Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sweet Potato and Mixed Greens Salad

Lately I've been trying to work more and more on developing my own recipes and just sort of winging it when I'm in the kitchen.  I'm becoming more confident in my ability to cook intuitively as I become more comfortable with different spices and ingredients.

I've found that it's best to have some inspiration when getting going and one of the best types of inspiration I've found is thinking about meals that I've really enjoyed from a restaurant or other food establishment and trying to copy it, maybe not to a tee, but at least as a base.  As I have mentioned before on the blog, the Good Food cart is one of my favorite places to grab lunch when I'm at work and you better believe that it inspired this Sweet Potato and Mixed Greens Salad.

A bed of mixed greens are topped with cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes, craisins, pecans and crumbles of tangy goat cheese.  The finishing touches come from a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  I can be lazy at times so I usually just toss some pecans on the salad right out of the bag, but feel free to toast them or even go a little crazy and use candied pecans.  If you'd like a little more protein go ahead and throw on some chicken breast.  One of the great things about salads is they can be so easily customizable depending on your tastes by swapping out ingredients or switching up the proportions.

The recipe below is for one personal size salad that serves as the main dish for the meal.  I've increased the quantities at times as well to serve multiple people, just use your best judgement.  Be careful though, because the toppings tend to sink to the bottom of the serving dish!


  • 2-3 cups loosely packed greens, depending on what lettuce to toppings ratio you prefer (I like to use a spring mix for the greens)
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons craisins
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/8 cup pecans
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
  1. Spread greens over large plate or bowl.
  2. Top with sweet potatoes, craisins, goat cheese and pecans.  Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
  3. Toss as desired and enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Brittany's Sunday Brunch

Good morning brunchers!

This time of winter, I always find myself bored. Bored of snow and cold and being cooped up. Luckily, the kitchen can help me stay busy. One of my favorite things to make in the kitchen lately is homemade dog treats for Bear and friends...because one batch makes like 40 biscuits! Bear doesn't need all of those. But he sure wishes he could have them all. He'll do just about any trick for one of those peanut butter goodies. I always crave peanut butter cookies after making these because they always make the place smell so good when baking. Click here for the recipe I use.

Another thing I find myself doing during the boring months of winter is puzzles. My fiancé and I love to spend time after work or weekends at our dinning room table putting together the big, tough puzzles. That's actually how we spent our Valentines day. It was a perfect day in with a puzzle and grilled cheese and tomato soup for two! Simple, cheap and comfy. Oh, and I told my fiancé to hold off on buying me flowers. He'll (we'll) be spending plenty of money on flowers for the wedding. But I still got a lovely orchid. I'm diligently adding 3 ice cubes every Friday and giving her great sunlight. Let's just say I don't have the greenest thumb but I'm trying super hard! So far so good.

One other thing that's kept me busy this winter is the wedding planning. I've been a little stressed just with the idea that it's only 4 months aways! Yikes, where has the time gone? I'm pretty sure I'm ahead of the game but I don't want to start slacking. Bakeries, invitations, bridal gifts, can see how you might forget something. Through all this planning craze, I stepped aside and thought how I need to pamper and prepare myself for the big day.

I decided to look into grown-up facial regimens. I have stuck with the high school schedule of washing my face am and pm and only using moisturizer when my face gets dry. I wanted to change that in hopes of getting a good routine down for the wedding and beyond. It took quite some time and research to find the right products but I think I found them. I went with ole henriksen because they steer clear of ingredients I'm allergic to, they got good reviews and they are not on the top of the price scale. I'll let you know how I think of them!

And although no one but my yoga mat will see my pretty toes, I treated myself to a DIY pedicure. I did this as a pampering reward after sticking to my work out plans for the week. It was a great alternative to my normal rewards, dessert! Although, I'm not completely ruling out desserts until the wedding, after all, we get free cupcakes at our bakery tastings!

How are you staying busy this winter?

