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Switching gears from the healthier, straight-laced grapefruit, I have to share how much I love these sweet potato “frites” from Trader Joe’s. Not quite as innocent as their raw siblings, they’re sweet + salty and pretty darn delicious. Plus, this post title is a bit of a misnomer as I bake my guilt-free frites, rather than fry them.

Piping hot out of the oven with a dash of kosher salt, I’m {almost} convinced I have a large fry in my hands from MickyD’s. *sigh.. my arteries will thank me later.

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[grapefruit]

For me, whenever I see a grapefruit I always think of my grandpap. He ate a grapefruit for breakfast every single morning after returning home from mass [which he faithfully attended at the crack of dawn each day] . There was a quiet comfort in this ritual; I remember his silver jagged edged spoon, the sprinkling of sugar to sweeten the tangy fruit. When I was little I couldn’t stand the taste of grapefruit, it was too tart for me. As it is with most things, I developed an appreciation for it as I grew up.

It’s funny how the smallest, seemingly insignificant, moments are the ones you hold onto the tightest. This is one precious memory I’ve tucked away and will have with me always.

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While perusing my new favorite grocery store, Trader Joe’s, I came across this sweet canister of Irish oatmeal. Satisfied with the retro aluminum can [my mind was already busy figuring out other uses for it once empty] I added it to my bounty and went on my merry way.

Last night I set about making a batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with my new purchase. I’d never seen Irish oats before, much less cooked with them, so I assumed they were the same as Quaker’s. Ah-hem, I was wrong:

This is how they appear cooked. I think they look more like rice than oatmeal but I was determined to see how they tasted in the cookie so I forged ahead. I found a way to use them in place of the “rolled oats” the recipe called for – in my case the recipe asked for 3/4 cup rolled oats so I placed 3/4 cup cold water and 3/4 cup Irish oatmeal in a pot and brought to a boil. Once cooled, I continued with the recipe as usual.

Irish Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature [if you use salted butter just don't add the extra salt]
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt [again, omit this if you are using salted butter]
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats [to use Irish oatmeal, use the method I described above. you just need to pre-cook it a bit because it's starchier than rolled oats]
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F [175 C]. Lightly grease cookie sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth [you don't need a mixer. i hand-mixed with a spatula]. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stir into the creamed mixtute. Finally, stir in the oats and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoons onto the cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. [My oven completely ignores things like temperature settings and is a blazing inferno no matter what the set degree, therefore my cookies were done in 7 minutes. Keep an eye on them, they'll burn quickly.] Remove from baking sheets to cool on wire racks. Makes around 18 cookies.

*adapted from this recipe


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As I’ve mentioned, Giada DeLaurentiis is one of my favorite chefs and TV personalities. Giada was trained at the renowned Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and while there she picked up on the Parisian philosophy surrounding food, which is essentially quality over quantity. A great Parisian meal could entail several hunks of exceptional artisan cheese, some crusty, thick slices of French bread, and a glass of wine. It’s a simple but fulfilling meal.

Last night I took a cue from this philosophy and made a clean, Parisian-inspired meal of my own. It’s all about incorporating a myriad of rich flavors without being overindulgent. Although a departure from my traditional comfort food go-to, spaghetti, it’s a dish that is satisfying in it’s own right and is just as fun to eat as it is to prepare. Bon appetit!

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[coffee break]

{ slam dunk }

Sometimes all it takes is a little cup of jo and a homemade pizzelle [made by your talented mama] to kickstart your morning routine. I like my coffee sweetened with some good old-fashioned sugar and milk. Over Christmas the girls in my family made a couple batches of my mom’s lightly-sweet and satisfying vanilla pizzelles. Behold, a recipe that’s been in our family for generations and guarantees a deliciously delicate cookie every time.

Pizzelles

  • 6 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups of flour (approx)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 4 tsps baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp anise or 2 tblsp vanilla

Beat eggs adding sugar gradually. Beat until smooth. Add cooled melted butter and vanilla or anise [some people don't care for the black licorice flavor of anise]. Sift flour and baking powder and add to egg mixture. Dough will be sticky enough to be dropped by spoon in pizzelle maker. Cook in pizzelle maker and then store in airtight container.

