Cheddar-Chive Twice-Baked Potatoes

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Why bake a potato once when you can bake it twice? For years I never understood why people would spend the time to make a potato more than once when a baked potato was perfectly good all on its own. And then I had a twice baked potato filled with creamy cheesy gooeyness and I understood.

Because it is completely worth it to take the time to bake the potato twice when the filling is 100 times better. Since trying a twice-baked potato the first time, I've had a few varieties of it. One topped with crab dip (OMG DELICIOUS!), one with chicken, one with a strong garlic flavor and even one with an abundance of fresh herbs mixed in. While the crab dip topped one definitely takes the prize of most inventive, it is a bit expensive to make on a regular basis and I'm still pretty partial to just a good ol' regular twice-baked potato.



Cheddar-Chive Twice-Baked Potatoes
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 4 large potatoes
    • 3 oz. (Daisy) sour cream
    • 3 oz. (Sargento) shredded cheddar cheese
    • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 2 tsp. milk
    • fresh chives, chopped
    • salt and pepper
    • olive oil

Directions:
1. Scrub the potatoes and prick each with a fork. Wrap each in a paper towel and microwave for 11 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
3. When the potatoes are done, slice them in half lengthwise and set aside to let cool. Once cool enough to handle, carefully scoop out the potato filling, leaving enough around the skins that the potato won't fall apart.
4. Place the potato filling in a large bowl and add the sour cream, cheddar cheese, butter and milk. Stir until combined. Add in the chives and season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Drizzle the potato halves with olive oil. Brush to cover the whole skin and bake for 5 minutes or until lightly crispy. Turn the potato halves over and bake another 5 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven, stuff with the potato mixture and return to the oven for another 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot, garnished with additional fresh chives. 



Yum! These potatoes are definitely worth the extra work. I served these along side a grilled steak and with sauteed green beans.

Poblano & Cream Cheese Turkey Burgers

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I never thought I would like turkey burgers as much as I like beef burgers but slowly it is becoming the case. Make it a stuffed turkey burger and I'm excited. Tell me its stuffed with cream cheese and poblanos and I'm practically jumping off my chair in excitement.

Poblano peppers are awesome. They provide a nice spicy kick that a bell pepper is missing but don't pack the heat punch of a jalapeno. In my humble cooking opinion, poblanos are one of the best peppers to cook with if you're cooking for a crowd with mixed tastes.



Poblano and Cream Cheese Stuffed Turkey Burgers
Barely Adapted from: The Boys Made Me Do It, adapted from Becoming Pigzilla
Servings: 4 burgers
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. ground turkey
    • 1 poblano pepper, diced
    • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
    • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs 
    • 4 oz. light cream cheese, softened
    • 4 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce   
    • salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Combine the turkey, pepper, onion, bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Form into 4 large balls and make a large indent in the patty with your thumb.
2. Add 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese to the indent and mold the patty around the cheese. Repeat with remaining burgers.
3. Cook burgers on the grill for 7-10 minutes or until cooked through.

Because I'm a cheese addict and I wanted to increase the heat just a little bit, I served these burgers with a spicy white queso sauce, lettuce and tomato only on a grilled bun. While I had a little bit of trouble getting the burgers to hold together while cooking, the taste more than makes up for the messiness or picture. 

Weekly Menu 7/30 - 8/2

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This post is awkward. You're reading it on Sunday but because I'm going to be at the beach on Sunday I'm posting this Thursday morning. I feel like I'm in some type of weird time lapse. It's hard to write about the future when you're currently in the past.

So I guess I'll just be that asshole that brags to you about the beach. Thursday night after work I'm leaving with one of my friends go to stay at my aunt's house in Bethany. We have no real plans scheduled for our mini vacation but there are just so many things I want to do.

We definitely need to head into Ocean City one day. It's been much too long since I've wandered up and down the boardwalk people watching the crazies and eating some of the best junk food ever. If you haven't been to the Ocean City, MD boardwalk, I highly suggest you go and stop on Dorchester Street. There you will find the Polish Water Ice which is some of the best water ice you'll ever eat in your entire life. A Polish Water Ice can only be balanced out by their neighbor, The Wrapper. The Wrapper sells just about anything you can think of baked inside a soft pretzel log. To say that I survived on Polish Water Ice and Wrappers during my senior week at the beach would be an understatement.

My friend has an appointment for a tattoo on Saturday in Rehoboth so I'm thinking we'll do some shopping at the outlets. Its been a long time since I've been to more than just the northern-most outlet in Rehoboth. Should be an interesting day for my wallet. I know of two kitchen stores alone. Uh oh.

Other than some time at the beach and a night out, I'm thinking we're mostly just going to relax. The weather better be nice! I didn't get to spend any time at the pool last weekend because Mother Nature and I got into an argument about when the sun should come out and she won. :(

Monday - Chiles Rellenos

Tuesday - Mango-Pineapple Chicken Stir Fry

Wednesday - Garlic Parsley Shrimp

Thursday - Sesame Crusted Beef with Roasted Potatoes and Fried Sweet Corn  

I don't know if I'll be home early enough on Monday to do any baking. I have some simple recipes I want to try out so we'll just have to see.


Blogger's Choice Recipe Swap: Alice Springs Chicken

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As a kid I was EXTREMELY picky when it came to food. I think my family is still in shock that picky little Nichole actually has a food blog and she tries new things and ::gasp:: likes them! I believe I became that way  mostly from my mom who is definitely picky.  Among many other things the woman doesn't like Mexican food or cheese! Blasphemy!

