Halloween Festivities

Happy Halloween! Okay, I know Halloween is still a couple of days away, but the past few days have been packed full of festive activities and my kids don’t have any more public opportunities to wear their costumes, so it’s basically over around here! It’s been a lot of fun, though.

I wasn’t in the mood to buy costumes this year. On one hand, I’m totally all for buying costumes if it makes your life easier. We’ve gone the store bought route for the last four or five years. But this year it just felt like a waste of money, plus the boys never even care what they dress up as. Why spend the money if it means nothing to them? So I basically put it on Greg to figure out what kind of handmade thing they could come up with while I was on my trip. I think his mom is the one who really put it all together with some of their old costumes, but it turned out great! Shepard was originally going to be a Minecraft youtuber that nobody would have recognized or heard of. But when shown a PURPLE wizard costume that Greg wore in sixth grade, he went that route instead. Of course second grade Shepard is drastically smaller than sixth grade Greg was, so I had to alter it quite a bit. Hopefully nobody bigger ever wants to wear this costume again!! Caden wore part of some Star Wars costume one of his aunts wore at some point – turned into a Harry Potter type of cloak with his sorting hat and some black glasses. It worked, it didn’t cost any money, and they thought they looked pretty cool! Greg liked it so much he decided we need to do handmade costumes every year now…

Anyway, we went to SpookFest on Thursday night, something the schools put on for grades K-5 every year. Caden had no interest in going (shocker), but we lasted about half an hour. Shepard had a good time running around with his friends, until he decided he wanted a soda, we said no, and massive seven year old on the floor kicking and crying tantrums ensued. Oh well.

After dinner on Friday we carved our pumpkins. Greg and I did most of the work, but Shepard was very excited about it. I washed all the seeds and made my three usual flavor combinations. I was pretty exhausted, but also had a fairly rough day (more on that in my next post today!), so I decided to try and gather everyone to go to the community bonfire for some cheer. The boys didn’t want to go – until their friend Leverett got permission to come with us. Then we ran into Greg and Annie who were already on a pokewalk and all of us walked over to the park for the fire.

It was a lot of fun! It was just cold enough to enjoy the fire, but not so cold we were miserable, like last year. There weren’t a ton of people there, but enough that it felt special and fun. There was a group of kids that the boys joined with and had a BLAST dancing by the DJ. Some of my friends were there, so it was fun to chat with everyone. And Annie just loved being out and about.

We stayed for an hour and a half and then had to drag the boys home because I was just so exhausted. It was a really great night, though! It’s so rare to have Caden raving about how excited he is to be somewhere. It was like the best night of his life running around with friends in the dark with good dance music on!

I spent all of Saturday getting ready for our annual Halloween party. It was extra special this year because Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson were coming, plus all the parents/grandparents, and my brother Tyler – for a full celebration. We were also sort of celebrating fall birthdays for me, Brittany, and Tyler. I tried to keep the food festive and easy to prepare with a good mix of healthy and treats. I love the simplicity of these clementine and celery pumpkins!

Monster mouths! I only had teeny apples, so not quite as effective, but definitely yummy.

White cheddar cheeto bones.

Flamin’ hot cheeto bones.

Our pumpkin seeds – dill, salt, and chex mix flavors.

These were all supposed to be different kinds of bugs.

The flourless chocolate cake Brittany requested for her birthday dessert. With a spiderweb on top to go with the theme. My mom also brought her famous kit kat bars for my birthday dessert, but I never got a picture of them.

Jalapeno popper mummies. I usually do hot dog mummies, but nobody really eats them, so I gave this a shot this year. I didn’t like them much because they were missing that salty component I’m so used to when I make jalapeno popper dip and eat it with chips. But they looked cute!

The famous pizza snake that makes an appearance every Halloween party. I thought this year’s tasted especially good because I made the effort to cut all the inside toppings into the tiniest possible pieces so it all blended together better.

I never decided if this is supposed to look like blood and guts, or brains. Maybe it looks more brainy with the raspberry seeds. With mini candied pecan brains?

