Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

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Would you believe me if I told you that before getting into blogging and looking at other blogger's recipes, I had no idea what a whoopie pie was? Well, you should, because it's the truth. I didn't even have the slightest clue what in the world a whoopie pie could possible be. And if the name isn't weird enough, apparently its a PA thing to call them gobs. So I was even more perplexed at what in the world this dessert creation was and why people enjoyed them so much.

I'm probably about five years past the point of where these were popular and being blogged as often as donuts (or cronuts now, I guess), but that's never stopped me from making a recipe before. Since it's September and the cans of pumpkin puree are calling to me from the shelves and displays at the grocery store I decided that my first foray into whoopie pie making would be of the pumpkin variety. 



Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Source: Annie's Eats 
Servings: about 32 sandwich cookies 

Ingredients:
For the Cookies:
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 2 tbsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. ground ginger
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    • 1 cup canola oil
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
    • 3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the Maple Cream Cheese Filling:
    • 3 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 brick (8 oz.) cream cheese, cold
    • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
1 Preheat the oven to 350 Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. 
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices. 
3. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil and sugars, then stir in the chilled pumpkin puree. Once combined, whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. 
4. Slowly add in the flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking until fully incorporated before adding more flour. Repeat until all of the flour mixture is gone. 
5. Transfer the pumpkin batter to a large pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe small rounds of the batter, about 2 inches in diameter onto the prepared baking sheets. Alternately, drop rounded spoonfuls of the batter onto the baking sheets and press lightly to reach the 2 inches in diameter. 
6. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes then let cool on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining pumpkin batter until you have around 64 cookies. 
7. Make the filling by combining the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until smooth then add in the powdered sugar, maple syrup and vanilla and beat on low speed until fully combined. 
8. Transfer the filling to a pastry bag filled with a round tip. 
9. Pair up the cookies by size. Pipe the filling onto the flat side of one cookie and top with another same-sized cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies. Place cookie sandwiches on a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. 

I really should have cut this recipe in half because no one, and I mean one without a party to throw or attend needs to have 30+ pumpkin whoopie pies laying around. I had Tom take some into work and I did as well, but we still had a large container of them here as well. 

However, they were adorable and tasted delicious. That small amount of maple syrup in the cream cheese really pulled out the pumpkin from the cookies and combined really nicely. 

Weekly Menu 9/29 - 10/3

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For our anniversary we decided to buy VIP tickets to the local wine festival. The food being offered in the VIP section came from Pairings Bistro, a nearby restaurant that we really like. I had no idea what to expect going to the festival, but it was quite interesting. It's kind of broken into two sections, the VIP and everyone else.

There was just table after table of wines being offered. There is absolutely no way that we could have managed to try even a quarter of them, especially since most of the vendors ignored the little line printed on the glass and filled right on over that. We did find some wines that are carried at the restaurant that I definitely want to purchase. At one of the wine tables, I tried a Chenin Blanc from South Africa and immediately said "It tastes like summer". The guy pouring the glasses said he was going to use that line from now on when describing it. Then at the next table I tried a red wine (I can't find the name in the pamphlet they gave us) which I described as "cherries and happiness". That vendor also said he was going to use my description. Maybe I just found myself a part time job describing wines.

The food was absolutely incredible. When you walked into the manor house they had a few options set up buffet style on a table, then there were servers coming around with the other options and a grill area. We tried all but the pork belly and yellow fin tuna because they weren't out yet in the hour we spent there.

All of the foods were farm-to-table which I think just makes them taste a little better anyway. We had:

Grilled Hickory Flat Irons with Garden Relish, Organic Grilled Vegetables with Roasted Garlic, Beef Sliders, Watermelon and Tomato Gazpacho Shooters, Chicken BBQ Sliders, Pork Sausage and Red Pepper Flatbread Pizzas and assorted cheeses and desserts.

The flat iron steak was served cold and while I liked the flavors, I think it'd be better warm, same goes for the vegetables. The beef sliders were incredible. We need to start purchasing meats from there because you could really taste the difference in the burger compared to the ground beef you get from the grocery store. I was really surprised at how much I liked the shooters, I even had two! The chicken BBQ sliders were packed with flavor and I actually know where the farm is that produces them, so we might swing by one day and see what all they have for sale. The flatbread pizzas were out of this world. I'm not even a sausage fan, but something magical happened in that kitchen creating these pizzas. Tom immediately asked for me to make them at home, which I am more than willing to do. The cheeses came from a creamery that I've been dying to visit and after trying a garlic and herb cheese that made your mouth sing, I think I've convinced Tom its worth a visit. The desserts came from a local cupcakery that we recently visited. I had the salted caramel cupcake which was pretty much everything you want in a salted caramel cupcake.

And here's where I have to make a confession. I didn't take any pictures. I was so overwhelmed by all of the options and delicious bites that I didn't even think to take any pictures until we were leaving. Which was only 2 hours later, because Tom easily gets bored of wine. Weirdo. So, it's already planned that I'll be going with my wine drinking buddies and hanging out for the entire day next time.

After talking about all of that wonderful food, my menu for this week seems kind of plain. :(

Sunday - Jalapeno Popper Pizza

Monday - Zesty Turkey Burgers and Fries

Tuesday - Mexican Pork and Sweet Potato Stew

Wednesday - I have a work dinner

Thursday - Chicken Burgers and Fries 

For breakfast this week, I'm having an apple crisp. Desserts will include cookies for the 12 Weeks of Christmas blog hop that I'm participating in and some pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes. 

Apple Turnovers

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After making the honeycrisp apple breakfast pastry last week, I had one remaining sheet of puff pastry left over and no plans for it. I really had to convince myself to not make the breakfast pastry again.

I mean, I'm definitely going to make it again, but I wanted to make something different with this sheet of puff pastry. I decided to go for apple turnovers, mainly because I couldn't believe that I'd never made them before. Such an easy and tasty recipe and here I am just getting around to making it.



