Thursday, September 30, 2010

It’s Great..

Today is the last day of September.

And tomorrow will be October which means it time for a fall extravaganza…


There’s no doubt about it, American’s love the pumpkin. Whether eaten savory or sweet, the orange gems have always been a fall-time treat!

They come in all sizes and shapes, they’re good to bake.

Big or small, use can use em’ all. Big for carving, small for eating,

displaying for those who are Trick or Treating.

If your looking for a new way to feature a pumpkin this season,

making my delicious mini pumpkin pies is a perfect reason!


Marvelous Mini Pumpkin Pies

Makes: 6


  • 4 oz.  (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) fat free cream cheese, softened

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar, divided, I used Splenda 

  • 1/2 c Eggbeaters

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin

  • 1/2 tsp.  pumpkin pie spice

  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, if desired

  • 6 Tbsp.  thawed cool whip lite whipped topping


HEAT oven to 350ºF.

CHOOSE a crust recipe and press into 6 regular-sized muffin tins. Bake for 8 minutes.

MIX cream cheese, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 1/4 c eggbeaters with whisk until well blended. Spoon into tart shells.

MIX pumpkin, spice, remaining sugar and 1/4 c eggbeaters until well blended; spoon over cream cheese layers in tart shells. Sprinkle with nuts if desired.

BAKE 40 min. or until centers are set. Cool completely. Serve topped with cool whip.

Try some of my other pumpkin-infused recipes…


**Win some coffee here!**

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cookie Monster


I think we all have an inner cookie monster persona, am I right? Ok, so maybe not as cookie crazy as say, Cookie Monster, but to the point where we each have our favorite cookie and like to enjoy it occasionally.

It’s Friday, so it’s an excuse to relax, bake some of these cookies, and have a few!!

Recipe for cookies shown in video here.

What’s your favorite cookie?

Mine are spritz cookies!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Birthday Boy

I really have a hard time keeping surprises from people, especially when they are big ones. And even more so when I am keeping them from all the readers on my blog for quite sometime now. Yes, there is not one, but two surprises that will be revealed sometime within the next week…so hang in there! =)


"Almost Any Man Can Be A Father
It Takes Someone Extremely Special
To Be A Dad"


This past weekend was my wonderful dad’s birthday! So in true daughter/hostess fashion, I invited him down to my house for the weekend! My dad comes to visit every so often, but is pretty busy due to the fact that he is an over-the-road truck driver. For him to take a few days to come stay at my place was a definite treat! I wanted to make his birthday weekend extra special. Judging by his reactions, I would say I succeeded!


First up, we visited my city’s local Science Museum which I have never been to in the three years that I’ve lived here surprisingly. I think it’s always fun to play tourist in your town once and awhile—that way you can always discover new things.


We had fun taking pictures in the fun house mirrors.


Were amazed by some of the science and physics experiments.


I held my first snake—Bo the boa constrictor. Scary, yes.

But of course the food was the highlight of the day, like usual when you’re at my place!!  While I was waiting for my dad to arrive early Saturday afternoon, I got going in the kitchen. I usually bake my bread from scratch in the bread machine, however when I was shopping, I saw this mix and it was on sale, so I figured I’d give it a try!


Hawaiian Royal Sweet Bread Machine Mix


The box included your bread mix and yeast packet—all you do is add water and you have yourself a nice loaf!


I would classify this bread as a cross between a sweet bread and a more traditional bread. However, it served as the perfect balance with a savory meal!

Next I got started on the side dish—homemade garlic red mashed potatoes. My dad loves this recipe and he’s a mashed potatoaholic.


Garlic Red Mashed Potatoes


  • 8 medium red potatoes, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled—equivalent of minced garlic works too
  • 2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine—I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter 
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk, warmed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Directions:

    • Place potatoes and garlic in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender. Drain well.


    • Add the butter, milk and salt; mash, or put on low in a stand mixer like I do.

    And lastly, I made a run to our local meat market and got my 2nd favorite (flank being first) cut of meat, T-bone steak! And then I saw some juicy shrimp, and thought hey, why not steak and shrimp?


    But what’s a girl to do when left with two steaks and no grill? Follow this fail-proof indoor cooking method for just-off-the-grill flavor! I love it!


