Red Pepper Almond Pesto

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Lately, my favorite thing to do has been to sit outside and watch the handful of bees pollenating the basil in my garden. They do this every day and it is pretty fascinating to watch how hard they work to help benefit my garden and themselves. I got pretty lucky with my basil this year, considering I didn’t plant a single basil seed when I started my garden in March. It just all grew back from last year — and then some. I have been picking it when my new friends stop buzzing around in the mornings and decided to do a full week of fun green recipes. Ladies & Gentlemen, welcome to Basil Week.

IMG_5578Being Italian, I think it may be in my DNA to love basil. That’s why when the Mix & Match section of the Food Network magazine came this month and it was dedicated to pesto, I instantly pulled out my food processor to make my own concoction. I used almonds instead of the standard pine nuts, and used mozzarella instead of parmesan . Then I topped it off with some jarred roasted red pepper. It was so delicious that I ate half of it straight out of the tupperware without it ever making it to my burger. Oops!

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What You Need:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

What To Do:

1. In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except for the peppers. Blend them together until mostly smooth. This will take several minutes. If the mixture is still pretty chunky, add some more olive oil and continue to blend.

2. Stir in the pepper pieces until they are evenly distributed throughout the pesto.

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Soft and Chewy Milky Way Cookies

IMG_5621Today is my half birthday! I’m going to use that, along with my crazy work schedule at my new job, as an excuse to eat a ton of my newest cookie concoction. While extreme couponing a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a way to get a few bags of the new Milky Way Bites for free. They were immediately thrown in my cart, ripped open, and half-eaten before I made it to the check out line. They are unwrapped already, so there’s no effort required to eat all of them.

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In a last ditch effort to not eat both bags by myself, I threw together a batch of cookie dough for the remaining chocolate morsels and ended up with the softest, chewiest cookie recipe I have ever made. I had done some research and decided to try cornstarch in the batter. You can definitely taste it in there, but it does not take anything away from the candy or the rest of the vanilla extract-fueled dough. You have to chill the batter for a while before you bake it so that the bite-sized bars keep their shape, but the payoff is worth it. IMG_5633Recipe: Soft and Chewy Milky Way Cookies adapted from Center Cut Cook

Makes about 3 dozen

What You Need:

  • 2 & 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 package Milky Way Bites
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What To Do:

1. Mix together all the dry ingredients.

2. Add in the eggs, butter, and vanilla extract until creamy

3. Gently mix in the Milky Way Bites, being careful not to break them.

4. Chill the batter in the fridge for an hour. This will harden the candy enough so that they keep their shape in the oven.

5. Form dough into tablespoon sized balls, making sure there is at least one candy bar in each.

6. Bake for 10 minutes. The cookies will look like they are not quite ready to come out yet, but once you let them cool down they will look awesome!

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Peanut Butter Bacon Oat Dog Treats

IMG_5599The most important man in my life turns 2 today! Yes, I am talking about my dog Chase. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I made him his own special treats using his two favorite foods – peanut butter and bacon. They were pretty simple to make and are a nice change from the usual Milkbones he snacks on constantly.  IMG_3601I adopted Chase from an animal shelter in January of 2012. It was my college graduation present to myself. Actually, it was never intentional. I went to the shelter to work on a final presentation for school and I fell in love with him. I tried to convince myself a dog was a lot of responsibility and left without him. When I couldn’t stop thinking about the little 4 month old pup, I went back and got him.

IMG_1064Chase is a one-of-a-kind dog. He’s predominantly a Brittany Spaniel/ Pitt Bull mix, but is probably other things too.  No one will ever know for sure. Chase also has a hook at the end of his tail. Although we’re not 100% positive, it is assumed that someone did it to him before he found his way to the shelter. The only time he ever gets aggressive is when someone tries to go near it. For this reason, even when Chase gets groomed and his hair is short, he always has a little puff at the end of his tail. Classy dog, indeed.

IMG_0156I treat Chase as if he were a child because, most of the time, he acts like a human baby. He developed separation anxiety something awful when I came back from New York and has to be distracted when I am about to leave or he lays at the door and cries for hours. This is heartbreaking, but also annoying when he throws a fit because I have to close the door to go to the bathroom. He also gets a second wind right as I lay down to sleep and has more friends than I do. Seriously. This kid is in high demand. He’s a great dog though. He’s incredibly smart. He’s too excited about everything. He tries, very cutely, to comfort me when I am upset. I wouldn’t trade him for anything…unless you ask me at 3 am when I’m trying to sleep and he’s gnawing at my shirt sleeve to get me to wake up.

