The most wonderful time of the yeeeear (I’ll be repeating that through January, so bear with me)! I’m gonna be honest, October is my favorite month but my second favorite time of the year. Christmas is my #1, but Halloween is a close second. And right now I’m all about fall!
Guess what time of year it is? Tomato season! I’ve got a few tomato plants growing and have been trying to figure out a great recipe to make often, besides the usual sauce or salsa (not that I won’t make those too!). Tomato plants usually produce an abundance of fruit as long as they get enough water, and I’m left with a billion tomatoes that I have to give a bunch away just so they don’t go to waste.
Well, I think I’ve cracked it. I saw a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis for herb stuffed tomatoes that looked delicious, so I looked around online for a few different versions. Eventually I came up with one we like so much that I want to share! The best thing about this recipe is you can definitely adjust it to suit your own likes and dislikes without worrying about guessing and ruining it. A lot of times you’ll see tomatoes paired with onions but since Joe hates onions, I skip those. I went heavy on the garlic the first time I made them, but skipped it this time. Both were great. The following recipe makes a great base so feel free to add or remove things as you see fit or depending on what you have on hand. You only have ground turkey? I think any meat would work with this. Turkey, chicken, sausage. Try different herbs – like oregano instead of basil. Don’t have breadcrumbs? Use rice, or make your own by throwing flavored croutons in the food processor. I’ve found the best part about this recipe is the versatility.
Check out how I made them below and you’ll find a printable version of the recipe at the end of the post 🙂
Start with 3 beefsteak tomatoes. Slice them in half horizontally.
Scoop out the seeds but save the pulp. Chop the pulp (or be lazy like me and throw it in the food processor) and put it in a medium sized bowl.
Butter a glass baking dish and place the hollowed out tomato halves inside. Three tomatoes made six halves which filled the dish I was using perfectly.
Brown the ground beef by frying on medium heat, adding a little kosher salt as it cooks.
Add the breadcrumbs, provolone cheese, parsley, basil and beef to the bowl with the chopped tomato pulp.
Mix with a wooden spoon to combine.
Spoon the mixture into the tomato halves (I even had a little leftover that I baked in a tiny casserole dish) and drizzle the tops with extra virgin olive oil. Bake for 18 minutes or until the tops begin to brown. At this point, you could be done and start eating, because they’re delicious as is…
OR you could do what I do and add a little freshly shredded mozzarella to the tops, then bake another two minutes to melt it.
These are so good. As a side, as an appetizer, on their own, or leftover and reheated the next day. I’ll definitely keep making them as long as I can keep picking fresh tomatoes!
- 3 beefsteak tomatoes
- 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 3/4 cup shredded provolone cheese
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 3/4 cup Italian Panko breadcrumbs
- Shredded mozzarella, for topping
- Butter, for greasing the baking dish
- Kosher salt, to season the ground beef
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Slice tomatoes in half horizontally. Scoop out the seeds to discard but save the pulp. Scoop the pulp out and scoop around the edges inside with a spoon, being careful not to pierce through the skin. Add pulp to a medium size bowl.
- Butter a glass baking dish and place the hollowed tomato halves inside.
- Begin frying the ground beef in a small pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and seasoning lightly with kosher salt as it cooks.
- While the meat cooks, chop the pulp or use a food processor.
- Add the beef, provolone cheese, parsley, basil and breadcrumbs to the bowl with the pulp and mix until well combined.
- Use a spoon to scoop the mixture into the tomato halves, until they are full mounds.
- Bake 18 minutes until the tops begin to brown. Remove from the oven and top with shredded mozzarella. Bake another 2 minutes until the mozzarella melts.
I can’t believe Gracie is going to be one soon. I look at her every day and say “ugh, you’re almost grown up!” and she looks at me and says “can I have a carrot?” But seriously, I can’t believe our babies aren’t really babies anymore.