And “monster fingers.” Basically just enormous beef sticks I got at Costco that nobody in my family liked, so I needed to set them out to get rid of them!

Cindy and Shepard put together a veggie skeleton for the centerpiece of it all. Very cool! Shepard loved his broccoli hair.

Hudson was getting over a bunch of illness, but he was in high spirits! It was so cute how proud of himself he looked every time anyone would laugh at something he did. In this instance he was hitting Shepard with a hammer because he kept whining. Probably shouldn’t encourage that, but it was pretty hilarious.

A tricky selfie snuck in only because we were standing at the window and he was smiling at Daddy.

The only picture I got of our finished pumpkins. Sometimes Shepard seems so big and sometimes he still seems so tiny.

I was hoping for a nice trick or treating picture of the cousins all together, but my boys couldn’t be bothered to even be in our yard at the same time and Hudson just wanted to be cuddled with Mom because he didn’t like wearing his costume very much. But we tried!

Steve stayed home to hand out candy and the rest of us set off to trick or treat. Caden and Shepard immediately ran to Leverett’s house right as he was coming outside, so they just rushed ahead with him. The rest of us stayed back with Hudson, but he was just very confused about what was happening. We only lasted about two blocks before it started sprinkling and we realized we’d never keep up with the older boys, so we all went back home. I’m kind of annoyed my kids couldn’t even stay with our group for five minutes. Or even a single house. But…they’re getting older, I guess. This is what happens. Caden’s almost never happy anymore unless a friend is involved in whatever he’s doing.

But back at the house we still had some fun with Hudson and Annie. He realized how exciting it was to hand Annie all of his food. Everyone stayed for awhile longer and then Greg took over handing out candy the last half an hour. I probably bought at least 500 pieces of candy and we went through all of it. Plus a big bowl of goldfish crackers for little kids and a bowl of dog treats. We live on quite the popular street!

Overall – great party! It was a lot of fun! Now all that’s left is actual Halloween, but the boys have dentist appointments after school that day, so really not the best of days! But maybe I can throw together one more festive meal. We shall see.

Happy Halloween!

My All Time Favorite Cookbooks: The Best Cookbooks to Amplify Your Meals and Treats

cookbook pinterest photo

I adore cookbooks. I’m a little bit obsessed with them. Though I have to admit that I’m not all that great about going to them when I’m in need of a quick meal idea. Pinterest is usually my greatest friend. But I do have a few cookbooks that I go to again and again because there are certain recipes I just love so, so much. I hope to eventually have that kind of relationship with all of my cookbooks. But for now, I’d like to tell you about the seven I use the most. These would be awesome to add to your own shelves, or would also make super Christmas gifts!

Joy the Baker Cookbook

1. Joy the Baker Cookbook

I would say this is my most used cookbook for the last four or five years. All of the recipes are simple and delicious. There are photos for every recipe, which is pretty much an absolute must for me in terms of a great cookbook. The majority of the book covers breakfasts and sweets. She is a baker, after all. But there are occasional sprinklings of savory dishes as well. There are a handful of recipes I go to again and again and again. I love this cookbook!

My Favorites:

  • Baked Chili Cheese Fries – These are to die for. They’re the only way I’ve ever made and pretty much every will make, baked french fries. They’re spicy, salty, cheesey, gooey – perfection.
  • The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting – You CANNOT live without this recipe. I’m not much of a frosting lover. Or a cake lover. But this frosting? I will literally eat an entire bowl of it, by itself. I’ve used it every single time I’ve needed chocolate frosting since I’ve gotten this book.
  • Chocolate and Salty Peanut Butter Ice Cream – Need I say more? My favorite chocolate and peanut butter ice cream recipe. So good.
  • Browned Butter Peanut Butter Crispy Rice Treats – This is the recipe that inspired my neighbor boy to build me a four foot tall trophy for “best rice krispy treat maker.” I’ve probably made this recipe fifty times. It’s a million times better than your regular rice krispy treat.

Joy the Baker has come out with two other cookbooks after this one, both of which I own. Homemade Decadence, which is full of desserts and treats, and Over Easy, which is mostly breakfast and brunch. I haven’t had as much time to try out recipes from these cookbooks, but they look just as fantastic.

