Category Archives: Recipes

Caramel Pretzel Blondies

If you’re looking for a dessert to bring to a 4th of July picnic this weekend, might I suggest these Caramel Pretzel Blondies?

Yum.  That's a layer of caramel in there!

Yum. That’s a layer of caramel in there!

Sweet and salty, chewy with a pretzel crunch, these things are AWESOME!

It’s not my recipe and I didn’t make any changes to it, so I don’t want to reproduce it.  You can find the recipe here.

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Girls, Reading Book Club Ideas

A few weeks ago it was my turn to host a meeting of the Book Club of which I am a member.

The book I chose was Girls, Reading by Katie Ward.  The book is a novel that reads like a collection of short stories, each inspired by a different work of art depicting a girl or woman reading.  The first story is set in Medieval Italy, the last in the not so distant future.  Some of the stories have minor connections to previous chapters, and the final chapter helps to tie it all together.  There are issues you might think of in a book about women- independence, sexuality, love, motherhood- as well some larger themes having to do with the experience and definition of art.

I know some people were put off by the short story aspect of this book, but I knew in advance what to expect, and enjoyed the different chapters- trying to find the connections to previous chapters.  The final chapter, with its examination of the intersection of art and technology, as well as the emotional aspects of being a working mother, was possibly my favorite story.

There was a lot in there, and it was a good pick for a group of mothers- not everyone could finish the book, but because of the structure, they could participate in discussion of the stories they had read (and some skipped to the end and read the last chapter when they were running out of time and knew they couldn’t finish the entire book).

The menu I chose was inspired by the settings and foods mentioned in the book- Italy, England, Japan, The Netherlands.


I served ‘sushi’- veggie rolls and California rolls, inspired by the last story in which a Japanese family goes out to a sushi restaurant, with the mother attending ‘virtually’ because she’s traveling for work.  There were mini-quiche, inspired by the omelets made by the Gwen character in another story.  Some Dutch Gouda from The Netherlands, where a chapter about a deaf maidservant is set.  Some dates and olives as well as tomatoes and mozzarella cheese with balsamic vinegar, for Medieval Italy- the olives, in particular, featured prominently in the first story.  Also, some merengue cookies just because they looked yummy.  I also put out some typical pub food (popcorn, nuts, wasabi peas) inspired by the British pub in the second to last story.  There was also wine (imbibed in several of the stories), and hot tea (because, hello, England) as beverages.

On Katie Ward’s webpage, there are links to images of the works of art that inspired her stories.  I put together a little slideshow of the works, and played it on a loop on the television, so we could all see them (not everyone had looked them up as they were reading) and discuss.  It was very helpful to see the artwork as we talked.

At the end of the night, before everyone departed, we gathered with our books, and I had my husband take a few photos of us girls, reading.

As usual, it was a lovely evening with lots of chatting, both about the book and about other things.

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DIY Prego tomato sauce

I am a fan of Prego (“It’s in there”) spaghetti sauce.  However, it is loaded with salt and sugar and whatever else, so I don’t have it often.

However, I make tomato sauce pretty regularly and try to replicated Prego’s sweetness.  Problem- I never follow a recipe, so when it comes out really well, I can never replicate it. (Bad scientist!  Bad!)

The other night I made spaghetti and meatballs.  The meatballs were premade, but I made the sauce- and I wrote down the recipe right away, because it came out well!

This is my rendition of Prego spaghetti sauce.


Homemade/DIY Prego Spaghetti Sauce


Actually picture of left-over sauce on tortellini from a few night later.


1Tbsp Olive Oil

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves minced garlic (or as much as you want- I like it garlicky)

1 24oz can pureed tomatoes

1 24oz can diced tomatoes (with the liquid)

1 cube chicken bouillon (you can substitute vegetable)

2 bay leaves

1tsp marjoram

1tsp oregano

1/2tsp rosemary

1/2tsp thyme

1/2 tsp paprika

1Tbsp sugar


Heat oil in pan/pot.  Cook diced onion and minced garlic until soft and starting to brown.

