Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake

I am in love with this cake.

I saw it on Pinterest a month ago, and have been waiting ever since for strawberries to go on sale. This week the stars aligned, I bought those juicy reds, and popped this wonderful cake in the oven. I couldn't believe how moist it was. It quite honestly was the most moist slice of cake I think I've ever eaten (I know, pretty bold statement, but 100% true!) The zesty lemon was such a beautiful contrast to the warm fresh strawberry pieces - and don't even get me started on the Greek Yogurt. It made this cake top notch.

I was so psyched to buy a bundt pan. We received a Target gift card recently, and I knew I wanted to use a fraction of it for a kitchen toy. The whole time I was looking through the pans, I couldn't help but quote My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when they were fighting over what the name of the "cake" was:

"Thank you! But what is it?"
"It's a bundt."
"bonk? bon? bont?"
"Ohhh! It's a cake! There's a hole in this cake"

Good times. If you're confused, watch this.

Obviously my bundt cake didn't come out perfectly from it's pan mold. But hey - it's my first bundt cake. Ever. Apparently shortening and flour didn't work as well as it usually does to help the cake fall out of it's happy little bundt pan. I think it's taste more than made up for it.


Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake
makes 8 servings

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 Tb. lemon juice, divided
Zest of 1 lemon
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
8 oz. plain or vanilla, Greek yogurt
12 oz. fresh strawberries, diced
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan (10-15 cup pan.) Sift together the 2 ¼ cups of flour, baking soda and salt. Mix in the lemon zest and set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in 1 Tb. lemon juice. Alternate beating in the flour mixture and the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated.

Toss the strawberries with the remaining ¼ cup of flour. Gently mix them into the batter.
Pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool at least 20 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Once cooled whisk together the remaining 2 Tb. of lemon juice and the powdered sugar. Drizzle over the top of the cake.

recipe adapted from A Spicy Perspective


Perfect Cottage Pie

I've always called this recipe "Shepherd's Pie", but I learned recently that my label is a little off. I hadn't noticed until our buddy Alton used lamb while preparing this dish on The Food Network. I've never cooked lamb. I've never tried lamb. I'm sure it's excellent, and that day will come, but I wasn't about to throw myself into that experience this weekend. I chose ground beef instead to safe both time and money.

This meat switch apparently transforms the dish from Shepherd's Pie (get it? lamb?) to Cottage Pie. Fine by me, as long as it tastes just as well.

Alton Brown is one of my favorite guys on The Food Network. I've always enjoyed his show Good Eats. He has such a clever and entertaining way of teaching any type of audience about food. He makes it memorable. Even if he's just talking about squash or something, he makes it really interesting. He's a commentator on Iron Chef America, as well. Really good guy.

Today, I tried baking the Cottage Pie in little white ramekins, and then spooned what was left into a separate 2 qt white dish. Later on, we scooped out what we needed from the bigger dish, but for dinner, we ate them from the dainty little dishes. Kinda fun and fancy. Plus, I really liked how the piped mashed potatoes looked in the little ramekins after they toasted in the oven. It almost looked like coral - so beautiful and appetizing.

I couldn't find anything I didn't like about the way I changed Alton's recipe while preparing the meal, so I've posted my version below:


Perfect Cottage Pie

For the Potatoes:
6 medium russet potatoes
1/4 cup milk
4 Tbs unsalted butter (add more to taste)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg yolk
dash of garlic powder

For the Filling: 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cup mixed vegetables  (steamed carrots, peas, corn) I used frozen.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons chopped dried rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped dried thyme

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place milk and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the milk, butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the olive oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Add your ground beef and onions - cook until onions are transparent, and meat is cooked through. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Throw in your frozen veggies, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Spread meat mixture evenly into your small white ramekins. If you have extra filling and potatoes, use a glass pie pan, or any other oven safe dish for cooking the rest. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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Dreami Kiwi Lemonade

 Oh my goodness. Can you believe it? Did you know kiwi could ever be so gorgeous? The taste is equally as splendid. I loved the tangy lemon-kiwi combo - it's my new favorite (except for those darned Lava Flows). 

