Sweet Potato Pie Pancakes with Marshmallow Sauce

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My grandmother makes the best sweet potato pie casserole. It’s a holiday staple in our family.

What could be better than mashed sweet potatoes, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter and sugar?

Oh, that’s right.

Maybe it’s the melted marshmallows on top…

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I woke up this morning craving something sweet and comforting in this cold, yucky weather.  I always love pancakes for brunch on the weekends, but I didn’t want just plain pancakes. You could probably tell from my Cream Cheese and Nutella Pancakes and my Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Fresh Blueberry Sauce that I love rich, decadent pancakes.

 I knew I wanted something rich, sweet and comforting. I just wasn’t sure what exactly.

And then my grandmother texted me.

And then a brilliant idea popped into my head.

Why don’t I make sweet potato pie pancakes?

And sweet potato pancakes wouldn’t be the same without my favorite part, the melted marshmallows on top.

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So I topped the pancakes with marshmallows and placed them under the broiler.

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But naturally I couldn’t stop there. So I made a marshmallow sauce.

 At every holiday dinner my family gets mad at me because I always eat all of the marshmallows off the top of the sweet potatoes.

It’s better than eating them out of the trash can though, right?

Yep, that really happened.

 My stepdad caught me eating stale marshmallows out of the trash can when I was a kid.

Oops.

And so I created this masterpiece (with fresh marshmallows, of course!)

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Heaven and Hell Cake {through hardships to the stars}

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There’s a phrase in Latin “ad astra per aspera.” It’s a phrase that has stuck with me throughout my life and one that kept me strong the past two and a half years that I spent living in Connecticut. It means through hardships to the stars.

A month ago I quit my job and moved back home to Philadelphia. Something I had yearned to do since my car accident three days after moving to Connecticut.

I struggled for two and a half years to make Connecticut home. After the car accident I was left questioning myself and the decision I had just made to leave my friends, my family, my favorite city and a great job. But I craved a change. I wanted to prove to my family and most importantly to myself that I was capable of being on my own and that I could make a new life for myself.  So I stayed. And the experiences, despite however good or bad they may have been, played an invaluable part in shaping who I am today.

I made a best friend. We were like godsends to each other. It seemed as if we were both struggling to find ourselves and happened to be there for one another at the perfect time. I encouraged her to give the man of her dreams a chance and she became my biggest fan and supporter (and recipe taste-tester).

I experienced a heartbreak and heartache so strong it still lingers. A relationship that moved 1000 miles per hour and was over as quickly as it began. But I was able to learn so much about myself  and what I value most in a relationship, and I know that will lead me to meeting my soul mate.

There were also other experiences that impacted my life and helped me to grow over the last two years. I made two other great girlfriends, one who lives halfway across the country and one who moved to Connecticut for her job, too. I got to travel for work and try some amazing restaurants. I found a love for nature and hiking. I found a love for fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. I realized no amount of money could ever get me to have a roommate again. I found a love for jalapeno tequila and a hatred for tequila sweats.

But the most important part of my experience in Connecticut was that it allowed me to finally find myself, and my passion.

Cooking and baking became my form of emotional expression. When I was left with an abundance of love and emotion to give and no one and nothing to give it to, I poured everything I had into the kitchen.

And here I am, two and a half years later, sitting in my beautiful apartment in Philadelphia writing this blog post. And I wouldn’t be here doing this if it hadn’t been for the experiences I had and the relationships I formed while in Connecticut. Because through all of the struggles, all of the ups and downs and hardships I experienced, I was able to finally find myself and my passion, food.

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So for a long and way overdue blog post, I made a heaven and hell cake to share with you, adapted from Dallas Chef Stephan Pyles. The layers of this cake represent the past two and a half years of my life. Made up of layers of Devil’s Food Cake and Angel Food Cake, a peanut butter mousse and covered in a chocolate ganache, this cake is my art form of  the good and bad, my “ad astra per asperato” that allowed me to overcome these struggles to create an amazing end product of finding my passion.