For Gracie’s birthday, we and the rest of the parents of the puppies in her litter have planned a central meet up to see how all the kids have grown. There were four other puppies in her litter, two boys and two other girls, and we’ve all kept in touch. I’m so excited to see them all and so thankful we’ve kept in touch! I wanted to make something for everyone, so I found an easy homemade dog treat recipe on Pinterest (thank you Kevin and Amanda!) and put a dachshund spin on it (does that surprise anyone?) 😉
3 ingredients is all you need:
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup pumpkin (real pumpkin, not the pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (you can try this with gluten free flour too, but I’m not sure if that would change the texture)
Preheat oven to 350°. Mix the peanut butter and pumpkin in a bowl, then add the flour gradually until the dough is pliable enough to roll out. Lightly flour a surface to roll out the dough, then use a rolling pin to spread it to 1/4 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter (use fun shapes!) to cut out the treats.
Fill a baking sheet (these won’t spread, so no need to allow for room between treats) and bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool and let your pup enjoy! If you use a small cutter, this makes a ton of treats. I rolled out the scraps until I ran out of dough, and made upwards of 60 treats.
…and a few extra special birthday treats, too 🙂 The dachshund cookie cutter was a gift a long time ago, and I’m so excited to put it to good use! If only dogs could understand how cute this is, right?
Since we’re just under a week away from Easter, I thought it would be a good time to share one of my all time favorite cupcake recipes – carrot! Appropriate, right?I can’t even remember how I stumbled on this recipe, but I’ve used it for years and fall more in love with it every time. This is me officially bowing down to the original source, Deb from Smitten Kitchen, for bringing these cupcakes into my life.
If you’re thinking that carrot cake just isn’t up your alley, think again. I was that kid that would never eat carrot cake. “Vegetables and dessert just don’t mix,” I would snottily say, turning up my nose before diving headfirst into the chocolate cake. If I could go back and smack my younger self, I would, because these cupcakes are bomb. They’re moist but fluffy and the tangy cream cheese frosting perfectly compliments the underlying spice flavors. I usually end up eating at least three the day I make them, and this time was no exception. It’s a good thing I made extra, so I had a dozen to give to the nurses at my grandma’s nursing home and enough left for me to stuff my face.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp table salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups canola oil
- 4 large eggs
- 3 cups grated peeled carrots
- Makes 24 cupcakes.
- Walnuts and raisins are optional at the end before you pour into the cupcake mold, but I’m not a fan, so I always omit them.
- Deb mentions that you can grate the carrots or run them through the food processor, but she prefers grating them to get really fine pieces. My advice is that if you have a food processor that will break them down into small enough bits, don’t bother grating them. I grated them the first time I ever made these and felt like killing myself the whole time. I got one cup grated and realized I still had to grate two more cups worth, and quickly wondered why I had done this to myself. The next time, I put them through the food processor and I’ve never looked back, but that may just be because mine breaks them down really tiny, practically to mush.
1. Preheat oven to 350° and get your cupcake pan ready with liners. I found cute green striped ones with carrots on the bottom at Michael’s.
2. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a bowl. Set aside.
3. Mix sugar and oil together in a bowl, then add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. I used my KitchenAid for this part, but a hand mixer would work. The batter is pretty soupy at the end so you don’t need a lot of power to mix.
4. Add flour mixture and mix until blended. Stir in carrots.
5. Divide batter evenly among cupcake mold, filling each cup 3/4 full.
6. Bake for 16 minutes (I always follow the toothpick rule, which is just that you insert a toothpick, and when it comes out clean your cupcakes/cake are done).
Allow cupcakes to cool before removing from pan, and always cool completely before frosting (unless you want your frosting to melt and slide off and make a big mess 🙂 ).
I frost these with a different cream cheese frosting recipe than Deb includes in her original recipe, but make sure to check hers out (link here, following the cupcake recipe)! Hers is maple flavored, the one I use is plain, found here.
Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
- 8 oz cream cheese (1 brick), softened
- 3.5 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until blended. Slowly add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth.
Tip: Start with 3 cups of sugar and taste as you go, adding more as needed. This way your frosting won’t come out too sweet.
Listen, make these cupcakes. They are SO good. I’m seriously considering my third cupcake of the day after typing all this out and staring at these pictures. Is it somehow healthier to eat cupcakes if they’re full of carrots? Does it counteract the sugar/butter/cream cheese at all? Make them, taste them, then get back to me.
