Blood Orange, Salted-Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Blood Orange, Salted-Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Blood Orange, Salted-Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies I Pretty Little Pastimes

The chocolate chip cookie, a classic that we all grew up eating hot out of the oven with a cold glass of milk, right? Well, consider this a grown up version of your favorite go-to cookie. This Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie has all the sweetness you remember, with an added citrus zing and sea salt finish. What’s not to love about that?

Next time you find yourself face-to-face with Blood Oranges, grab some of these colorful cuties and add them to your favorite orange recipes. I can’t wait to try them in some frosty beverages for a pop of color and tartness! But for now I will take my Blood Oranges with a dose of chocolate!

Blood Orange, Salted-Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup pure granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • zest of one medium blood orange
  • 2 and 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • sea salt for garnish (optional)

In a small bowl combine flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Incorporate eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add vanilla, zest and blood orange juice. Mix until evenly distributed.

Slowly add in the flour mixture, stirring to combined. Once thoroughly mixed, stir in the dark chocolate chips (be careful not to over-mix).

Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop the chilled dough onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are slightly golden brown. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and let sit for 2 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack.

Sprinkle tops with a small amount of sea salt and enjoy!

Blood Orange, Salted-Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies I Pretty Little Pastimes

Blood Orange, Salted-Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies I Pretty Little Pastimes


New Orleans

New Orleans, LA

New Orleans, LA

In honor of Fat Tuesday, I thought I would share some photos from my trip to New Orleans this past November. One of my closest friends from college flew out to meet me from California to help celebrate my birthday. It was both our first trip to NOLA so we did a lot of exploring, tourist-style. Here are just a few of my favorite finds.

Munson’s World Famous Swamp Tours Bull Run Rd. Schriever, LA 70395

Although Munson’s a good hour and a half outside the French Quarter, we decided to make the drive to this privately-owner swamp. I didn’t realize at the time that coming in November = no gators. We learned from our friendly guide, Schaefer (sp?) that the gators hibernate during the winter months … jealous! But even without the gators, Munson’s tour made up for it in other wildlife and the beautiful view! Maybe I have seen one too many scary movies, but I did not imagine the swamp to be so picturesque.

Munson's SwampMunson's Swamp

Nottoway Plantation 31025 Hwy 1, White Castle, LA 70788

The Nottoway Plantation is the largest antebellum mansion in the South. From the charming tour guide, to the breathtaking views of the Mississippi from the balconies, this was by far one of my favorite finds in LA. The tour was jam packed with stories and anecdotes that made the home come to life right in front of you.  Stunning chandeliers, hand carved moldings and original artwork, further showcase the opulence of John Randolph’s original vision. No expense was spared in the construction of Nottoway.

Nottoway PlantationNottoway Plantation

My absolute favorite space in the home was the White Ballroom. Can you imagine the parties that must have gone on in this room? Is my inner history-nerd showing yet? … Nottoway Plantation

And of course!

Cafe du Monde 800 Decatur St. New Orleans, LA 70116

What trip to NOLA would be complete without enjoying some beignets at Cafe du Monde? Light, airy and covered in powdered sugar, these babies were worth every minute of our half hour wait! And did I mention they serve 24 hours a day? Dangerous.

Cafe du Monde, NOLA

A couple of other must-do’s:

  • catch some live music on Frenchmen Street
  • take the Haunted Ghost Tour in the French Quarter
  • grab a hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s
  • stroll through Jackson Square

It’s easy to get lost in the booze, beads and bars, but don’t forget to take a little time to explore past Bourbon Street while you are visiting New Orleans.




National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day

Peanut Butter Banana Chia Smoothie I Pretty Little Pastimes

When I heard it was National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, I knew this was one occasion I would gladly celebrate! Since I didn’t want to wait until dessert to indulge in the creamy good stuff, I decided to make a breakfast smoothie that would make any self-proclaimed Peanut Butter Lover proud. Not only is it filling, it is also a great source of protein, potassium and Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and antioxidants, from the chia seeds. If you prefer a sweeter smoothie, you can also add a couple drops of natural sweetener or honey.

