Monday, October 29, 2012


Oh, dear Reader, I'm obsessed.  Meal, snack, party, you name it. These little guys are yum (not to mention healthy and OH-so-easy to make).

Black Bean Zucchini Quesadillas

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Yields 16 pieces (6 - 8 servings as an appetizer, 2 - 3 servings as a main dish)

1 16-oz. can black beans
4 T tomato salsa (any)
1 zucchini, chopped into small pieces
shredded cheddar cheese
4 wheat tortilla shells, 8-inch 

*FYI, I only made a half batch for this post. Lunch for one!

Combine black beans and salsa. Mash together with fork. Mix in zucchini. 
Spread on half of a tortilla shell (leave a 1/2 inch or so around the edge in case it spreads when you fold the shell over). Top with cheese and fold shell in half. 
Broil about 4 - 5 minutes in toaster oven (or conventional oven) until cheese is melted and tortillas are barely crisp.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Good morning, dear Reader! I hope you're enjoying a wonderful fall. Yes, I know it's fall, and I know it's not the best time to find fresh asparagus. But I happened to find a great-looking bunch of it at my grocery outlet (of all places!), so I had myself a little excursion to springtime.

This quiche was my first attempt at a crust without butter (I know... it seems a sin to say the phrase "crust without butter."). It turned out a lot better than I expected - not as flaky and of course not as buttery as a crust with butter, but still good enough to keep the recipe. And good enough to be worth lightening up occasionally :)

Usually, I like my quiche a little more egg-heavy, and I like to use evaporated milk instead of regular milk. So this was a nice little experiment for me. The egg was fluffy and turned out not to be the main event, but rather the warm, savory vehicle for the veggies and cheese. The nutmeg is just right, and with asparagus and feta together, you really can't go wrong. Mmm...

And how about the pretty sunflowers my husband brought home the other night? It's pretty hard to beat seeing him walk through the door with his bike and a bunch of sunflowers :) Apparently the sunflowers at my home back in Illinois are in full bloom under my mother's bird feeders right now. I'm sad to miss that this year... including the long, ever-gorgeous row of red-orange pear trees behind them.

As a loving salute to an Illinois fall, I cooked up some Illinios Sausage Corn Chowder last night to go with the cool gray days we've been having in the bay area. I'll post the recipe soon. For now, back to the quiche.

Feta Asparagus Quiche

1 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup ice water

Mix flour and salt with a fork. Whisk olive oil and cold water together until it's kind of fluffy. Add flour/salt mixture and mix with a fork. Plop the dough on a floured surface and roll it with a rolling pin (or in my case a drinking glass) until smooth and sized to fit your pan. Press into the pan and bake about 10 minutes at 400 while you mix up the quiche. (I actually baked mine for at least 15 minutes, but I think it was a little too done, as you can maybe judge from the picture).

3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 bunch asparagus
1 small red onion, chopped
3/4 cup cubed feta
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
salt and pepper

Chop the asparagus and steam until tender. While it's steaming, combine eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper (sorry, I didn't measure the salt and pepper). Beat very well. Pour egg mixture into prepared crust. Sprinkle asparagus and onion (evenly) into the quiche. You can use a fork to sink them down so they're not all floating on top. Sprinkle feta over top.

Bake at 400 for 35 - 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Hello, dear Reader! I wish I had better pictures for you of this DELICIOUS concoction I managed to improvise the other night. I made a big ole Italian meal for a friend's visit, and for antipasti we had three kinds of crostini: tilapia with herbed cream cheese, crostini di cavolfiore (puréed cauliflour with herbs and red onion), and bruschetta (tomato, olive oil, basil).

If you're not familiar, crostini are Italian appetizers (antipasti), literally "little toasts." They are small, toasted pieces of bread adorned with various (usually beautiful) toppings. You've certainly heard of bruschetta, a type of crostini that has become popular in the United States and has earned all sorts of versatility and "American-izations" throughout American cuisine.

These crostini are warm, so they'd be wonderful paired with any cold crostini (try bruschetta; ham, olive, and feta; or pear and gorgonzola). Or, you can pair them with another cold Italian appetizer - antipasto freddo - like prosciutto-wrapped melon or asparagus with red wine vinaigrette.

Anyway. Lately I've been trying to work without recipes as often as possible - to make myself learn. But since my friend was visiting just for one dinner, I decided to spare her my experimentation (mostly), and cook from the book. EXCEPT for this tilapia crostini, which were an improvisation. It was particularly daring for me because I don't cook much fish in the first place. Well, who'd have guessed it, dear Reader, but my tilapia crostini were a hit! I was pretty darn excited :)

Because I didn't want to disturb our lovely dinner and time to catch up, I decided not to take any pictures that night. However the next day, I ended up making this again for my husband and I... it was just too good.

