Monday, October 31, 2011

We're Back...with Biscoff!

Our vacation is over, and though we're still clearing out suitcases and finding sand in the oddest of places, it feels good to be home. Unfortunately, we have to hit the ground running, which means that all the restaurant reviews and recipes I gleaned from our time in the Lowcountry will have to wait until after the dentist appointments, interviews, unpacking and other fun stuff is done. Until then, I'll leave you with an exciting bit of news...I'm finally joining the ranks of the Biscoff Spread fan club!

Image courtesy of

Thanks to the creativity of other bloggers, I've been hearing wonderful things about this elusive, sweet spread for months, but I couldn't locate a single jar in East Tennessee (that might be an exaggeration, but I did search several stores over the past few weeks!). We finally unearthed a jar in a South Carolina Publix, and though I haven't done much more than just taste it at this point, I'm already dreaming of the possibilities!

Of course, I could eat it straight out of the jar, but I'm excited about it's potential for transforming baked goods.  I've rounded up a few of my favorite Biscoff ideas from around the Web, but I'd love to hear your ideas, too. What should I make with my Biscoff? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Carrot Cupcakes with Biscoff Cream Cheese Icing - Lotus Bakeries

Biscoff Candy Bar Fudge - Shugary Sweets (I always love Aimee's recipes, but these look ridiculously good!)

Biscoff Oatmeal Pancakes - Lotus Bakeries

Biscoff White Chocolate Chip Blondies - Two Peas & Their Pod

No-Bake Biscoff Oat Bars - Sugarcrafter

Biscoff Swirl Gelato - Gingerbread Bagels

For a little background on this trendy treat, visit this page.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Midnight Chocolate Cake with Magic Ovaltine Icing (12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Week 5)

Okay, so this definitely isn't a cookie, but it is a really good cake  - and one that I plan on serving this holiday season - so it makes the list. If it helps, you can call it the 'Mid-Night Before Christmas Cake' (get it? midnight...mid-night? nevermind.).

I think I've mentioned, more than a few times, how fond Matt is of chocolate. Even the prettiest, tastiest desserts to ever grace a kitchen won't have much pull on Matt unless they're spiked with a bit of the sweet, dark stuff. Lucky for him, then, that this cake has chocolate - lots and lots of chocolate.

Dark, rich and very moist, this cake looks sophisticated and chic, but it's easy enough to throw together for a weeknight dessert. That's exactly what I did, and Matt loved the surprise. Sure, we were eating cake for days (it takes a long, long time for two people to polish off an entire layer cake) but I don't think it ever got old for him. My favorite part, of course, was the icing. We were low on powdered sugar - hence the rather skimpy frosting, which I truly regretted - so I had to improvise with a few other sugary items, and, behold, Magic Ovaltine Frosting was born.

Ovaltine by itself is great, but what's magic about this icing is that it doesn't really taste like Ovaltine - it tastes like Cadbury Mini Eggs. Anyone who knows me well, knows of my obsession with these pastel, Easter-themed candies. They're definitely my favorite edible English export, and probably my favorite sweet in the whole world - and you can be sure that I don't bestow that mantle lightly. I've always regretted the fact that Mini Eggs are only available at Easter-time, but now, thanks to this Magic Ovaltine Icing, I can have them any time I want. Even on the Night Before Christmas!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Avocado Brownie Experiment

Yesterday I saw five alligators! Five, basking in the sun right next to the bike path. That's probably nothing for a Hilton Head native, but it was plenty exciting for Matt and me. The weather here has been so great that we've spent a lot of time outdoors, beachcombing, walking, or putting our rented bikes to good use.

In the evenings, we come back to our rented condo and, exhausted from hours of sunlight and fresh air, we play board game...and eat desserts. Our food for the week came with us in a giant cooler - and we brought everything from curry powder and chicken breasts, to sundried tomatoes and turkey bacon! We even brought a brownie mix, but forgot the oil in the rush to pack up and get on the road. Lesser chocoholics might be daunted by this omission, but we were eager for our chocolate fix so we got creative.

They say necessity is the mother of invention (and any chocolate-lover knows how necessary chocolate can be), so in the end, we subbed 1/2 cup mashed avocado for the 1/2 cup vegetable oil and baked the brownies for slightly less time than directed.

