Thursday, October 23, 2014

Favorite Autumn Recipe: Acorn Squash Soup

Ingredients for 4 servings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • 32 ounces chicken broth (veggie broth works great if you prefer vegetarian)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • sour cream
  1. Heat oil in large pot.
  2. Saute onion, celery, carrot, potatoes and squash about 10 minutes.
  3. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low and simmer 40 minutes.
  5. Let cool slightly then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. 
  6. Return to pot and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve with a spoonful of sour cream and croutons or crusty bread.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery

I've been to Sonoma and ridden a hot air balloon over Napa. It is a beautiful region with such a wide variety of styled wineries, making it an amazing vacation spot.

On a family reunion trip this summer, we discovered Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery in Kewaunee, Wisconsin. It's in the area near Green Bay where my dad grew up, just up the road from his favorite meat shop. On our stop there, we purchased a freezer full of the best Wisconsin sausage and cheese and headed toward the Winery.

What struck me most about this place was the farm and silos in the background of the vineyard. It had its own unique feel that was very Midwestern and spoke to my heart. (And the wines aren't bad either!)


Have a happy day!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sweetest Day Recipe: Peanut Butter and Jelly Shortbread

I found this recipe on Epicurious a few years ago and it quickly became a favorite. Ken loves peanut butter. I love shortbread. We're both kids at heart so this recipe, like us, is a match made in heaven!

Unless you've sworn to chocolate this Sweetest Day, give this one a try. It's not for the faint of heart. It takes a bit of work, but it's well worth it.

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray (I use canola)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter (I use Smuckers all natural)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup blackberry jam

  1. Spray bottom of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with nonstick spray. 
  2. Beat butter and peanut butter in large bowl until smooth, about 2 minutes. 
  3. Add sugar and salt and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. 
  4. Beat in vanilla. 
  5. Add flour; beat on low speed just until blended.
  6. Transfer 1/3 cup dough to work surface. Shape into 1/2-inch-thick disk, place on plate, and freeze until hard, about 1 hour. 
  7. Press remaining dough evenly over bottom of prepared pan. 
  8. Spread jam over dough in pan, leaving 1/3-inch plain border. Refrigerate while dough disk freezes.
  9. Preheat oven to 350°F. Using large holes of box grater, grate frozen dough evenly over jam.
  10.  Bake shortbread until dough edge is deep golden and grated dough on top looks dry and baked through, about 50 minutes. 
  11. Cool shortbread completely in pan. Release pan sides. Cut into wedges.

Release pan sides. Cut shortbread into wedges.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Favorite Healthy Recipe: The Best Shrimp Stir-fry

After Labor Day and all those summer BBQs, I decided it was time to go on a diet. Just to lose enough weight so I don't feel too much holiday weight gain starting in November. I'm really not a yo-yo dieter, but I do enjoy good food and need to balance that with maintaining a healthy weight. This shrimp stir-fry is a great dinner to satisfy my happy taste buds and keep my diet in check. 

The Best Shrimp Stir-fry

Ingredients for 4 servings
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup carrots, cut julienne style
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts or cashews (I actually used both)
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 cups medium shrimp with tails removed
  1. Heat oil in large skillet or wok.
  2. Saute green beans and carrots in oil 5 minutes.
  3. Add soy sauce, orange juice and shrimp and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add green onions and nuts, stir and heat through until shrimp is fully cooked, 3-4 minutes.
  5. Serve over rice.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween Party Ideas - Scary or Cute?

Every year as we approach Halloween decorating in our house, there is much discussion around scary vs. cute. I, of course, like cute and festive. Ken, of course, likes scary. Somehow we always manage to find compromise, although I have to say our house tends to lean more toward the scary side.

This year we'll be hosting a costume party so I've been on the lookout for new decorating and party ideas and thought I'd share with you what I've found. A little bit scary and a little bit cute!

Make your favorite punch in a bowl with floating frozen hand, from Real Simple.

This is a pretty easy trick I found on BuzzFeed. Melt red candles to drip onto large white candles to create a blood effect.

A fun, festive, and only slightly scary cocktail table display from BHG:

This is a fun idea - Spider ice cubes. Mostly scary, not too cute! From

Now this is mostly cute, and I love it! A great cupcake idea from Bird's Party Blog:

These Gooey Monster Cookies from Lil' Luna are both scary and cute! Great idea and easy to make!

Well, this got me off to a great start for planning our Halloween party! Add your favorite Halloween party ideas in the comments.  Would love to hear from you!

Have a happy day!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Welcome Fall: Bring on the Pumpkin!

One of my favorite things about fall is PUMPKIN! As soon as I start seeing Pumpkin Latte on the menu at Starbucks, I know autumn is in the air. Although, I must admit (listen up, Starbucks!) I absolutely, positively, without hesitation, will NOT drink a pumpkin latte in August! It is a treat reserved for fall and that is how it will stay!

Sheesh - glad I got that out of the way. Now that fall is officially upon us, I'm all about pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin flavored chocolate malt balls. I'll be loving the pumpkin puree now through Thanksgiving. And with that, here are a few of my latest favorite pumpkin finds.

Nutella Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, from Saving with Shellie. Three of my favorite things - need I say more???

Autumn Squash Soup, from Spoonful of Flavor. This soup has all the right mix of flavors, spicy and sweet. Great for a cool fall night with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Pumpkin Enchiladas, from Steph's Bite by Bite. I order pumpkin enchiladas at least once every year from our favorite Mexican restaurant. I confess I've never made them myself, but this recipe sounds very doable. Hhmm, might have to give it a try!

Sparkling Pumpkin Cider Beertail, from And I thought simply drinking pumpkin beer was festive; this sounds outrageous! Can't wait to try it!

And lastly, in the area of design with pumpkins, I give you one elegant and one goofy - for all your party needs!


Have a happy day!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Favorite Recipe: Pasta with Sausage, Olives, Sun dried Tomatoes, and Cream

I discovered this recipe a few years ago (wow, 6 to be exact) in a Fine Cooking publication, specifically on dinner party menus. It quickly became a favorite and I have made it for several occasions since, both casual and a little more formal. It's a great pasta dish with a wonderful mix of flavors. Serve it with a salad, some good Italian bread and a lighter red wine.

Pasta with Sausage, Olives, Sun dried Tomatoes, and Cream

  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-1/4 lb. hot Italian sausage, casings removed (I use mild sausage, just a personal preference)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine 
  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (about 6 oz.) oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 lb. farfalle pasta
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into bite-size pieces with a spoon, until just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Spoon off the fat if it's excessive. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, scraping up any browned bits in the pan, until most of the wine is evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the olives and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the cream, increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cream thickens slightly, 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbs. of the parsley and 2 Tbs. of the Parmigiano. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.
  3. Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to its pot, add the sauce and the reserved cooking water, and set the pot over high heat. Gently toss the pasta for 30 to 60 seconds and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among warm bowls and sprinkle with the remaining 2 Tbs. Parmigiano and 2 Tbs. parsley.
Have a happy day!

Photo taken from