever since. Here’s the set list for that show:

Beauty Queen/Horses
Ohio/One Tin Soldier
Blood Roses
Cornflake Girl
Space Dog
Little Earthquakes
Happy Phantom
Lucky Ducky
Precious Things
Caught a Lite Sneeze
Me and a Gun

Encore 1

This Old Man/Putting the Damage On

Encore 2

Tear in Your Hand

So many good songs. Space Dog has always been one of my favorites, especially back then. I heard it and cried. I was so happy she did it. Butterfly and Alamo were beautiful. Talula was amazing. Everything was amazing. I’ve replayed that show over and over again in my head. I don’t ever want to forget.

"She's brand new now to you"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Illuminations Part II

Everyone that knows me knows that I love candles. I've blogged about Illuminations before. I'm still upset that they closed all their stores. A while back I was feeling sentimental and missing the simple fact that I could drive out to the suburbs and go to Illuminations. I decided to create a group on Facebook dedicated to Illuminations. I think I was really bored that day. As of this post it has 18 members. Whoohoo. The thing is, I cannot find any other brand of candles that smell as good as theirs did or another brand with as many unique scents. I go to Yankee Candle and granted, they have a few that smell good but literally just a few. And don't get me started on they way the Yankee jars look. No offense to any Yankee Candle lovers out there. It's just not my style. I know there are a lot of candle sites but I need to smell before I buy. I loved just being in an Illuminations store. It was dimly lit with candles and tea lights illuminating the store. Maybe I have a strong sentimental connection because I worked there. I associate scents with memories as many people do I'm sure. This is the time of year that I first moved to Chicago and started working at Illuminations. I see things and I can almost smell what I associate with that memory and vice versa.

So my mom just called me as I am sitting here typing. She's on her way to the Yankee Candle outlet store. Yankee bought out Illuminations a couple years before they closed. Some of the outlet stores still have a few Illuminations candles here and there. The last time I was visiting my parents we went to the outlet store and I stocked up on Mulled Wine candles. I think I have 7 of them stored away...shhhh. But I didn't get all they had. So mom and dad are on their way and she wanted to know how many I wanted. All of them pleeeeeeease.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I have to say I’m not a fan of eggplant. Yack! Honestly though, I haven’t had it many times so I don’t have much to compare. The last time I had it was at one of me and Rob’s favorite (and convenient) Thai places called Noodle Zone. Noodle Zone is BYOB. I love BYOB places. I wish every restaurant in Chicago was BYOB. It saves mucho dinero and you don’t ever have to worry about a restaurant not having your favorite drink. Anyway, they have a dish called basil eggplant. I finally tried it recently and was not a fan. No, no, no. I’m going to stick to the basil chicken or the green curry with chicken...Mmmmmm. If anyone out there in the blog reading world has any recipes that involve eggplant that do not taste disgusting (ha ha) please share. I’m willing to try new things and give it more of a chance. Meanwhile, isn't this the happiest eggplant you've ever seen?

The happiest eggplant ever

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oatmeal Cranberry Almond Cookies

Not only have I been on a scone kick lately but I've also been doing a lot of baking with cranberries. I found the recipe for these cookies here. I followed the recipe exactly but I think next time I make them I will do some experimenting with whole wheat flour and maybe some other ingredients. If you're looking for a low fat cookie then these are not for you. There is a lot of butter but let me tell you, they are so good!


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups oatmeal
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup roughly chopped almonds


1. In a bowl mix together flour, baking soda and salt.

2. In a large bowl with a mixer, mix the butter and sugars. Beat together until the mixture has doubled. Add eggs and vanilla and beat into the butter mixture.

3. Slowly beat the flour mixture in a little at a time until everything is combined. Add oatmeal, cranberries and chopped almonds then stir with a spoon.

4. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and drop rounded tablespoons of dough evenly on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place one baking sheet on the top rack of the oven and one in the middle. Let the cookies bake for 8 minutes then switch the two baking sheets. Once switched, bake for an additional 8-9 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Fun with chopped almonds :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Glazed Buttermilk Pumpkin Scones

I’ve really been on a scone kick lately. I recently made cranberry lemon scones that were really good and since fall is right around the corner I decided to make pumpkin scones. They came out pretty good but I think the recipe could be tweaked a bit to make them better. Here’s the recipe that I used. I’ll probably update it once I tweak it.

Printable Recipe


2 cups all purpose flour
8 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons cold butter (cut up in small chunks)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 large egg


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a layer of parchment paper. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a bowl and stir.

2. Throw in the chopped butter and mix together with a pastry blender until the consistency is ‘crumb-like’.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk and egg.

4. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients but do not over-stir.

5. Pour buttermilk mixture into flour mixture and stir only until it clumps together. Pour dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cover your hands with flour and knead the dough lightly-only once or twice. Re-flour surface if needed then flatten dough into a circle until it's about 1/2 inch thick. Cut dough into 8 equal pieces.

6. Brush the top of the scones with buttermilk then place on baking sheet with parchment paper.

7. Bake for 14-16 minutes until they are lightly browned. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack to cool.

