Pretzel Turtle Candies

It’s one week until Christmas! I know, it snuck up fast on me too! If you’ve been procrastinating on the holiday baking, or you need a fast gift for a neighbor, co-worker or mailman (perhaps all three)… don’t freak out. I’m sharing my favorite homemade treat that takes almost zero effort and zero time to make. (Thank goodness for Rolo and their genius recipe on the back of the bag!)

These Pretzel Turtle Candies are so simple and so festive. This year, I put them in a Christmas tin to share with my next door neighbors (and kept a few for myself!) Turtles are my absolute favorite candies, and the pretzel bite adds just the right amount of crunch to satisfy your salty-sweet cravings.

Ok, lets not waste any more time. You’ve got wrapping to do, I’ve got wrapping to do… and Santa waits for no man. Merry Christmas!

INGREDIENTS
Pretzel Squares
Rolo Candies
Pecan Halves

PREP
1. Pre-heat oven to 350.
2. Layer pretzel squares flat on a baking sheet covered in tin foil.
3. Place one Rolo candy on each pretzel square
4. Place in oven for 4-5 minutes until the candy softens
5. Remove from oven. Place pecan piece on each piece of candy and press down gently.
6. Let candy cool for 2-3 hours and it will harden. (You can also place in the fridge and then remove when candy is hardened.

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Baked Spaghetti Squash

I am stuck on repeat. My lunch pattern is skipping like a record, but I’m totally jamming to this beat. I’ve been making spaghetti squash to take for work lunches the past two weeks and I can’t get enough. So here we go again, my Sunday night routine.

I’m obsessed with subbing spaghetti squash strings for noodles. They have so much flavor and they’re filling, plus squash is so good for you! It’s also super easy to make. This squash doesn’t require a whole lot of extras to pump up the flavor. I literally use three ingredients: olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s it, friends! I like to use a flavored olive oil (mushroom or garlic) to give it some extra Italian taste. Otherwise, I’ll just top it with my favorite jarred spaghetti squash and some grated cheese. On Sunday night, I portion everything out in containers so I can just grab and go before work. Have a great week!

INGREDIENTS
1 spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons of olive oil (plain or flavored)
salt
pepper

PREP
1. Pre-heat oven to 400
2. Puncture squash several times all over. Heat in microwave for 2 minutes to soften and make it easier to slice.
3. Cut the ends off the squash, then cut squash in half lengthwise.
4. Drizzle each half with olive oil then brush so the flesh is coated all over.
5. Sprinkle squash with salt and pepper
6. Put squash on a baking sheet – flesh side down, skin side up.
7. Bake for 45 minutes. Let squash cool. Using a fork, shred flesh. It could come out in strings, like spaghetti.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake With Cream Cheese Filling

When the calendar hit September, I went all in on fall. I don’t even care that the forecast is calling for high 70’s next weekend. I replaced sandals with booties, iced coffee with PSL, and colorful shirts with gray sweaters, and I’m not turning back until April. The PSL gave me a taste for pumpkin that I couldn’t shake, so I broke out the can of pumpkin I had left over in the pantry from last year – and I got to baking. I feel like I’m definitely going to “pumpkin” myself out before we actually hit fall, but look at me not caring!  (Recipe Below)

INGREDIENTS
For The Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
4 large eggs
1 cup Pure Pumpkin
8 oz. vanilla greek yogurt

For the Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Glaze (Optional)
1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar.
2 to 3 tablespoons milk in small bowl
stir until smooth

ASSEMBLE
1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Grease bundt pan well and set aside.
2. In a small mixing bowl, add all ingredients and mix until well incorporated. Set aside.
3.In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
4. In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter until fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well.
5. To the bowl, add pumpkin and greek yogurt; mix well.
6. In small batches, gradually beat in flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
7. Spoon a third of the batter into bundt pan.
8. Pour the cream cheese filling over the batter in the pan.
9. Cover the filling with the remainder of the batter.
10. Bake for a an hour until sharp knife inserted in cake comes out clean.
11. Cook for 30 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.
12. Invert cake onto wire rack to cool.
13. Once cool, top with glaze (optional, not pictured)

Day Trip to Bellingham, WA

If you have 8 hours, a tank of gas, and desperately need a break from the Seattle bustle, hop on I-5 north and chill out with the locals in Bellingham for the day – and by locals I mean the seagulls, the oysters and the vendors at the farmer’s market!

