Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018 Recipes

I tried two new recipes for Thanksgiving this year. I love using phyllo dough cups since they are so easy and perfect for bite-sized appetizers. I thought I was bringing cranberry sauce, but turns out that dish was already taken. Since I already bought the berries, I coated them in sugar and added them to a sweet potato tartlet recipe that I found. They were so pretty and really added a lot of flavor! Plus, the original recipe topped the tartlets with brown sugar pecans, but I absolutely love Trader Joe’s sweet & spicy pecans since they have a kick to them, so I used them instead. 

In addition to the tartlets, I brought iced tea (I’m pregnant so no wine for me this year). We have a lot of rosemary growing in our backyard so I threw that into the tea with some peaches and a ginger simple syrup. The tea was really tasty but I should have given myself more time to make it. I put the hot water into my drink dispenser to brew the green tea but the heat ruined the seal so it started leaking. Luckily my grandma had a backup dispenser that we transferred it to when we got there.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and got to spend quality time with your loved ones! 

Sweet Potato Tartlets with Sugared Cranberries, Sweet & Spicy Pecans & Mint (adapted from My Recipes)

  • 4 (1.9 oz) packages frozen mini-phyllo shells, thawed
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 sweet potato
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • Trader Joe’s sweet & spicy pecans (if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, you can follow this recipe to make them yourself)
  • Sugared cranberries (recipe below)
  • Mint leaves


1. Wash the sweet potato, stab holes in it, rub in olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil, then cook in the crock pot for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high (or cook the sweet potato by your preferred method).

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place shells on baking sheets.

3. In a food processor or with a mixer, blend cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add sweet potato (no skin), sour cream, egg, and vanilla. Spoon filling into shells.

4. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until center is set. While still warm, press on pecans.

5. Once cooled, garnish with mint leaves and sugared cranberries.

Sugared Cranberries (adapted from Cincy Shopper)

  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 cup water
  • 12 oz fresh cranberries

1. In a medium saucepan, heat water and 1 cup sugar over medium heat until boiling. Keep just at a boil for 10 minutes or until it thickens slightly.

2. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place a cooling rack over. Toss batches of cranberries in the simple syrup and transfer to the rack to dry (try to space the berries out so they don’t stick together).

3. Allow to dry for 30-45 minutes, then toss the berries in the remaining 1 cup of sugar.

Iced Rosemary-Ginger Peach Green Tea (adapted from She Knows)

  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 6 green tea bags
  • Several rosemary sprigs
  • 2 peaches, slices
  • ¾ cup fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Ice cubes
  • Cranberries for garnish (optional)

1. Add tea bags and rosemary to a pitcher and top with boiling water. Allow to steep for 6-8 minutes depending on how strong you like your tea.

2. Remove the tea bags and allow the tea to cool.

3. Meanwhile, boil 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and ginger in a small pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium then allow to simmer uncovered until the syrup thickens Remove from heat and allow to cool.

4. Fill a drink dispenser part way with ice. Top with sliced peaches, cranberries, rosemary iced tea, and ginger simple syrup.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Crispy Cauliflower Bites

This is probably the best (and most unhealthy) way to eat cauliflower. It tastes like bites of fried chicken but is completely vegetarian. These would also be delicious served over a salad, but we devoured them on their own.

Crispy Cauliflower Bites (adapted from Damn Delicious)

·         ½ cup vegetable oil
·         1 cup Panko bread crumbs
·         1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
·         1/2 T red pepper
·         1/2 T garlic powder
·         Pinch of salt & pepper
·         4 cups cauliflower florets
·         1/2 cup flour (I used whole-wheat)
·         3 large eggs, beaten
·         2 T Trader Joe’s Soyaki Sauce


1.   Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
2.   Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, red pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a bowl
3.   Dredge cauliflower pieces in flower, dip into eggs, then dredge in Panko mixture, pressing to coat.
4.   Add cauliflower to the skillet 8-10 at a time and cook until evenly golden and crispy, rotating every minute (they should crisp up in 2-3 minutes).
5.   Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
6.   Toss the fried cauliflower in Soyaki sauce and serve.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Chewy Chocolate Cherry Pop Rock Sprinkled Brownies

Buzzfeed recently posted a video ranking different celebrity brownie recipes. This one by Gordon Ramsay is sprinkled in Pop Rocks (or as he calls them, “popping candy.” We tried this recipe out for a pre-Fourth of July BBQ over the weekend.

We love watching all of Gordon Ramsay's shows, but especially Masterchef Junior. I'm always so impressed by the talent of these 8-12 year olds! Plus, there's a lot less drama and Gordon is way nicer to the kids than the adults... 

