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…it’s what’s for linner.

It’s that in-between time when the lunch hour has passed but dinner is still far off on the horizon. Welcome to Linnertime. Rather than reaching for those salty’n sweet treats from the vending machine or pantry, have some of these vegetables on hand to fill up your belly ’til the next proper meal.

You can use any vegetables you have in the kitchen – you do have vegetables in your kitchen right? ;) . The trick is the slow roasting and the use of flavorful smoked sea salt. I bought mine at Trader Joe’s for something like $3 [addendum: although this is the umpteenth post in a row I've written about TJ's, I swear it's not the only place I shop! Here's lookin' at you Whole Foods & Jewel]. It’s a huge canister that I’ll probably never finish because a little goes a long way.

If you work in an office or don’t have access to an oven during the day, roast up some veggies the night before and bring them to work with you to snack on the next day. The flavors are just as tasty at room temperature as they are fresh from the oven. You could also serve these as a dinner side, dice them up and serve them with tortilla chips as a roasted salsa or pile them on top of toasted bread for a low-cal sandwich.

 

Smokey Slow Roasted Vegetables

  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • 6 mini bell peppers, sliced [or use 1 regular sized bell pepper - your favorite color]
  • 5 mushrooms [any kind], sliced
  • dash of olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

for garnish [optional]:

  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 400F. Slice red onion, bell pepper and mushroom into roughly the same size so they all cook evenly. Toss vegetables in mixing bowl with olive oil, smoked sea salt and pepper. Spray foil-lined pan with butter spray and add vegetables. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes, mixing occasionally. Remove and top with garnish.

[toss toss toss]

[up close and personal]

[before....]

[..after! all pretty & caramelized]

[enjoy!]

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In honor of All Hallows Eve I wanted to share my delicious holiday twist on Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Mix.

This coffee cake is to die for, I really can’t emphasize enough how GOOD it is. It’s silky and smooth, the perfect bite to go with your morning cuppa joe. Just thinking about it makes me want to peel open the [safely out of sight] tupperware and grab a piece… but I’m staying strong. If you, however, end up eating the whole batch in one sitting I wouldn’t blame you one bit.

I’m sure this cake mix just on it’s own would be delicious but I figured, it’s October, I have a can of pumpkin, what the heck let’s get a little wild. I’ve also read that you can sub in pumpkin puree for butter & oil in boxed cake recipes to cut down on fat but it does give the cake a distinct pumpkinny flavor so unless you’re aiming for that, I’d stick to butter & oil.

If you want to follow the box directions, go for it. You’ll still come up with a yummy cake. If you want to walk on the wild side, read on for an unbelievably moist, creamy [and festively orange colored] cake that will quickly become one of your fall staples.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Silk Coffee Cake

for cake:

  • 1 bag of cake mix from Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Mix
  • 1 egg, room temperature [same as box recipe]
  • 3 1/2 tbsp butter, melted [a little less than box recipe]
  • 2/3 cup water [box says use water -or- milk, i went with water because the added pumpkin would already thicken it up]
  • 3/4 can of pure pumpkin [note: not pumpkin pie mix]
  • 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup

for crumb topping:

  • 1 bag of crumble mix from TJ’s Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Mix
  • 3 1/2 tbsp chilled butter, cut into cubes

Grease your favorite pan [I used an 8" square pan] and preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, add all cake ingredients together and whisk for 15 seconds, or until just combined [be careful not to overmix or the cake will be tough]. In a separate bowl, use your hands to mix the cubed butter and crumb mix together until well-incorporated yet still crumbly. Add 1/2 the cake batter into the pan, then add 1/2 the crumb mix. Pour the rest of the cake batter on top, then cover with the remaining crumb mix. Place in oven [on the center rack, if possible] and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Keep a close eye on this cake, if it’s overcooked it will loose some of it’s creaminess. Run a knife around the edges of pan while still warm to loosen bits stuck to the side. Wait for cake to cool completely, then cut and enjoy with a glass of cold milk within reach.

 

[and then there was one.]

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[faking it]

Spaghetti squash. It looks the part and actually tastes like the real thing. Truly.

I had my doubts but I’m 100% converted. Spaghetti squash is a delicious low-carb [and nutrient rich] alternative to pasta. A little nutty, a little sweet, it is a wonderful substitute for pasta in any dish. I tossed mine with some veggies and fresh basil but I bet it would also be good with spicy Italian sausage or in a pesto sauce.

