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Slow Cooker Ginger Applesauce

I almost didn’t sweat at all this past Sunday, and then it was only 75 degrees when I woke up Monday morning. I pretended I’d get to experience a little bit of fall this year before it got nice and sticky for the afternoon. Ah, well – I had my moment of make believe.

One of the (many) great things about fall is all the wonderful fresh apples. Back in South Carolina, I loved heading to the farmer’s market for some Upstate apples! The good news for me is that I’m good at pretending. Sure, there’s some fall and winter in SC, but not like in other parts of the world. I’m used to holiday decorations that aren’t super realistic for where I’m living (I’m thinking of you, snowmen!), so I decided to go ahead and pretend it’s fall by making up some savory applesauce. Slow Cooker Ginger Applesauce

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Perfectly Puffy Peanut Butter Cookies

Sometimes I wonder how food conventions start. I mean, when was it decided that cheddar cheese (well, most of it) would have yellow color added? And who decided that peanut butter cookies needed to be flat and crosshatched? Tradition is fine, but I decided to mix things up again by creating puffy peanut butter cookies that are a little more cake-like than your typical chewy ones.

Fluffy Peanut Butter Cookies

Don’t get my wrong – I’m not criticizing chewy peanut butter cookies! They’re delicious, too, I just wanted a bit of a change. These cake-like, puffy peanut butter cookies are the result of my experimenting, and I think they’re pretty fun. Plus, I have another recipe on the way for a totally cool sandwich cookie that uses these guys! I think Papi Chulo is glad I’m done experimenting with the new sandwich cookies and hoping I’ll make of of his favorite again – he’s been hoping for a new batch of these homemade “Oreos” for a little while.
Cake-Like Peanut Butter Cookies

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Green plantains will always hold a special place in my heart; the night I met the wonderful man who is now my husband, he brought tostones (twice-fried green plantains) to a get together hosted by a mutual friend. Green and sweet plantains have remained on our favorites list ever since! Unfortunately, the usual way to prepare any type of plantain is frying in lots of oil. The oil is annoying to deal with and, can make a huge mess, and probably isn’t the healthiest way to cook something a couple times a week! A month or so ago, we decided to start using the oven more and the oil less, and we’ve had a lot of fun with it. After having a lot of success with baked, homemade potato chips, we decided to try making baked green plantain chips. They worked amazingly well! In fact, baked mariquitas de platano are far easier to make than fried green plantain chips.

Baked Gren Plantain Chips

Naturally, after creating delicious oven-baked chips, I had to create a worthy dip. We both wanted something creamy and garlicy, so we decided to pull out the Greek yogurt and see what we could do. After some experimenting, we came up with a delicious, but very simple, garlic lime dip that perfectly complements the plantains.

Greek yogurt garlic dipping sauce

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Paleo Zucchini “Pasta” with Peppers and Garlic Olio

What do you do when you want noodles but refuse to boil water because it’s 90-something outside and you don’t have air conditioning? Make zucchini noodles!

Paleo Zucchini "Pasta" Salad

I honestly never imagined myself sinking into a big pile of uncooked zucchini, but I think now I like it raw better than I do cooked! Not only does this no-cook dish keep your kitchen from heating up, but it’s also a great choice for anyone Paleo, gluten free, vegetarian, or just looking for a way to use up some produce. Because zucchini is pretty mild, the garlic olio sauce packs a punch. Plus zucchini has a ridiculously large amount of Vitamin C, lost of potassium, and helpful amounts of various other vitamins and minerals.

zucchini noodle salad-2

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Black Rice Mango Pudding

When I saw black rice at the store the other week, I bought it without a specific plan. I knew I’d find a way to make it into something tasty soon! I like black rice pudding and think it’s great for breakfast or dessert, but I wanted to make something a little unusual. This mango black rice is a little departure from tradition, but using fresh fruit adds a burst of freshness. Black rice does take a long time to cook, but this pudding can be served hot or cold. Make it for tonight’s dessert and then have leftovers for a yummy, filling breakfast!