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Drunken Pumpkin Chipotle Chili

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Sometimes I feel like I’m on a hidden camera show.

Like I’m waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop out and tell me I’m being Punk’d.

Or I’m waiting for a news article to come out about the water in Connecticut and how a chemical has been found that makes people loony.

But until this happens, I’m left speechless. And since I’m speechless, all I can really do is share with you a fantastic recipe.

And guess what?

It is NOT a baked good. Crazy right?

I made for you Drunken Pumpkin Chipotle Chili. Made with pumpkin ale, Chipotle peppers, tons of veggies and all the best flavors of fall. This is the perfect meal to make on a Sunday to eat through the week for a quick, healthy, easy AND delicious weeknight dinner.

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Apple, Cinnamon and Walnut Baked Oatmeal with Date Caramel Sauce {healthy, delicious and the perfect grab and go breakfast or guilt-free dessert}

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I think I’ve hit an all time low.

Those of you who know me well probably know I’ve dabbled in online dating for some time. Sure, I’ve had some successes with online dating in the past. The last two men I’ve met on a dating website have been two out of three of my longest and most-serious relationships. They’ve taught me a lot about who I am and what I’m looking for in a relationship partner.

Except for recently. My dates have been a complete nightmare.

For example, the last guy I went out on a date with professed his love for me on the first (and only) date.

And when I didn’t respond to his 34 back-to-back text messages comparing our love to Romeo and Juliet, he managed to use his police officer capabilities to find my address so he could come to my house to make sure I wasn’t dead.

I’m not kidding.

And last night I realized that I have subconsciously given up on online dating.

Because instead of reading my matches’ profiles and perusing their many photos with beer cans and cropped out ex-girlfriends, I’ve been looking at their job titles.

And not in the “I wonder if he makes good money” sort-of way.

More in the, “oh, he’s a Graphic Designer. I wonder if he could be a fit for the job I’m recruiting on” sort-of way.

I have officially started recruiting my matches.

I’m convinced I am moving one step closer towards being a cat lady. Or maybe work has taken over my life. Or maybe online dating is the new LinkedIn for recruiting?

Or maybe I’m just still trying to find that needle in a haystack.

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Yeah, we’ll just go with that for now.

So until I find that needle I’ll just keep making delicious recipes to share with the World.

I made for you Apple, Cinnamon and Walnut Baked Oatmeal with a Date Caramel Sauce. It’s incredibly easy to make and you can make a batch earlier in the week and have a slice for breakfast each morning. Or you can turn it into a healthy apple pie and have it for dessert.

Or you can have it for breakfast AND dessert.

And the best part? It’s guilt-free. And doesn’t come with stalking.

Top the oatmeal with a guilt-free caramel sauce, made from just 4 ingredients and NO sugar.

I think I just found my Romeo.

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No-Bake Banana Chia Pudding Pie {healthy, guilt-free and gluten-free}

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I have to be honest with you…

I think I may enjoy baking more than cooking.

I know, I know…I can’t believe I’m admitting to this because I love all things food.

But I CONSTANTLY crave baked goods, especially this time of the year when bikini weather is no more.

So who’s taking me on a vacation?

And since these cravings aren’t going anywhere, and I’m not gaining self-control anytime soon and am planning on bombarding you with TONS of unhealthy delicious fall recipes I’ve come up with, I decided to experiment with a healthy pie recipe.  And I succeeded.

I perfected a pie crust that’s healthy, dairy-free, gluten-free and is made without flour, butter, oils and added sugars. And a filling that’s good for you AND delicious at the same time.

Unfortunately, it was so delicious that I couldn’t just have one slice.

So I ate the whole thing.

Oops.

Sorry I’m not sorry.

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes {Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with a Coffee Cream Cheese Icing}

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“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”

That’s what I did exactly two Septembers ago. I left all that I knew. I left my childhood and beginning of adulthood. I left comfort; family, friends and familiarity. I left a job that provided me with a sense of accomplishment, friendship and culture. I left my favorite city. I left a relationship that was filled with “…” and too many unknowns.