I have to say, I followed the recipe and mine did NOT turn out as expected. The brownies were so thick that the inside wasn’t cooking so it was liquid inside at the end of the cooking time. Also, it recommended lining the pan with parchment paper, which ended up being more of a hassle than just spraying the pan like I normally do. I was ready to call it a Pinstrosity, but after cooking them for a bit longer and hiding all the crevices in sprinkles and Pop Rocks, they weren’t nearly as horrible looking.

In addition to Pop Rocks, the brownies have dried cherries inside giving them a Black-Forest Cake flavor. It was kind of a strange combination; I think I’d try the same base recipe but with toasted coconut or nuts on top next time.

If you do end up using Pop Rocks, make sure to wait for the brownies to cool and sprinkle them right before serving, otherwise they may end up melting and losing their pop. Also, I got red and blue Pop Rocks for Fourth of July, however, be warned that the color on the packages does not match the color inside. The green package is actually red watermelon inside and the blue package is green tropical punch (the strawberry was the only predictable color).

Hope you have better success than I do if you try these for Independence Day! At least they tasted better than they looked...

Chewy Chocolate Cherry Pop Rock Sprinkled Brownies (adapted from Gordon Ramsay)

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1-1/3 cups sugar
  • 16 oz dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup dried sour cherries
  • 2 T milk
  • ½ cup Pop Rocks
  • Sprinkles


1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan (I’d steer clear of using the parchment lining)

2. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

3. Melt 2/3 of the chocolate chips. I put mine in the microwave and heated on 30 second increments while stirring until liquid.

4. Pour the chocolate into the butter mixture and combine. Add the flour, salt, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder and mix together.

5. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and beat with a fork until well mixed. Stir the eggs into the chocolate mixture.  

6. Stir in the sour cherries and remaining chocolate chips. If the mixture feels stiff, loosen it with a few tablespoons of milk.  

7. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the brownies are coming away from the side.

8. Take the brownies out of the oven and leave to cool.

*At this point, we were running late for the BBQ, so we cut the brownies much too early, then ended up making a mess. Make sure you allow time for the brownies to cool completely

9. When cooled and ready to serve, sprinkle with Pop Rocks and sprinkles.

*We tried to use more melted chocolate as a frosting, which tasted good but caused the Pop Rocks to melt. If you use them as a topping, they shouldn’t touch anything liquid to remain intact.

Want to try out other celebrity brownie recipes? Check out Buzzfeed's video here: 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse – Tampa, Florida

Last night we had the privilege of previewing the brand-new Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse on South Dale Mabry in Tampa before it officially opens on tomorrow.

We were sad when GrillSmith closed in that location awhile back because I love their pumpkin crab bisque (luckily, they are moving into the old Grille One Sixteen location further up the road just north of Kennedy…) 

Terra Gaucha has run a successful restaurant in Jacksonville since 2015. They worked with BDG Architects to convert the previous Grillsmith location into an elegant new space that is now fit for the churrascaria style dining experience. This culinary style originated with the South American cowboys, or “gaúchos,” who grilled meats over an open flame.

I’ve been lucky getting to preview the transformation of the restaurant since I work for the architect. Our interior design team did an amazing job (you can read more about the design concept here). I love the beautiful wine display at the entrance as well as the custom sculpture and painting by artist Marc De Waele.

We had never visited a Brazilian steakhouse before, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. For dinner, restaurant patrons have the option for either a gourmet salad and hot bar or the “full rodizio experience” which includes the salad bar as well as unlimited access to over a dozen varieties of meats cut tableside. We were invited to be part of the “friends and family” night to sample the menu, so our meals were complimentary (minus the drinks…)

They have a diverse wine menu, but we tried their cocktails instead. Lance had the caipirinha, made with cachaça (a Brazilian rum), sugar, and lime. I had the same but with muddled pineapple and mint, which I’d definitely order again.

As we were seated, we were served cheesey puffs of bread along with caramelized bananas. The bread was good but I wanted to keep room for all the food to follow. However, we did devour the bananas (they brought us another plate of them after we cleaned the first plate).

When I heard they had a salad bar, I pictured it being more like a Sweet Tomatoes, but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. They had a few meats and cheeses (including an enormous wheel of parmesan), grilled pineapple, roasted garlic, soups, salads, and more.

Once we had our fill of that, we flipped over a card to signify that we were ready for the servers to bring us meat. It seems that the second we flipped it over, we had half a dozen people dashing our way to serve us. We almost had to flip the cards over as soon as we turned them to green because otherwise we’d never have the opportunity to try the meats they cut for us. 

