Thursday, December 20, 2012

And the winner is...

Peanut Butter & Peppers!!

And a HUGE thank you to everyone else for your support. I truly appreciate it, and I am looking forward to sharing many more fresh & seasonal recipes with you! Happy Holidays!

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

I've been wanting to do some whoopie pies for a while, and I thought red velvet would be lovely for Christmas! And, oh, were these tasty! They feature classic red velvet flavors, but in a different vehicle. These little hand-held "pies" are perfect for giving as a gifts (no forks required!). In retrospect, I wish I had made them a little smaller, but in my directions, I'll let you know what I did, and how to make them smaller, if you wish.

If you're looking for a unique, delicious treat for Christmas (or anytime), these are perfect to add to your "to-bake" list...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Baking Compilation

I AM DONE WITH THIS SEMESTER!!! What does that mean?? No more school for a few weeks, and time to cook/bake my face off! I am already plotting some awesome Christmas goodies and winter dishes, and I can't wait to share them with you!

Until then, here are some desserts I've already made that are holiday baking perfection. Check them out, and click on the title/name to get to the actual post. Hope you enjoy, and much love to you and your friends/family this Christmas!


** BARS **

"Sinner" Bark
* Layers of: Chocolate, Caramel, Whiskey-Marshmallow Cream & Candied Bacon

Yeah, you read that right!! Absolutely sinful, and ridulously delicious! The guys (and gals) in your life will go crazy over this, I promise!


Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars
* A perfect layered bar: Slightly sweet shortbread, chewy caramel, rich chocolate, and topped with a little finishing salt.

Lovely in a goodie basket!

Seven Layer Bars
* Super easy to make, and they taste divine!

Just layer butter, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans, sweetened condensed milk, shredded coconut, and bake!

 ** COOKIES **

Gingerbread Cookies
* The best way to feature the comforting warmth and spice of gingerbread -- in a soft, melt-in-your mouth cookie! And for some extra goodness, add a little white chocolate to the center.

These just taste like Christmas.

Triple Chocolate Cookies  
* Chocolate cookie with dark and milk chocolate pieces, with some pecans for a nutty crunch.

As a friend said, these were MADE for a glass of milk :)

White Chocolate Orange Cookies
 * Soft sugar cookie with a hint of orange and white chocolate chips. For more orange kick, add the orange glaze!


Chocolate Cherry Trifle
 * A traditional trifle featuring layers of brandy-soaked chocolate cake, chocolate custard, cherry jam, cherries, and whipped cream.

I made this as the Christmas dessert last year, and it was an absolute knockout!

 Red Velvet Cake Pops  
* Moist red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting, covered in a white chocolate candy shell.

I made these for Valentine's Day last year, but they would be perfect to decorate with some Christmas cheer!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal (w/ Apples & Pecans)

Fall is nearing an end, and here you have my favorite breakfast for this time of year! It's healthy, hearty, and by far the most delicious oatmeal preparation out there (in my humble opinion). Read more on why I love baked oatmeal & another great recipe here. If you haven't tried it yet, I promise, you will never go stove top/microwave again. For those of you who have, you feel me, right??

Monday, November 26, 2012

Guest Post?

Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!!! Between Friendsgiving and 2 other Thanksgiving meals, I still feel like I'm in a Turkey coma, haha.

I had a lot of fun relaxing over the last few days, but unfortunately, now it's back to reality. I will be spending most of my time in the library preparing for finals, taking finals, doing presentations, and writing a paper, until December 14th. BIG sad face. I will probably only be able to do one or two posts in the meantime, and then BIG happy face, I will have A MONTH of free time to blog!!

So, I was wondering if anyone, with or without a blog, would be interested in doing a guest post from now until mid-December? Any late fall or holiday recipes would be fantastic! Just looking for a recipe, a picture of the finished product, and preferably a few in between pics and a story about the dish. And of course, fresh is a must! :)

If you are interested, comment on this post or send a message to my facebook page. I can get you my contact info from there!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Friendsgiving" Highlights

One of my very favorite holidays is Thanksgiving! Okay, it's no Christmas, but it definitely shouldn't be overshadowed. It is an amazing ritual; historically rich, you get to eat an exorbitant amount of delicious comfort food, and it's a time to share with loved ones.

