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Penne with asparagus, sage and peas

This is Week #39 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food and Wine Annual Cookbook 2010: An Entire Year of Recipes.

This time of year I am all about comfort food. I have gotten into a routine of making a giant batch of something involving cheese and pasta and then eating it over the course of a few days. On the days when I have a container of comforting yumminess sitting in the fridge at work, I obsess about lunch time. Is 10:30 too early to eat lunch? There is something about crisp fall weather and cheesy pasta that go so well together.

I have been so excited to make this penne dish. I basically kept the entire batch to myself, and I think my family was fine with that. The whole vegetable thing must not have been super appealing to them, which I think is just plain weird.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 1/2 pound penne pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.


3 medium garlic cloves, very finely chopped

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths

Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add 2 cups of chicken stock and boil over high heat until reduced by half and the asparagus are tender, about 5 minutes.


2 cups (10 ounces) shelled English peas or frozen baby peas, thawed

1/4 cup heavy cream

Boil over hight heat until the sauce has thickened, 3 minutes. 

Stir in the penne and and cook until heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in:

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Transfer the pasta to bowls and serve immediately, passing additional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table.

A couple notes about this recipe:

I love the addition of sage.

It was super easy to make.

Did I mention it was comforting?

Click here for a printable recipe!


Nut butter

Does anyone else have a food photography abyss? I have a handful of photos/recipes that sadly lie dormant on my hard drive. Due to this thing called Having A Lot On My Plate, I just don't get everything posted that I want to. Last week I received a sweet email from a reader who asked if I had a recipe for nut butter. Well, guess what. I do have one, but I had to tell her that it could not be found on my blog. It was lying dormant. However, since she asked, I figured I would bring it to life! And now I'm motivated to revive the rest of my dormant posts. Thanks, Elizabeth!

A while ago, I remembered reading a post about Nut Butter that intrigued me. That recipe inspired me to create a multi-nut butter with a broad spectrum of flavors. I love this recipe! My family loves it, too.

This is not a concrete recipe. Meaning, feel free to swap out nuts/seeds as desired.

In a food processor, combine:

1 cup walnuts

1 cup pecans

1 cup sunflower seeds

Process until the nuts are finely chopped. Be careful not to let them become too pasty.  

Transfer the chopped nuts to a large mixing bowl. 


3 cups creamy peanut butter

2 cups Nutella

1/4 cup honey

(Does anyone else see Jesus in the below photo?) 

Mix well. Add more peanut butter to make the mixture creamier, if desired.

I prefer mine to be a bit on the chunky side, but if you like yours creamier decrease the amount of nuts/seeds added, as well.

Some might be turned off by so many nuts intermingling. I am not one of those people. I love the assortment of tastes and textures in this nut butter. So delicious!

Click here for a printable recipe!


Grilled gruyere and zucchini sandwiches with smoky pesto

This is Week #38 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food and Wine Annual Cookbook 2010: An Entire Year of Recipes.

It is a small miracle that I got these sandwiches made. And a big miracle that I got them photographed. I was simultaneously watching my little Sammy, who I sometimes refer to as My Little Tornado. I'll give you a snippet of how things went: put zucchini slices on grill, chase Sam down driveway, flip zucchini, blow up beach ball for Sam, put English muffins on grill, make sure Sam isn't eating rocks again, and so on. After finishing, and after wondering how in the world I managed to pull that off, I chased My Little Tornado around with sandwich in hand. I was glad it was a portable meal because once I bit into it, I did not want to set it down.

In a food processor, combine:

1 cup packed basil leaves

1 large garlic clove, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

Process until finely chopped. With the machine on, gradually pour in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until blended. Season the pesto with salt.

Light a grill. 

Cut a zucchini lengthwise into 4 slices. Brush the zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt. Grill over high heat until nicely charred and just tender, about 2 minutes per side. Cut each zucchini slice in half crosswise.

Grill four English muffins, cut side down, over low heat until just soft, about 30 seconds. Turn and grill until the muffins start to brown, about 1 minute. Spread the cut sides of the muffins with the pesto.