In this post I went over the recipe for these amazing carrot cake cupcakes, so here I want to tell you about how to make the royal icing carrots I used to accent the tops! I love using little things like this so people don’t have to ask what kind of cupcake they’re looking at, plus it’s about a 15 on the 1-10 cute meter, right?
First of all, I went to Target hoping I’d be able to find these premade by Wilton, because I found royal icing pumpkin toppers there in October (check out those cuties on my Instagram). Alas, Target was out of stock, and I don’t even know what they looked like anyway because it was just a sad little empty rack. I decided to just make my own because it’s pretty easy to make tiny royal icing designs, but if you really don’t feel ambitious you can buy similar ones from Williams-Sonoma here.
I started with an easy royal icing recipe. This made between one and two cups and I definitely didn’t use all of it, but it’s better to make a little more than you need because it just makes the bags easier to hold, to be honest. Plus it give you a little leeway to get the hang of the design you want without running out.
- 1.5 cups powdered sugar
- 1/8 cup water
- 1.5 tbsp merengue powder (I used Wilton brand, found in the baking aisle at Michaels)
Add everything to a bowl and beat with a hand mixer on high for 5-8 minutes. When you first mix everything, it will be fluid and shiny. You want to keep mixing until it begins to expand and the shininess begins to disappear. Your hands will get tired, but deal with it 🙂
This is a general recipe, open to interpretation. If you’re looking to pipe shapes or lines, you want it to be stiff with more sugar, like this recipe. If you want it to be more liquid to use for flooding within lines, you want to use more water (added gradually until you get the desired consistency). The way you can tell if icing is stiff enough to pipe with is if you lift the beaters out, the icing will stay in place in peaks.
Once the icing was made, I dyed it using Wilton gel food coloring, also found at Michael’s (there used to be a great local cake store in town where I got all my baking supplies, but it sadly flooded and closed down, so now I’m limited to the baking aisle at Michael’s, unless I want to order online). Start with a little, and add more if need be. You want your icing to be saturated for these carrots, not pastel.
It’s suuuuper easy to pipe royal icing designs if you have the right tools. That means piping bags, tips and couplers. The couplers hold the tips in place, and the piping bags are thick enough that you don’t have to worry about squeezing too hard or the icing busting through the seams. For this specific time, I didn’t feel like breaking out the couplers and bags out of sheer laziness, so I just used tips and ziploc bags. I don’t recommend this to a beginner or for practicing, because the thin ziploc bags just do not cooperate with the tips. So the lesson is: do as I say, not as I do (another benefit of couplers is you can easily change tips without having to go through all the icing in the bag to get to one).
I used a #6 Ateco tip (round tip) for the body of the carrot and a #14 Ateco tip (open star tip) for the leaves. Ateco is comparable to Wilton and tips are pretty cheap, so you can buy a few and experiment with shapes if you don’t have any.
When you’re piping, you want to use even pressure and practice first. I taped a piece of wax paper on my dining table and piped the icing onto that. I usually (maybe subconciously?) hold my breath when I’m piping to ensure even lines, but that’s not as important with the carrots. Imperfect lines are probably better. It’s easier to show you rather than try to explain my technique, so just watch these gifs:
Release pressure and pull away fast at the end to form the point at the bottom.
Make sure the green leaves are touching the orange carrots, so when you remove them from the wax paper they’ll come off as one piece.
I suggest making more than you need in case any crack or break. Leave the little guys to dry for a few hours when you’re finished piping and then gently peel the wax paper off the backs of them to remove. Frost your cupcakes and place the carrots on top immediately so the frosting doesn’t harden, which will make the carrots harder to place.
Super cute, right?
Lucky for you guys, today is my dad’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Daddy!) Also lucky for you, he’s really into chocolate and peanut butter (well, who isn’t?), so today I’m sharing the birthday cake I made him. I used a recipe I found in my grandma’s recipe box, written in my mom’s handwriting.