The Cookies and Cups Cookbook

2. The Cookies & Cups Cookbook

If it’s not already obvious by book two on my list, I’ve always been much more into baking than cooking. I’m most drawn to cookbooks full of sweet and salty treats that I can make to satisfy my own cravings, and use to show off to my friends and family. This is another great book full of tasty goodness. There are also lovely photographs with each recipe.

My Favorites:

  • Salty Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies – I love browned butter. I love salty sweets. (Love passionately – much to Greg’s dismay because he hates salty sweets – loathes them.) I’m always up for trying new chocolate chip cookie recipes because they never seem to work out the way I want them to. But this one is great!
  • Salted Caramel Apple Butter Bars – (I might have a problem.) This is a really delicious and easy treat to make to share with a group.
  • Salty Caramel Corn – (Yes, a problem.) I’ve never liked caramel corn until I tried this recipe. It’s amazing. AMAZING. I’ve made it many, many times in the year since I bought this book.

The Everything Pizza Cookbook

3. The Everything Pizza Cookbook

We have pizza night every Friday. Even though Caden doesn’t eat pizza, Greg and Shepard practically live for Friday nights. I mostly just love knowing what we’re going to be eating one day a week, week after week. I have a handful of pizza cookbooks (the others are much prettier!), but this is the one I go back to again and again. I mostly use it for the crust recipes, though when I’m feeling more experimental (which doesn’t go over so well with the other pizza eaters in my house), I like to flip through the suggestions.

My Favorites:

  • Classic Crust – This is the recipe I use 90% of the time. Every few months I change things up with recipes from other places, but this is always my go to. It’s the crust that other people always rave about. It’s a good one!
  • Smoked Gouda Pizza – On the pepper crust recipe. Delish!

Eat Delicious

4. Eat Delicious by Dennis the Prescott

This one came out earlier this year and I bought it on a whim at Target in September. The photos are what will get your attention first – they are incredible. Every recipe looks like the best food you’ll ever eat. To be fair, I’ve only made two recipes in this book so far – tonight. The general steak cooking guidelines and the Hasselback Potatoes. But I can guarantee this book is going to be a favorite. Other than the seafood chapter, because none of us like seafood, I know I’ll be picking this one up over and over again. Everything looks SO GOOD. This particular cookbook would make a lovely Christmas gift for anyone on your list. Also, be sure to follow @dennistheprescott on instagram. You’re welcome.

My Favorites:

  • Maple-Bacon Scones – Flipping through this book again, I forgot that I did make this recipe! And it was fantastic!!
  • Ancho-Rubbed Steak Tacos with Pineapple-Avocado Salsa
  • Buttermilk Fried Chicken Burgers
  • Sriracha-Roasted Cauliflower
  • Brown Sugar Bourbon and Candied Pecan Ice Cream
  • Salted Caramel Apple Parfaits

Half Baked Harvest Cookbook

5. Half Baked Harvest Cookbook by Tieghan Gerard

The Half Baked Harvest blog is my all time favorite food blog. Every recipe I have ever made from Tieghan has been of the most delightful and flavor bursting sensational food produced in my kitchen. Her Korean Fried Chicken Tacos are my favorite food of all time. Her Thai Pomegranate Enchiladas rock my world. Her Cuban Chicken Quinoa Bowls have some of the most uniquely flavored chicken I’ve ever eaten. Suffice it to say, Tieghan was bound to create an incredibly first cookbook. I pre-ordered the day it was announced and anxiously waited the six months it took to be released. And it does not disappoint! All of the photographs are so beautiful. A photo per recipe, of course. I’d say the only downside is that many recipes do require an awful lot of ingredients. They’re not usually last minute quickly prepared meals. But if you have the time and buy all the ingredients, it’ll be so worth it. Trust me. And full disclosure, I haven’t had a chance to make many recipes from the cookbook yet. But I plan to rectify that very soon!

