Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween Party Menu

Sometime back in late August, Tom suggested that we have a Halloween party this year and that we should dress up as Hook and Emma from ABC's Once Upon A Time. In case you missed my previous posts where I've talked about it, it is my favorite television show.

I never thought I would be interested in a show about fairy tales (and I started watching right before the second season aired) but I am 100% completely hooked. (Pun intended, considering the actor who plays Captain Hook is my tv crush)

Anyway, I will always jump at the opportunity to host a party so I got to thinking about what Once-themed foods I could serve. And then I created a secret Pinterest board to store them on because I didn't want anyone else to steal my ideas.

But since the party is tomorrow and I plan on sharing recipes with you next week, here is the insanely large and incredibly detailed menu I created go along with the show.

Once Upon A Menu 

Appetizers:
Mr. Gold's Magic Wands 
Dwarf Dip 
Fairy Veggie Dip 

Main Dishes:
Emma's Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Granny's Lasagna
Charming's Shepherds Pie

Drinks:
Hook's Rum Punch
Archie's Grasshopper Shots
Ruby's Red Mixers
Mad Hatters Sweet Tea (non-alcoholic)

Desserts:
Henry's Hot Chocolate with Cinnamon Cupcakes
Regina's Apple Turnovers
Snow White's Poisoned (Caramel) Apples
Belle's Bookies 

If you've never watched Once Upon A Time, I highly suggest you head on over to Netflix and get yourself caught up quickly! The fourth season aired on September 28th, so depending on how well you Netflix-binge, you're not that far behind!

I've tried to briefly recap the show but I just can't. Too many interesting things happen so all I can do is summarize what each season contains.

Season One: believing in magic and breaking curses
Season Two: revenge and alliances
Season Three: Neverland and the Wicked Witch
Season Four: Frozen and never giving up hope on those that you love

But to tie it all into the menu, each of the foods relate to a character, whether in their fairytale form or their Storybrooke, Maine form. (Mr. Gold is Rumplestiltskin who has a wand, Prince Charming used to be a shepherd before be became a prince, Archie is Jiminy Cricket hence the grasshopper, Regina is the Evil Queen known for poisoning people with apples, etc.)

My goal is to get as many of these recipes blogged before Halloween if possible. Fingers crossed! But even if I don't, expect to see a lot of the above recipes shared here, most likely with a Once Upon A Time back story.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Turkey Picatta

A long time ago I had planned to make a recipe calling for capers. I picked up a little jar of them, stuck them in the fridge and then never thought about them again. I don't know whether the recipe got bumped in favor or something else or what happened, but I never opened that jar of capers.

It wasn't until some time later that I was cleaning out the fridge and I found the capers. Ever since then I had been on a mission to find some recipe using up some capers. Another extremely long stretch of time passed before I actually made this dish.


Turkey Picatta
Source: Taste of Home
Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
    • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 2 turkey cutlets
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 1/2 cup chicken broth
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. capers, drained
Directions:
1. Combine flour, salt and pepper together in a shallow dish. Dredge the turkey breasts through it and shake off the excess.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until hot.
3. Cook turkey for 2-3 minutes or each side or until cooked through. Transfer to a serving plate to keep warm.
4. Add the chicken broth to the skillet and stir with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits. Bring to a boil, cooking until the liquid has reduced by half.
5. Stir in the lemon juice, butter and capers. Return the turkey cutlets to the pan and cook until the butter has melted.
6. Serve, garnished with the chopped parsley.

I was not expecting Tom to like this at all but he said it was great and he wouldn't mind eating it again. I asked if he ate a caper, the reason why I thought he wouldn't like it, and he said yeah they were really good.

It's such a simple and quick dish and you can never go wrong with a good pan sauce! 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fried Green Tomatoes

For the majority of my life, Fred Green Tomatoes was nothing more than a movie title. I had no idea where one would find a green tomato nor why they would fry it. Let's just say I was less than interested.

About two years ago I started to see them popping up on menus in the appetizer section. Since my taste buds had expanded from the minuscule world, I did debate on ordering them a few times but always ended up choosing something else. Mainly because I'm cheap. $9 for an appetizer I may not like? No thanks, I'll spend that money on a drink instead.

