Sushi Cake

Our youngest son turned 5 in August and he requested a “sushi cake.” The child LOVES sushi and frequently requests it for special events. I share his love for sushi and was only too happy to oblige! I searched for ideas and then created my own version of a sushi cake using cake, candy, fruit roll-ups, rice krispies, marshmallows, chocolate, Swedish fish, and coconut. It was so fun and turned out better than I could have imagined! The only inedible part was the chopsticks. The base cake was mint chocolate as requested by the birthday boy and the sushi rolls were vanilla cake. Hope you enjoy!

Sushi Cake

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Simple Food, Beautiful Presentation

This is a topic that I often struggle with. A reader asked about  how I try to make something look beautiful on the table. I must give my mom credit, she has always presented food nicely even when it was just the family – no pots or pans on the table, table properly set etc. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years:

1) Choose the appropriate size of bowl or serving dish.

2) Use herbs to garnish – they are gorgeous and edible. Oh and I’m not talking about the diner piece of curly parsley on the side of the plate. 🙂

3) Think about the colors on the table and the colors of the food. I would put carrots in a white dish so the orange color pops but I would avoid putting mashed potatoes in white if possible.

4) Think outside the box – don’t be limited by your bowls and plates. You can often stack, combine, or find different uses for what you already have.

5) Look for clearance or second hand dinnerware, serving pieces, and table clothes. It’s always rewarding to find great deals that make your table beautiful.

6) Arrange the food. Take a minute and look at the dish – garnish, mound, fix.

7) When preparing a buffet, try to use various heights of dishes. You can easily but books or boxes underneath a cloth to raise regular dishes or you can use pedestal dishes.

In the first picture, I like the subtle color of the plate with the bright vegetables. In the second picture, even though the rice is white, the lentils really pop. I like the square dish and the way that the rice extended beyond the lentils – it frames the dish.

This square bowl is one of my favorites! The components of the salad look so pretty being towards the top.

While this isn’t my favorite photo, it does show the different heights and the different ways I use dishes. I like to use simple dishes so the food is really the star. Most of the dishes on the table are dishes that we use everyday as well as for entertaining.

***Stay tuned – next week is devoted to Christmas goodies – especially chocolate! We will have new recipes for you every day!***

Super Bowl Snacks

Here are  5 more ideas for your Super Bowl Party to finish out this week! They are all easily pulled off for a great gathering tomorrow night! Who will you be cheering for? Since our beloved Colts had a disappointing ending to the season, our family will be cheering for the Packers! 

1) Nacho Bar – Provide chips, nacho cheese sauce (from the store or homemade*), jalapenos, tomatoes, black beans, olives, shredded lettuce, grated cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Also, Food Network Magazine had a great insert in the January/February issues with 50 different ideas for nachos!

*If you try homemade cheese sauce, here’s how I would do it. 🙂 Make a traditional white sauce, add sharp cheddar cheese and a 4 oz. can of chopped green chilis.

2) Brownies – You even use a mix and sub strong coffee for the water or add 1-2 tsp. powdered instant coffee to the mix. The coffee give the brownies incredible depth of flavor.

3) Build-Your-Own Sundae Bar – Hot Fudge, Caramel, Strawberries, Bananas, Nuts, Chocolate Chips, Sprinkles, Whipped Cream, Cherries, and more.

4) Chicken Tenders or Wings – I’m linking to two excellent recipes that I have made. The first is traditional Buffalo Wings w/Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce and the second is a delicious twist on wings – Tandori Chicken Wings w/Peanut Dipping Sauce. They are quite easy and very good!

5) And my husband’s suggestion is a Baked Potato Bar. Provide great big baked potatoes with chili, broccoli, ham, bacon, cheese, sour cream, peas, olives, white sauce, caramelized onions. It makes for a filling and creative alternative to nachos.

Of course, no Super Bowl post would be complete without mentioning Pizza. Making your own is easy, inexpensive and so tasty!

We also love a great big bowl of homemade Caramel Corn for game time snacking!

We hope that you have found some great ideas recipes for the big Game Day! Enjoy your family and friends as well as cheering on your favorite team to victory!

