Homemade Trail Mix

Trail mix is one of those foods, at least for me, that I could eat and eat and eat and eat… Handful after handful. Can you relate? Fortunately, I have pretty good awareness and self control so I don’t actually eat and eat and eat and eat treats such as trail mix. But I know that if I were to let my cravings get the best of me, I would keep eating tasty snacks like this homemade trail mix I made last week!

I actually made this batch of trail mix to give to Mike’s brother, Dave (my future brother-in-law!), as part of his birthday gift. Dave is an avid bird watcher (it’s an intense hobby if you don’t know much about it!), and I thought it would be nice to give him a snack he could bring along with him on his birding trips that sometimes are hours and hours long.
Below I’ve listed the ingredients and proportions I used for this batch of trail mix, but obviously you can add whatever your favorite ingredients are in whatever proportions you’d like! That’s the beauty of a treat like this. Trail mix doesn’t require a very precise recipe since there’s no baking involved, of course!

-2 cups mini pretzels
-1 and 1/2 cups Quaker “whole hearts” cereal
-1 cup dried cranberries 
-3/4 cup dark chocolate m & m’s
-3/4 cup pretzel m & m’s
-2/3 cup whole almonds
-2/3 cup dry roasted peanuts
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. That’s it. 😉
Store in airtight containers or ziploc baggies!

I went a little crazy with the m & m’s in this batch. Feel free to tone down the chocolate if you want a healthier version!

This made about 7 cups of trail mix for me. I don’t know the nutritional information for this mix, but I’d guess that eating no more than 1/2 cup of it at one time is a safe bet. If you’re afraid of overeating a snack such as trail mix, simply proportion the snack ahead of time into appropriate serving sizes. For me, when I take a snack like this to work, I only bring enough for one serving a day. That way there’s no temptation for me to keep eating since after I finish that one serving, there’s no more!

I had jury duty today, and I brought some of the mix with me to snack on when we got a break. It was perfect! I haven’t made trail mix in so long. Making it this time around and remembering how much I love it will hopefully remind me to make it more often…
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I got out of jury duty, thank goodness! There was potential I’d be on a case for 3 weeks… Yikes! 

Some other ideas of ingredients you could interchange or add in addition to the above ingredients include: raisins, dried fruits (apricots, banana chips, etc.), other nuts, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, soy nuts, and coconut. Oh, and Teddy Grahams! I love Teddy Grahams in trail mix. I didn’t happen to add any to this batch because they weren’t on sale at the store this week, but they are such a fun addition to trail mix…especially when it’s a mix for kids! Or, for adults who are kids at heart. 🙂
What other ingredients do you enjoy in your trail mix? I’d love to hear about your favorites!

Oh, and stay tuned… I made a second batch of trail mix, and I ended up using some of it to make some pretty darn tasty trail mix cookies. That recipe’s up next!!

Helloooo! I’ve been meaning to write this post since Tuesday, but alas, time has slipped away from me. What a busy week!
Speaking of busy weeks, this recipe for bean and butternut squash chili is perfect for a busy week. There’s nothing quite like coming home from work, walking in the door, and smelling the delicious aromas of dinner that’s been cooking slowly in the crock pot all day long. Mmmmm. It’s one of my favorite food “experiences”! Sadly though, I don’t cook enough with my crock pot. I really need to make more tasty meals with it!
I was a big fan of this chili when I made it last week. But you know what? I became even more of a big fan of it when I ate it as leftovers. This was one of those dishes (in my opinion) that’s better the day after! I made this last Thursday, I believe, and I just finished up the leftovers this week. Soooo good! This hearty, flavorful chili, paired with a delicious slice of When Pigs Fly bread (their best-selling baby spinach, onion, and garlic ciabatta), was my lunch on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week. And nope, I didn’t get sick of it. That’s the sign of a good recipe. 🙂
The original recipe is from Perry’s Plate, although the ingredients posted below are what I used. I ended up adding some chopped green pepper that wasn’t in the original recipe. Otherwise, I followed it almost exactly with just a couple other slight changes!
-1 20-oz. package butternut squash
-1 medium onion, diced
-1 medium green pepper, diced
-2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
-olive oil
-1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1 15-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
-1 14.5-oz. vegetable or chicken broth (low sodium, if desired)
-1 16-oz. bag frozen corn
-2 Tbsp. chili powder
-salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, pepper, and jalapeno pepper for a few minutes. Add the butternut squash and saute until slightly tender.
Pour the sauteed vegetables into your crock pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well-mixed. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serves 6 to 8.