My Favorites:

  • Nonnie’s Dutch Baby – I love Dutch Babies for weekend breakfasts. So fast and delicious.
  • Salted Brioche Cinnamon Rolls
  • Apple Ricotta Pancakes with Bacon Butter
  • Crunchy Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Bread Crumbs
  • Fig and Cider Pork Chops – I made this last month with the apple instead of fig substitution and my family went nuts over it. I very rarely make pork, but this was a keeper!
  • Apple and Brie Soup with Bacon and Pumpkin Seed Granola
  • Salted Treacle Butter Apple Pie

First Prize Pies

6. First Prize Pies by Allison Kave

If you like to eat pie, make pie, read about pie, or know anyone else who does – this is the cookbook for you. First of all, it’s gorgeous. A perfect gifting book! Unfortunately there is not a photo with every recipe, but there are plenty. The cookbook is organized by season so you can always search for a pie that would be perfect for whatever season you’re making it in. It guarantees the freshest pie for that time of year. Every pie I’ve made from this cookbook has been a hit!

My Favorites:

  • Samantha Bee’s Salty Caramel Pie – Perhaps I should rename this post to my favorite salty sweet cookbooks! This one is easy and delicious!
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
  • Trifecta Pie (Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel)
  • Ginger Peach Pie – I don’t even like the taste of ginger, but this is one of my all time favorite pie recipes. It’s amazing.

Simply Scones

7. Simply Scones by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright

This is probably the oldest cookbook in my collection. It’s a cookbook my mom used and I later bought a copy for myself. The cookbook itself is tiny and not much to look at. But the recipes are really great. I love making scones, especially for company or get togethers. They’re a treat that not many people actually make, despite how easy they are! They also taste wonderful.

My Favorites:

  • Banana Chip Scones – Like banana bread, but better!
  • Blueberry Coffee Cake Scones – Very messy, but very delicious!
  • Brownie Scones
  • Buttermilk Scones
  • Chocolate Stuffed Peanut Butter Scones
  • “Classic” Cream Scones
  • Gingerbread Scones

And that’s it for my all time favorite cookbooks! I have many, many more on my shelves, so I’m hoping with a little more intentional cooking, in the future I’ll have more cookbooks to share. Let me know your favorites!

Magical Butterscotch Sauce

sauce and cake

If you are ever in need of a dessert sauce for absolutely any purpose – I have the one for you! This butterscotch sauce is incredible. Put it on ice cream! Cake! Cookies! Brownies! Or just eat it straight from a bowl, like I did this afternoon!

I found this recipe for homemade butterscotch sauce at the end of the book Food Anatomy, which definitely is not a cookbook, but does have a few sporadic recipes sprinkled throughout. I finished the book a few days before Shepard’s parties last weekend, so it seemed like the perfect addition to his sundae bar. I’m SO glad I made it. I’ll be making this sauce forever. 🙂


I’ve made my own salted caramel sauces in the past. Many, many times because I needed to perfect it for my caramel apple cheesecake I entered in the Midwest Cheesecake Competition. I love salted caramel. But I think I love this more. It’s super easy, only has four ingredients, and can be made in ten minutes or less.

We ate the butterscotch sauce last weekend with a skillet cookie and/or ice cream. I ate it all week with leftover cookie or ice cream. Tonight I’m serving it with Molly Wizenberg’s chocolate cake recipe. It’s almost a flourless chocolate, but with the addition of 1 tbs of flour it somehow gives the cake top the texture and taste of a meringue cookie. I’ll have to share that recipe another day. And the skillet cookie recipe. That was good. But anything can be better with sauce on it. Words to live by!


Homemade Butterscotch Sauce

  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used a full teaspoon)
  1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When it starts to soften, add the sugar and stir until moistened.
  2. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally until it begins to thicken, just a few minutes.
  3. Whisk in the cream and bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is thick and glossy.
  4. Whisk in salt, adding more to taste. Let cool and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

I’ve only made this twice, but I think it’s pretty much fool proof. It’s not fussy the way caramel is. So no excuses – go make it right now!!