I'm pretty sure I'm probably the most adventurous eater in my family now. But the first time that I went to Outback Steak House with my friends, I was still a pretty picky eater. To me, Outback = steak. I was first confused that one of my friends would choose to order chicken over steak but even more perplexed at the ingredients put on the chicken. At that point I was still not a fan of mushrooms and as I hated breaded chicken tenders I saw no use to every try a honey mustard sauce. Bacon, chicken and cheese were okay but I also had no interest in combing the three.

Can you believe that!?! As I mix together random ingredients now and try out new meals without recipes to follow, it truly baffles me that I was ever that picky about food. My taste buds cry when I think of all of the delicious ingredients and combinations I missed out on.

Which is why it didn't take me very long to choose a recipe for my Blogger's Choice swap. I was assigned Heather's blog and I spent less than 5 minutes clicking through recipes before I found the one for Alice Springs Chicken and was instantly reminded of that day in Outback. There was no turning back now, I was finally going to try this recipe!



Alice Springs Chicken
Source: Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks, adapted from Everyday Food
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 1/3 cup honey
    • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • 4 slices bacon, cooked
    • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
    • 2 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped
    • salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Combine the honey, Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice together in a bowl. Place the chicken breasts in a sealable bag and pour in half of the marinade. Toss to coat and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Spray a skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the chicken breasts in the skillet, discarding the marinade and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until it is lightly browned.
4. Remove the chicken from the skillet and place into the prepared baking dish. Brush half of the remaining marinade over the chicken, sprinkle with the cheese and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through.
5. Meanwhile, lower the heat to medium-low, add more cooking spray if needed, and add the mushrooms to the pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat, but keep warm.
6. Remove the chicken from the oven. Plate the chicken and drizzle the remaining marinade over each breast. Top each breast with a slice of bacon, a generous scoop of mushrooms and a sprinkling of parsley.



I honestly can't believe what I was missing all those years. This is delicious! I was concerned Tom wouldn't like it because he's not a honey mustard fan but ironically he asked me what the sauce was because "its really good." (Hrrrumph!)

I changed the cooking directions for this a little bit; originally you would cook the bacon in the skillet after the mushrooms and place all of that on top of the chicken before putting it in the oven; but for purely aesthetic reasons I decided to only top the chicken with cheese before baking. I think it worked out pretty well! Thanks for a great dish Heather! :-)

Banana Coconut & Pineapple Muffins

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You're sitting in a beach chair on pristine white sand as fine as confectioner's sugar. Warm turquoise water laps gently at your toes. Your eyes are closed but you feel the sun on your face and hear the faint rustle of the wind going through the leaves of a palm tree filled with coconuts. The sweet scent of pineapple wafts through the air. 

 That sounds absolutely amazing right? Well that is the mental image I conjured up after reading the name of these muffins. They just invoke a tropical paradise feeling. What could be better for breakfast than your own bite of tropical paradise? Especially if you spend your Monday through Friday mornings like me, going to work, and not sitting on the beach mentioned above you'll definitely take your slice of paradise in any form you can get.



Banana Coconut & Pineapple Muffins
Source: For the Love of Cooking, adapted from Week of Menus
Servings: 12 muffins
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Ingredients:
    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt 
    • 2 large, ripe bananas, mashed
    • 3/4 cup shredded coconut, plus more for sprinkling
    • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar and vanilla. Add the butter and mix until combined.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
4. Add the bananas, 3/4 cup of coconut and pineapple to the egg mixture. Fold gently. Slowly fold in the flour mixture until combined and no large flour lumps remain.
5. Divide the batter between the muffin tin, filling about 2/3 of the way full. Sprinkle the tops with additional shredded coconut. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until baked through.
6. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Now these are tasty and the perfect bite of your own little tropical paradise. While I couldn't pretend I was sitting on the beach while eating these, I was at least able to daydream that I was. :-)

Sriracha Mac and Cheese

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Every once in a while I remember that I have a ton of cookbooks with those little Post-It flags marking the recipes that I want to make. I have a horrible habit of just using magazines, the internet or my reader and forgetting all about my shelf of cookbooks.

I'd been craving Sriracha and I needed a meatless recipe for my weekly menu. I immediately remembered a mac and cheese recipe I read in The Sriracha Cookbook and knew it would be perfect to make.



Sriracha Mac and Cheese
Source: The Sriracha Cookbook
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. elbow macaroni
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, divided
    • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 cups milk
    • 1 cup cream
    • 1 tsp. dry mustard
    • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 cup Sriracha
    • 1 1/2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
    • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
    • salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray casserole dishes or ramekins with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add elbows and cook according to package directions for al dente. Drain and set aside.
3. Place 4 tbsp. of the unsalted butter in a microwave-safe dish. Cover with a paper towel and microwave for 30-45 seconds or until butter has melted. Stir in the Panko. Set aside.
4. Melt the remaining 4 tbsp. of butter in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Then add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes while stirring constantly.
5. Slowly whisk in the milk then the cream. Stir in the mustard and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the Sriracha. Once combined add in the cheeses while stirring until melted. Return to low heat if necessary to continue melting cheese.
7. Add the drained pasta to the cheese mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to the casserole dishes or ramekins. Sprinkle with the buttered breadcrumbs.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I found this to be a little bit too liquidy for my mac and cheese liking. I think using only 2 cups of milk/cream would have been just right. I plan to try this again with 1 cup cream and 1 cup milk. The spice factor was definitely there. If you're not a huge spice fan, I'd reduce the Sriracha by at least half.

