Meals This Week

Dear readers, this week is a doozy. Let’s all take a deep breath, and do the best we can, okay? This meal plan is not glamorous in the slightest, but it will do the job.

Monday – Pioneer Woman’s chicken spaghetti

Tuesday – Boboli pizza (I’d love to feel ashamed, but I can’t! It’s my husband’s favorite. I think it’s gross.)

Wednesday – Fettucine similar to this with some leftover grilled chicken, and arugula if it lasts that long without wilting.

Thursday – I’m out with Ali for a fun night, and my husband can fend for himself!

Friday – Burgers and tater tots (We have so many burgers in the freezer. Why?)

Thanksgiving, 2017: The Plan

Normally, you all get a free preview of my meal plan on Tuesdays, but Thanksgiving has us all kinds of out of order, and with a few days ahead of us to start prepping, I’m sharing this year’s plan today, in hopes it may give you inspiration if you need it.

Spoiler alert: Dear guests who are also readers – don’t keep reading if you want to be surprised, but also, we’re mostly having what we always have. (These photos are from Thanksgiving, 2015)

andre, the turkey.


Mashed potatoes

Green bean casserole (made two days before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Stuffing (made the day before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Sweet potatoes (made two days before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Brussels sprouts from my sister-in-law (usually roasted with pancetta, and whoops, now I’m drooling)

Cranberry sauce (made whenever my husband wants)

Biscuits (made in the morning and warmed up before dinner)

apple pie.

Apple pie (gifted by a friend)

Pumpkin pie (sold by a neighbor who is a far superior baker)

And this pecan praline sauce because I’m not making the usual bourbon pecan tart (made a day or two before)

And ice cream, because, duh

And orange cookies, because I can’t not bake anything. Hopefully they’ll be amazing, and you’ll see them before too much longer. (made the day before)

full plate.

The rest of the week, if you’re interested:

Sunday – Sausage and tomato risotto, which is a forever favorite.

Monday – hot dogs and tater tots, and some sort of veggie. Yep. That’s it.

Tuesday – A veggie and chicken stir-fry (love this teriyaki sauce the most) if I’m home early, and leftovers if I’m not.

Wednesday – whatever we didn’t do on Tuesday

Thursday – LOL, see above

Friday – PIE and only pie.

Saturday – Oh gracious, I don’t know yet.

In Which I am Lame [smitten kitchen confetti cake]

It’s confession time, dear readers.

I don’t get funfetti.



I mean, I get it. Sprinkles in and cake and on a cake. What could be more festive?

But is it that big a deal to throw sprinkles in a cake? I guess it is because you can find funfetti versions of just about anything. But I never got into it.

Which is why when an old college friend asked if I’d made Smitten’s confetti cake, I answered no. I remember watching Deb’s Insta story this summer, when she deftly iced Muppets on her daughter’s second birthday cake (because of course she did), but I wasn’t overtaken with a need to replicate the cake itself. I signed up to bring birthday snacks at the end of every month to a group of women I love to hang out with, and right as the end of October rolled around, I got that question. I completely trust this friend’s foodie opinions, so there we go. Decision made. Confetti cake was on the menu.

Gooplet and I cranked the cupcakes out on Monday, iced them on Tuesday, and we served them on Wednesday. I used the little non-pareil rainbow sprinkles that no one really likes (Seriously, does anyone have a place for these in their heart?), and guess what? Still some seriously wonderful cupcakes. Deb will never leave you astray. I doubled the cake recipe and baked 20 cupcakes for 22 minutes. Double the frosting was plenty for icing them.

Meals This Week

Happy Halloween, Dear Readers! This is the first week in FOREVER where we are just home. No one is going anywhere anytime soon, and I can plan for the week, but also start thinking about seriously restocking my pantry. During September and October it was never very long before we took another weekend trip, so we are down to the dregs of so many supplies.


Monday: My husband has a work event, so I’m fending for myself. I have some frozen ravioli I bought at an Italian market my parents frequent, and some tomatoes I’m going to chop and saute and call a sauce.

Tuesday: We’ll do just what we did last year, though I’ll likely put together a green salad as well.

Wednesday: Another night where I’m not home until it’s time to eat. I can prep the recipe Smitten just posted for sheet pan sausage and potatoes (I’ll add broccoli), and it will be ready for me upon my return.

Thursday: Leftovers! (Which is great because I’m making a late night Costco run before I host a sip and see this weekend.)

Friday: I’m hoping I can pull off the risotto I made with Sous Chef Lauren at home on Friday.


A Year With Goop [best birthday cake]

We did it! We kept our son alive, and quite adorable, for a whole year! A celebration was in order.


A celebration, of course, approved by my introverted husband. We took a trip to the zoo, and came home for cake and presents. Perfection.


