Puppy Chow

My brother-in-law, Kenny, was sick this past weekend. If there’s one thing I know about Kenny, besides the fact that he likes to purposely push my buttons, it’s that the lad loves puppy chow. Puppy chow, or sometimes called Muddy Buddies (?), is a chocolate and peanut butter Chex mix delight. It takes less than 15 minutes to throw together and it’s always a hit.

Kenny came over for dinner (and a round of Modern Warfare with Robert) and I sent him home with a bag of this mix. He seems to be on the mend and I’m chalking it up to the old puppy chow cure. ;) Love ya, Ken!

Puppy Chow

Printable Version

Yield: 18 servings


  • 9 cups Corn Chex cereal
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar


Pour the Corn Chex cereal into a large bowl. Set aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter, stirring after every 30 seconds until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour over the cereal and gently stir until all the cereal pieces have been coated.

Transfer the cereal mixture to a large food storage plastic bag. Carefully pour the powdered sugar in the bag. Seal the bag. Shake until all the pieces are covered.

Source: General Mills Corn Chex Cereal

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

The weather in Ohio has been unseasonably warm the past week. The sun is shining. People are out walking and running around our neighborhood. You really can’t tell it’s January. I could get used to this. All the sunshine makes me excited for summertime, even if it is five months away.

During the summer my parents spend a lot of time up at their cottage on Lake Erie. It’s so much fun, especially since we have a lot of extended nearby. My aunt Molly often stops in and she seems to frequently bring some sort of hummus with her. So, when I found a can of garbanzo beans and canned roasted red peppers, I decided to make this hummus in honor of her, dreaming of the endless days of summer. It’s a flavorful, delicious and healthy dip for vegetables and baked pita chips and it would also be very tasty as a condiment on a wrap or sandwich.

I found this recipe while surfing the web and it calls for tahini, or sesame paste. I was all set to buy it at the grocery store until I saw it sitting on the shelves with a hefty price tag of $11. I quickly decided this would be a tahini-less recipe. And the hummus was still glorious.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Printable Version

Yield: About 2 cups


  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and seeded (I used a jarred version I already had on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped red onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Stop and scrape down the sides as necessary. Serve with vegetables and/or baked pita chips. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week.

Source: Slightly adapted from Pinch My Salt

Chocolate Orange Sable Cookies

Chocolate and orange has become one of my favorite flavor combinations. So, when I saw the recipe for these orange sable (French for “sandy”) cookies, I thought a chocolate orange drizzle would make these cookies a citrus-lovers dream. With zest in the cookie and in the chocolate glaze, people needing an orange fix won’t be disappointed. The oranges are extra delicious this time of year, so I am finding any excuse to take advantage of the seasonal deliciousness.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Chocolate Orange Sable Cookies

Printable Version

Yield: About 5 dozen cookies


For the Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups whole blanched almonds or 3/4 cup ground almonds
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (2 to 3 oranges)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the Glaze

  • 2 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 1 cup chocolate chips


  1. Place almonds and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal; set aside.
  2. Place butter and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add almond mixture; beat until combined, 10 to 15 seconds. Add egg and orange juice; combine. Add flour; combine.
  3. Place two 12-by-16-inch pieces of parchment on a clean work surface. Divide dough in half. Form a rough log with each half; place on parchment. Fold parchment over dough; use a ruler to roll and press dough into 1 1/2-inch-diameter logs. Wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.  Unwrap logs. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds; place on sheets, 1 inch apart. Bake until edges turn golden, about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  5. To make the glaze, melt the chocolate and orange zest in in a double boiler or microwave. With a fork or in a ziploc bag with an edge cut off, carefully drizzle the glaze across the cookies. Allow to harden. Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart

Meatless Stuffed Shells

Oh Giada de Laurentiis. You and your intensely-Italian pronunciations and extremely low-cut shirts. I have to say I get suckered in to her show on the Food Network whenever I’m flipping through the channels. I love to hear how she peppers in the words ricotta (REEEECOTAH) or mascarpone (MAHHHHHSCAPONAY) into her perfectly American conversations. It makes me wish I had Italian heritage. Oh well- I guess I’ll just live vicariously by watching Cake Boss and The Real Housewives of New Jersey. And of course, Giada.

These stuffed shells are Giada’s recipe, just tweaked a bit so that they’re vegetarian and so I could use our homemade pizza sauce instead of the marinara that it originally calls for. I also added onions to add a little more substance to the sauce. The end result was a tasty and surprisingly easy dish to whip up.  Grazie, Giada!