My husband and I took our first trip to Bellingham recently. Reading up on the sights and attractions, we were overwhelmed at the options awaiting us in this big, small town. We weren’t sure how many things we’d be able to do, but ultimately we fell into a lovely groove and ended up having the perfect day trip. We saw a good cross-section of Bellingham while leaving enough activities to warrant a return trip (in the very near future!)

Here’s my planner for a one-day trip from Seattle to Bellingham:

Boundary Bay Brewery

We left Seattle mid-morning and made it to Bellingham around lunch time. Our first stop was at the famous Boundary Bay Brewery for a local craft brew and sandwich (a Cubano for the huz and a Tofu Banh Mi for me.) Their tap room has benches for seating and a cool nautical theme.

Farmer’s Market

If you visit Bellingham on a Saturday be sure to take a stroll through the downtown Farmer’s Market. It’s just across the street from Boundary Bay. We picked up some locally-made cheese, tayberry jam and roasted almonds. There are plenty of street performers to stop and listen to while you take in the array of colorful fruits, vegetables and flowers. It’s also a perfect spot for dog watching. A ton of people had their pups out for a walk around town!

 Boulevard Park & Woods Coffee

Time for a caffeine pick-me-up and a walk along Bellingham Bay. Boulevard Park is a quick 6 minute drive from downtown.

 Woods Coffee  has a location right at the park with a log cabin interior and adorably-named coffee sizes like “spruce,” “cedar,” and “giant redwood” akin to Starbucks’ “tall,” “grande,” and “venti.” Grab a coffee or tea to go and enjoy a walk on the boardwalk across the water and up to  old-town Fairhaven.


Chuckanut Drive & Taylor Shellfish

Time to start the journey home, but I’ve saved the best stop for last. Wind your way back south on scenic Chuckanut Drive. There are spectacular views of the bay, the islands, and gorgeous homes around every bend. Shutterbugs, be sure to take your camera along, you’ll want to stop along the turnouts for photo ops. Near the end of the picturesque road is a must-do for seafood fans: a stop at Taylor Shellfish Farm and Market in Bow, WA. You literally can’t get oysters any fresher unless you physically walk into the water and pluck them out yourself.  A stop at Taylor is a quintessential PNW experience. They give you a bucket, as many oysters as you can eat, and a shucking tool. Take a seat in the picnic area and master the art of shucking an oyster surrounded by water and salty air. They even have lemons and tiny bottles of tobasco if that’s how you like to dress your raw oyster. If you have a sharp eye, and you’re as lucky as we were, you might even spy an eagle flying overhead. With full bellies and a happy heart, you’re ready for the trip home!

Strawberry Mint Cocktail

If you’re thinking of growing an herb this summer, make it mint! The drink options alone are worth the planter space. It’s amazing how a few sprigs of mint can totally transform a standard cocktail. It’s my latest obsession in my Summer of Mint series.

Vodka and 7s (or Sprites, or any other lemon-lime soda) are basic go-to’s for the home bar, but when you’re not feeling like a basic b’ – adding a hint of mint and strawberries will totally up your summer cocktail game, and it takes almost no extra effort!

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I took about 5 sprigs of mint, sliced a strawberry and muddled the two at the bottom of a cocktail glass. Then add a shot of vodka and top with ice and your favorite lemon/lime soda for a minty-citrus refresher.

INGREDIENTS
1 DRINK:
5 mint leaves
1 strawberry, sliced
1 shot vodka
Lemon Lime soda
Ice

PREP
1. Put mint and strawberries in and empty cocktail glass, muddle
2. Add vodka and ice, top with lemon lime soda.
3. Stir and enjoy!