Apple Turnovers
Source: Taste of Home
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
    • 2 large apples, peeled and chopped
    • 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
    • 2 tablespoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
    • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Mix together sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside half of the mixture.
3. In a bowl, combine apples, flour and half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Toss well to coat.
4. Roll out the puff pastry into a 12-inch square, then cut into 4 squares.
5. Divide the apple mixture between the four squares, placing it in the center. Fold over one edge, to make a triangle. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat with remaining squares and place all on the prepared baking sheet.
6. Brush each pastry with the melted butter and sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar on top.
7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Seriously? Someone should smack me for never making these before. This really took absolutely no time at all. While the oven was preheating, I peeled and chopped the apples and got them completely prepared within a minute of the oven reaching the 400 degrees. By the time I cleaned up the counter, returned the items to the pantry and poured myself a glass of iced tea, they were ready to come out of the oven. The part that takes the most amount of time is waiting for the puff pastry to thaw!

Cinnamon-sugar and apples just go so nicely together. The smell that comes out of your oven permeates through your entire house making it smell like hugs and happiness on a cool fall day. 

Caprese BLT Sandwich

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I needed something to eat for lunch last week so I went through the refrigerator amassing ingredients that needed to be used up. Which created this sandwich, except I had a really hard time naming it. It wasn't quite a caprese sandwich and it wasn't quite a BLT. It was a strange combination of both, kind of.

So if you have any better suggestions for the name of this sandwich, I am all ears. Please, share them with me.



Caprese BLT Sandwich
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
    • 2 slices bread
    • 2 thin slices fresh mozzarella cheese
    • 2 thin slices tomato
    • 1 piece of bacon, cooked
    • 2-3 leaves baby spinach
    • 1 tsp. basil pesto
    • salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Spread the basil pesto on both sides of the bread. Add a slice of mozzarella cheese to each slice of bread and toast until cheese has melted.
2. Season the tomato slices with salt and pepper, to taste. Break the piece of bacon in half. Assemble the sandwich by adding one of each of the remaining ingredients to each side of the bread, then top with one side and cut down the middle.



For a completely random sandwich made from ingredients hanging around, I really liked the taste and flavors of this. I'm sure it could be made even better if you used a heartier bread and maybe even a panini press instead of just toasting the bread. 

12 Weeks of Christmas: Biscoff Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yes, you read that title correctly.

Twelve weeks of Christmas.

Which means Christmas is about 12 weeks away. Actually, if you count this week, it's exactly 14 weeks is which much closer than I feel like it should be.

Now why am I talking about Christmas in September? Well, last year I noticed that some bloggers had participated in a challenge called the 12 Weeks of Christmas. I knew I wanted to participate this year, and luckily it was mentioned on my cooking board and I was able to sign up.

If you're interested in participating, it's not too late. Just head on over to Meal Planning Magic and click the link for the 12 Weeks of Christmas in the sidebar.




Biscoff Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Cassie Craves
Servings: 5 dozen
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Ingredients:
    • 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4. tsp. salt
    • 1 stick butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • 1 cup Biscoff spread
    • 10 oz. bag dark chocolate chips 
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time then vanilla. Once fully combined, add in the Biscoff
4. Slowly pour the flour mixture into the stand mixer and mix until combine.
5. Drop tablespoon sized scoops of cookie dough onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. (10 minutes results in a chewy cookie, 12 minutes a crispy cookie)
6. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

Tom came out while I was making these cookies and asked what they were for. I hesitantly responded about the challenge, which resulted in his eyes lighting up like a little kid. See, Tom loves Christmas to the point where the second it gets cold, he's asking me if we can put out Christmas decorations or listed to Christmas CDs. I love Christmas, I really do, and together we're the people who will eventually have the house that people gawk at when they drive by, but I am a firm believer that every holiday deserves to have its own time, which is why I refuse to indulge in anything Christmas related until after Thanksgiving.



These cookies are delicious! They only stay chewy for about 6 hours though, so just a warning if you were expecting a chewy cookie the next day. The good thing is, they're just as tasty when crispy.



Pumpkin Chili

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When I started thinking about savory pumpkin recipes to make, my mind immediately went to the idea of a pumpkin chili. I was positive that I had a recipe for it lying around somewhere, but all I could find was a stew that needed to be made in the crock pot. I didn't have all of the ingredients and it was too late in the day to use the crock pot, so I decided to wing it with the ingredients I had and see what type of pumpkin chili I could create.

Pumpkin Chili
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. lean ground beef
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 red pepper, diced
    • 2 cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    • 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
    • 1 can condensed tomato soup
    • 1 can water (fill the soup can)
    • 1 tbsp. chili powder
    • 1 tsp. cumin
    • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
    • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
    • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Directions:
1. Add ground beef to a skillet over medium-high, and brown, breaking into small pieces. Drain any grease. Transfer the ground beef to a plate.
2. Add olive oil to the skillet along with the onion and red pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft.
3. Stir in the kidney beans, pumpkin puree, condensed soup, water and spices. Add  an additional cup of water if mixture is too thick. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
4. Ladle chili into bowls and divide shredded cheese between them.



Honestly, I think the pumpkin in this recipe really serves as more of a filler than a flavor. Pumpkin has a really mild flavor to begin with and it isn't strong enough to stand up to the other flavors in the chili. The chili is still tasty and filling, it's just not loaded with pumpkin flavor. I've heard of turkey pumpkin chili recipes where the pumpkin is the star, so I'll probably try making one of those soon 

Queso Nachos

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When I made the Queso Burgers, the grocery store only had Velveeta available in the super huge two pound brick. Absolutely no one needs two pounds of processed cheese product, ever, so I needed to figure out what to do with the Velveeta after making the burgers.

Then it dawned on me that the Velveeta and Rotel mixed together would be absolutely incredible over some nachos. And so the idea for this recipe was born.



Queso Nachos
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
    • 6 oz. Velveeta cheese, cut into chunks
    • 10 oz. can Rotel 
    • 1/4 cup pickled jalapenos
    • 4 tablespoons sour cream
    • 1 bag tortilla chips 
    • Optional: lettuce, tomato, guacamole 
Directions:
1. Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain any grease.
2. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add Velveeta and Rotel and stir together until fully melted.
3. Divide tortilla chips onto 4 plates, then top with the ground beef. Drizzle a ladle-full of the Velveeta mixture over the beef and tortillas. Sprinkle with pickled jalapenos and top with 1 tablespoon of sour cream per plate. Add any optional garnishes if desired.