Citrus-Butter Tilapia Crostini with Herbed Cream Cheese


20 or so 1/2-inch slices of a French baguette or bâton (sliced diagonally)
2 garlic cloves, halved
olive oil

3 tilapia fillets 
salt and pepper
3 - 4 T citrus-herb butter* 

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried marjoram
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced

*Someone gave us some delicious gourmet citrus-herb butter as a gift, so I was excited to use it. If you'd rather not buy it, you can also find easy recipes online to make it yourself. 

Preheat oven to 400. Rub one side of each bread slice with the halved garlic cloves. Then lay out on baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Bake for 5 - 8 minutes or until golden brown.

Salt and pepper both sides of tilapia fillets. Add them to a skillet with the butter and heat on medium-high heat. Cook 2 - 3 minutes on each side, only flipping once. (Be sure to coat them well in the butter! Mmm my mouth is watering...)

Place softened cream cheese in saucepan on medium-low heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Continue to heat until mixture is smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. 

Spread (or pipe) herbed cream cheese onto slices of bread. Top with crumbled tilapia. Be generous with both parts!


Friday, October 12, 2012


Hello, dear Reader! Happy fall! I'm back with another ode to fall, and with three words that make me feel warm just thinking about them: cinnamon, sugar, apple. Mmm :) I snatched this recipe from the fabulous Lizzy at YourCupofCake to make these muffins for some last minute gifts. While in the oven, they filled my entire apartment with the most cozy and delicious fall scent.

The day I was planning to bake them, my father-in-law sent us a picture of his house in Illinois - in the humble hometown that both my husband and myself call home. The leaves were turning yellow and orange, and the grass was turning crisp, and he wrote that it had been 30 degrees that morning. That's the beginning of fall in the Midwest. We call it sweater weather. It's tights and boots. It's crunching under your feet. You can see your breath in the morning, but the sun feels warm in the afternoon. It makes "cinnamon-sugar-apple" even more warm and cozy than it already is.

Well this is our very first fall outside of the Midwest, and California hasn't really given us the sweater weather we've been waiting for. However, on the morning I'd planned to make these muffins, it was chilly. Chilly, gray, and a little bit windy. Nate suggested we leave the windows open and bundle up... what a great idea! So for a couple hours we managed to enjoy sweater weather in our apartment, and all the while these delicious little muffins baked their perfect scent right into our fall morning.

It is a happy fall, indeed. :)

Apple Muffins with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Centers
(adapted slightly from YourCupofCake)


½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup oil
1 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup buttermilk
2 cups peeled chopped apples
½ cup brown sugar
1 T flour
2 T melted butter

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1/3 cup powdered sugar


Mix together filling ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate.
For muffins:
Beat sugars, oil, and applesauce. Add eggs and vanilla.
Mix together dry ingredients, and add gradually to wet ingredients.
Stir in buttermilk and chopped apples.
Remove filling from fridge.
Fill muffin tins 1/4 full with batter. Spoon cream cheese mixture over. Cover cream cheese mixture with remaining batter.
Mix topping ingredients together and spoon onto muffins.
Bake at 375, 13 - 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


My husband and I recently bought all three seasons of Arrested Development on DVD. And in honor of all the time we've been spending with the Bluth family lately, I made some chocolate covered banana bites. There's always money in the banana stand! (If you've never seen the show, dear Reader, and you like dry comedy, I highly recommend it. :))

So the inspiration came from the TV show, but the case was actually just that I had some leftover chocolate melted in a bowl from another project, and there was one banana sitting in the fruit bowl. So it was an impromptu treat for two :)

Since I made them with only one banana, I figured I'll just give you the recipe for one banana. You can of course multiply as needed.

Chocolate Covered Banana Bites

  • one banana, sliced into 1/2-inch disks
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (this is probably a little more than you'll need)
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • toppings (graham cracker crumbs, sweetened coconut flakes)

Lay the banana slices out on parchment paper and freeze for 30 - 45 minutes, or until frozen. Before removing them from the freezer, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave (increments of 20 seconds, then 10, stirring between each until melted). Use a spoon and knife to dip the bites and replace them on parchment paper. Sprinkle with toppings and return to freezer for 20 - 30 minutes.

They'd be cute on kabob picks or toothpicks for parties.

Bon appétit, dear Reader! Thanks for stopping by! :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


This summer, my mother and I thrifted a whole slew of amazing antique wooden frames to use for my wedding (and just because!), and when I moved from Illinois to California, the frames were one of the first things on my list to bring along. There are SO many awesome uses for cool frames, including hanging them empty on the wall. I decided I'd hang my favorites above the couch - empty. Then I could take my time filling each one.

So this is the first, and I chose pictures. We don't have many options for displaying pictures in our apartment (no shelves for frames, and not a lot of wall space that I'm willing to give up for pictures), so I thought I'd display a whole bunch in this one frame. It's cheap and easy, and it looks adorable!