Lower heat and add the rest of the ingredients, except sugar (hint:  break up the bouillon cube when you add it).

Cook on medium to low heat for as long as you like (I think I did only about 30min, while the pasta was cooking).

Before serving, add sugar and stir to incorporate.

Serve over whatever pasta you like.

Notes:  Prego from a jar isn’t chunky; however, I like chunky sauce, hence all the onion and the diced tomatoes.  If Mac wasn’t so pepper-averse, this would also have half of a green pepper diced up and fried with the onion (I miss peppers).  Chicken bouillon has plenty of salt for the entire recipe, I don’t add any additional.  You can substitute vegetable bouillon, which has less sodium.  The bouillon really helps to make the sauce savory without diluting it.  When you add the cube, break it up so it dissolves easily.

You can add whatever you like to this sauce- I sneaked in some mashed butternut squash- other ideas would be chop meat/ground turkey/ground chicken, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, peppers, etc.


Super simple.  Yummy, a little sweet, plenty savory, and with a miniscule fraction of the sodium and sugar in real Prego.

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Repost in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day: Irish Soda Bread French Toast

In case you are looking for a yummy Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast, or something to do with all that stale Irish Soda Bread you’ll have a week from now, thought I’d repost my Irish Soda Bread French Toast!

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

Read about it here!

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Spinach and Fontina Strata

Thought I would share this great recipe, again from Martha Stewart.  It combines several things I really like:  Spinach, fontina cheese, and Challah bread.

strata mcphd

Spinach and Fontina Strata

Since I didn’t change much for the original, here’s the like to the recipe:  Spinach and Fontine Strata.

Mine came out a little different from Martha’s- I cut the bread into cubes instead of slices. and I didn’t have Parmesan cheese on hand.  It still came out nicely (the parm probably would have made it even better).  However, if I make it again, I’ll leave out the nutmeg.  I’m not a fan of it in non-dessert recipes.

Mabel was resistant to trying it (as she is with pretty much everything), but Nemo chowed down on this and Mac and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I made it the night before, and then put the last of the eggs on top and baked it after work one evening.  So even though it’s traditionally a breakfast dish, we had it for dinner.   It worked out well, since I could do all the prep in advance.  We had it that night, and it last for several more meals (breakfasts, lunches, or dinners).

Definitely a recipe that I’ll add to my collection.  A great vegetarian option for a brunch!

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Pumkin Butter Cake

This recipe is another favorite at my house.  However, I’ve only made it twice because it is heart disease in cake form.  It’s a Paula Deen recipe and she calls it BUTTER cake for a reason.

Pumpkin Butter Cake

Pumpkin Butter Cake

It’s nothing pretty look at in the pan, but it is like a soft pumpkin cheesecake because it includes cream cheese.

You can find the recipe here.

I just Googled to find the link to the recipe, and that link about includes variations like peanut butter, banana, and pineapple!  Those sound awesome and I want to try all of them.

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Apple Blondies

I LOVE this recipe.  It’s another from Martha Stewart.

Apple Blondies

Apple Blondies

I’ve made it twice now and it turned out nice and moist both times- once for a snack for lab meeting at work, and the second time for Mabel’s pre-school Christmas party (which I missed).  The recipe was a hit with both audiences.

It’s quick, easy, and doesn’t require any ingredients that we don’t always have on hand.

Since it’s from Martha, and not something I made up, I’m linking to her site.

Recipe HERE.

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Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookies

I’m not sure how I stumbled on this recipe for Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookies, but I’m glad I did!

I participated in a Holiday Cookie Exchange with a parents group I am a member of, and decided to try these.  I did it well in advance, in case they didn’t turn out well and I had to make something else.

Well, they turned out REALLY well!

Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookies

Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookies

Since the recipe is not mine, you can find it here on the blog Taste and Tell.

The only thing I changed, was to cook mine for 14 minutes.  The first batch I did for only 12 minutes and they weren’t as puffy as I expected, and didn’t hold together as well.  So subsequent batches I did 14min and they came out perfect.

I got a little over 2 dozen cookies.  We ate several, but they were so good that I froze 2 dozen them for the cookie exchange.

I have to say, this is a great recipe- of all the cookies we got at the exchange these were amongst my favorites!

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Irish Soda Bread French Toast

A few weeks ago, I randomly tried a new ‘recipe’.  I’m finally getting around to posting it now- and perhaps post-Holidays, others will have breads they could use for this.

We had lots of leftover Irish Soda Bread that my mom had made for Nemo’s Christening.  It was a Saturday morning and I wanted to make breakfast.  I offered Mac French Toast, but when I went to the fridge, I saw the soda bread.  I thought, “Why not?”

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

I basically did exactly as you would for french toast- egg, milk (I used half and half), and cinnamon.  Because the soda bread was more dense than regular sliced bread, I had to leave it in to soak for a while.

Then, I sprinkled it with some brown sugar (so it would caramelize and get a little crisp), and cooked it on the griddle.

I had to cook it a little longer than usual because of the thickness.  Overall it came our well.  It was yummy and even Mabel tried some.

If I make it again, , I will wait to sprinkle the brown sugar to prevent it from burning during the longer cooking time.  Also, I’ll soak the bread even longer- perhaps overnight, to allow the bread to really absorb the eggs/milk.

Have you used any ‘different’ breads for French Toast?

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Thanksgiving Recipes 2012: spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, and apple pie

I thought about hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year.  It would force to get my china out of the storage in the attic where it has been since we moved in.  Actually, that china has never been anywhere BUT storage.  When we first got it, we were in a 1BR apartment, so we stored it in the basement.  Then we were in a 1BR basement apartment at my parents house and the china was in  storage elsewhere in said basement while we looked for a house.  Then we bought a house and the china wound up in the attic, still the the storage boxes.  I figured four years was long enough, we should take it out and use it- maybe even display a place setting in the china cabinet!

But then I thought about how much work it would be and decided to let my mom host Thanksgiving.

Still, I offered to contribute.  There was a recipe I’ve been wanting to try that was perfect for Thanksgiving, and then my mom asked me to handle the vegetables.  So it was settled.  I made 4 dishes: a pie, spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

Below are the recipes with notes on how they were.

Savory Sautéed Spinach with Garlic and Onions

The vegetable bouillon makes this very savory.  Using baby spinach means it’s a lot less bitter.

Savory Sautéed Spinach with Garlic and Onions


2 bags of fresh baby spinach

2 medium yellow onions, sliced

3 cloves garlic (I use the jarred stuff)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sugar

1 cube vegetable bouillon


Caramelize the onions by cooking for a long time (I got impatient after 30min) in the olive oil.  Add water if necessary to keep them from drying out or burning.  Towards the end, I added a little sugar (to help with the caramelization- I was impatient) and the garlic.

When the onions are nice and brown, lower the heat and empty the two bags of baby spinach on top.  Cover the pan and allow the spinach to wilt.

Once the spinach has wilted a little bit, break up the bouillon cube and sauté everything for a few minutes.



Honey Glazed Baby Carrots

I offered my husband honey-glazed or regular (brown sugar) glazed carrots, and he opted for honey glazed.  If you want regular glazed, just substitute 1 tsp brown sugar for the honey below.  This recipe makes tender sweet carrots.

Honey-glazed Carrots

Honey-glazed Baby Carrots


1 bag baby carrots (1 lb)

1 Tbsp butter or substitute

~1tspn honey

Boil carrots until tender when you pierce with a fork.

Drain and return to pot.

Drizzle with honey (I used about 1tspn) and add butter.