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Meatless Stuffed Shells

Meatless Stuffed Shells

Yield: 8-10 servings


  • 12 ounces (1 box) jumbo pasta shells (approximately 36 shells)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing baking sheet
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups pizza sauce (I used homemade, but you can certainly use store bought)
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 30 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1.5 tsp dried)
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or 1.5 tsp dried)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


Lightly oil a 9×13 inch baking dish and set aside. Lightly oil the baking sheet and set aside.

Partially cook the pasta shells in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly tender but still quite firm to the bite, about 5 to 6 minutes. You will continue cooking the shells in the oven after they have been stuffed. Using a slotted spoon, drain pasta shells and place on oiled baking sheet, spreading them out so that they don’t stick together and allow to cool.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced onion and saute until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and stir. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the pizza sauce, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring often.

In a medium bowl, stir the ricotta, Parmesan, egg yolks, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spoon 1 1/4 cups of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Fill the cooked shells with the cheese mixture, about 2 tablespoons per shell. Arrange the shells in the prepared dish. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, then sprinkle with the mozzarella.

Bake in the lower third of your oven until the filling is heated through and the top is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Grapefruit Brulee

Hello citrus! One of the bright spots of winter is the delicious grapefruit. I love starting my day off with this tart and tangy fruit. I usually sprinkle a little sugar on top and dig in; but when I saw the idea for grapefruit brulee in this month’s Bon Appetit magazine, I couldn’t wait to try it. Any opportunity to play with fire is just a splendid thing in my book.

All you need is a grapefruit, sugar, and a kitchen torch. Halve the grapefruit, sprinkle a little sugar on top, then melt the sugar with a kitchen torch to form a golden and crispy surface. VOILA- you have grapefruit brulee! It’s a great way to jazz up a cold winter morning.

Happy New Year! Champagne Cupcakes with Chambord Champagne Buttercream

Happy 2012, everyone! To celebrate the new year, I popped open a bottle of Champagne (technically it was sparkling wine since it wasn’t from Champagne, France- but who’s keeping track?!) and made these cupcakes with a Chambord champagne buttercream icing. I first heard of champagne cupcakes last year when I saw them on The Curvy Carrot. There were so pretty. I knew these beauties were something I wanted to try to recreate, so I filed the recipe into my folder of cupcakes to try.

Fast forward 12 short months and I thought a New Year’s Eve party would be the perfect opportunity. The cake portion was light and fluffy with just a slight hint of champagne while the icing was delicate with a delicious note of my new favorite liqueur, Chambord. I also loved how the Chambord added a light pink tint to the buttercream that gave it a very feminine look. To add extra pizazz and sparkle to the cupcakes, I garnished them with spun sugar. This was my first attempt at making this glass-like decoration and I turns out to be both a fun and frustrating process (but mostly fun). There are so many fun possibilities for decorating with spun sugar and I am looking forward to trying this method again soon. I included pictures of how it’s done below.

In the end, I really loved how these cupcakes turned out. They’re perfect for a New Year’s celebration, but they would also be a really nice addition to a menu for a bridal shower or a girl’s baby shower.

Happy new year, everyone! May 2012 be the best year yet!

Champagne Cupcakes with Chambord Champagne Buttercream


For the Cupcakes:

  • 2 3/4 cups plus 5 tablespoons cake flour (or 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup Champagne (I used a dry champagne)
  • 6 egg whites, at room temperature

For the Frosting:

  • 3 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons champagne, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Chambord

For the Spun Sugar:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water


For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together, and then blend into butter mixture alternately with champagne.  In another large clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites. Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

For the frosting:

Whip the butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the powdered sugar, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add in the Chambord and Champagne and mix until combined. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

For the spun sugar:

Secure two wooden spoons so that the handles are sticking out over a counter or over the counter top (as I did with my stackable cooling racks). Line the floor or countertop with parchment paper or newspaper to avoid making a mess.

Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside. Bring the sugar, corn syrup, and water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan, stirring occasionally. When the mixture begins to boil, attach a candy thermometer and stop stirring the mixture. Allow the syrup to reach 300 degrees, or hard crack stage. Immediately remove from the heat and place the pot in the ice water, keeping the thermometer in the pan. BE CAREFUL- the mixture will bubble/steam! Allow the mixture to cool to 250 degrees. Remove from the ice bath.

Dip a fork or spoon in the mixture and, holding it about one foot above, carefully drizzle the mixture back and forth over the two spoon handles.

Allow to cool. Break into pieces and decorate as desired.