Monday, October 10, 2016

Acorn Squash Salad, Pumpkin Rigatoni and Spiked Cider

Lance went to Pittsburgh for a guys' weekend to see a Steelers game (they won!) So while he was out, I had a girls' pumpkin carving/decorating night.  

Most of us ended up painting our pumpkins rather than carving (in Florida, it's way too humid for a carved pumpkin to last the whole month...) Everyone came up with really creative designs - I think it's the best group of pumpkins I've ever seen.  You can scroll to the bottom to see the individual pumpkins, but here we are with our creations: 
I tried to get a pumpkin from the Hyde Park pumpkin patch, but it was insanely packed!  There was a huge line, so I ended up getting mine from the grocery store instead.  It wasn't the prettiest of pumpkins, but since it was painted anyways, it didn't matter.  Thao got hers from Hyde Park and it was the most stereotypical perfect pumpkin.  

For dinner, I tried out a few new Pinterest recipes and they all turned out amazing!  I love all fall ingredients - squash, pumpkin, figs, pears, pomegranates, apples, etc.  I go crazy buying everything at Trader Joe's this time of year since it's all pumpkin flavored.  

Hillary also brought over this amazing popcorn coated in marshmallows and drizzled with chocolate (it had candy corn for decoration which I'm not a fan of, but I just ate around them...)  It was seriously addicting - like Rice Krispie treats made of popcorn.  If I get the recipe I'll post it on here too.  

I would definitely make any of these recipes again: 

Acorn Squash Salad (adapted from How Sweet Eats)

Salad Ingredients:
Dressing Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 t freshly grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, freshly grated
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil 


1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil.  Cover the squash slices with salt, pepper, and brown sugar and add to the skillet.  Cook until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes on each side.  

2. Add spinach/arugula to a large bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Add the avocado, pomegranate arils, cucumber, pecans, and squash pieces.  

3. Combine all the dressing ingredients and toss with the salad. 

Pumpkin Rigatoni Pasta with Sage (adapted from Joanne Eats Well With Others)

  • 1 lb rigatoni
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 T minced sage
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1-1/2 cups Silk Unsweetened Cashew Milk (I completely forgot to add this since I was too busy chatting with friends - it turned out fine without it, but may be a bit creamier with it) 
  • 1 bunch kale leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz mozzarella, grated 
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs


1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. 

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Add the onion, sage red pepper flakes, and pinch of salt.  Saute for 3-4 minutes, or until onions become translucent.  

4. Stir in the pumpkin and saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add in the cashew milk and bring to a simmer.  Stir in th ekale and simmer for 4-5 more minutes or until slightly thickened.  Stir in the ricotta and season to taste with salt & pepper.  

5. Grease a 9x13 baking pan.  Toss the pasta with the pumpkin mixture and spread half of it in the pan.  Sprinkle half the cheese, top with the other half of the pasta, then sprinkle with more cheese.  Top with bread crumbs. 

6. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese begins to brown and sauce is bubbling.  Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.   

Spiked Cider (a combination of several cider recipes)

  • 1 jug Trader Joe's spiced cider 
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 4-5 whole star anise seeds
  • 2 liters ginger ale
  • 6-10 oz vodka, depending on how strong you want it


1. Combine the cider, lemon juice, cinnamon, and anise and let them sit for a few hours so the spices soak in. 

2. When you are ready to serve, add in the ginger ale and vodka.  Stir to blend it together.  

I'm sure this drink would be great warm if it was cold outside (you could try it with rum as well).  

I had such a great time with this group of girls - check out the closeups of all the amazing pumpkins:  

Monday, September 26, 2016

Best Ever Chip Dip

This chip dip is my mom's recipe and it is BY FAR one of the easiest things to make.  You literally dump everything into a bowl and that's it.  For an easy last-minute appetizer, tailgate, or potluck dish, I love making this because despite being made from mostly canned foods, it tastes so fresh and vibrant.   

Best Ever Chip Dip  

  • 1 can whole kernel corn 
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can Rotel (the Mexican variety is best, but that's not always easy to find) 
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (I actually used a variety called culantro that lasts longer/stays fresher than normal cilantro) 
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • drizzle of red wine vinegar 


1. Combine everything - that's it!  Enjoy

Monday, September 19, 2016

Goody Goody – Tampa, FL

There has been a lot of buildup leading to the opening of Richard Gonzmart’s latest restaurant, Goody Goody, in Hyde Park.  We are big fans of the Columbia and Ulele, so I knew that he would do it right. 