This year, I decided to host a "Friendsgiving" to share my food, and love, with some great friends. It's exactly like it sounds: Thanksgiving food, but with friends. On Sunday, I had 15 awesome people crammed into my apartment; I made the turkey, gravy, stuffing, Apple Cider Sangria, and Pumpkin Cheesecake. Then, my friends brought EVEN MORE food and drinks: Cornbread Dressing, Green Bean Casserole, Butternut Squash Risotto, Corn Pudding, Mashed Potatoes, more gravy, rolls, Cranberry Sauce, multiple bottles of wine, four kinds of beer... YEAH, it was a FEAST!! Not only did we stuff ourselves silly, but it was a great time to get in the holiday spirit and catch up with friends; there was much conversation, laughter, and football chatter. More than anything, it reminded me how thankful I am to have amazing people in my life (BY CHOICE! haha) that I can spend an extra holiday with! :)

Here's a few highlights from the meal (I totally forgot to take a pic of the sangria -- boo.). I'm going to try to post the recipes, but please let me know if there is any recipe in particular you would like to get your hands on! I was especially pleased with (and complimented on) my Roast Turkey and Pumpkin Cheesecake (w/ Bourbon Whipped Cream -- ohhh yeah).

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season! Many blessings to you, your family, and friends -- and of course, hope you EAT GREAT (fresh) FOOD!! :)
*First* Serving (after a few bites!)
Roast Turkey -- The brine was really great! Or so I'm told :)
Sourdough Sausage & Herb Stuffing (right)
Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Graham Cracker Crust
Slice of Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Bourbon Whipped Cream

Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheese

Looking for an absolutely delicious & decadent side for Thanksgiving or a fall family meal? Well, here ya have it! This dish features pureed butternut squash and a mix of ooey-oogey cheeses, baked to perfection with shells, and topped off with a crunchy breadcrumb/cheese mixture. Without a doubt, this fall twist on a familiar classic will have everyone going back for seconds (my boyfriend definitely did!). So clearly, it's time to get (mac 'n) cheesy for the holidays...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thankgiving Recipe Compilation

Hey all, it's been a super busy semester (per usual), and I have been feeling guilty about my limited posting. I have a few Thanksgiving-esque recipes in the works, but I also thought heyyy, I already have some good stuff on my blog, so I compiled a few recipes to help people get to prepping for T-Giving. My goal is to post two more recipes this week, and then after my "Friendsgiving" Feast on Sunday, I will post my turkey, gravy, stuffing, Pumpkin Cheesecake, and Apple Cider Sangria recipes (hopefully) on Monday -- so keep checking back for new ideas to make your Turkey Day terrifically tasty!

For Thanksgiving:

Green Bean, Mushroom & Artichoke Casserole

Tired of Green Bean Casserole? Try my Green Bean & Bacon Salad for a cold & zingy side!!

Corn Pudding

Try a variation on my Roasted Grape, Goat Cheese, & Pecan Sweet Potatoes instead of your normal sweet potato casserole.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Super Fresh Cherry Pie -- I realize it may be hard to find fresh cherries, so try defrosted & strained frozen cherries instead!

How To: Perfect Pie Crust

Other Great Fall Recipes:

Spiced Apple Butter

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

~ Happy Thanksgiving Planning!! Plan fresh! :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Spiced Pumpkin Beer Bread (w/ Cinnamon Whipped Cream)

By now, you all have probably picked up on my love of breads. BUT boy, was I in for a treat with this one. Yes, you read the title right: pumpkin AND beer. Could fall GET any better than slightly sweet, spiced, dense, pumpkin-y bread?? Ummm, no way. The bread has a subtle beer taste, but best of all, the beer gives the bread a wonderfully moist texture. I used a Pumpkin Ale (not pictured), but you can use whatever you like! I would suggest an ale or something similar.

A friend of mine invited me over for dinner the day I made this bread, so I thought this would also be nice as a sweet end to the meal (it was!). When I got there, I whipped up some Cinnamon Whipped Cream to make it slightly more decadent/desserty. It was pretty divine. It's not pictured, but I've also included the recipe for the whipped cream, if you want to go that route! This would also be lovely with a big ol' scoop of vanilla ice cream. Oooh, that sounds soo good right now. May need to go make some more...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