- 1 ¾ cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ½ cup shortening
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup unsweetened Hershey’s cocoa powder
- 1 cup hot black coffee
- ½ cup water
Preheat oven to 375°. Mix flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
If that happens, panic for 30 seconds like I did, then just fix it! Before we fix this mess, let’s talk frosting. You can obviously use whatever frosting you want, but I like this peanut butter buttercream one from Java Cupcake. The recipe says to use your stand mixer and it would probably be easier, but mine was the in the dishwasher so I just used my hand mixer.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (I know most recipes say to use unsalted, but I literally have never used unsalted butter in any recipe in my entire life, so don’t worry if you only have salted)
- 1 heaping cup creamy peanut butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- pinch of salt
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the peanut butter and butter for 2-3 minutes. You want the color to lighten by a few shades.
- Add the powdered sugar, scrape the sides of the bowl and mix until combined.
- Pour in the heavy cream and beat until smooth. Scrape the bowl again.
- Mix in the salt.
- Beat on high for 3-4 minutes or until the buttercream has become light and fluffy.
I just used the crumbled disaster as the bottom layer of my two layer cake. I frosted right over it, then sliced a little off the top layer so it wasn’t dome shaped.
Next came the crumb coat. Crumb coats are the secret to a perfectly frosted cake. You take a heaping spoonful of your frosting and plop it on top of your cake. Then you take a flat edge spatula and spread it into a thin layer all over the cake. It will be covered in crumbs and that’s fine, that’s the point. Be careful not to dip the spreading spatula into your clean bowl of frosting. Refrigerate long enough that the layer sets. After that, you’re ready for your final frosting layer. The crumb coat works to seal the crumbs in so they don’t “contaminate” your final layer. I don’t usually aim for perfect in my final frosting layer, I just aim for no crumbs. If you really want to, you could probably achieve near-fondant level perfection if you do the crumb coat well enough and spend enough time on the final layer.
I had some leftover frosting that I put in a piping bag, and finished the bottom edge with some piped star designs. I topped the cake with chopped up Reese’s cups. Totally messed this up the first time I tried, because I thought “crushed” and “chopped” were similar enough. They’re not. Crushing the cups just mushed them. Nice job Kelley. Whatever, next I tried chopping each cup into fourths and that worked like a charm.
The photo below is from his birthday last year. I will look at him like this forever, because he’s one of my all time favorite people. I’m in awe of him and everything he has overcome every day. He’s definitely this girl’s hero.
I didn’t eat buffalo sauce until about a year ago, and I just want to say I’m an idiot for refusing to try it til then. Now I’ll put buffalo sauce on anything. I make buffalo chicken dip about once a week now, because it’s so easy and filling. I made it for the Superbowl and realize it would have been smarter to share before the game, but I’m just not that organized.
The following recipe is adapted from here, with a few adjustments made.
1 (12.5 oz) can chunk chicken, drained
1/3 cup Frank’s buffalo sauce (I usually go a liiiiiittle overboard with the hot sauce, so somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 (8 oz) brick of cream cheese
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup shredded colby jack cheese
Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat hot sauce and chicken on medium heat in a saucepan. Break up the chicken a little with a wooden spoon.
Mix in cream cheese and ranch and stir, until well blended and warm. I usually mix with a whisk to break up the cream cheese chunks.
Add all the cheddar cheese and half the Colby jack cheese to the pan and mix well.
Grease a small baking dish (I just use Pam) and add mixture to dish.
- I just use chunk chicken because it’s easier, but you could totally shred your own chicken that you boil or cook in the crockpot for a few hours.
- I like to use both Colby jack and cheddar cheese. With this recipe, it’s best not to go overboard with the cheese because it can get oily on top. I find that when I top it with Colby jack vs cheddar, I don’t get the layer of grease/oil on top while it bakes. Not sure if that’s the exact reason, but it’s what I’ve found in my experience. Could be total coincidence, but that’s how I do it. I shred my own but you could just buy the bags pre-shredded.
- You could just use the regular Frank’s hot sauce, but I like the Frank’s buffalo sauce. They also make a HOT buffalo sauce that I’ve found is way too hot for my taste. I bought it by accident once and my mouth was on FIRE.
- You could probably substitute blue cheese dressing for the ranch and even mix in some blue cheese crumbles, depending on your taste, but I haven’t tried it yet because we love the ranch taste.
K, I’m gonna go eat til I can’t move. Bye for now!