Foodie Friday – Rosemary pecans

I know, I’m the worst blogger ever. Please forgive me. But some days you just have to do what’s necessary – and yesterday I just had to go to bed at 8:30. I was really tired. Not that a single early bedtime explains my pitiful blogging over the last week, but it’s representative of a lot of things going on right now. I promise to do better over the weekend. But for now, on to the recipe!

This recipe is so simple that I feel like a bit of a fraud posting it, but it was a bit hit at Thanksgiving. At the time my dad was sticking to a low carb diet so he couldn’t sample any of the four kinds of chocolate chip cookies I made for the holiday feast. So for him (and for the health conscious folks at our Thanksgiving dinner) I roasted some almonds and pecans with different seasonings. Not only is roasting nuts ridiculously easy, but the result is really tasty. This recipe will even satisfy the vegetarians and vegans in your life! These rosemary pecans were very a very popular appetizer at the Thanksgiving dinner we attended. I will definitely be making them again!

2 c pecan halves
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp crushed dried rosemary
1/2 tsp kosher salt

In a medium bowl, drizzle the pecan halves with oil and stir to coat. Then add the rosemary and salt and stir to evenly coat the pecans with the spices. (I wish I’d had some ground rosemary for this recipe because a lot of the crushed rosemary fell off the pecans. If you have a spice grinder this would be a good time to employ it.) Spread the pecans in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 deg F for about 20 minutes, stirring once, or until the nuts are toasted. Be careful not to burn them! Enjoy!

Based on In Sonnet’s Kitchen’s Rosemary and Sea Salt Roasted Pecans.

Belated Foodie Friday – Triple dark chocolate cookies

Why stop at double dark chocolate cookies when you can have triple dark chocolate cookies instead? Don’t get me wrong, the double dark chocolate cookies I posted last fall are amazing (and I’ve even used them as a base for some other cookies), but when the opportunity arose to add even more types of chocolate to a cookie I couldn’t pass it up. As you can tell from the above photo, I made these cookies around Halloween last year (see the ghost, pumpkin, and bat sprinkles?) so I’ve been dragging my feet posting the recipe. I just have many good ones to share! But back to the story at hand. Sometime last year I picked up a box of Hershey’s Special Dark instant pudding mix at Walmart one day with no real use in mind, but then fate intervened and I found this recipe for triple dark chocolate cookies. And they are delicious! The pudding mix makes these cookies soft and give them a rich chocolate flavor. If you like dark chocolate this is definitely the way to go.

1 c (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 c Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1 box (3.75 oz) Hershey’s Special Dark instant pudding mix
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 c Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate chips (I think I used Ghiradelli’s instead)

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars. You can use an electric mixer, but I usually just use a wooden spoon. Add the egg and vanilla and beat/stir until combined. Add the baking soda, cocoa powder, and pudding mix and beat/stir until combined. Add the flour and beat/stir until almost combined. Fold in the chocolate chips which should help incorporate the rest of the flour. Spread the dough into a 13×9″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 deg F for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Something Swanky’s Hershey’s Special Dark Triple Chocolate Pudding Cookies.

Foodie Friday – Skillet green beans

My family had a big dinner together on Christmas Eve since my brother had to fly back home to San Francisco the next day. I got up early that morning to put some marinara sauce in the slow cooker for a vegetarian lasagna, but then there were side dishes to consider. We had a few options after going to the grocery store the day before, but ultimately I decided to try a recipe for stir-fried green beans. I’d never simply cooked green beans in the skillet, but one of my co-workers brought something similar to our annual holiday potluck and they were delicious. I cooked them in olive oil rather than bacon fat like she did because my brother is a vegetarian, but they were still amazing. These green beans couldn’t be easier to make and they turn out crispy and flavorful. They were perfect for a Christmas dinner side dish.

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
12 oz green beans, ends snapped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder

In a large nonstick skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the green beans and stir to coat with oil. Add the salt, pepper, and garlic powder and stir to coat. I didn’t really measure the spices, but just sprinkled each one over the green beans a couple of times. I don’t think you can go wrong, no matter how much of each you use. Cook the green beans, stirring occasionally for about 8-10 minutes. Be careful not to burn and make sure not to over cook them if you want the beans to still be a bit crispy (i.e., not mushy). Enjoy!

Based on She Wears Many Hats’ Sautéed Green Beans.

Foodie Friday – Roasted baby carrots

I’ve never been a big fan of carrots. I’ll eat raw carrots in a salad, but I don’t choose raw carrot sticks as a snack or anything. And cooked carrots have always been really unappealing to me. With a few exceptions (I had some glazed carrots at Lucques in West Hollywood once that I couldn’t stop eating) I’m afraid I’ve always just had mushy, boiled or steamed carrots. Yuck. But I wasn’t ready to give up on carrots yet. When I was in Tallahassee at Christmas I tried a couple of new vegetable side dish recipes and one of them was these roasted baby carrots. Holy cow, they are amazing! I couldn’t get enough of these simple, yet unbelievably delicious carrots. Even if you don’t like carrots, especially if you don’t like them, please give roasted carrots a try. They don’t taste the same as with any other preparation. I couldn’t believe how much I loved them. I will be making these often.