The verdict? Surprisingly good! Even Matt, who is famously suspicious of unusual ingredients in food, gave these brownies the thumbs up. The avocado lent moisture without changing the chocolate flavor, and though they turned out rather cakey, that's likely due to the fact that we used three eggs instead of two - the recipe for a cakey brownie! If you stick to the usual two eggs, avocado brownies could give the much touted black bean variety a real run for their money!

This post has been shared at:
A Southern Fairytale: Mouthwatering Monday - Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms: Melt in Your Mouth Monday - This Chick Cooks: These Chicks Cooked - Southern Lovely: Show & Share - Ginger Snap Crafts: Wow Me Wednesday - My Girlish Whims: Your Whims Wednesday - At Home With Haley: Recipes I Can't Wait To Try - Someday Crafts: Whatever Goes Wednesday - Lady Behind The Curtain: Cast Party Wednesday - Blue Cricket Design: Show and Tell Wednesday - Polka Dots On Parade: Wow Me Wednesday - Sweet As Sugar Cookies: Sweets for A Saturday - Simply Sweet Home: Friday Favorites - Designs by Gollum: Foodie Friday - Creation Corner: Friday Link Party - Fingerprints on the Fridge: Feature Yourself Friday - A Well-Seasoned Life: Sweet Indulgences Sunday - Bacon Time: Anything Goes Party - Lolly Jane Boutique: Whatcha Got Weekend - Six Sisters' Stuff: Strut Your Stuff Saturday

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hi from Hilton Head Island!

Matt and I are spending the week on Hilton Head Island with his parents and, so far, the weather has been great. Our internet connectivity is a little patchy (and lets face it, we won't be spending much time hooked up to our computers in the apartment) so my posting may be a little patchy also. I'll try to keep nourishing the blog while we're away, but you can rest assured that whatever happens, I'll soon be back with a lot of food- and fun-filled posts from the lowcountry!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Celebrating Fall at the Royal Oak Farm and Fruit Orchard, Harvard, IL

As the days get shorter, the leaves get brighter, and the air gets cooler, I get this irresistible urge to celebrate Fall. Sometimes this urge gets me into the kitchen, eager to bake something heavy with spices and the smooth flavor of pumpkin. Sometimes it prompts me to go outside and gather leaves to press between the pages of a book for a year-round reminder of the season. One of my favorite things to do to celebrate fall, though, is to pick out a pumpkin (or two!) and fill our fruit bowl with ruddy apples plucked right off the tree. On our recent visit to my sister in Chicago - just before the birth of Baby James - we found the perfect place to do just that.

Even the windfall apples were gorgeous!

Royal Oak Farm and Fruit Orchard, located in Harvard IL, is to Fall what the North Pole is to Christmas. Okay, so there aren't any elves churning out caramel apples and pumpkin pies, but there is a full-service restaurant, a gift shop and bakery, a cider stand, a pick-your-own apple orchard, and a pick-your own pumpkin patch. They even have a play area for kids, complete with a carousel and kiddie train! What more do you need for the perfect fall day?

We visited the orchard on a beautifully sunny Saturday with my sister, my aunt and uncle, and my mom. Our first stop was the tasting table, where we sampled the various types of apple on offer. Then we treated our taste buds to some still-hot and sugary apple cider donuts from the bakery (they also sell breads, pies and other pastries and are pretty generous with their samples) and browsed the offerings in the gift shop. From there, it was on to the main event - apple picking!

More windfall apples!

Royal Oak Farm has tractor-drawn wagons to help you navigate their extensive property, and they're a fun ride for kids and adults too (they're also handy if you happen to be in your ninth month of pregnancy like my poor sister!). We took the tractor to the edge of the orchard, and together we wandered the rows of apple trees, stuffing our bag with different varieties. The Cortlands were our favorite - massively round and juicy, with tart, white flesh.

A perfect, shiny Cortland 

Our bag of apples full to bursting, we wandered through the pumpkin patch, comparing favorites and looking for the ever-elusive 'perfect pumpkin.' I didn't find mine, but my sister picked a few squash to bring home to her husband who had to miss out on our outing because of work. We carted our purchases back to the parking lot where we indulged in a delicious carside picnic (disclaimer: the Orchard asks that you don't bring your own food into the Entertainment area, but tailgating seems to be okay).

