Monday, December 19, 2011

Candy Cane Cake Pops

The funny thing about sharing a blog with your sister is that I am usually just as surprised as you are to see what Rona posts. I mean it happens more often than you'd believe. We don't live together and don't coordinate recipes, so it's pretty exciting for me to see what she has made. This happened a few weeks ago when I saw that she made cake pops. First, after getting sad that I am not close enough to go to her place to eat them, I decided the only solution would be to try a variation of cake pops myself.

Fun side note--these cake pops were also featured on the Chloe and Isabel blog here!


1 box white cake mix
3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup vanilla frosting (store bought or homemade)
1/2 cup crushed candy canes
Crushed candy canes, red sprinkles, and red frosting for decoration
Lollypop sticks


1. Mix the cake mix, milk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Pour into a greased 9x13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until the cake is cooked throughout.

2. Let the cake cool completely. Crumble the cake into small, even pieces and place in a large bowl.

3. Add the vanilla frosting and the crushed candy canes to the cake and mix until a thick dough consistency forms.

4. Shape the dough into evenly sized cake bites and cool in a refrigerator for 1-2 hours, or in the freezer for 20 minutes.

5. At a low heat, melt white melting chocolate. Insert a lollypop stick into each cake bite and dip into the chocolate. Decorate the pops and leave them in the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens.

6. Share the cake pops with family and friends!

Thanks for reading :)


Dolma, Filled with Rice and Beef

I used to avoid eating dolma but have warmed up to them in the past few years. I think I just wasn't used to eating grape leaves; they do have a pretty distinct taste. However, I do avoid the store made versions, there is just something about them that do not appeal to me. I have since began to make my own dolma. The recipe that I am sharing is one that I created on my own so the amount of spices used are approximate and should definitely be adjusted to taste.

There are many different dolma fillings. I decided to make a meat and rice filling that was sweeter to compliment the saltiness of the grape leaves. To do this, I used dried plums that were chopped up in the food processor for a natural sweetener. Since the plums are very sticky, I had tried to separate them in a bowl before adding them to the rest of the filling mixture so that none of the dolma ended up with huge pieces of fruit.

The only tricky part of dolma is rolling them. It is a little bit time consuming but the process does get faster as you go along. It also takes trial and error to get a sense of how much filling to place on a grape leaf so that it is not falling out. I included pictures of the steps as I rolled the dolma to illustrate how I did it.

1. I place about 1-2 spoons of filling across the widest part of the leaf.

2. I fold in the ends of the leaves to make sure that nothing will fall out and start rolling.

3. I finish rolling them and place the dolma in a large pot.


Grape Leaves
1/2 cup white rice, already cooked
1/2 pound ground beef
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
6 dried plums, finely chopped in a food processor
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

To make the filling:

1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil on medium-low heat. Cook the onion for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft.

2. Add the ground beef to the pan and brown the beef. It doesn't have to be fully cooked.

3. In a large bowl, combine, the beef and onions, rice, dried plums, and spices. Mix well.

To roll the dolma (also see the pictures):

1. Lay out one leaf on a flat surface and then place 1-2 spoons of filling along the widest part of the leaf.

2. Fold in the ends to keep the filling from falling out and then roll the dolma completely.

3. Place the dolma in a large pot and cover with water. Heat the water until it boils and then lower the flame to medium-low heat. Cook for about 30 minutes.

To serve: I carefully take the dolma out of the pot with a slotted spoon to drain the liquid. Some of them will fall apart which is okay. They can be eaten plain or with plain yogurt.



Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap Reveal

Today's the day!! I finally get to reveal the cookies that Rona and made for this year's Food Blogger Cookie Swap. For those of you just hearing about the swap, it's this adorable idea started by Julie of The Little Kitchen and Lindsay of Love & Olive Oil.

The concept of the cookie swap is this: Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. And finally, post your cookie recipe on your blog.

I've had about a week and a half of gorging on delicious cookies, so it's about time I share/hit a gym.

The cookies that Rona and I chose to make are.....drum roll please......rugelach!

Rugelach is a traditionally Jewish pasty that has a croissant-like shape and can be made with a variety of fillings. The fillings we used in our rugelach pastries were nutella apricot & pecan and strawberry walnut & apricot. It was our first time making rugelach, and between the 72 cookies we needed to make for the blog and additional 30 something we made for family, the kitchen was kind of a disaster. The rugelach on the other hand was not.

Dough Ingredients
1 cup butter or margarine (2 sticks), softened
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling Ingredients
Strawberry Jam
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup backed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


1. Prepare dough: In large bowl, use a mixer to beat butter and cream cheese until creamy. Beat in sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat in one cup flour. With wooden spoon, stir in remaining cup of flour until mixed well. Use your hands if necessary.

