Winter Chopped Salad

I made this salad a few weeks ago and loved the wintery mix of yummy fruits. As some of you know, I’ve been writing some monthly articles for a magazine in Gainesville, called Gainesville Today. It’s been so fun for me to be creative and yet gain experience in doing something I really love (write and cook!).


I featured this salad in the November issue focused on potluck dishes to bring to events, etc. It truly is the easiest thing to throw together and might just be the fastest item to go on the table. It’s perfect for this time of year because pears are in their peak season.


If you are interested, you can check out the magazine’s website here. It’s truly a great publication run by a group of really talented people.

The recipe for this delicious salad is below. What dishes are your go to recipes for a potluck this Holiday season?

Winter Chopped Salad recipe slightly adapted from Espresso and Cream
2 heads of Romaine lettuce, finely chopped
1 large pear, sliced into cubes
6 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup of dried cranberries
½ cup of chopped pecans
1 4 oz. container of feta cheese
¼ cup Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette
¾ cup Lite Poppy Seed Dressing
In a large bowl combine all the chopped ingredients. Pour 1/4 cup of the Balsamic Vinaigrette over the salad, followed by 3/4 cup of the Poppy Seed Dressing. Toss and serve. Enjoy!
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Iced Chai Tea Latte

This post is going to be short and sweet, just like the recipe and the drink! Continuing along with the Starbucks theme I have going, last seen here with my delicious version of a Pumpkin Spice Latte, I’ve decided to recreate my other favorite beverage: Iced Chai Tea Latte.

It’s embarrassingly easy to make.

The spices in Chai Tea remind me of the Holidays, homey and comforting. I boil a pot of about 2 1/2 cups of water. Then I throw two tea bags in and let it steep until the mixture is cooled. I pour it over ice for a refreshing twist. You can add milk or cream, but my favorite thing to do is actually add flavored coffee creamer. It adds just another int of creaminess and flavor. Top it off with two packets of Splenda and I’m in heaven!

How easy is that?

Iced Chai Tea Latte
2 1/2 cups of water
2 bags of Tazo Chai Tea
Cream or milk
Bring the water to a boil then remove from heat. Steep the two bags of tea in the hot water until the water is cool. Remove the bags. Pour some of the tea over ice and put the rest of the tea in the fridge for another drink. Add a dash of cream or milk and 2 packets of Splenda. Stir and enjoy!
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Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

I know I might be taking this whole pumpkin thing a little, well, overboard… but heck, you only really get a few months when everything pumpkin is acceptable. So I’m gonna milk it for all it’s worth.

I bought this adorable doughnut pan at Michael’s this weekend and of course had to try it out immediately. You know those people who buy new clothes and then wait forever to wear them? ‘Cause they’re waiting for a special occasion? I am (emphatically) not one of them. This also applies to household goods.

I was intrigued by the idea of baked doughnuts, mostly because I try not to fry anything unless I absolutely have to. And while I have never fried a doughnut in my life, I’ve definitely tasted one. (Krispy Kreme anyone? I die.)

The verdict: if you’re expecting a light fluffy, fried doughnut, you might be disappointed. This doughnut is very dense and cake-like. And coming from a girl who’s favorite kind of doughnut is actually the cake variety, I was in heaven. Of course, I coated the baked doughnuts in butter and dusted them with cinnamon and sugar, just for good measure. (Hey, I didn’t fry the darn things, after all!)

If you’re looking for a fun baking project this weekend and can’t get enough of pumpkin like me, give this recipe a shot! I promise you won’t be disappointed. Here’s the recipe!