Originally, I found this recipe from an Everyday with Rachel Ray Magazine (August 2008). I've always saved the recipe, but have never tried it. With the weather warming up nicely, this drink was a perfect compliment. Originally they're called "Kiwi Martinis". Funny, the recipe didn't show alcohol of any kind - why the martini label? We actually don't drink, so I didn't mind the lack of ingredient. After tasting these little goblets of heaven, I've deemed them "Dreami Kiwi Lemonades". Yes, I know how to spell dreamy. I just enjoy the double i's a little too much.

If you've been reading my blog, you'll know how much I love my melon baller. This afternoon it was such a wonderful tool for scraping out the kiwi innards, while still leaving the fuzzy shell almost perfectly intact.

Another plus: if you have a sincere desire to discover every single scratch, scrape, and cut on your hands, this recipe is for you.  The acidity from the kiwi and lemons pretty much highlighted every hangnail I never knew I had. 

It was totally worth it.

Dreami Kiwi Lemonade
recipe adapted from Rachel Ray Mag

2 cups ice cubes
8 kiwis, coarsely chopped, plus 1 kiwi, sliced, for garnish
1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Using a blender, mix the ice cubes, kiwis, lemon juice, sugar and 1 cup water until smooth. Pour into glasses. 

Bam. Deliciousness just set up camp in your taste buds. 

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Cherry-Almond Vanilla Cupcakes

I saw these on Pinterest a while back, and couldn't wait to make them! In fact, I had a dream I was making these last night. Great. Now I'm even dreaming about food blogging. 

I'm a huge fan of gourmet cupcakes. Locally, we have some really tasty places to fill that craving: The Sweet Tooth Fairy, The Chocolate, The Cocoa Bean, and Cupcakes Take the Cake. Lucky me, eh? Recently, on the Food Network, they had The Sweet Tooth Fairy on 'Cupcake Wars'. And guess what? THEY WON the whole dang thing! Kudos, guys. I'm so happy I can just drive down the street and have one of their fantastic cupcakes whenever I want (or whenever the purse will allow). Their cake bites are ridiculous. My favorites are their vanilla coconut and salty caramel.

Even if I went to a cupcake cafe every so often, it wouldn't be nearly enough to fill my sweets cravings (again, it's a good thing I'm a runner). So, it was time to bust out my D e s s e r t s board on Pinterest, and get to work on these tasty lovers. They're obviously not as beautiful as Sweet Tooth Fairy, but I think they'll satisfy perfectly until the next time we meet again.

The almond extract takes the cake - er... cupcake. I love the way the flavor folds in with the cherries so perfectly. One cupcake is enough for a while, though. They're super-rich. Make sure you buy the big bottle of maraschino cherries if you make this - you're going to need the juice in both the cupcakes and frosting.

Also, doubling the frosting is a must.


Cherry-Almond Vanilla Cupcakes
recipe adapted from Better Homes

1/2 c butter
4 egg whites
2 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
3/4 c buttermilk
1/3 c maraschino cherry juice
1 1/2 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1/2 t almond extract
12 maraschino cherries, halved

1/2 c butter, softened
4 c powdered sugar
3 T maraschino cherry juice
1/2 t almond extract

For starters, make sure your butter and egg whites have reached room temperature (takes around 30 minutes). While they're reaching room temperature, line your muffin tin with paper muffin cups. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a small bowl, also combine buttermilk and cherry juice. Set both aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. With your stand mixer, beat butter on medium/high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, vanilla, and almond extract - beat until combined. One at a time, add egg whites, beating well after adding each one. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after adding each until combined.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, about 2/3 full. Use a spoon to smooth batter. Press a cherry into batter in each cup.