Peanut Butter Banana Chia Smoothie

  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1 cup almond milk (I used dark chocolate flavored)
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons old fashioned oats
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
  • handful of ice cubes

Start by soaking the old fashioned oats and chia seeds in the almond milk for 15 minutes to soften. Place all ingredients in a high speed blender until frothy and creamy. Serve immediately.

I don’t normally pay attention to these funny daily “holidays”, but if it gives me an excuse to snack on peanut butter for the day, I just might begin to add them to my calendar. Enjoy!

Super Sunday Creamy Guacamole

Creamy Avocado Sauce I Pretty Little PastimesStill looking for some last minute snacks for the Big Game? How about this Creamy Guacamole, perfect for dipping or spreading?

All you need is:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 6 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients into a high speed blender until smooth. Cover and chill until ready to serve. It’s that easy! So simple, so fresh, so tasty!

Happy Super Sunday!

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding with Whiskey Cream

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding I Pretty Little PastimesWe are only three days into the new year and we have already seen our first blizzard! With temperatures falling into negative digits today, I decided it was time to share a warm and tasty dessert that will help make you forget about all that snow piling up outside!

Combing through my pantry after the holidays I always seem to find a random can of this and that, that never got used during my holiday baking. Today it was the giant can of pumpkin puree that I skipped over during Thanksgiving. I know the “pumpkin everything” season has ended at our local coffee shops, but that doesn’t mean that I am quite ready to give it up completely. This weather is perfect for a hot pumpkin bread pudding and why not add a Jameson-spiked whiskey sauce? It is a snow day after all.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (30 oz.) can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 & 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 1 cup pure granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 loaf of French bread (about 12 oz.)

Pecan-Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cut the French bread into 1 inch pieces and set aside in a large bowl. In another large bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, milk, half & half, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla, until well blended. Pour the pumpkin mixture over the bread and stir to coat evenly. Cover will plastic wrap and let chill for 8-12 hours.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding I Pretty Little Pastimes

Waiting 8 hours might seem like torture once you smell this, but you can do it!

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding I Pretty Little Pastimes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon chilled bread mixture into a lightly greased 13×9 inch baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of baking, prepare the pecan-caramel sauce. 

Heat the pecans in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring often, 3-5 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Cook brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and pecans.

Remove bread pudding from oven and drizzle with the Pecan-Caramel Sauce. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 5 minutes longer or until sauce is thoroughly heated and begins to bubble.

Now it is time to make the whiskey sauce.

Whiskey Cream Sauce

  • 2 & 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons pure granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons whiskey (I used Jameson Irish Whiskey)

Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the nutmeg. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean add to the milk with the bean. Heat gently until small bubbles appear around the edge of the saucepan. Set aside to cool, then strain the milk and discard the bean.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to allow the mixture to color.

Remove from heat and slowly add the vanilla milk, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps. Return to low heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the sugar and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

In a bowl, stir together the yolks and milk. Pour in a quarter of the, now hot, sauce, stir together to blend and return the mixture to the remaining sauce in the pan. Add the whiskey and stir constantly over medium-low heat until heated through, without allowing the sauce to boil. Finish by straining.

While everything is still hot, spoon a portion of the whiskey sauce onto the bottom of a plate. Layer the bread pudding directly over the sauce and, if desired, top with fresh whipped cream. This recipe might not shovel your driveway, but it will help make this bitter-cold weather a little more bearable. Now, curl up under a big blanket on the couch and enjoy!

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding I Pretty Little Pastimes



Whiskey Sauce recipe source: Christmas by Le Cordon Bleu

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year I Pretty Little Pastimes

Every January 1st I rack my brain to try and put together the perfect New Year’s Resolution. I hear people talk about all of the things they are going to give up … over spending, eating out, chocolate (say what?!) and then I think maybe this resolution thing isn’t for me. But this year I have decided I will be making a resolution and it won’t be to give anything up, in fact it will be just the opposite. This year I resolve to spend the money to travel overseas, to explore new and exotic cuisines, and as for the chocolate, well, I also vow to bake my cake and eat it too. 2014 is going to be all about building new memories doing the things I love, with the people I love, and I promise to take pictures along the way.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

Glammed Up Apple Pie

Glammed Up Apple Pie I Pretty Little Pastimes

I warned you in my last post that you would be seeing more apple recipes coming you way and here you have it! I knew when I went apple picking that I would need to try my hand at baking my very first apple pie. I could have made a hundred different dishes with exotic flavors from complicated recipes, but there is just nothing more comforting than a warm homemade apple pie. The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg coming from the oven was enough to make me a very impatient baker. They say a watched pot never boils, but I will add that a watched pie never browns!