IMG_3607Today we’ll be headed to Chase’s two favorite places — the dog park and Sonic. (Someone is incredibly spoiled and enjoys laying under the sunroof of the car and eating french fries.) Consider making some of these cute biscuits for your own fur baby. Chase freaks out when I take them out of their container. I’m sure I’ll be making some again pretty soon.

IMG_5601Peanut Butter Bacon Oat Dog Treats adapted from The Comfort of Cooking

Makes 3 dozen

What You Need:

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

 

What To Do:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Use a cookie cutter to cut out the shape you want your dog treats to be. Place them on a greased baking sheet.

4. Bake for 20 minutes. Let them cool completely before giving them to your four-legged friends.

Posted in Dog-Friendly | 2 Comments

Mixed Berry Granola

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Can you believe August is almost halfway over? Summer is going by so fast! I am really excited for today. Not only do I get to share another granola recipe with you, but tonight my cousin Lexi and I are going to the Bruno Mars concert to celebrate her upcoming birthday. We have had these tickets since early March, so the fact that today has finally arrived is extremely exciting!

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After making my Nutty Cinnamon Granola for The Leftovers Club at the beginning of the month, I became obsessed with trying out new granola recipes. It takes under 45 minutes from prep to the finished product and is enough for several whole weeks of breakfast. I wanted to attempt a fruity version after the nut-filled one, so I went to my favorite place — the clearance rack at Target — and stocked up on multiple varities of dried fruit. The sweetness of the mixed berry blend goes great with the simplicity of the oats and cinnamon mixture. I dare you to not fall in love with it in just one bite!IMG_5542Recipe: Mixed Berry Granola

Makes 15 servings

What You Need:

  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 10 oz dried mixed berries
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup maple syrup

What To Do:

1. Preheat your oven to 325 F.

2. In a large bowl, combine the oats and the cinnamon.

3. In a small saucepan, heat syrup, vanilla, and butter until the butter is completely melted.

4. Add the syrup mixture to the oats and toss to coat.

5. Spread the granola onto a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.

6. Bake for 40 minutes, flipping granola halfway through.

7. Add in dried fruit and mix well.

8. Let cool completely and then divide into airtight containers.

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Chocolate Fudge Cake Balls

Mondays could always use a little chocolate. That’s why today I am sharing these Chocolate Fudge Cake Balls. These tiny bites of chocolate cake goodness swirled with frosting are an easy way to cure those Monday Blues!IMG_5569

Recipe: Chocolate Fudge Cake Balls

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cake balls

What You Need:

  • 1 box chocolate fudge cake mix
  • 1 tub chocolate fudge frosting
  • 1 package dark chocolate candy melts
  • 1 package milk chocolate candy melts

     

    What To Do:

    1. Bake cake according to package. Let it cool completely.

    2. In  a large bowl, mash cake. Add 3/4 of the tub of frosting. Mix until well incorporated. Stick the mixture in the fridge for an hour.

    3. Using a tablespoon, form cake balls. Gently place the balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, being sure to keep the cake balls rounded. Freeze overnight.

    4. The next day, melt dark chocolate in a large bowl. Carefully roll each cake ball in the dark chocolate and then place back on the baking sheet. These should dry quickly due to the contrast of the frozen cake and the hot, melted chocolate.

    5. When all of the balls are dry, melt milk chocolate. Scoop the chocolate into a small ziplock bag and snip off one of the bottom corners. Pipe the chocolate onto each cake ball for added color and cute drizzle!

Posted in Desserts | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Nutty Cinnamon Granola

IMG_5482It’s Leftovers Club Day! For new readers, Leftovers Club is a group of food bloggers who ship leftovers of their newest creation to a partner on the first Thursday of every month. I cannot express how exciting it is to get baked goods in the mail. Two of my partners from previous months mailed me variations of granola for our exchange. I am almost positive that before this club the only variety of granola I had was in bar form, so I became obsessed with it pretty fast. How could you not when you get to try this carrot cake version from Healthy Delicious and this Cherry Almond one from Carrie over at Frugal Foodie Mama? I was such a big fan that I decided to make my own this month for our club’s only male member, Dan from Platter Talk.