My favorite of the meats was the Porco Com Parmesao (pork tenderloin encrusted with Parmesan cheese). It is soaked in white wine and herbs before being roasted and coasted in cheese. I also enjoyed the smoky Linguiça (Brazilian sausage) and the Picanha (their house specialty premium sirloin). The rest came by so quickly I could barely keep track of what I was sampling. You can see the variety of meats here (we thought it was funny that the “gauchos” were labeled the same as the meats on the menu…hopefully they weren’t turning us into cannibals!) 

Our waiter, Dennis, was extremely welcoming and attentive. He asked for our feedback on the drinks and dishes, which was all positive on our end. I would have loved to have tried one of their desserts, but we were beyond full at the end of our meal. 

While we really enjoyed ourselves, we’d have to save this for a special occasion because it is pricier than we’d spend on a typical date night. Plus, as much as I enjoyed the food, I just don’t eat enough to make any all-you-can-eat establishment worth it. Lance already said he wants to come back for his birthday though because for him, the more meat the better. I wish there was a way to visit and enjoy the salad bar with a smaller sampling of the meats rather than the unlimited option.

Happy to have another new restaurant concept in town and we wish them the best!

Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse is located at 1108 S Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33629.  They are open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30am – 2pm and Saturday/Sunday from 11:30am – 3pm. For dinner, they are open from 5 – 10pm Monday through Friday, 4 – 10:30pm on Saturday, and 4 – 9pm on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Orange Cannoli Cheesecake

I’ve been making a cheesecake every Easter for nearly a decade now! This year was my 11th year of this tradition. Hard to believe it’s been that long since I was in college making these with my roommates…

It’s getting more difficult to find a unique flavor that I haven’t made in the past, but I save cheesecake recipes throughout the year in preparation. This year I found an amazing recipe for orange cannoli cheesecake. Cannoli are one of my very favorite desserts, especially love them from Mazzaro’s Italian Market in St. Pete. (By the way, did you know a single cannoli is called a “cannolo”? Just learned that now…cannoli is actually the plural form…)

The hardest part of this recipe was actually finding cannoli shells that weren’t already filled. I’m sure if I drove to a specialty market or bakery, it would have worked out fine, but I was on the hunt late at night and ended up at 4 grocery stores before I found them (none at Trader Joes or Sprouts, Publix wouldn’t sell them empty since they didn’t have a SKU for them, so I ended up at Whole Foods).  

This cheesecake uses ricotta instead of cream cheese and is topped with a layer of cannoli filling, pistachios, Trader Joe’s candied orange slices, and couple cannoli for decoration.

We had a family potluck at our house with 16 people this year – all the food was delicious but I especially loved my mom’s cute chick deviled eggs!

We had plenty of leftovers because there was so much food. Plus, my grandpa brought a Goody Goody strawberry pie for dessert so we had lots of sweets.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter spent with loved ones. Check out the recipe below if you want to make this cake for yourself (or come to our house quickly if you want some leftovers!)

Orange Cannoli Cheesecake (adapted from Creative Culinary)

Crust Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
Cake Ingredients:
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup plus 1 T all purpose flour
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp freshly grated orange peel
  • 2 T orange juice
  • 7 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
Topping & Garnish Ingredients:
  • 4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cups shelled pistachios, chopped
  • Candied orange slices
  • 8 cannoli shells (we only used 2 for the actual cheesecake and the rest for filling with the extra cannoli cream)


1. Place ricotta cheese into a fine mesh strainer and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours and up to 24 to drain (I ended up patting mine with paper towels to remove the excess moisture)

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Spray a 9” springform pan with cooking spray (I use coconut oil spray)

4. Combine all crust ingredients together and press evenly into the bottom of the pan and ½” up the sides of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool before filling.

5. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the 2 cups of ricotta and granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in flour, vanilla, orange peel, and orange juice. Add beaten eggs, one at a time, and blend on low speed until just incorporated.

6. Sprinkle chocolate chips with flour (to keep them from settling to the bottom of the pan). Sift out the flour and add the chips to filling. Mix gently and pour into the prepared pan.

7. Fill a large baking pan with 1” hot water. Place the springform cheesecake pan into the baking pan and bake for 75 minutes, or until center is almost set.

8. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and place the springform pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

9. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. Let cool for an additional hour then remove the pan. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

10. For the cannoli filling, combine the ricotta, powdered sugar, vanilla, orange zest, ¾ cup of the chocolate chips, and ¾ cup of the pistachios.

11. Pipe filling into the cannoli shells and dip the ends into the remaining chocolate chips.

12. Spread the remaining cannoli cream over the cheesecake. Arrange the candied orange slices around the edge of the cake, sprinkle the remaining pistachios in the center of the cake, and top with cannoli.