Salmon With Green Pea Pesto

When I’m stressed or anxious about something, normally work, cooking helps calm my nerves, even if it’s just for an hour. It allows me to put aside worry and focus on following a methodical recipe. There’s little downtime for my mind to wander – and I get to look forward to a delicious payoff at the end!

This Salmon with Green Pea Pesto helped me survive one of my work-related freak-outs. I have a lot of important projects ahead, so I wanted to make something healthy to fuel my brain and my soul. I love pesto, and since it’s spring I switched up my regular recipe by adding sweet green peas as the base. If I had kids, I would seriously be one of the most hated moms on the block because I’m always looking for ways to sneak more vegetables into my meals. (My husband already gives me side eye when I make brownies. Him: Is there zucchini or spinach in this?)

I’m not hiding anything with this one, there are definitely peas, but also basil, garlic, parmesan and everything else that makes pesto… pesto!

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE PESTO
1 10 oz bag of frozen sweet green peas (thawed)
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
3-4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts (I used walnuts)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
1/2 lemon squeezed
1/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

FOR THE SALMON
1 pound of salmon
1/2 sweet onion, sliced round
1/2 lemon, sliced round
2 cups fish stock (or chicken)
1 cup dry wine (I used chardonnay)
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
salt/pepper

PREP
FOR THE PESTO
1. Add peas, basil, mint, garlic and walnuts to a food processor.
2. Pulse until ingredients start to combine. Scrape down the edges.
3. Add lemon and cheese to the food processor and cover. Continue to pulse while drizzling olive oil into the mixture. You may have to scrape down the sides again.

FOR THE SALMON
1. Salt and pepper fish. In a deep pan, bring stock and wine to a slow boil.
2. Add onion, lemon and rosemary sprigs to the pan and reduce heat. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes to combine flavors.
3. Add salmon to the pan and cover. Allow fish to cook for 5 minutes until it’s just pink evenly across the top. (Do not overcook)
4. Remove fish from pan and plate. Top fish with pesto and serve.

Orange Blossom Mediterranean Couscous

I love colorful food. It’s just so darn pretty! The oranges, reds, purples and greens of this salad are so gorgeous. I found this recipe while searching for ways to use my Nielsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water. It’s a traditional Mediterranean salad with a hint of citrus. I’ve discovered a little can go a long way when using the Orange Blossom Water, but it’s a fun way to play around with your favorite recipes!

 Couscous Ingredients
Recipe From Nielssen Massey
1 cup water
1 cup spicy tomato juice
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 (10-ounce) box original couscous
2 dozen grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
1 (6-ounce) jar pitted Kalamata olives, sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup walnut halves
1 (6-ounce) crumbled feta cheese
1 small orange bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
10 large fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

  1. In a sauce pan, combine water, tomato juice, orange blossom water, vanilla extract and salt. Bring to a boil.
  2. Stir in couscous, cover and remove from heat; let stand for 4½ minutes.
  3. Immediately, add cooked couscous to a large bowl and fluff with a fork; pour lemon-olive oil dressing (below) over couscous and stir to coat. Set aside to cool.
  4. Add tomatoes, olives, walnuts, feta, bell pepper, onions and basil. Stir to combine and serve. This is a great make-ahead recipe and can be served chilled.Dressing Ingredients

Dressing Ingredients

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (3 large lemons)
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

To a small bowl, add lemon juice, vanilla extract and sugar; stir to combine. Drizzle olive oil into bowl while continuously whisking until dressing has emulsified; set aside.

3-Ingredient Date, Cashew & Coconut Bars

Dates, Cashews and Shredded Coconut – that’s literally the entire ingredient list for these sweet and chewy, granola-style bars.

I was inspired by the commercial for LARABARS which touts minimal, real-food ingredients like nuts, dates and fruit (no ticky-tacky!) For example, the ingredient list for LARABAR’s Cashew Cookie is two words: dates, cashews.  I’m a VERY reluctant baker, so that seemed like a manageable shopping list for a make-at-home treat.