I cooked mine on low for closer to 9 to 10 hours, and it turned out just fine. I also sauteed the veggies the night before, let them cool, and kept them in the fridge overnight before putting them in the crock pot early the next morning. As I mentioned, the addition of the green pepper was not in the original recipe, and I also added two jalapeno peppers instead of one. Also of note, in my opinion, this chili was a little heavy on the corn. When I make it again, I think I might only add 8 or 10 ounces of a bag of frozen corn instead of the entire 16 ounces. I also think you could easily add other veggies too like other types of squash or peppers.
As I mentioned above, for some reason, this chili tasted better to me the next day (and on subsequent days when I continued to enjoy the leftovers). I’m not really sure why! Sometimes I guess it just seems that a recipe benefits from “sitting” longer and letting the flavors meld together better.
As you can see, there are two “sets” of pictures of this chili. The ones of the chili in the green bowl I took the night I made this chili. And the other ones in the white mug are of when I ate the chili at work for lunch. I’m obviously not an experienced photographer, nor do I have great camera equipment or any special lighting, so I do apologize for the less-than-perfect pictures! But trust me, despite how this chili looks in the photos, it’s quite a tasty recipe!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the Super Bowl! Did you know that the average American consumes four chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday? I did not until I heard that on the radio today (if it is, in fact, true). Mike and some friends and I plan to munch on various goodies during the game, including homemade pizza. I am thinking that one of the pizzas we make has to be shaped like this one. How fun is that?? And if you’re not a pepperoni person, you could easily do sliced tomatoes or something in place of the pepperoni. I found some great Super Bowl appetizer ideas on Pinterest this week!

(photo source)
Gooo Giants! And yes, I live in Boston now, but the first 22 years of my life were spent in New York State so I’m rooting for the Giants. 🙂
Enjoy your celebrations, friends!

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a great weekend and a good start to your week today. Mondays are always tough! You know what might help you get up on a weekday morning? Having some delicious pumpkin cranberry bread waiting for you when you wake up. 😉 
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No, that’s not my own lovely photo, unfortunately! I didn’t end up taking many pictures of this bread, sadly. I made it late at night and just didn’t feel like taking the time to take many photos, especially since I was wrapping all of it up to give away and I was somewhat in a rush when I was doing it. My apologies!
I made this bread toward the end of last week, as I wanted to bake something yummy to take home to my family members when I traveled back to NY for the weekend. I hadn’t baked with pumpkin for quite some time (not since my pumpkin gingerbread muffins in December!), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t stopped thinking about my beloved pumpkin. It was high time I paid it the attention it deserves though! This moist, delicious, flavorful pumpkin cranberry bread was the result.
The recipe is from Very Best Baking, but I altered the original recipe slightly. My exact measurements are below, and the original recipe can be found here. I reduced the amount of sugar from 3 cups to 2, added a combination of all-purpose and white whole wheat flour, and reduced the amount of vegetable oil and replaced some of that with a light vanilla yogurt. Oh, and lastly, the original recipe calls for orange juice or water, but instead, I used some cranberry pomegranate juice!
Of note, this recipe does make two loaves, so you can halve the recipe if you’d like. With the ingredients below, I ended up making one 8 x 4 loaf, 8 mini loaves, and two muffins (I made the muffins for Mike and me – someone had to taste test the recipe to be sure it was okay to give away!).
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 cup white whole wheat flour
-2 tsp. cinnamon
-1 tsp. nutmeg
-1/2 tsp. cloves
-2 tsp. baking soda
-1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
-2 cups sugar
-1 can (15 oz). pumpkin
-4 eggs
-1/3 cup vegetable oil
-6 oz. light yogurt (I used vanilla)
-1/2 cup cranberry pomegranate juice
-1 cup dried cranberries (I used pomegranate flavored craisins)
(Apparently, with this recipe I was really into supporting Ocean Spray, and in particular, their cranberry pomegranate flavored products! Too funny.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the pans you’re planning to use, or place liners in muffin pan. Combine flours, spices, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil, yogurt, and juice in a large mixing bowl, and beat until well blended. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, and beat until well-incorporated. Fold in cranberries. Spoon batter into prepared pans.
Bake loaf pans for 50 to 60 minutes or until a knife or cake tester comes out clean. Bake muffins for 15 to 20 minutes. Let loaves cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on wire rack. Let muffins cool in pan for 3 or 4 minutes before removing to cool completely on wire rack.