Spaghetti Squash with Portobello Mushrooms, Basil & Tomato

  • 1 spaghetti squash, cut in half
  • dash of sea salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • dash of garlic powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 portabella mushroom cap, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered [i used an orange colored variety. they taste the same but add a cool pop of orange to the dish]
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • parmesan cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil [to coat pan]

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease baking sheet and place sliced spaghetti squash cut side down on baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until sharp knife is inserted with little resistance. Set aside squash until cool enough to handle.

While squash is baking, drizzle olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Season garlic, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes and basil with sea salt, pepper and garlic powder and add to pan. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until tomatoes appear blistered and onions are translucent.

Take one half of the squash and scoop out the inside. Discard seeds [or save them and roast them separately... they taste like pumpkin seeds]. Note the freaky resemblance to spaghetti. Add to bowl and top with parmesan and a dash of salt and pepper. Pour vegetables over top the squash and enjoy [save the other half of your squash for another meal... or double the rest of the ingredients & serve it all at once]!

 

 

 

 

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[the artists' work: a st. laurence high school logo, a nightmare before christmas jack-o-lantern, a chicago bears logo [hehe] and an owl on a branch]

The best kinds of weekends are the ones where you don’t have plans but things sort of unfold as you go. This weekend we did just that, fall style. We carved pumpkins, watched football [or if you were me, napped], drank spiced cider [simmer apple cider with cinnamon sticks, whipped cream vodka & captain morgan - delish] & watched a scary movie. The weather was crisp and picture perfect. I’m craving more fall weekends just like this one.

While we’re on the subject of fall, the other week I baked up these miniature chocolate pumpkin spice cakes with a cider maple glaze for our flag football team. They were super easy to make and a tasty way to celebrate our first win!

[even though they look semi fancy they're simply doctored up cake mix plus doctored up vanilla frosting]

[more cute cakes with my crock pot simmering away in the background]

Mini Pumpkin Spice Cakes with Cider Maple Glaze

for cakes:

  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix
  • eggs, oil & water per box directions
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • dash of pure vanilla extract

for glaze:

  • 1/2 cup of your favorite vanilla frosting
  • 1 dash of apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 dash cinnamon

{optional but yet also sort of a necessity this time of year: bag of candy corn}

Preheat your oven to 350F. Combine pumpkin bread mix with eggs, oil, water, vanilla and chocolate chips. Pour into your favorite [greased] cupcake tin [I used a mini bundt cake pan]. Bake per package directions. While cakes are baking, whisk frosting, cider, maple syrup, and cinnamon together. Let cakes cool completely, then drizzle glaze over top with a fork. Decorate with candy corns and serve.

 

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Don’t let your eyes trick you, that says ‘heath’ up there, not ‘health’. While I do consider these brownies healthy for your soul and peace of mind, in the traditional sense… not so much. I chose to make this recipe for three reasons:

1] it required me to clean one dish {two if you include the baking pan}

2] it did not require the use of an electric mixer

*these two reasons are paramount when the baker at hand lives in a small city apartment with limited counter space and a noticeably absent [and sorely missed] dishwasher

**although an easy cleanup, take heed: hand-mixing leads directly to higher cake batter transferal from bowl to mouth during the baking process.

3] I had to see what gooey cookies & cream heath brownies tasted like!

My friend from college, Lyndi, texted me the other day asking that I post another easy dessert recipe. She is pregnant right now [the cutest pregnant girl ever, it's not even fair] and she is also perfecting her baking skills [she's a pro at making these nutella pillows]. Lyndi could eat 38 double fudge chocolate chip cookies and still look like a darn bikini model. So Lyndi these are for you [and baby O.]!

I found this recipe on one of my daily reads, Picky Palate, and decided to slightly alter it. It is a breeze to make and if you like soft, gooey freshly baked cookies, you will absolutely love these.

Gooey Cookies’n Cream Heath Brownies

  • 1 butter recipe fudge box of cake mix
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 14 oreo cookies, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 bag of heath bar bits [found in the baking aisle by the chocolate chips]

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a 9×13 inch baking pan with tin foil, spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Place cake mix, butter and egg [must be room temperature] into a large bowl, mixing with your hands to combine. Attempt to demonstrate self-control and resist the urge to eat the whole bowl o’dough then & there. Press into prepared baking pan and top with broken pieces of oreo.

3. Pour sweetened condensed milk over cookies and top with heath bits. Bake for 23-25 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool.