As you probably guessed from the Greek letters, I am a Sigma Kappa Sorority alumnae. Although I graduated college some years ago, I am still very active as both an advisor and alumnae chapter officer. Since my trip to the apple orchards was part of an alumnae chapter event, I decided to glam up my pie with a little sorority flare! I was nervous about freehand cutting hearts from the dough, but I was very pleased with the results and really think it adds a little extra charm to the finished product. I wanted to share it here, because I think (even without the letters) it would make a great fall treat for someone special, or a thoughtful gift for the host of a dinner party. Enjoy!

Traditional Apple Pie

  • 5 and 1/2 cups apples (I used a mix of Courtland, Empire & Gala)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup pure granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • favorite homemade (or ready-made) double pie crust

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Begin prepping the filling by peeling, coring and slicing your apples. In a large bowl, mix sliced apples, lemon juice, sugars, flour, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss until apples are evenly coated. Fill bottom pie crust with the apple mix.

Roll out the top pie crust and cut out small hearts using a paring knife or very small cookie cutter. Adhere the cut out pieces of dough by brushing the back of each with a small amount of milk or water, just enough to make it sticky, but not soggy. Carefully lay the top pie crust over the filled pie and crimp the edges, hopefully a little prettier than my attempt!

Place pie in oven and bake for 15 minutes to brown. Lower the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Once finished, remove the pie and transfer it to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm with fresh whipped cream.

*Baking tip* After 30 minutes of baking, loosely cover the edges of the pie with a thin layer of aluminum foil to avoid over-browning.

Apple Pie Smoothie

Apple Pie Smoothie I Pretty Little PastimesIt took me a few weeks to come to terms with the fact that summer was really over and that fall was here. It’s not that I don’t enjoy fall, beautiful foliage, new boots and pumpkin EVERYTHING, I mean, what’s not to love? It’s just knowing what comes next … ugh, winter! I have survived four winters since leaving California, so you would imagine that I would be beginning to accept it’s existence, but, alas, I am still in denial.

Rather than sulk as I pack away my sundresses and swimsuits, I decided to embrace fall and try my hand at a couple of new adventures. The first was apple picking! A group of friends and I made the trek to Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA for a day of hay rides, cider doughnuts, and wine tasting. I’m sure they could all tell that I was the orchard newbie when I cringed at the idea of taking one bite out of an apple and throwing the rest on the ground. I guess that “don’t be a litter bug” mentality it ingrained deep inside. Once I saw a bunch of bees happily taking care of the discarded apples, I felt much better. By the end of the day, I had a huge bag apples, fresh cider, homemade jam and even a mini pumpkin to take home. Success!

Apple Picking I Pretty Little Pastimes

As I make my way through my stock pile of apples, I will continue to share recipes and photos. I will start with a simple (and tasty) apple pie smoothie. Oh, and if you have any must-try apple recipes for me, please send them my way!

Apple Pie Smoothie

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • 1 apple, sliced and cored
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (or to taste)
  • handful of ice cubes

Add all ingredients into a high speed blender. Blend until smooth. Add additional ice cubes until desired consistency.

For cinnamon sugar rim: Dip glass rim onto a shallow dish of water. Mix 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon onto a flat plate. Dip moistened rim into sugar mixture, shaking off excess. Garnish with an apple slice and enjoy!

