Peanut Butter Banana Bread

peanut butter banana bread | sunsets on the side

peanut butter banana bread | sunsets on the side

Trust me when I tell you that the only thing that smells better than banana bread when it’s baking is peanut butter banana bread.

That’s a Yankee Candle-worthy scent if I’ve ever smelled one.

Truth?  Bananas aren’t really my thing.  But, I love banana bread.  I don’t know.  It’s  kind of like my I love tomatoes and tomato sauce but cannot stand tomato juice thing.  Only, in this case, it’s much easier to explain.  You add butter, sugar, and vanilla to pretty much anything, and I’m on board.

peanut butter banana bread | sunsets on the side

And, take it one step further and add not only peanut butter but also throw in some peanut butter chips?  I’m buying a first-class ticket to banana town, baby.

peanut butter banana bread | sunsets on the side

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
 
Author:
Makes: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups + ½ T. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 T. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup peanut butter chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9”x5” loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 ½ cups flour, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) on medium speed, cream the butter, peanut butter, canola oil, and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix to combine.
  5. Slowly add in the flour mixture (scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go) and mix together just until combined.
  6. Add the mashed bananas and sour cream and mix until well incorporated.
  7. In a separate small bowl, toss the peanut butter chips with the remaining ½ T. flour until all chips are coated with the flour. Add the floured peanut butter chips to the batter and fold them in with a spatula.
  8. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  9. Let the bread cool for 15 minutes then loosen around the edges of the pan with a knife. Remove the bread from the loaf pan and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Adapted from Martha Stewart.

Shrimp Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce

shrimp pasta with lemon cream sauce | sunsets on the side

shrimp pasta with lemon cream sauce | sunsets on the side

I’m a pasta girl.  I always have been.

I am legitimately half Italian, so I guess I come by it honestly.  But, truly, if I didn’t think my husband would object, I’d have absolutely no problem eating pasta for dinner every single night.

And, this particular pasta?

It’s everything.

It’s rich and filling from the cream sauce yet bright and fresh from the lemon.  The shrimp and vegetables add pops of color and flavor and keep it from seeming too heavy.  (See, I had spinach with my heavy cream.  Antioxidants!  Iron!).

Oh, and did I mention it’s easy?  If you prep a little bit ahead of time – zest and juice the lemons and chop the vegetables, you can totally cook this baby in about 25 minutes flat.

Win.

Shrimp Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce
 
Author:
Makes: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb shrimp (31/35 count), peeled & deveined
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. penne (or any short pasta)
  • ½ cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 4 oz. baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Instructions
  1. In a large (12”) nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp to the pan. Sear the first side for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 2-3 minutes on the other side until they are cooked through. Remove the cooked shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add the garlic to the remaining olive oil. Cook for one minute.
  3. Add the cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until it thickens.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water with a handful of kosher salt to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and put back in the pot.
  5. Add the thickened lemon cream sauce to the pasta in the pot. Add tomatoes, spinach, and parmesan cheese. Stir together to coat with the sauce. Let the mixture cook on low for 3-5 minutes until the sauce is mostly absorbed into the pasta, and it coats the other ingredients.
  6. Turn off the heat, add the basil, and stir to combine.
  7. Serve hot with extra parmesan cheese, if desired.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Blueberry Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Icing

blueberry cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese icing | sunsets on the side

blueberry cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese icing | sunsets on the side

There are so many things to love about spring.  Abundant tree buds, cheerful daffodils, flavorful berries, pastel colors.

Actually, pastels aren’t really my thing (unless they’re decorating the crunchy outside coating of chocolate candy eggs), but everything else…yes.

Especially those berries.

blueberry cupcakes | sunsets on the side

Even though it’s not quite the season yet, I’ve been on such a blueberry kick recently.  The ones I’ve been getting at the store have been delicious, which means they’ve been going on top of my cereal, inside my yogurt, and now into these delicious treats.