Such cute lil’ mini loaves!
I enjoyed my muffin served warm. Sooo good! One thing I might try differently the next time I make this recipe is to toss the dried cranberries in some flour before adding them to the batter. They did not all sink to the bottom of the loaves or muffins, but they also didn’t seem to be distributed evenly from top to bottom in the loaves. In the end, no big deal though! But perhaps tossing the cranberries lightly in flour would help with that. Also, I think this recipe could be made without an electric mixer. It seemed easy enough to mix by hand, I think!
Be back again soon. 🙂 Next time, I will have a crock pot dinner recipe to share involving another favorite orange ingredient of mine – butternut squash!
I love food. As soon as I’m done with one meal, I’m thinking about the next. Although, in all seriousness, I must confess; I actually think about several meals ahead, not just the next one… Sometimes I wonder if the amount of time I spend thinking about food might be a problem… 🙂
Homemade meals are usually my preference. Creating and cooking in the kitchen is very enjoyable for me, and I love cooking for and eating with loved ones. However, every now and then it’s nice to have someone else do the cooking for you, and I’m sure many of you would agree! Once in a while I just really want to go out to eat. Fortunately, on one of those recent occasions when I “craved’ going out to eat, Mike and I could just take a 10-minute walk down the street and head to Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain (or “JP” as we residents and locals call it!). Last spring I wrote a blog post about our 3-year anniversary dinner that we had at Ten Tables, so it may sound familiar to you! And for all you locals in and around Boston, I’m going to go ahead and assume you definitely know Ten Tables. In addition to the JP location, there are restaurants in Cambridge and Provincetown.

I believe it was the last Thursday in December that Mike and I went to Ten Tables for their Thursday special “Winter Warmer” night. This consists of their mac n’ cheese and a glass of wine for $14. You can rarely get dinner and a drink for $14 anywhere around here! It’s definitely a steal. We arrived shortly before 6:00 and were seated quickly on the bar side of the restaurant; the Winter Warmer night is only on the bar side, and the other side is the main restaurant (and yes, it has only ten tables, as you may have guessed!). Our service was prompt and friendly, and we each started with a glass of wine. I had the house white on tap (you read that right – on tap!), which was a local wine from Westport Rivers Vineyard in Westport, MA. I have to apologize because I don’t actually remember which specific Westport wine it was. Mike enjoyed a red, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Within 15 or 20 minutes of our arrival, the place was full! We had arrived just in time to snag a table before there was a wait.