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts slightly adapted from Sweetened with Honey

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. In another bowl fitted with an electric mixer attachment, beat the oil and sugar together. Add the egg until mixed in. Then mix in the milk and pumpkin until just incorporated.  Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients a small batch at a time until all is incorporated. Do not mix for too long or the dough will become tough. Grease your doughnut pans. To fill the doughnut pan without using a piping bag, fill a large pastic, sealable bag with the batter. Cut a small hole in the corner and pipe the batter this way. Fill the batter all the way to the top of the doughnut indentions. The doughnuts will rise, but not by much.   Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 11 minutes. The doughnuts should be firm and spring back at your touch. Set on wire racks and let cool complete. When cooled, coat a doughnut with butter and dip it into a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, one by one. Enjoy!
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Pumpkin Spice Latte

Bet you didn’t see this one coming, huh? It’s such a departure from everything else I’ve been making lately… 😉

You know Fall has arrived when Starbucks brings back its crazy popular, pumpkin-flavored drink. When I was a youngin and still in school (meh,) I typically would get a Starbucks coffee at least once a week. After all, it was on my way to class and just oh, so convenient. Now that I’m a graduated gal (meh,) I rarely venture to a Starbucks unless I’m at an airport (in which case, I get two. Airports are the worst.)

Because I was craving Pumpkin Spice Lattes daily, but my wallet was not, I decided to create my own version of the Fall drink to have on hand. At this point, I’m sure anyone else would break down the cost of making your own latte compared to buying one from Starbucks and gloat triumphantly at the results. However, math just ain’t my thing, y’all, and I’m pretty sure I’d screw it up.

There is one thing I’m pretty darn confident about that doesn’t require rudimentary math skills. This latte is delicious! Here’s the very simple recipe 🙂

Pumpkin Spice Latte
You will need:
1 cup brewed coffee, I like mine strong
1/2 cup milk, I used 2%
1 tablespoon of canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Coffee creamer, or half-and-half
Individual packets of Splenda (or regular sugar)
In a small saucepan, mix the milk, pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice with a whisk. Over medium-heat, warm the milk mixture until steaming. Be careful not to scald the milk. When your the mixture is hot, remove from heat and divide evenly between two coffee mugs. Fill the rest of the mugs with the coffee. Add a dash of creamer to each and two packets of Splenda or another sweetener. Top with whipped cream and dash of pumpkin pie spice, if desired. Enjoy!
Posted in Breakfast, Cocktails, Fall Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Butternut Squash Soup

Can you believe I’ve never had Butternut Squash before? It’s always been one of those items that I swore I would try some day, but just never got around to. After all, it looks like an overgrown squash or weird, disfigured pumpkin. Which I guess, technically, it actually is…? I was always a little tentative to try it.

As you can tell by my previous post, I’m seriously in a Fall kind of mood. Anything homey and resembling anything remotely of the Holidays is a priority in my life right now. Even though, unfortunately, Florida weather has crept back up into the daggone 80’s and is still unbearably humid. Is it too much for a girl to ask to be able to wear some cute boots and a comfy sweater around here? I mean honestly. I’m trying to get my Fall style on.

This soup was warm and savory with just a hint of sweetness. I filched the recipe from Southern Living, but due to some product restrictions that I overlooked (woops,) I adapted it to suit my needs (re: basically so I didn’t have to make another trip to the store.) It turned out beautifully.

Let’s just say, Butternut Squash and I are now pals. Welcome to the party!

Butternut Squash Soup adapted from Southern Living Magazine (recipe not online as of yet)

You will need:
8 baby carrots, cut into chunks
1 sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 3 lb. butternut squash, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
6 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
1 cup half-and-half
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce
paprika, for garnish
In a large pot, sautee the onions and carrots with the olive oil for at least 10 minutes until the veggies are slightly brown. Add the butternut squash, broth and the lemon zest. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and let sit for at least 20 minutes. The squash should be fork tender. Stir in the cream, white wine vinegar, honey, salt, pepper and hot sauce. In a blender, puree the soup in batches, then transfer back into the pot until a smooth texture is formed. Serve immediately with sprinkle of paprika if desired. Enjoy!
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Pumpkin Poundcake