Cherry & Brownie Bite Ice Cream

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Confession: While my ice cream maker whipped this together I made a list of 20 different flavors of ice cream that I want to make. Yes, twenty. And they include ones such as cake batter, s'mores, apple pie, pumpkin, sweet corn, egg nog and nutella swirl.

So  now I need you to hold me accountable.

No, not to make the different ice creams, that is going to happen regardless. I need you to hold me accountable to go the gym because with that type of line up I'm NEVER going to lose weight!

This ice cream was all Tom's idea which really isn't much of a surprise. He loves just about chocolate and just about anything cherry flavored so combining the two is right up his alley. I did a brief search for a recipe and didn't come up with one, so I decided to wing it and see what would happen.



Cherry & Brownie Bite Ice Cream
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 2 pints
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Ingredients: 
    • 2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups brownie crumbles
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 cup half and half
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine the heavy cream and half-and-half. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla until incorporated. Add the fresh cherries and stir until combined.
2. Pour into a plastic container with a lid and refrigerate for 4 hours.
3. Prepare according to ice cream maker instructions, adding the brownie curmbles in the last 2-3 minutes of processing. Transfer to a container with a lid and refrigerate for 6-8 hours or until chilled through.

This is really good! I wish the brownie bits would have stayed together a bit more, but I think I'd need to freeze them before adding them to the ice cream for that to happen. The only other issue I have with this ice cream is the color isn't very pretty. Some cherry juice or food dye would probably help out quite a bit to get more of a pink color than this pinky-brown color I ended up with. 


Wonton Pot Stickers with Soy Reduction

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I remember two years ago when it was really hard to find ground anything other than beef in the grocery stores, even the ones with a large selection. At that time I wasn't making turkey burgers because I had a horrible experience with turkey chili but there was some recipe Tom wanted me to make that called for ground veal and ground pork.

Neither were sold in three separate grocery stores that I checked. Now ground turkey and ground chicken are part of a 5 for $20 weekly deal at my local store. The ground pork hangs out right next to it. I wonder what happened to cause these changes. Did that many people really start changing their eating habits and start requesting healthier ground meats? Or did the grocery stores decide ground meats were the best ways to use up the remaining meat scraps they had left over? I'm very curious to know. What do you think?

None of that really has anything to do with this recipe other than how incredibly easy it was to find ground pork.



Wonton Pot Stickers with Soy Reduction
Source: Taste of Home, October 2011
Yield: 20 pot stickers
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. ground pork
    • 1 small head bok choy, finely chopped
    • 1 tbsp. green onion, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
    • 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
    • 1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 20 wonton wrappers
    • water
Sauce Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 cup mirin
    • 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 2 fresh basil leaves 

 Directions:
1. Combine the wonton ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Place 1 tsp. of the mixture in the center of each wonton wrapper.
2. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water and press ends upward together to seal into a little pouch. Repeat with remaining mixture. Set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, combine the balsamic vinegar, mirin and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture has reduced by half. Remove from the heat, add the basil leaves and cover. Steep for 2 minutes. Discard the basil leaves and set sauce aside to cool slightly.
4. Place wontons in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water. Cover, and steam for 12-14 minutes. Serve hot with sauce.

*Cooked pot stickers and sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months.* 

I really need to invest in a larger steamer basket. I only have a small one that could hold maybe 6 wontons at a time. It took forever to steam them all but it was so worth it in the end. The pot stickers were absolutely delicious and the sauce was practically drinkable. It was the perfect mixture of sweet and salty that went together so well with the pork and bok choy. I want to make these again for the next party or holiday I host!

Weekly Menu 7/22 - 7/25

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It's a short menu this week because I'm having a girls weekend at the beach with my friend Shannon.We're going down Thursday night after work and staying with my aunt in Bethany Beach. I'm not sure yet if we'll come home Sunday night or Monday morning. It all depends on the weather.

It's been years since I've went on vacation with one of my friends. I think the last time I went I was 19 which was 8 years ago. Ugh, I'm getting old! We don't have any real plans for the weekend other than hanging out at the beach, going to the boardwalk and going out one night. I'm ready!

Sunday - Blogger's Choice Recipe Swap with Baked Potatoes and Green Beans

Monday - Mexican Burgers with Garlic Corn Rice 

Tuesday - Margherita Pizza

Wednesday - Mango-Pineapple Chicken Stir Fry 

Yesterday the cats decided to wake me up at 6:30. I debated on going back to bed but found that Tom had sprawled out sideways taking up the whole bed, so with nothing better to do, I started cleaning. To make it easier on myself, I decided I would do a deep clean every 2 months. Today ended up being the first time. The slipcovers were washed, every knick knack and picture was removed from their home and thoroughly dusted. The bookshelf and cookshelf (a bookshelf holding my extra kitchen stuff) were reorganized for maximum efficiency. The fridge and freezer were emptied and cleaned. The tops of the washer and dryer were wiped off. Everything was removed from the desk, wiped down and then the desk was cleaned. All of the bedding was washed. Everything on the shelves in my closet out to be refolded.

Somewhere around 11:30 I mentioned to Tom that I had already been cleaning for 5 hours. It didn't seem nearly that long, but he said that I should get something for it. I looked at him blankly and he said "We could go to Don Pablo's today..."