Over the summer I noticed Wegman's selling green tomatoes and decided that I was finally going to buy one and make some fried green tomatoes, because for $1.58 a tomato, it was worth the chance that I wouldn't like it.


Fried Green Tomatoes
Source: Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
    • 1 large green tomato, sliced 1/4 inch rounds 
    • salt and pepper 
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup Panko 
    • pinch of cayenne
    • Ranch dressing, for serving 
    • oil, for frying
Directions:
1. Add enough oil to a large skillet to just cover the tomatoes. Heat over high heat until shimmering.
2. Liberally season both sides of the tomato with salt and pepper.
3. Set up three dishes, one with the egg, whisked, one with the flour and one with the Panko and cayenne combined.
4. Dip the tomato slice in the flour first, shake off the excess, the dip in the egg and finally into the Panko. Place on a plate and repeat with remaining tomato slices.
5. Carefully place each tomato slice in the oil (don't overcrowd) and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
6. Transfer to a paper towel to absorb excess grease. Serve with Ranch dressing. 

If you're wondering how I created my own recipe not having these before, it's because I knew they followed the standard flour-egg-breadcrumb technique and instead of looking up a recipe for measurements, I just went with my own. Buttermilk dipping sauce is most common, but I only had Ranch dressing and decided to go that route.

The taste and texture is interesting. It's like a tomato, but not. It's hot and crunchy and good, but I felt like something was missing. I'm now definitely going to try them in a restaurant to see if there was something I missed. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Paleo Crock Pot Cashew Chicken

Since I no longer have a predictable schedule, I really prefer to rely on my crock pot for dinners at least once a week. Since the idea of cauliflower rice just makes my brain feel like it's in a fog, I have shied away from a lot of Asian recipes after sticking to a Paleo diet.

I will occasionally have rice, and this is one of those occasions, but you could easily serve this on it's own with some vegetables on the side or with cauliflower rice.



Paleo Crock Pot Cashew Chicken 
Source: Preppy Paleo
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs, cut into pieces
    • 1/4 cup arrowroot starch (cornstarch if not following Paleo)
    • 1 tsp. pepper
    • 1 tbsp. olive or coconut oil
    • 1/2 cup coconut aminos (soy sauce if not following Paleo)
    • 4 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
    • 4 tbsp. tomato paste
    • 2 tbsp.  palm sugar (brown sugar if not following Paleo)
    • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
    • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 cup raw cashews
    • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
Directions:
1. Toss chicken pieces in a zip top bag with arrowroot starch and pepper until fully coated.
2. Heat a large skillet with olive or coconut oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook, for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned on all sides.
3. Transfer chicken to a crock pot.
4. Stir together coconut aminos, rice wine vinegar, tomato paste, palm sugar, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Divide in half. Pour half over the chicken and cook on low for 3-4 hours.
5. Stir in cashews before serving.
6. Plate, pouring additional sauce over chicken and garnish with green onions.



I opted to double the sauce portion of the recipe as there was not very much liquid left when I took the chicken from the crock pot. This was still a teensy bit dry so you could actually triple the sauce recipe and pour two parts of it over the chicken prior to cooking.

We both really enjoyed this dish and I had the leftovers for lunch during the week. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Improv Challenge: Paleo Pumpkin Almond Butter Cups

I feel like I was just making my last recipe for the Improv Challenge! Time sure is flying by. The ingredients for this month are chocolate and peanut butter.

I usually try to head as far as out of the box as possible when it comes to ingredients, but my friend Jess told me about this recipe and I decided that sometimes, you just need a simple, tasty recipe. I did opt to make this a Paleo friendly version, but I'll share both ways of making this with you.