Honestly, I'm not even a big Velveeta fan, but when mixed with Rotel it becomes this cheesy delicious sauce that I could eat by the spoonful. Warning: you need a very high level of willpower not to eat until you are so full its hard to move. Just wanted to throw that out there.

Weekly Menu 9/22 - 9/26

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Is it just me or is this month going by so quickly? I am really excited for something we are doing next weekend though.

My county is having a wine festival with hundreds of different wines to taste, live music, food and vendors selling their arts and crafts. We opted to purchase the VIP tickets because the VIP food is being provided by Pairings Bistro, the restaurant we checked out during Restaurant Week. The menu includes such gems as glazed pork belly crostini, cajun-seared yellow fin tuna, beef sliders, grilled vegetables with roasted garlic, BBQ chicken sliders and fruit tarts. ALL of the food provided comes from local Maryland farms and dairies. The festival is 6 hours long, which I think is going to be quite the necessity with the variety of foods and wines available.

Unfortunately my menu for this week is nothing like the one listed above, but I'm thinking it should still be pretty tasty.

We're having:

Sunday - honey chipotle turkey meatballs, cheesy mashed potatoes and korean cucumber salad 

Monday - bourbon chicken 

Tuesday - pumpkin bisque 

Wednesday - shrimp fried rice

Thursday - bloody Mary flank steak, smashed potatoes and green beans 

For breakfast this week, I'm opting to have a fruit crisp that I'll just heat up in the microwave at work. For lunch I'm going to enjoy some roasted red pepper soup and a salad.

I meant to do more baking this weekend, but it just didn't work out. However, I strongly suggest that you come back and check out what I'm blogging on Wednesday. Well, I'd really prefer you to come back every day since I think I have some pretty cool stuff lined up. 

Recipe Swap: Honeycrisp Apple Breakfast Pastry

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I don't know how I missed it when Colleen shared this recipe in the daily "blog updates" post we have on the cooking board. A recipe like this is not to be overlooked. Ever.

Luckily, while I was going through her blog for the Recipe Swap, this jump right out at me. I didn't even bother to scroll any further to see if there were any other recipes that could pique my interest. I had to make this recipe. Why? Well:

1. Honeycrisp apples are delicious. Seriously, go buy one. Then go back and buy 1 1/2 lbs. to make this. Actually, buy 3 pounds. You're going to want to double this one.
2. I've been looking for a breakfast braid/pastry and boom here one was.



Honeycrisp Apple Breakfast Pastry
Source: The Redhead Baker
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 1 sheet puff pastry
    • 1 1/2 lbs. honeycrisp apples, peeled and diced to 1/2 inch 
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 2 tsp. lemon juice
    • 2 tbsp. water
    • egg wash
    • 1 tbsp. sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Directions:
1. Thaw puff pastry according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, combine apples, sugar, lemon juice and water in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until the syrup has thickened. Let cool to room temperature.
3. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
4. Roll out the puff pastry to 13x8 and use a pizza cutter to cut 1 inch strips on both sides of the pastry, making sure to leave at least 2 inches in the center for the apple filling.
5. Spread the apple filling down the center of the puff pastry and alternate folding strips of dough up and over the apple filling, creating a bread effect.
6. Lightly brush the pastry with an egg wash. In a small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon and then lightly sprinkle over the pastry.
7. Bake for 35 minutes then let cool to room temperature before serving.



Look, I've had some tasty dishes in my lifetime, but this absolutely ranks within the top 10. Honeycrisp apples are incredible to begin with, being slightly sweet and slightly tart with honey undertones, but cooking them down to further bring out their sweetness and then encasing them in a flaky buttery crust and topping that with cinnamon sugar? That's heaven right there. Or, as Tom said "so the name of the recipe is honeycrisp apple breakfast party-in-your-mouth pastry, right?"

Improv Challenge: Gouda Bacon Mac and Cheese

If you love gouda cheese and bacon you are going to want to run out to your nearest grocery store and pick up the ingredients for this recipe ASAP.

First, I need to tell you that this picture absolutely does not do this recipe justice. Instead of the average "macaroni and cheese in a baking dish" picture below, I need you to picture perfectly cooked elbow noodles swimming in a thick river of smoked gouda cheese topped with crispy bread crumbs and bacon. Because that's what this is. You can almost kind of picture the pieces of bacon as people in floats gliding down a lazy river of melty cheese.

...Just go with it, okay?

The two ingredients for the Improv Challenge this month were pasta and cheese. I thought about trying to go outside of the box with this one, but in the end it came down to this recipe catching my eye and knowing that it would not only be delicious, but it would be the perfect recipe to share with you for this challenge.



Gouda Bacon Macaroni and Cheese
Source: Shugary Sweets
Servings: 8
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Ingredients:
    • 16 oz. elbow noodles
    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 2 1//4 cup milk
    • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • 2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tsp. pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
    • 1 lb. smoked gouda cheese, shredded
    • 1/2 lb. sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
    • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/2 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick spray.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add elbow noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
3. Meanwhile in a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour until no lumps remain and it is a golden color. Then slowly whisk in milk a little at a time until absorbed by the butter/flour mixture. Pour in the remaining milk and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
4. Slowly add in the cream, then salt, Worcestershire, pepper and dry mustard. Reduce the heat to low and continue whisking for about 5 minutes.
5. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the shredded gouda and sharp cheese until fully melted.
6. Stir the cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce until fully coated. Pour into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly.
7. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs with melted butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over the macaroni and cheese and then top with the crumbled bacon.
8. Bake for 30 minutes then remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serving sizes be damned, Tom found this so good that I think he ate half of the dish himself. (Also part of the reason why I didn't get a better picture. I was waiting for it to cool more since casseroles always photograph horribly when hot.)</

SNAP Approved Meals - The $4.50/day meal plan

As I said earlier this week, since I couldn't participate in the SNAP challenge myself, I would create a meal plan that fits within the guidelines of the program and the challenge.

First, as someone who meal plans on a weekly basis, I really didn't expect this to make much more time than my usual planning does. I was way off on that. Every recipe needed to be scrutinized for costs, availability and leftovers.