Superbowl Snacks: Jalapeno Dip

We are being pounded with bad weather and ice here in Indiana and sadly, that means I don’t have a picture of this for you today – I simply didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand to make a batch. But, I have made it several times and I will add a picture as soon as I am able.

My family and friends can vouch for the delicious goodness of this recipe! I first had Jalapeno Dip this fall – my boss made something similar for an open house we had at work. It is not low in fat or calories so if you want a healthy superbowl party, look elsewhere.  But it is so easy and so popular with everyone – you may become a celebrity with this dip! 🙂 Oh and you can easily halve this recipe…but you won’t want to!

JALAPENO DIP
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2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temp
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese 
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 (4 ounce) can sliced jalapenos – double if you want it spicier
1 cup bread crumbs (panko or regular)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 stick butter, melted

In a food processor, add the first 6 ingredients and process until smooth. You do not need to drain either can of peppers. Spread the dip into a greased 2-quart casserole. In a bowl, mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and melted butter; mix well. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over the dip and bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven for about 20 minutes. You want the top to get browned and the dip to be heated through and bubble gently on the edges.

Do not over cook this dish or the mayonnaise with separate and you will have a grease puddle in your dip. Serve with Butter crackers or a thinly sliced French baguette (my personal favorite).

Party Snacks

It’s that time of year with parties and gatherings galore!  In honor of New Year’s Eve tomorrow evening, I offer you two simple and delicious snack ideas. Neither of these are super sweet, but both are quite satisfying and a nice addition to a party spread.

I occasionally peruse the blog Nourishing Gourmet, and not too long ago she offered this spiced nut recipe. I love spiced nuts, but was happy to find a recipe not so laden with sugar, so I don’t have to feel guilty while indulging a little bit! These would also make a lovely gift, if you were so inclined.

CINNAMON VANILLA SPICED NUTS
(from The Nourishing Gourmet)
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1 egg white
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 c. sugar (sucanat, coconut sugar, maple sugar are all alternatives to refined sugar that work just fine here)
2 1/2 c. nuts (I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or cover with parchment paper.

Lightly beat the egg white with a whisk just until a bit foamy. Stir in the cinnamon, vanilla, salt and sugar. Add the nuts and stir to coat well.

Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon (allowing extra coating to drip out), and spread out in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove and cool for 20 minutes. Can store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

This recipe came from the December issue of Cooking Light and was frankly the only recipe I found of any particular interest. I did scale the sweetener back a little bit and thought it perfect, like slightly spicy caramel corn. I also decided we weren’t eating the whole batch the night I made it, so I did pop this in the oven for 10 minutes at 250°F to dry it out just a little bit so I could store it without lots of clumping. We happily consumed the leftovers the next day in our lunches.

SPICY MAPLE-CASHEW POPCORN
(from Cooking Light, December 2010)
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1 Tbsp canola or coconut oil
1/4 c. popcorn kernels (about 6c. popped)
1/4 c. dry-roasted cashews
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Heat oil in a pan and pop the popcorn. (I use a Whirlypop Pan, but you can use a traditional pan, just make sure you shake often as it’s popping.)

Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Stir the cashews into popped corn.

Combine sugar, maple syrup, butter, salt and cayenne in a small pan; bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool 1 minute.

Pour hot syrup over popcorn mixture. Toss to coat. Immediately spread onto prepared pan. Cool 3 minutes. Enjoy!

Baker’s Delight: Pie

(Alaina) This past week, my November Martha Stewart Living arrived – it’s a new subscription for me. The cover had delicious looking pies. So when I wanted to try a new pie to suggest for the blog, I turned to this issue. I selected the Pear Streusel which is actually a pear and cranberry pie. It is fabulous. Perfect balance of flavors – sweet and tart.