Paleo Pumpkin Almond Butter Cups
Inspired by: So Fawned
Servings: 24
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Ingredients:
1 cup chocolate chips
5 tbsp. pumpkin puree
5 tbsp. almond butter
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1-2 tbsp. honey, optional

Directions:
1. Line a mini muffin pan with paper liners.
2. Pour 1/2 cup of chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second intervals, stirring with a spatula until smooth.
3. Drop 3/4 teaspoon sized dollops of chocolate into each paper liner, covering the bottom of the liner and making chocolate as soon as possible. Repeat until each liner has a chocolate bottom. Freeze for 5-10 minutes or until chocolate has hardened completely.
4. Meanwhile, whisk together pumpkin puree, almond butter, pumpkin pie spice and honey until fully combined.
5. Drop 1/2 teaspoon sized dollops of the pumpkin mixture on top of each piece of hardened chocolate. Repeat until all chocolate is covered.
6. Microwave the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate until smooth. Drop on top of the pumpkin almond butter mixture, covering entirely. Return to the freezer for 8-10 minutes until hardened.

Keep frozen or refrigerated until ready to serve.

To not make these Paleo, switch out the almond butter for smooth peanut butter and replace the optional honey with 2 tbsp. of sugar. Follow the same instructions.



Move on over Reese's these are a force to be reckoned with!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wholly Guacamole: Halloween Brain Dip & A GIVEAWAY!

As I mentioned yesterday, the nice people at Wholly Guacamole contacted me to see if I wanted to try out their new guacamole flavors. I couldn't decide between two different recipes so I decided to share both of them with you. Yesterday's Nacho Chicken Cups were made using the Hatch Chile flavor which is a combination of hatch chiles, jalapenos, cilantro, garlic and avocados.

For the recipe I'm sharing with you today, I used the Three Chile flavor, which is poblanos, hatch and jalapenos mixed with avocados and spices.

This recipe is also quick and easy to prepare. But more importantly, it's perfect for Halloween! Sure, you could easily sit out a bowl of prepared guacamole on a table with some tortilla chips scattered around and people would be just as happy. Or you could serve it inside some hollowed out cauliflower and then you have a dish that just screams "Halloween!"



Halloween Brain Dip
Source: various Pinterest pictures
Servings: 1 cup
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Ingredients:
    • 1 head cauliflower
    • 8 oz. Three Chile Wholly guacamole
    • other veggies, for dipping 
    • red squeeze food coloring, optional 
Directions:
1. Use a sharp knife to cut a circle out of the center of a head of cauliflower. Remove the outer green leaves from the bottom.
2. Fill the cauliflower with Three Chile guacamole.
3. Chop up the removed cauliflower and serve along with carrots, celery, broccoli, bell peppers, snow peas, etc. for dipping.
4. Optional: use the red food coloring to create "veins" in the brain. *You may also need toothpicks stuck into the cauliflower to hold it together.



Creepy, right? The Three Chile is also slightly spicy, so just keep that in mind for any young ones you might be serving this to, but I didn't think it was overall too spicy to serve to kids.


So guess what! I got email saying they loved yesterday's post (blush!) and wanted to know if I'd like to do something different for today  and offer a giveaway! Wholly Guacamole also wants you to check out their new flavors! I'm hosting a giveaway for the same items I received. That's:

Hatch Chile flavor
Three Chile flavor
tortilla chips
chip clip
squeeze avocado

Want to win? Just enter below through the Rafflecopter!  
If you cannot see the link above for Rafflecopter and are on Chrome, please try on another browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox). I'm working on finding a solution to this now. 

And this isn't all, they've also asked me to work with them on something in November so stay tuned for that! (I can't wait!)




Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this post, only the box of goodies shown in the picture below, in exchange for posting a recipe using a Wholly Guacamole new product. All thoughts are my own.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wholly Guacamole: Nacho Chicken Cups

About two weeks ago, I got a really cool email. The people at Wholly Guacamole had read my posts where I mentioned being a fan and they wanted to know if I was interested in trying out their two new flavors.

It took me approximately .008 seconds to decide the answer to that was a loud YES!

My box of awesome arrived about a week later, containing two samples of the new flavors:

Hatch Chile - a combination of Hass avocados (obviously), hatch chiles, jalapenos, cilantro and garlic.