Pizza Night

IMG_0439 pizza

Friday nights are a huge deal in our house. Because: PIZZA. I think we might have started having homemade pizza every Friday night as far back as four or five years ago. And now everyone is so highly invested in the tradition that I’m never allowed to deviate from it. Unless on the very rare occasion we’re not home on a Friday night. Then pizza is required to happen on Saturday nights. Greg and Shepard LOVE pizza. I like pizza, but I love knowing what I’m going to make every Friday for dinner. It’s amazing how much pressure it takes off me even having that one night’s meal planned every single week.

IMG_0380 dough

The majority of the time I use a crust recipe from The Everything Pizza Cookbook. There’s a basic crust recipe and then a bunch of variations. Each crust is supposed to make four pizzas, though I always divide it into three. Most of the time I use the basic crust recipe and add a tablespoon of some sort of Italian seasoning to give it a little extra flavor. Sometimes I add a lot of black pepper, or a cup of shredded cheese, or some fresh garlic. The possibilities are endless and it always turns out great. The dough is basically fool proof and can be ready in as little as an hour if I happen to forget to make it earlier in the day. But I have a pretty set schedule of making a new batch every three weeks and freezing the dough for weeks in between.

IMG_0382 olive oil

I think the most important necessity for making a good homemade pizza is having a pizza stone, pizza peel, and making sure the oven is hot enough to cook it properly. I set my oven at 475 and try to have it (with the pizza stone) heating up for at least half an hour before the pizza goes in. A few weeks ago we had a disaster when I wasn’t feeling well and took a late nap and then Shepard woke me up demanding pizza NOW. Even though I knew better, I put the pizza in way too early and ended up losing half of it when the uncooked dough flopped off the stone. It was not a good night!

IMG_0387 olive oil painting

While the oven is heating up, we roll the dough as big as we can possibly make it while still keeping it on the peel. This is usually Greg’s job. Then Shepard does his favorite task of brushing olive oil all over the crust.

IMG_0394 heavy handed cheese

We always line the edges of the crust with garlic salt and shredded parmesan cheese. Shepard doesn’t usually do this and has way too heavy of a hand with the cheese! Which of course he thought was hilarious.

IMG_0396 cheesy

That’s a lot of crust cheese.

IMG_0400 sauce dancing

I used to experiment with a lot of different sauces and toppings. I have at least three pizza cookbooks with many, many options! One time I made a pizza that had broccoli on it and Greg freaked out. And he loves broccoli. So in the last year we’ve kept a pretty strict rotation between Buffalo Bacon, BBQ Bacon, and Pepperoni. Except recently Shepard decided he no longer likes pepperoni, or any traditionally sauced pizza, which has limited us even more. I fear his wrath over not having one of his favorite pizzas more than I want to risk trying something different.

But for a couple of other ideas, one of my all time favorites is really simple: olive oil, mozzarella, fresh garlic, and honey. It’s not quite substantial enough to be a complete meal, but it’s so delicious. I’ve also tried white pizzas with an olive oil base, riccota, and a bunch of other white cheeses – also delish. Thai pizzas are one of my favorites, but Greg doesn’t like peanut sauce, so it’s something I’ve only made for myself at lunch. Peanut sauce base, cheeses, chilies, sriracha, and maybe a little fresh cabbage salad and peanuts to top it off – yum. I think maybe it’s time to dig through the cookbooks and try to switch things up every once in awhile. I’m getting pretty sick of our standards.

IMG_0410 sauce tasting

But back to tonight’s pizza and the one we make most often. Buffalo Bacon. I realize most people make Buffalo CHICKEN pizza, but having already made chicken to add to the pizza was an extra step I got really sick of doing. So bacon it is. We always use Shur-Fine buffalo wing sauce. Which costs about $1.30 at Woodman’s. I practically buy it in bulk because Shepard uses it on everything. I’m not generally a buffalo sauce fan, but it is good with pizza!

IMG_0418 bacon breaking

Since I can’t vary the actual pizza itself that much, I do a lot of experimenting with different cheeses. A lot of the time I do just use a mix of store bought shredded mozzarella, monterey jack, and occasionally provolone. Greg and I aren’t really fans of cheddar, so we steer clear of traditional pizza cheese mixes. I love adding fresh mozzarella, but I’m the only one that really likes it. I like shredding my own cheese so I have more options and less of that chalky stuff that comes on pre-shredded cheese. One of my favorites to add to buffalo pizza is buffalo jack cheese. I’ve also used buffalo flavored cheese curds. Tonight we used a mix of home grated mozzarella and jalapeno munster.