2 c baby carrots
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Throw the carrots into a bowl, drizzle with melted butter and olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. I used my hands to make sure everything mixed well. Spread the carrots onto a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan lined with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 deg for about 35 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the carrots are tender. Enjoy!

Based on Cooking Light’s Butter-Roasted Carrots.

Foodie Friday – Chocolate berry smoothie

The other weekend I had to go into work for a few hours and I was annoyed about that. Who wouldn’t be? So I decided to make myself a chocolate smoothie as a treat to take with me for breakfast. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I started with this recipe and improvised a bit. With the ingredients I had in my kitchen I actually made something pretty tasty! It was like a milkshake but without the guilt. I think I’ll get some chocolate protein powder the next time I’m at Trader Joe’s to see if I can give this concoction even more chocolate flavor. Feel free to adapt this recipe to your own tastes and for whatever items you have on hand. It’s healthy and delicious!

3/4 c frozen berries (I prefer cherries)
3/4 to 1 c dark chocolate almond milk
3 oz vanilla Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp vanilla protein powder (mine is from Trader Joe’s)

You’d better put your thinking caps on for this one because it’s pretty complicated. First, throw all of the ingredients into your blender. Second, blend that baby until the mixture is nice and smooth. That’s it! Yeah, I was kidding when I said it was complicated. Aren’t you glad? Enjoy!

Based on Bran Appetit’s Double Chocolate Cherry Smoothie.

Belated Foodie Friday – Eggnog bundt cake

First of all, I didn’t realize it was Friday when I was posting that lame update last night, but I didn’t really have the energy to get this recipe ready for publishing anyway. Right now I’m on my flight from Dallas to Los Angeles and I’m very happy to be going home. I promise to write better posts during these next few days when I’m unwinding before I have to go back to work on January 2nd. But for now, here’s my belated recipe for the week!

I meant to take a picture of this eggnog bundt cake before posting the recipe (not that it was much to look at, but still), but I never got around to it. You’d think I would have since I’ve made two of them in the last couple of weeks! And the reason I made the second eggnog cake is because the first one on the 10th was so amazing. My co-workers gobbled it up, and one of them even asked for the recipe. I have to admit that I’m not really a fan of eggnog, but that cake was still absolutely delicious. Since bundt cakes always have some sort of dairy product in them, why not eggnog? Simple and seasonal. I had my mom buy some eggnog before I flew home for Christmas so I could whip up another cake for my friends and family on the 22nd. So yummy. There was just one slice left this morning so I know it was appreciated by all. So if you still have a holiday party to attend this season keep this eggnog bundt cake in mind. Everyone will thank you!

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/4 c canola oil
1 1/2 c eggnog
1 box (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 c all purpose flour

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and granulated sugar. Add the vanilla, eggs, canola oil, and eggnog and stir to combine. Add the pudding mix, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine. Finally, add the flour and stir to combine. Spread the batter into a bundt cake pan that has been well coated with nonstick cooking spray (make sure to get all of the nooks and crannies or your cake will stick!). Bake at 350 deg F for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning the cake out onto the wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Based on Mother Thyme’s Eggnog Bundt Cake.

Foodie Friday – Funfetti sugar cookie bars

I’ve seen about a million cake batter inspired recipes on Pinterest this year. In general they don’t interest me since “cake batter” seems to just mean yellow or white cake with sprinkles, but when the phrase “sugar cookies” is added I’m intrigued. Who doesn’t like sugar cookies? I baked this batch of funfetti sugar cookie bars back in August (the same time I made the awesome double dark chocolate cookies, as you can see in the photo) and I liked them a lot. The sprinkles make these simple soft cookies festive, especially if you use holiday-specific decorations. I’ve bought more Halloween and Christmas cookie supplies this year than I’d like to admit, and any recipe that gives me an excuse to use them is OK in my book. And it’s a bonus when the outcome is delicious too! Buttery, soft sugar cookies with colorful sprinkles? Perfect.

1 stick butter, softened
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 egg
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cornstarch
1 1/4 c flour
6 Tbsp sprinkles
Extra granulated sugar for topping (optional)

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and egg and mix until combined. Add the baking soda, cornstarch, and flour and mix until almost combined. Add the sprinkles and mix until flour is just incorporated. Spread the batter into an 8×8″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle a little granulated sugar on top of the dough if you want. (This is the perfect time to use colored sugar if you have it!) Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Averie Cook’s Softbatch Funfetti Sugar Cookies and Little Bitty Bakes’s Soft Sugar Cookie Bars.