Black Rice Coconut Mango Pudding

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Greek Yogurt Potato Apple Salad with Feta

Is there anything worse than a big glob of mayo-covered flavorless potato chunks calling itself potato salad? Okay, okay – yes, there are many things in life that are actually much worse than that, but I think you get what I mean. I don’t know when, exactly, I went from being okay with mayonnaise to pretty much despising it, but it happened somewhere along the line and now I make everything in sight with Greek yogurt, instead. This potato apple salad is my latest foray into the world of substituting yogurt for sour cream and mayo. It’s a refreshing dish that lightens up the traditional side item while making use of a tasty fall fruit. It’s tangy and delicious. =)

Potato Apple Salad

When you look at this recipe, you’ll notice it calls for a lemon. This is optional, but highly recommended! By tossing the apple chunks in fresh lemon juice, you can prevent unsightly browning. Do browned apples taste different? No, not really. However, people always eat with their eyes first, so avoiding browned apple chunks makes the dish more appealing! As a note – you really do need fresh lemon juice for this because the bottled stuff won’t prevent browning. Weird, huh?

apple potato salad

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Airy Lavender Meringues

When I was planning our self-catered wedding reception, I started experimenting with meringues because they’re “cool,” colorful, and they keep. I knew I wanted some traditional flavors (chocolate and classic made the dessert table), but a couple unusual flavors, too. These lavender meringues were one of my fun flavors! You can use the recipe to create classic meringues, though – just leave out the lavender and they’ll still be super delicious.

Lavender Meringue Cookies Recipe

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Planning your DIY, Self-Catered Wedding Reception

I grew up spoiled. No, I didn’t wear designer clothes or get an expensive car on my 16th birthday – my dad cooked extraordinary meals that we almost always ate as a family. This meant supper was a sort of ‘movable feast’ that might take place anywhere between 5 and 9 pm, depending on everyone’s schedule, but it was worth it. Because I grew up with such great food, it’s always hard for restaurants or catering to impress me. I was never one of those girls who concocted wedding plans years before a groom was in sight, but I had always kind of hoped my dad would be able to ‘cater’ it. In the end, our self-catered wedding was a family effort that ultimately involved not only my immediate family, but also an aunt and uncle as well as a cousin and her husband who helped by putting food out and mixing drinks.

Most people who asked were pretty shocked that I didn’t have a wedding planner. I can’t even imagine what they’d have said if I used the words “self-catering!” It seems really crazy, and I’ve both read and heard lots of people advising strongly against it. I’ll be completely honest: it was a lot of work and some time on the Tuesday before the wedding I wanted to cry, throw everything in the trash, and see what I could find already made at the grocery store. A few cake layers did make it to the trashcan, but I stuck with it and everything worked out beautifully. If I had to do it all over again, I would chose self-catering every time. If you’re thinking of making your own food for a reception or other large event, I’m here to tell you it absolutely can be done, it just takes planning, practice, and preparation.

Planning your Self-Catered Wedding Reception

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Baked Garlic Cheese Crisps

I really love cheese. My family still laughs about how I made up my own mealtime blessing as a small child – “Cheese, that’s all!” Well, we ended up getting a Costco membership in order to get things we needed for self-catering our wedding, and I discovered they have 2.5 pound blocks of Tillamook sharp cheddar. It’s totally amazing! I’m perfectly happy eating slices of cheese, but I thought it would be fun to experiment with new recipes, too. These baked garlic cheese crisps are just one of the fun new ways I’ve found to use cheese! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

We stocked up on canned soup because we expected to get hit by double hurricanes, but then we dodged the bullet, so to speak, and now we have lots of soup at home! It’s nice enough for nights when we’re short on time or inspiration, but (boringly) every can of soup in our house right now is the same flavor! Snooze. Wanting to spruce up soup meals and having  a beautiful, new 2.5 pound block of awesome led me to make these guys. I’ll admit they’re not the world’s most photogenic items, but they are tasty!

garlic cheese crisps

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The Best Tropical Mango Bread

I’ll be the first to admit my initial attempts at mango bread were not appetizing. They were dense, soggy, and the sort of item best disposed of by casually abandoning it at a potluck picnic. Or, at least, that’s how I felt about them! Luckily, I live in Hawaii and mangos are either cheap or free, so I kept on trying. I’m not shy about proclaiming this to be the best mango bread I’ve ever eaten!

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