PEAR STREUSEL PIE
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, November 2010)
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1 recipe single pie crust

FOR THE CRANBERRY SAUCE
6 oz. fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (1 1/2 cups )
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING
1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. packed light-brown sugar (I did a little less)
3/4 c. old-fashioned oats
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Coarse salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

FOR THE FILLING
1 1/2 lb. firm, ripe pears, such as Bosc or Bartlett, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/4 c. granulated sugar
Coarse salt
2 Tb. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Make the crust: Roll out dough to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Crimp edges. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the cranberry sauce: Bring cranberries, granulated sugar, water, and cinnamon to a simmer in a pot. Cook until cranberries are tender and start to burst and sauce is thick, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the streusel: Whisk together flour, brown sugar, oats, ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until combined and mixture resembles coarse meal with some large pieces remaining. Refrigerate.

Make the filling: Mix together pears, granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, the flour, and lemon juice. Stir in cooled cranberry sauce.

Transfer filling to crust; top with streusel. Bake until filling is bubbling in the center and top is golden, about 1 hour and 10-20 minutes. Let cool.

(Stephanie) As requested, I’m sharing my pumpkin pie recipe,which is actually my mom’s recipe. When I made this pie, I made a gluten-free pie crust. This was my first venture into gluten-free pies and I was happy with the recipe I found in The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook by Annalise Roberts.

MOM’S PUMPKIN PIE
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1 9-inch pie crust (unbaked)
16-oz can pumpkin
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1-1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2-1 tsp ginger
1/4-1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4-1/2 tsp cloves
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 c. evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 425°. Prepare pie crust and set aside.

Thoroughly combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, and spices. Blend the eggs and evaporated milk into the pumpkin mixture.

Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes.  Then decrease oven to 350° and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

TRADITIONAL PIE CRUST
(from The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook)
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1 c. + 2 Tbsp Brown Rice Flour Mix*
2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces (don’t use margarine)
1 large egg
2 tsp orange juice or lemon juice

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together the flours, sugar, xanthan gum and salt. Add the butter and mix until the mixture is crumbly and resembles a coarse meal.

Add the egg and orange juice. Mix on low speed until the dough holds together; it should not be sticky. Form the dough into a ball using your hands and place on a sheet of wax paper. Top with a second sheet of wax paper and flatten the dough into a 1-inch thickness. Roll out the dough (if it seems tacky, refrigerate for 15 minutes). Remove top wax paper and invert into 9-inch pie pan. Remove second sheet of wax paper and crimp the edges. Fill with desired filling.

Makes 1 9-inch pie crust.

*Brown Rice Flour Mix: 2 c. Brown rice flour; 2/3 c. Potato starch (not potato flour!); 1/3 c. Tapioca flour.

Here are some previous ideas!
Rustic Apple Tart
Cranberry Blueberry Pie
French Silk Pie
Cranberry Chess Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin White Chocolate Cheesecake

Gluten-free Walnut & Pecan Tart

Thanksgiving Sides: Part 2

(Alaina) This potato side dish is decadent and rich. Definitely a recipe that is reserved for special occasions and holidays but totally worth the caloric splurge! This is also adapted from Bon Appetit (can you see a theme this week – AWESOME recipes in the November issue!). Mmmm, delicious.

POTATO GRATIN w/MUSHROOMS
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1/4 c. olive oil
2 c. finely chopped leeks (white and green parts only; about 2 large)
1  lb. 1/2-inch cubes assorted mushrooms (I used shitake and baby bellas)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 c. coarsely grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks; sauté until soft and lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and liquid evaporates, 7 to 8 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pat potato slices dry with kitchen towel. Combine cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large pot. Add potatoes. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid; simmer until cream is reduced by about half and potatoes are partially cooked, stirring often and watching closely to prevent mixture from burning, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Brush 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with oil. Transfer half of potato mixture to dish, spreading out in even layer. Spoon mushroom mixture over in even layer. Spoon remaining potato mixture over, spreading in even layer. Sprinkle cheese over. Cover with foil, tenting in center to prevent cheese from sticking to foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until potatoes are tender and top is brown, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

(Stephanie) I had a half a loaf of gluten-free bread on hand, so I decided to try out a stuffing recipe from the November issue of Everyday Food. The nuts and mushrooms added a subtle, but pleasing taste and texture.