Bake for 15-18 minutes - until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool on wire racks after cooling cupcakes in muffin tin for about 5 minutes.

Make frosting: Fluff butter in mixer, add in maraschino cherry juice and almond extract. Slowly (about 1/2 cup at a time) add in powdered sugar. After all powdered sugar has been added, add milk to desired consistency. Using your pastry bag fitted with whatever tip you choose, pipe your frosting on your cupcakes. Top with cherries! This makes about 24 cupcakes.

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Quinoa Breakfast Delight with Pecans and Blueberries

I love how you can see my reflection in the spoon
Quinoa, we meet again. This time in breakfast form. This recipe is anything but normal Blondie breakfast. I usually have some Multi-Grain Cheerios and call it good. This little bowl of love, however, was pretty tasty (and very filling).

I was a little frustrated, though, while making this. The recipe simply requires the milk mixture to come to a boil, and then to simmer for 15 minutes. Well, mine had been simmering for 20+ minutes and the quinoa was still undercooked. I put the lid on. The milk mixture flared up and spilled out over the side of the pan (even on a low simmer). I decided to just let it cook until the quinoa was somewhat cooked. Took a while, but we got there. Mostly.

Blueberries are by far my favorite fruit. When I was in college, crammed into an apartment with 5 other girls, I remember buying frozen blueberries every week at the grocery store on the corner. I'd mix them in with my yogurt and granola, or even just in with my cereal. While I was preparing this recipe, I couldn't help but pop a few fresh blueberries in my mouth.

Even though I had a little trouble, the "porridge" smelled just like french toast. The cinnamon and maple syrup mixed with the yummy vanilla was complete aromatherapy to my kitchen mini-drama. Good luck, guys, with this one. It seemed so simple! Maybe I was just too distracted with everything else in the kitchen. Let me know if the quinoa gives you less trouble.


Quinoa Breakfast Delight with Pecans and Blueberries
recipe adapted from Closet Cooking 
makes 1 serving  
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup milk (I used Ryan's whole milk)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used 1/3 tsp)
1 dash cinnamon
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (I kept them whole, and used 1/3 cup)
Bring the quinoa, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
Mix in the blueberries, remove from heat and top with the pecans.


Chinese Chicken Salad with Sesame Dressing

If you ask my family, they know I'm not a ''salad dressing'' kind of person. If the salad has already been dressed, I'll eat it. But I don't prefer it. I'll eat my salad dry as a bone. Even when I order a Cafe Rio Pork Salad, I'll say No Thanks to the dressing. That gets me a confused look almost every time. It's the same look I get at Zuppas and order a salad without dressing. I must be insane to them.

There are a few exceptions to my non-dressing preference. I really really love Olive Garden's Italian Dressing, I'll sometimes order a Caesar salad (on rare occasions, if it's not saturated in dressing), and I love the Sesame Dressing in this salad. I'm sure there will be more added to the list as time goes on, and new recipes are tried.

I think I'm still a little traumatized from watching my peers glopping offensive amounts of Ranch Dressing on their Friday pizza slice in elementary school. They'd "pump" enough Ranch on their pizzas that I'm almost positive there was more Ranch on their pizzas than actual pizza. I've never liked Ranch, and that experience certainly didn't push me on their side of the fence as far as salad dressing goes. Don't get me wrong - I'm sure it's awesome and all for people who like it. I'm just not one of them.

This salad is very light and flavorful. My favorite parts were the crunchy wontons, toasted almonds, and juicy chicken pieces. The dressing is wonderful, but I preferred the salad (surprise, surprise) without too much on it. Just enough to get that sesame/soy sauce zing.

Also, I found a new way to cook chicken breasts, I'm crazy about it. I just can't believe how much I sucked at cooking chicken breasts (it was hit and miss, sometimes very dry). I found the recipe here today. It's very simple:

1. toss your chicken breast in a little olive oil and seasonings,
2 lay it out on an aluminum-coated pan,
3. stick it in a 450 degree oven for 8 minutes,
4. turn and cook another 8 minutes, and then let sit for a couple minutes.