Second, while I do pay attention to what things cost at the grocery store, I realize that I'm quite lucky in life that I've never needed to pay this close attention to detail on the prices. I chose these recipes based of prices at my local Aldi store since they are the most affordable store in the area. I actually went there and spent 30 minutes or so walking around the store and jotting down the price of items.

Here are the challenge "rules".
  • The food budget for the challenge is $4.50 per person per day for every day that you participate in the challenge. 
  • Do not eat food that you purchased before the challenge. 
  • Avoid accepting food from friends, family and coworkers. 
The meal plan I created is for two people which I assumed had access to a microwave at work. 

While you are not supposed to use anything purchased prior to the challenge, I am taking the liberties to read that as actual "food" not the following items that I expected to be 'standard' in a house hold. Those items are: salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley, cooking oil. 

I ended up making a two week meal plan including breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert for 14 days. Of course, there is always the option for one to eat nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for every meal, but I thought coming up with a realistic plan as healthy as I could manage would be a bigger challenge. 

SNAP Challenge - Week 1 Menu 

Sunday
breakfast - french toast, banana, orange juice
lunch - broccoli soup, water
dinner - beef stroganoff, water
dessert - chocolate pudding 

Monday
breakfast - egg wraps, orange juice
lunch - broccoli soup, water
dinner - chicken wings, buttered noodles, steamed carrots, water
dessert - grapes

Tuesday
breakfast - oatmeal, banana, milk 
lunch - chicken wings, buttered noodles, steamed carrots, water
dinner - mushroom frittata, water
dessert - chocolate pudding 

Wednesday 
breakfast - mushroom frittata, orange juice
lunch - broccoli soup, water
dinner - pasta with ham and peas, water
dessert - grapes

Thursday
breakfast - mushroom frittata, milk 
lunch - pasta with ham and peas, water
dinner - beef tacos, water
dessert - chocolate pudding

Friday
breakfast - oatmeal, banana, milk 
lunch - beef tacos, water
dinner - pork tenderloin, couscous, steamed broccoli 
dessert - grapes

Saturday
breakfast - french toast, banana, milk
lunch - 2 grilled cheese sandwiches, chips, grapes, water
dinner - vegetable soup, water
dessert - chocolate pudding 

As you can see, there are a lot of repeated meals during just one week. I had to choose meals that were cheap and made a large enough quantity that that could be served as leftovers throughout the week. 

The total cost for these meals came to: $62.31
On $4.50 per person, per day the 7 days gave me $63 to work with. Not even a dollar left over to cover tax or if any of the items listed above didn't come in exactly the quantities needed. 


The second week of planning was much easier because I already had some basic ingredients that could be reused. The total for week 2 came to just under $49. Now that is really impressive. Personally, I think this fictional couple I created should use their extra $14 to splurge on something other than water and juice to drink and maybe even have a store-bought coffee and donut one morning.

The grocery list, menu and recipes for WEEK 2 can be found here

In Conclusion: While eating on $63 a week for a couple is possible, it is not easy. You need to be creative and not get sick of eating the same thing over and over again. The things that bother me most about this are:
1. SNAP is meant to be assistance to purchase food, but for many families it is all they have. 
2. When you sign up for SNAP, there is no education. No one tells you how to eat within this budget. 
3. Healthy, fresh foods are not cheap. Nor are they readily available in many of the areas where SNAP use is highest. 

I am going to deliver the grocery list, menu and recipes to the local food banks in my area. If I can't always afford to donate food financially, the absolute least I can do is share my knowledge and passion of cooking to anyone who is willing to listen (or read, in this case.) 

What are you doing to help stop hunger? 

Spicy Basil Pork

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Before I share this recipe with you, I wanted to start off this post by saying happy anniversary to my husband, the resident veggie hater. ;-)

Three years ago today, a little after 6 PM we got married. 



I made this recipe quite a while ago but never got around to blogging it. I'm not sure why as we really enjoyed the recipe and like Amanda, I wish I had gotten a bigger pork tenderloin since there wasn't very much left over for me. 



Spicy Basil Pork
Source: Fake Ginger, originally from Apple a Day
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 1/4 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
    • 1 shallot, minced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1-2 tbsp. canola oil
    • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
    • 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
    • 1 tbsp. Sambal Oelek (chile paste)
    • 1 tbsp. sugar
    • 2 tsp. water
    • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
    • 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
    • 1 1/2 cups rice, cooked

      Directions:
      1. Add canola oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Add in the shallots and cook for 1 minute.
      2. Then add in the pork pieces and cook for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through. Add in the garlic.
      3. Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, Sambal Oelek, sugar and water. Then whisk in the cornstarch until fully dissolved.
      4. Add the sauce to the skillet and cook for 1 minute more, stirring frequently until all of the pork is coated and the sauce has thickened.
      5. Divide rice among plates and top with sauced pork. Garnish with sliced basil.
This is another dish that whips together really quickly, making it perfect for a week night. I served this along with steamed green beans, but bell peppers, broccoli or even sugar snap peas would be a nice dish dish. 

Peach Galette

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Peach Galette.

Peach. 

Yep, that's right, I'm posting a peach recipe in mid-September when half the world is falling all over themselves rushing to the nearest Starbucks for a Pumpkin Spice Latte. While peaches are still in season and still prominent in the grocery stores, I see absolutely no reason to go all pumpkin crazy and waste the last precious weeks of peaches that we have available.

I love the look of a galette. It's rustic but pretty and this one is oh-so-simple. Really. You need very, very basic cooking skills to pull off this recipe. If you are just starting out in the kitchen or you don't have a lot of time to prepare a dessert, you should definitely think about a galette. Not only is is easy, but its versatile in the sense that you can make it will all different types of fruit. Peaches, pears, apples, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, nectarines...the list goes on and on. And don't forget about combining two fruits!



Easy Peach Galette
Source: Recipe Girl via Parade Magazine
Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:
    • 1 pre-made refrigerator pie crust
    • 2 large peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 1 tbsp. butter, cold and cut into small pieces
    • 2 tbsp. sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Directions:
1. Place an oven rack in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 375.
2. Place a piece of parchment paper over a baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar.
3. Roll out the pie crust on the prepared baking sheet. Arrange the peaches around the center of the pie crust, leaving a 2-inch border.
4. Sprinkle the peaches with 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar mixture and then drop the tiny pieces of butter on top.
5. Foll up the edges of the pie crust, overlapping if necessary to partially cover the fruit. Dip a pastry brush in a little bit of water and lightly brush the dough. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of cinnamon sugar.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the crust is golden.



