Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip & Pecan Cookies

Best. Chocolate. Chip. Cookies. Ever.

You will be the star of every picnic, pot-luck, or office party you bring them to. True story.

Get the recipe here.

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese: The Quick Version

I've posted numerous times about my fantabulous recipe for Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese and I've realized that while it's tasty, not everyone has time to make it the way I made it the first time, roasting the squash and then blending everything together. Not even me.

So, now I usually make a quicker version that still tastes amazing. Save time, not flavor.

Quick Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
1 box macaroni or farfalle pasta
1 TBS butter
1 shallot, minced
1 TBS brandy
1 12-14 oz package (or can) of butternut squash puree
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup smoked cheddar cheese
Garlic powder
2 cups bread crumbs
Olive oil

To Do:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Boil the pasta, drain and set aside
  • In a large pot, heat the butter until melted then add in the shallot and cook until translucent
  • Add in the brandy and cook a few minutes until shallots are infused
  • Add the puree and broth and heat through
  • Stir in the cheeses until you have a thick sauce, then remove from the heat
  • Mix in the seasonings, adding them and the salt/pepper to your taste, then add the pasta to the pot with the sauce and stir to incorporate. It should be a bit soupy.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, olive oil, and a handful of mozzarella cheese if you have any left over, and a pinch each of salt and nutmeg
  • Transfer to a large, greased baking dish
  • Top the pasta with the breadcrumb mixture and bake covered for about 15 minutes, then uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown
  • The other option is to nix the whole oven part and eat the macaroni and cheese right out of the pan once the pasta/sauce is combined. Up to you. It's delightful either way.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

Tomatoes rule.

From the briny, sun-dried kind to the beautifully plump Jerseys, and sweet, eat-them-by-the-handful cherry variety, this versatile fruit just makes everything better.

Let's face it -- there would be no BLT without the T. And, grilled cheese is just sad without a bowl of hot, creamy tomato soup beside it. Have you heard of Bloody Marys? A world without those is a world I do not want to be a part of, thank you, especially at 11am on a Saturday. Plus, who could live without tomato pie, pizza pie, lasagna, or spaghetti with Sunday gravy? Not this lady. There are tomatoes in my kitchen 24/7.

Now that the sun-kissed, juicy tomatoes of summer are far behind us, I'm using tomatoes in salads and sandwiches less often and baking, stuffing, roasting, and pureeing them instead. One of the simplest, yet tastiest ways to enjoy a tomato this time of year is to roast them. Simply toss your tomatoes (whole or sliced, depending on what size/type you're using) with some olive oil and a bit of Kosher salt and roast at 450 degrees until browned and deflated. You can add some cloves of garlic, dried herbs, or some sliced red pepper to the pan if you want, too.

Roasted Heaven
Once they're roasted, let the tomatoes cool and drain away the oil/juices into a separate container for dipping crusty bread, topping pizzas or tossing with pasta. Then, chop the tomatoes up (if they aren't sliced) and the possibilities are endless:
  • Pile them on sandwiches/burgers along with basil and mozzarella for a Caprese-style treat.
  • Blend them with fresh herbs and cream/stock for a tasty soup or sauce
  • Use as a pizza or crostini topping. (They are especially great with ricotta or goat cheese.)
  • Spoon a mixture of the tomatoes, lemon, olives and parsley over roasted fish.
  • Stuff chicken breasts with the tomatoes, some feta cheese and spinach and bake until cooked through and browned.
  • Cook until heated through with with tuna (in oil), chili pepper and olives, then toss with pasta.
  • Fold into scrambled eggs or fill an omelet with them.
  • Spoon them over a toasted bagel that's topped with cream cheese or ricotta.
Or, you can just scoop them into a bowl, sprinkle on some chopped basil and ground black pepper, put them on the table -- and watch them disappear!
Food like this is magic.


Slow Cooking: Spicy Sausage w/Farfalle, Broccolini & Mushrooms

It's a rainy day, and that means the slow cooker is set and the house is cozy and everyone is lazing around. Today, the kitchen smells like an Italian Nonna is here: spicy sausage, garlic, tomato sauce, yum!

I've had a few friends ask if noodles work in the crock pot. While I still think the best way to cook pasta is on the stove, it doesn't come out terrible if you add towards the end of your slow cooker time -- just be sure there's enough liquid to help cook it through, and don't leave it on the warm setting for too long before serving as there's a risk of it turning too soft. But, if you keep an eye on it, you shouldn't have a problem making a one-pot pasta dish, like the one below:

Spicy Sausage with Farfalle, Broccolini and Mushrooms
Put some spice in your life!
  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 large red pepper, sliced and diced
  • 1/2 lb Crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch Broccolini, chopped
  • 1 jar tomato sauce
  • 1 box Farfalle pasta
  • S/P to taste
  • Grated parmesan cheese

To Do:
  • Crumble the sausage (remove casings as needed) into the bottom of a slow cooker crock.
  • Add in the garlic, red pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes and stir to combine. 
  • Put on the 4 hour setting and go organize your hall closet or something.
  • At 3.5 hours, stir in the Broccolini, tomato sauce and Farfalle and re-cover.
  • 30 minutes later, your pasta should be cooked through.
  • Let cool a bit and season with salt/pepper as needed.
  • Scoop into bowls, sprinkle with grated cheese, and enjoy.


Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Chip Cookies!

If you think cooking for two is tricky, try baking for two!

Chris and I don't eat a lot of sweets (we prefer to end with a cheese plate vs. cheesecake), so I don't spend a lot of time baking. Plus, I have no patience for the precision and measuring involved in most baking recipes. And, while a decadent dessert is a nice way to end a meal, we struggle to finish it all after a few days. There's nothing sadder than throwing out a half-eaten, five-day-old cake.

But, we've been having some glorious fall weather, and I decided that we needed to celebrate it with either some pie or cookies, so I made both -- kind of.

No licking the spoon!
I had a can of pumpkin pie mix (basically pumpkin puree but with lovely spices already mixed in) and there was a bag of chocolate chips in the pantry, so I grabbed those too. The result is a manageable amount of yummy cookies (about 2 dozen) that are the perfect treat for a sunny October day or night.
Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 stick softened butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups of canned pumpkin pie puree (with spices)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
To Do:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease or line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Mix together the dry ingredients minus the sugar and set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended, then stir in the egg and the pumpkin pie mix.
  • Add the dry ingredients a little at a time until well combined.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Use scooper or spoon to drop rounds of cookie dough onto your prepared baking sheets -- at least 2 inches apart.
  • Bake until puffy and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before carefully moving from pan to cooling rack with a spatula.
  • Let them cool as long as you can, then devour with your dinner date.

P.S. Stir the leftover pumpkin pie mix into vanilla or honey Greek yogurt and crumble some ginger snaps into it for another lovely treat!