Though I love to bake, I’m just not a cake-decorator. I kept it classic with Deb’s best birthday cake. But, I did cover the whole thing with Lucky Charms marshmallows. One big box gave me all I needed to completely coat a six-inch, two-layer cake. I got 18 cupcakes out of the batter in addition to the mini cake, and stuck a leprechaun hat marshmallow in the center of each.

p.s. I often love what Janssen is doing over at Everyday Reading, and she wrote about making mini cakes for each of her girls on their first birthdays. One of their other birthday rituals is sugar-y cereal for breakfast in bed. Love that.

Exhausted Moms Rejoice [deb’s favorite brownies]

AGOMYR touts one of Smitten’s brownie recipes as her favorite ever.  If I’m not mistaken, she calls them quiet brownies because they can be made without a noisy mixer, and all in one bowl.  But that’s not what Deb calls them, and I always have to go back to the site and remind myself which recipe she loves.  It’s this one, isn’t it, AGOMYR?  I’ve made them multiple times, and they always disappear before I can snap a photo and blog about them.

And I was going to make them (and properly blog them) for a little friend coffee date I had coming up, but then I remembered Deb also had a “favorite” brownie recipe, one she posted after her cocoa brownies.  So I clicked on that one, and I read the post.  Reread would be more accurate, because I’m sure I read it when it went up in 2012.  But oh, how I looked on it with fresh eyes.  Or tired eyes.  The eyes of a mother who also has a tricky sleeper.  One who appreciates a brownie recipe that can be started and finished within 45 minutes on an entirely new level.  I owed it to sleep-deprived mothers everywhere to try it out.

It works.


To make 16 small squares, you will need:

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (I might even cut this to 1 C next time!)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
*And of course I added chocolate chips because I just don’t believe in brownies without them

Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides, or foil. Butter the parchment or foil or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula, stir in chocolate chips, and scrape batter into prepared pan, spread until even. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free.

Let cool and cut into desired size. If you’re like me, you will prefer these and all brownies, cold or even frozen. But I bet you’re normal and will just eat them hot from the pan. If desired, dust the brownies with powdered sugar before serving.


If Snickerdoodles Were Cake [gooey butter squares]

gooey butter squares.

When we would visit for the weekend, Grandma Glass of Milk always had cookies for us in a green glass jar.  Chocolate chips were her standbys, but she would always have a second kind, and over time, I grew to like them even more than the classic Toll House recipe.  They would either be oatmeal scotchies or snickerdoodles.  I am not a huge fan of sugar cookies (they always seem so plain), but snickerdoodles are like sugar cookies with the volume turned up, if you’ll allow me to borrow a phrase from Ina.

And if that’s true, than gooey butter squares (from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook) are what happens when you turn it up to 11, for that extra push over the cliff, if you’ll allow me to borrow a phrase from Spinal Tap.  Because they have a cake base, with a gooey layer of I don’t even know what to call it amazingness (I want to say custard, except that’s not right), and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top that caramelizes a bit, and gives an initial crackle when you first bite in.  I am always wary of recipes with multiple layers (read: steps or worse, dishes), but these are worth every extra minute of care you attend to them.

To make a 9×13 pan’s worth, you will need:

For the soft cookie base:

  • 8 T butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 C milk

For the gooey layer:

  • 1/4 C light corn syrup, golden syrup, or honey
  • 1/4 C milk, half and half, or heavy cream
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 12 T butter, at room temperature
  • 1 C + 2 T sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 C flour

For the topping:

  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan with at least 2-inch sides with parchment paper and either butter the paper and sides of the pan, or coat them with a nonstick spray.  Set asaid.

For the cookie base, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the 8 T butter with sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and milk, and beat until combined, scraping down bowl and then beating for 10 seconds more.  Beat in dry ingredients until just combined.  Dollop cookie base over the bottom of the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer with a butter knife or offset spatula.  Set pan aside.

For the gooey layer, whisk liquid sweetener, milk, and vanilla together in a small bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, scrape down sides of bowl, and mix for 10 seconds more.  Add 1/3 of flour and mix, then 1/2 of vanilla mixture and mix.  Repeat again, twice, until all of the flour has been mixed until just combined.  Dollop over the cookie base and spread carefully with an offset spatula or butter knife.

For the topping, mix the sugar and cinnamon in a tiny dish and sprinkle it over the entire gooey layer.  It will be thick, but will come out of the oven almost like a creme brulee lid.

Bake 25-30 minutes until the cookies have bronzed on top.* The fooey layer will rise and fall in the oven but will still be a bit liquidy under the cinnamon crust when the squares are done.  Let cool completely on a rack, then cut into 1-inch squares.

*I had a difficult time knowing whether this was “done,” and cooked it so much longer than I should have.  It made my gooey layer less gooey than it should have been.  So unless your oven is funky and off, take these out after 30 minutes.

