Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

It’s been a while since I posted here and things have really changed in the last few months. Shortly after my last post, Hubby was offered a great new job–an opportunity that was just too good to pass up.

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I love the fall colors–almost makes up for the cold that follows.

Of course, it did require us to relocate for the second time in three years. Read More


Fall Apple Desserts

I am a magazine junkie–Southern Living, Cooking Light, Coastal Living, Food Network… You get the idea. In the last week or two, all the September magazines are rolling in, and I am drooling over a lot of the fall recipes–but none more than the desserts.

Apples and pumpkin galore! Yum!

I will never make it through them all, but I thought I would share a few of the most tempting apple deserts, in case anyone wants to give them a try.


Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake (From Southern Living)

Southern Living says: This delicious apple bundt cake features a sweet cream cheese filling and homemade praline frosting.  Garnish the frosting with extra toasted pecans.

Seriously, doesn’t that look amazing? I actually liked that half of the cover better than the other side–and the other side was Brad Paisley!


Love this coffee cake! <3

Love this coffee cake! <3

One of my go-to apple deserts is this Apple Coffee Cake with Crumble Topping and Brown Sugar Glaze recipe from Food Network. It comes from Emeril Live!–goodness I miss that show! Hubby asks for this cake all year round!

(Just a note, I usually leave off the glaze–while it is good, I don’t think it is necessary.)

Cooking Light says: Sweet, crunchy apples make for a delicious plate of party “nachos.” Just slice some apples, arrange on a plate, and get creative. While I chose to make a slightly sweet peanut butter glaze, you could easily drizzle with honey or melted chocolate, or sprinkle cinnamon, nuts of your choice, or anything—the options really are endless. Slice some apples and have fun!

Source: Forget Keeping the Doctor Away: Slice Up the Ultimate Apple Nachos


Need more? Country Living has 40 apple deserts in this article!


Lazy-day Caramel Apples

Lazy-day Caramel Apples

Or, you could go the easy route and try one of my favorites –a chopped apple, a drizzle of caramel sundae sauce, and maybe some chopped walnuts or pecans. Healthy and easy! 😉


Whatever your choice, enjoy!   <3

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What’s your favorite apple recipe? Favorite fall fruit? Anything I missed? Feel free to share!   🙂 


Roasted Butternut Squash (and a Yummy Risotto)

We walked in the grocery store on Saturday to a huge display of butternut squash from a local farm. Hubby and I looked at each other and both said, “risotto.”

I found this recipe from The Pioneer Woman a few years ago, and it is so good, I barely make any changes to it, other than how I make the butternut squash. To save a little time, I roast it in a yummy spice rub while I make the risotto. (I wasn’t planning on posting this until I got a few requests for the recipe, so I don’t have a lot of pictures.)IMG_9263

The spice rub is easy–2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon each sage, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. I know it sounds weird, but it works–trust me.

Dice the butternut squash (I should add that I use a whole butternut squash, not just a half, since we like this for a meatless entrée), then spread it on a baking sheet. Drizzle it with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss to coat. Add the spice mix, and toss together until evenly coated.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Pop the baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until tender and golden brown.

While that roasts up, add a but of butter to the pan, sauté some onion, add the arborio rice. Make the risotto per the original recipe (found here). At the right time, add in the roasted butternut squash, then finish off the recipe. Yum!

For the record, I have tried the recipe without the cream (I actually use half and half). It is still good, but the cream definitely adds a texture and flavor that makes the extra calories so worth it. 🙂

Roasted Butternut Squash

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

1 Medium Butternut Squash
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Teaspoons Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Dried Sage
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Brown Sugar

 

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
  2. Peel, remove seeds, and dice a whole butternut squash. Spread on a baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and toss together.
  4.  in a small bowl, mix chili powder, cinnamon, sage, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Sprinkle entire mixture over the butternut squash. Use your hands to coat completely.
  5. Roast in the oven about 20 minutes until tender and golden brown.
  6. Add to your favorite recipe (such as this risotto) and enjoy!

Look how creamy! So good!

Look how creamy! So good!

This roasted squash is also great on its own as a simple side dish, or tossed with some store-bough ravioli, a little cream, and some parmesan cheese for a quick meatless meal.

