Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Friendsgiving and Whipped Feta Crostinis

This past weekend, Cory and I hosted our second annual Friendsgiving. Friendsgivings have become somewhat of a cliche, but I absolutely LOVE it. Everyone chipping in, bringing a dish, enjoying some craft beer or good wine, and celebrating the holidays together. There's nothing like it!

I changed up my menu a bit this year, compared to last year when I wanted to make my appetizers mimic a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatos, green beans...) Because we typically have a larger crowd of people, with folks coming and going at all different times, I like to keep our Friendsgiving table filled with appetizers and finger foods. At this point, I don't think we can handle a sit down dinner. It's not that me and my friends aren't classy. We are VERY classy.

So - finger foods, that everyone can enjoy, no matter what time they join us. I also wanted to put out some dishes that would still be tasty even at room temperature. And for my challenge, I wanted to make my very first cake! All together, everything came out great, and my amazing friends also brought some additional delicious treats that kept everyone coming back for more!

My spread was made up of the following dishes:

Whipped Feta Crostinis with Asparagus and Balsamic Reduction - recipe after the jump!!

Ina Garten's Stuffed Mushrooms

The woman can do no wrong--recipe here. I was taking tastes of the filling all morning and had to stop myself before eating it all!

Bourbon Whiskey Glazed Cocktail Meatballs

I made a double batch of these, which meant I had over 50 meatballs in my Crockpot. There was nearly a battle over the last meatball. These suckers are addicting. Next time you have any sort of party or potluck, I strongly encourage having these on the table! Find the recipe here.

Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Tarts in Fyllo Dough Cups

I found this recipe in a magazine and snapped a picture of the recipe on my phone. Tangy and sweet and totally festive!

Pumpkin Dream Cake with Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

Making a cake is so much fun and I got to put my new cake stand to good use! I will be working on my icing skills over time, but the important part is that this cake was truly a dream - so tasty and moist. I used this recipe but instead of maple syrup in the frosting, I added one vanilla bean and an extra teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Divine!

My awesome friends also brought some seriously yummy foods, including rice balls, cheesy potato casserole, butternut squash raviolis, veggie platters, spiked apple cider, and a pumpkin dip with gingersnaps. I cannot thank everyone enough!

Well, Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and before the recipe I wanted to take a moment to be totally cliche and reflect on what I'm thankful for. My family, friends, Cory, Dot, Angelo, good health, a job that challenges me and that I enjoy, and you my readers! My life is all the better for it. I hope you all have a fabulous holiday and take some time to be thankful for the people who have changed your life!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie

The past two weeks, I have been totally crazed with having smoothies for breakfast. I don't know what sparked this obsession, but I have to say I am loving it.

I am usually pretty standard with my smoothie mix. Usually I'm talking frozen strawberries along with blueberries, a big scoop of natural peanut butter, honey and almond milk (tastes like PB&J, joyous!) Typical variations involve a super ripe banana, different frozen fruits, non-fat greek yogurt and a tablespoonful of chia seeds.

For some reason yesterday morning I got a little crazy and stepped up the smoothie game. Enter: Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie. It is so tasty and so fulfilling, it is sure to keep you feeling satisfied until lunchtime!

This is also a nutritious smoothie alternative that is totally dairy-free! It starts with prepared oatmeal. Now, I know this sounds weird, but it is actually a great way to make your smoothies rich and thick without milk or yogurt. I just combined 1/2 cup quick oats with 1 cup water and zapped it in the microwave for 2 minutes. When it was finished, I quickly stirred in a tablespoon of chia seeds to allow them to soften and expand.

When you're ready to make the smoothie, it of course cannot get any easier than this. Oatmeal, banana, cocoa powder, honey, almond milk and a handful of ice go into the blender until totally smooth. Just pour it in a tumbler and you're out the door ready to go!

There are plenty of variations you can make to this oatmeal smoothie base.

- Add a scoop of peanut butter for a Chocolate PB Smoothie
- Add a scoop of chocolate protein powder for a post-workout snack
- Replace the ice with frozen strawberries (or any berry for that matter!) for a chocolate covered strawberry smoothie

Give the original a try and then jazz it up into the smoothie of your dreams. Breakfast -- LITERALLY, so fast!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Low-Carb Taco Bowls

I am going to be honest today and tell you guys that when it comes to a blogging schedule, I don't have one. I make things that I want to try and if it's a winner, I take pictures and bring it to you.

This sporadic what-I-ate-is-what-I-write-about schedule seems to have back fired, on account of I brought you not one but two decadent cake recipes back to back.

I don't feel like you're mad about it, but with the holiday baking rush sometimes I feel like our dinners need to be toned down, a bit lighter, allowing us to leave a little room for dessert (winky face). This is so simple but a total crowd pleaser!

Enter these Low-Carb Taco Bowls. It's everything you love about a taco or burrito, with the taco shells scrapped and the rice improvised. I made a Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower rice as a base. Have you gotten on board with this trend? Raw cauliflower is pulsed in the food processor until it reaches a rice-like consistency, then sauteed until golden brown. I'm telling you--you won't miss that bland rice with this dish!

Besides the rice, we are talking tacos how you like them. I used ground beef, for I do not fear the red meat (in fact I love it), and it all gets spiced up with some taco seasonings. Atop the "rice" and beef is the good stuff -- shredded cheese, ripe avocado slices, black beans, lettuce, tomato, chives, and cilantro. It really is a taco bowl with the works!