I Want Chocolate Cake Cake

Our friend had a birthday at the beach the other day, and we all had dinner to celebrate.  No party is complete without chocolate cake, so this gave me the perfect excuse to make Smitten Kitchen’s “I want chocolate cake” cake.  It’s rich, and dark, and served the four of us well at our little shindig.  The cake was incredibly dark and dense, and after I sweetened the frosting up just a touch, I loved that too.  It’s small and simple to whip up–perfect for a quick get together.i want chocolate cake cake.

To make an 8×8 cake, you will need:

For the cake:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table or fine sea salt

For the frosting:
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (sifted if lumpy)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 tablespoons cream or whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the cake:

Heat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square cake pan with parchment paper, and either butter the parchment and exposed sides of the pan, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray. In a large bowl, use a hand or stand mixer to beat the butter and sugars until fluffy; scrape down bowl. Add the egg, yolk and vanilla and beat until combined, then the buttermilk and mix again. Scrape the bowl down well and don’t worry if the batter looks uneven. Place your flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a sifter (I find this step necessary because my cocoa is very lumpy) and shake it over the batter bowl. Stir on low until just combined; scrape down bowl a final time. Scoop batter into prepared pan and smooth flat. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes in cake pan on cooling rack, then flip out onto rack or serving plate to completely finish cooling before frosting.

To make the frosting:

Beat butter, powdered sugar and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Pour in chocolate, milk and vanilla, beat until combined, then one more minute to whip it further. Scoop the frosting onto the cooled chocolate cake and swirl it around. Finish with rainbow sprinkles.

decorated cake

(Her name starts with M, so we decorated as such.)

Best of 2014

Here were are again dear readers, at the close of another year.  Time to look back and reflect on our successes in the kitchen.  Mine are almost all recipes that add little nutritional value to your life.  So if you’re looking for help with your resolution, that’s another blog.  Sorry!

Click on the pictures to go to the recipes.

chocolate crunch bars.

banana walnut baked oatmeal.

funfetti cookies.

garlic and herb bread twists.

black bean burritos.

best chocolate chip cookies.

pounded cheese.

swedish pancakes.

chubby hubby cupcakes.

brown butter cherry bars.


toffee tiramisu.

cheddar tailgating bread.


chocolate peanut butter globs.

candy cane cookies.

And two non-recipe posts:

brownie taste test.


Want to know what else is good here?  Check out the best of 2013, and 2012.

Cherries {cherry brown butter bars}

Until last year, I had never eaten a cherry.  We never ate them growing up, and I guess my friends must have, but they didn’t trade them from their lunches, and somehow, I missed the cherry boat.  My husband, however, dreams of cherries all the live-long year.  He starts getting excited that they, “Might be at the market soon,” in like, February.  Which made it difficult to wait until JULY of this year to get our hands on some.  Was it our long winter that kept us from seeing any fruit besides apples at the farmers market until about last week?  Now that we don’t have to wait for strawberries and blueberries and cherries anymore, we are going overboard in the fruit department with our grocery haul every week.  I even made a vow to create as many fruit-centric desserts as possible between now and the end of summer.


Cue Deb, who seems to always have the answer to, “What do I do with this heap of (insert type of fruit here) that is so ripe it won’t last past this evening?”  When the fruit is cherries, the answer is Cherry Brown Butter Bars.  I put these together (a day in advance) for a dinner with my in-laws one recent evening.

cherry brown butter bar crust.

A note on these:  They do take a little bit of patience, especially if you, like me, do not own a cherry pitter, nor a bottle with which to hack one.  Deb seems a woman of endless patience, and so when she tells me to pit cherries, or to line my 8 x 8 pan with parchment to make lifting and slicing easier, then though I may not be as precise in my measurements (why measure and cut when you can just fold back?), I will at least attend to the task with my personal best.  In reality, I am certain that Deb, with that adorable almost 5 year old in tow, cannot have endless patience, because I’ve never met anyone with endless patience, but the thing here is that I’m willing to go the extra mile for her.  Her recipes always turn out that well.  Also she liked my Instagram.


cherry brown butter bars.

To make 16 bars, you will need:

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 pound sweet cherries, pitted (about 12 ounces once you pit them)

Make crust: Preheat over to 375°F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet. Congratulations! You’ve just faked a square tart pan.

Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl, or if you’re Deb, in the bottom of the small saucepan you used to melt the butter. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.

Make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan (a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly) over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange pitted cherries, or the berries of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (though, of course, this took less time in my hyperactive oven so please watch your baking times carefully). Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife. The cherries, if they fall over your slicing lines, will want to give you trouble but if you saw a sharp knife into them slowly before pressing down, they’ll cut neatly and with minimum carnage.