Three Chile - hatch, jalapeno and poblano chiles mixed with avocados and spices.


Along with two samples of each flavor, the wonderfully people at Wholly Guacamole also sent me a bag of tortilla chips (quite necessary), a chip clip (anyone else lose these on the regular?), a squishy avocado (confession: I like this almost as much as the guac) and a handwritten note! The temptation not to immediately consume a packet of guac was harder than you'd think.

Now I had the daunting task of what to make. I actually couldn't decide between two, so please check back tomorrow for another recipe featuring Wholly Guacamole.

But today, I'm sharing these Nacho Chicken Cups which would be perfect to serve at a party since they're portable. (I only made one since Tom wasn't home, but its very easy to multiply this recipe.)


Nacho Chicken Cups
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
    • 1/8 cup shredded chicken 
    • 1/8 cup cheese dip
    • 1/8 cup salsa
    • 1/8 cup Hatch Chile Wholly Guacamole
    • tortilla chips
Directions:
1. Layer the chicken, cheese, salsa and guacamole in a small dish and top with tortilla chips.

How quickly could you whip up this for some unexpected house guests or before a football game? Super fast, right? I would suggest using a small cup (or not making them individual) as the 9 oz. ones I used were too big for my tortilla chips to get all the way down to the bottom. (I ended up dumping it all into a bowl after photographing.)


The hatch chile guac definitely has some kick to it, so you may want to go with a mild salsa if you're serving this to any young ones. I highly suggest you try out this flavor as soon as you can find it in stores. (As of Sunday, it wasn't in either of the stores I frequent yet)

And a super huge thanks to the people at Wholly Guacamole, for finding my blog among the gazillions out there with many more followers than me and giving me the opportunity to try out a new product!

Also - if I have any Paleo or Whole 30 readers out there - Wholly Guacamole is one of the few brands I have found that are both Paleo AND Whole 30 compliant. Check out their ingredients list - it's all recognizable and pronounceable!

Updated to add in the nutritional information since they so kindly sent that over to me!



Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this post, only the box of goodies shown in the first picture, in exchange for posting a recipe using a Wholly Guacamole new product. All thoughts are my own. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


I cannot believe this was the first pumpkin recipe I've made so far! Usually, despite the fact that fall leads to winter I try to embrace the season for the sake of blogging so I can share lots of tasty goodies with you. This year, I'm not quite feeling it and want to hang onto the warm weather for as long as possible. Pumpkins and apples can wait. (Not really since honey crisp season is almost over! ::cries::)

I had planned on another pumpkin cookie recipe that for some reason was just a complete fail (pumpkin lumps, anyone?) but I had promised Tom some cookies. I asked what he wanted me to try next and he said pumpkin chocolate chip. I can practically make chocolate chip cookies with my eyes closed, so I more than jumped at the opportunity to add some pumpkin flavor to a simple recipe.

I chose to make Sally's recipe because I usually go the crisp cookie route, but for these I definitely wanted a soft and chewy cookie.



Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Sally's Baking Addiction
Servings: 2 dozen
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Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • 6 tbsp. pumpkin puree
    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Directions:
1. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice together in a large bowl.
2. Melt the butter in a medium bowl, then whisk in the brown sugar, sugar, vanilla and pumpkin until fully combined.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until no lumps remain. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Turn out the dough onto a piece of wax paper, roll up and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Scoop out 1 1/2 tablespoon-sized pieces of dough, roll, then flatten slightly and place on the baking sheet. Cookies will spread a bit, so place at least 2 inches apart. Repeat with dough until both baking sheets are full.
7. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
8. Store in an airtight container.



The first day these cookies are really good, perfectly soft and chewy with a nice hint of pumpkin flavor weaving through your usual chocolate chip cookie taste. The second day, however, it's like the pumpkin in the cookies has multiplied overnight because the taste has significantly increased and now it overwhelms the chocolate chip portion, but in the best of ways.

Fair warning: you may want to double this recipe. These are so tasty you'll find yourself going back again and again. And again. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Weekly Menu 10/12 - 10/16

Another busy week ahead! At this rate the entire month of October is going to fly right on by before I even have a chance to savor all things pumpkin and apple!