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As we enjoyed conversation, in the back of my mind I thought our mac n’ cheese was taking a little longer than I would expect it to, but I didn’t think much of it since Mike and I were chatting, sipping our wine, and enjoying a delicious, soft dinner roll dipped in olive oil (the roll is one of my favorite aspects of eating at Ten Tables!). After a time, our server came over to let us know that they were very sorry that our mac n’ cheese was taking longer than usual and that they’d “take care of it” for us. We honestly didn’t  think it was taking too long, but we thanked our server and continued to chat. A few more minutes later, a manager (I believe) came to the table, and he also apologized for the longer than usual wait we were having for our food. The manager offered to give us a second glass of wine on the house because of the wait. Mike and I weren’t quite ready for a second glass yet, so we thanked him and he went away. At this point we were a little confused about what “deal” we might get due to the contradicting messages; would they comp our mac n’ cheese or would we get an extra glass of wine? Either way, it didn’t matter to us! Anyway, very shortly thereafter, our mac n’ cheese was served, piping hot and each one in its own adorable little cast iron skillet. The portion size was perfect. It was definitely filling, but not too much so, like pasta dishes often can be. We each finished the entire dish, as it was delicious! I can’t remember what types of cheese were used in it (sorry!), but it was very tasty. Part way through our meal, the manager returned to offer us that second glass of wine, and we both took him up on the offer. 🙂 I enjoyed a second glass of the same white I began with, and Mike switched over to white for his second glass. I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means (as you may know if you’re a regular blog follower, I’m much more of a craft beer gal!!), but I do enjoy most kinds of wine even if I might not be able to critique them like an expert would. This white from Westport was very crisp and refreshing. It was very easy to drink two glasses. 🙂
Once we finished our meal and the bill came, we were both curious as to what it would say. As it turns out, we were only charged for the mac n’ cheese ($12 for each) and our total of four glasses of wine was free. Yummy, comforting mac n’ cheese and two glasses of wine for $12 each. Not bad at all, I’d say! The night we went was definitely a cold winter night too, so the “winter warmer” theme was quite appropriate. Ten Tables was the perfect place to be for us on that night! So warm and cozy. If you live in JP or in and around Boston and have not yet been to Ten Tables, you must go. Soon! 
And you know what else you should check out at Ten Tables? If you’re not a vegetarian, you should absolutely go to their “Beerger” night on Mondays (also on the bar side like Winter Warmer Thursdays). We’ve been to Beerger night about 5 or 6 times, I’d say, and it’s deeelicious! The deal on Mondays is the signature Ten Tables burger and a beer for $15. And the burger? One of the best burgers around, we think. You can catch a glimpse of this awesome burger on the “bar bites” page of their website.
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Ironically, on one of the nights we enjoyed our burgers, we had another slight mishap in service. When Mike took the first bite of his burger, he bit into plastic! Oops. It turns out that each burger bun is individually wrapped, and the plastic from the bottom of his bun wasn’t fully removed. Our server quickly fixed the error by having a new burger freshly made for him, and his meal was comped that night, as was the right thing to do in our minds. 
I don’t mean to mention these two errors in a negative light; these things certainly happen from time to time in the food industry! I wanted to mention them though because I think that both times, the ways in which Ten Tables handled the situations were appropriate. And that’s another reason why we love Ten Tables. Not only do they have delicious food and a warm, cozy, friendly atmosphere, they also have wonderful customer service. 
Now, after reading this, don’t you want to go to Ten Tables? I hope so! I didn’t really intend this to be a “review” of Ten Tables, but I suppose it turned out that way. Well, it’s a review of their Monday and Thursday night specials anyway. 🙂 Since I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of cooking and baking I do because of my wrist tendonitis, I thought I’d change it up and share my thoughts on a recent dining experience. As a JP resident who loves eating and drinking locally, I wanted to give this top-notch restaurant a positive nod. If you love a good deal like we do, I’d highly recommend the Beerger night on Mondays or Winter Warmer night on Thursdays. You won’t be disappointed! And if you’re thinking about having a more elaborate meal, definitely look into eating on the restaurant side (the side with the signature ten tables). You can review my blog post from last April about our great experience sitting at the chef’s table. We’ve only eaten on the bar side since that meal, but perhaps it’s time for us to return for a special occasion dinner there!
I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures for you in this post! When we went to Ten Tables that night, I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post about our experience, so I didn’t take any pictures. But you can rest assured that the mac n’ cheese both looked and tasted great. 🙂
Happy almost weekend, friends!

Chickpea Veggie Burgers

Tendonitis. Or, as I’ve seen it spelled, tendinitis (looks so odd that way though!). I have it. Not only do I have it in one place, but I have it in two. My wrist and my foot. 😦 The wrist tendonitis has been going on since early November, and the foot tendonitis only for a couple weeks, but it’s become more severe over the past few days. If you’ve ever had tendonitis, you know how frustrating it can be. For the wrist, I’ve been wearing a brace, and for the foot, I’ve been icing and elevating it these past few days. No running for me! I am signed up to run a half marathon on February 19th, but I’m not so sure that’s going to happen now…
Now, I suppose I should get to the point of why I’m telling you about my injuries before you get too bored or annoyed with me and my complaints. 🙂 I suppose that one reason I’m telling you is to “vent” a bit. I’m a pretty active and busy person, so it’s not necessarily the easiest thing to deal with injuries that slow me down (I keep telling myself it’s a lesson to teach me to be more patient!). I am thankful for very good health overall though, and I realize this is just a bump in the road right now. Another reason I decided to share information about my current injuries with you is because they have limited, to an extent, the types and amounts of goodies I’ve been making in my kitchen. I have made an effort to scale back my cooking and baking, or at least try to make recipes that don’t require too much extra effort on the part of my wrist (so, not a lot of chopping or twisting or stirring by hand or lifting of awkward pans – or whatever else you do in the kitchen while cooking and baking!). The hardest part of making these burgers for me was probably using the can opener to open the can of chickpeas! Otherwise, they were easy, and that’s a reason I chose to make them. That, and well, they looked really yummy to me!
The recipe is from the wonderful blog, Daily Garnish. I adapted it slightly though. The original recipe can be found here, and the ingredients I used are below.
-1/4 cup rolled oats
-1/8 cup sunflower seeds
-1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans (chickpeas!), rinsed and drained
-1 medium carrot, grated
-1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
-1 to 2 Tbsp. garlic hummus (or any flavored hummus)
-1 Tbsp. lemon juice
-1 Tbsp. olive oil
-1/2 tsp. minced garlic
-1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Using a food processor, add the oats and sunflower seeds, and pulse until coarsely chopped. Grate a carrot and add it to the food processor. Add all the remaining ingredients, and pulse until mixture is roughly chopped, scraping the sides with a spatula a couple times. Be careful not to process too much, or the mixture will become too mushy.
Once mixed, transfer the mixture to a bowl and wet your hands. Form into four evenly shaped patties. Cook burgers over medium heat on a non-stick pan until they are browned on both sides.
Serve however you desire to eat them!

Of note, I used actual hummus in this recipe, but you may have seen on the original recipe that it calls for tahini. I had tahini, but I was a bit unsure as to its expiration date and whether it was safe to use still…so I just used hummus instead. Still worked fine!

I chose to enjoy my burger with some lettuce and tomato. Mike and I enjoyed these (yes, Mike really liked them even though he tends to be a meat guy!) on some whole wheat 100-calorie sandwich thins.

And we ate them with some delicious roasted blue potatoes on the side. My new potato obsession is blue potatoes. Love ’em! I buy them at our Whole Foods all the time…

I actually didn’t put any condiments on my burger the first time I ate it because I wanted to taste it as is (and it’s very flavorful!). But you could easily do ketchup, mustard, hummus, bbq sauce, etc…whatever your fav condiment is! You could add a nice slice of cheese too.