Foodie Friday – Slow cooker marinara

I’ve tried to make a flavorful marinara sauce many times, but I never succeeded…until now! I think my biggest problem was that I didn’t let the sauce simmer long enough on the stove to boil off the excess liquid and let the flavors meld properly. So as it has so many times in the past, my Crockpot came to the rescue! I did a little prep, threw the ingredients in my slow cooker, and let it cook on low for eight hours. Pure genius. The resulting marinara sauce is thick, aromatic, and packed with flavor. Besides a whole heap of spices that make this marinara inherently Italian, I think the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar are the key ingredients. They make the sauce perfect. If you’re a carnivore you can add some cooked meat of any variety to this sauce for a yummy bolognese. But since there was a vegetarian at my dinner party last Wednesday I left it as is and absolutely loved it. I hope you’ll love it too. Note: The simplest preparation of this sauce is to just throw everything into the Crockpot, stir, and cook on low for about 8 hours. However, I added a few more steps for good measure. I’ll try it again sometime without the extra prep and see how it compares.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 c diced sweet onion (about 1 large onion)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 Tbsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less if you want)
2 cans (28 oz each) crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet, then add the diced onion and sautee for 4-5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sautee for 1 minute more. Add the tomato paste, basil, oregano, parsley, Italian seasoning, thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Toss the onion mixture into the bottom of your Crockpot (use a liner for easy clean up). Pour the crushed tomatoes over the top, add the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves and stir to combine. Put the lid on the Crockpot and cook on low for about 8 hours. Remove the bay leaves before serving over some pasta, chicken, or whatever. Enjoy!

Based on Budget Bytes’s Slow Cooker Marinara.

Foodie Friday – Pumpkin sheet cake

I love sheet cakes. They’re easy to make, they’re tasty, and they feed a crowd! The latter is basically the reason I made this pumpkin sheet cake for the chili cook-off at work on Halloween. We had a lot of people participating in the cook-off and I wanted to make sure there was enough cake for everyone to try a piece. And who doesn’t like cream cheese frosting? This cake was really good. I was worried it was going to be dry without any dairy products in the batter, but it turned out moist and delicious. Plus the colorful Halloween sprinkles, including little black sugar spiders, looked great on the white frosting. I’d like to try this cake again, but with either a white glaze (from the awesome white sheet cake I made next year) or chocolate glaze (from the perfect chocolate sheet cake). This is the perfect fall cake so make it while you can!

4 eggs
1 2/3 c sugar
1 c canola oil
1 oz (15 oz) pumpkin puree
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 c flour

3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
6 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 c powdered sugar
Seasonal sprinkles (optional)

In a large bowl, stir together the eggs and sugar. Add the oil and pumpkin puree and stir until combined. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, baking powder, and baking soda and stir until combined. Add the flour and stir until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. Do not over mix. Spread the batter into a well-greased jelly roll pan (mine is 15x11x1″) and bake at 350 deg F for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, with an electric mixer beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until combined. Spread the frosting on the cake when it is completely cooled (I didn’t use all of the frosting because I wanted a fairly thin layer). I added some Halloween sprinkles at this point for show. If you’re not planning to serve the cake immediately, store it in the refrigerator to preserve the cream cheese frosting. Take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving to let it warm up to room temperature. Enjoy!

Based on Nancy Creative’s Pumpkin Sheet Cake.

Foodie Friday – Double dark chocolate cookies

Back in August before I left for Florida I made a couple of batches of cookies while watching the first Florida football game of the season. This was back when I still had thought that the Gators might have an amazing season. How naive I was! Now that the season is more than halfway over I’m just hoping Florida becomes bowl-eligible at some point. But with Georgia, South Carolina, and FSU left on the schedule I’m not holding my breath. But on to the recipe. I stumbled across some Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa at the grocery store a few days beforehand (after looking for it in stores for the past year and coming up empty) and I was determined to use it to make some cookies while watching football. So I combined two different recipes, added some dark chocolate chips, and the result was these delicious brownie-like double dark chocolate bar cookies. Not quite as moist as your typical brownie, but the dark chocolate flavor was really rich – much better than most brownies I’ve tried. So if you find some Special Dark cocoa at the store grab it and make these cookies immediately!

1 stick butter, softened
1 c light brown sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 c Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cornstarch
1 c flour
1 c dark chocolate chips

In a large bowl cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the vanilla, egg, and cocoa powder and mix until combined. Add the baking soda, cornstarch, and flour and mix until almost combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, making sure no streaks of flour remain. Spread the batter into an 8×8″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Averie Cook’s Dark Chocolate Dark Brown Sugar Cookies and Sweet Pea’s Kitchen’s Double Chocolate White Chocolate Chip Cookies.