In all, we had a great day at Royal Oak Farm. It's an impressive compound with lots to do and than enough different activities to keep every member of your family occupied. It's also a great place to pick some apples, get a great price on pumpkins and just celebrate fall.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Colonial Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies (12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Week 4)

If my family had a collective recipe box, it would most certainly contain today's recipe. These simple spice cookies are a holiday staple in our house, and they also happen to be my brother's all-time favorite. Each Christmas, he spends hours in the kitchen mixing up a double batch of dough and rolling out hundreds of floury, gingerbread rounds - which we consume almost as quickly as they are produced. As with any cut-out cookie, it's a labor of love but one that certainly doesn't go unappreciated.

These cookies really are one of a kind, not just because of their molasses- and nutmeg-rich flavor, but also because of their unique backstory (because everyone loves a backstory!). As the name suggests, this recipe comes from Colonial Williamsburg, but you won't find it in their official cookbook. You won't even find it on their excellent Historic Foodways website (which, by the way, does include several other historical recipes, as well as some fascinating facts about food and dining in the colonial era), and that's because this recipe came to us from Colonial Williamsburg via my mother.

An even greater history enthusiast than myself - and Queen of the Backstory - it was my mother who guided us all around Europe, touring the castles, museums and historical sites of my childhood. When we returned to the states, she immersed herself, and us along with her, in American history - and Williamsburg became one of our favorite attractions.

On one particularly memorable visit, the year I turned seven, my parents indulged us with some treats from the bakery (no small luxury when there are seven mouths to feed!), and this soft, spiced gingerbread was one of them. The bakery sold them in thick, cake-like rounds, covered with a thin film of flour, and I can still remember the tenderness of that first bite and the way the flour coated our lips. Who knows, but that that might have been the very moment I became a devoted lover of spice cookies!

I certainly wasn't the only one who enjoyed that first bite, because my mother marched right back into the bakery and asked for the recipe - and to our great surprise, they gave it to her! In the nearly 20 years since, it's been handed round, and copied out and dusted off countless times.

It's a great comfort recipe, the abundance of spices and dark, treacly molasses fill the kitchen with warming, wholesome smells even before the first cookies are out of the oven. Though we usually bake them in rounds reminiscent of that first experience, I decided to bake leaf shapes this time. It's still fall and I was eager to put my pie crust cutters to a sweeter use - I think they turned out rather well.

These cookies are excellent with a cup of tea, or even enjoyed on their own. I have no idea how authentic the recipe is, but it's wholesome enough that I don't feel bad about even having a cookie or two for breakfast (okay, maybe I should feel bad, but at least it's not chocolate chips!). I've also taken them on numerous sailing trips - the ginger and molasses are said to palliate motion sickness, and they keep and travel very well.

Colonial Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies

1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup unsulfered molasses
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
4 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine the sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. Add melted butter, evaporated milk, molasses and vanilla extract (if desired). Stir until well combined. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition to prevent lumps. The dough should be very smooth and stiff enough to handle without sticking to your fingers. If necessary, add up to 1/2 cup additional flour to prevent sticking (I like to knead in some extra flour during rolling and cutting), and chill dough before using.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with novelty cookie cutters or a round biscuit cutter. It may be necessary to re-flour your surface several times to prevent dough from becoming sticky.

Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet for 10-12 minutes (I like my gingerbread soft so I always underbake - and there are no eggs here to worry about!). For small cookies like those shown in the picture, reduce baking time to 6-7 minutes. The cookies are done if they spring back when touched (but before the edges begin to brown!). Remove cookies immediately from baking sheet and cool on a clean countertop.

A few notes: This recipe makes a LOT of cookies - especially if you make them as small as I did. It can also be used to make crispy, gingersnap-like treats. Just increase baking time and remove cookies once the edges have just begun to brown. These are great served with a bit of milk for dunking!