MUSHROOM AND WALNUT STUFFING
(from Everyday Food, November 2010)
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2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large yellow onions, diced small
3 celery stalks, diced medium (about 2 c.)
salt and pepper
10 oz cremini or button mushrooms, diced small
2 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 c. toasted walnuts, roughly chopped (I used pecans)
1 loaf crusty white bread, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (8 c.), left uncovered overnight or toasted (can use gf bread)
1- 1 1/2 c. chicken broth
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, 5-7 minutes; transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 Tbsp oil, mushrooms, and sage to skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are browned, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, until wine is almost evaporated. Transfer to bowl with vegetables; add walnuts, cubed bread, and enough chicken broth to moisten (stuffing should feel moist, not soggy). Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.

Add eggs to bread mixture and toss well to combine. Reserve up to 4 c. for stuffing turkey, if desired.  Spoon mixture into lightly oiled baking dish.  Preheat oven to 400°, with rack in upper third. Bake uncovered, until golden brown on top, about 30 minutes.

Here are some ideas from previous posts!
Sweet Potato & Cranberry Stuffing
Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish
Cranberry Sauce
Gluten-free Cornbread Sausage Stuffing

Thanksgiving Sides

The traditonal Thanksgiving menu can be updated and brightened with some new variations on side dishes!

(Alaina) This green bean recipe is adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe. It is delicious and I plan to make it for our celebration. I like that it is served at room temperature and the vinaigrette adds great flavor. I wasn’t sure about the mint but it added a whole flavor profile that was amazing.

GREEN BEANS w/TOASTED WALNUTS & CRANBERRY VINAIGRETTE
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1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 c. minced red onion
3 Tb. plus 2 tsp. Champagne Vinegar
2 Tb. chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. black pepper plus additional (for sprinkling)
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1 1/2 lb. trimmed slender green beans (such as haricots verts)
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted, chopped

Whisk first 6 ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in small bowl. Mix in dried cherries; set aside. DO AHEAD Vinaigrette can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature; whisk before using.

Fill large bowl with water and ice; set aside. Cook green beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl with ice water; cool. Drain. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in paper towels; enclose in resealable plastic bag and chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before continuing.Toss green beans, walnuts, and vinaigrette in large bowl. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Transfer to platter and serve.

(Stephanie) We are big fans of broccoli around here and I’m always looking for new variations.  This is a tasty, slightly sweet/slightly tangy recipe I created. Feel free to mess around with the honey and mustard quantities to suit your taste.

ROASTED BROCCOLI AND PEARL ONIONS w/ BACON AND HONEY MUSTARD
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2 heads broccoli separated into large florets
6 oz frozen pearl onions
4 slices bacon
1 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
water (optional)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, drizzle melted butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil over broccoli and onions; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a greased baking pan and roast until fork-tender, about 25 minutes.  Place strips of bacon on baking pan and bake until crisp.

Mix together, remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, honey, dijon mustard, and minced garlic (if it seems to thick, thin down with a 1-2 tsp of water).

Drizzle honey mustard mixture of broccoli and onions, toss to coat.  Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Top with crumbled bacon.

Here are some Thanksgiving ideas from previous posts!
Roasted Sweet & Savory Squash
Mashed Potatoes & Turnips
Green Beans & Walnuts w/Lemon Vinaigrette

Real Creamed Corn Pudding
Catherine’s Streusel Cranberry Sweet Potatoes

Slow Cooker: Appetizers

What do you have planned for the weekend? Company? Olympics? I think these two cheesy appetizers will be perfect for your weekend plans.

We loved this orange cranberry dip. It was delicious! I used the zest and juice of one fresh orange – yum!

ORANGE CRANBERRY DIP
(Adapted from crockpot 365)
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8 oz. cream cheese
2/3 c. shredded swiss cheese
2 Tb. orange juice
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c.  dried cranberries

Plug in your Little Dipper to get it started warming up. Shove the block of cream cheese down into it. You may need to squish it in with a spoon. Shred the swiss, and add it. Grate the orange and add the zest. Add the orange juice and pecans. Cover and let it cook for 45 minutes to an hour. When the cream and swiss cheese have fully melted, stir in the dried cranberries.

Serve with your favorite crackers or fruit slices.