I brought one of the leftover burgers to work the next day for lunch. It was an awesome meal the next day too!
Since you lovely readers brought me good luck when it came to the Whole Foods pecan recipe contest, I’m going to ask if you don’t mind sending me some more of that good luck of yours for my wrist and foot injuries…  I’m seeing a new specialist for my wrist this week, so hopefully we can make some better progress together. And as for the foot, well, for now, I’m trying to take care of it on my own by resting when possible, elevating and icing it, and taking some pain meds…but if need be, perhaps I’ll see a specialist for my foot too. Either way, please send me positive “tendonitis go away vibes.” Please and thanks. 😉
And on a completely different note, today, January 23rd, is National Pie day! This is ironic because I had a free pie delivered to my door today. What??!? I tried online grocery shopping with home delivery for the first time today through a Boston grocery store, Roche Bros. It was great! The only reason I tried it is because I had a great coupon for it. Anyway, for the first time you try their home delivery, you get a free apple pie! Yesssssss. I know what I’m having for dessert tonight!
Hope everyone’s week is off to a great start!
I love baking cookies. In fact, I think cookies might be my favorite type of dessert to make. Second favorite? Probably cupcakes. Give me either a cookie or a cupcake (or maybe both? :)), and I’m a
happy gal. 

Not sure if you read it or not, but in the Q & A on the Whole Foods blog earlier this week after I won the pecan recipe contest, I was asked the question: “Is there one ingredient you can’t live without?” My answer? “Chocolate chips! If you need a dessert in a pinch, you’ll have options so long as you have baking staples and chocolate chips on hand.” This recipe of oatmeal butterscotch chocolate chip cookies is a perfect example of that.
-6 oz. unsalted butter, melted
-1 cup packed light brown sugar
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 large eggs
-2 tsp. vanilla
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-3/4 cup quick or regular oats
-approx. 3/4 cup – 1 cup butterscotch chips
-approx. 3/4 cup – 1 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate in this recipe but use your favorite or whatever you have on hand!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in microwave and allow it to cool slightly. Using a whisk, combine the butters and both sugars together in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the sugar and egg mixture and fold until just combined. Fold in the oats, butterscotch chips, and chocolate chips.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop dough by tablespoonful on baking sheet, placing about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 – 14 minutes. When the edges are slightly brown, remove from oven. Allow the cookies to cool for a couple minutes before removing to cool completely on rack. Makes about 30 cookies.

Hi Mr. Snowman! 🙂
If you read the recipe closely, you may have recognized that this is the same base recipe as my “award-winning” (it’s just fun to say that!) pecan, cranberry, cinnamon chip cookies. I just changed the mix-ins; that’s all! Just shows how you can be creative in baking yet still keep things very simple.