SCORE! Ever since my aunt brought a queso to my mom's party on the 7th I've wanted some Mexican food. Along with the queso, I had chipotle pork tacos and white sangria. Yum! I also noticed that Mondays are Fajitas for 2 for $20 and Tuesday is All You Can Eat Tacos for $8. I have a feeling lots of Mexican food will be in my near future.

So other than the dinners listed above, I'm making two types of ice cream this week, a peach and raspberry pie and some brownies.

Garden Ranch Turkey Burgers

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I'm really enjoying living closer to everyone and everything. My mom's house is only about 40 minutes away now (as opposed to 1.5 hours previously) and I'm also very close to where my aunt lives and where my cousin works. My cousin and her boyfriend work overnight and typically stop at her mom's house in the morning.

With the great weather and proximity, we've started going to my mom's house to hang out by the pool much more frequently than in previous summers. On the days where Tom has plans or just doesn't feel like hanging out by the pool, I can easily ride down with my aunt or cousin. Each time we go, I try to come up with something new to bring. I'm always looking for new guinea pig(s) since I'm sure Tom gets tired of it sometimes.

While at the farmer's market, I noticed the price for ground turkey was cheaper there than it is in the store. Usually this is the other way around when it comes to meats so I purchased 4 lbs. of ground turkey. On Friday night I was cleaning out the fridge and trying to figure out what to take to my moms. Half of a zucchini and a bag of baby carrots stood out to me and this recipe was born.



Garden Ranch Turkey Burgers
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Yield: 6 burgers
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. ground turkey
    • 1/4 cup zucchini, diced
    • 1/4 cup carrots, diced
    • 1/4 cup onion, diced
    • 1/8-1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
    • 2 tbsp. Ranch dressing
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 6 slices provolone cheese
Directions:
1. Combine all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, starting with 1/8 cup of Panko. If the mixture is too wet, add the additional Panko. Form into 6 patties.
2. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before cooking.
3. Prepare grill and cook for 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through. Top with cheese and continue to cook until cheese has melted.

I topped my burger with lettuce, tomato and some ranch dressing. This reminded me of taking a bite of salad, just in burger form. If only I could convince Tom to eat zucchini I'd be making these on a regular basis.

Improv Challenge: Smoky Corn Salad

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Corn and butter. Butter and corn. There's got to be a couple hundred different recipes you can make with those two ingredients when you expand your mind past just frozen corn or corn on the cob and include things like cornmeal or butter flavoring. The possibilities are endless. Which is why I had such a hard time coming up with what to make for this Improv Challenge.

Never heard of the Improv Challenge? Blasphemy! To find out more about it, click on Kristen's blog, Frugal Antics of Harried Homemaker.  And then join in on the fun next month when we tomatoes and peppers as our ingredients. Please?

No lie, I immediately thought of about 10 different recipes I could make with these two ingredients. I seriously debated on making corn ice cream but my ice cream maker was otherwise engaged so I had to choose something else. Don't worry though, if you're interested in corn ice cream I promise I'm going to make it soon!

Corn salads are one of my favorite things to make in the summer. They pair so nicely with everything and are usually so quick to whip together that its the perfect warm or cold salad to serve with dinner to bring to a cookout!



Smoky Corn Salad
Source: Taste of Home, June/July 2012
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
5 ears of corn, shucked
1 red pepper, diced
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
 
Directions:
1. Slice the kernels off the ears of corn.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the corn and red pepper and cook for 8-10 minutes or until soft.
3. Transfer to a large bowl, squeeze lime juice the corn and peppers. Sprinkle with salt and chipotle chili powder. Add chopped cilantro. Toss to coat.
4. Serve warm or chilled.

This is one of those side dishes that I wouldn't need to share with anyone and could just eat up the whole bowl myself. Believe me, I thought about it. The chili powder provides the smoky flavor and pairs really nicely with the natural sweetness or the corn and pepper. I highly recommend you make this right away!

Minny's Chocolate Pie

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Have you read the book or watched the movie The Help? In the story, Minny is known for her delicious chocolate pie that everyone thinks is to-die-for. However, when Hilly fires Minny, Minny adds a little something extra and unsavory to her chocolate pie before delivering it to Hilly.

I've never had chocolate pie. Hell, until the book I'd never heard of chocolate pie. But after reading what Minny did to the pie, well it made me hesitate for quite some time before making it. Over the weekend I really wanted something chocolate. We had candy in the fridge but that wasn't what I wanted. I flipped through my recipe binder and my eyes landed on this recipe and I knew it was finally time to put the eww factor behind me and whip up this pie.



Minny's Chocolate Pie
Source: Sweetie Petitti
Yield: 1 pie
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Ingredients:
    • 1 refrigerated pie crust
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/4 tsp. unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 5 oz. evaporated milk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • whipped cream, for serving 

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Place the pie crust into a 9" pie pan. Crimp the edges.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the sugar, cocoa powder and butter. Mix until just combined then add in the eggs, one at a time and beat on low speed for 3 minutes.
3. Add the salt, evaporated milk and vanilla. Mix until combined.
4. Pour the filling into the prepared pie pan and bake for 35-45 minutes or until the filling is slightly set in the middle.
5. Cool completely before serving with a large dollop of whipped cream.