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cinnamon Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Are sweet potatoes one of those trendy foods, like kale or quinoa?  Not that I have anything against trendy foods because it seems like usually they are things that are really good for you.  So maybe it's not so much that it's a trend but more of an awakening or coming out of sorts.  It's your time to shine vegetable that honestly is kind of mediocre but all of a sudden everyone is figuring out super delicious ways to prepare you!

Maybe sweet potatoes are trendy, maybe they aren't but I sure have seen them around a lot lately.  Part of that might be that I didn't used to care for their taste.  I don't know what it was about them, but they just didn't tickle my fancy.  All of a sudden though I love those buggars and can't get enough!

I remember learning about sweet potatoes in a class I took in college on world hunger.  Sweet potatoes are a type of yam.  There's a very similar yam that's grown in some African countries that is white or more similar looking to a baking potato.  Due to the difference in color, the African yams are seriously lacking in nutritional value that our sweet potatoes have due to the carotin that makes them orange.  Due to cultural reasons they are hesitant to switch to the orange ones.  A researcher at my university was working with some rural African villages to begin harvesting a yam that looked like what they were used to but had been developed to contain similar nutritional value to a sweet potato.  Pretty nifty!

These cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes are currently my favorite way to prepare the root vegetable.  The peeled potatoes are cubed and spread out on a baking sheet where all the action is going to happen, no need to dirty a bowl.  Extra virgin olive oil and honey are drizzled over the orange cubes and then sprinkled with cinnamon.  This creates a sweet and spicy potato after the roasting happens.  To be honest, I don't usually actually measure out the ingredients, so feel free to just wing it.

Cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes have great flavor and can be eaten as a side dish to any meal.  My favorite way to enjoy them is as a salad topping (salad recipe coming on Friday!)  I usually prepare a batch on Sunday and have enough then to last for salads the whole week.  Get creative though, the possibilities are endless!



  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and cute them into half inch cubes.  Spread out in a single layer on baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle potatoes with extra virgin olive oil and honey.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  
  4. Cook for 30 minutes or until soft, stirring half way through.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Balsamic Vinaigrette

I've recently entered into the world of homemade salad dressings and I think it's safe to say that I'm never going back.  No longer will get stuck standing in the condiment aisle, staring at rows upon rows of salad dressing, never seeming to be able to find the kind I'm looking for.

Grocery shopping is actually an errand that I usually really enjoy doing.  I love cooking and food so I love being in a huge building with it picking out all the supplies I need.  Thanks to the positive influence of my fiance, our weekly grocery trip almost always includes a well planned list which leads to an efficient and enjoyable experience with no need to venture down the ice cream aisle just in case I suddenly realize that I will not be able to make it through the week without a pint of Ben & Jerry's.

One thing that still cannot be avoided is when you are awkwardly standing in the aisle trying to find something that is right in front of you and seem to be constantly in someone else's way.  Salad dressings might be my worst culprit for this.  Canned tomatoes are right up there too!

I've always found that the balsamic vinaigrette from a bottle never can live up to its companions at restaurants, or my favorite food cart, Good Food.  I assume the difference is the fresh, house-made quality.  And there's so many variations that can go along with such a simple dressing.  A one-size-fits-all recipe is sure not to please all!  For me it's always too salty and missing a bit of sweetness.

This recipe is just the way I like it and is very simple, using only five ingredients that you might already have sitting in your pantry.  The perfect ratio of balsamic vinegar to extra virgin olive oil.  A touch of honey to help balance out the acidity of the vinegar.  Salt and pepper add the finishing touches.

I make mine in my OXO salad dressing shaker and leave it sitting on the counter by the olive oil since I use it almost every day.  It doesn't need to be refrigerated and may actually harden if you do.  I use a little 2 ounce dressing container for my work lunch salads so the lettuce stays as fresh as possible until I'm ready to chow down.



  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  1. In a small container combine balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, honey, salt and pepper.
  2. Whisk, stir or shake ingredients together until combined.  Redo as necessary as ingredients may separate.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

April's Sunday Brunch

Greetings friends! I hope everyone ate all sorts of chocolate and wine and deliciousness this weekend. You deserve it.

The past month has not been all that exciting, pretty much the usual. A real lack of picturesque moments. Therefore instead of just a recap of the past few weeks, I'm going to share some of the things I'm loving right now.

1. Milkshakes and a blizzard were one of the few picturesque moments. While some may say it is too cold or too much snow, I had my eye on a milkshake and that is what I got. Hubbard Avenue Diner is probably best known for their pie, but they make a mean milkshake too. And by milkshake I totally mean malt. They are way better, but milkshake has a better ring to it.

2. Have you seen Chef? You should. I've been wanting to see it for a long time now just because its about food. It just made sense to see it, but I had no real expectations for it. Hilarious, with a heartfelt relationship between estranged father and son. I would really recommend watching it, while you eat dinner because you'll be hungry by the end. You can find it on Netflix. Have you seen it? What did you think?

3. While browsing Netflix I came across a Frontline series "Locked Up in America," which I watched last year online. This is totally not heartfelt or delicious, but if you are into human rights and social issues, it is worth a watch. Be warned it is rather graphic but totally worth the watch if you are into issues around incarceration and criminal justice.

4. ...and now for something less depressing. Cave of the Mounds! Who has been? I was there probably 10 years ago as a school kid. It was so much more impressive than I remembered. Usually it is the other way around. It is also about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is warm considering the single digit weather coming up in Wisconsin.

5. I recently got a Groupon for Barre3 classes. I'm really loving them as an alternative to traditional group fitness classes. They also fit my schedule, with early morning times. The pricing is also reasonable with a student discount

6. I've been obsessed with my rice cooker and subsequently grain bowls. This is a really good how-to for inspiration or jumping point for your first grain bowl adventure. Endless possibilities.

7. This rice bowl sounds amazing too. Rice, beans and roasted broccoli with a little soy sauce and siracha is a dinner staple for me. This and the grain bowl are perfect throw together lunches that can be prepped on the weekend, clean out the fridge or as inspiration.Not to mention way more interesting than my typical rice and beans.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chocolate Merlot Truffle Cupcakes with Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting

These cupcakes are amazing. Totally perfect for Valentines Day, whether you love Valentines Day or think its just another hallmark holiday, marketing ploy, in that case they are any day perfect.

They might as well be a love potion, these cupcakes. You will love yourself more for making these on this fine upcoming hallmark holiday of love. Believe me.

Truffles are stuffed inside of each one for a little chocolate surprise. Who wouldn't love that? I sure don't know of anyone who wouldn't like it. I'd convert them with these cupcakes though. I'm sure of it.

A lot of recipes call for a little coffee when there is chocolate involved. Coffee and chocolate are a natural pair, but wine and chocolate are too. They both enhance the chocolate factor by 10.

It is quite possible that wine and chocolate are a better pair than chocolate and coffee...particularly if it is afternoon because it is more acceptable to drink after noon. Don't judge me. I'm still a college student for a few more months.

The truffle stuffed inside makes a little semi-molten extra rich chocolate center. These cupcakes are super moist (I'm sorry if you hate that word, but it is true AND have you ever looked at "moist" synonymous; way worse than moist when talking about food. Gross.) all on their own with no truffle but why you wouldn't want the chocolate center, I don't know.

Red wine makes these seem like a red velvet cake. Someone asked me if they were red velvet, which they might as well be.  Red wine velvet cupcakes.

Use any sort of somewhat fruity, well-rounded, smooth red wine that you would normally drink. I used a Merlot.

The wine complements the chocolate by bringing out the fruitiness found in chocolate. It is amazing. These cupcakes are the best cupcakes I've ever made. Maybe the best I've ever consumed. I wouldn't lie to you. Pinky swear.

The frosting in this recipe is probably my favorite frosting of all time. The combination of butter, cream cheese and mascarpone cheese are perfect. I'm always looking to get my boyfriend to say whatever I've cooked for him is the best he has ever had the pleasure of consuming.

This frosting did it. Best he ever had. It isn't too sweet either, which I like. It is honestly the only frosting I ever make. It is just the best. You must try it. Promise me.

Adding a little wine to the frosting is optional. I felt like it made it curdle a little bit, but gave it a lightly pink-red-wine color that I liked. I'd suggest not adding it if you are serving this to children.

These may be adult only cupcakes all together, between a glass of wine and a few cupcakes, I'm not entirely sure if the alcohol cooks off or not. I will let you make the call on serving these to children or not.

The cupcakes come together in around an hour, not counting cooling time. That is okay though. Just think of the time it takes for the cupcakes to cool as the perfect excuse for a glass of wine.

You should probably be drinking a glass while making these. Hell, you should probably just buy two bottles of wine.

Maybe save the second bottle of wine for after the cupcakes are out of the oven, you don't want it going to your head. Dry, overcooked cupcakes are bad, but not as bad as a fire.Either situation is no good though.

I bet you can find time to make these this week. Maybe this weekend, more time to enjoy some wine on a weekend. Treat yourself either way on this lovely hallmark holiday weekend.

I know I'll be treating myself to a to be determined home cooked meal, with white Russians and the Big Lebowski for dessert. I want to know what your plans are! How are you treating yourself this Valentine's day?


Makes about 24 cupcakes
 for the cupcakes:
24 cupcake liners
24 truffles, such as Lindt Irresistibly Smooth Dark Chocolate Truffles
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Merlot wine (or other red wine)

for the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup (8 ounces) cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons Merlot wine (or other red wine)
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone (Italian cream cheese, available at most grocery stores)

1/4 cup cocoa powder, for dusting

for the cupcakes:
Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with 24 cupcake liners, placing a chocolate truffle (I used Lindt truffles) in each cupcake liner. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl, sifting the 3/4 cup cocoa over the top of the flour mixture.

Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, and then the vanilla, and continue beating 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, mix in a third of the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and then pour in a third of the Merlot. Mix ingredients together until just combined. Continue this process two more times, alternating between the flour mixture and the wine into the cake batter. (be sure to not over mix the batter, in between each addition it is okay if they are not fully combined until the end.)

Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 of the way full, baking for 15 to 20 minutes; a metal skewer inserted in the cupcake (slightly off to the edge because of the truffle) should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool 10 minutes in the pans, then place them on a rack to cool completely. While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting.

for the frosting:
In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the edges of the bowl and add the vanilla, mixing on low to combine. Then with the mixer going, stream in the 3-4 tablespoons of wine, until combined.

Beat in the mascarpone on very low speed until just combined. (Be careful; once you've added the mascarpone, excessive beating can make the frosting curdle.)

Frost the top of each muffin with the icing.

To finish the cupcakes, sift a little cocoa powder over the top of each one and then top with a truffle (optional).

Frosting slightly adapted from The Pastry Queen Christmas

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Kelsey's Sunday Brunch

Hello Friends!

Like Brittany's been mentioning, I've got a wedding of my own that I'm hoping to look my best for as well.  Near the start of the year I bought an activity tracker, the Up 24 by Jawbone, and have been really enjoying using it to help me make healthier, smarter decision in my day-to-day life.  It may just be a glorified pedometer, but I will say, I'm walking more than I did before I had it because I'm aware of how few steps I actually take when I'm sitting at my desk at work all day.  I have it set so that it will vibrate after I'm idle for 30 minutes and boy that can sneak up on you pretty quickly!

I've been trying to be creative in finding ways to cut calories and sneak extra nutrition into my meals.    Starting with a more filling and sustaining breakfast, to cut down on mid-morning snacks.  Eggs and a high fiber english muffin have replaced a bowl of cereal that left me ready for lunch by 10 am.  Sometimes I even sneak some spinach and tomato in there too!  Work lunches more times than not include a salad versus a sandwich.  Stay tuned for a recipe for my current salad obsession in the coming weeks!  Sandwiches are now eaten open-faced, cutting down on calories and carbs, and I've found a berry yogurt parfait to do a surprisingly good job at satisfy a sweet tooth.  Let me know of any other tricks to suggest!

That doesn't mean I don't get to cheat every now and again.  We enjoyed pizza and chocolate peanut butter brownies from Jessica Merchant's cookbook Seriously Delish.  Those bad boys were dangerously good.  The recipe called for coconut oil which was my first time using it.  I'm looking forward to exploring other uses for the ingredient.

We've been making good progress with the wedding planning lately.  I'm gathering bits and pieces of our decorations from thrift stores.  I was lucky enough to find some Kerr Jars, a decoration I was planning on buying anyways since Kerr is my fiance's last name.  This weekend we checked a couple more things off the to-do list and picked out suits for the dudes to wear and went to look at wedding bands.  Time sure is flying by!

Well, I'm off to get my taxes and FAFSA done.  Hope you had a relaxing and productive weekend!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

One XL Chocolate Cookie

Have you ever had that deep craving that just won't go away? Especially when you're right in the middle of the week feeling great because you've worked out and eaten healthy? But that craving just keeps creeping in until you finally beg your fiancé to go get frozen yogurt? Unfortunately this happened to me (not unlike any other week) AND I got a disappointing answer from the fiancé. I get it, it's the middle of winter so who really wants a cold dessert. I was just looking for something on the less unhealthy side and something that would be one and done.

You see, I'm not the liker of the cake/cookie/brownie in a mug. That would be a good one and done dessert. But, they are unsatisfying to me. Am I crazy or have I just not found the right recipe yet? Anyway, I wanted something super good and satisfying to kick this craving to California. So, I knew the recipe needed to use the oven and eggs. But I didn't want a dozen and a half cookies or bars staring at me all week, asking to be eaten. One and done, guys, one and done.

This recipe does it all for me! Super quick and all the ingredients are already in my kitchen. The cookie was soft but had a crunchy outside, my favorite! And the chocolate flavor was perfect! I shared this bigger than I was expecting cookie with my fiancé. And I'm planning on making this again for Valentine's Day! It's a fun and special dessert just for two (or one, we're not judging!). Plus, no leftover dessert to crave over the next day, perfect for me and my fiancé who are trying to get into wedding attire shape :)

Slightly adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

2 Tbsp. room temperature butter
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. beaten egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/4 c. chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium sized bowl, cream the butter and sugars with a fork. Mix in the egg and vanilla.
3. In a separate small bowl, add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour into wet ingredients bowl and combine with fork. Fold in chocolate chips.
4. Mold dough into a ball and place in the center of the baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes.
5. Enjoy warm with your bestie or all by yourself!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Brittany's Sunday Brunch

Happy brunch everyone!

With the snow storm out my door, I'm really loving the couch and my blanket right now. It's the perfect weather to cozy up by a fire and shamelessly binge watch Sherlock. Ah, one of my favorites!

This weekend I had the pleasure to sit in front of a real fire at my soon-to-be in-laws. We just have a convenient switch-on gas fireplace, which is awesome, don't get me wrong. But sometimes the smell and ambiance of a real fireplace can't be beat. It was a so relaxing.

It's funny to think planning a wedding could be so tiring and stressful. But it is! I'm not trying to complain, because on top of being stressful, it is fun! Last weekend, we FINALLY found flower girl dresses! They were at this store that was connected to Grapevine Cafe in Green Bay. Go if you have the chance. Their caramel macchiatos are amazing, their food is great and I just loved the atmosphere! It was quiet an adventure to find these dresses because we need two dresses to fit a 1 year old and an 8 year old. Not many styles of dresses come in that range of sizes, but we did it! We found a dress to fit both! Woohoo! And on top of that, we found my veil! I never thought the veil would be so important to me. Through the process, I realized I will only wear a veil once. And for me it really made me feel like a bride.

Since we're finding out quickly how expensive this celebration of our nuptials is going to be, we aren't really planning on anything for Valentine's day. But I did get an email for Bluephies' "Broke Ass Date Night" special they're doing. We may just have to go for a bottle of wine and half-off apps. Yum.

Any plans for Valentine's Day? Check back later this week for a Valentine's day worthy recipe!

Stay warm,


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