Ok, Simple Ingredient list: check.  Simple Instructions/Equipment: double check!! A food processor is pretty much the only thing you need to bring these bars to life. No baking involved! The dates have a chewy, sticky consistency that acts as the glue to hold everything together.

bar4

First, I pulsed the cashews and coconut coarsely. Add the dates and continue to pulse until it all sticks together. Mold the mixture into a rectangle that’s about one inch thick. Then it’s off to the fridge for a few hours! I cut my bars into one inch strips. Keep in the fridge until you’re ready to eat!

bar1

Dates offer a blank canvas for all kind of real-food, no-bake bars and snacks and I’m excited to try out some other combinations!

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups of salted cashews, unroasted
1 1/2 cups of unpitted dates
1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened

PREP
1. In a food processor, pulse the cashews and coconut coarsely (a few seconds should do it)
2. Add the dates to the food processor and continue to pulse until the mixture sticks together.
3. Mold the mixture into a rectangle that’s about one inch thick.
4. Refrigerate bar about 6 hours.
5. Cut bars into one inch strips. Keep in the fridge until you’re ready to eat!

Salmon Mushroom and Gruyere Quiche

 To me, salmon=something special, and this quiche is one of my favorite special occasion brunch foods.

I’ve been going a little quiche crazy lately, but when I get a craving it’s hard to shake it. This is also a last hurrah of sorts in that I’ve decided to start working out again (eek!). I’ve been religiously anti-daily workouts ever since I left college. It’s worked out for me all these years, but at 34, my habit of eating whatever I want and Netflixing have finally caught up with me.

Daily quiche, while it sounds like the perfect lifestyle choice, would probably cancel out my blossoming workout routine. So, if this is the end of the line, I decided to go out with a bang by splurging on my favorite ingredients: salmon, mushroom and cheese.


  
INGREDIENTS
1 frozen pie shell
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 oz smoked salmon (or lox), cubed
8 oz white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 white onion, diced
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
salt
pepper

PREP
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a small pan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook another 8 minutes until mushrooms begin to soften. Drain liquid and set aside.
3. Pre-cook pie shell in oven 5 minutes.
4. Remove shell from oven. Line the bottom of the shell with half the cheese.
5. Cover cheese with the onion/mushroom mixture.
6. Add cubed salmon and top with the rest of the cheese.
7. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolk, milk, cream, dill, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the quiche filling.
8. Bake quiche in oven for 30-40 minutes until egg is set.

Mushroom, Leek and Pepper Quiche

I made this quiche because I love a warm breakfast in the morning, but the frozen breakfast sandwiches I’ve been buying lately don’t fill me up (and quite honestly, they don’t taste very good either and the really good ones seem to be obscenely expensive!) So, I figured, why not make a quiche with all the ingredients I really want. It will keep in the fridge for several days, and all I have to do is heat it up in the morning. Yeah, it takes a little more effort than just buying a box of frozen sandwiches, but its worth it when I wake up to a savory slice of pie!

Quiches are nothing new on this blog. They are my FAVORITE breakfast food, but it’s been a while since I made a new one. Since this is my year of meatless eating, I packed this quiche with some of my favorite veggies: mushrooms, leeks and peppers.

Gruyere cheese brings it all together, and I like to have my quiche with a side of spring salad mix – just like they serve at my favorite cafes in Seattle!

INGREDIENTS
1 frozen deep dish pie shell
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1 leek chopped (white and light green parts)
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 1/2 cup gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt
pepper

PREP
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a saute pan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add leeks and saute for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and pepper, season with salt and pepper and saute for about 8 minutes until mushrooms begin to lose their water. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Prebake pie shell 8-10 minutes.
4. Combine eggs, milk, cream, salt and pepper and whisk together.
5. Remove pie shell from oven, layer the bottom of the pie shell with half of the gruyere cheese. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out leek, mushroom and pepper mixture leaving liquid behind – layer on top of cheese. Top with more cheese. Pour egg mixture over the filling.
6. Bake for about 30 minutes until egg is set.