I highly recommend these cookies with a nice tall glass of milk or a mug of delicious hot chocolate. Now that’s the stuff. 😉
P.S. If you’re an email subscriber, I had some technical trouble earlier in the week with the two posts I published on Monday for my baked potato soup and my announcement that I won the Whole Foods recipe contest. Sorry if you missed getting those emails! Please be sure to check them out still!
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Drum roll, please… And the winner of the Whole Foods contest “Your Best Recipe with Pecans” is pecan, cranberry, cinnamon chip cookies!! Yeah!
(photo source)
I mentioned it briefly in my latest post, but in case you missed it, my recipe did, in fact, win the contest! I am pretty darn excited. So cool! The results were announced on Friday, January 13th, which as I had mentioned earlier last week, is a lucky day in my family in general and it’s also my mom’s birthday. So to me, it’s even cooler that I found out my recipe won on the lucky day of January 13th!! Thank you so much to all of you who took the time to vote for my recipe online and to cheer me on. It really means a lot to me! I’ve had multiple friends and family let me know that they’ve already made the recipe or intend to make it soon. I hope everyone enjoys it! You can find the original recipe either on my blog here or on the Whole Foods Market Cooking website.
For those of you who follow my blog regularly (thank you!), you probably already know quite a bit about me. However, if you’re interested in learning more random details about the “Barbershop,” on the Whole Foods Market Cooking blog today, there’s a little “Q & A” session about me! You can learn things I’m sure you’ve always been curious about…you know, like if I was reincarnated as a single dish, what would I be, or does my ideal dinner party include 2, 4 – 6, or 8+ guests? You can find the answers to those questions and more over on the Whole Foods blog!
I also wanted to thank a lovely friend and fellow blogger, Jeanne from Adirondack Baker, who wrote a blog post over the weekend about my victory in the contest. So thoughtful! Take a few minutes to look over Jeanne’s blog; you won’t be disappointed! She creates some amazing goodies in her kitchen. I am continually amazed by her talent in the kitchen! Some of my favorite posts are about her cake creations, like this super cute snowman cake and her grandson’s treasure chest cake she made for his third birthday.
Also, I wanted to talk about cinnamon baking chips for a minute. A few friends and family have contacted me, wondering where they can buy them. Well, some Whole Foods stores may carry them, but I haven’t bought them there yet. In the Boston area, I’ve found them at both Shaw’s and Stop and Shop stores. I believe that my mom has bought them before at Hannaford in NY state. If you’re unable to find them near you though, you can always resort to buying them online! Amazon actually has a decent price for the Hershey’s brand cinnamon chips, which is the brand I most commonly use. Many different brands of baking chips make cinnamon-flavored ones though! They are sooo yummy. If you’ve never baked with cinnamon chips, you really need to give them a try!
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Lastly, a big thank you to Whole Foods for hosting such a great contest! For all you cooks, bakers, bloggers, and foodies out there, I’d recommend that you check out the various recipe contests that Whole Foods Market Cooking sponsors on a regular basis and I’d encourage you to enter one of your own recipes. I was completely surprised when I made it to the final two and even more surprised when I actually won! Overall this was a really fun, positive experience that makes me love Whole Foods even more than I did previously! I’ve recently begun shopping there more regularly now that we have a store in the town where I live and work; it opened last November. It’s the smallest Whole Foods store in the country (at least that’s the rumor I’ve heard!) and I love it. They even carry local pork from my super small hometown in rural upstate NY. Pretty neat!
Now, I’m pretty sure that what I’ll be doing this week is heading to Whole Foods and using my winnings to buy $100 worth of ingredients to make several dozen pecan, cranberry, cinnamon chip cookies. 😉 I have a lot of friends, family, and coworkers who have requested samples of these prize-winning cookies since they so nicely voted for my recipe without actually tasting them!
Thanks for listening to my ramblings here today, friends! I’ll leave you with one more thought:
Found this awesome saying on Pinterest. So perfect!
Last week I mentioned that I’d have a delicious, hearty winter soup recipe for you. Well, I’m back and here it is! I made this baked potato soup a couple weeks ago on a cooooold weekday night, and it really hit the spot. I was inspired to make this recipe by my latest magazine issue of Cooking Light, which had a recipe for a “cheesy potato soup” in it. However, when I looked up reviews of that particular recipe online, the reviews were only mediocre. So I looked around for other potato soup options (I was really craving a potato soup for some reason and couldn’t get the idea of making one out of my head!) and luckily stumbled upon this one that I ended up trying and loving.
The original recipe makes enough for 8 servings. I halved the recipe (more or less, it was probably more like I “5/8’d” the recipe ;)). So when I made this I had 4 or 5 servings. I have written the original recipe below for 8 servings. Feel free to alter it as you wish!
-4 baking potatoes (about 2 and 1/2 lbs.)
-2/3 cup all-purpose flour
-6 cups 2% milk (I used 1%)
-1 cup reduced-fat shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
-1 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
-1 cup reduced fat sour cream
-3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
-6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce potatoes with a fork and bake at 400 for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes and coarsely mash.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place flour in a large Dutch oven (or just a large, deep saucepan – whatever you have!); gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup of the cheese, salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.
Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Ladle 1 and 1/2 cups soup into each bowl. Sprinkle each serving with desired amount of cheese, onions, and bacon (the recipe says 1 and 1/2 tsp. cheese, 1 and 1/2 tsp. onion, and 1 Tbsp. bacon). Garnish with cracked pepper, if desired.