This pie is incredibly easy to whip together. No wonder Minny made it so often! Its creamy, silky, smooth delicious chocolate gooeyness that completely curbed my chocolate craving.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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After making the salty caramel ice cream I knew I couldn't put my ice cream maker back into her pretty little box and stick her on the shelf for months to come. It was too easy to make ice cream that tasted like homemade. Granted, it takes more time than running out to your local store and picking up a container but knowing I had a batch of fresh homemade ice cream chilling in the freezer makes me happy.

My mom had an after-the-fourth Fourth of July party on the 7th. Everyone was bringing something and I was told to make my fruit salsa. Which is fine and dandy, but I could hardly go to a party without introducing everyone to something new that I made. And since its been stupidly hot and humid around here lately, some nice vanilla ice cream would be perfect to take to a party being held poolside, right?



Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Source: All Recipes
Yield: 5 cups
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups half-and-half
    • 2 cups whipping cream
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Directions:
1. Combine the half-and-half and whipping cream together in a large bowl. Whisk in the sugar until combined. Add the vanilla seeds. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
2. Prepare according to ice cream maker directions.
3. Freeze for 8 hours or overnight.

It doesn't get much easier than that. I brought this to my moms party with two boxes of cake cones, sprinkles, caramel sauce and hot fudge sauce. I could not get over how much this tasted just like the store-bought vanilla ice cream! Now we really need to invest in a deep freezer (and a bunch more plastic containers!) because I have absolutely no interest in stopping this ice cream making addiction I have going on.

Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches

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You know that when I participate in the recipe swaps its with some lovely ladies from a cooking board I spend too much a lot of time on, right? Well on the day you see this go live on my blog, everyone else who participated is also posting their recipe as well and a few days later our awesome host Sarah compiles everything together and does a recap of the recipes for the swap. So you really don't get just one recipe to make since I've yet to have participated in a swap where I didn't immediately print out some recipes that the other participants have made.

Such was the case with this sandwich. Apparently I'm not the only one who thought it looked abso-freaking-lutely delicious considering 7 of us put it on our menus for the following week. Now that's saying something!



Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches
Source: So Tasty, So Yummy
Servings: 6 sandwiches
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Ingredients:
    • 6 thin chicken cutlets, cut in half
    • 1 large can pineapple rings
    • 6 slices provolone cheese
    • 6 hamburger buns
    • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
    • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 3 tsp. Dijon mustard

Directions:
1. Whisk together the juice from the canned pineapple, soy sauce, brown sugar and Dijon mustard in a container with a lid. Add the chicken and marinate overnight.
2. Prepare your grill. Discard marinade and cook the chicken for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through. Add the cheese slices to the chicken and let melt. Grill the pineapple on both sides.
3. Place each chicken cutlet on a bun and top with 1-2 pineapple rings.

Holy crap these were as delicious as they look! You don't need any condiments on this sandwich at all. The juice of the pineapple combined with the saltiness of the soy sauce makes the chicken incredibly juicy and flavorful. And for something that is so simple to make, I can see these sandwiches on the menu quite often in the future!

Weekly Menu & National Ice Cream Day

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I've become best friends with my ice cream maker. Seriously. Since I made the salty caramel ice cream, I haven't put the maker back into her box yet. I followed up the salty caramel ice cream with vanilla bean ice cream which was absolutely incredible with hot fudge and sprinkles. (Check back on Tuesday to read the super-easy vanilla ice cream!)

I asked Tom what type of ice cream he wanted me to make next, and in usual Tom fashion he suggested something I doubt I would have ever thought of on my own. Cherry ice cream with brownie pieces mixed in. Then I read that its National Ice Cream Month and Ronald Reagan coined the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream day. So I'm going to say that its only slightly fitting that I managed to become best friends with my ice cream maker in the month of ice cream. And don't worry, I'm not going to stop at the end of July. I'm pretty sure I'll be standing in front of the freezer patiently waiting for my ice cream to freeze in the middle of December.

So, onto the menu this week.

Sunday - Grilled Steaks with Twice Baked Potatoes and Smokey Corn Salsa

Monday - Maryland Crab Soup

Tuesday - Italian Sausages and Peppers with Cheddar-Chive Fries

Wednesday - Eggplant Parmesan

Thursday - Crock Pot Honey-Sesame Chicken over Brown Rice with Green Beans 

Along with the cherry brownie bite ice cream I'm thinking of whipping up something with blueberries as well as overnight oats for breakfast this week. And lunch will be chicken ceasar pitas. 

The Night I Threw Pasta Across the Kitchen

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Before I started cooking on a frequent basis, I used to look at different blogs with their gorgeous pictures of food and I got this silly thought in my head that people who cook on a regular basis must never have bad days in the kitchen. They wouldn't have a boiling pot overflow all over their stove or accidentally cut or burn themselves. They just floated around in this happy world of a perfect kitchen with perfect recipes.

Silly right? But if you've ever thought anything like this I figure I should tell you that we ALL have days in the kitchen where we just wonder if we should have stayed in bed. Wanna hear a story?

Last night I met up with some friends and we went to a bar in my hometown for karaoke. I had two glasses of wine, which in all reality means I should have been perfectly fine today, but since I didn't eat very much last night I just felt kinda blah with a headache.

Determined to ignore the semi-hangover, I went to Target this morning to get a prescription refilled. While waiting, I inevitably added a ton of crap to my basket one of which included a cute little serving bowl that would be perfect for pasta.