    Pan-Seared T-Bone Steak


    • 1 1/2 pounds bone-in T-bone steak

    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    • 1 tablespoon canola oil

    • 2 skewers of shrimp, uncooked (optional)


    • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. A half-hour before cooking, remove steak from refrigerator.
    • Heat a large skillet over high heat. Pat steak dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Add oil to hot skillet and when it begins to smoke add steak. Reduce heat slightly and cook steak until browned, about 4 minutes on each side.
    • Add one skewer of shrimp on top of each steak.
    • Transfer skillet to the oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted sideways into the steak registers 120 degrees F for medium-rare, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes.


    All together now…




    Let’s just say my dad didn’t have words to describe this meal, but the fact that either of us could barely move from being so stuffed was all the reassurance I needed!!

    Oh but wait, don’t go…

    I almost forgot to share the dessert I made!


    Triple Chocolate Cupcakes—words can’t describe!


    What’s the best birthday meal you’ve ever had?

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    It’s a Fall Friday

    Y’all, it’s definitely fall

    Which means I’m plowing through fall semester.

    Which also means pumpkins are coming into season.

    Which means the temperatures are dropping.

    Which means turning on the oven to bake is appropriate.

    I have a busy weekend ahead!

    Which means I won’t have time to bake pumpkin goodies.

    Which means I am thankful that my mom documented her

    latest pumpkin baking adventure to share with everyone!

    So without further ado, here’s my mom coming at you

    from her kitchen!!



    Q&A With Mom!

    (Me) Q: What is your favorite food?

    (Mom) A: Anything Italian

    Q:What is your favorite thing to cook?

    A: Baked goods

    Q:What’s your favorite thing about fall?

    A: The colors

    Q: What’s your favorite way to eat pumpkin?

    A: Usually in a cake with cream cheese frosting and nuts on top!

    Q: Why should my readers try this recipe this fall?

    A: Because it’s quick, easy, cheap, and tasty!


    Mom’s Pumpkin Pie Crunch Bars



  • 1 (16 oz) can solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • whipped topping
  • Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom of 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan.
  • Combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt in large bowl. Stir until well blended. Pour into pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture. Top with pecans. Drizzle with melted butter.
  • Photo0918

  • Bake at 350°F 50 to 55 minutes or until golden. Cool completely. Serve with whipped topping. Refrigerate leftovers.
  • Photo0920

    (She added Reddi-Whip after cutting and serving)


    Hope you all have a great weekend! If you are out grocery shopping and your looking for a new diet soda to try, look for the season Cranberry Splash Sierra Mist—I love it!


    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Year-Round Food Savings

    It’s no doubt everyone is trying to save money in all aspects of their lives nowadays. Being involved in cooking and always wanting to try new things in the kitchen can get expensive, especially on a college budget. So I am always trying to find the most economical way to do things, but yet comparable to high-end prices. I have become quite fond of Wal-Mart’s Great Value brand. I do most of my dry foods and dairy grocery shopping at Wal-Mart, and do produce and deli shopping at our other local grocer. When shopping at Wal-Mart, I’ve found I usually spend about $30 exactly on each trip without even calculating beforehand. Check out my last two trips (I usually make 2 a week to Wal-Mart, and 1 to another grocer):



    Great Value graham cracker, Great Value all-purpose flour, Great Value powdered sugar, Great Value cream cheese, 2 (14.5oz) cans of Great Value diced tomatoes with chilies, 1 can of Great Value stewed tomatoes, 15 oz whole mushrooms, 1 packet McCormick’s slow-cooker seasoning, 1 banana, bag of Fresh Express baby spinach, Great Value frozen  stir-fry vegetable mix, 1 box of original Boca burgers, 1 (4.5 oz) can Great Value diced chilies, and 1 carton of 2 1/2 dozen eggs.



    2 Great Value (2 liter) flavored sparkling water, 1 banana, 8th Continent Light Vanilla soymilk, 15 oz whole mushrooms, 1 bag of Great Value frozen broccoli, 1 large bag of Fresh Express lettuce, 2 cucumbers, 1 bag of Great Value brown sugar, 2 (8oz) Great Value cream cheese, small bag of Fisher diced walnuts, 64 oz Heinz ketchup, 1 container vanilla Yoplait yogurt, 1 large carton Great Value egg whites, jar of roasted red pepper, jar of Vlassic banana peppers, 1 pack of strawberry Orbit gum, 3 pack of mint Stride gum.