It's a short week for me, work-wise, because of the family party we're having on Saturday. I took a vacation day so we could head down a day early and help with all of the food preparations. I'm still trying to decide on exactly what I should make. Currently, I'm leaning toward a stuffed olive appetizer, a buffalo chicken sandwich braid and cinnamon sugar pretzel bites.

Sunday: Paleo Taco Shepherd's Pie

Monday: Thai Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Tuesday: Shrimp Di Fravolo

Wednesday: Turkey Green Bean Casserole

Thursday: Orange-Glazed Pork, Cranberry Rice and Green Beans 

Breakfast for this week is a chicken, bacon, mushroom quiche and lunch is a sweet potato, spinach and turkey burger with a salad.

Has anyone else been having a hell of a time with their allergies? I'm blaming it on the weather, but I have felt like crap for a week now - constantly sneezing - and like a brick is currently resting on my nose. Ugh!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Weekend in Michigan

Last Friday Tom and I got on a plane to go to Michigan for his friend Andrew's wedding. Seeing as he flew out to Maryland for our wedding four years ago, it was only fitting we returned the favor.

I've never been to Michigan before and aside from knowing it would be colder and there would be lakes, I really had no idea what to expect. We landed in Grand Rapids, late, a little after 1 PM and Tom declared that bumpy flights follow me around. (This is quite possible) After standing in line for the rental car, we headed out to meet Calvin and go to a place that Tom picked out called Yesterdog.

They're known for their hot dogs and some famous people, like the president, have ate there. As someone who is not a huge hot dog fan, I didn't get the hype, but whatever the food was good. Grand Rapids is apparently not an ATT friendly city and I couldn't even get my phone to take pictures of the food. Sorry, you're going to have to do without pics of a hot dog.

We wandered around the few blocks with shops for a little bit, stopping in a coffee house and trying their caramel apple cider and a chocolate caramel oatmeal brownie cake thing. It was massive, sweet and delicious, but I was more impressed by the cider, which unfortunately did not photograph well. Two old bookstores (and a trip down memory lane for me) later we decided to head north (?) to Traverse City since it was closer to our final destination and where Calvin was meeting his family.

the chocolate caramel oatmeal thing and some old young adult books

If you haven't been to Michigan, let me just tell you that it is rural. I grew up in the suburbs. Street signs, sidewalks, everything you could really need within 30 minutes of where ever you were. Here, we sometimes spent more than 30 minutes on the interstate between towns. There's nothing but trees. Pretty trees since they were changing colors, but still, nothing to look at but trees.
Tom drove, I took pictures. (Those are raindrops on the windshield)

We arrived at the Traverse City mall and wandered around a bit. They have a Target attached to the mall. First time I ever saw that. With nothing else planned for the evening, we decided to check out a restaurant attached to the mall called Bagger Dave's.

They need to come to Maryland. Like now. I ordered an Orange Cooler, which is the Michigan version of an Orange Crush, using orange cream soda instead of orange juice. You need one of these in your life, let me tell you. This was followed up by a Ono Chicken burger, sans bun, which I was impressed to find they actually plated nicely for me. Along with my burger I opted for a side of their twisted mac and cheese. Tom got fries and a cinnamon-honey-sea-salt dipping sauce for me to try. Chicken = delicious. Mac and cheese = out of this freaking world. I need to find a copy of this recipe somehow. Dipping sauce = oh yeah, that is totally getting created as soon as I can. Imagining that over some waffles, dear lord.


Finally we decided to head on over to our final destination for the weekend, which was Frankfort. As soon as we received the Save the Date and booked the room, I immediately looked up this little tourist town right on Lake Michigan and Lake Betsy. Google informed me of a quaint Main Street filled with your usual shops and that it was a great location.

However, at 9 PM out of season, there isn't much around. The other resort towns we drove through to get to it were even less populated, looking more like ghost towns than anything else. Anyway, we checked into the hotel and found the room to be quite nice.