This post is shared at:
A Southern Fairytale: Mouthwatering Monday - Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms: Melt in Your Mouth Monday - Skip to My Lou: Made by You Monday - Delightfully Dowling: Mangia Mondays - Keeping it Simple: Motivate Me Monday - Two Maids a Milking: Two Maids a Baking - C.R.A.F.T: Making Monday Marvelous - Making the World Cuter: Making the World Cuter Monday - Dittle Dattle: Amaze Me Monday - Marvelously Messy: A Marvelous Mess - 33 Shades of Green: Tasty Tuesdays - Blessed With Grace: Tempt My Tummy Tuesday - From Mess Hall to Bistro: Made From Scratch Tuesday - Mandy's Recipe Box: Totally Tasty Tuesday - Naptime Creations: Tasty Tuesday - Not Just A Housewife: Show Me What Ya Got - This Chick Cooks: These Chicks Cooked - Southern Lovely: Show & Share - Ginger Snap Crafts: Wow Me Wednesday - At Home With Haley: Recipes I Can't Wait To Try - Someday Crafts: Whatever Goes Wednesday - Lady Behind The Curtain: Cast Party Wednesday - Blue Cricket Design: Show and Tell Wednesday - Polka Dots On Parade: Wow Me Wednesday - Simply Sweet Home: Friday Favorites - Designs by Gollum: Foodie Friday - Creation Corner: Friday Link Party - Fingerprints on the Fridge: Feature Yourself Friday - What Allie's Making Now: Making It With Allie - Sweet As Sugar Cookies: Sweets for a Saturday - A Well-Seasoned Life: Sweet Indulgences Sunday

Operation Christmas Child

Tomorrow is the 4th installment of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies baking challenge - can you believe it? Time is just flying by and I've been baking up a storm, so while I have Christmas on the brain, I thought I'd share a bit about a project that's near and dear to my heart - Operation Christmas Child.

Run by an organization called Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is a program that provides needy children around the world with shoeboxes of Christmas presents that are purchased, packed and donated by people like you and me. It's the largest children's Christmas project in the world, bringing joy to the lives of over 80 million children since 1993.

I discovered OCC as a young college student and have contributed at least one box every year since. In the early days, I filled a single box with items chosen, albeit with care and love, from the dollar store. These days I can splurge a bit more, and Matt and I have expanded our operation this year. We have such fun shopping for 'our kids' (probably because we don't have any of our own, yet, so it's a welcome excuse to buy toys!) that I'm not sure whether it's us or the children that receive the greater blessing!

The mission of OCC is "to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ." The preparing, packing and sending of a shoebox, however, is much more than an expression of religious faith; it's a recognition of the bounty with which we've been blessed in our country, and an acknowledgement that there are others in need who can benefit from it.

It doesn't take long to fill a shoebox with toys, hygiene items and games, and the financial outlay is truly minimal - especially when you consider that a solitary shoebox is all these children are likely to receive for Christmas. Purchasing the gifts and packing the boxes is really its own reward, but if you're not convinced, just look at the smiles on these faces:

So why am I telling you all about OCC? Well, National Collection Week (November 14-21) is right around the corner, so if this sounds like something you'd like to be involved in, there's still time! The Operation Christmas Child website has all the information you need to prepare a box, as well as details on drop-off locations and ways to contribute financially. Check it out and start doing some early Christmas shopping you can really feel good about!

Disclaimer: I am not a member of Samaritan's Purse of affiliated with them or OCC in any way, other than the fact that I have been blessed by their ministry and happily support it! All thoughts and views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect the the views of Samaritan's Purse.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

He Eats, She Eats: How to Prepare Squid the Galician Way

Disclaimer: If you're squeamish around tentacles, look away now! Otherwise, please read on for a 100% tasty way to prepare squid!

I can just tell this post will be crazy-popular, because everyone loves squid, right? Of course I'm kidding, but I really do love squid and I hope you'll stick with me a read this post because anyone can love squid prepared in this simple (and totally non-rubbery!) way.

Deliciously simple squid in Spain

I guess I should say almost anyone, since this is another one of our His-n-Hers meals. Matt can't get past the idea (nor the smell) of squid to give it a try, but I just know he'd love it if he did. Squid has a very meaty, protein flavor that isn't fishy at all, and this recipe allows that rich, savory flavor to shine. By cooking the squid quickly and at high heat, a soft - not rubbery - texture is achieved - and all without a bit of breading or frying oil in sight!