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Do you have a favorite butternut squash recipe? Any go-to ingredients when putting together a meatless meal? And are you as excited as I am to be seeing all of this lovely fall produce in the stores? #yum

 


Settling Back In

After two long months in PA, I am finally back home and settled in. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to return to my daily routine–writing, cooking, and even some baking. Of course, I do miss the magical sink in my parents’ house–put something in and it disappears, only to reappear in the cabinet, clean and ready to use, a short time later. 😉 Hubby and I really need to get ourselves a similar sink! (Thanks Mom!)

We probably should have had Cam's "seatbelt" a bit shorter. ;-)

We probably should have had Cam’s “seatbelt” a bit shorter. 😉

On a serious note, it was nice to be home with friends and family for a bit, but I am happy to be back home. A big shout out to my parents for putting up with me for so long! Apparently, no matter how compulsive I am at home, there is something about being in my parents house that turns me into a messy teenager again!

After a few days of visiting with friends and family, we decided to drive back to NC on Saturday to avoid the craziness that is traveling on the Sunday of thanksgiving weekend. After hearing the horror stories of people sitting in traffic for hours on end on Sunday, I am so thankful that we left early!

Oh Christmas Tree!

Oh Christmas Tree!

Of course, leaving on Saturday also allowed us the extra time to get our Christmas tree and decorations up on Thanksgiving weekend–a definite bonus! Even better, we are finally at the time of year that I can listen to Christmas music with the windows open (thanks to the crazy-warm fall we are having) without the neighbors looking at me like I am crazy. 😉

Despite being sick since I got back, I managed to whip up some yummy Apple Crisp! <3

Despite being sick since I got back, I managed to whip up some yummy Apple Crisp! <3

How was your holiday weekend? Have you decorated for the Christmas (or any other winter holidays) yet? Baked any yummy cookies? Please share! <3


Fall with Friends and Family

One of the hardest parts of living in North Carolina is that most of my family and friends are five hundred or so miles away. The second hardest part is missing the lovely colors of fall in the northeast. Sure, the leaves change in North Carolina, too, but it always seemed more dramatic up north–brighter, more varied colors that just seem to stick around longer.

As much as I love life in the south, I have to admit I have been just a bit homesick.IMG_1627

When we relocated almost two years ago, we decided to rent our house in Pennsylvania out for a while the housing market recovered a bit. So far, we have been lucky. We have a great tenant who loves the house almost as much as we did. 🙂

Unfortunately, some storms did a bit of damage to the house, and we are now enjoying the fun of insurance claims and working with contractors–from five hundred miles away.

Do you see where I am going with this?
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The best way to cure homesickness is to decide to spend two months living with your parents in your thirties. 😉

Just kidding, of course! Actually, I have been in PA for about three weeks now, and I am loving all the time I am getting to spend with family and friends–though I could do without the insurance stuff. If my parents and I would have gotten along this well when I was a teenager, I may not have moved out. 😉

In the last week or so, the colors have just started to change on the trees, and I am in heaven. I absolutely love this time of year–though my allergies are not a fan! 😉

I may never have the opportunity for an extended trip like this again, so I am making the most of it. I feel refreshed and happy, and I love reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

IMG_2240That being said, it is really hard being away from Hubby (who is diligently working in away in North Carolina, happy to skip the fall experience–or at least the temperatures that go with it). But, in only a few weeks, I will be back in North Carolina, escaping before the frigid northeastern winter sets in.

Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds? 😉

Do you have a favorite place to be at a certain time of year? Maybe the beach in the summer, the north in the fall, or the south in spring (some of my favorites)? Please share! <3


Cozy Comforts – Easy Tomato Bisque

The temperatures are cooling off here in NC as we head into fall. Our ten-day forecast doesn’t have a single day over eighty degrees–a big change from the sweltering heat of summer.

The refreshing change in weather and the lovely apples and fall vegetables at the Farmers’ Market have me thinking of one of my favorite meals for a chilly day (or even a hot summer day): a rich, creamy Tomato Bisque. 🙂IMG_4332

I used to use a lot of fresh ingredients in this, but I have tweaked it over the years so I can make it almost completely out of my pantry.  I keep a storage baggie of Mirepoix in my freezer, and add any extra chopped onion, celery, or carrots from other recipes.  This way,  I always have some mirepoix in the freezer (though the ratio of carrots to onions to celery is sometimes off) and I don’t have to chop anything for a quick meal like this.

Pantry-friendly ingredients

Pantry-friendly ingredients

Just a note: I have subbed in pureed tomatoes or a can of tomato sauce for the crushed tomatoes, and it still turns out great!