I left all that I knew to find myself; to start a new beginning, to prove my family wrong and to discover what it is in life I needed to be fulfilled. And that I was OK being on my own. I craved a change.

And two years later, as I reflect back, I’m still unsure of who I am and what exactly it is that I need in order to have a fulfilled life.

I reflect back on the month of September. A month with memories of moving trucks, a car accident, meeting someone who brought me challenge and passion and emotions I thought I could never experience. Moving away from a best friend but meeting another. Picking up my life all for a new job… or was I running from myself?

As I struggle to get through this September, I look back at everything that I’ve been able to experience and learn about myself the past two years. I’m proud of who I am and the obstacles I’ve conquered. I may not have found my dream job, I may not have found my soul mate, I may not be living near my friends or family and I may not have found what it is I need in order to have a fulfilled life. But one thing I do know is I’ve remained tough, as I always have, when something bad is thrown my way.

Just as Fall has arrived and the leaves have begun to change for the season, I realize September is just a month of change for me. Whether it be change for the better or for the worse, September just means that something better will be coming my way soon.

Cooking and baking is the one constant in my life that has allowed me to express my emotions, my love and my passions. It has been there for me since I was in ninth grade as my source of comfort and relief when I had no breakfasts or dinners and just a box of cake mix. Cooking became my therapy.

This past month I haven’t cooked or baked. I’ve been so wrapped up with emotion and the feared month of September that I lost sight of what has been a constant and what has gotten me through change. The one thing that allows me to express my love, emotions and passions when I have nothing else to pour them into.

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Which is why I’m back and better than ever. I made for you the best Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes you’ll ever have. Filled with fresh canned pumpkin of the season, fall spices and a delicious icing made up of coffee and cream cheese, you’ll never need to go back to Starbucks again for your fall craving of pumpkin spice and lattes.

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{Peanut Butter, Candied Bacon and Dark Chocolate Chunk Baked S’mores } {Happy National S’mores Day}

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Last Sunday I barbecued with my neighbors.

And we ate our faces off.

…but would you expect anything less if I’m involved?

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My neighbor and friend Juan made the most amazing ribs, pork belly and Spanish sausage I’ve ever had.

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And to top that off, he made potato salad. A delicious potato salad. I don’t ever eat potatoes, and I’m not the biggest fan of mayo salads UNLESS they’re Don’s Salads (HI DAD), but this potato salad was SO freakin’ good I couldn’t stop eating it. And I didn’t. I devoured it.

Along with half a watermelon.

And Asian cucumber salad (recipe to come soon).

And pineapple chipotle salsa and chips.

OK I’m getting nauseous and hungry at the same time just thinking about it all.

But, you didn’t really think we could end the night without something sweet, did you?

Of course not. It’s me silly.

And given that my apartment complex has outdoor fire pits, and I’m moving in a week, it seemed only fitting that we make the most of it.

So I brought down to the fire pit with me a maple bacon chocolate bar.

And then I brought down a jar of peanut butter.

And marshmallows.

And graham crackers.

And then this happened:

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S’mores with maple bacon chocolate and peanut butter.

The best s’mores. Ever.

 I’ve been nicknamed “Debbie Dipper” and “Condiment Carrie” in the past. And today, I’m totally worthy of those nicknames.

So, on National S’mores Day, it seemed only fitting to re-create this amazing s’more concoction.

And so I did.

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Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk Cookies with Sea Salt {the best way to say thank you}

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Southern Hospitality is real.

I recently returned from a four day business trip to Dallas to visit my client and I had a blast!  This trip was just what I needed to remind myself that making friends isn’t this difficult everywhere and there really is more to life than just sitting in traffic on I-95 every day, going to whole foods solely out of boredom and spending hours at the gym because I have nothing else planned (and I want a killer beach bod, duhhh!)