See? Simple. And so rustically pretty isn't it? Now go make one and share it with me! 

Weekly Menu 9/15 - 9/19

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I think Mother Nature got a little bit confused last week. So Labor Day happened and the masses were all "fall! sweaters! pumpkin spice lattes!" and Mother Nature was all "Nope. Nope. Nope. 90 degree days with humidity for you!"

And then Friday night I turned off the air and opened the windows since it was in the low 70's and a nice breeze was going on. Saturday morning I woke up shivering. Why? Because it was 66 degrees in the apartment and I had slept in shorts and a tank top. At first I got dressed for the day in capri's and a tank top with a cardigan over it. However, the longer I hung around waiting for snoring beauty (my husband) to wake up, the colder I got. The capri's were changed to jeans and I added some fuzzy socks. I was still cold and debated on adding a fleece but had to remind myself that it's September, not January so I better adjust quickly.

The menu for this week is all about being simplistic and not for any particular reason other than I have foods that will allow me to do so. Okay fine, and maybe because I'm hoping that with minimal dinner preparation I'll get to bed earlier thus waking up early enough to exercise. We'll see how this goes.

Even though our 3 year anniversary is this week, I'm not cooking anything special for it. We purchased tickets to the county wine festival at the end of this month which comes with some delicious food options so that will be our celebration. I did offer for us to go to dinner this weekend since our anniversary is a Tuesday, but someone never picked a place.

Anywho, the menu plans for this week include:

Sunday - cranberry dijon roasted pork, roasted red potatoes and sugared asparagus

Monday - grandma's beef and vegetable soup 

Tuesday - french toast, bacon, fruit

Wednesday - mozzarella stuffed chicken, baked potatoes, aspargus

Thursday - grilled ham and cheese, salad

For breakfast this week I'm keeping up with the smoothies even though it means I'll definitely need to turn the heat on in my car. For lunch I'm planning on some BLT sandwiches. Baked goodies include muffins, a breakfast pastry and a crisp.

Oh! and something else I wanted to tell you about. So, last week there was a post on the cooking board I frequent about bad blog pictures. I am more than guilty of this in my few years of blogging, so I have made a effort to go back through my old posts and share at least a new, better picture with you.

"You eat with your eyes first." has always been a true statement, but with websites like Pinterest out there, bloggers with less than average photo skills can definitely feel that their recipes will never be shared because they aren't as pretty as some of the other bloggers out there who pay for fancy editing software or who are lucky enough to work from home, or not at all, and can take pictures during the best daylight hours.

So, in attempts to hopefully provide you with some better pictures, I've made a list of recipes to redo. Tom is more than excited since I rarely repeat recipes. 

September is Hunger Action Month

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Maybe you've seen the orange logos on television. Maybe you've seen the Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry commercials that air on Food Network and Cooking Channel. Maybe you're taking the initiative to stop hunger in your area. Maybe you're participating in the SNAP challenge. Maybe you have no idea what I'm even talking about.

There are a decent amount of bloggers out there talking about this and I wanted to share my thoughts on it as well.

First, what is it? September is the month where Feeding America puts a real push out there for people to donate to their local food banks and pantries. The ultimate goal is for no child, no family, no person to go hungry in America.

If you've never experienced being hungry and not knowing where your next meal is going to come from, you take food for granted. It's just right there in the grocery store for you to buy. Just right in that drive thru line for you to order. But for many out there, food can't be taken for granted, which is just really sad. I can't even imagine that feeling and I strongly believe everyone should be doing something about it.

I could go on and on for pages (and days) with the issues I have with food and assistance in this country, but my thoughts and my opinions aren't going to solve everything or even, anything so I'll spare you all that tirade for the time being.

So what can you do? Well, check out Feeding America's website. They have resources of what you can do to help and you can easily Google "feeding america (cityname)" to find something in your area.

Something else you could do is to participate in the SNAP Challenge. You might know the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) as food stamps, which is its former name. The SNAP Challenge is where you need to eat all of your meals on $4.50 per person per day. ALL of your food needs to come from what is purchased with this amount. No free coffee at work. No leftover dinner from the week before. Why? Because many of the families receiving the SNAP benefits do not have these options.

From Sunday September 15th through Saturday September 21st the challenge is to live off your allotted $4.50 per person, per day. Think about how much money a coffee costs you each morning and compare that to what you spend for an entire day. Sickening, isn't it?

Now here is where I have to confess something. I had every plan to participate in this challenge. However, I realized that I had food that was going to go bad if I didn't make it up this week. I couldn't freeze it and it was opened, so I couldn't donate it. I would rather skip participating in the challenge than throw away perfectly good food to participate.

So, check back in on Wednesday where you will find recipes I've prepared that meet the SNAP specifications. 

Veggie Potstickers

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I had picked up a package of broccoli slaw and then didn't end up making the recipe I had intended to use it with. I had been wanting pot stickers for quite some time so I decided it would be a perfect excuse to use up the broccoli slaw and save me some time making the pot stickers.



Veggie Pot Stickers
Source: Ming Tsai
Yield: 20-24
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Ingredients:
    • 10 oz. package broccoli slaw
    • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
    • 1 handful chives, chopped
    • 2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
    • 1 tsp. sesame oil
    • 20-24 wonton wrappers
    • canola oil
    • salt and pepper, to taste
Spicy Soy Dipping Sauce
    • 1/3 cup soy sauce
    • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
    • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
    • 1 tsp. sesame oil
    • 1 tbsp. sambal oelek
Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl.