Wowza. Peach Cupcakes to Pumpkin Poundcake? It certainly has been a while since my last post, so much so that we’ve transitioned into a new season. However, there’s a lot of open-ended questions in my life right now, most notably of the career-centric variety. These days, if I’m on my computer it’s usually because I’m patrolling job searching sites, something that has quickly become tedious and extremely depressing. I hope you’ll bear with me as I try to sort out my options; I’m planning on becoming much more consistent with my posts when I have more structure in my life.Anywho, last week Florida had a brief but refreshing bout of cool weather. Just a glimpse of Fall, and I was itching to bake pies and try out some new Fall recipes. Of course, pumpkin has to be one of my favorite fall flavors, as you can tell from these delicious Pumpkin Scones I made last year.I love a dense, flavorful poundcake, and this recipe was no exception. I whipped up a simple Cinnamon Glaze to drizzle on top, but you could mix and match any topping you prefer. I love that this recipe doubles as a sweet dessert after a meal or a homey breakfast with a hot cup of coffee.As my mom said, it was a “perfect taste of Fall in just one bite.” I couldn’t agree more 🙂 Here’s the recipe!

Pumpkin Poundcake with a Cinnamon Glaze slightly adapted from Taste of Home

You will need:
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl fitted with a mixing attachment, beat the sugar and oil  until combined.  Add the eggs one a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract. In another large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cloves. Starting with the flour mixture and alternating with the pumpkin, add each about a cup at a time to the egg mixture and mix well after each addition. Make sure to end with the flour mixture. Grease a 10-inch fluted bundt pan and pour the batter evenly into the pan. Bake for 1 hour and until a toothpick entered into the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn over and out onto a flat surface to cool completely.
For the Cinnamon Glaze:
Combine 2 cups of powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of milk and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Drizzle over the top of the cooled cake. 
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Peach Cupcakes with Peach Cream Cheese Frosting

Don’t these festive cupcakes just scream “I love summer!”? Peaches are abundantly in season right about now and our fridge can’t hold enough of them. They’re juicy and ripe and just begging to be worked into all kinds of yummy recipes.

I first saw a recipe for Peach Cupcakes on Pinterest, but when I went to go check out the site a little more, I realized the recipe called for Freeze Dried Peaches which was problematic for a few reasons: 1)My little local Publix did not carry this curious item, and 2) I just couldn’t bring myself to use withered peaches when the stores are practically brimming with bright, luscious peaches. That’s a downright crime, if you ask me.

Luckily, after another cursory internet search, I came across another recipe from the trustworthy blog, Smitten Kitchen. Her recipe used small chunks of peaches, the riper the better, in the batter. I knew I found a winner. I adjusted a few minor things from her recipe; I used regular flour instead of cake flour, and I didn’t peel my peaches before I threw them in the batter. These adjustments didn’t really make much of a difference. The cupcakes were still scrumptious. They’d even be great as breakfast muffins, hot out of the oven! (If you look past the sugar and butter, etc…)

The cake part is crumbly and moist, with bright bursts of peach flavor scattered throughout. I didn’t use the icing recipe she offered and instead tried my hand at making my own. I started with a basic cream cheese frosting and added two pureed peaches. While it made the icing a tad runny, it turned out pretty delicious. Top these cupcakes with slices of fresh peaches and watch them disappear! Here’s the recipe.

Peach Cupcakes slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen with Peach Cream Cheese Frosting
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large peaches diced
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with liners and lightly spray with cooking oil. This will prevent the cupcakes from sticking to the paper liners.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. Cream the butter and sugars together in bowl fitted with a mixer attachment. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowls every once in a while. Slowly mix in the buttermilk. Batter will be extremely soupy. Stir in the dry ingredients a couple of batches at a time. Then fold in the peach chunks carefully with a spatula.
With an ice cream scoop, fill the muffin tins about 3/4 of the way full with batter. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting:
Cream two sticks of room temperature butter with 8 oz. of cream cheese. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Meanwhile, slice and peel two peaches. Puree the peaches in a blender until smooth. Add a little at at time to cream cheese mixture. Slowly add three cups of confectioner’s sugar, adding a tablespoon at a time after that until desired consistently is met. If the frosting looks too soft, let chill in a freezer for 20 minutes before frosting. Pipe onto cupcakes with a pastry bag or plastic bag. Top with a slice of peach. Enjoy!
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