Saturday morning we ventured out in the cold and the rain so I could see the water. Is it still a beach if it's on a lake? I honestly don't know. Also, I totally get why they call it the "Great" Lakes now. I mean, I had heard they were some big lakes but I was still unprepared for what was in front of me. I snapped some pics and we rushed back to the room (against the wind) to get ready for the wedding.


We made a quick pit stop in town at the bakery (Crescent Bakery) to grab something quick to eat. The bakery was adorable. Like right out of a Main Street movie where everyone was friendly and you wanted to spend your days there sipping your coffee kind of adorable. Oh, and the food was delicious. We split a cinnamon sugar soft pretzel, which we started to inhale too quickly for me to remember to take a picture.

Halfway to the church we kept seeing these signs for a Scenic Turnout and were wondering what it was. Then we came down this hill and the most gorgeous image of sandy beaches jutting out into the ocean surrounded by trees was in front of us. We really, really should have stopped for pictures but didn't because we were worried about the time. I managed to take these while going by.


Minutes before arriving at the church the sky opened up and it began pouring. Add this to the already chilly 46 degrees with a wind chill and my phone was registering that it felt like 34 degrees. While Michigan is beautiful, it is WAY too cold of a state for me.  The church was gorgeous in that old vintage church type of way. The the ceremony was very nice and I loved her dress. (I think it was a Maggie Sottero like I wore)

A rare picture of me. 

Heading back to the hotel for a little bit before the cocktail hour and reception, I whined to Tom on the car ride home every time we passed a farm with a sign for honey crisp apples. As I've mentioned, they are by far my favorite apple and here I was in the state that created them, passing fruit right from the tree. (In the airport on the way home I found you can check bagged apples as a carry on. I may just have to plan my return trip to MI around honey crisp season.)

even more rare, pictures of Tom & I. See what happens why I try to take normal pics with him?

The reception took place at an arts hall less than a minute from our hotel. Had the weather not been chillier and pouring, I would have more than taken the opportunity to walk. The decor was simple, but really pretty. I'm jealous of the colors she used. We quickly made friends with our table mates who mostly went to college with Andrew. Then we took note of the sculpture above the head table. Which appeared to be a wooden vagina. No, I'm not kidding. Eventually someone went up to it and found that it was called "A Walk In The Woods  - What Do You See" and well, let's just say we didn't see a walk in the woods or a wooden sweet potato. Someone mentioned this to the photographer who didn't believe us then strolled over and came back with a horrified look on his face thanking us for pointing it out because he might need to do some photo-shopping in the pictures.

reception pictures

some other pics of us

After the reception we ended up in an impromptu hotel room after party with some of our table mates for a bit before we finally went to bed somewhere between 1 and 2 AM.

after party selfie

The weather still wasn't very nice on Sunday and we opted to just head back to the airport, not knowing if there would be any delays along the way. We did stop in the Crescent Bakery again for some more breakfast and I tried out one of their fall lattes. We got to the airport with 4 hours to spare but decided to just hang out there. Tom napped, I wrote fanfiction. Then our plane was delayed 15 minutes, which really turned out to be nothing at all since we only boarded 5 minutes after anticipated.

We landed, grabbed our bags and headed on home, getting home a little after 9:30 PM. Definitely not something I am used to doing. I usually live in the world of 'school nights' where I don't do anything after 4 PM on those days because I'm old. :) But for a whirlwind of a weekend, we had a great time. I got to visit a new state, see some cool stuff, attend a really nice wedding, and eat some great food. Can't ask for much more than that! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Smores Brownies

You can really, really never go wrong with a smores brownie. If you hadn't noticed, I have a bit of an obsession with smores.

Just a bit. ;)


Smores Brownies
Source: Cookaholic Wife
Servings: 16-18
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Ingredients:
    • 1 family size box brownie mix and necessary ingredients
    • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
    • 3 graham crackers, roughly crushed
    • 1 Hershey's chocolate bar, broken into individual pieces 
Directions:
1. Prepare brownies according to box (using the 9x13 pan) and bake until done.
2. Preheat the broiler.
3. Spread mini marshmallows on top of the baked brownies. Sprinkle crushed graham crackers on top and then decorate with the chocolate pieces.
4. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows are just golden brown. (You'll need to watch this as they go from browned to burnt in a matter of seconds).
5. Let brownies cool completely before cutting into squares.