IMG_5489Making granola is incredibly easy. Now that I have discovered this, you should expect more recipes similar to this one in the near future. This version is pretty standard except for the fact that it includes three kinds of “nut” – walnut, almonds, and coconut. It also contains locally grown honey. Back in high school people used to tell me I should try honey for my severe allergies — if you eat a tablespoon each day of honey grown from where you live, it significantly reduces your allergies. I ignored the suggestion until last year, and when I finally gave in and tried it I couldn’t believe how much it relieved the agony I endure in the spring. Honey still isn’t my favorite thing, but I will do anything to not suffer from the allergy induced asthma that is my life.

IMG_5494Recipe: Nutty Cinnamon Granola

Makes 15 servings

What You Need: 

  • 5 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 cups slivered almonds
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO

What To Do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients.

3. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, oil, honey, and syrup until the butter melts completely.

4. Pour the mixture onto the dry ingredients and toss until it is evenly coated.

5. Spread the new mixture evenly onto the cookie sheet.

6. Bake for 40 minutes, gently stirring the mixture halfway through.

7. Let cool completely and then transfer to airtight containers.

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Want to see what everyone else made for the club? Check out their links here:

Butterscotch Wedges – Platter Talk

Spiced Honey Cake – Take A Bite Out Of Boca

Overnight Oats – Let’s Get Peas A Chance

Speculoos Cookies – Eats Well With Others

Chewy Coconut Lemon Cookies – Food Ramblings

Mexican Chocolate Cookies – Cooking In Stilettos

Streulsed Carrot Bread – The Spiced Life

Spicy Gingersnaps – Meadows Cooks

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Minion Cupcakes

IMG_5475I love animated movies. I love animated movies so much that I often get teased because I go to the movie theatre the day they open…without any children in tow. So when a local promotions company sent me passes in the mail to screen Despicable Me 2 a few weeks before it release, I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t stop quoting it afterward, much to the dismay of other adults in my life. I was inspired to make minion themed cupcakes. Although they didn’t come out looking ANTHING like the minions, I still wanted to share them with you because I thought they looked adorable in their own right. IMG_5467Recipe: Minion Cupcakes

Makes 1 and 1/2 dozen

What You Need:

  • 1 box cake mix
  • 1 tub vanilla frosting
  • 10 drops yellow food coloring
  • Bagged frosting with a small decorating tip
  • 1 box mini to-go Oreo cookies
  • 1/8 cup brown M&Ms
  • 1 small bag black licorice
  • cupcake liners (I used blue because the minions wear blue overalls) 

What To Do:

  • 1. Make cupcakes according to the package. Let cool completely.

    2. While the cupcakes are baking, empty your frosting into a small bowl and mix it with the food coloring until you have a nice bright yellow.

    3. Frost the cupcakes.

    4. Carefully open all the oreos and discard — or eat — the sides without cream on them.

    5.  Gently place one or two of the frosted oreo sides onto the cupcake. Top each with one M&M.

    6. Cut licorice into 1 inch long pieces. Arrange in threes for a minion-like look, or place above the oreos for cute little eyebrows.

    7. Use the tube of frosting to create different mouths on the minions. Have fun with it.

    Nothing special, and not what I originally intended them to look like, but I thought that they were still fun and cute! Happy weekend!

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Life Beyond the Blog: New York

Happy Saturday! This week I returned from a two-and-a-half week trip to New York. My cousin got married the day after July 4th and we all went up there to celebrate her finally becoming Mrs. Lennon. It was great to see so many members of my family. There are tons of us — my mom is one of ten kids — so getting us all together is a pretty big deal.

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Of course, to me the trip is all about food. There are tons of things available in New York that Texas doesn’t have. Deli sandwiches, Entenmann’s coffee cake, and Ralph’s Italian Ice are among my favorite things to grab while back in the Big Apple. In fact, I love them so much that I willingly gained weight on the trip. I’m only here once a year, so I decided to follow the rule of my newest favorite fictional character Tom Haverford — “treat yo self”.

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In fact, I started eating rare finds way before we made it to Long Island. On the drive — yes, we drove 26 hours because I hate flying — I stopped in Nashville at a place my coworker had reccomended called The Loveless Cafe. The building was tiny and the wait was an hour, but it was 100% worth it. You get homemade biscuits and preserves whether you order breakfast or dinner. When I couldn’t eat all of my pork and explained to the friendly waitress why I couldn’t take a to-go box, she packed me up a ton of the biscuits to go. It was heavenly.