Love me some slow cooker!! -- especially when things get busy and the weather starts to cool off. Here is what I call a "fall" chicken chili because it has some surprising fall ingredients, and it is the perfect comfort food (and pretty guilt-free comfort food at that!). It is also ridiculously easy: prep ingredients, throw in the slow cooker, do other stuff for 8 hours, and voila, comforting and tasty dinner right at ya! Hope y'all enjoy this recipe as much as I do!! It makes quite a bit, so share with some friends or family and freeze the rest for later. Let's just get to it, shall we...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lightened-Up Apple Muffins

Ladies and gentlemen, it officially feels like fall in Houston, Texas. On Monday, I opened the door to let my dog out (I adopted a dog!!), and as soon as I did, I felt the cool, brisk air, and I knew ahhh... it's here (at least for now). So naturally, I threw on some boots and a comfy top, ate one of these muffins for breakfast, and smiled the whole rest of the day! :)

Speaking of muffin, here we go with another Ellie Krieger-inspired recipe. I really love her stuff; I have learned a lot about how to make moist, delicious baked goods while substituting lighter ingredients. This muffin is perfect for a figure-friendly fall! It contains chunks of real apple and apple sauce (keep reading to see how lovely the inside is!), and uses ingredients such as buttermilk and whole wheat flour to keep it nice and healthy (while still tasting fantastic!). They are moist and flavorful, with a light touch of sweetness and crunch from the pecan/brown sugar/cinnamon topping. They are a wonderful breakfast or late night treat, AND they also freeze beautifully, which is my favorite part -- I can grab one in the morning, let it defrost for a couple minutes, and voila: a delicious, healthy fall breakfast in no time! And it keeps getting better...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Roasted Grape, Goat Cheese & Pecan Sweet Potatoes

Hello, fall! I have loved the feedback everyone gave me, and the excitement that was shared, for fall recipes. It was really fun learning what people were looking forward to -- I had already been plotting, pinning, and preparing, but it gave me even more ideas, so thank you for the inspiration! When I read that two of Ali's favorite fall foods are sweet potato and grapes, I thought how perfect, because my first fall food post, this dish, features both!!

I have always been preferred a simple sweet potato recipe, with one of my favorite's being Baked Sweet Potato Fries. I enjoy preparations of sweet potatoes with salt, because it balances the sweetness nicely, and was never fond of super-sweet Thanksgiving style sweet potatoes. However, this dish captures the perfect balance of flavors and textures for the sweet potato. I'm not kidding when I say this is by far the best sweet potato I've ever had! The roasted grapes are incredible -- they add a complex and richly sweet grape flavor that complements the sweet potato in the most unexpected way. I never would have thought of the two together, and have How Sweet It Is to thank for the idea! Then, the creamy goat cheese adds some tangy-ness, and the pecans are a welcome bit of nutty crunch. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and salt, and you're good to go! This dish truly is sweet meets savory at its finest. I didn't add any additional sweetener because I thought the grapes gave it the perfect amount, but if you like your sweet potatoes really sweet, just top of with some honey or agave syrup. 

I am extremely excited for y'all to try this!! It may look like a crazy combination, but believe me, you will be amazed at how well it all comes together. It is sure to be a healthy, delightful dish you will want to eat over and over (and over) again!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

And the winner is...

Congratulations to Jessica at Creative Index!! Send me an email at with your mailing address. And get excited, because there will be apple inspired treats and soup coming up soon!

And a BIG thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway, and for all of the support! If you like my posts or blog, continue to spread the food love.

Here's to a fresh & fantastic fall,

Monday, September 17, 2012

Triple Chocolate Cookies (w/ Pecans)

Before I get into the fall goodies (SO SOON!!), I wanted to post one of my favorite year-round treats. This is an intensely chocolatey cookie, and is actually a slightly healthier option than most cookies and desserts. Now don't get me wrong, I would never call a cookie healthy -- it's a cookie for Pete's sake -- but if you're not compromising flavor, you might as well help yourself out a little. :)

For all the chocolate lovers out there, this cookie has THREE kinds of chocolate: cocoa powder, dark chocolate chunks, AND milk chocolate chunks. The cookies explode with gooey chocolate and chewy pecans; they're soft on the inside, and slightly crunchy on the outside. A perfect treat for when you need some chocolate, and only chocolate will do...