Layer on top of the four English muffin bottoms:

1 slice of Gruyere cheese

2 zucchini pieces

1 more slice of Gruyere cheese

English muffin top

Brush the tops and bottoms with olive oil and grill over low heat, turning, until they are crisp on the outside and the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes total. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve!

Click here for a printable recipe!


Pecan ice cream balls with chocolate-fudge sauce

This is Week #37 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food and Wine Annual Cookbook 2010: An Entire Year of Recipes.

The crisp fall weather we are experiencing has been one of the factors that has completely transformed my mood. In all honesty, I hated this summer. It was oppressive on so many levels. I will not look back upon it with much fondness, aside from the times that involved spending time with my boys. It feels incredible to be genuinely enjoying life again. Doing more than the bare minimum. Going above and beyond. Cleaning my house because I want to. Once again looking through recipes and cooking with excitement. Spending more time feeling happy than anxious and sad. Life is good.

To add to the good-ness, my little boys and I are getting more time with my husband now that skydiving season is slowing down. He came home from work early due to bad weather today, so we had some free time on our hands. We decided that Elijah desperately needed some one-on-one love, so I took him to McDonald's for an Elijah-Mommy date. It was fabulous! We enjoyed our time. I love that kid. When we got home, I finished up these pecan ice cream balls that I had started making on Saturday. The bowl that you see in these photos was consumed in approximately 5 minutes, being passed from mouth to mouth to mouth to mouth. The four of us took turns. It was the perfect treat to end the weekend. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put 2 1/2 pints of vanilla ice cream in the refrigerator until just softened, about 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and transfer it to the freezer.

Meanwhile, spread 2 cups of pecans on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and browned, 8 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and let cool completely. Coarsely chop the nuts and transfer to a pie plate.

Using a standard ice cream scoop, scoop a 1/2-cup portion of ice cream onto the pecans and roll into a ball, pressing lightly to help the nuts adhere. Transfer the ice cream ball to the prepared baking sheet in the freezer. Repeat with the remaining ice cream and pecans. Freeze the ice cream balls for at least 3 hours before serving.

Once the ice cream balls are sufficiently frozen, add the following ingredients to a medium saucepan:

One 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

4 tablespoons butter

Cook over low heat, stirring, until the chips are completely melted and the sauce is smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Transfer the sauce to a pitcher or bowl. Serve the ice cream in bowls or sundae cups and drizzle with the warm sauce.

I love that the pecans are frozen onto the ice cream. And more than that, I love that my boys and I enjoyed this treat together.

Click here for a printable recipe!


Pecan-maple sticky rolls

This is Week #36 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food and Wine Annual Cookbook 2010: An Entire Year of Recipes.

This week has been a nutty one, so it has not the best week to be behind in cooking and blogging. Somehow, I'm managing to get things accomplished. And thankfully, these sticky rolls, much like my last recipe, were easy to make. 

I have never made sticky rolls quite like these. They are filled with comforting deliciousness, which suits this cool fall weather quite nicely. I loved them. Everyone in my family loved them. 

To begin, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Spread 3/4 cup whole pecans in a pie plate and toast in the oven for about 6 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.

Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse to combine:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

Add 1 stick of cubed, chilled butter to the the flour mixture and pulse until it becomes the size of small peas.

Add 1 cup of buttermilk and pulse a few times, just until a soft dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead 3 times. Pat or roll the dough into an 8x12-inch rectangle. Brush with 2 tablespoons of melted butter.

In a small bowl, combine:

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dough.

My cute flour-duster and dough-shaper.

Beginning at a long side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder.

Pinch the seam closed and cut the dough into 12 slices.

In a small bowl, combine:

6 tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons melted butter

Divide the syrup-butter mixture among the muffin cups. Scatter the toasted pecans in the cups.

Top with the dough pinwheels. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 18 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Place a rack over the rolls and invert them onto the rack. Replace any pecans that get stuck in the cups and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Click here for a printable recipe!