It doesn't get much easier than that, does it? For such a simple recipe, everyone loves it and it doesn't take much time to make at all! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sausage and Peppers

This is such a non-recipe I feel kind of silly sharing it with you, but alas, here I am. With never knowing how busy my work schedule is going to be until the day of,  I need to plan for meals that are relatively quick to make.

This is one of the easiest ones and if you excluded the peppers and added in some hot dog rolls, you'd have a dinner Tom would (and has) made for himself many times. First, the amusing part. I don't really care for sausage. I'm not sure why, but I'm just generally not impressed overall with it. This confounds Tom, but there isn't really much I can do about it.

However, while I shy away from the breakfast sausage variety, I can handle it as a dinner option, especially if you add some Sriracha to it. No longer a big fan of bread, this is my preferred method of choice.


Sausage and Peppers
Source: Cookaholic Wife
Servings: 2
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Ingredients:

    • 4 Italian sausages, hot or mild
    • 3 bell peppers, thinly sliced
    • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 1 tbsp. Sriracha
    • salt and pepper, to taste


Directions:
1. Preheat a grill to high heat. Grill the sausages for 2 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add peppers and onions and cook, stirring frequently until softened and lightly browned. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Drizzle Sriracha over sausage and peppers.



Doesn't get much easier than that, does it? For a complete meal you could add some rice, fries, even a baked potato.


Monday, October 6, 2014

SRC: Sweet Potato Waffles

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned to The Pajama Chef which is written by Sarah. Looking through her recipes I realized that I had a fall-theme on the brain. I was instantly drawn to recipes like pumpkin biscuits and streuseled cran-apple sweet potato casserole. (The latter of which I think I'm going to add to my Thanksgiving menu)

Then I saw sweet potato waffles and I was intrigued. Sweet potatoes in a waffle? How did that even work? Did it taste like a sweet potato or a waffle? Or a hybrid? Could I make them and convince Tom to eat them and then be all "hahaha you ate sweet potatoes!"

I had to set about answering all of those questions.



Sweet Potato Waffles
Source: The Pajama Chef
Servings: 8 *
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Ingredients:
    • 1 large sweet potato
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 tbsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. salt 
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 - 1 1/4 cup almond milk (regular milk works too)
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar 
    • zest of a large orange 
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Directions:
1. Microwave the sweet potato (or bake in the oven if you have the time) until soft. Scoop out the insides of the potato, discarding the skin and place into a bowl. Mash with the tablespoon of butter.
2. Heat your waffle maker.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt.
4. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, brown sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and cinnamon.
5. Stir the sweet potato into the wet ingredients, then fold the wet ingredients into the dry until a batter is formed.
6. Ladle the batter onto the heated waffle maker and cook according to manufacturer directions.

To Freeze: Let waffles cool to room temperature before wrapping up and placing in a seal-able bag. To eat, microwave or put in the toaster oven. Thawing not necessary. 




I changed the recipe a little bit, adding the brown sugar to the mixture instead of using it as a topping on the waffle. I don't know if it my batter or what, but I needed just a bit more than the 1 cup of milk called for in the recipe. If you batter is too dense, add the additional liquid, a few tablespoons at a time and stir until it gets to the right consistency.

* I use the waffle plates for my Cuisinart Griddler which makes 4 4x3 (approximately) waffles. This batter filled my waffle plates twice. Had I really scooped out the entire bowl I probably could have gotten a 9th waffle from the batter.

I did debate on making the paleo version of these waffles (almond/coconut flour, almond/coconut milk, coconut palm sugar) but I thought I'd have a better likelihood of Tom trying it if I used all purpose and whole wheat flour. He is not a fan of coconut or almond flours at all.