I used this Whole Foods brand of reduced sodium bacon. Use whatever your favorite kind is! Also, of note, I only added 1/4 tsp. of salt to the recipe. For 8 servings, the recipe calls for 1 tsp. of salt, which seemed like a lot to me, and halving the recipe means I should have added 1/2 tsp. salt, which still seemed like a lot. With soups, I tend to be conservative when it comes to adding salt to the actual recipe. I think it’s better just to let each person who’s eating the soup to add their own salt, if they want, to their individual bowl! 🙂

Mike and I enjoyed this soup with some toasted Whole Foods ciabatta bread. Simple and delicious.

Mmmmm, extra sharp cheddar. It makes everything better!

I really really liked this soup. It was slightly time-consuming to make, thanks to the need to bake the potatoes and cook the bacon. All in all though, it was not difficult and was totally worth any time and effort you put in to make it. And cream/milk based soups tend not to freeze very well, which is one reason I chose not to make the full recipe….if I had made the soup and had a lot leftover, I would have felt the need to either eat most of it within a few days or freeze the rest, and I didn’t really want to do either. Also, I didn’t want to use up 6 cups of milk for one soup! That’s about all I had in my fridge when I made this recipe, so it was a better choice for me to halve the recipe and still have milk in the fridge for other uses.
And on a completely different note, isn’t this a gorgeous sunset? This was a pic I took outside my apartment last week. Love those beautiful colors!!

And on yet another note, my cookie recipe won the Whole Foods pecan recipe contest!! Woohoo! I found out on Friday the 13th (my lucky day!) and was totally psyched. I’m planning another blog post about that, so please stay tuned! Thanks so much for your votes and support! 🙂

Last Chance to Vote!

Greetings, friends!
I had high hopes to write up the post for my delicious baked potato soup I mentioned the other day, but alas, the time this week got away from me. My apologies! But you can look for the recipe soon. It is such a wonderful winter soup!

You can also look for another yummy cookie recipe (butterscotch, white chocolate, oatmeal cookies!), as well as a fun one for chickpea hummus burgers that I made this week. Yum!
But in the meantime, if you have a quick minute, I would like to kindly ask that you head on over to the Whole Foods contest website and vote for my pecan, cranberry, cinnamon chip cookie recipe!
As you may already know, I’m a finalist in the “Your Best Recipe with Pecans” contest. I would be very grateful if you could vote for my recipe! In order for your vote to count, you do need to create an account if you don’t already have one, but it takes no time at all to do so. You have until Friday the 13th at noon ET to cast your vote.
Please and thank you! Fingers crossed!
Happy Friday to you all and happy birthday to my mom too! 🙂 🙂
Hey friends! So just yesterday in my post about baked parmesan tomatoes, I reminded you that today Whole Foods would be announcing the two finalists for the “Your Best Recipe with Pecans” contest, and I asked for your good luck wishes that my cookie recipe would make it… Well your good luck vibes must have worked because my pecan, cranberry, cinnamon chip cookies made it to the final two! Woohoo! I am quite excited. 🙂
Now I am going to so kindly ask you to please head on over to the contest website and vote for my recipe, if you don’t mind! To vote, you do need to create an account, but it only takes a very quick minute, I promise. And you don’t have to choose to get the Whole Foods Market Cooking newsletter if you don’t want to, but I recommend that you do! The newsletters have some wonderful recipes, cooking tips, etc. 
What I love about this contest is that someone actually made the recipes that were submitted to test them out! I think that’s very cool that someone physically followed my recipe in a test kitchen to see if it was worthy of becoming a finalist. You can read her impressions here too. Neato. 🙂
Thanks for your support, friends! You have until 12:00 p.m. ET on this Friday the 13th to vote! Yes, that’s Friday the 13th. It’s always been considered a lucky day in my family, so I’m hopeful! And January 13th is my mom’s birthday too, so that makes it even better.
I’ll be back again soon this week with a great winter recipe of a delicious baked potato soup!