Done. BAM. Amazing & moist chicken breast to use in any recipe that calls for cooked chicken pieces. Such as this one:


Chinese Chicken Salad with Sesame Dressing
recipe adapted from foodiecrush 

12  3-inch wonton skins, sliced into 1/4″ strips (this makes a ton, so half it if you want to)
1/4 cup canola oil for frying
4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 chicken breast, shredded
4 green onions, chopped (recipe originally had 2 green onions, not nearly enough)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted lightly
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 cups cooked rotini pasta noodles, cooled

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (recipe originally had 4 TB)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt

Heat canola or corn oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When oil starts to shimmer, fry wonton skins in batches of 5-7 strips for 30 seconds each side or until lightly browned, working quickly so they don’t burn. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels until cooled.

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, chicken breast, green onion, almonds and pasta.

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk well until sugar dissolves. Dress lettuce mixture with 2-3 tablespoons of sesame dressing and top with sesame seeds and wonton strips and serve.

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Chicken Pot Pie Cups

Have you ever started a recipe and then realize you actually don't have all the ingredients? That happened to me this afternoon. I didn't have Cream of Chicken Soup for these lovely Mini Chicken Pot Pie Cups. If you've been reading my posts, you know I improvised. And I've never going back.

Once again, have you ever started a recipe and then realize you actually have double the ingredients? This happened to me yesterday, too. I had bought a bag of frozen veggies, but then I realized I have fresh carrots, snap peas, corn, and celery. Why cook up some 'ol frozen veggies if I have some fresh ones on hand? It only took around 7 minutes to steam them up, and they tasted just wonderful. Maybe I'll save the frozen veggies for the man child's finger food.

These Mini Chicken Pot Pie Cups were so comforting, and absolutely flavorful. As you may know, I'm a huge fan of "cup" dinners: Petite Lasagna, Cowboy Cups, and Pizza Muffins. These are an excellent edition to the list.

Originally, I thought this recipe would be a simple, quick meal for a Sunday afternoon. However, I ended up taking a few back roads. I'm sure this is a quick fix if you use frozen veggies, canned Cream of Chicken, use pre-cooked packaged chicken and have Herbs De Provence. Whatever works for you, man. I think it worked out well the long way, and the little extra time in the kitchen was more than worth it.


Chicken Pot Pie Cups
recipe adapted from Tablespoon

1 roasted chicken breast, diced (roasted mine whole in an EVOO coated pan, then diced it up)
1 (14.5 oz) can cream of chicken soup (my homemade recipe here)
1 cup fresh mixed veggies (or you could use frozen. Fresh is best)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tbs Herbs De Provence (here's Emerl's version, if you need a recipe)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic salt
2 (10 oz) cans Pillsbury biscuits (we used the jumbo biscuits - they made about 16 cups)

Preheat your oven to 400.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, cream of chicken soup, frozen veggies, cheese, herbs and spices.

Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin and place the Pillsbury biscuits into each cup, pressing into the bottom and up the sides.

Evenly spoon the pot pie mixture into each biscuit cup. Slide into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Check at the 12 minute mark.

Let rest for about 3 minutes, then enjoy!

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Homemade Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

I was throwing dinner together today and started to panic when I couldn't find any cream of chicken soup in my cupboard. We usually have a few cans in our food storage, and I must have thought I had some left when I didn't buy more at the super market. Catastrophe! (Yes, I've been watching waaay too much Gaspard and Lisa with my son). I was pretty bugged, but wasn't about to drive to the store to buy a couple cans on Sunday.