Singapore Rice Sticks

Singapore Rice Sticks I Pretty Little Pastimes

I tried Singapore Rice Sticks for the first time at a little Chinese restaurant  we happened to stumble upon in the midwest. We were going to order a curry rice dish and our server told us they had a much better version of the same dish, but that was not on the menu. Feeling like we had just been let in the back door of a speakeasy, we decided to go with the “secret” menu we were let in on. I’m so glad we did, because what came out was a huge bowl of Singapore Rice Sticks. They were full of bold flavors like curry and garlic, but were rounded out with the addition of fresh ginger and bell pepper. They were hot both in temperature and spice and stood out as the favorite of the entire meal … more over kung pao chicken!

When I decided to try to make this dish at home, I shied away a couple of times, because it seemed like a lot of work. But don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you! This dish may seem like a tall order, but keep in mind it is mostly stir frying, meaning that you are cooking things at a high temperature for a very short amount of time. What ends up on your plate is definitely worth a little extra prep time. And, like the best Chinese food does, it tastes even better the next day!

Singapore Rice Sticks

  • 8 ounces rice sticks (fine dried noodles)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons hot curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 4 ounces raw lean pork, cut into 1/4 inch julienne
  • 4 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/4 inch julienne
  • 3 ounces Chinese barbecue pork or smoked ham, cut into 1/4 inch julienne
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 hot chili peppers, slivered thinly (or crushed red pepper to taste)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch julienne
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch julienne
  • 12 scallions
  • 1 and 1/2 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and boil until tender, 1-2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Let the noodles air dry and firm in a colander for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Whisk together the eggs, 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder and the sesame oil until blended. Spoon 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil into a wok (or heavy skillet) over moderately high heat. Pour in the egg mixture and immediately reduce the heat to low. Scramble the eggs until just set, transfer the eggs to a bowl and reserve.

Return the wok to moderately high heat and add 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Add the shrimp and stir fry until mostly cooked, about 1 minute. Remove the shrimp and reserve. Repeat the oil and stir fry process for the chicken and lean pork, cooking each for about 1 minute. Transfer each to a bowl and reserve.

Turn up the heat to high and when the the wok is very hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the ginger, garlic, chilies, and remaining curry powder. Stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add Chinese pork or ham, bell peppers and stir fry another 30 seconds. Splash a small amount of water (2 tablespoons or less) and cook until boiled off.

Push the vegetable and pork mixture to the sides of the wok and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the center. Add the scallions, bean sprouts and noodles and toss over high heat until very hot, about 30 seconds.

Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Return the shrimp, pork, and chicken to wok and add soy sauce. Toss well and add reserved egg mixture and salt. Serve hot.

I served our Singapore Rice Sticks over some simple white rice, but it would have been plenty filling on its own. We also decided to make it EXTRA spicy, by using 1/2 of a ghost pepper as our chili pepper. It was my first encounter with the “ghost pepper” and I was very glad I listened to the warning of our friend, who grew it, and only used half. It was hot! Nothing a few extra glasses of water won’t fix. Enjoy!

Immunity Boost Smoothie

Immunity Boost Smoothie I Pretty Little PastimesJust when I thought I was out of the woods, after a long fight with seasonal allergies, a new bug got ahold of me this week. Everyone around me seemed to be catching the virus, so I new it was a matter of time before the scratchy throat and stuffy nose found its way to me. When I am sick, I tend to be very stubborn. I usually refuse any cold medicine and just try to let me body fight the sickness on its own. I find that when I pay closer attention to how my body feels in its natural state, then I can better judge when fevers are coming/breaking, when I am hungry and when I need more rest.

Since I did not have a lot of energy, I whizzed up this simple Immunity Boost Smoothie to give my system a little kick in the right direction. This smoothie is a combination of fresh raspberries (you can also use frozen), yogurt, bananas and orange juice. The Vitamin C, antioxidants and flavonoids found in the ingredients will help boost your immune system … plus it’s delicious!

Immunity Boost Smoothie

  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt – or vanilla soy milk
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • handful of ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in blender. Cover and blend until smooth.

This cold drink was just what I needed to get me through the rest of my day. When I find myself ill during the winter months, nothing sounds better than warm soup, but during the summertime I always turn to something cold. Try this smoothie next time you are looking for a quick boost or a tasty treat. Cheers to good health!