Archive for November, 2012

A Season of Thanks, Giving, & Baking!

With Thanksgiving just a day behind us and the winter holidays rapidly approaching I always like to pause for a moment to not only give my thanks but to think of ways to give back. I do my best to give my time, money and tangible items to organizations when I am able to, year-round, but the crisp air and merry season just lends itself to even more giving! I apologize for the lack of food in this posting but will be back with more food next week!

What am I thankful for? Plenty!

I’m still a newlywed by technical standards and I’m still thankful everyday for my wonderful husband. Our dog is also such a joy! I love his pint-sized personality and spunk!! He keeps us on our toes and is the best foot-warmer in the world! Additionally, my parents, siblings and other extended family make it such a great group to be a part of! I don’t get to see them all very often since we live in different states but the time we have is usually filled with laughter, smiles, some eye-rolling, and lots of fun. They are a great bunch!

In these troubling economic times I’m glad to be able to have a place to work Monday – Friday that is stable, and I’m glad I have been able to help a few friends also find a good full-time gig. Having employment can be exasperating at times but I’m glad I have a job and a good group of coworkers.

If you have time this afternoon or evening and didn’t do this yesterday just pause for a quick second, think of one thing that you are thankful for and smile. When I do this I can feel myself becoming less stressed, in moments of monumental stress thinking of something I love, something that makes me smile, or something that makes others smile quickly helps me relax.

Item Donations:
Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, Volunteers of America, Brides Against Breast Cancer etc..

I also love that I am able to give both in time and money. There are so many great ways to give and they don’t all involve monetary donations. I enjoy giving my time to worthy causes as well as donating items that are still in tip-top shape! Each season I clean out my closet and normally I find many clothes that are still looking sharp but are very under-worn by me, so these make for a fabulous donation. Shortly after getting married we had taken all of our still useable kitchen items (including knives and a knife block, pots and pans, etc) to a local interim housing shelter that provides families with interim apartments while they get back on their feet. They were so thankful for the donations of these common household items and I was happy to help! Donating gently used and still use-able items to shelters and churches is also an excellent way to recycle. The more we can re-use and prevent from going in a landfill the better! Need another reason to donate items – it is an easy tax deduction. Each time you donate items you will receive a donation slip that you can use when you file taxes. This isn’t the best reason to give but if it means you are giving useful items to a good cause then any reason is a good one!

Wreaths Across America: Having lived two blocks from Arlington Cemetery and having both friends and family in the armed services, nothing is more touching than the wreaths and flags used to decorate the Cemetery tombstones around the holidays. It is a beautiful sight and a beautiful way to honor those that have fought for our many freedoms. If you are in the DC area, you can help place the wreaths on tombstones on December 15th. There is no registration, just show up at 9:30am and instructions will be provided.

Toys for Tots: I can’t imagine the stress of having children and not being able to see joy on faces from giving them even a small toy or gift. I love that this program, and other toy donation programs allow parents to make their children happy and stress free even for just a few minutes. Other alternatives to Toys for Tots is to donate toys to local women’s shelters or local free tutoring centers. Many shelters for women will collect toys and distribute them to the women to then give to the children. Similarly, we have some low-income free tutoring centers in the DC area that also allow you to donate toys off a child’s wish list to their parents to give to the children. It is a wonderful way to help both the children and parents. I love spending time picking out the absolute perfect gift for these children.

Baking a Difference:
In this season of happiness and good cheer we can truly ‘bake’ a difference. This is my 2nd year participating in the Food Blogger Cookie Exchange. This year, in addition to receiving delicious baked creations we also donated to OXO Cookies for Kid’s Cancer Creative Crops Bakingwhich is a wonderful cause! For participating with OXO we received the swanky spatula pictured. It is a pretty sweet spatula! There are so many ways you can get involved with OXO’s cause: hosting a bake sale, buying baked cookies or buying one of your own swanky cookie spatulas! If you’re a fellow food blogger you can also earn additional donations from OXO towards this cause by blogging recipes, and blogging about bake sales. These are all easy ways to help a great charity earn a little more.

Planning a bake sale?
Bake sales can be easy to organize and a quick, and tasty, way to drum up donations for a good cause! If you register your bake sale on the OXO site you can get double the donation as OXO will match your donated funds! They will only do this for registered sales so please do register ahead of time!

