Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fall & Easy Peasy Pumpkin Muffins

So, it's no surprise to anyone that we don't have fall in Florida. No leaves turn colors and fall out, the weather does not change, and the only inclination we have of the season's arrival is when Starbucks starts selling their pumpkin spiced latte.

But in Chicago, something changes in the air. The summer feeling disappears and you can feel the crisp air on your cheeks.  Boots, scarves, and cardigans come out to play.  The sundresses and sandals get packed away and I actually get excited to see my winter coat.

It is no surprise to anyone that knows me that I LOVE Trader Joe's, maybe on a sick level. But it's totally warranted because they have so many amazing things there, up to and including their pumpkin items; pumpkin butter, ice cream, pancake mix and the muffin/bread mix that I purchased.

There isn't really a recipe here but it's so easy you cannot screw it up.  
1. Buy the box of mix (you need eggs, oil, and water)
2.Follow instructions on said box.
3. Relax and eat amazing muffins.
* I did mix up a simple glaze that they suggest on the box (powdered sugar and milk, serious science here people)

I just saved you a ton of time and effort, you're welcome.

P.S. If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, I'm sorry :( just one more thing Chicago beats Florida in.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Baby, its cold outside

While growing up in Florida I really didn't get to experiment with jackets and coats very much.  On even the coldest of cold days the high would always creep up to 50 degrees, rendering anything made of wool virtually useless. There are also many Christmas mornings I can remember traveling to Grandma's house in shorts. So naturally, I love that Chicago has completely unpredictable weather actual defined seasons. My favorite thing about the seasons is changing my closet and having a completely separate wardrobe for the change in seasons. Since my coat closet is pretty barren I've been searching for a few inexpensive additions to my collection.

Here's a few I've found thanks to Polyvore.

Baby, its cold outside

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spicy Sausage Pasta

I love an easy one pot meal - this one was technically two dishes since I don't have an oven safe skillet.  

Thursday night, before we left for Arizona I wanted something quick and easy that wasn't going to make a mess for me to come home to.  I had a few leftover andouille chicken sausages to use up, and this recipe uses basic pantry items - it's the perfect quick fix.

I found this recipe here but I changed it a little bit

Easy Peasy

1 pkg smoked chicken sausage
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14 oz) can of diced Italian tomatoes (I used Oregano and Garlic flavor)
1/2 cup heavy cream
12 oz penne pasta
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, each
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

      Slice up your sausages while you heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil.
Add them to the hot oil and sauté for about 6 minutes until they start to brown, add 2 cloves of diced garlic and cook about a minute more until you start to smell the garlic (exact science here )
Next, dump in 12 oz of dried pasta, easy right? ( I used whole wheat rotini but any short cut pasta will work )
This is where I changed the original recipe, it calls for a 10 oz can of rotel but I used a can of Italian diced tomatoes that I slightly drained (14 oz size). So you dump that in with ½ cup heavy cream and 2 cups of chicken broth.  Stir it altogether and season with salt and pepper.
Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the pasta is tender.
I transferred mine at this point to an 8x8 Pyrex dish and then stirred in about ¾ cup of freshly grated cheese (I used Spanish manchego but the recipe calls for Monterey Jack, I’m convinced you could switch this up to suit many different tastes).  Add the rest of the cheese on top and broil until the cheese is melted.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chicken Shepherd's Pie

Chicken, cheese sauce, mashed potatoes; OH MY! This recipe a keeper!  I have made this a few times and it's always a big hit.  Matt ate two bowls and then asked when we could eat the leftovers? It's THAT GOOD, guys!

{finished product, not the most beautiful, but the taste makes up for it}

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each), cubed (I accidentally bought thin sliced breasts so I used 3 – not exact science just some cooked, cubed chicken)
3 T Butter
About 4 cups prepared mashed potatoes (instant or homemade – I used a frozen version of instant from Trader Joe’s - but don't tell my grandma)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2-1/4 cups 2% milk
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese, divided (I use freshly shredded Gruyere and baby Swiss, I think it makes all the difference)
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed and well drained.

In a small skillet, cook chicken in 1T olive oil until no longer pink; set aside and keep warm. Prepare mashed potatoes, set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually add milk; stir in seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or thickened.
Remove from the heat. Stir in 3/4 cup Swiss cheese until melted.  Add vegetables and chicken and combine well. Transfer to a 2-qt. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with mashed potatoes; sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until heated through. NOTE : I put my casserole dish on a foil lined baking sheet because sometimes the sauce bubbles out.

Have a glass of wine and try and ignore the delicious smells coming from your kitchen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

IT FINALLY FEELS LIKE FALL! (Apple Cider Caramel Cookies)

Waking up to 49 degree weather will really energize you to put some socks on and close the window get out of bed.

I had big plans to make a cinnamon bread today but as soon as the cool, crisp air hit me I knew I needed something a little more festive. I have been eyeballing these Apple Cider Caramel Cookies since last fall, and today just seemed like the right day to make them.  Unfortunately, here in Chicago, they only carry the special cider mix at Walmart, so I did what any right minded person would do and took two bus rides to acquire this mix. Well, I survived said bus rides, escaping with only a mild run-in with a jazzy pony-tailed fellow wearing a mesh t-shirt under his business suit (at 9am). 

Ok, now definitely get off your butt and make these cookies! They are SO GOOD!

You will need:
1 cup unsalted butter, nearly melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (7.4 ounce) box Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Instant Original Drink Mix
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 (14 ounce) bag Kraft Caramels - I cut mine in half on the little indentations

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. (I didn't have any so I just used baking sheets that I sprayed with PAM and kept my eyes on them towards the end so the bottoms didn't get too browned)

2. In a stand mixer, cream together butter, sugar, salt, and all 10 packets of apple cider mix until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract, then mix in the baking soda and baking powder. Add the flour and mix until just combined.

3. With a standard (size 50) cookie scoop, scoop the dough scrapping off the excess as you go up the bowl. Flatten the dough slightly in your hand and place a caramel in the center. Work the dough around the caramel sealing well. Place the cookies two inches apart on the sheets.  Note: I didn't have a cookie scoop either. Amateur. So I just used a tablespoon sized measuring spoon.

4. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. After baking, carefully slide the parchment with the cookies onto the counter. Let cool until they are no longer soft but still slightly warm. Twist gently to remove, and cool the rest of the way upside down on the parchment or on a cooling rack.


As they cool the caramel will harden so I just nuked one for about 5 seconds wrapped in a napkin and it was good as new! Let me know if you make them!

Monday, September 17, 2012

SO, I started a blog!

Hi There!

I'm Desiree a 25 year old college graduate living in Chicago.  I am a Florida girl at heart - born and raised in beautiful Orlando, Florida.  I graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2010 and 4 months later I packed up a few things and booked a one way ticket to Chicago and have never looked back!

{Can you blame me?!}

My childhood best friend also lives in the city and was my first roommate! We had a very ridiculous respectable summer in the city.  She really showed me what Chicago has to offer.

{After dinner at Girl & the Goat}

I met my boyfriend, Matt, in July 2011 and our relationship quickly turned into something great. We now share a great apartment in the city and as well as being my best friend he is also my guinea pig for recipes.

{he's a little bit taller than me - my heels are 5 inches}

So if you're reading this blog you will see recipes, fashion, DIY ideas and just daily ramblings.  Welcome to my world, here goes nothing....