Fast forward 8 hours or so and I feel pretty much back to my old self but I'm craving carbs. I don't know why, but alcohol always makes me want carbs. Thinking of my new pretty bowl that just went through the dishwasher, I figure I'll make some buttered garlic noodles and serve them in the bowl so I can see just how a pasta dish will look in it.

Finally my dish is prepared and I'm getting ready to go eat it when I realize there is a still a small amount of butter that hadn't melted. So I put the bowl in the microwave for a few seconds to melt it. I get the bowl out, gingerly holding it since I don't know if its going to be hot or not and somehow while attempting to place the bowl on the counter, my arm grazes the heating element that is still pretty warm from boiling the noodles. My reaction was of course to let go of the bowl and jerk back. But I didn't completely let go of the bowl as I jerked back which resulted in me hurling the pasta and bowl across my kitchen. Which impressively shattered into about 1,000 pieces. GRR!

I'm pretty sure only a blogger or food photographer would be more pissed at breaking a bowl they've had for less than 12 hours than burning their arm. Granted, I barely grazed the heating element so I don't have a real burn, it just shocked me more than anything. But I am absolutely livid at breaking the bowl. The buttered noodles look perfect in it and I couldn't wait to make a pasta dish later this week and photograph it in that bowl.

So I guess I'm going back to Target sometime this week to pick up another bowl.

Have you had a bad day in the kitchen recently? Commiserate with me in the comments section!


Recipe Swap: Sauceless Garden Lasagna

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Dun Dun Dun. It's Friday the Thirteenth!

Do you believe any of the superstitions that go along with today? I have no real issues with black cats crossing my path but I do attempt to avoid things like walking under ladders or breaking mirrors. I figure its mostly common sense but on a day where people believe things are designated to go wrong, you may as well avoid the obvious, right?

Actually, no that I think about it, there is one superstition that I avoid. Have you heard of Bloody Mary (no, not the drink) or Black Aggie? Supposedly if you stand alone in a bathroom with the light off and say her name three times while spinning around she'll appear in your mirror. As a relatively sane-minded twenty-seven year old, do I really believe that she will appear in my mirror? No, not necessarily but I don't see any reason to chance something like that.

 However, I will confess to you that I fully 100% believe that the ankle grabber lives under the bed. Unless you have a platform bed. Then he shares the closet with the boogeyman. But seriously, I can't help but to do a running leap into bed after turning off a light across the room. And my feet must remained covered at all times during the night even if its 100 degrees. Because you see, if the ankle grabber even senses that your ankles aren't covered, he's going to grab them and drag you under the bed. I don't know how two full-sized adults would fit under a bed, but that is besides the point, okay?

Now what does this have to do with a vegetarian recipe swap? Absolutely nothing. It just gave me a chance to share something random with you. Anyway, when I received this recipe my immediately thoughts were "awesome!" and "damn it!" I'm hoping the awesome is pretty self-explanatory but the damn it is because I knew no amount of bribing could convince Tom to even try this. He hates zucchini and tomatoes. So I just decided to scale the recipe down to 2 servings instead.



Sauceless Garden Lasagna
Source: Christine's Kitchen Chronicles as seen on All Recipes
Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
    • 1 portobello mushroom, sliced
    • 1/2 zucchini, thinly sliced
    • 1 cup spinach, roughly chopped
    • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. fresh oregano
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp. sugar
    • 3-4 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
    • 3 no-boil lasagna noodles
    • 1 large Roma tomato, thinly sliced
    • salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Spray an 8x4 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Combine the mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, red onion, garlic, basil and oregano together in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Toss to coat.
3. Place a lasagna noodle in the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with 1/3 of the tomato slices then 1/3 of the vegetable mixture. Place a few mozzarella slices on top. Repeat, making the top layer the vegetable mixture with mozzarella on top.
4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tom really has no idea what he is missing. This smelled incredible the entire time it was cooking and it tasted even better. I absolutely loved it. Now I just need to figure out what to do with Tom on the nights I want to make this. I'm thinking a bowl of cereal should suffice. :-)

Breakfast Granola

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This is one of those recipes that I've made for quite some time and I can't figure out why I never blogged about it before. As I've mentioned a hundred or so times, I am always looking for something different to make for breakfast because I eat my breakfast at work every day.

When I came across this granola recipe I immediately thought of all of the things I could do with it aside from making it with the pears as stated in the original recipe. I eat this at least once a month with berries and mixed in with vanilla yogurt.



Breakfast Granola
Source: Annie's Eats
Servings: 2 cups
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
    • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
    • 1/4 cup flax seeds
    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp. honey
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:
1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar, honey, vanilla and salt over medium heat.
2. Meanwhile, combine the oats, pecans and flax seed in a large bowl.
3. Preheat the oven to 300 and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
4. Pour the butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir until fully incorporated. Spread the oats out on the silpat or parchment paper into a even layer.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring once to ensure the oats are browning evenly.
6. Let cool to room temperature before serving or transferring to a container for storage.  

The smell of the brown sugar and honey melting is mouth-watering but once you put the oats in the oven to bake, the smell intensifies until this sugary sweet oatmeal smell takes over your kitchen.

Beef and Veggie Bowls

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I've made a lot of new recipes recently and haven't added in any old standby's (otherwise known as Tom's favorites) into the recipe rotation in quite some time. I knew my time was closing in before I heard that famous line I've come to hear quite a bit since starting blogging. "Can't we just have something normal like tacos?"