Saturday, September 15, 2012

** Fall Giveaway **

Flank Steak w/ Chimichurri Sauce

Again, not the best picture (I've been slacking lately), BUT, another intensely delicious dish! I have always been a huge fan of chimichurri sauce -- it explodes with herby, tangy flavor, and brings a lightness to whatever it's served with. That's why steak is such a classic pairing; it cuts through the richness of the steak, and the flavors together just dance on your tongue. In this recipe, I marinated the steak with half of the chimichurri, and reserved the other half for serving over the flank steak (skirt steak also works well). The flavor is spectacular! Also, it's quick to make the marinade and cook the steak, but make sure you've got a couple hours in between to marinade. Great for a busy weekend meal or a weeknight where you have stuff to do while you wait.

Anyhow, let's just get to the meat of it... :)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Grilled Fish Tacos w/ Tequila Lime Aioli

I really wish this picture did these tacos justice because they were oh-so-tasty!! Unfortunately, I just snapped a quick pic on the night that I ate them; if only the colors popped like the flavors did! I marinated the fish in (primarily) some lime juice, tequila, jalapeno, and cumin. It made the fish spicy, tangy, and a little smoky. SO good. Next, I used my little stove top grill to quickly cook the fish -- I figured this would be a great end of summer dish for people who were still in the mood for grilling! (Oh, how I wish I had a real grill.) Then, I topped mine with some crunchy cabbage and red onion, and then finished them with a to-die for Tequila Lime Aioli. The small amount of tequila added any interesting twist without being overwhelming at all. They were incredibly flavorful and refreshing -- a perfect end of summer meal! Try them out; your taste buds will be surprised, intrigued, and asking for more...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"Like" Fresh on Facebook!

For all the facebook addicts out there, I finally created a facebook page. Now I can share blog posts and other food fun with my non-"friend" followers! If you're interested, click here. Stay fresh!

Roasted Parmesan Edamame

If I don't eat every 3-4 hours, I get grumpy. Really grumpy. Hence the reason that I live for snacks. It's slightly embarrassing, but I usually keep at least three snacks in my purse at all times. On some nights, I realize that I have simply laid out a succession of snacks on my coffee table and made that "dinner." My favorite kind of snack food is anything crispy and crunchy. This is one reason that I do not allow myself to keep any kind of chip in my house whatsoever. Now don't get me wrong, I gorge on chips anywhere else I happen upon them, but if I kept them at home I would probably weigh 500 pounds. Anyhow, I digress... the point being that finding a healthy, delicious, and crunchy snack is kind of my heaven. And that's what we've got here! I usually keep a frozen bag of edamame in the freezer because they are a pretty solid snack, but then when you roast them and give them a little more flavor, ohhh baby. The skin gets toasty with a nice crispiness on the outside, and then the sprinkling of cheese makes them seem more decadent, although they're still a very nutritious, protein-packed snack. And so here you have it...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Almond Butter, Oatmeal & Banana Bars

As some of you may know, I am running a Half Marathon in November! I'm really excited about it, and have loved the time that I get to dedicate to myself and my body 4-5 times a week. Also, one of the best things about running is that I get to eat A LOT of carbs, and I am loving anything baked. Hence, the bread extraganza I went on earlier this month. :) My body also craves food that is full of nutritious stuff, fuels my body, and keeps me satisfied -- and these bars REALLY hit the spot!

As the title says, the bars are mostly comprised of oatmeal, a banana, and almond butter.  I made these with almond butter for the added nutritional benefits, but you could easily substitute peanut butter. They also have a small amount of brown sugar, but besides that, there are no other ingredients, such as oil or butter, that will weigh you down! Plus, they are quick to make and cook. I kept a few of these bars in tupperware on my counter, and then froze the rest -- such an easy way to have a perfect breakfast or snack! They have all the convenience of a packaged bar, but taste much better, and don't have any gross preservatives. Winning!

Friday, August 31, 2012

"Pin It" Button

Okay, the "Pin It" button is by no means a new sensation, but I am not tech savvy, and messing with html scares me, so I'm very proud of myself for finally adding it to the bottom of all my blog posts!