This restaurant is a re-creation of a classic 1925 Tampa landmark where many people grew up eating (at its prime, Goody Goody had four locations throughout Tampa).  While in a new spot, it still retains the feel of a classic diner and serves many of the original recipes, including their famous hamburgers and pies.

I’m so excited about the transformation of Hyde Park Village (although right now, the construction makes it a bit difficult to drive up Swann…)  I spent a lot of time there growing up in Tampa, and it made me sad when for a while it had become a bit of a ghost town.  That’s definitely turning around – it seems every other week, something new opens. 

I’m sure the food was great back then, but the décor was a bit lacking – pretty much your standard diner. 

I absolutely love the design of the new Goody Goody.  They kept the old-fashioned feel, but updated it for a classy, modern atmosphere.  There is an art-deco vibe with beautiful graphics on the doors and brass sculptural light fixtures above the main dining areas.  The floors are lined with vintage-style mosaic tile with green and yellow that carry throughout the space. 

We heard that the wait was insane, so we downloaded the NoWait app, which allows you to get in line on your phone before you arrive.  There were still a couple people in front of us in line by the time we got there, but we ended up sitting at the counter which is first-come first-serve. 

Lance had their classic Goody Goody Cheeseburger POX, with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, cheese, mayo and their special barbeque sauce.  I had the Royale with Cheese, topped with a fried, over-easy egg, onion, cheddar, Monterey Jack cheese, sautéed mushrooms, bacon, lettuce, and tomato.

I’m happy with the version that I got – I thought Lance’s tasted more like a fast-food burger.  We also split an order of onion rings which nice and crispy with a ranch dipping sauce.  It was a greasy, messy meal, but delicious. 

We finished with a slice of their renowned butterscotch pie.  OMG I would go back and just order this – the bottom layer is incredibly decadent and rich with an airy topping of toasted meringue.  They have several flavors of pies, but I’d have trouble not ordering the same one every time since it was so good. 

I have no doubt this restaurant will be successful.  It is really reasonably priced compared to most of the dining options in Hyde Park (their classic burger is $4.95) and it appeals to not only the young people looking for a trendy place to eat out, but to the older crowd with nostalgia from the olden days. 

Goody Goody is located at 1601 W Swann Ave, Tampa, FL 33606.  They are open Sunday – Thursday 7am – 10pm and Friday – Saturday 7am – 11pm.    

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Retro Oven Bakery – St. Pete, FL

My friend Vimmi invited me to go check out this brand new bakery called Retro Oven that her friend Ivana opened in St. Pete.  We each invited friends who invited their own friends, so we had a nice group of girls join us to test out her treats!

Ivana has already been baking wholesale for a few years, but she decided to add a storefront just last week.  So far, the only advertising has been word of mouth, but it already seems to be very popular. 

This place is a hidden gem. I’m sure if I didn’t know it was there, I would drive right past the strip center (the outside definitely doesn’t do it justice).  It was a rainy Saturday morning with the remnants of Hurricane Hermine, but as soon as we stepped through the door, we were welcomed by the cozy, modern interior. 

There was a mix of sweet and savory pastries, cakes, and breads.  Ivana uses a lot of family recipes, and because of her Serbian background, the sweets aren’t quite as sugary as the typical American dessert (which is actually a relief – some bakeries add so much sugar to their concoctions that you get a headache afterwards). 

She gave us several samples and even had slices of all her cakes for us to test out (I loved the European Hazelnut Walnut).  We also tasted her homemade bread, which was hearty and full of all sorts of grains.  I ended up ordering a cinnamon roll and cup of coffee to dip it in.  And since Lance had to work, I picked him up a giant cookie to go. 

Wishing her lots of success! If any of you are in the area, go and visit.

We ended up spending the afternoon in St. Pete. We visited the Indie Market at the Morean Center for Clay where I stocked up on my stash of Urban Canning Company’s D’anjou pear, ginger & habanero jam, got a cup of blueberry jalapeño ginger beer from Tidal Boar, and found a cool piece of art from The Messy Painter

We finished with lunch at Bodega on Central – it was hot and sticky outside, but I really enjoyed my arepas and maduros.  I’d love for Tampa’s downtown to eventually become as vibrant as the St. Pete scene since I’m on this side of the bay – we’ll get there one day. 

Retro Oven Bakery is located at 2803 38th Ave N, St. Petersburg, FL 33713.  They are open Monday – Friday 7:30am – 3:30pm and Saturday 8am – 3pm (they are closed on Sundays). 

Bodega on Central is located at 1120 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33705.  They are open Sunday – Wednesday 11am – 9pm and Thursday – Saturday 11am – 11pm.