I decided to beat him to the punch by making a recipe incredibly similar to how he eats tacos. It was really a win-win since I got to make a new recipe and finally start to make a small dent in the "beef" section of my to-make binder.



Beef and Veggie Bowls
Source: Clean Eating, March 2012
Servings: 4
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Ingredients: 
    • 1 lb. lean ground beef
    • 1 red pepper, chopped
    • 1 green pepper, chopped
    • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
    • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 tsp. cumin
    • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
    • 4 oz. plain Greek Yogurt (or sour cream)
    • fresh cilantro sprigs

Directions:
1. Add the ground beef and peppers to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir frequently to break up the ground beef until browned.
2. Add the corn, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, cumin and balsamic vinegar. Stir until combined and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until peppers are soft.
3. Spoon into bowls and serve topped with 1 oz. Greek Yogurt (or sour cream) and a cilantro sprig.

The red and yellow peppers, corn and balsamic made this much sweeter than I was expecting but the flavors were incredible. We kind of defeated the purpose of this being a clean eating meal, as we ate it with tortilla chips and I added cheese to my leftovers but it just couldn't be helped. I'd definitely recommend this for anyone tired of the usual taco routine and looking for a quick but healthy and hearty meal to make on a weeknight.  

Garlic-Chive Fries

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There is just something about making your own fries and baking them as opposed to picking up a bag in the frozen aisle at the grocery store. The taste is completely different and as long as you have a sharp knife, the amount of energy put into making homemade fries is pretty minimal.

I don't know why but I never seem to think of different combinations for fries myself and always have to rely on recipes. When I saw this one in the June/July issue of Taste of Home I knew I needed to make it right away, and not just because I bought a chive plant at the wonderful world of Wegman's.



Garlic-Chive Fries
Source: Taste of Home, June/July 2012 
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 2 large russet potatoes
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Rinse and scrub the potatoes. Cut in half and then into julienne strips of equal sizes.
3. Place in a large bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes. Sprinkle the chives, garlic powder, salt and pepper over the potatoes. Toss well to coat.
4. Spread the potatoes in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, flip fries over and bake an additional 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Yum! These fries have great flavor! 

SRC: Salty Caramel Ice Cream

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Nothing says summer to me like the music of an ice cream truck coming down the street. Its one of those sounds that instantly invokes childhood memories of playing outside all day, hearing the familiar jingle and chasing the ice cream truck down the street with your friends to enjoy a cool treat.



I didn't realize how much I missed that sound until we moved here. I don't think we once heard or saw an ice cream truck the entire time we lived in the middle of nowhere, MD. Which is pretty logical when you think about it, but the first time I heard that familiar jingle in our new apartment it took every ounce of decorum in me not to grab a dollar and go running outside. Not that I think there is anything wrong with adults chasing down the ice cream truck (because there totally isn't!), I was just in the middle of making dinner and I figured Tom wouldn't appreciate it too much if I left dinner to burn while I hunted down a frozen treat. 

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Cupcake Muffin. With a blog name like that, I was instantly intrigued. Muffins are kind of my thing. I make enough of them. So while I scrolled through Sara's recipes, I figured I'd choose a muffin one but then my eye landed on something spectacular. Salty Caramel Ice Cream.

To me this is the epitome of awesomeness. I love caramel. I PPH (pink puffy heart) salted caramel. My ice cream maker attachment had been sitting in the box for over a year (freezer space was my excuse) and I was tired of hearing Tom ask me when I was going to use it.



Salty Caramel Ice Cream
Source: Cupcake Muffin
Yield: ~ 2 pints
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups whole milk, divided
    • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. cornstarch
    • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
    • 2 tbsp. corn syrup
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 3 tbsp. cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with 2 tbsp. of the milk to create a slurry. Set aside.
2. Whisk together the heavy cream and corn syrup in a pitcher with a spout.
3. Pour the sugar into a tall saucepan over medium-high heat and let the sugar melt and turn brown. Stir with a heat proof spatula as needed to prevent burning.
4. From a distance pour about 1/4 cup of the cream mixture into the sugar. It will sizzle and splatter as it hits the sugar. Stir until combined and then continue to add the cream mixture 1/4 cup at a time until it has all been combined.
5. Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and add the remaining milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, mix the cream cheese and salt together in a large bowl until smooth.
7. Remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Place the saucepan back over the heat again and cook, stirring until slightly thickened.
8. Remove from the heat and whisk the caramel/milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
9. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, discarding any lumps. Process through an ice cream maker according to directions.

Around step 5 I got kinda paranoid this wasn't going to work out. I know I've mentioned how sensitive my stove is before. So when I got to the rolling boil I knew if I didn't lower the temperature to low it would immediately bubble over and nothing about cleaning liquified caramel off your stove sounds pleasant. So I turned the heat down as low as it would go and continued staring at it to boil. In this case, a watched pot does boil because I only got 2 minutes in of a rolling boil before it threatened to escape my pan. Then I got paranoid again around step 7 because my mixture was refusing to thicken. I'm telling you, there is just something about homemade caramel anything that dislikes me.

So after exercising an extreme amount of patience while the Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker attachment whipped everything together, I began to feel more calm. It was the right color. It turned into ice cream! Apparently I did something right.

Sweet salty caramel heaven was this delicious! I immediately ran out to the store and bought waffle cones because really, there is no better way to enjoy ice cream than on a cone! And don't be surprised or anything if you see me making an insane amount of ice cream this summer. While it is time consuming, it sure is addictive!