2. Divide your dough into four even quarters. Wrap each quarter and refrigerate until firm.

3. Prepare filling: In medium bowl, combine walnuts, apricots, brown sugar, a little granulated sugar and cinnamon until well mixed. Rona and I made 2 variations of this filling, but there's a lot of room to be creative. We alternated nuts and spreads between these fillings but the rest of the ingredients remain the same.

4. On a floured surface, use a rolling pin (also floured) to flatten your dough into a even round. The size of this round will determine the size of your cookie. We went for about 9-inch rounds. Evenly spread either nutella or strawberry jam (depending on which filling you chose) over the dough. Sprinkle evenly with your nut mixture, gently pressing to make sure it stays.

5. At this point in the process, your rugelagh will look like an uncooked pizza. Use a pastry wheel to cut your dough into 12 even slices.

6. Starting at the curved end, roll up your rugelach in a croissant-like fashion.

7. Place cookies an inch apart onto a greased cookie sheet. Repeat with next 3 quarters of dough.

Feel free to get creative with fillings if you choose to try to make this! They were a lot of fun to prepare and it was even more fun to participate in the cookie swap.

So back to the swap...we have some thank yous to give out. Rona and I have received some really great cookies from food bloggers from all over the country. It's rare that I get packages that aren't from Piperlime or Amazon or any other shopping addict right here.

Rona and I would like to say a big thank you to those people who made us these amazing cookies. We can't wait to see the recipes!

Not everyone gave us a link to their blog but for those of them that did, here is a little shout out.


Becky, sorry that your cookies were not included in the pictures. Since Rona received them first, they were all gone by the time that we realized that we should take pictures!

Sorry for missing the other 2, I didn't catch the name of your blog, but if you post a comment with the name, I'll make sure to edit.

Thanks for reading!


Guilt Free Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Spinach and artichoke dip is one of those things that I like to pretend is healthy. It has veggies in it so it has to be good for you, right? It's like crediting a bowl of ice cream as your daily dose of dairy. It has milk in there somewhere, that's got to count for something. Unfortunately, that logic doesn't make sense. The spinach and artichoke dip that you typically order from restaurants is insanely fatty. I don't even count calories but when the restaurants do choose to list calories on the menu, I'm usually turned-off when I realize the dip is something like 1/4 of my recommended daily calorie intake.

So rather than discount spinach and artichoke dip from your life completely, I am here with a solution. This is a recipe I learned from a healthy cooking class in college. I'm completely aware that there isn't a perfect substitute for mayo, sour cream, and cream cheese, but this dip still has a great taste and can be eaten without the "wow I shouldn't have done that" feeling afterwards.

Ingredients (serves 8)

8 oz silken tofu (half of the package)
6 oz plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and chopped
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

2. As the oven heats, use a blender to puree the tofu, yogurt, garlic, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.

3. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the artichoke and spinach and half of the Parmesan cheese. Mix well.

4. Transfer the mixture into a medium-sized baking dish. Spread evenly and top with the remaining cheese.

5. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

6. When done, serve your dip hot with pita chips (I used whole-wheat pita cut into small pieces and baked in the oven), endive leaves, slices of bell pepper, and carrots.

My friends have tried this dip and loved it. While the flavor is noticeably different from standard spinach and artichoke dip, it's delicious nonetheless. Don't be turned-off by the tofu. You can barely taste it!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Brown Lentil Soup

Before I share this recipe, I’d like to preface first that I am letting you guys in on a nice little family recipe. For as long as I can remember, my dad has been making us red & brown lentil soup. Rona blogged about the red lentil here, but because the tastes are so different, I figured I’d also share brown lentil soup with you all. I feel like I’m sharing a piece of my childhood, so take good care of it!

Reasons I like this soup. 1) It’s filling because lentils are a great source of protein. In fact, according to my wiki app that I have pulled up right now, lentils have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any plant-based food. Thank you wiki. 2) It’s delicious. That’s good enough for me.


3 cubes Knorr beef bouillon
2 large carrots, diced
3 large sticks celery, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups uncooked brown lentil, rinsed
1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt
Pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin
2 large tomatoes, cut into cubes


1. Fill a 6-quart pot with water, about 3/4 of the way.

2. Add 3 cubes of beef bouillon and bring to a boil.

3. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the diced vegetables and heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium-sized pan. Add the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the pan and fry until lightly brown.

4. After this is done (or before), open your can of stewed tomatoes and blend in a food processor until smooth. This step is to avoid tomato chunks in the soup.

5. Once the water is boiled and the bouillon cubes are dissolved, pour the stewed tomatoes and lightly fried vegetables into the soup. Add the lentils, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and cumin. Stir well and reduce heat, letting the soup simmer for 1 hour.

6. In the meantime, prepare your potatoes. After an hour, add the potatoes to the soup and cook for another 15 minutes until the potatoes are soft (test with a fork.)

And that's all!