    It’s also good to keep in mind that grocery stores change their sales routinely year round. Here’s how to shop by the month to get the most bang for your buck!


    • Breakfast foods—hot/cold cereals, frozen breakfast pastries, pancake mix
    • Labor Day staples like barbeque and party foods.


    • Wine
    • Pasta and frozen pizza
    • Pet food, grooming supplies and toys


    • Thanksgiving foods: turkey, stuffing mix, soups, cranberries, canned veggies, yams
    • Baking goods including flour, baking soda, sugar, cake mixes, frosting, pie crust and frozen pies.


    • Champagne
    • Disposable containers, foil, wax paper, and plastic wrap


    • Low-fat or low-carb items, including frozen meals, granola bars, diet soda
    • Super Bowl favorites such as frozen appetizers, chips, dips, sodas
    • Boxed teas and soups


    • Canned foods, including soups, fruits and vegetables
    • Medicines, cold remedies, and vitamins


    • Peanut butter and other peanut products.
    • Frozen meals, vegetables, and fruits.


    • Soy products
    • Hams and other Easter related foods


    • Memorial Day staples, such as bbq foods, as well as paper plates, napkins, and cups.
    • Post-Mother’s Day: kitchen appliances.


    • Cheese, milk, cream, yogurt, and other dairy products.
    • Seafood
    • Ice cream products


    • Hot dogs, frozen hamburger patties, ground meat for the Fourth of July, as well as condiments.
    • School supplies


    • Back-to-school lunch items
    • Sunscreen and other lotions
    • Tissues


    Check this out!!

    Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts Box

    They are on store shelves NOW people..get some while you can!


    How much do you typically spend on a groceries in a week?

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    No S’more Summer

    At the beginning of summer, and towards the middle, I am always dreading the colder months ahead. But once the last humid days of August fade away, and the cooler days of September make their way into northern Minnesota, I am actually looking forward to the fall leaves, fall festivities, and of course the fall flavors.


    Even though this past week was short, it sure seemed long! I was glad to have Monday off though. I made a trip up to see my parents and we took off to the Black Bear Casino to go to their great buffet. I honestly adore the all-you-can eat style restaurants—especially when they include peel-and-eat shrimp..yum!


    Shrimp, jo-jo potato fries, corn on the cob, grapes, shrimp and scallops mix, steamed carrots, battered cod, beef pot roast.

    This weekend, my mom, grandma, and I headed to Little Falls, MN and attended the annual Arts and Crafts Fair. It actually turned out to be decent weather—mid 60’s, slight breeze, and plenty of sunshine. The great fall weather brought out thousands of people looking to find a few homemade treasures; it’s a great place to shop for unique holiday gifts!



    Lots of local Minnesota food vendors—and lots of samples of course!!


    Loved this personalized bird house—how fun!


    An authentic ice cream truck—couldn’t pass this up!


    I bought this pretty wire twisted ring—loved how unique it was!

    After walking all afternoon, we worked up an appetite and headed to Perkins for dinner. I wanted a protein-packed meal, so decided on the Steak & Eggs combo with a baked potato. I was a little skeptical about how Perkin’s steaks would measure up compared to somewhere like Applebee’s, but I had no complaints—the meal overall was a great choice!


    I grabbed a double-scoop frozen custard from Culver’s with strawberries and blueberries..I think I like frozen custard better than ice cream!


    But back to summertime, there are some things that I just can’t leave behind from the June, July, and August months, one being s’mores. There’s just something about the smooth chocolate and melted marshmallows sandwiched between two crunchy graham crackers that still seems to beckon at me throughout the winter months. But even when you can’t head outside in your sandals to the campfire, you can still create s’mores indoors—how? With this recipe!!


    s’mores cookies


    • 2/3 cup shortening
    • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 package chocolate chips
    • 1 cup mini marshmallows, plus extra
    • About 3 regular-sized Hershey bars, cut into pieces
    • 2 packages graham crackers, broken into squares



    • Preheat oven to 375°F. On an ungreased cookie sheet, lay out 12 large graham cracker squares.