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The wedding was absolutely beautiful and so much fun. My 9 year old godson tore up the dance floor with his breakdance moves, courtesy of us watching Step Up 3 too many times. There was a photo booth that everyone crammed into to take glamour shots for the newlyweds and the ceremony left my adorable uncle crying as he watched his daughter become a Mrs.

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Although almost everyone else in my family hates it, I absolutely love going into New York City. In fact, I even went in at 5 am one morning to get standby seats for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I am that dedicated to city adventures. Actually, I lucked out by waking up before the sun because on the way to breakfast near 30 Rock I ran into actor Ken Jeong (Leslie Chow from The Hangover). He grabbed my cell phone and snapped a picture of us. I was in movie buff heaven.

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I got to take my baby cousins to the zoo in Central Park, which was less exciting when we found out that the polar bears wouldn’t come out in the heat. We adventured around the petting zoo before taking them to F.A.O. Schwartz.

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I also got to show my godson Times Square for the first time. It was adorable. I told him I would take him anywhere he wanted. Only place he wanted to go? “I want to see the place where they film Saturday Night Live”. I was happy to oblige. I do anything for that kid. I found a way to have Twlight’s Jackson Rathbone take a picture with his Flat Stanley for school, I’ve brought him along when I was going to meet “Drake and Josh” star Josh Peck, and I made him this ridiculous Cheeseburger Cake for his birthday. It’s worth it to see him freak out when he gets excited.

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It was sad to come home, but it is nice to get back into the kitchen! I hope you’re having a great weekend, reader. Stay posted for new recipes this week!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Peanut Butter Chunk Cookies

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Today is my first full day back in Texas, a state so hot that when you go outside during the summer you swear you smell like chicken. I have been too busy uploading hundreds of pictures of my trip to go anywhere near my kitchen, but luckily I had this recipe on hand specifically for this occasion.

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Remember a few weeks ago when I shared my Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie recipe for Canada Day? Well, originally I was going to share these with you instead. I decided the oatmeal cookies were just fancier and wanted you to see those bad boys ASAP. I got the idea for these cookies when we got a catered lunch at my office last month. We are used to having chocolate chip cookies at the bottom of our box lunches, but when we unwrapped them to discover the pieces were peanut butter cups this time I instantly knew I had to try to recreate this cookie. While my attempt is delicious, nothing will ever top the version from that lunch. It was perfection.

IMG_5229Recipe: Peanut Butter Chunk Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

What You Need:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 8 oz. mini peanut butter cups, quartered

What To Do:

1. Cream together butter, sugars and egg.

2. Add peanut butter until mixture is smooth and creamy.

3. Mix in all the dry ingredients until well incorporated.

4. Gently add in peanut butter cup pieces, being careful not to chop them too much with your mixer.

5. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.

6. Heat oven to 375 F.

7. Form balls of dough using a tablespoon. Place them on an un-greased cookie sheet and gently press them to make the tops flat.

8. Bake 9 minutes.

Posted in Desserts | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Italian Meat Sauce

There are so many great things to love about Long Island. New York has incredible food, so much to do, and some truly outstanding views. My favorite thing about this magical place though isn’t any of those things. It’s my family.

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Every morning when I get up, I can hear my aunts downstairs in the kitchen. I love to listen to the two of them talking about their plans for the day or where they should go to pick us sleepy girls up some breakfast. My favorite times, though, are when Grandma Rose is over too. You see, Grandma Rose isn’t my actual grandmother. My maternal grandmother passed away when I was little and she just kind of took over from there. There was never any discussion. I was one of “Grandma’s Girls” and she would happily tell anyone who asked. I do the same for her. Who is that woman? She is my grandma and she’s about to ask you if if she can make you a “nice sauce” to take with you on your two-day roadtrip back to Texas. This recipe isn’t hers, although I hope to be re-creating some of her creations when I get back from my trip. It is just a recipe that reminds me of my Italian heritage and the immense love I get from my family, blood-related and otherwise.

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Recipe: Italian Meat Sauce

What You Need:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound crushed tomatoes, canned
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons oregano
  • 4 tablespoons garlic
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO

What You Need:

1. In a large skillet, heat EVOO and cook beef until it browns.

2. Add in garlic and onions and cook until they brown as well.

3. When the onion and beef mixture is cooked, add in crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover the skillet with a lid and cook for 30 minutes.

4. Remove the lid and add in the tomato paste and the sugar. Mix until the paste is no longer visible. Replace the cover and let the sauce simmer for two hours.

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