What does this mean?! If you're a pinterest addict like me, and you like one of my recipes, at the bottom of all of my posts, there is a "Pin It" button for y'all to save my recipe on one of your pinterest boards AND share with your followers! I love doing this, because it keeps the recipes I like from all the blogs I follow organized, and is easy to access later. So if you like a recipe, I hope you will utilize this new feature (for me), and do the same!! Stay fresh!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Farmer's Market Pizza

My favorite veggies, cheese, and healthy carbs... yup, I could not be happier! This pizza combines a wonderful mixture of summer's bounty over fresh mozzarella and my Whole Wheat Pizza Crust. It's about as nutritious as a pizza can get, without compromising any flavor whatsoever! In fact, it's really delicious. So delicious that you may even feel kind of guilty eating it -- just continue to remind yourself of all the nutritious vegetables, and hey, a little cheese every now and then never hurt anyone. In fact, just typing this is making me hungry... read on; I'm off to eat the leftovers! :)

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Get ready for an up and coming pizza recipe!! (Pictured above.) But before we get to that, I wanted to share the pizza crust recipe (also pictured above!). If you're in a pinch, you can always use a pre-made frozen pizza crust, but I wanted to share a homemade pizza crust recipe that I like to use! While you do have to plan in advance because the dough has to rise two times before it's ready, the preparation is a cinch. Also, this dough is made with half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour, for a healthier preparation. You can substitute all whole wheat flour if you're trying to be super healthy, but I personally like the combination. The result is a great chewy, and slightly crunchy crust, that you can top with whatever you like! Or, stick around, and see what I made

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sauteed Chicken w/ Roasted Blueberry-Basil Salsa

  A perfectly cooked chicken breast topped with a sweet, tangy, & spicy salsa... now THAT is my kind of summertime meal. It's intriguing, refreshing, and fills you up without weighing you down. As you can see (and will taste), the stars of the show are the bright, fragrant blueberries and basil. Also, the blueberries are roasted!! You know how I love roasting my fruit and veggies. :) By roasting the blueberries, it sweetens and deepens their flavor. The sweetness is then contrasted with the heat and salt of the salsa, and altogether it is perfectly balanced with the savoriness of the chicken. If you are pressed for time or want a less sweet salsa, just forego roasting the blueberries. Either way, you are going to LOVE this! Hope you give it a go -- it's a quick and scrumptious meal that you will feel great about eating and sharing!

How To: Perfectly Cooked Chicken Breast

 Everyone loves a perfectly cooked chicken breast, and everyone hates a tough, dry chicken breast. But, how to ensure you get a succulent, juicy bite every time? My favorite method is searing the chicken breast on high heat, and then turning the temp down low and covering the chicken until it's finished cooking. You end up with a nice sear and a perfectly moist center. Here's how!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Zucchini-Oat & Raisin Bread

And my last bread (for now), I promise! I like to think of this bread as a compromise between the last two. Not quite as healthy as my Zucchini-Flax Bread, but with a lot more nutritional value than my Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. It's still really yummy -- if you like a super dense, slightly sweet bread, then this is definitely for you! For a filling breakfast, a mid-afternoon snack, or even for "dessert," you can easily make this the night before and share, or eat on it yourself for a couple days and freeze the rest. Time for some more carbs... Oh yes...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Onto the next bread! And for some contrast, here is the most decadent of the three. :)

My last day at the firm I was working for the second half of the summer, I knew I needed to make something. When you have a food blog, people expect these things. Now, don't get me wrong, I love doing it, but there's always the worry of keeping the people happy. I decided that two types of bread would be a nice treat, so I made this bread, and also another -- my next bread post. This one was a big hit, because well, there are chocolate chips in it. And peanut butter. So, yeah, it's really yummy, but without being as sweet and heavy as something like a cake. Yes, there is some sugar, but, there is also some whole wheat flour and bananas... so, let's call it a compromise.

Also, I realized I haven't been including a printable recipe in my last few posts. I made sure to do so this time, just click on "Printable Recipe." In the next few days I'll update my previous posts with one as well. Now, onto the good stuff... 

Zucchini-Flax Bread

Just warning y'all, I have gone a little nutty (or bread-y) baking breads lately. This is one of three I made the past week, so if you're feeling bread-y too, get excited, because there will be more coming at ya soon! 