Thankfully, I found made-from-scratch recipe online. This added a few more unwelcome steps to my "quick-and-easy" dinner this afternoon. However, after my little adventure, I don't think I'll ever go back to buying Cream of Chicken in a can. The depth of flavor this added to my recipe was beyond fantastic. Why have I never done this before? It's kind of fun to learn the basics, and make things from absolute scratch. I'm glad we didn't have any canned Cream of Chicken Soup - it led me to this tasty little gem of a recipe.


Homemade Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
makes about 2 14oz cans worth

1 1/2 cups chicken broth (you can use chicken bouillon, or drippings from your roasted chicken)
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning (here's a good recipe if you don't have the seasoning)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (or less; taste to test)
1/4 teaspoon parsley
dash of paprika
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup flour

In medium-sized saucepan, boil chicken broth, 1/2 cup of the milk, and the seasonings for a minute or two (longer if using fresh onions or garlic).

In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of milk and flour. Add to boiling mixture and continue whisking briskly until mixture boils and thickens


Mini Pie Bites

Tonight we had a wee little gathering to play games. They asked everyone to bring pie... so of course I don't just bring a pie. I'm complicated like that.

I'm not really a pie-kinda-girl. I mean, I really love making peach pie in the fall, and apple pie is lovely. Strangely enough, I just find it hard to make it through a full slice of pie in one sitting. It's great and all, but I feel like I'm much better at tackling cookies, cakes, and bars. Not pies. So what to do? Peaches aren't in season. I thought I was doomed.

After seeing these beautiful little mini pie bites on Chef in Training, I thought they'd be perfect to bring. I mean, you can only have a couple slices of pie, and that only leaves you tasting a couple of flavors (no offense to pie or anything). With these min pie bites, you can have one of each flavor of pie in a little mouthful, and still have room for more.

It was so fun playing around with the different flavors! Here are the ones I settled on:
 Banana Almond Cream Mini Pie Bites

 Chocolate Cream Mini Pie Bites

 Chocolate Drizzled White Chocolate Strawberry Cream Mini Pie Bites

 Toasted Coconut Almond Cream Mini Pie Bites

Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Mini Pie Bites

Aren't they just lovely? I could imagine these at a little tea party somewhere. By the time we got to the party, I had eaten so many of these, that I hadn't realized I hadn't eaten dinner yet! Good thing someone bought some quiche, eh? 

So, for the dough, you can either make your own, or take the wonderful short cut (like I did) and buy some Pillsbury Pie Dough (refrigerator section). This will be your base. Your crust. Your pie palate.

The filling is based mostly on two different recipes. There's the chocolate filling, and the white filling. The chocolate is pretty standard. But the white filling can be played with depending on what flavor you're searching for. 

The toppings were my favorite. They brought everything together, and added that eye-candy appeal. These went so fast! I was thrilled! They were certainly a bit more work than making your typical fruit pie, but certainly worth it.


Mini Pie Bites
recipe from Chef in Training

Chocolate Mousse Filling
1 (3.9 oz) box instant chocolate pudding mix
1/2 cup water
1 (14 oz) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 (8 oz.) container Cool whip (make sure to keep your cool whip in the freezer, not fridge)
1 cup chocolate chips, melted to smooth consistency (I used mini-chips)

In a large bowl, mix chocolate pudding mix, water, and sweetened condensed milk. Stir in melted chocolate chips. Fold in 8 oz. container of cool whip until there are no streaks remaining.
Place filling into a piper with a large tip and pipe onto pie crusts.
Add your toppings.  

Almond White Chocolate Filling 
1 (3.9 oz) box instant white chocolate pudding mix )This is where you can be flexible and use coconut or banana instead)
1/2 cup water
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (8 oz) container Cool Whip
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp almond extract (SO. DANG. YUMMY.)
In a large bowl, mix chocolate pudding mix, water, and sweetened condensed milk together.  Fold in 8 ounces cool whip.  Beat in cream cheese and almond extract.
Place filling into a piper with a large tip and pipe onto pie crusts.
Add your toppings.   
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Liebster Blog Award

I am SO psyched to be chosen twice in the last week for the Liebster Blog award! You guys rock! If you're like me, you probably aren't familiar with what this award means exactly.... in fact...