Weekly Menu 7/8 - 7/12

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Whew! What a week! A holiday shouldn't fall in the middle of the work week. It confuses everything. Thursday felt like Monday and on Friday I wasn't sure if it was Friday or Tuesday. Since I had off work on Wednesday I went to my mom's house with my aunt and cousin and hung out at the pool.

Yesterday we went back for a huge family party where some of my aunts and cousins came up from the beach to visit with us. Even though it was 101 degrees outside and I got sidetracked enough to only put on sunblock once, I got absolutely no sun. How the hell does this happen?

We also got new bedroom furniture yesterday. Now that we have a complete matching set I feel a bit like an adult. Funny how those things happen. The furniture looks kind of big in our small bedroom but there isn't much we can really do about it. I'm just happy to have a headboard and footboard! Of course a new bedroom set meant new bedding.

I finally convinced Tom that gray and purple are absolutely awesome colors together and we need to have it in our bedroom. I found a cute quilt set with throw pillows on my last trip to Home Goods and then found a perfect lavender quilt online at JC Penney. I'm just patiently waiting for it to arrive then I'll take pictures of my new bedding. Since our furniture is a modern and not very girly at all, I decided to girl it up a bit with the girly-est pillow I could find. It looks like this:

It doesn't get much girlier than that!

I took home a dozen or so crabs from my moms party to turn into crab soup so one of the meals planned for the week may just get bumped in favor of Old Bay Awesomeness.

Sunday - I'm eating my vegetarian recipe swap and Tom is having Bacon Lover's Mac and Cheese

Monday - Cream Cheese & Poblano Turkey Burgers with Garlic-Chive Fries

Tuesday - Linguine with Pepper Cream Sauce

Wednesday - Caramelized Onion & Bacon Pizza

Thursday - Chicken Enchiladas

I also have a TON of blueberries so I think I'm going to make blueberry pancakes and possibly a crisp. I have some super tropical sounding muffins to make for breakfast this week so I promise to get that recipe up soon! And I finally picked up some rum so we can make use of our mint plant and drink some mojitos!

Prosciutto Paninis

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One of the first things I noticed when moving into our apartment was a little Italian place in nearby. The first time we checked out their food is when Tom's parents were visiting. They arrived late and Tom and his dad got to work on hanging the ceiling fan, so we decided to go pick up some food instead of going out to dinner.

We were completely impressed with our first meal, a pepperoni pizza for Tom and his dad, a cold cut for his mom and a cheese steak with mushrooms, bacon and green peppers for me. They also sell something that makes me incredibly happy...sorbet in fruit...like the lemon in a lemon cup story I shared with you. The second time we ordered from them I tried their white pizza which comes with mozzarella, ricotta, chicken, sliced tomatoes and sauteed spinach with a garlic sauce. Incredible. The third time we ordered from them, I chose this sandwich. It was so good, less than two weeks later I decided to re-create it at home.



Prosciutto Panini
Source: Santini's
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. sliced prosciutto
    • 8 slices fresh mozzarella
    • 4 tomato slices
    • 1/2 cup spring mix lettuce
    • 4 basil leaves
    • 4 hearty rolls or bread slices
    • salt and pepper
    • olive oil

Directions:
1. Preheat a panini press.
2. Drizzle the olive oil over each roll or slice of bread. Brush in.
3. Divide the prosciutto among the sandwiches. Top with the spring mix, tomato sprinkled with salt and pepper, a basil leaf and two slices of mozzarella cheese. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.
4. Place sandwiches on the panini press and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the mozzarella is slightly melted and the bread is lightly golden. Serve immediately.  

I didn't expect it to be so easy to re-create at home but the flavors were spot on. I ended up using whole wheat Italian bread cut into thick slices because I couldn't find ciabatta or other hearty rolls anywhere. The saltiness of the prosciutto just goes so well with the fragrance of the basil and sweetness of the tomato. If I could carry a panini press amount in my back pocket, I'd eat these sandwiches daily.

Berry White Popsicles

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HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!

I've wanted to make my own frozen creations for quite some time now. While I really want to pull out the ice cream maker, there just isn't quite enough room in the freezer to do so. Hopefully we'll get a deep freezer soon and then I won't need to worry about space anymore! But since I can't make ice cream, I decided to make the next best thing...popsicles!

99% of the time in the summer I prefer a fruit flavored popsicle to ice cream. Its just fresher and lighter. Which is exactly what I was craving when I came across this recipe. Even though these are made with milk, I decided to give them a shot because I had all of the ingredients on hand.



Berry White Popsicles
Source: Taste of Home, June/July 2012
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 2/3 cup chopped berries
    • 2/3 cup whole milk
    • 1 tbsp. honey
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Whisk together the milk, honey and vanilla until combined. Add in the berries. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 4 hours. 

While these were good and satisfied my popsicle craving, the milk made these really rich and the berries weren't particularly sweet. I want to play around with this recipe some and see if macerating the berries first will help with the sweetness and if using 1% milk will take away from the richness.



Above is what happens when you try to take a picture in a new place and have a very curious kitten.

UPDATED: Giveaway Winner (take 2)

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Last Monday I announced the winner of my first giveaway and unfortunately she did not respond within 7 days with her address.

So I had to choose a new winner. I went the same route and used random.org to generate the winner.

Which is...

Congrats Jaida!
Please email me your address at cookaholicwife@gmail.com and I'll mail it out right away!

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