I spent several days last week working hard and spending much needed face time with the awesome people I email back and forth with and talk to on the phone every day. I had some great meals, especially the last night when a group of us went out for happy hour and then to this awesome Tex-Mex restaurant called Blue Goose Cantina. I had steak fajitas which were delicious! I think the best part of the dinner, aside from eating everyone else’s food and tons and tons of laughter, was the free dessert we got (hey the waitress asked if it was someone’s Birthday and how could we say no to that?!) Mini-Sopapillas (similar to Churros) served with honey and topped with whipped Cream and cinnamon Sugar. Holy cow…you have no idea how good this was. I meant to take a picture of it by itself but only got as far as the group picture. And quite frankly after this group picture we devoured it. All of it.

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After a week of hard work and tons of laughs, I’m home and find myself missing the southern hospitality. Sometimes I forget how easy it really is, or  how little effort it should be to make friends. And how far a simple smile exchange or small talk with a stranger can take you.

So I decided to bake cookies to say thank you to my Dallas friends for making me feel so warm and welcome. And what a better way to say thank you than to send a batch of freshly baked cookies with chunks of gooey dark chocolate and peanut butter topped with sea salt for the perfect bite of sweet and salty and melty chocolate goodness. And the best part, this is actually a normal cookie recipe and I didn’t even attempt to substitute applesauce for butter! Woohooo!

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Roasted Strawberry and Kale Quinoa Burger topped with Arugula, Pickled Onions and Goat Cheese

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Sometimes I make things other than cookies. And muffins. And pancakes. And breads.

And sometimes I use ingredients other than bananas and chocolate.

And sometimes when I do make these other things they turn out to be pretty disastrous.

For example, I tried to re-create my favorite brussel sprout dish from one of my favorite restaurants in Philadelphia, Sampan, where they cook the brussel sprouts in a chili and fish sauce with puffed rice.

We’ll just say I was a little generous with the fish sauce.

So generous I couldn’t stop coughing for the remainder of the night.

And then my roommate started coughing.

And the apartment smelled like fish sauce for a good two days. Maybe three.

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But sometimes I get really creative and impress myself. And I did just that.

I made for you a roasted strawberry and kale quinoa burger, topped with arugula, balsamic vinegar, pickled red onions and goat cheese.

It’s like my goat cheese salad signed up for eHarmony, met and fell in love with Quinoa and decided to have a baby.

Yep, I just said that.

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Healthy Eggplant Parmesan over Quinoa {easy weeknight dinner that can easily be made vegan}

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Do you have a weeknight routine?

I sure do.

When I leave work I head straight to the gym. I’ll typically get there around 6:30 (after sitting in traffic for over an hour to go 12 miles) and by the time I get home it’s almost 9:00. By this time, the LAST thing I want to do is think about what to cook for dinner. Some nights I’ll eat a protein bar on the way home and make a smoothie after my shower and other times I’ll just have a smoothie from the smoothie bar at the gym (BTW if you live in Connecticut you need to check out the Edge Fitness Clubs- it’s like a playground for adults!) And other nights I’ll whip up a salad or something quick, easy and boring. But there are some nights I envision myself coming home to a cooked meal AKA wishing I had a butler or a Susie homemaker husband or boyfriend. But I don’t, so I decided to be my own butler and whip up something healthy, filling and that I could eat a few nights in a row.

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It’s guilt-free because I used this awesome vegan cheese from Whole Foods with barely any fat or carbs, I used organic and all natural tomato sauce, I made my own breadcrumbs using Ezekiel bread (if you haven’t had this bread yet you MUST check it out) and I served it over quinoa which is one of the most protein-rich foods and full of fiber. And the best part? All you have to do is pop it in the microwave when you get home for a minute and 30 seconds and dinner is served! This is a healthy yet filling dinner that’s delicious and won’t ruin your workout. This can easily be made vegan too by swapping out the eggs for flax eggs, or egg alternative of choice.

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