We’ve established how much I LOVE brie. And so when I saw that the crockpot lady had a slow cooker brie recipe, I really, really wanted to try it! However, I haven’t tried it yet. I have all the ingredients and I plan to but instead we’ve had strep and haven’t felt like eating a whole lot. But I decided that I should still share it so you can try it. And I will try it when we are feeling better. 🙂 It looks amazing!

APRICOT WALNUT BRIE
(Adapted from crockpot 365)
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1 large round or wedge of brie (the round I used was 13.2 oz)
1/2 c. chopped dried apricots
2 Tb. brown sugar
2 Tb. water
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Use a 1.5 mini round crockpot. If you are going to use a big one, put the brie in an oven-safe dish. As long as the dish and the crockpot heat together, you’re all good.

Cut the top rind off. Put the brie into the crockpot. In a bowl, mix the chopped apricots, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, water and rosemary together. Spoon on top of the brie. Sprinkle on the chopped walnuts.

Cover and cook on high for 1-2 hours, or on low for about 3. Check after an hour in both cases just in case. Serve with your favorite crackers or fruit slices.

Dinner for Two

Note: My oven decided to not work (of course! :)). Therefore, your spinach will look much nicer than mine… My sincerest apologies. It’s been quite the week!

My favorite way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to cook a nice dinner and enjoy it with my husband. It’s quiet and romantic. I choose a nicer menu and we enjoy it after our rowdy boys are in bed. These easy recipes are sure to impress!

FILET MIGNON w/BALSAMIC REDUCTION
(Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis)
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1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1 Tb. sugar 
1 Tb. butter
2 (5 to 6-oz.) filet mignon steaks (each about 1-inch thick)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 oz. goat cheese, gorgonzola, or bleu cheese

Boil the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Melt the butter in a heavy, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Pat filet dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook the steaks to desired doneness, about 4 – 4 1/2 minutes per side for medium.  Crumble the cheese over the steaks and broil just until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with pepper.

Transfer the steaks to plates. Drizzle the balsamic sauce and serve.

GARLIC ROASTED POTATOES
(adapted from Ina Garten)
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1 pound small fingerling or red potatoes 
 2 Tb. good olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh parsley (opt.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the potatoes in quarters and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic; toss until the potatoes are well coated. Transfer the potatoes to a sheet pan and spread out into 1 layer. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking in order to ensure even browning.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, toss with parsley, season to taste, and serve hot.

CREAMY SPINACH
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1 Tb. butter
1 sm. onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (16 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 c. heavy cream
Salt & Pepper to taste
Dash of nutmeg
3 Tb. fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 c. shredded swiss cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in a skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender. Add the spinach and cook until warm. Stir in cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook for 2-3 more minutes or until slightly reduced and creamy. Remove from heat and  stir in swiss cheese and 2 Tb. parmesan. Divide between 3-4 ramekins. Top with remaining parmesan and bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.   

CARAMEL MACCHIATO CHEESECAKE
(adapted from allrecipes.com)
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2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c. butter, melted
2 Tb. white sugar

FILLING:
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 c. white sugar
3 eggs
1 (8 oz,) container sour cream
1/4 c. brewed espresso or strong coffee
2 tsp. vanilla extract

GARNISH:
Caramel ice cream topping
Fresh whipped cream
Grated Chocolate or Hard shell Chocolate Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of sugar until well combined. Press into the bottom of the prepared springform pan, and 1 inch up the sides. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, then remove to cool on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Beat the softened cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup of sugar, beating until blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream, espresso and vanilla. Pour batter into the baked and cooled crust.

Bake cheesecake in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 5 minutes; then turn the oven off, partially open the door and allow the cheesecake to rest for 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven, and run a knife around the edges. Cool cheesecake on a wire rack to room temperature, then cover the springform pan with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours.

To serve, cut the cheesecake into wedges and garnish each slice with whipped cream, caramel sauce drizzle, and chocolate curls OR spread caramel sauce on top of cheesecake and drizzle with hard shell chocolate.

Or if you prefer a simpler dessert, I recommend one of these desserts or perhaps a cappucino and cookie. Enjoy!