Now my favorite part…the icing!


1 cup of powdered sugar (+ 1/2 additional cup if needed)
2 & 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Combine all ingredients until you reach a smooth consistency. If the glaze is too watery add more powdered sugar little by little. I was really low on powdered sugar when I made these so my glaze was really thin, almost watery. Not a good thing so next time I make them I'll make sure I have enough powdered sugar on hand.

2. Once the scones have cooled completely, coat the tops of the scones with the glaze. Allow glaze to harden then eat up!

My glaze-deprived scone...still yummy though!

Goes perfect with a chai tea latte!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


In just a little over two weeks it will officially be Autumn. It's truly one of my most favorite times of the year. It can be very bittersweet for me. I love the warm weather of the summer and the transition into fall is really spectacular. Crisp air, the smell of changing leaves, maple and pumpkin flavored baked goods. That is sweet to me! But the bitter part is the fact that winter is just around the corner. Yuck! Maybe on Thanksgiving I can eat myself into hibernation then wake up around April? If bears can do it why can't I? I could use a few extra months of sleep....

This pumpkin loves Autumn

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Zucchini Lasagna

This is a great way to use up zucchini if you have a lot of it. As I mentioned in this post, I had a lot of zucchini that I needed to do something with. Unfortunately at the moment (or maybe at all) I can't find the recipe I used for this so I can't post measurements. Grrr! Basically though, if you are familiar with making lasagna you can make it the way you normally do except you use zucchini slices instead of noodles. All you have to do is thinly slice the zucchini then boil the slices for about 3 minutes before assembling the lasagna. I absolutely loved this! And it was easier than using those annoyingly long lasagna noodles that always seem to fall apart when you boil them. I will be doing this again in the future!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Thrift Store Finds

Buying something from a thrift store always makes me feel good. Like I'm recycling someone Else's stuff. I feel good about the fact that what I'm buying isn't going to find a home in a landfill somewhere. Yesterday, I went to a thrift store called The Brown Elephant. The money they make reselling other people's stuff goes to a great cause so I'm all about supporting it. I was specifically looking for some plates to use for photographing food for this blog. Most of the plates I have at home are black and white and I wanted to find some things that are more colorful and visually appealing when photographed. I founds these three plates:

New-used plates, coming soon to a blog post near you

The two with the circles came in a set of four. The other 2 were purple and pink. Not colors that appeal to me at all so I just got the green and blue ones. Total for all three plates: $1.65! What a deal! I can't wait to go back in a few weeks and see what else I can find. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cranberry Lemon Scones

I know I promised the zucchini recipe but I'm super excited about scones right now so I'll post that recipe another time. I've never made scones before yesterday and it's now my new favorite thing to make. After making these my brain started thinking about all the endless possibilities of flavors. Rob came up with some too. He's a really good 'idea' guy and thinks of a lot of great combos of flavors that I can usually throw together in some sort of recipe. While making these he suggested pumpkin ones which is exactly what I was thinking too....at the exact same time! Wow. Maybe he's a mind reader too. So I made pumpkin ones just now. They're currently cooling and awaiting their sugar glaze. Mmmmmm! It's really cool outside and smells like fall. A perfect night for baking. If that recipe turns out well (which I hope it does) I will post soon. Anyway, back to the Cranberry Lemon Scones:

Printable Recipe


1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
1 large egg
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (cut up into little chunks)
2/3 cup chopped dried cranberries


1. In a small bowl whisk together buttermilk, egg and lemon zest.

2. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Add butter to flour mixer and combine using a pastry blender. When the consistency is course and 'crumb-like' fold in chopped cranberries.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

4. Pour buttermilk mixture into flour mixture and stir only until it clumps together. Pour dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cover your hands with flour and knead the dough lightly-only once or twice. Re-flour surface if needed then flatten dough into a circle until it's about 1/2 inch thick. Cut dough into 8 equal pieces.

5. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and evenly spread out the scones. Brush them with a light coat of buttermilk then sprinkle sugar evenly over scones. Bake for 13-15 minutes until they are lightly browned. Remove and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

These are great in the morning with a nice cup of coffee and the newspaper. I want to have them every morning!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Food Party Fun!

I've been meaning to blog about this for some time. I am borderline obsessed with this show right now. In fact my DVR consists almost solely of Food Party episodes. Rob and I watch them over and over again. When friends come over we make them watch it, we are spreading the Food Party love. It's hosted by Thu Tran and each episode is like a colorful cosmic journey with puppets, awesome recipes, a baguette that smoke cigarettes, a talking ice cream cone, a crazy corn stalker and so on. It's really almost impossible to explain, you just need to watch it. Currently the one I'm watching over and over again is the RV Episode. HYSTERICAL. I just can't get enough.

Here's a clip from the show. It's Ninja Dog in the kitchen with Thu. I really want Ninja Dog to stop by my house next time I have a lot of chopping to do:

chop chop chop

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Happy Zucchini

My neighbor recently gave Rob and I more zucchini. I love having such generous neighbors! Rob found a great recipe that used up all the zucchini that we had. I'll post the recipe in my next blog but until then, here's a happy zucchini...