Monday, October 17, 2011

He Eats, She Eats: Stuffed Green Peppers

To say that Matt and I have different tastes in food would be an exercise in understatement. Before we met and married, my at-home diet was practically vegetarian; Matt's motto could easily be 'if it doesn't have meat, it's not a meal.' While his idea of a great steak is a T-bone, mine is tuna. His favorite item on the spice rack is crushed red pepper, mine is vanilla extract. My favorite desserts are filled with spices or laden with fruit; his are filled with chocolate and laden with...more chocolate.

Sometimes I wonder how two people with such different tastes could have ended up together. You could say it's a case of to-may-to, to-mah-to (though that's the one thing on which we can agree - we both hate raw tomatoes!), but we make it work. I've grown used to preparing more meat, for our shared meals at least, and Matt has even learned to enjoy a dessert or two that doesn't involve chocolate. Of course, there are a handful of cases where compromise just isn't an option, where it's easier to make two completely different meals than to make the necessary modifications or to 'grin and bear it.' We like to call those cases 'His-n-Hers Meals.'

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Bite: Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guides

It's time for another Book Bite! This one showcases some of my favorite travel guides - the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness series. If you haven't explored this series yet, you're missing out!

As a child growing up in England, I fell in love with Dorling Kindersley books. I loved their interactive and informative formats - the lively descriptions, full-color pages, breathtaking photographs and extraordinarily detailed watercolors - and the wide range of topics covered (everything from cooking to cars). DK books seemed to be everywhere and I read them with childish enthusiasm. I was disappointed when we moved back to the States and I could no longer find them so easily.

You can imagine my delight, then, when I discovered the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides a few years ago.  Our first was borrowed from the library and took us on a trip through the Czech Republic. Since then, we've amassed a small collection and they really are fantastic. DK call themselves the 'illustrated reference publisher,' but their books are so much more than a reference guide - they're an experience.

Each book gives detailed historical information about the specific destination, as well as practical travel tips (on transportation, money issues or social customs) and a quick-reference language glossary that's come in handy more than a few times! They're richly illustrated and chock full of photographs and the DK signature watercolor drawings that feature floor plans and cutaways of famous buildings, as well as 3-D aerial maps of popular locales.

One of our favorite features are the area maps, color-coded and divided into manageable sections which make exploring even the most unfamiliar cities or regions a breeze. We've done several DK-based tours, dividing our time between the sections and relying on their detailed street maps to get around. My favorite thing to do is to dive in, cover-to-cover, on the way to our destination so that I arrive with a sense of the cultural and historical context of the place (it also helps to give me a sense of direction, so I don't get us lost!)

I could go on and on about these guidebooks, but I discovered this little gem of an interview on YouTube, so I'll let their Publishing Director, Claire Currie, give you some more information and a sneak peak at the process behind the publication!

P.S. This isn't a sponsored post - I just really like DK books!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Easy Caramel Turtle Bars (12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Week 3)

I love bar cookies! They're quick, easy to prepare and so versatile. They can be as sweet and homey as a molten slab of chocolate chip cookie, or dressed up for dessert with a bit of fancy cutting and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Modeled on the turtle candy, one of my mother's favorites, this recipe combines the best of a sugar cookie base was a rich, gooey caramel center, a layer of toasted pecans, and a thick chocolate coating. I threw it together during the height of last year's Christmas rush, and with the help of a few pre-made cheats, it's about as quick and easy as they get.

Of course, if you prefer to do things from scratch (for which, I commend you!) you can substitute homemade sugar cookie dough for the base and whip up your own caramel/dulce de leche for the filling.

Caramel Turtle Bars
1 package (16.5 oz) pre-made sugar cookie dough (Pillsbury works well!)
6 oz chopped pecans, lightly toasted
1 jar (at least 12 oz) caramel ice cream topping
12 oz (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13x9-inch pan. Press cookie dough evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the dough and press in lightly. Spoon caramel topping over nuts and bake for 25-35 minutes until edges are browned and caramel is thickened. Remove pan to a wire rack to cool at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat chocolate chips and condensed milk over medium-low heat, in a medium saucepan. Stir until just melted and smooth. Working quickly, spoon chocolate over slightly cooled bars and allow to cool completely before serving.