This is a one pan meal that is perfect to whip together on a busy weeknight. Simply prep the rice, prep the beef, slice up your veggies and serve everything buffet-style, so each person can have exactly what they want on their taco bowl!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chocolate Chai-Spiced Loaf Cake

What can I say about this cake?

I am actually sitting here speechless. That's right -- me! Speechless! This cake is that good.

I'm talking, of course, about my Chocolate Chai-Spiced Loaf Cake. I was inspired this past week to create this recipe as I was sipping on a Starbucks Chocolate Chai Latte (it's a new drink, and you should definitely give it a try!) 

As I was making this cake, I was not expecting things to work out quite as beautifully as they did. The final product that came out of my oven was a rich, fluffy, and decadent choclate cake spiced with the wonderful flavors of Chai Tea. For good measure, I added a chai tea glaze on top. Why wouldn't I?

Chai spices include cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves. They are like a big hug on a cold day. Pair them up with chocolate and you are onto something.

Now, look, I try not to be a very demanding blogger. Everyone should be able to choose for themselves what sort of project to take on in the kitchen. But...can I just say something? You will NOT be disappointed with this cake. Even my boyfriend who is not really a dessert or sweet kind of guy had the following to say about this cake. And I quote:

"This is divine."

DIVINE!! Who can say no to that? Let's impress our friends. Let's make our mom proud. Let us go forth and make this cake!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Do you find that any baked good that is modified by saying it is "Pumpkin XYZ" makes it instantly better? Pumpkin Cheesecake -- YES. Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting-- YES. Pumpkin Snickerdoodles -- YES.

Enter: Pumpkin Coffee Cake. If you love the taste of those delightfully addicting Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin muffins, I think this recipe is going to make your skirt fly up!

What's with that saying? Let's agree to use it more often this holiday season.

Actually, no. That's not appropriate.


Alright, here's how the story goes. We are going to take basic coffee cake, add a bit of pumpkin puree along with some crucial spices (that is, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger oh my!), then add toasted pecans to the yummy crumbly topping. The perfect breakfast, dessert, or snack cake to bring home to your family this holiday season!

A warm cup of coffee and a wonderfully spiced cake--that is the right way to start ANY morning.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chicken and Vegetable Tortellini Soup

I think that it would be very prudent if we talked about soup today.

Did you know on Monday the greater Boston area had temperatures in the twenties? TWENTIES!!

It is no surprise then that all I could think about this week was soup. I needed warmth in a big bowl sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I have some usual go-to soup recipes. There's my Mom's Lentil Soup, which is flavorful and rich and a blog favorite! I also stumble over my words when it comes to this Chicken Tortilla Soup--just a bit creamy, a bit spicy, and a whole lot of delicious. And then, Corn Chowder...corn chowder always.

Last night, however, the soup menu got a shake-up in the form of Chicken and Vegetable Tortellini Soup. I love the idea of adding tortellini to soup instead of rice or traditional pasta--the cheesy insides make everything right in the world. I used the great fall flavors of thyme and nutmeg to bump up that comfort food feeling and brightened everything up with a bit of lemon zest and lemon juice. This soup kept me coming back for more! This is one hearty dish.

The recipe below is a cinch to throw together...I'd go so far as to say it's a thirty minute meal (a la Rachel Ray). Like any great soup, I must insist you enjoy it with crusty bread and freshly grated Parmesan cheese while snuggled up on the couch watching Seinfeld.


Just make this soup. Trust me on this one. Look at how steamy and delicious it looks--mouthwatering!

Kitty approved

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween Round Up

Before all last memories of Halloween pass and we jump right into the Thanksgiving season, I wanted to give you guys a quick peak at the table I set up for a very impromptu Halloween party we hosted last night.

I snapped these pictures on my very pitiful iPhone 4, but I think you can get the gyst. This spread was all about being festive and cute...I think I did ok :-)

First off...let's talk costumes.

Cory and I were Gru and a Minion from Despicable Me! We made Cory's horrifying nose out of silly putty, and the rest were just items from his closet - a striped scarf, black zip up, black pants. For my costume I found a pair of blue overalls and made the "G" symbol. I found a yellow shirt with yellow stockings that matched perfectly and then made the goggles with some electric tape and black toy glasses frames. I am all about making a costume out of things that can be re-used or that are already in your closet--I think we nailed it!

As for the food, I didn't want to go crazy. I just wanted to make a few treats that people could snack on throughout the night. But everything was super yummy. Here's what I made.

Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip a la Skinnytaste. Served with whole wheat tortilla scoops and celery sticks. Added bonus -- this is a Crockpot recipe!

Spicy Whiskey Barbeque Sliders a la Ree Drummond from her new holiday cookbook (which I'm obsessed with by the way). Also, these appetizer fabulous!

Roasted Corn, Bacon, and Feta Guacamole. This was a total hit and I am going to make a fresh batch with some nicer pictures and share it here! The consensus: bacon makes everything better. Words to live by.

Chocolate pumpkin cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream. Moist and sweet and great to eat. I tinted my buttercream orange using 1 drop red gel food coloring and 2-3 drops of yellow. I also decorated a few with black decorating gel to create a spider web. Just make a dot in the middle then 3 circles about 1/2 inch apart. Take a toothpick and drag from the center dot, outward to create the web effect. So fun, especially when adorned with (non-edible) spider gem rings.

I hope you all had fun this Halloween! Can't wait to see what crazy recipes November brings.