To answer the questions, it didn't really taste like a sweet potato waffle, but it was obvious it wasn't your standard waffle as the texture was different and it was much denser. Oh and Tom asked right away if they were sweet potato waffles. I said yes and he continued eating, so win!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Weekly Menu 10/5 - 10/9

Menu planning so far in advance is always a challenge, however I've found when completing a Whole 30 or a Whole 37 or whatever I'm calling this crazy month of food, it really does help me out, but you can read more about that on Friday. 

I'll also try to share my weekend in Michigan with you next week, but it all really depends on how the week goes and if I end up terribly behind or not! 

Sunday: something in the Grand Rapids airport 

Monday: sausage and peppers, fries for Tom, baked sweet potato for me

Tuesday: honey ginger apple pork in the crock pot, green beans, sweet potatoes

Wednesday: bacon burgers, fries, salad

Thursday & Friday: left over pork 

My breakfast for the week is prosciutto egg cups and my lunch is the leftover kale, spinach and meatball soup from last week. 


Friday, October 3, 2014

Autumn Food Traditions for Raise.com

I was recently contacted by Raise.com to see if I would be interested in writing a post about my favorite autumn fall traditions. Fall is not my favorite season (simply because it is followed by winter, but I do love all the aspects of the season.)

Raise.com is a marketplace where you can buy and sell gift cards. Some gift cards are the physical card which is mailed to you, but they also offer egift cards which are available immediately as well as printable gift cards that you can take to the store with you.

They have gift cards for just about any store you can think of and the amounts vary by the seller. So you could buy a gift card to the local movie theater for $10 if you just wanted to buy popcorn and a drink or you could buy a $50 one and bring along a friend or two. Like many other money-saving sites, Raise also offers referral discounts if you refer a friend.

Now, the first thing I thought of that would combine gift cards and food is not something that we all think about all of the time. Last September I posted a two week menu for the SNAP Challenge. I missed it this year (which I absolutely hate) but this was the first thing I thought of. There are many gift cards to grocery stores and many people and families out there who do not have enough to eat. Think about what a difference you could make if you bought even one or two small gift cards to a local grocery store and then gave them to your local food pantry or church to give to a person or family in need.

But the point in this post is not to depress you, so while I would (and will) buy a gift card or two for the local food pantry, I'll share some happier thoughts with you now and share 3 of my favorite things about fall.

1. Honeycrisp Apples
These apples are without a doubt my favorite thing about fall. Seriously, they're better than anything else. They are this perfect combination of sweet and tart and the only bad thing about them is they have a terribly short season. If you don't look for them, they'll be in and out of the stores before you even know it. They also bake up rather nicely. No lie, I eat like one a day during the season. Not even joking.



Now how does that tie into gift cards? Well, you could purchase a gift card to a local grocery store to buy the apples. Or you could purchase a gift card to a Target, Walmart, Crate and Barrel or Bed Bath and Beyond either for a basket to hold the apples, plastic/glass containers to store your baked apple goods, or other bakeware like pie plates or ramekins for all the delicious apple dishes you made. 

2. Pumpkin
No, I am not talking about the Pumpkin Spice Lattes that some of you silly people started drinking in August (however, Raise offers Dunkin and Starbucks gift cards) but more about the canned pumpkin variety. I'll be honest, I hoard canned pumpkin. I think I have 7 cans of it in my pantry. 

So again, local grocery store gift cards would come in handy here, but also a gift card to Amazon could purchase you an awful lot of books about recipes using pumpkin. 

3. Outdoors
Almost as much as I love being outside in the summer, I love being outside in the fall (less bugs, for one). You get to see the leaves change colors, I have to finally put on closed-toed shoes, there are tons of farms and roadside stands with pumpkins, apples, produce and other fall-fun stuff. 
(not my picture, I found it on the good old Google)
Raise has gift cards to cover your sport goods stores (need a new football?), winter jackets from North Face or Columbia and even gift cards to the NFL Shop if you're in the market for a new jersey. Or if you're big on actual adventures, they also have gift cards to Disney, some airlines and even golf course and ski mountain ones. 

No matter what you need, this fall or any season, you can definitely find a gift card for it from Raise.com. Go sign up!