4. After 5 minutes of cooling, run a knife around edges to loosen. If the knife gets stuck, run it under cold water. Let cool completely, remove foil from pan, then cut into squares. Makes 12 brownies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My mom got me these adorable mini bundt cupcake pans from Target [these ones are similar but mine are pastel] and they came with a tasty looking recipe right on the package. A quick scan revealed that I had nearly* all of the ingredients on hand, always an exciting moment. Vince was getting over a nasty bout with the flu so I decided to bake them as a hooray-you’re-able-to-keep-food-down treat.

* I thought I had all the ingredients except the recipe calls for two sticks of butter and I only had one. Not to be deterred I halved the recipe which led me to my first experience attempting to halve an egg… not sure I was entirely successful. I also underestimated the amount of batter poured into each cup, hence the half-eaten appearances of the freshly-baked cakes above.

Despite my shortcomings [wink] these little two-bite cakes were really fun to make and they’re just so darn cute.

Itsy Bitsy Strawberry Shortcakes

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • strawberry jam
  • dash of pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour pan. In large mixing bowl, mix butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and egg until light and fluffy. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture; mix well. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the batter into each prepared cup. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan, cool completely on rack. Place about 1/2 teaspoon of the strawberry jam in center of each cake. Lightly dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Yields 12 cakes.

 

 

 

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Banana Berry Smoothie

  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 4 strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 of a 5.3 oz container blueberry yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups ice

Add. Blend. Drink.

[open wide!]

p.s. my baby niece learned how to walk yesterday! yahooooo

 

 

 

 

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[my monday is looking decidedly up.]

 

 

 

 

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Continuing the theme of vegetarian meals, I put together this coconut curry tofu that’s chock full of so many veggies you won’t even miss the meat. I’ve always enjoyed curry dishes and although it’s possible to make your own curry paste, it’s pretty time consuming and the packets you can buy at the store taste just as good – plus the unused portion will keep in your fridge for months. My favorite is ‘A Taste of Thai’ red curry paste, it has a great spicy kick to it.

If you’re like Vince and are afraid of tofu, don’t be, it’s delicious and absorbs the flavor of whatever sauce it happens to be simmering in. It’s also a breeze to cook with, you can throw it into pretty much anything without any prep work [unlike chicken... sometimes the sliminess of chicken gets to me]. You can find it in the produce section of  most grocery stores and if my two nieces [c = 11 months, her first birthday is in 2 weeks!, and m = 3 years] love it, you will too.

Coconut Curry Tofu

  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp ‘A Taste of Thai’ red curry paste
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch basil, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped [pick your favorite color or mix'n match like I did]
  • 1 bunch snow peas [in the pod], halved
  • 10 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 7 oz. extra firm organic tofu [half the package], cut into bite-sized cubes

Bring coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, and curry paste to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and let simmer for 8-10 minutes. Let mixture stand for 2-3 minutes to thicken. Ladle over whole grain brown rice. Serves two plus leftovers.

[the vibrant colors of these veggies practically leap off the cutting board]

[the lineup continued... coconut milk + soy sauce + fish sauce]

[coconut milk + soy sauce make a pretty design in the pan]

 

 

 

 


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I learned a valuable lesson with dinner last night: it is very possible for you to over salt your pasta water. I was standing by the stove top absentmindedly tipping my sea salt into the pot [watching a dvr'd episode of real housewives of oc, no less] when half the container accidentally dumped into the water. Eek. I debated for a second then reasoned, most of the salt gets poured down the drain with the water so how much actually sticks to the pasta? I threw some tortellini in the pot without a second thought. Ten minutes ticked by and the pasta looked done. I took one bite and promptly tossed the batch into the trash – I could barely stomach it, it was like eating a hunk of salt – [shudder]. A new package of pasta and some conservative pinches of salt later I came up with my red, white, and green tortellini. It’s another simple meatfree option for these Lenten Fridays and only has four main ingredients, easy peasy japaneasy.

Basil, Tomato + Spinach Tortellini

  • 1 package buitoni all natural spinach cheese tortellini
  • sprinkling of parmesan cheese
  • 8 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

Bring a pot of water to a boil, gently salt, then add tortellini. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente. While pasta is cooking, slice tomatoes and basil. Add cooked pasta to all remaining ingredients and toss together. Yum!

red.

white.

+ green.

ta-da!

 

 

 

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