IMG_0420 testing the bacon

And we can’t forget the bacon! I try to remember to cook up a batch of bacon in the oven every Thursday or Friday during the day. You really can’t beat real bacon. But I always have a bag of store bought bacon bits in the fridge to use in a pinch. There’s one brand that makes peppered bacon bits that are especially tasty.

IMG_0434 thumbs up

The final step is a sprinkling of cilantro. Tonight we just used dried, which basically has no flavor. But for awhile there I was using a fancy container of already chopped and half dried – yet still super fresh and green – cilantro that I found also at Woodman’s. I should really buy another one because the flavor is there without needing to buy fresh cilantro every week.

IMG_0437 spice shelf

I carefully slide the pizza in the oven and then madly spend the next 8-10 minutes getting everything else on the table and finally thinking about what to give Caden, who won’t eat pizza. The pizza is done in 8 minutes if the oven was hot enough, 10 if it wasn’t. As you can see, we’re very dedicated pizza eaters because we have an entire shelf of spicy toppings. I really just like crushed red pepper. Greg usually has grated parmesan cheese and “Pizza” (found at Target). Shepard likes to experiment with everything.

IMG_0438 pbj

Caden used to love pizza and then a couple of years ago he decided he hates cheese. Unless it’s pepperjack… So no pizza for him. Or grilled cheese. Or cheesy garlic bread. He’s otherwise an extremely good eater, so we don’t really put up a fight about the cheese issue. As far as Greg’s concerned, that’s one less person we have to share the pizza with! Caden usually has peanut butter and jelly on Fridays.

IMG_0439 pizza

And there’s our pizza! It had a lot of bubbles tonight, which does not usually happen. But still good. 🙂 Hopefully this post satisfies the people who wanted to know more about our pizza tradition. In much less rambling detail, the crust recipe is below. Enjoy!

Basic Pizza Crust (Slightly adapted from The Everything Pizza Cookbook)

  • 4 1/2 (or two packages) tbs. active dry yeast
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Combine all remaining ingredients. Use a standing mixer with a dough attachment, but if you don’t have one you’ll have to knead by hand.
  2. Continue to knead bread for 5 minutes until the dough is slightly shiny and not very sticky. If you’re using a mixer it should come together as a ball, pulling all the remaining dough from the edges. Add extra water if it doesn’t seem to be mixing well enough. If it becomes too sticky, add more flour.
  3. Place dough ball into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise 1-2 hours.
  4. Pre-heat oven with pizza stone to 475 degrees. Divide dough into three portions. Roll out one section of dough onto a cornmeal dusted pizza peel or pan. Top with ingredients.
  5. Let oven heat 20-30 minutes. Slide pizza in and let it cook 8-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it at the end. Pizza is done when the cheese is browning and bubbling. Enjoy!

Raspberry Chocolate Tart

I started celebrating Pi Day in high school. In one of my math classes we found every excuse imaginable to bring food in so we could have potlucks instead of actually work on math. Pi Day was a big one, where everybody brought in a homemade pie. I’ve always enjoyed celebrating little holidays in special ways too and because Greg is kind of a math nerd, I kept the tradition up of making a pie every year on this day. We both like pie, so why not?

I was thinking ahead this year and after much debate decided on a fresh peach pie this year. I actually made it on Wednesday, taking step by step pictures, so I could post something right away Thursday morning. But. The peach pie did not turn out. It looked perfect on the outside, but something went horribly wrong on the inside. At that point I really wasn’t in the mood to put together another fruit pie, so I went with a chocolate raspberry tart instead. It’s easy, pretty, and delicious!