The flavor combination of blueberries and lemon is one of my absolute favorites, and I feel like I’ve been waiting all winter for these cupcakes.

blueberry cupcake with blueberry cream cheese icing | sunsets on the side

Blueberry Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Icing
 
Author:
Makes: 15 cupcakes
Ingredients
  • ~~~Cupcakes~~~
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ⅔ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • ~~~Icing~~~
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 T. blueberry syrup (I used Smucker’s)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake/muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar, melted butter, and canola oil on medium speed until well mixed (30-45 seconds).
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine. Add the lemon zest and sour cream and mix (scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go) until well incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Working in 3 batches on low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated.
  6. Gently fold in the blueberries with a spatula.
  7. Fill each cupcake liner about ⅔ full with the cupcake batter. Bake for 23-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  8. Let cupcakes cool for 5 minutes then remove to cooling racks and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter.
  9. Once cupcakes have cooled, prepare the icing. In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese and butter with a hand mixer. Add the vanilla and salt, and mix to combine.
  10. On low speed, slowly mix in the powdered sugar until totally incorporated and no lumps remain. Mix in the blueberry syrup.
  11. Ice cupcakes using an offset spatula or pipe the icing onto the cupcakes with a piping bag and tip of your choice.

Cupcakes slightly adapted from Cooking Classy.

Smoky Corn & Pancetta Hash

smoky corn pancetta hash | sunsets on the side

smoky corn pancetta hash | sunsets on the side

I bought my husband a smoker for his birthday.  He’d been wanting one for such a long time, and seeing how excited he was to finally get one was truly fun to watch.  But, the food we’ve started creating in there is (selfishly) an enormous bonus.  Yum.

A couple nights ago we did a dry-rubbed chicken, and boy was it delicious.  This smoky potato hash, filled with corn and bursting with flavor from smoked paprika was the perfect complementary side dish.

I wouldn’t be shy about making this recipe first thing in the morning, though.  Some poached or fried eggs on top of this hash would make for a bold, hearty breakfast.

Smoky Corn & Pancetta Hash
 
Author:
Makes: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 4 oz. pancetta, cubed
  • 2 medium red potatoes (about ¾ lb.), small diced
  • ¾ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 16 oz. frozen corn, defrosted and drained
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 oz. roasted red peppers, drained patted dry, and diced
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the pieces have browned and are cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta pieces to a paper towel-lined plate & set aside.
  2. Add the diced potatoes, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper to the oil in the saute pan. Stir to coat the potatoes with oil and seasonings. Cook over medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes until they are brown. Turn heat down to medium-low and continue to cook potatoes, stirring often, until they are tender (about 15 minutes).
  3. Turn the heat up to medium. Add the corn and half of the green onions to the potatoes. Cook until the corn is hot, 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the roasted red peppers, pancetta pieces, and the remaining green onions. Cook 1-2 minutes longer until the red peppers are warmed through. Serve hot.

Signs of Spring

signs of spring

signs of spring in the kitchen | sunsets on the side

 

| 1. Green Table Runner | 2. Marin Flora Platter | 3. Citrus Juicer | 4. Lemon Bowl | 5. Orange Diamond Party Glass | 6. Green Diamond Party Glass | 7. Salud Pitcher |

Spring has officially sprung!  Today I’m celebrating winter’s end by picking out cheerful colors and patterns that make me want to open the windows, stock up on produce, and bake some fruity treats (stay tuned).

Some of these pieces are very much on sale, too, so you can feel frugal while stocking up on things that will showcase the new season in your kitchen and on your table.

Rustic Tomato Soup

rustic tomato soup | sunsets on the side

rustic tomato soup | sunsets on the side

Back when I worked for a consumer goods company, the descriptive word we used to wrestle with the most when labeling food was “robust.”  Like, what does that word even mean?  (For the record, technically I guess it means, “strong and healthy“).

People consistently thought it was a super terrific word to describe food, but when we would ask focus groups to tell us what that word meant to them, the answers were usually pretty hilarious.  It was sort of obvious that we weren’t the only ones who couldn’t understand it in the context of food.

Similarly, I struggled when trying to name this soup.  My first draft called it “Pantry Tomato Soup” because that’s the beauty of this recipe: you probably already have everything you need to make it.  But, that made it sound like an instruction to go to your pantry and get out a can of tomato soup, which…wasn’t what I was going for. I love raw tomatoes, I love cooked tomatoes, I love roasted tomatoes, I love tomato sauce, I love homemade tomato soup.  But, I really (really) don’t like canned tomato soup or tomato juice.  Like, I can’t eat them at all.  What is that?  Weird.