Directions:
1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat add a splash of canola oil, broccoli slaw, red onion, mushrooms and chives. Cook for 5 minutes or until softened.
2. Transfer vegetables to a colander and allow to drain any excess liquid. Once drained and slightly cooled, add cilantro and sesame oil.
3. Lay out the wonton wrappers, in a diamond shape. Place some of the vegetable mixture in the center. Dab the edges with water and wrap up the edges, crimping and making a half-moon shape. Repeat with remaining wrappers.
4. Add just enough oil to coat a large non-stick skillet. Heat to medium-high heat. Place the wontons in the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the bottoms are browned. Then add 1/4 cup water and immediately cover. This will steam them.
5. Once water has evaporated from the skillet, remove pot stickers and plate. Serve along with spicy soy dipping sauce.



Yum! I really liked these, especially with the spicy soy sauce.

Caramel Brownie Bites

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I've had these brownie bites pinned for quite some time now but never got around to making them. When I was going through my Pinterest looking for recipe possibilities to make for the party we were having, I checked out the recipe for this and couldn't believe that I had all of the ingredients currently in the fridge and the pantry. I took that as a sign that I definitely needed to make these.

I prefer bite sized desserts to anything that needs to be sliced/cut/served on a plate. Not only is it easier for a party, but it's built-in portion control. That is, if you're lucky enough to be able to eat one or two of these and then walk away.



Caramel Brownie Bites
Source: Pillsbury
Servings: 36
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Ingredients:
    • 14 oz. bag Kraft caramels, unwrapped
    • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 1 box refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
    • 15.9 oz box brownie mix

    Directions:
    1. Place caramels and the heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30-second intervals, stirring each time, until fully melted and smooth.
    2. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a mini muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.
    3. Roll out each pie crust and use a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter to cut out rounds. Place the rounds in each mini muffin cup, pressing up the sides.
    4. Add a drop of caramel into each mini muffin cup followed by a pinch of the chopped pecans.
    5. In a large bowl, prepare brownie mix according to package directions.
    6. Spoon brownie mixture into each mini muffin cup until full. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownie comes out clean.
    7. Remove from the pan and allow to cool on wire racks for at least 30 minutes.
    8. Microwave caramel until it reaches drizzling consistency. Dip each cup into the warmed caramel, swirling to remove excess. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

    The original recipe also calls for a chocolate ganache to go on top of the brownie, but I thought that was a bit of overkill. After the party, I had 7 of these left. I think that tells you how good they are! 

Pepperoni Puffs

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When I was talking to my friend Kayleigh about the party we were having, she suggested that I make these. I made something similar before, with these Pepperoni Pizza Sliders.



Pepperoni Puffs
Source: The Gunny Sack
Servings: 30
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Ingredients:
    • 3 cans biscuits (10 biscuits per can)
    • 60 slices pepperoni
    • 30 cubes cheese (mozzarella, colby, etc.)
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
    • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 cup pizza sauce, warmed
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425. Spray a 9x13 dish with non-stick spray.
2. Wrap two pieces of pepperoni around a cheese cube. Flatten a biscuit and place the pepperoni/cheese in the center. Wrap the biscuit around the pepperoni and cheese and pinch the seams shut. Place seam-sized down in the prepared dish.
3. Repeat with remaining biscuits.
4. Brush over the biscuits with the beaten egg, then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic powder over them.
5. Bake for 20 minutes.
6. Serve with warmed pizza sauce for dipping.

These were the first thing to disappear from the table of food. Everyone loved them and most thought the pizza sauce wasn't even necessary and they were delicious enough on their own. You could easily make this for dinner one night and serve along with a salad for a more balanced meal.


Crock Pot Balsamic Roast Beef

I asked for suggestions on my cooking board of what type of sliders I should make for the party we were having. This was the first recipe recommended and since it was so simple to make and I currently had everything but the beef, I decided to go for it. 


Crock Pot Balsamic Beef
Servings: 24 sliders or 6-8 dinner sized servings

Ingredients:
    • 3-4 lb. bottom round roast
    • 1 cup beef stock
    • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp. honey 
    • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • 5 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:
1. Place beef in a 6 quart crock pot. Mix together other ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over beef.
2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until fork tender. 
3. Shred beef and serve. 

I opted to skip making a gravy with the liquids and just serve these on slider rolls with a southwest mustard. You could use it for another type of sandwich, in a taco, quesadilla, burrito, or just serve it alone with the gravy along with some side dishes.

This recipe is incredibly versatile and very, very easy to make. I suggest trying it out right away. 

Secret Recipe Club: Drunken Gummy Bears

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I feel as though I'm cheating a bit with choosing this to make for the Secret Recipe Club. There really isn't a recipe for this and actually, I don't think you could find something easier to do. But, I love gummy bears, I had some half used tiny liquor bottles in the fridge, and we were having a party.

It only seemed right to combine all three of those things together and make Drunken Gummy Bears as my choice for this month's Secret Recipe Club. 

What is the Secret Recipe Club, you ask? It's a large group of bloggers, broken out into 4 smaller groups and each month the bloggers are secretly assigned another blog to make a recipe from. Then on our designated reveal day, we all share our recipes with the help of a link up. 

For this month I was assigned to Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne is the author of Cheap Ethic Eatz, which she started back in 2007. She lives in Montreal and created this blog as a way to record the reviews of restaurants her meetup group (of the same name) visited. Although the group no longer exists, she still shares recipes. 

I think that is really cool. Like she says, there are so many of us who eat the same foods over and over again and don't branch out to try new things simply for the fear of the unknown. Even I am guilty of this so it was really neat for me to read through her recipes and think whether it was something I'd be willing to try or not. 



Drunken Gummy Bears

Ingredients:
    • 2 packages gummy bears
    • liquor(s) of your choice
Directions:
1. Place gummy bears in a ramekin or shallow dish. Pour at least 1 teaspoon of your desired liquor choice over the gummy bears. Let soak for at least 1 hour before serving. 



I opted to use two of the Haribo packages of gummy bears, which I believe are about 10 ounces each. I used about 2 teaspoons of whipped cream vodka in one dish and one 1 teaspoon of Bacardi rum over the other dish. 

The whipped cream vodka ones were quite delicious. The rum ones were a little too strong for my tastes. But either way, if you are looking for an alternative to jello shots and an adult version of something from your childhood, I highly suggest making these. 

It's becoming a bit of a tradition in my family to soak something in alcohol and serve it at parties. It all started with the vodka soaked cherry tomatoes my aunt served at my bridal shower. Believe me, you haven't lived until you've had a vodka soaked cherry tomato. Or a vodka soaked gummy bear for that matter. 