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My family typically does a big [and I mean big] Italian feast for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’re talking eggplant parmesan, lasagna, stuffed artichokes, hot peppers, and meatballs all loaded with my mom’s homemade sauce. Of course we never leave out the traditional American staples of turkey [one deep fried and one oven roasted], cranberry sauce [jarred and homemade, because some people prefer one or the other], stuffing, mashed potatoes, crusty bread, green bean casserole, and on and on and on. What can I say, we’re Italian and eating good food is in our DNA.

With that being said, my family is doing Christmas very different this year. From the venue to the menu, we’re shaking things up. Instead of dinner, we’re opting to do brunch. Everyone seems to be curiously excited about how this will pan out. The ever present pot of simmering sauce will be noticeably absent from the stove, but I trust there will be new tantalizing treats on the table that will have us wondering how we ever did without.

This year I’m making these deeelicious cinnamon buns using a recipe that claims they taste identical to Cinnabons [and they actually do]. Just look at these things [I'm sure that photo above got your tongue wagging]. This was my first stab at making bread [which was the base of the bun], but it was easy enough and besides, I dare you to mess up a recipe that is essentially butter, cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar. They were velvety and sweet and the frosting oozed with decadent gooeyness. I also loved how the kitchen smelled like cinnamon ‘n sugar for the rest of the night.

[fresh from the oven]

Homemade Cinnamon Buns

for dough:

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 packet of dry yeast

for filling:

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

for frosting:

  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm milk. Let it stand for 10 minutes, until yeast is foamy. Heat oven to 200F, then turn it off. Mix in the sugar, butter, salt, and eggs. Add flour and mix well. Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in warm oven for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  2. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.
  3. Roll dough into a 16 x 21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with butter and sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 400F.
  4. Bake rolls on a lower rack in preheated oven until golden brown, about 12 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and salt [note: I actually doubled the frosting recipe and suggest you do the same]. After taking it out of the oven invert the pan so that the drippings re-coat the buns. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving. Yields 12 rolls.

[into the oven you go]

[sure beats a scented candle]

[ready for their close-up]

*i can’t take all the credit. adapted from this recipe.

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I want to come back in my next life as Giada DeLaurentiis. If you’re not familiar with Giada, you should be. She is the gorgeous, sugary sweet, incredibly talented Le Cordon Bleu trained face of Food Network. Oh and did I mention she was born in Rome? *sigh*. I DVR all of her shows and watch them religiously, my favorite being Giada at Home. It’s so touching to see how tight-knit she is with her husband Todd. They’re both in their forties [you would n.e.v.e.r. know it. She serves as further inspiration to maintain my skincare regimen as seen here] and have been a couple for 12 years. It’s also no secret how much she adores her daughter Jade, a.k.a. “Jadey”.

Giada’s meals are tasty, yet she always keeps an eye on things like sodium and fat content, which makes life easier. It also explains how she is a professional chef and yet is the size of a toothpick. Aside from her cooking talents, Giada has a flair for design, which she may have picked up from her hubby who happens to be a fashion designer for Anthropologie. Coolest. Couple. Ever.

Earlier this year, my two worlds collided [in a good way] when I found out that Giada was teaming up with the other love of my life, Target, to debut an exclusive collection of kitchenware designed by Giada. You can see the collection here.

Anyways, I was watching an episode of Giada at Home where she was cooking up these adorable little Cornish game hens and I thought I had to give them a try. After picking some up at the grocery store I came home and realized I didn’t have nearly enough ingredients for Giada’s roasted citrus-herb recipe, so I settled for my own variation. The birds came out juicy and succulent with crispy, sweet skin. Turns out my hens might just give Miss Giada’s a run for their money.

Rosemary-Clementine Cornish Game Hens

  • 2 Cornish game hens
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 clementines
  • zest of 2 clementines
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 1 medium white onion

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub hens with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place a clementine, an onion slice, a garlic clove, and a sprig of rosemary into the cavity each bird. Stuff garlic cloves under the skins. Place rest of onion around the birds. Arrange in a large, heavy, roasting pan. Drizzle more olive oil on top of hens. Roast in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together wine, clementine zest, chicken broth, and a drizzle of olive oil; pour over hens. Continue roasting about 25 minutes more, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear.