    • In a large mixing bowl, cream together shortening and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
    • In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add flour mixture slowly to shortening mixture. Mix until combined.CIMG3354
    • Add chocolate chips and marshmallows and stir together.
    • Form into golf-ball size balls and place on top of graham crackers.


    • Bake for 5 minutes, then remove and press Hershey pieces and an extra marshmallow or two on top.






    What are some things you can’t leave behind from the summer months?

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Bidding Farewell to Summer

    “Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.”


    It’s been a great, albeit, fast summer season this year. Here’s my top 5 favorite things I did….

    1) Road tripped to Chicago with my mom for the Healthy Living Summit.


    2) Worked a great job as an assistant chef right in my college town!

    3)Kicked off summer with Jammin’  Moondance Country Fest, and got to see Kellie Pickler, the Zac Brown Band, and Kenny Rodgers.

    4) Spent tons of time with the family.

    Mom and I

    Dad and I

    Gram and I

    5) And of course, a summer is never enjoyable unless you’ve spent time in the kitchen!!


    I loved following along with all your summer adventures as well…here’s to hoping the fall/winter season can be just as great!


    I suppose being someone who cooks a lot, the different seasons mean a lot more than just the temperature—they also mean seasonal produce, which means different recipes yearlong. I love being able to buy tons of squash for a cheaper price during the winter and can’t get enough of the bountiful produce selections during the spring and summer.

    This summer I ate my share of juicy watermelon, ripe peaches, crunchy grapes, and one of my all-time favorites, juicy, red strawberries! The other day I noticed the price of strawberries was climbing up again, and the selection was becoming scarce. It made me a bit sad, so I bought the best carton I could find. It was probably the last fresh batch I will buy this year, so I had to find a recipe that would highlight these gems as best I could!


    I knew I wanted to make some sort of strawberry bread, and finally decided on Strawberry Bread with White Chocolate Truffle Icing. It won me over right away, however it called for one rather expensive ingredient—mascarpone cheese. Don’t you hate when a recipe has just one ingredient you can’t see paying a lot for? In this case, I did not want to shell out $8.38 at the grocery store for this cheese, so I embarked on a mission to find out how to make my own. Check out my cheaper—costs just $2.00 to make and you get double the amount you’d buy in stores—recipe below!


    Homemade One-Step Mascarpone Cheese

    Makes approximately 2 cups



    • 8 oz cream cheese
    • 2 Tbsp butter, room temp
    • 1/4 fat free half and half, or heavy whipping cream


    • Add the cream cheese and butter to a medium mixing bowl, beat until smooth. Add in half and half and keep beating with electric mixer on high until a fluffy texture is reached.


    Strawberry Bread with White Chocolate Truffle Icing

    Makes 2 loaves




    • 1 c butter
    • 1 c mascarpone cheese
    • 1 1/2 c sugar, I used 1 c Splenda and 1/2 c sugar
    • 4 eggs
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • 1 c sweetened condensed milk, I used fat free
    • 1 c low fat buttermilk
    • 5 c all-purpose flour
    • 4 tsp baking powder
    • 2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 4 c finely chopped fresh strawberries


    • 3 /4 c fat free half and half, or heavy whipping cream
    • 2 Tbsp butter, room temp
    • 4 oz white chocolate chips


    • Preheat oven to 350 F and grease two 9 x 5 inch pans.
    • Meanwhile, beat butter and mascarpone cheese together with electric mixer until fluffy. Add in sugar and eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add in the milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla.
    • In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.
    • Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined—don’t over mix.
    • Fold in the strawberries.


    • Bake for 60-65 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
    • While the bread is baking, start making the icing. Bring the cream and butter to a simmer on medium heat. Once butter melts, remove from heat.
    • Pour cream mixture over white chocolate chips. Stir until they have all melted. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
    • Once bread has completely cooled on wire racks, take the icing out of the refrigerator, and pour over the tops of the loaves. Place loaves in the fridge for a half hour to set.
    • Slice and eat!


    --Everyone who had this bread said it is perfect in all aspects—the texture, the taste, the icing, the bits of strawberries, etc. Ok, I am sure you get the point—get going and bake some!--

    What produce are you going to miss most from the summertime?