This is the healthiest of the breads that I made. It contains zero butter AND zero oil... yes, you heard me... AND it's still incredibly moist. The moistness comes from the banana, apple sauce, and zucchini featured in the bread. It's also quite dense from the whole wheat flour, walnuts, and ground flax -- which makes for a perfect breakfast bread -- not too sweet, hearty, and there is a ton of nutrition packed into one slice!  I was a little skeptical about the ground flax, but was pleased to find that HEB had two different varieties in the store (one in the baking aisle, and one by the vitamins/health foods), so hopefully it shouldn't be too difficult for anyone to find. And, you'll be glad you did -- it's full of Omega-3's and fiber, so use the extra to sprinkle over cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, and such! Or just bake more bread...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Panko Crusted Asian Salmon

Looking for a protein to pair with my Lightened-Up Fried Rice? Well, look no further! Here's a super easy salmon that features an Asian-inspired marinade and crunchy Panko bread crumbs. The salmon is quick to prepare and cook, and makes for a perfect weeknight meal.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lightened-Up Fried Rice

Whenever life is crazy busy, or there's nothing exciting in the kitchen, Chinese takeout is definitely an easy go-to. You can order it quickly, and it's usually not too far of a drive to the nearest dive. My personal weaknesses are Kung Pao Chicken and Fried Rice. The only problem is that after such a meal I am completely lethargic, instead of energetic. Now on nights when I can completely relax, I may shamelessly embrace my pathetic food coma. However, most days or nights, I need something to refuel, so I can keep on keepin' on.

Currently, there a lot of recipes for healthier versions of Chinese classics surfacing, and I have totally embraced this movement. My favorite so far is this lightened-up fried rice. The takeout version is super oily, but the great thing about making it on your own is that you can control the oil quantity and add whatever veggies or protein you fancy, to give it a more nutritional kick. This version features brown rice, a variety of vegetables, and there's a little protein from the egg. It's a great side dish for any Asian-inspired protein, and it's also really satisfying on its own! Try it out; you can't go wrong!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Just Peachy: Hill Country Vacation and Simple Peach Salad

  A couple weekends ago, I had the opportunity to visit with two of my very best friends, my roommates from undergrad. They both live in San Antonio, and at least twice a year, we all make an effort for just the three of us to get together and catch up on what's been happening in our crazy lives. This time I drove out to San Antonio, and we spent one day in and around Fredericksburg, just shopping, and going to local farms and wineries. If you are looking for a relaxing weekend with some friends, or something different for the family, I would highly recommend going to that area! Something about the Hill Country always soothes my soul, and the three of us had a fantastic time eating good food, drinking wine, and doing lots of sharing (like us girls do).

Fredericksburg is known for its peaches, so of course, I stocked up, and was a peach-hound the next few days. Because they were so lovely on their own, I wanted to do something simple, just featuring the peach, and enhancing its natural flavors.

Enjoy some of my peachy pics, and hope you try my Simple Peach Salad!

Lemon-Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

You know I'm behind on my blogging when I'm doing a post on something I made about 6 weeks ago... Yikes. My goal is to be a blogging fiend today, so that I can get some seasonal goodies to you while they're actually in season!

Enter: some decadent cheesecake bars featuring fresh blueberries! I made these for my co-workers on my last day at the DA's office this summer, and just writing this is making me nostalgic thinking about all the passionate and kooky people I worked with there, and all the good fun we had fighting crime. So, here's to you! And here's to everyone else that wants to make a delicious summery treat for a special occasion, or as a "thank you" to someone you appreciate.

One thing I love about this recipe is that they are bars, instead of a full cheesecake. Bars are much easier if you're entertaining, or giving as multiple gifts. Also, they are a lot less finnicky than an actual cheesecake, and will come out beautifully without worrying about cracking, and other such cheesecake woes. This recipe is also special because it is a slightly different take on a traditional cheesecake. I saw Anne Burrell (on Food Network) make a Goat Cheese-Cheesecake, and I couldn't get the idea out of my mind, so I decided to incorporate it into these bars. And I'm very glad I did! The goat cheese adds more tangy-ness, and a little extra "hmmmm..." to the cream cheese. Then, for another layer of flavor, I made a spiced graham cracker crust. You can do a normal graham cracker crust, but the spices in this crust give the bars a whole other level of warmth and personality.

I hope you try this out, and share with the cheesecake enthusiasts in your life!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Farro Salad w/ Roasted Vegetables, Herbs, & Goat Cheese

Meet my new favorite salad! Yes, my new. favorite. salad. For all my followers, you know this is a big deal. I love salads. Love 'em. Make them all the time. Eat them all the time. But this right here... this is my favorite. And here's why...

The vegetables are roasted!
By now, you probably know how much I love roasted vegetables. And I hope everyone has discovered how easy roasted vegetables are to cook, and how magical they taste! If not, you are in for a treat. For more info on roasting techniques generally, my see How To: Roasting.