So, I went with “rustic” because that’s exactly what it is: simple and uncomplicated.  This soup is thick, it’s rich, and it’s absolutely perfect for grilled cheese dunking.

Hopefully it even makes you feel robust.

(Sorry).

rustic tomato soup | sunsets on the side

Rustic Tomato Soup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Makes: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrots
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • ¾ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until they are softened and starting to brown, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
  3. Pour in the wine, stir well, and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the wine is slightly reduced.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken stock, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and basil. Stir to combine. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes.
  5. Add the cream cheese, and stir until it melts completely into the soup. Garnish with more fresh basil and serve.

 

Grasshopper Pie

grasshopper pie | sunsets on the side

grasshopper pie | sunsets on the side

Today is my husband’s birthday.  (He’s just slightly older than the single candle suggests).

During our recent visit with his parents, we somehow got on the topic of a secret recipe folder Scott keeps hidden away in an undisclosed location.  One recipe found in said location is this recipe for Grasshopper Pie.  It’s one of his favorite things his mom made when he was a kid, and even though she’d sent him the recipe, he’d never had any success making it himself.

He seemed so excited by the prospect of finding the recipe so I could give it a whirl that I decided I’d make it for his birthday dessert.  It’s no secret that I’m not a cake lover, so anytime I see good reason to skip one, I take full advantage.

grasshopper pie in the making | sunsets on the side

This recipe has all the main elements of a throwback birthday dessert.  It’s really fast and easy to put together, it’s delicious, and it makes you feel all loved and nostalgic on your special day.  Sometimes, only a childhood favorite will do.

So, even though we did an early celebration while his mom and dad were still in town, now it’s sort of like we’re all together in spirit again today, thanks to a long-awaited, successful remake of the Grasshopper Pie recipe.

Happy Birthday, Scott!

Grasshopper Pie
 
Author:
Makes: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 24 Oreo cookies
  • 4 T. butter, melted
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • ¼ cup Crème de Menthe liquor
  • 1 (7-oz) jar marshmallow creme
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, pulse the Oreo cookies until they’re broken into fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process to combine.
  2. Pour most of the crumbs (reserve 2-3 T. to decorate the top) into a 2-qt. soufflé dish and press firmly into the bottom. (You can use a different size/shape pan if you’d like. A 9×13″ dish would work or, the original recipe calls for the use of a baking sheet. But, I didn’t have room for that in my freezer!).
  3. Place the cold cream into a large bowl. With a hand mixer, begin to beat the cream on very low speed. Once it starts to thicken, turn the speed of the mixer up and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl with the mixer on low speed, slowly incorporate the Crème de Menthe into the marshmallow creme. Mix until combined.
  5. With a spatula, gently fold the crème de menthe mixture into the whipped cream. Pour over the Oreo crust, and sprinkle the top with the reserved Oreo crumbs.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 3 hours or until ready to serve. Remove from freezer 5-10 minutes before serving.

Recipe from “Three Rivers Cookbook,” by Norma Sproull.

Avocado Ranch Dip

avocado ranch dip | sunsets on the side

avocado ranch dip | sunsets on the side

If you follow me on Instagram, you could probably tell that we’ve had a steady stream of visitors in town.  The weather’s been as close to perfect as weather can be, so it’s been sort of a non-stop sunset viewing, beach loitering, fresh seafood eating party (my favorite kind).

Whenever we have people coming to stay at the house, I always try to have some things on hand that make for a quick bite to eat between outings.  Things like homemade salsa, tzatziki, good cheeses, crackers, and olives always come in handy.  And, versatility is key.  Homemade tzatziki is great just with pita or pretzel chips as a snack, but it also makes a delicious sauce for grilled salmon if we pick that up to cook for a fast dinner.

This time, I decided to make an avocado ranch dip so that we had it around to serve with fresh veggies.  But, it also doubled as a sauce the night we made crab cakes.  Not a traditional remoulade, but it tasted great all the same!

avocado ranch dip | sunsets on the side

Avocado Ranch Dip
 
Author:
Makes: 3 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • Zest 1 lemon
  • 1 T. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ½ T. Dijon mustard
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • ½ of a ripe avocado
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, process the garlic, scallions, basil, lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper until they are pureed.
  2. Add the avocado, mayonnaise, yogurt, and buttermilk. Puree until smooth.
  3. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Strawberry Lime Cheesecakes with Pretzel Graham Crust

strawberry lime cheesecakes with pretzel graham crust | sunsets on the side

strawberry lime cheesecakes with pretzel graham crust | sunsets on the side

This is probably my favorite time of year in St. Pete.  The humidity typically hasn’t picked up yet.  The temperatures are still cool.  It actually feels like spring.  Spring training adds a festive energy all around the area.  We usually get a lot of fun visitors from the north who just can’t take it anymore.