Side note here – in the last few weeks I’ve started teaching myself the manual settings on my camera. It was about time I learned after owning a DSLR for four years now! Notice the difference in photo quality on that first picture compared to the second two, which I did on auto. It’s so exciting to finally learn how to do this AND see results! 
Another side note. If you’ve been wondering where I’m getting such beautiful raspberries in March in Wisconsin, the answer is Costco! I’m seriously thinking my membership is entirely worth it just to pick up some amazing produce every week. I love these raspberries!
As long as I started on this side note thing, I have one more – these Chili Cheese Fries from my incredible Joy the Baker Cookbook are to die for! This was actually my entire dinner on Wednesday night. Which I wouldn’t really recommend doing. But they’re seriously amazing. I LOVE them dipped in sriracha mayo. I’ll post the recipe for these soon.

Back to the tart! I just used a simple shortbread tart crust, a chocolate ganache filling, and fresh raspberries on top. You can alter this to make it as simple or as complicated as you want. It tastes really good with just the crust and chocolate too.

Despite my first failure, Pi Day was saved by this tart! And the homemade pepperoni pizza we ate first. Gotta love pie!

Raspberry Chocolate Tart

1 egg yolk
2 tbs very cold water
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into cubes

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, water, and vanilla. In a food processor add remaining ingredients and pulse until crumbs form. Add wet ingredients and pulse until dough forms. If the dough looks too dry, add another teaspoon of cold water. Press into tart pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache Filling
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 tbs butter
2 tsp light corn syrup

Add all ingredients to a microwave safe bowl and microwave in thirty second increments, stirring in between. When the chocolate is smooth pour into crust. Let sit for 1-2 hours and then top with fresh raspberries. Enjoy!

Gooey Dessert Popcorn with Sea Salt

Two weekends ago I took a little weekend vacation by myself to Galena, Illinois. I might write more about that trip sometime, but the important thing to know right now is that on that trip I was introduced (belatedly, I’m sure) to the amazingness of flavored popcorn. I’ve never been a huge popcorn eater. Actually, I take that back. A few years ago we got an air popper and ate popcorn smothered in butter and various seasonings WAY too often and I’ve never really felt a need for popcorn since that season.

Anyway, back to my story. In Galena there’s a popcorn store called The Great American Popcorn Company. I went in and was really surprised by just how many popcorn flavors they had. I still didn’t pay much attention because the majority of it was some variety of caramel corn, which I’ve never liked. At all. Some of the spicy flavors looked interesting, but they didn’t have any descriptions and I didn’t want to buy an $8 bag of popcorn, not knowing just how spicy it was going to be. Anyway, I walked out without buying anything and then kept thinking about it. Mostly because it seemed like a good treat to bring back to the boys. So I went back and bought a bag of jalapeno cheddar (safe bet) for myself and hot cinnamon for Greg and the boys because they love cinnamon things.

On my way home from Galena – a day early because of an incoming snowstorm – I took a detour and stopped at another popcorn place in Monfort, Wisconsin called Rural Route 1 Popcorn. I didn’t go there for the popcorn; I went for their retail store that has a lot of awesome gift and kitchen things. On my walk through the store I took a sample of something amazing – the S.S. Dunkle popcorn. It was caramel corn, covered in dark chocolate, sprinkled with sea salt. It was incredible. I can no longer say I don’t eat caramel corn because that was delicious. I bought a small bag and ate it in the car on the way home. It was my lunch.

For the past week and a half, whenever I’m hungry, I have been able to think of little else except flavored popcorn. I was really wishing I tried that jalapeno cheddar popcorn while I was still in Galena because it was awesome. I’m also wishing I had paid more attention to the other flavors because now I’d really REALLY like to try their peanut butter cup flavor. I’ve also been dreaming of the S.S. Dunkle. I’ve found myself on their website multiple times in the last week contemplating ordering some more for myself. Unlike all my other favorite gourmet dessert treats, shipping for Rural Route 1 Popcorn is very cheap!

On Saturday my mom said that she and my dad might be driving by the store on Monday and would pick me some up. So of course I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And then they didn’t end up going. What a tease! After I knew I wasn’t going to have any in my immediate future I decided this afternoon it was time to do something about it. I mean, come on – how hard could it be to make my own? And so I did.