Sauté the Veggies

Sauté the Veggies

Add the tomatoes

Add the tomatoes

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add rice or pasta (optional)

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add rice or pasta (optional)

Stir in some cheese and cream.

Stir in some cheese and cream.

Serve with some crusty bread. I used this recipe, and added some herbs and garlic to one loaf.

Serve with some crusty bread. I used this recipe, and added some herbs and garlic to one loaf.

Easy Tomato Bisque

  • Servings: 2-4
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Ingredients

1/2 Cup Mirepoix (Fresh or Frozen)
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Tablespoon Dried Basil
1 Can (14-15 oz.) Crushed Tomatoes
1 Can (14-15 oz.) Diced Tomatoes
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1/4 Cup Cream or Half & Half
1/4 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese

 

Optional (for Tomato Orzo Soup)

1 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 Cup Uncooked Orzo or White Rice

Instructions

  1.  Sauté Mirepoix (chopped Carrots, Onions, and Celery) in Olive Oil over Medium Heat until vegetables start to tenderize (about five minutes).
  2. Stir in Basil and cook an additional 30 seconds, stirring.
  3. Add tomatoes and stock. (If using Pasta or Rice, add all of the stock.) Bump temperature to medium-high, and bring to a slow boil.
  4. Add Pasta or Rice (if using).
  5. Drop the temp and simmer for 10-15 minutes (if using pasta or rice, simmer until it is cooked through).
  6. Remove from the heat. Add cheese and cream, and stir until combined.
  7. Enjoy!

This soup is great topped with an extra drizzle of cream or with some croutons.

Tomato Orzo Bisque

Tomato Orzo Bisque

I tend to add the rice or pasta for dinner, but leave them out for lunch. I almost always double the recipe, then freeze half in individual portions for a quick weekday lunch. Perfect with some crusty bread or a fresh salad! 🙂

An old Instagram shot of this soup without the orzo. Still awesome! <3

A really old Instagram shot of this soup without the orzo. Still awesome! <3

What is your favorite soup? Do you have any cooking shortcuts to help cut tome on your favorite recipes? Any pantry-only recipe favorites? Please share! <3


The “Ber” Months

There was a great meme floating around Facebook last week, counting down the days to the “ber” months: September, October, November, and December, also known as my favorite months of the year. 😉

IMG_1627This year, September also means it has been six months since our move south, and just over four months since we moved into our new home. It has taken a while, but the house is finally starting to feel like home. Read More


Happy Labor Day!

Officially, Labor Day is a holiday dedicated to America’s workers, and the impact they have on the success of our nation.  It was adopted at a time when major changes were being made in the workforce, allowing for higher wages, better benefits, and shorter hours.

A glimpse of fall colors near our home (taken September 2012)

A glimpse of fall colors near our home (taken September 2012)

Unofficially, Labor Day also marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall.  The air (usually) starts to feel a bit crisper, the leaves start to darken, and the kids head back to school.

For me, it marks the start of my favorite time of year.  I love summer, don’t get me wrong, but the thing I missed the most when I lived in warmer climates was autumn in the northeastern US. The air is still warm in the daytime, but the temperatures get a bit cooler after dark.  School sports gear back up.  We can hear marching bands practice from our home.  College and NFL football come back, and MLB gets ready for the playoffs. Read More


Favorites of Fall

Taken by C. P. Lesley (from WANA Commons)

I have mentioned a few times in the past few weeks that, while the beach may be my favorite place to be, fall is my favorite time of year.  It is this season that I am thankful to live in such a great area of the country.

We live in eastern PA, just south of the Pocono Mountains. This time of year, the sights of fall are all around–mums are in full bloom, pumpkins abound, and the trees are a vibrant mix of reds, yellows and oranges.  Beautiful.

Of course, the beauty of the season is only one of the terrific aspects of fall. I love to cook and bake, and the foods of fall are some of my favorites–apple and pumpkin recipes, soups, stews and chilis, and comfort food galore! Read More


Football Food – White Chicken Chili

About 8 years ago, my boss at the time gave everyone in the department a local cookbook as part of our Christmas gift.  When we asked him what was his favorite recipe, he directed us to a recipe his wife submitted for white chicken chili.

I made it the following Sunday. At the time, we had NFL Sunday ticket, and Sundays revolved around football and comfort food.  🙂 Since then, the White Chicken Chili has become an opening weekend tradition. Read More