Say what? Farro! That's right, if you haven't tried farro, then again, you are in for a treat. It's now my new favorite grain (apparently, I'm having favorites all over the place today) because simply put, the delicious:healthy ratio is unbeatable. Delicious: When its cooks up, the texture is fluffy, but still firm and chewy, and then the flavor is somewhat nutty. Just too good. Healthy: it has the benefits of a whole grain, and also a surprising amount of protein. It's wonderful for a meatless meal, and is very budget friendly!

I call this a summer salad because it features summer vegetables (and mushrooms, because well, I love mushrooms). However, you can roast any vegetable, during any season, add it to this salad, and it would be delightful. I really can't think of any vegetable that wouldn't work. Then, if you can't find farro (it should be near the rest of the grains in the grocery aisle) or don't have any on hand, you can substitute any pasta or grain, and it will taste lovely! Although I beg you to try the farro. :)

Lastly, there are countless other additions that would complement the dish. As I was eating this salad for lunch on day two, a light bulb went off, and I realized that it would be stellar with some kind of toasted nut on the top... and then I realized I had pine nuts... and yes, I was very pleased with myself (because it was delicious!). Thus, I decided to add pine nuts as an "optional" ingredient (and it's also why they're not pictured). So my question is, do y'all have any fun variations? Additions? Suggestions?

Okay, so far we've got farro, magical roasted vegetables, and toasted pine nuts. Now, we're gonna add a tangy vinaigrette, some creamy goat cheese, AND fresh herbs?? Yes, that really just happened. After you mix it up, just eat up or refrigerate! I promise you will want to eat it over and over (and over) again. I like it best room temperature, but see what suits your fancy.

Did I really just write all that about this recipe?? Haha. Well, let's get to the good stuff...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Triple Berry Trifle

Red, White, and Blue? 
I know this post is a little passe (sorry, the past couple of weeks have been super busy!), but I wanted to share my 4th of July treat with y'all anyway because it was reallyyy yummy. And even though the 4th has come and gone, this is a great recipe that can easily be adapted for any occasion. Just swap in your favorite fruit and jam, and you're ready to party! I call this a "triple berry" trifle because I layered the cake and custard with fresh 1) blueberries and 2) strawberries, and also spread some 3) raspberry preserves on the pieces of cake. It's a perfect blend of tangy and sweet from the mix of berries, and it's topped with a creamy custard and lemony soaked cake... yeah, it's pretty much heaven.

Note: A Few of My Favorite Things About Trifles 
Trifles are absolutely perfect for entertaining. First of all, they are beautiful! Just set one on a counter, and bask in the oohhs and ahhs of the crowd. Second, the longer it sits, the more the flavors develop and the custard soaks into the cake. That means, it's better if you make it the day before, and then the day of service = no stress. Wonderful! Lastly, despite the fact that my trifle looks fancy, it was really easy to make. While it did take some time to assemble, there are no challenging cooking or baking techniques whatsoever. So if you're a novice in the kitchen, I promise, you will feel very comfortable with this recipe! And then, people will wonder where you picked up such awesome skills. :)

Okay, enough serious talk. Now it's time for a trifle... (har-har)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Avocado Hummus

  It was a rainy weekend in Houston, meaning that I had grand plans to take-on my ever growing "to-do" list, but instead, I gave it the occasional glance as I laid on my couch. Just when I started feeling completely worthless, I realized, hey, there is one thing that will get me movin' (at least momentarily). Snack time. And then, I had another revelation. I had everything I needed to whip up a batch of hummus. Avocado Hummus. Wooooot. I also had a bell pepper, some crackers, AND pretzel chips for accoutrement. Boy, was I happy. The only dip-worthy mate missing was the pita chip, because, well...  I've had to ban myself from buying them after some unfortunate entire-bag-disappears-in-one-night incidents. Why are pita chips SO good?!

Anyhow, after I made the hummus, I was even more pleased. I eat hummus frequently, but rarely do I indulge in the homemade variety, unless I'm eating at a Mediterranean restaurant. I thought the hummus I regularly bought was good, but dang, this hummus was gooood. Even to this day, I sometimes get surprised at how much better homemade food is than store-bought. AND it was surprisingly easy to make!