The only thing I changed about this flavor is adding peanut butter. To make it better, of course. To make real caramel corn you should probably use an air popper or the stove top method to get un-buttered and unsalted popcorn. I, however, have a gigantic box of Boy Scout popcorn in my pantry, which we never eat, so I decided to put it to good use. I popped four bags, making sure to remove all the kernels. While those were popping I melted brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter on the stove. I let it boil for three minutes and then mixed in peanut butter and vanilla. Then I baked it at 250 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 15. At that point I added about one bag of chocolate chips, stirring it as it melted. I popped it back in the oven, stirring every few minutes, until all the popcorn was well covered. Then I took it out, sprinkled with sea salt, stirred, sprinkled with more sea salt, stirred again. I am obsessed with sea salt on chocolate. That is definitely not an exaggeration.

Overall I think it turned out quite well! The only thing I might have done differently is used milk chocolate instead of semi-sweet. I’m not really a semi-sweet kind of girl. But it’s still delicious! And I didn’t have to wait more than an hour for it to reach my tummy!

Gooey Dessert Popcorn with Sea Salt

4 bags of popped popcorn, kernels removed
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
3 tbs butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp sea salt
1 bag chocolate chips

Pop four bags of popcorn. Remove kernels and place popcorn in a large oven safe container.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for three minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla. Pour over popcorn and gently stir together, coating all the popcorn.

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Bake popcorn mixture for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Add chocolate chips and stir while they melt. Put container back in the oven, stirring every few minutes, until chocolate is completely melted. Take out of the oven and sprinkle and stir in sea salt. Enjoy!

Zippy Pig and Stink Dip

It was a very long and tension filled day, but I made it through the Cream Cheese Competition with a few awards this year! Out of twenty-three “New Cream Cheese Recipe” entries, my It’s a Mouthful cake won runner up. And out of seventeen cheesecakes entered, my Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake also won runner up. I’m proud of myself, but a little disappointed too. This probably sounds stupid, but I really wanted to win some prize money to justify buying myself the really nice camera bag I’ve been coveting for a very long time.  So winning two runner up positions – with no prize money – feels kind of like a big joke on me. I did a good job, but just not good enough to buy that camera bag. It upsets me a lot more than it probably should. At least I won something. I’m happy about that.

Anyway! I’m sharing my dip recipe today – the one that DIDN’T win an award. I still think it’s pretty delicious, though, and I don’t normally eat onions. I could probably eat a whole bowl of this. Also, I should mention to my facebook friends that helped me come up with a name, that the emcee was completely in love with the “Pig and Stink” title. I was worried it might be offensive, but I liked it too much to change it.

Okay, back to the dip. The first thing you need to do is bake an entire package of bacon in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until crisp. Reserve three of those pieces and fry them in a skillet. After the bacon is cooked you caramelize two diced onions with a mixture of salt, thyme, and cayenne pepper. Before making this dip for the first time a few weeks ago, I had never caramelized onions before. I was shocked at how long it took me (over an hour). I still have no idea what I did wrong that first time, but it went a little faster the second time and turned out a lot better. The onions got darker and seemed to be infused with a lot more flavor.

After the bacon and onions are cooled a bit you just mix it all together with the cream cheese, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and crushed peppercorns. It ends up being a slightly spicy blend of pepper, onion, and bacon that tastes (in my opinion) amazing. I hope you enjoy it too!

Zippy Pig and Stink Dip
  • 1 package of bacon
  • 2 large onions, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Lay out bacon slices on sheets, reserving three slices for the next step. Bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp and set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Place remaining three bacon slices in skillet and fry until crisp. Remove and set aside. Add the diced onions, thyme, salt, and cayenne pepper to the skillet and saute for 20-30 minutes until darkened, but not burned. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine cream cheese and sour cream until light and fluffy. Add Worcestershire sauce, honey, and black pepper and mix until smooth.
  4. Crumble all the bacon into small pieces. Reserve about two tablespoons for topping. Add remaining bacon and onions to dip mixture and blend until combined. Top with reserved bacon and eat with chips or vegetables.