This post is linked at:

Marvelously Messy: A Marvelous Mess Monday - Dittle Dattle: Amaze Me Monday - Making the World Cuter: Making the World Cuter Monday - C.R.A.F.T: Making Monday Marvellous - Keeping It Simple: Motivate Me Monday - Skip To My Lou: Made By You Monday - Delightfully Dowling: Mangia Mondays - A Southern Fairytale: Mouthwatering Monday - Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms: Melt In Your Mouth Monday - Someday Crafts: Whatever Goes Wednesday - Sew Much Ado: We Did It! Wednesday - Sugar and Dots: What I Whipped Up Wednesday - Lady Behind the Curtain: Cast Party Wednesday - This Chick Cooks: These Chicks Cooked - My Girlish Whims: Your Whims Wednesday - Blue Cricket Design: Show and Tell Wednesday - Polka Dots on Parade: Wow Me Wednesday - Southern Lovely: Show and Share  - Ginger Snap Crafts: Wow Me Wednesday - Around My Family Table: Turning the Table Thursday - Feeding Four: What's Cooking Thursdays - What Allie's Making Now: Making it With Allie - Bizzy Bakes: Bake With Bizzy - Delightful Order: Delightfully Inspiring Thursday - The 36th Avenue: Share Your Awesomeness Thursday - Frugalicious Me: Haute Stuff Thursday - Simply Sweet Home: Friday Favorites - Creation Corner: Friday Link Party - Fingerprints on the Fridge: Feature Yourself Friday - Sugar Bananas: Sweets This Week

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Welcome, James Gwilym Edward Sharp!

As I was writing to you all about my sister yesterday morning, she was bring us little baby James! James Gwilym Edward Sharp is the newest addition to our family and he's so handsome!

Mom, Dad and Baby are all doing fine, and now I just can't wait until I can plan a visit to meet him. I spent half of yesterday waiting for pictures and news, and the other half too busy celebrating to get anything useful done. After all, it's hard work being a new Auntie! ;)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Matt's Sausage and Spinach Quiche

Thanks for being patient with me! I know I owe you all at least a couple of posts, but I spent this weekend in Chicago visiting my sister (yes, the one I helped move from NYC in August) who should be delivering our family's newest addition very, very soon! It was a great visit and we're all very excited, but it didn't leave much time for blogging.

To make up for my negligence, I have a really great recipe for you today- one that's very special because it's one of Matt's signature dishes. I'm fortunate to have a husband who not only knows his way around a kitchen, but actually enjoys cooking, and though I make the majority of meals in our house, I really look forward to the ones made by Matt. For one thing, he rarely cuts back on the tasty things (like cheese, butter, or sugar) in an attempt to health-ify recipes like I do - and the results are always mouthwatering. This quiche is no exception.

We sometimes change up the flavoring and ingredients a little (substitute bacon for sausage, add some peppers or mushrooms - that kind of thing), but the basic recipe is always the same. Also, we typically use a pre-made crust in the interest of saving time on weeknights, but you could easily make your own. I'd recommend blind baking for a few minutes beforehand to prevent sogginess!

Sausage and Spinach Quiche
1 9-inch pastry shell, unbaked
1 cup shredded Cheddar or mozzarella cheese (a mix works great!)
1 cup crumbled pork or turkey sausage, cooked
1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper and seasonings, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350°F (you can pop your unbaked crust into the oven for 10-15 minutes at this point, if you wish - I recommend it!). Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese into the cooled pastry shell. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine sausage, onion and cheese and spoon sausage mixture into the pastry shell. Beat eggs, milk, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and desired seasonings in another bowl. Pour over the filled pastry crust. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or cold.