My first thought was what the heck is Liebster? Is it a like a lobster? I'm afraid of lobster. It's one of my husband's all-time-favorite foods, and he doesn't get it nearly enough (only if we, on rare occasion, are out for dinner and he orders it for himself). I think my ultimate cooking experience will be to serve him lobster that I made.... as in made myself.... as in throw the living, moving lobster into a pot of boiling water Julie and Julia style. Don't laugh, you! I can do it! Just not anytime soon. I hope. I guess those nightmares can now begin..

I did a teeny bit of research, and it looks like 'Liebster' actually means 'beloved' or 'favorite' in German.  This award is used to highlight smaller, start-up websites, with under 200 followers, but deserve a little more recognition and attention for their awesomeness. Sounds like a sweet deal to me, and I'm truly humbled by the award to say the least.

I was nominated first by one of my favorite new dessert blogs Pint Sized Baker. Karyn is an absolute doll, and makes the most beautiful looking (and I'm sure equally as tasty) desserts. I mean, these Chick Pops she posted belong right next to Martha Stewart and Bakerella for crying out loud! Thanks so much, Karyn. I feel so blessed that anyone even visits my site once, let alone nominate me for a blog award. 

Secondly, I was nominated by the lovely Adrienne Woods from Free Time Frolics. This lady does it all. I'm completely obsessed with her Rug Slip Makeover. The chocolate damask is to die for. Thank you so much, Adrienne. I'm still amazed over your Ice Cream Felties - I still can't figure out how people can be so talented with the 'ol thread and needle. I'm beyond challenged in that department.

I've been asked to nominate 3-5 other fellow bloggers for the award. I couldn't be happier to spread the love:

1. The first person I thought of was my former roommate Natalie. Her blog is called Life Made Simple. This girl has some beyond-creative genius flowing through her veins. She posts wonderful recipes, sews like a fiend, and takes gorgeous pictures of it all. They look like they're straight from a fancy food magazine! Lucky us, she just started a fabulous photography business as well, check it out: Honey & Hive. Love ya, Natalie!

2. Speaking of photography, Tracy Hill Photography takes the cake. She's a natural light photographer, and takes such beautiful pictures. I absolutely in love with her style. We hired her to do our family pictures last year, and I love every one she took. She's currently a student at BYU, majoring in Photography. You go, girl.

3. My third nominee will be the wonderful Christine at Park House Love. She does the most fantastic DIY projects - and I can't believe how much she can transform one simple object into something that belongs in Pottery Barn. She has some mad sewing skills, and she takes such great pictures of her journey. Thanks for sharing your magic with us, Christine!

Ladies, your mission:
" 1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
  2. Reveal your five picks for the award and let them know.
  3. Post the award on your blog.
  4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the blogshare-other bloggers.
  5. Finally and the best rule of all………have fun and spread the love!"

Let the blogger awesomeness/love spread on and on! 

Primavera with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Carrots

Primavara, my friends!

What do we know about it? I've learned recently that the word primavera actually means "the season of Spring", and that the main focus of a primavera is to highlight the veggies. How fitting, eh? And thanks to spring, we have quite the beautiful veggie selection to choose from. 

This recipe is jam-packed with some excellent veggie dosage: artichokes, sugar snap peas, and carrots. Aren't the colors just beautiful? The taste was so fresh and light. The sauce wasn't overbearing, and allowed the veggies to speak for the dish. I couldn't find prosciutto at my local supermarket, so I settled for some premium ham steaks (for a great price, too). I loved the ham, but I think next time I'll make the extra trip to the "fancy-rich-people-food" place to pick up some prosciutto. I think it would have added some delicious saltiness to the overall flavor of the dish.