On high heat, sauté while stirring frequently until butter is melted.



Sweet Potatoes Anna with Prunes

I saw this recipe in The New York Times last year and really wanted to make it.  I finally attempted it for Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potatoes Anna with Prunes

Sweet Potatoes Anna with Prunes

Recipe can be found here.

In case you can’t tell and didn’t read the recipe, you bake it, then invert it onto a platter for serving.  Below, when I refer to the top- I mean the top while it was baking, not after it was inverted for serving.

Ultimately it turned out well, but I had to improvise on the recipe.  I followed the instructions (I am a scientist!), and after the indicated 40min cooking time, the potatoes on the top were very dried out and some were burned.  Nothing was tender when I stuck a fork in to see if it was finished.  I had to pick off the burned slices of potato, brush with more butter, and cover with tinfoil.  I had to bake it for MUCH longer, like 20-30min additional, until the potatoes were tender.  Covering with tinfoil helped keep the top from drying out and burning, but it also meant more moisture stayed in the dish, and the potatoes didn’t caramelize as well.

It got good reviews from my dinner companions, but it was a hassle that the recipe didn’t work.  Several people said it was more like a pie (maybe because it’s served in wedges) or a dessert (port is a dessert wine).  Also, I’m not a fan of wine, and I felt like all I could taste was the port I had soaked the prunes in.  I’m not sure I’ll ever make this again, but if I do, I’ll make the following changes:

-cover with foil for the first 30min of cooking (so the potatoes cook), remove foil and let it get crisp (so they caramelize)

-soak the prunes in something else (maybe just water or apple juice?), or not at all.  I used the individually wrapped prunes and they weren’t dry, so I’m not sure it was necessary to soak them at all.


Apple-Sour Cream Crumb Pie

I am not a fan of apple pie.  I generally avoid apple desserts (apple pies, crisps, brown bettys, etc.).  However, this pie I LOVE!  I’m pretty certain it’s because of the crumb topping and the sour cream in the filling.

I found the recipe in Martha Stewart Living and ripped it out to save.  You can find it online here.

I made it for Mac a few weeks ago (actually on the day that Sandy hit- thankfully we didn’t lose power until it was finished cooking, because it takes a long time!).  We both loved it.  So, I agreed to make it for Thanksgiving.

Apple-Sour Cream Crumb Pie, recipe from Martha Stewart Living

Apple-Sour Cream Crumb Pie, recipe from Martha Stewart Living

Recipe can be found here.

The only changes I made to this were that I purchased pre-made pie crusts.  This may be a Martha Stewart recipe, but I’m no Martha!  Also, I threw in one Granny Smith apple because my dad loves them and we were celebrating his birthday in addition to Thanksgiving.  It calls for the apples to be in 1/4″ slices- I think most of mine were less than that, I cut them very thin.  This meant they were easily able to mix with the sour cream filling, and I think made for a better pie.  My dad did comment on how thin the slices were and how great that was- and he’s an apple pie fan, so I took it as a big compliment.

Major Tip:  The crumb topping is full of butter and it WILL SPILL OVER while you cook it!  The recipe says to put a pan on the rack below- this is a MUST unless you want your house full of smoke and your oven a hot mess.  The pan must be rimmed- a cookie sheet or sheet of aluminum foil will not hold the liquid butter that spills over.  Also, once this is out of the oven and cooled, you will have to clean off the outside of the pie plate because it will be crusted with sugar.  You will also have to clean your oven rack, since some stuff will get on it as it drips down.  I don’t recommend putting the pie plate in the larger pan on the same rack, because that would make the pie plate a really huge mess with all the crumb topping melted around it.  It’s easier to just clean the little bit that drips onto the rack.

I am really happy with how this pie turned out.  It’s like something you would pay for at a bakery and think you could never replicate at home.  This is something I will make again and again.  Definitely a family favorite.


Any great recipes you made for Thanksgiving?

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