This recipe is linked at:
Marvelously Messy: A Marvelous Mess Monday - Dittle Dattle: Amaze Me Monday - Making the World Cuter: Making the World Cuter Monday - C.R.A.F.T: Making Monday Marvellous - Keeping It Simple: Motivate Me MondayDelightfully Dowling: Mangia Mondays - Skip To My Lou: Made By You MondayA Southern Fairytale: Mouthwatering Monday - Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms: Melt In Your Mouth Monday - 33 Shades of Green: Tasty Tuesday - Permanent Posies: Tuesdays Tasty Tidbits - At The Well: Tempt My Tummy Tuesday - Mandy's Recipe Box: Totally Tasty Tuesdays - Nap Time Creations: Tasty Tuesday - Not Just a Housewife: Show Me What Ya Got - New Nostalgia: Anti-Procrastination Tuesday - Sweetology: Tea Party Tuesday - I'm Topsy Turvy: Topsy Turvy Tuesday - Chef-in-Training: Tuesday Talent Show - Far Above Rubies: Domestically Divine Tuesday - Sugar Bee Crafts: Take A Look Tuesday - At Home With K: Terrific Under Ten Tuesday - Premeditated Leftovers: Hearth and Soul Hop - Ginger Snap Crafts: Wow Me Wednesday - Southern Lovely: Show & Share - This Chick Cooks: These Chicks Cooked - Sugar and Dots: What I Whipped Up Wednesday - At Home With Haley: Recipes I Can't Wait To Try - Lady Behind the Curtain: Cast Party Wednesday - Blue Cricket Design: Show and Tell Wednesday - Around My Family Table: Turning the Table Thursday - Feeding Four: What's Cooking Thursdays - What Allie's Making Now: Making it With Allie - Bizzy Bakes: Bake With Bizzy - Delightful Order: Delightfully Inspiring Thursday - The 36th Avenue: Share Your Awesomeness Thursday - Simply Sweet Home: Friday Favorites - Creation Corner: Friday Link Party - Fingerprints on the Fridge: Feature Yourself Friday

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Levain Lookalike: Copycat Levain Chocolate Chip Cookie (12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies)

If it's Thursday, it must be the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies! I promised I'd go easy on the 'Christmas' for a couple of weeks (because who can think about snowmen when it's still 80 degrees outside?), so instead of red-and-green food coloring and decorated gingerbread men, I'm giving you possibly the Best. Cookie. Recipe. Ever. How's that for an early Christmas present?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Have Sweet Tooth, Will Travel : A Few of My Favorite Sweet Spots from Around the World

After sharing Lonely Planet's favorite dessert destinations with all of you last week, I got all inspired to create a list of my own. As you all know, one of my favorite things about travel is the opportunity it affords to try new foods  - and these foods always seem more memorable if they come with a hefty dose of sugar! Here are a few of my favorites from the past few years:*
*This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is delicious!

1) Flapjacks, Tom's Cakes, Cambridge, United Kingdom
In addition to being a the creator of traditional pastries and intriguing cakes (like their Lemon and Elderflower loaf), Tom's is the official purveyor of the world's most excellent English flapjacks (okay, official = in my opinion). I discovered Tom's while visiting my brother at university and have made countless pilgrimages since that inaugural visit. Thanks to my wonderful brother, Tom's flapjacks have made regular appearances amongst my Christmas presents for the past few years. Sadly, I'm not sure how I'll get my fix, now that his PhD is over!

2) Tarta de Santiago, Santiago de Compostella, Spain
The Galician city of Santiago is probably better known for the 700 km walk many people take to get there, but it should be famous for this fantastic dessert. Adorned with the symbolic Cross of St. James, this pastry is beloved of pilgrims, tourists and locals alike. It's light, sweet, and heavily flavored with almonds, which, in my opinion, makes it just about perfect.

3) Cookies, Levain Bakery, Upper West Side, New York City, NY
When I first tasted Levain's Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie, I was pretty convinced that it was the best cookie ever...and it was, for about the five minutes that passed until I tasted their Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookie. In any case, Levain makes some of the best cookies ever - even in the face of tremendous popularity and hype. And that's pretty impressive. Almost as impressive as the gargantuan, behemoth, 6-ounce cookies they serve.

Monday, October 3, 2011

All Natural Pink Velvet Cake

Last week, I told you the story of my first Red Velvet experience. Well, that first bite quickly convinced me that I'd have to try my own hand at this Southern favorite, and I've been furiously bookmarking recipes ever since.

I love the tender crumb of Red Velvet, and the ever so subtle hint of cocoa in the batter, but of course the biggest draw is that lush, vampy red color! I'd heard stories of the recipe's origin which credit the red to a chemical reaction between cocoa and vinegar, so you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the blush of color I found so attractive was actually due, in most modern recipes, to several ounces (more than an entire bottle, in some cases!) of red food coloring.