Here's what I used:

  • an old wooden frame (thrifted)
  • twine
  • push pins
  • mini (1-inch) clothespins - got them at Michael's

I used push-pins to secure both ends of the twine in the frame. They're really not noticeable, but if you do see them, they look a bit tacky. Unfortunately, the frame is so fragile that taking it down from the wall might be fatal, and it can't handle much pressure as far as attaching things to it. So my plan is to swipe those pushpins with a little bit of brown paint. Hopefully that will camouflage them enough :)

Also, I'm planning to take the pictures down and back them with card stock. You can see in the picture that they're beginning to curl, and they just don't look as nice.

Well that's it - easy as pie. Thanks for stopping by, dear Reader :)
Now go thrift yourself an old wooden frame!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Caramel Apple Martini

Happy fall, dear Reader! Hope you're enjoying pumpkin-flavored everything! For a little break from all the pumpkin, I'm posting some caramel apple :)

If you're thinking, "Well that's not a very good glass for drizzling..." you're right. But I actually don't own any martini glasses. Confession time, Reader: I am not a graceful person. Just the thought of holding a wide, conical bowl of easily spillable liquid atop a skinny stem makes me nervous... I'd be concentrating too much on not spilling to enjoy the drink! Yes, I need to become an adult. But for now, the only instance when I'd put a martini glass in my own hand is if I'm wearing a dress too fabulous to be without one.

So the moral of the story is: if you're going to drizzle with caramel and you have martini glasses, go ahead and use them :)

Caramel Apple Martini

2 oz. apple Schnapps
2 oz. butterscotch Scnapps
1 oz. gin
opt. caramel for drizzling the glass

Shake over ice in a martini shaker, and strain into caramel-drizzled (optional) glass.

Thanks for reading! Keep an eye out for more fall posts (without the pumpkin flavor overload ;)).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cinnamon-Sugar Butter Cookies

All right, confession. These cookies are the product a midnight sweet tooth. And let me tell you, dear Reader, this recipe is PERFECT for a midnight sweet tooth. They're easy and pretty quick to make - plus, they're not super sweet. They're just a little sweetness and a lot of delicious butteriness. AND the cookie dough is delicious for eating. Do I sound like I know way too much about eating sweets at midnight? :)


3/4 pound butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
cinnamon-sugar mixture
colored sugar sprinkles (I used red, yellow, and orange for fall)


Cream together butter and sugar.
Add 1 egg, vanilla, and flour. Mix well.
Form logs on parchment paper and refrigerate until hard (about 30 minutes, usually).
Brush with egg and roll in cinnamon-sugar. Roll in colored sugar.
Slice and put on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 15 minutes at 350.*

*Adjust time according to how thin the cookies are sliced. Cookies are finished when they are barely beginning to turn golden.

NOTE: Speaking of midnight sweet teeth, it's no problem to make a half batch of this recipe. Cut everything in half, except the egg - just use the whole egg.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

One-Minute Frappuccino (Shaken, Not Stirred)

Don't freak out, but I'm really not much of a Starbuck's person. Not because I work for the hipster coffee police (although I sympathize with them :)), but mostly because I don't want to spend the money. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy sipping a sugary, comforting drink in a cozy-ish, wooden atmosphere with mostly good music playing overhead. But if I'm going to splurge on a food item, I guess it's just not Starbuck's.

Regardless of everything I just said, the frappuccino is a winner of a drink: ice and coffee in the blender with sweetened condensed milk (or some kind of sugar-milk combination)? Pretty delish. 

Delish enough to inspire a whole new coffee routine in my life...

I drink my coffee black, and sometimes I don't finish all that I made... and here comes the frappuccino.


  • Brewed coffee (in my case, yesterday's leftover coffee, which has been in the fridge overnight)
  • Ice cubes (not crushed)
  • Milk
  • Sugar


  • Put everything in a martini shaker. 
  • Shake 20 - 30 seconds. 
  • Pour. 
  • Yum.


  • I use just enough milk to turn the coffee a dark caramel color, but it really depends on your preference. (Remember a "normal" frappuccino would probably use extra strong coffee since it's going to be diluted, so you probably don't want to add too much milk.)
  • If you want ice and extra froth: pour as much as you can through the strainer in the shaker, then remove the lid, and pour the rest of the bubbles and ice in last. (Just remember there's a lot of water in there, so unless you want it super diluted, you might consider using extra strong coffee and more sugar.)


  1. You don't have to wash the blender. 
  2. You don't waste any coffee. 
  3. It takes less than 2 minutes, and you probably have all the ingredients on hand. 

If you're feeling extra fall-ish, as I was today, why not sprinkle some cinnamon on top? Just be sure to swirl that in... :)