The only caveat being that this hummus will brown quickly because of the avocado, so it is best for sharing! I'm sure your friends and family won't mind. :)

With that said, let's get our snack on...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Quinoa "Mac" & Cheese

By now, y'all know I can't go too long without posting some quinoa. I do love it so. Why? Here are some good reasons listed in my original quinoa post. With this recipe, I am especially smitten, because instead of having some carb-y macaroni, you have a nutty, protein-packed substitute. It makes you feel not so bad about all the cheese you are about to ingest (although it's really not too bad per serving). 

I was in the mood for a little spice, so I added some sauteed red pepper with jalapeno, although you could add whatever veg you please! Other great variations would be broccoli and onion or tomato and leek, to name a couple. Just make sure to cook the veg before you add it to the mix. After you prepare your cheesy-quinoa-veg mixture, top it off with a little more cheese and Panko bread crumbs. What you end up with is a warm, gooey, and slightly spicy center, with a topping that goes crrrrunch as you make your way through. It's really quite a satisfying experience.

Are you ready for some guilt-free comfort food??

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award

This week I received my first blog award nomination, and feel quite honored! My new foodie friend over at Just Add Cayenne nominated me for this award, and I am really grateful to him for thinking of me! I love his site - it is full of healthy cooking and eating tips. I hope everyone checks it out!! Since I've received the nomination, I've had a lot more traffic on my site, and I think it's a really fun way for bloggers to interact, and learn about other blogs. I love meeting people who share the same passion for food that I have, and want to thank everyone for the support!
Here are the things that go along with the honor of receiving this award:
  • Thank the Blogger who nominated you.
  • Include a link to their site.
  • Include the award image to your post.
  • Include the award image on your blog.
  • Give 7 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award, including links to their sites
  • Let those bloggers know they have been nominated
So, here goes with the rest...

7 Random Leah Facts
* One of my favorite things about cooking is creating something beautiful. Instead of a paint brush, I use a pan and fresh food. I have a huge love affair with all things aesthetically pleasing - fashion, home decor, art, and dance, to name a few!

* I was a ballet dancer for 14 years. I still have a few moves, but I'm really out of shape now, haha.

* This isn't about me, but people always find it surprising that my brother is a tattoo artist. Maybe because I'm pretty clean cut, and he's wayyy cooler than me. He also makes beautiful paintings and does computer animation. Check out his work here. (And yes, I have one tattoo.)

* My dream job is having a food show because I love telling stories, teaching, and cooking. Someday it's going to happen.

* We all have guilty pleasures. Mine at the moment are The Bachelorette (only because I know someone who was on the show, I promise), "Call Me Maybe," and jelly beans.

* My favorite kitchen gadget is my blow torch, and one that is currently at the top of my "wish list" is an ice cream maker. 

* I was a pretty strange kid. When I was 8, my favorite channel was BBC. No one got my jokes. To this day, there are certain phrases I still prefer with a British accent, and have a lingering "quirky" sense of humor. Around 10, I became obsessed with office supplies, and would beggg my parents to take me to Office Depot. I had a decked out desk featuring an intense filing system (no files) and business card holders (no business cards). This may explain a lot.

My Nominations for Versatile Blogger
These are a few blogs that inspire me with wonderful and diverse dishes. I hope you check them out!

* Fresh, Local, and Best
* Ellen B Cookery
* Peas & Crayons
* One Perfect Bite
* Chop to Change
* Because of Madalene
* Adventures in my Kitchen
* Beer. Butter. Bacon.
* The Art of Cooking Real Food
* Une-deux Senses
* Angie's Recipes
* A Feast for the Eyes
* Feed Your Soul
* The Corner Kitchen
* All That I'm Eating

And that's all she wrote. For those I've nominated, you'll be hearing from me soon!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

And the winner is...

Thanks to all the new followers, and for all the lovely comments! Keep 'em coming!

Ellen B: Please send me an email at with your preference (Option 1 or 2) and your mailing address.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Bison Burgers w/ Cabernet Onions & Cheddar

  If you polled my friends as to what my "last meal" would consist of, I would be very concerned if a burger didn't top that list. There are times that I'm just minding my business, going about my life as usual, and all of a sudden, I'm side-lined. I can't function. The most undeniable of cravings comes over me, and I will stop at nothing until I get some BEEF. A thick, juicy burger, smothered with cheese, to be exact. Nothing matters until I sink my teeth in that burger and the grease hits my taste buds (and 9 times out of 10, dribbles down my chin). For those who have been present during these times, I'm sorry. While this recipe is obviously not beef, I have found something that comes dangerously close to satisfying my primal craving - Bison!