Don't '86 the heavy cream on this one. It blankets the noodles and veggies wonderfully. I promise. Also, if you wanted to go meatless, you could maybe use mushrooms instead of ham/prosciutto?

Ryan really loved this dish (to my surprise). We don't usually have artichokes and sugar snap peas around here. I think I need to change that after seeing how fast he gobbled them up.

I usually hate mustard. I winch a little when I see someone eating a hot dog with a quart of mustard smothered all over it - even a little of that yellow-paste-of-the-devil on a hamburger bothers me. It's just not my thing. However, I always keep a bottle of dijon in the fridge for cooking. Adding a little bit of that crazy dijon to some recipes provides such a little, but lovely, zing to the flavor of the dish. Crazy, but true. I can still taste the dijon's actual 'mustardiness' but it's not enough to turn me away. And as we know, for me, it doesn't take much.

Once again, this recipe is from my April edition of Food Network Magazine. Kudos to you people. Seriously.


Primavera with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Carrots
recipe from Food Network Magazine, Ted Allen

Kosher salt
1 pound penne (I used Rigatore) 
1 pound asparagus spears, stems trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 cup snap peas
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces sliced prosciutto or high-quality ham, diced (I couldn't find prosciutto, so we used ham)
1 large shallot, sliced 1/8 inch thick (fresh outta shallots. So I used 1/2 small yellow onion)
1 garlic clove minced (I used two cloves. I love garlic!)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade or low-sodium store-bought
3 tablespoons dijon mustard (I only used 2 tablespoons. I chickened out.)
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it generously and cook the pasta for 8 minutes; add the asparagus, carrot and snap peas and cook for 3 minutes. Check the pasta and vegetables to make sure they're cooked through but still have texture, then drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan, add the ham and shallot and cook until lightly browned, 3 minutes or so. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the cream, stock and mustard and simmer for a minute or two, scraping up any brown bits.

Add the pasta and vegetables to the pan. Toss and cook for another 2 minutes, until cooked through and the pasta is coated. Taste for seasoning, add salt if necessary and serve immediately in warm bowls, sprinkled with parm.
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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

I love this twist on your typical chocolate chip cookie. There's just something perfectly wonderful about the way shortbread-style desserts melt in your mouth. This cookie is no exception. I don't think I could get through even one of these cookies without a glass of milk nearby.

This recipe didn't make very many cookies - just about 21 small ones. So if you're planning on them lasting more than an hour in your house, double the recipe. Heck, triple the sucker. This isn't your usual "roll the cookies into little balls" type of cookie. You actually roll the dough up in a log, wrap it in wax paper, refrigerate it for a while (I felt like a little girl waiting on Christmas Eve), then slice it up into discs. It reminded me of those store-bought refrigerator dough cookies with the cute little holiday design shape on the inside - except these taste a hundred times better.

I originally didn't have this recipe on my list this week, but that dang Pinterest gets me every time - especially when I have all the ingredients on hand! Seeing how this recipe has been pinned over 68,000 times, I thought I should see what all the hype is about.

I'm more than happy with the results.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies
recipe from The View from Great Island 

1 stick, (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temp
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour 
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
scant 1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips (I used leftover mini & semi sweet chocolate chips)

Cream the butter and the peanut butter together in a stand mixer, with a hand mixer, or a wooden spoon.  Beat in the vanilla. Whisk the dry ingredients together and add to the butter mixture.  Mix until the dough comes together.

Stir in the chips, and turn the dough out onto a piece of waxed paper.  Gently pull the dough together and form it into a log. Roll it up in the paper, smoothing the shape as you go.  Twist the ends securely and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.

Slice the log into slices with a sharp knife. Not too thick, not too thin, about 1/3 inch. Bake at 325 for about 12-14 minutes.  The cookies will  not be browned, and they may look undone, but don't over bake.  One of the joys of shortbread cookies is that they fall apart and melt in your mouth. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack.

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