By the way, as you can see by the photos I attempted to ‘truss’ my birds with kitchen twine. I think I fudged up the wings. This video explains how to do it.

I served my birds with a baked potato and poured the sauce from the dish over the baked potato – muy delicioso.

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[red pepper flakes and curry powder are the stars of this show]

There’s nothing better than a quiet night in after a long, exhausting, cold winter day. Yesterday was one of those days where I was too tired to fix dinner so I resorted to a no-muss no-fuss meal, and last night my din du jour happened to be popcorn. Yes, I ate popcorn for dinner … sorry Mom, I know that’s disappointing. However, I doctored up my popcorn [per usual] with some unexpected ingredients that kicked this typically ho-hum snack into a full-flavored force to be reckoned with.

In the words of Rachel Zoe, I die for curry. I even have a sweet little spice pot from Anthropologie that’s sole purpose is to house curry. I’ve been using curry as the secret spice in my popcorn for awhile now and this is one secret I don’t mind sharing.

[wearing Forever 21 nail polish in silver as seen here. how festive am i?]

Throw some curry powder and red pepper flakes [about one teaspoon each, as you see fit] onto your next batch of microwave popcorn [oh the shame] and I’m telling you, you’ll never look back. It’s spicy, it’s flavorful, it’s easy – what’s not to love?

[do you like my miniature tree in the background? more to come on that jazz]


[curry popcorn + national lampoon's christmas vacation, done and done.]

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Perfection in a few words:

  • The delicious smell of a pot roast plugging away in the crock pot [recipe below]
  • The triumphant feeling of finding a pumpkin patch not too far from Chicago [Bengston's is only an hour drive... totally worth it] – I had to post some photos from our outing:

who doesn't love a good goat on a roof sighting?

bengston's, our patch of choice, + the tiny head of my wonderful bf

  • Homemade salted caramel hot cocoa [recipe below]
  • A great glass [or two] of rich red wine
  • Going to a football game with a thick sweater and a cozy scarf wrapped around my neck
  • Taking a long walk with my mom while watching the leaves fall
  • Catching up on some good books indoors under a soft blanket
  • Hearty homemade chili in front of a roaring fire

What are your ideas of fall bliss?

my darling niece + her pumpkin

Easy-as-Pie Pot Roast for Two [+leftovers]

  • 2.5 lb. pot roast
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup [if possible get low-sodium, that makes it easier to control the sodium content in this dish as it's prone to over-saltiness]
  • 1 package of dry onion soup mix [ditto]
  • 1 can of diet coke [or use regular... diet was just what I had on hand]
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • garlic powder
  • carrots [as much as you'd like]
  • mushrooms [ditto]

Rub roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder [it's okay if roast is frozen]. Drizzle some olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, drop in garlic cloves. After several minutes remove garlic cloves and add roast to pan. Sear on both sides.

While roast browns up, pour diet coke in crock pot. It sounds bizarre, but trust me this is the secret ingredient that no one, absolutely no one, will be able to put a finger on… I think the carbonation tenderizes the meat and the sweetness lends additional flavor. Okay now where were we - Line bottom of crock pot with onion slices, mushrooms, and carrots [I will say this is the first time I've used carrots and mushrooms in my pot roast recipe and they add such a depth of flavor - they're an absolute must from now on]. In a bowl, mix mushroom soup with onion soup mix. Remove roast from pan and coat in mushroom soup mixture. Place in crock pot with a layer of onions on top. Throw in garlic cloves and the rest of your mushrooms and carrots. Fill the [now empty] mushroom soup can with water and pour around roast.

Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-7 hours. Pour over brown rice or mashed potatoes and dig on in.

Homemade Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa

  • chewy caramel candies [2 per cup o'cocoa]
  • 2 cups milk [use your favorite kind of milk]
  • 1.5 tablespoons sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • handful milk chocolate chips
  • marshmallows
  • kosher salt

In a saute pan simmer milk, sugar, and dash of vanilla extract. Add chocolate chips, a couple marshmallows, and one piece of caramel, stir to melt all. In separate pan melt one piece of caramel with dash of water. Add to chocolate mixture. Pour into a nice, big mug and add a pinch of kosher salt on top. Yum!

Wishing you the coziest of fall nights,

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