Organizations I like:

Honor Flight – Getting veterans to see the memorials in DC and other states
Boys & Girls Club – You could be the difference in an at-risk child’s life

Are there any special organizations you like to support?


TiraMisu – The “pick me up” that let us down…

Tiramisu is quite possibly my favorite dessert, in the entire world. I love ice cream but I loooove tiramisu even more! Recently on vacation I went 4 for 4 days having this as my dessert at dinner, it’s kind of a big deal for me. That all being said, we really wanted this recipe to be a hit, but it fell flat…. The steps leading up to making this seemed to be good and to make sense but when we tasted it a day later it was just way too soggy. We are going to go back over our steps and try to see how to re-do this and where we went wrong…

I am going to keep this brief and give you a pictorial account of our foray into tiramisu since this it was a flop, but hope to post a hit recipe for Tiramisu in the near future! If you have suggestions on how to make this less soggy and delicious at home, please share them!!

Melt-in-your-mouth Apple Crumbles

Sorry I have been so long in between writing recipes, clearly I’ve been spending too much time cooking and baking 🙂 (and if you buy that story I have some ocean front property in Arizona we should discuss…) In complete honesty this fall has been a whirlwind of visits, work trips, and some cooking and baking. After we were married last year we received a generous Le Creuset set including their absolutely adorable mini cocottes. I cannot wait to use these again for more desserts and even a few side dishes! These apple crumbles were simply delicious, everything I had wanted in an apple crumble and more. This was a varied twist on an apple pie recipe I had used in the past, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We had also planned to add a caramel sauce throughout but completely forgot to make it, so we did this sans caramel sauce.

This will yield 4 mini cocottes


2 – 3 sliced apples
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup melted butter


Heat your oven to 375 F. Place apple slices at the bottom of each cocotte. In a bowl combine everything except the apples and mix well. Sprinkle that mix over apples in each dish. Place the cocottes on a baking sheet and bake for 20 – 30 minutes until the tops are golden brown. We kept the lids on for the first 15 minutes of baking and then removed them after that point to help brown up. I would also suggest lining your baking sheet with a silicone mat first to prevent your cocottes from sliding. Mine slid and we lost one while removing these from the oven because it slid right off!

These were amazingly delicious, sweet and perfect for fall and early winter. They filled the house up with such a delicious scent

The Squash Files

I will admit that maybe I’m a bit over-obsessed with squash. It is just so tasty, who could blame me for this?!  With all of the recipes I have posted (and are waiting to post in the future) I figured it was time we chatted about the health benefits squash. I found this information through the USDA website and fact sheets as well as a few informational cards from my local food store.


Spaghetti Squash:

Featured recipe: Spaghetti squash & marinara  & Southwestern Spaghetti Squash

Benefits: Low-calorie, Low-carbohydrate, this squash has plenty of carotenoids, which your body turns into Vitamin A

Dirty Details: 1 cup of cooked spaghetti squash =
42 calories, .4 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, 10 g of carbohydrate, 4g of sugar, 2.2 g of fiber

Butternut Squash:

Featured recipe: Honey Balsamic Squash & Butternut Squash with Sage Butter

Benefits: Low-fat, high dietary fiber, this squash is heart healthy!

Dirty Details: 1 cup of cooked butternut squash =
82 calories, .2 grams of fat, 31 mg of Vitamin C, 582 mg of Potassium

Acorn Squash:

Featured recipe: Garlic Mashed Acorn Squash

Benefits: High in Vitamins A & C, great source of fiber and potassium

Dirty Details: 1 cup of cooked acorn squash =
115 calories, 9 grams of fiber,  895 mg of Potassium

Summer Squash:

Details: Includes Yellow Squash, zuccini, cocozelle & more varieties

Benefits: High in Vitamin C and great source of fiber

Dirty Details: 1 cup of yellow squash =
37 calories, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of Protein

Seems like squash is a good choice for nutrients year-round! As you pull up to the table this Thanksgiving I hope there are a few new squash varieties for you to dig into – I know my table will have some new squash additions ready to try!

%d bloggers like this: