Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Book List: 6 Cookbooks to Check Out!

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The autumn chill is in the air and if you're like me, you're snuggling up on the couch with a mug of something warm, a soft blanket to cover  you up and reading a good book. Well, more like a cook book lol. Now that summer has pretty much passed  and fall is making it's way in, I've been enjoying some delicious reads to help be inspired with upcoming meals. Before you know it, the holidays are here and it's never too early to start thinking about those menus! Here are some books I've been reading and perhaps one of these will peak your interest...

Indian For Dinner

Anupy Singla is a Chicago area cookbook author and former business reporter for the Chicago Tribune. She's quite the expert in Indian cuisine and has already 3 Indian cuisine cookbooks under her belt. I have 2 of the her 3, with this one being her third. This cookbook, much like her other two, combine her journalistic style with food... something I can totally get behind. Anupy makes Indian cuisine very approachable at home and many of the recipes include adaptations to make them vegan, vegetarian and gluten free friendly. I love that she includes helpful primers on Indian spices, herbs and other common ingredients.


Slow Cooker Double Dinners for Two


When you have a small household, preparing recipes often result in lots of leftovers. In this book by Cynthia Graubart, recipes are focused on preparing them once to create two different meals to enjoy. This breaks the leftover cycle of eating the same thing over and over! Even better is that the meals are focused around the slow cooker, making it stress free and less complicated. And if there is ever a time to utilize that slow cooker, it's definitely during the fall months...


Prevention RD's Cooking and Baking with Almond Flour


One of my favorite things about being active in the food blogging community is the opportunity to meet like minded foodies. Often times, the foodies I do meet end up being dear friends. And when my friend Nicole Morrissey started writing cookbooks, I couldn't have been more excited for her! This is actually Nicole's second cookbook and I love that this particular book is focused on gluten free recipes utilizing almond flour. If you're gluten free or know someone that is, you don't want to miss this cookbook! Nicole has a wonderful balance of both sweet and savory recipes to choose from. Some recipes that caught my eye include Cranberry Pumpkin Bread and Strawberry Balsamic Shortcakes... all gluten free! 


Revolutionary Pizza


Everyone loves pizza, right? So when I came across this pizza cookbook, I couldn't put it down! This cookbook by Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau highlights some delicious variations to pizza and pizza toppings. I'm especially excited Joel has requested more family pizza nights at home for dinner where he'd like to help make pizza from scratch. The recipes included are not your typical pizzas but rather ones that are inspired by different ethnic cuisines, celebrities and other popular dishes... made into pizza form. If you're looking for fun ways to get your family and friends involved in the kitchen, pizza is the way to go and this book will give you a ton of ideas to make it fun and interesting!  

Dumplings All Day Wong

In a week or so, Top Chef: Boston will be starting up and I'm pretty pumped about watching the new season. Being a Top Chef fan, I was happy to see one of last season's top contestants, Lee Ann Wong, come out with cookbook devoted to dumplings. She's got her dumpling skills down and this cookbook shares quite a few different varieties and fillings. I'm actually inspired to have a dim sum brunch with family and friends soon, which would be a delicious change from the usual breakfast fare I serve up on weekends. Another beautiful thing about dumplings is that they can be made in advance and frozen!

Green City Market Cookbook

Lastly, the local farmers market in my town is switching gears and starting their fall market this week. But although the amazing summer market is over, that doesn't mean you can enjoy fall markets too. This cookbook is a compilation of recipes from local chefs, farmers and even customers of the ever popular Chicago Green City Market. Recipes highlight the seasonal ingredients throughout the year and are organized by season too, making it easy to be inspired.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Baby Shower for Lucas {and a giveaway!}

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Entertaining is in my genes and for my close family and friends, they know how I love creating a huge spread for the various parties I host. When my friend Suzanne announced she was adding on to their family and expecting a boy, I couldn't have been more thrilled for them! As the days grew closer to her due date, I help co-host a small baby shower for her and was in charge of the shower menu.

I wanted to create a menu that was easy, flavorful and stress free as possible. And because it was fall, a menu highlighting seasonal flavors was a great idea. I thought about it for a few weeks and finally nailed down a menu I felt good about. There would be something for everyone, including the attending guests that were either gluten free and/or vegetarian. It also had to appeal to both adults and kids. So with all that in mind, my menu included the following:

Roasted Vegetable & Italian Sausage Flatbread - I topped a Garlic & Onion Flatbread with roasted bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms, Italian sausage, zesty pizza sauce, and mozzarella cheese.

Goat Cheese, Tomato & Pesto Flatbread - I topped an Italian Herb Flatbread with fresh basil pesto, crumbled goat cheese and grape tomato halves.

Bacon, Apple & Cheddar Flatbread - I topped a Whole Wheat Flatbread with Bacon Spread, thinly sliced apples, shredded cheddar cheese and more crumbled bacon.

Chicken, Spinach & Butternut Pasta Bake (GF) - I combined GF pasta with sauteed chicken breast, garlic, spinach and a homemade butternut squash pasta sauce, topped with shredded Italian cheeses.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Cupcakes/Chocolate Pumpkin Cinnamon Cupcakes - I stirred in a bit of pumpkin puree into both the Cinnamon Swirl and Chocolate Swirl Crumb Cake mixes for a seasonal spin.

Some additional dishes on the menu included a Harvest Salad, made with spring mix greens, dried cherries, toasted pecans, chopped veggies and a blackberry orange vinaigrette... GF Snickerdoodle cookies (store bought),,, and a veggie/fruit/cheese/nut platter of fresh broccoli florets, baby carrots, sliced peaches, green grapes, assorted cheeses (harvarti, aged cheddar & white cheddar), nuts (spiced cashews, almonds, pecans), and gluten free crackers.


Overall, it was a great spread and the party was a success! Much of the success was to using these Krusteaz Flatbread Mixes. They are extremely easy to use and fool proof for even those who may hesitate working with yeast. There's only 4 things needed to make these flatbread and half of them are already perfectly packaged for you. You'll need the boxed mix, the included packet of yeast, some water and a touch of vegetable oil. After mixing everything up in a bowl, it;'s just a matter of waiting 10 minutes for it to be ready for forming, topping and baking. However these flatbreads are delicious without any toppings as all... and are flavorful as is.

To continue the fun and bringing it home to you, I'm hosting a giveaway of Krusteaz Flatbread Mixes that I used for the menu above. The giveaway includes Krusteaz mixes: Italian Herb Flatbread (1), Whole Wheat Flatbread (1), Garlic & Onion Flatbread (1), plus recipe cards and Krusteaz Kitchen Accessories: a branded apron, kitchen timer and a handy pizza cutter! To get in on the fun, simply comment with your favorite flatbread flavor and topping combo. For more chances to win, follow Krusteaz on the social media platforms and leave a comment for each:
*Follow Krusteaz on Twitter
*Like Krusteaz on Facebook
*Follow Krusteaz on Pinterest
*Follow Krusteaz on Instagram


A winner will be chosen and announced on Friday, October 3rd... so think of those flatbread flavors and topping combos to comment with for your chance to win!

If you're looking for some delicious inspiration, check out the delicious flatbread recipe ideas from Jen of Hostess with the Mostess with this link to free printables and some Back to School Activities!




Family Friendly Flatbread Tacos
Game Day Turnovers
Thai Chicken Flatbread
Pear & Gorgonzola Flatbread
Grilled BBQ Chicken Flatbread


Here's what my fellow Baker's Dozen friends are doing with Krusteaz Flatbread Mixes too!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Krusteaz Baker's Dozen - IFBC 2014

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I recently came back from a little jaunt out in the Pacific Northwest,.. Seattle! It was my second time out there and I had a blast. As a brand ambassador for Krusteaz's Baker's Dozen, I had the opportunity to visit the Krusteaz headquarters, meet up with fellow brand ambassadors and also attend the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC). I can't tell you how amazing it was to experience it all...
We visited the Krusteaz headquarters, located just outside of Seattle, and had an wonderful time meeting staff and learning more about the company's history, mission and goals. It was really insightful and made me feel proud to be part of the Krusteaz Baker's Dozen...
It began in 1932, with the women of a Seattle bridge club and a great idea they had for an easy-to-make pie crust. Since then, Krusteaz (a clever combination of 'crust' and 'ease') has come to stand for home-baked and convenient fresh-from-the-oven goodness. 
That spirit of innovation continued with the introduction in the 1940's of our Krusteaz "just add water" Pancake Mix, a unique concept at the time, and one of the products we;re most known for today. In the 60's, we spread the word in a way that was as novel as our pancake mix: the Krusteaz Kurtesy Kitchen, a fully-equipped "traveling diner" that served up free pancake breakfasts throughout the Northwest.
Over the years our product line has expanded to include biscuits, muffins, brownies, breads, desserts and more for an ever increasing loyal following practically any place people enjoy delicious pancakes and baked goods... in homes, at restaurants, for our armed forces and we were even the brand of choice served to the thousands of hungry workers who built the Alaska Pipeline!
The innovative spirit that helped us grow from a popular Northwest tradition to a national favorite continues to inspire us as we ceate new ways to delight the next generation of Krusteaz families.


After the tour of Krusteaz Headquarters, we headed into the Krusteaz Test Kitchen, often used to research and development. We spent the rest of our visit doing what we do best - playing in the kitchen! We had a food challenge in which we paired up with each other to participate in a Krusteaz holiday cookie swap. Any holiday or occassion could be represented and aside from creating a treat using a Krusteaz baking mix, it must also be packaged up for gifting.

Given this challenge, the 10 of us food blogger brand ambassadors had to definitely think on our feet and not only create something worthy of gifting, but also learn to work with each other. It was such a fun activity and it really allowed us to show our creativity. In the end, we had five wonderful treats to swap and share including:
- Vanilla / Chocolate Cream Sandwich Cookies by Make Bake Celebrate and Lindsay Ann Bakes

- Snowflake Shortbread Cookies by Made It, Ate It, Loved It and Bake or Break

- Peppermint GF Brownies by Love from the Oven and Musings of a Housewife

- Chocolate Cherry Chip Cookies by Doughmesstic and Hostess with the Mostess

- Pumpkin Spice Latte Sandwich Cookies by A Southern Grace and me, What's Cookin' Chicago

After our fabulous cookie swap and box lunch at Krusteaz, we headed off to Pike Place. Prior to my trip, I had already made a list of specific places I wanted to visit along with things I wanted to purchase... I was ready! Since I love doing my culinary food tours in Chicago, it seemed only natural to share the various foodie hot spots on my list with my fellow 'Krusteaz Krew' lol. Some places on my little Pike Place Foodie Tour included:
- DeLaurenti.... Here, I made note that they sell Salumi Salame, an amazing salame made at the very popular Salumi restaurant in Seattle. The restaurant is run by the parents of Mario Batali, so you know it's going to be good! Rather than risking a long wait in line at the Salumi restaurant, you can buy the same salami here without any wait. Granted, it's priced just a touch higher, but for the convenience and time savings, it's worth it!
- Pappardelle Pasta... Here, I specifically wanted to pick up some gluten free pasta. It's not very often I'll find some unique flavored and even unique shaped GF pasta, but this place has some of the best around!
- Sosio's Produce... Here, my mouth waters for their 'OMG Peaches.' It's unlike any other peach I've had and I really do think to myself, 'OMG!' after biting into one. It's so sweetly ripe without the mushy texture you'd expect with a perfectly ripened peach.
- Original Starbucks... Not really on my list of must stop places this time, but some of the gals were interested in checking out the location of the original Starbucks. If you love your coffee, it's a neat place to see, but not really worth ordering from. The lines are usually out the door (because of the novelty of the store) but there is practically a Starbucks on every corner in downtown Seattle lol.
- Beecher's Handmade Cheese... Here, I picked up their flagship cheese plus their Just Jack cheese. These cheeses in particular are called for in their macaroni and cheese recipe - something that is known as the 'World's Best Mac & Cheese', I wasn't leaving Seattle without getting my hands on these...
- Jack's Fish Spot... Here, I picked up some Salmon Candy. I know, it's sounds odd, but really, it's cuts of smoked salmon that's been smoked with a sweet brown sugar mixture. It's smoky, sweet and delicious!
- Ellenos... Here, I found my new addiction, Greek Yogurt. I'm really not a huge yogurt fan but until I tried the Greek Yogurt here, I simply cannot look at Greek Yogurt the same and have been an Ellenos convert. It has the creamy, rich texture of gelato without the tang of typical yogurt. And when I found out they ship, I think I'm going to have to create a budget simply to feed my addiction. 

Later that night, we all attended the IFBC Grand Opening Reception and filled our bags with amazing goodies from their Gift Suite while sipping wines, eating amazing fresh salmon and filling up on glorious cupcakes...


The next day was spent enjoying the educational sessions of IFBC, time exploring Seattle and relaxing a bit. A special part of the day was attending the Krusteaz session where a cooking demo was done, highlighting the new Flatbread Mixes and party ideas presented by Malia of Krusteaz and Jen of Hostess with the Mostess. It was great watching them both share some great tips, tricks and recipe ideas!

We ended the fun conference that night with the IFBC Gourmet Fair where many food companies, restaurants and other brands were there to share their products and dishes. Most of the Krusteaz Baker's Dozen met up at the fair, followed by dinner/dessert together before we all headed our separate ways in the morning. It was such a wonderful time getting to know fellow food bloggers, sharing our experiences, and really having a chance to bond with each other whether it was creating recipes in the test kitchen, exploring Seattle together, sharing a meal and working together with a fantastic brand.

All in all, it was a fantastic time and I highly encourage you to check out the websites of my fellow Krusteaz Baker's Dozen if you haven't already! They are all such amazing, talented women who I not only enjoy their work but enjoy their company and I hope to see them all again soon!

Make Bake Celebrate
Lindsay Ann Bakes
Made It, Ate It, Loved It
Bake or Break
Love from the Oven
Musings of a Housewife
Doughmesstic
Hostess with the Mostess
A Southern Grace

Disclosure: Krusteaz provided travel, accommodations, and conference admission for me, however all opinions written are my own.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Recipe Round Up: Butternut Squash & Pumpkin!

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It's *officially* fall and that means all the great fall ingredients are going to be splattered all over the internet! A couple of my favorite fall ingredients include butternut squash and pumpkin. They are such versatile items to work into recipes and offer a great autumn twist to traditional recipes. Here's a delicious round up of 10 recipes utilizing butternut squash and pumpkin so you can start playing with these ingredients in your kitchen this fall...

Pumpkin Chili

This chili has a subtle sweetness from the pumpkin and a nice rich color...


Risotto is made into a colorful and even more delicious dish with the addition of butternut squash...


Try filling pasta shells with pumpkin - it's an easy and healthy way of incorporating it into meals...


This is a hearty meal with the flavors of fall including apple cider and butternut squash...


Butternut squash makes for a wonderful pasta sauce to add some fall color to your dishes...


Pumpkin adds a fall twist to Mexican fare in these tacos...


Baking with butternut squash is a delicious way to jazz up dinner rolls...


Stay warm during those chilly fall nights with this elegant buttenut squash and apple soup...


Skip the usual mashed potatoes and try mashed butternut squast and pear instead...


A favorite way to use butternut squash is in soup - silky, colorful and delicious...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

GF Sausage Gravy & Cornbread Biscuits

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The weekends are always a great opportunity for me to take my time and make a good breakfast. This past weekend was no exception. Despite a full weekend planned, we certainly enjoyed kicking it off with a hearty meal that was gluten free friendly too with Sausage Gravy & Cornbread Biscuits. A subtle sweet cornbread biscuit is topped with a hearty savory sausage gravy that's full of flavor with every gluten free bite...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Biscoff Breakfast Rolls

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When I became a parent, everything changed. It was such a turning point in my life and I feel so blessed to have experienced that moment after years of being told it wouldn't be possible. Fast forward to 4+ years later, I never get tired of looking at my little guy and embracing the fact that I have him in my life. Having a little bun in the oven was difficult for me but well worth the challenge. And because a dear friend of mine is nearly done baking her little bun in the oven, I'm dedicating this post to her and her daughter. It only seems fitting to highlight a delicious bun for the occasion and in this case, these Biscoff Breakfast Rolls. Soft buttery brioche dough with swirls of cinnamon sugar and Biscoff spread throughout is crowned with glorious cream cheese frosting for a decadent start to something beautiful...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ricotta Meatballs

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Now that it's September and the weather has cooled down a bit, I'm already anxious for fall weather. To me, the fall season makes me want to dig into comfort food, bake up treats to work my oven and just start using seasonal ingredients. One of our favorite comfort foods is spaghetti and meatballs. My boys had requested it recently but to give it a different spin, I served them some special meatballs. These Ricotta Meatballs made with both ground beef and ground pork were packed with flavor from sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and garlic with a tender texture thanks to ricotta cheese. I've never seen my boys polish off their spaghetti and meatballs like they did when this was served!...
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