Weekly Menu 9/8 - 9/12

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This was the first weekend I didn't have anything to do and I couldn't go to the pool. It's always a strange time, switching from summer to fall. I try to avoid it as much as possible, and my mom even invited us to her pool, which is still open, but I had so much to do around here that we declined.

I didn't get nearly as much done as I expected, but I'd still call it a fairly successful weekend. One thing we did do was order tickets to the county wine festival which is being held at a manor house at the end of this month. We opted to go for the VIP tickets which come with a ton of different foods from the Pairings Bistro restaurant we like so much. I absolutely can't wait to go!

When we were at Wegman's the other day, I noticed they still had hatch chiles. I thought their season was very short and wasn't expecting to find them. But they were $1 per pound and I absolutely could not pass up that price, so I purchased a pound of them with absolutely no idea what to do with them. So unlike me!

Sunday - Gouda, Bacon and Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese

Monday - Ginger-Garlic Shrimp Stir Fry

Tuesday - Pumpkin Chili

Wednesday - Crock Pot Stewed Chicken 

Thursday - Spicy Rum Pork with Baked Potatoes and Corn 

A pound of the hatch chiles turned out to be 5 of them. One went into the mac and cheese, as stated above. I'll add one into the stir fry, one into the chili and then for lunch this week I'm having chicken fajitas and one went into that mix as well. Which just leaves me one lonely chile. I'm sure I'll find a home for him soon enough.

For breakfast I'm continuing the green smoothie tradition.

Baked goods for the week include oatmeal chocolate bars, pumpkin whoopie pies, and chocolate banana muffins.


Corn and Bacon Skillet Mac and Cheese

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There are a lot of "and"'s in that recipe title, aren't there? I made this a few weeks ago and never got around to sharing it with you, but I realized that corn season is almost over so if I wanted you all to try how great this recipe is, I needed to get to typed up right away!

This is the first time I've ever made and mac and cheese recipe in a skillet. I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but I was pleasantly surprised



Corn and Bacon Skillet Mac and Cheese
Source: Iowa Girl Eats
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1/2 lb. gemelli pasta
    • 4 slices bacon, chopped
    • 2 ears corn, kernels removed
    • 2 tbsp. butter
    • 2 tbsp. flour
    • 1 cup chicken broth
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
    • salt and pepper
    • diced tomato, for garnish
Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel
3. Discard all bacon fat except for 1 teaspoon. Add the corn to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes, then transfer to a plate.
4. Add the butter to the skillet, then whisk in the flour and stir for 30 seconds or until lightly golden. Add in 1/4 cup of chicken broth and stir until incorporated. Then add in the remaining chicken broth and the milk. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and become bubbly. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese with a wooden spoon.
6. Add the pasta, bacon and corn to the skillet and stir until everything is coated with the cheese sauce. Serve, topped with diced tomatoes.



I really liked adding corn to mac and cheese since that was something I'd never done before. Bacon is a given, but corn is a nice choice to provide some unexpected sweetness to an otherwise savory dish. It is definitely one of those dishes you eat and think "summer". And bonus, cooking this in a skillet greatly decreases the time compared to an oven style mac and cheese recipe. 

Mojito Fruit Salad

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Fruit usually isn't my first choice of something to serve at a party, but I wanted a healthier option and I had a bottle of mojito mixer in the fridge for quite some time now and really needed to find something to do with it.

I initially had planned on marinating the fruit in a mojito dressing and then putting the fruit on skewers but after looking at everything in the bowl, I decided skewers would just take away from it.



Mojito Fruit Salad
Inspired by: Mom on Time Out 
Servings: ~ 4 cups
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Ingredients:
    • 1/2 watermelon, cut into 1/2" pieces 
    • 1 small cantelope, cut into 1/2" pieces
    • 1 cup pineapple, cut into 1/2" pieces
    • 1 cup grapes
    • 1 pint strawberries, hulled
    • 1 pint blackeberries 
    • 1/4 cup mojito mixer liquid
    • 2 tbsp. rum (optional)
    • fresh mint leaves
    • sugar, as needed
Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine all of the fruit.
2. Pour mojito mixer and rum over the fruit. Toss to combine. Add sugar to taste. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.


It doesn't get much easier than that, does it? You could easily use any type of fruit that is in season when you are making this and if you didn't even want to deal with the prep work, you could easily just add the mojito, rum, mint and sugar to a purchased fruit salad.

Surprisingly, almost every immediately gravitated towards this fruit. The rum taste wasn't very strong (which I wanted) but the mojito flavor was definitely there. 

Puff Pastry Jalapeno Poppers

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Jalapeno poppers are one of my favorite snack and party foods. Obviously, since I've made these stuffed jalapenos and these bacon and cream cheese jalapeno bites. If it weren't for the need to blog new foods, I'd easily make a variation of jalapeno poppers for every party I have and every holiday I host. Lucky for you, I guess, I feel as though I should provide you with a variety of appetizer options to choose from, should you be perusing that section of my blog.

But when I planned the Cards Against Humanity party, I knew I wanted mainly finger foods and jalapeno poppers are just that! While the two other versions I've served have just used the jalapeno for the shell, I was drawn to these because of the use of puff pastry. This made them most like the ones you'd get from your local restaurant or sub shop.



Puff Pastry Jalapeno Poppers
Slightly Adapted from: Rachel Schultz
Servings: 24
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Ingredients:
    • 12 jalapenos, halved and seeds removed
    • 1 box puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
    • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
    • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
    • 1 egg
    • 3 tbsp. water
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Unfold both sheets of puff pastry and cut each into 12 3x3 squares, making 24 total squares.
3. In a bowl, stir together cream cheese, cheddar cheese and bacon.
4. Fill each jalapeno half with the cream cheese mixture. Place each jalapeno on a piece of puff pastry and wrap the puff pastry around the jalapeno. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Brush over the poppers.
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

I loved these and found them to be much better than the stuffed versions I tried. The puff pastry gave a nice flaky crust that took away some of the heat from the jalapeno. One of my friends must have gotten a particularly hot jalapeno though because she said hers was really, really spicy.



