Archives for September 2012

The Friday Five: All Things Apple

One of my favorite things to do in the fall is head out to Linvilla Orchards for all things apple—cider, cider donuts, pie and of course the fruit itself.

The only problem with bringing home an abundance of apples is that you have to find things to do with them before they rot. There are only so many apple pies that one can consume.

Luckily, apples are kind of like pumpkin, in that they work equally well in both sweet and savory dishes. Here are a few ideas that caught my eye recently:

1. Apple Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting (via Heather’s French Press): Heather, you had me at salted caramel.

2. Apple and Butternut Squash Soup (via U.S. Apple Association): This plus grilled cheese would be my ideal fall dinner

3. Pork Tenderloin and Apples (via Cooking Light): Anytime I come across a pork/apple combination, I can always hear Peter Brady saying “Pork chops and applesauce.” Anyone else? Update (10/29/12): Made this using pork chops and some of the apples we picked at Linvilla Orchards last week. It was the perfect balance of savory and sweet.

4. Apple Cider Donuts (via Feastie): Cider donuts are my favorite apple indulgence. These are a bit healthier because they are baked instead of fried and are extra adorable because they are made in mini muffin tins. Update (10/22/12): Made these for breakfast on a recent Saturday morning and loved them! They are just as flavorful and have the same surface crunch from the cinnamon sugar as the fried varieties. I got about 32 mini donuts out of the recipe and also whipped up a vanilla dipping sauce to go along side them.

5. Grilled Flatbread with Apple, Bacon and Onion (via Bon Appetit): You might want to jump on this one quickly, because there are conflicting reports about an impending bacon shortage. Better safe than sorry.

I’m still looking for a really good recipe for apple cake. I used this Martha Stewart one last year and it was just okay. So, let me know if there is one that you would recommend!

This Week for Dinner

And, it’s Sunday again.

So, here’s what we’ve been cooking up for the last few days:

Pasta with Butternut Parmesan Sauce

From: Simply Recipes

This was the highlight of my week! The prep time is a bit lengthy, because you have to roast the squash for about 40 minutes in the oven, but the results are worth it. The sauce is rich and velvety and got me really excited about cooking with more fall flavors in the months ahead. You could probably use this as a base for a butternut squash soup—just use chicken stock for a bit more flavor and thicken it up a bit with some cream. We added garlic (it’s the base for almost everything we cook!) and I’m glad we did, since it might have been a bit bland without it. I’ve also seen a few similar recipes that jazz things up even more with the addition of other ingredients, including pine nuts, bacon and/or sage.

Baked Chicken Parmesan

From: Skinnytaste

The staple Italian dish gets a healthy makeover. Since we had a couple of pasta dishes on the menu, we opted for quinoa and zucchini as side options.

Beef and Broccoli

From: Cooking Light

Yes, beef can be pricey, but be sure to splurge a bit for a good cut for this dish. The broccoli and other ingredients are cheap, so it all evens out.

Chicken Marsala Pasta

From: Baked Bree

One of the nice things about chicken marsala is that it smells so darn good when it’s cooking—earthy and sweet at the same time. You can get the same effect with this relatively easy dish.

Greek Pizza

From: Cooking Light

Someday, I’m going to try to make my own pizza dough. But, for now, we save time by buying pre-made crust (we usually use Mama Mary’s honey wheat. They come in packs of two so you can keep one in the freezer for another meal). We added Portobello mushroom slices to this for a bit of extra protein.

Okay, now to work out our plan for the next week! What’s on your menu?

The Friday Five: All Things Pumpkin

Friends, I’ve been thinking about pumpkin a lot lately.

It doesn’t help that I pass by multiple Starbucks locations on my way to work and I know that the Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back. I desperately want one, but it’s just not time yet. Sure, it’s been a bit cooler in the mornings, but the crispiness in the air has not yet reached a level which would make a PSL enjoyable. Conditions have to be just right or a PSL is just…meh.

To avoid spoiling the magic of the first PSL of the season, I’ve been distracting myself by compiling recipes for all things pumpkin.

One of the things that I like most about pumpkin is that it works equally well in both sweet and savory recipes. Some things I’m particularly excited about trying out include:

1) Pumpkin Orecchiette with Spinach and Sage (via From Away): For the past couple of years, a Rachael Ray recipe has been our go-to for combining pumpkin and pasta, but I’m looking forward to changing things up with this recipe. Update (10/22/12): We made this for dinner recently and it was delicious! We used regular Italian sausage in it, but next time, I would love to try a chicken/apple variety. I had a ton of leftovers for lunches, too!

2) Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili (Skinnytaste, via We Are Not Martha): Chili is the one thing I know how to cook pretty well, so I like trying out new combinations of ingredients. Update (10/28/12): I finally broke out the Crock Pot that I received as a wedding gift more than two years ago to make this for dinner this past week. It was a hit in our house! It has makes a very subtle pumpkin flavor and a velvety texture. I added a bit more chili, cumin and oregano than called for in the recipe, as well as a bit of cinnamon, to suit my own personal tastes. And, I’m now a huge fan of the slow cooker. It was so easy to throw everything together and just forget about it for eight hours, with the exception of a few stirs and taste tests every so often.

3) Pumpkin Hummus (via Cooking Light): This would be great as a dip or even a spread on a sandwich.

4) Pumpkin Blossom Cookies (via Inspired by Charm): I’m not sure if it’s a good thing for my waistline that Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses exist.

5) Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin (Annie’s Eats, via The Girl Who Ate Everything): I also blame Starbucks for my love of cream cheese filled muffins.

What pumpkin-centric recipes are on your “to-make” list so far?

This Week for Dinner

Happy Weekend, friends!

Since we are already halfway through September (how did that happen?!), I’ve made my first foray into fall baking with a batch of pumpkin spice granola.  I think the recipe I threw together with needs a bit more tweaking, but at least the house smells delicious at the moment!

In other news, I feel like my food was just not photogenic this week. But, I’m sharing anyway.

Sweet and Sour Pork Stir-fry


Instead of deep frying the pork as called for in the recipe, a lighter option is to simply coat the pork in cornstarch and stir-fry.

Baked Orzo with Eggplant, Chicken and Mozzarella

From: Smitten Kitchen

I was pretty excited when I came across this recipe because it has a ton of my favorite ingredients in it (the chicken was a addition), but it was just okay. The flavors were nice, but tomatoes and eggplant released a lot of liquid when cooking, so it was very runny. You might want to reduce the amount of broth that you include. I thought it was much better the next when I ate it for lunch.

Roast Cod with Garlic Butter

From: Coastal Living

This recipe is like something Paula Deen would make. It has a fairly healthy amount of butter and then it’s topped with prosciutto. To lighten it up, you can use your choice of butter substitute (I like Smart Balance). It’s even better with a squeeze of lemon over the top.

Have an awesome week!

More from Venice and Milan

I know it’s been months since I returned from Italy, but I only just recently finished editing all of my photos. So, I thought I would share a few of my favorites from the last leg of our trip, which was spent in Venice and Milan (more here).

Rialto Bridge

Simply put, I fell head-over-heels in love with Venice. I don’t know how to swim and I have horrible allergies, so you would think that I would want to avoid a place that’s surrounded by water and teaming with dust and mold, right? Not so. From the pastel colors, to the mysterious alleyways to the way the sunlight sparkled off the water, it felt like being in a dream.

In terms of its food, Venetians have a nice little evening tradition of indulging in small snacks called chiccetti (like the tapas tradition in Spain). On our first night, we did a little crawl through the city to a few bars to sample a variety of crostini, salads, meatballs and local wines. These small bites range in price from 1.50 to 5 euros, so they are an excellent way to sample the cuisine of this otherwise expensive city. We also made a stop for afternoon coffee at Café Florian, which opened in 1720, making it the oldest café in Italy. It’s ridiculously overpriced, but the service is impeccable and the surroundings are filled with gorgeous chandeliers and works of art. If you sit at the bar instead of opting for table service, prices do come down a bit and they do give you a nice plate of cookies with your beverage.

One of my favorite moments included dinner on our last night in Venice. We sat right by one of the canals and enjoyed fresh seafood from La Rioba before going on a gondola ride. Although gondola rides are offered throughout the day, we liked going at night because the canals were less crowded. We felt like we had the whole place to ourselves, as all we could hear was the gentle lapping of the water against the boat and the occasional singing of our gondolier.

From Venice, we took the train to Milan, our final stop, which ended up being our least favorite part of the trip. We definitely were a bit exhausted and ready to come home by that point so that might have colored our experience a bit. But we didn’t find the people particularly friendly and everything was very expensive and trendy. It kind of reminded me of Beverly Hills.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, where everyone goes to shop

Two days was plenty of time for us to see the main sites, including The Last Supper, the Duomo and LaScala Opera House. The latter was a very cool experience because there was a rehearsal in progress when we visited. So, we got to experience the exquisite architecture and amazing voices that fill the hall each night for only 6 euros, a fraction of what it costs for a ticket to a performance.

Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses the Last Supper.

My favorite meal in Milan was lunch at Luini, which serves panzerotti, a stuffed pizza that is a traditional street food of the region. It must be everyone’s favorite—tourists and locals alike—because there was a line out the door and a security guard on patrol making sure that customers didn’t cut in front of each other! There were a dozen flavors to choose from, including savory options like ham and cheese and sweet options like Nutella.

And, with that, friends, our tour of Italy has concluded. If you missed any of our stops, you can catch up here.

Our two weeks were truly an amazing experience and I miss it like crazy. I’ve probably looked at my pictures from the trip almost every day since our return. I don’t want to forget about everything that we saw, did and ate.

It’s time to start planning the next trip. My feet are getting itchy.

This Week for Dinner

Summer meals were kind of random. There was a period of time where I had 2 to 3 work events per week, which meant I was eating sandwiches from Whole Foods, some sort of food on a stick, and/or mini pastries on a regular basis. There wasn’t too much cooking and eating going on at home.

We are slowly getting back into our normal routine of scouting out good dinner recipes to try. Here are a few that I recommend from the past week:

Thai Chicken Saute

From: Cooking Light


I’ve come across a few good recipes recently that remind me of the food from Lemon Grass, my favorite Thai restaurant located in University City. Adding this one to the list. The recommended amount of hot sauce in the recipe was just right for me, but you may want to tweak it for your own personal taste.

Pork Mango Picadillo Burritos

Inspired by: Simply Recipes

Instead of just serving the pork mixture over rice, we used it as filling for burritos, topped with diced tomatoes and green chiles. I added some of my favorite burrito toppings, including black beans, sour cream, guacamole and cheese. These burritos definitely required a knife and fork to eat!

Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Roasted Peppers

From: Simply Recipes

Pasta topped with homemade Bolognese sauce is one of our go-to meals for easy weeknight cooking. The best part about this kind of sauce is that you can jazz it up with whatever you like or happen to have on hand in the pantry.

Have a great weekend, all!

On the Road: Newport

Chester and I spent Labor Day weekend soaking up every last bit of summer with our friends Bridget and Bill.

The weather was perfect for an early morning hike on the Cliff Walk.

And, for touring the opulent mansions that once served as the summer homes of the Vanderbilts and other wealthy families during the Gilded Age. Hearing the stories of the families who built the homes and learning about the societal norms of the time made me feel like I had been transported into the pages of an Edith Wharton novel (or an American Downton Abbey). I was stunned to learn that throwing a season’s worth of summer parties could set a family back about $800,000!

My two favorite mansions. Rosecliff (top), where the old version of the Great Gatsby was filme and the Breakers, former home of the Vanderbilts.

We drank wine and ate cheese on the roof deck of our cute hotel, the Yankee Peddler Inn.

And, ate our weight in seafood.

Our favorite restaurant of the trip was Bouchard, a quaint French restaurant housed inside an inn of the same name, which we went to on our first night in town. Bridget and I both had the re-stuffed roasted lobster and scallops, topped with truffles, gruyere cheese and lobster sauce. It was an absolutely decadent dish and the only time that I have ever enjoyed cheese and seafood paired together.

On the second night, we wandered around the waterfront and came upon 22 Bowen’s Wine Bar and Grill. We really didn’t know anything about it and were pleasantly surprised at how good it was. I had an excellent Asian-style tuna dish with Singapore noodles while Chester got his lobster fix.

On the way home, we stopped in Tiverton, a sleepy little town about 15 miles from Newport. Although there were some adorable looking antique stores in the area, everything seemed to be closed for the holiday. Luckily, our main reason for visiting, Evelyn’s Drive-in was open. So, we stopped for our final meal of the trip: fried clam cakes and lobster rolls.

The clam cakes had a slightly sweet coating, almost like funnel cake. The lobster was served on a buttered roll, with no dressing, except for a side of mayo. Simple, but perfect.

Chester and I made one last stop before our long drive home at Gray’s Homemade Ice Cream.

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream from Gray’s

Our Newport trip was a wonderful way to cap off an amazing summer. I’m sad that the season is coming to an end, but I’m ready for all things apple and pumpkin, sweaters and boots, colorful fall foliage and a whole new set of adventures.