Recipe Re-Make: Crock Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs

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9/2/13: Crock Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs is one of my most popular recipes. It has over 3,000 page views alone and is one of my most pinned recipes as well. Given those two facts, I have absolutely no idea why it has taken me this long to finally update this recipe! It's been much needed! 



My favorite thing about this recipe is how versatile it is. You can use everything pre-made, do everything from scratch or a combination of the two. It is entirely up to you for how involve you want this recipe to be. 

Crock Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Original
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
Meatballs:
  • 1 lb. ground beef 
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper 
 Sauce:
  • 10 oz. jar spaghetti sauce, or 3 cups homemade sauce
  • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (omit if using homemade sauce)
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste 
Pasta:
  • 6 oz. spaghetti noodles, or homemade 
Directions:
Meatballs: (Alternately, you can use purchased frozen meatballs if you are short on time.)
1. In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients for the meatballs. Mix together well and form into 20-25 evenly sized meatballs.
Optional: (Raw meatballs can be placed directly into the crock pot)
     2. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire cooling rack on top.        Spray the rack with non-stick cooking spray.
     3. Place the meatballs on the rack and bake for 15 minutes.
3. Pour spaghetti sauce, diced tomatoes (if using) and tomato paste into the crock pot. Stir to combine. Add the meatballs, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
4. About 15 minutes before serving, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add in the spaghetti noodles and cook according to package directions, or prepare homemade noodles.
5. Drain and serve meatballs and sauce over noodles.



As listed above, the option to cook the meatballs ahead of time is entirely up to you. Because of the amount of sauce, cooked meatballs will not dry out. I found when cooked they were firmer but overall the taste of the recipe doesn't change.

Topping this dish with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese and a few basil leaves could easily make someone believe you spent all day slaving in the kitchen to prepare this meal for them. As done previously, I served this dish with garlic bread and a salad.



Original Post, October 31, 2010

The crock pot is one of my new favorite kitchen gadgets. As much as I actually (yes, really) enjoy prepping items and being there to make adjustments throughout the meal process, I also really like that I can just throw some stuff in the crock pot and come back to it a few hours later.

I'd be bugging Tom for weeks now about eating meals that used spaghetti sauce. Both my aunt and his mom made us a bridal shower basket of Italian items and included two jars each. Add that to the 3 jars we somehow manged to collect in the pantry, and I had practically a half of a shelf full of nothing but spaghetti sauces.

Original Picture: EEK! 
Crock Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Original
Servings: 6
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. ground beef
    • 1 egg
    • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
    • 1 tsp. oregano
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/8 tsp. pepper
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
    • 10 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
    • 10 oz. can diced tomatoes
    • 6 oz. can tomato paste
    • 3/4 box spaghetti noodles

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, eggs, bread crumbs, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Form the meat mixture into 16-20 meatballs.
2. In the crock pot, add the spaghetti sauce, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir to combine.
3. Add the meatballs into the crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
4. About 15 minutes before serving, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add in the spaghetti noodles and cook according to package directions.

5. Drain and serve meatballs and sauce over noodles.

I wasn't sure how putting an uncooked meatballs in the crock pot would turn out, but these were pretty good. Next time I want to try browning the meatballs first to see if the meatballs could be a bit more firm. I served this with a garden salad and some baked garlic bread.


Weekly Menu 9/1 - 9/5

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I absolutely love three day weekends because you get Second Saturday. The first Saturday you get to do all of your regular Saturday activities and then Second Saturday, you can do the same again instead of preparing for work/school the next day. 

This is a bit of a random weekend for us. Earlier in the week, my friend happened to say something like "we should get everyone together like we used to and play card games." That sounded like fun and I agreed, except I can't ever just do things as planned. 

I came home from work that day and suddenly an idea popped in my head. I asked Tom what he thought about ordering Cards Against Humanity and having people over this weekend. He was up for it, so I ordered the game and then managed to plan out a menu and invite everyone within about 2 hours. There might be something wrong with me. 

Except, nothing for this party went as planned so far and it hasn't even happened yet. On Friday UPS drove me insane with their inability to do their job: deliver a package. I had plans to get a much-needed pedicure but instead did some grocery shopping while impatiently waiting for a UPS supervisor to call me back so I could drive 30+ minutes out of my way to pick it up at their facility. 

Saturday, my plans were to go to Target to get a prescription filled, go to the pool, clean and somehow get a pedicure. This was somewhat thrown out of wack when I returned from the pool to see Tom had gotten my subliminal messages for the past month and everything in the apartment was moved around and being deep-cleaned. Instead of the usual 2 hours it takes me to clean everything, it took us like 7 with a stop for showering, pedicures and food in the middle. 

Today it was supposed to be rainy and ugly. Of course the sun has been out all day and while every summer-loving being of my body was calling me to go to the pool for the final day there, I opted to stay inside and prepare all of the food. Probably the smarter idea. 

You're getting two menus today. The one for the party that's happening in 2 hours (and I'm not even dressed!)  and the menu for the rest of the week. 

Cards Against Humanity Party Menu
balsamic-honey beef sliders
Old Bay wings
mini mac and cheese cups
pepperoni puffs
puff pastry jalapeno poppers
veggies and dip
queso and chips
mojito fruit salad
caramel brownie bites
Reese's cake 
liquor-soaked gummy bears

I've prepared everything except for the wings and Reese's cake, which my friends are bringing. 

The menu for this week includes:

Monday - bacon cheeseburgers with homemade fries and corn on the cob

Tuesday - crock pot stewed chicken 

Wednesday - rum and spice pork tenderloin, baked potatoes and green beans 

Thursday - lasagna roll ups, salad 

For breakfast I'm still having green smoothies and for lunch I'm going to enjoy some vegetable soup along with turkey, cheese and crackers (basically a grown-up Lunchable)

Since I have less than 2 hours before people arrive, I'm not going to have something blogged for tomorrow morning, so if you're a 6 am reader, I apologize. I'm sure the fuzzy alarm clocks won't let me sleep too late so there will be something up to share with you in the morning hours tomorrow. 

How did you spend your Labor Day weekend? And are you ready for the end of summer? I'm not. ::cries::
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