And, we have local strawberries.

Life is good.

When I originally started playing around with this recipe, I was using fresh strawberries.  And, darn it if I just couldn’t get it to work.  I buzzed up the strawberries, made a sauce, mixed the sauce into the cheesecake mixture, and…it just wasn’t tasting right.  So, I ultimately switched over to strawberry jam, and that worked like a breeze.

I sort of want to apologize to our local strawberries for skipping them this time, but I’m sure I’ll figure out plenty of uses for them in the upcoming weeks.

In the meantime, break out your jam, and try this little taste of spring.  Whether your temperatures are starting to inch upwards or it’s still a deep freeze where you live, this may just be a nice change of pace from your winter menu.

Strawberry Lime Cheesecakes with Pretzel Graham Crust
 
Author:
Makes: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • ~~~For Crust~~~
  • 4 whole graham crackers
  • 1 cup pretzels
  • 2 T. granulated sugar
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • ~~~For Filling~~~
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, at room temp
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup strawberry jam
  • 1 T. freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • Zest of 1 lime
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers and pretzels with the sugar until they’re broken into fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process to combine.
  2. Distribute crumbs evenly between 8 (6-oz.) ramekins, and press firmly into the bottom. Refrigerate the crusts while making the filling.
  3. Place the cold cream and 1 tsp. vanilla in a large bowl. With a hand mixer, begin to beat the cream on very low speed. Once it starts to thicken, turn the speed of the mixer up and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  4. With a mixer on medium speed, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and remaining teaspoon of vanilla. Add in the strawberry jam, lime juice, and lime zest. Mix until combined.
  5. With a spatula, fold in half of the whipped cream.
  6. Divide the cream cheese mixture evenly among the ramekins, and top each serving with a spoonful of the remaining whipped cream. Garnish with additional lime zest and sliced fresh strawberries, if desired.
  7. Chill for at least one hour or until ready to serve.

Filling adapted from Rachael Ray.

Chicken Parmesan Pizza

chicken parmesan pizza | sunsets on the side

chicken parmesan pizza | sunsets on the side

In general, I really don’t insist on many things.

I’m not the person who insists on a certain paint color for a room…or on, say, a restaurant choice for dinner.  The restaurant thing is mostly because I’m not a picky eater and can find something I’d love to eat on almost any menu.  But, it’s also because I like it when other people are happy.  I’m a conflict avoider.

Truth.

chicken parmesan pizza dough | sunsets on the side

However.

This one time, I’m going to have to insist that you guys make this pizza.  It doesn’t have to be right now….or tomorrow…or even next week.  It requires a little bit of a time investment.  You’re making dough, you’re dredging, you’re browning, you’re grating, you’re chopping.

chicken parmesan pizza dough before | sunsets on the side

But, before this winter is over, I’m insisting you have this pizza.  It’s like a giant hug that somehow made it into your oven and then onto your plate.  It’s the best of chicken parmesan in hand-held, dough-encased form.  It’s your dinner.

chicken parmesan pizza | sunsets on the side

See, you’re not mad I insisted, right?

Chicken Parmesan Pizza
 
Author:
Makes: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • ~~~Pizza dough~~~
  • 1 (1/4 oz.) envelope rapid rise dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 cup warm water, divided
  • 3 cups flour
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ~~~Pizza topping~~~
  • ¾ lb. boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ cup seasoned panko crumbs
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 cup pasta sauce (I used Classico)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ⅓ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
  • 6 oz. fontina, grated
Instructions
  1. Mix the yeast, sugar, and ¼ cup of the warm water together, and let it sit for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the flour, olive oil, salt and remaining ¾ cup warm water together in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture to flour mixture. Stir well and then turn out onto a floured surface and knead, adding more flour as needed, for about 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Drizzle some olive oil in a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it over so it is all coated in the oil. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let the dough rise until double in size (about 1 hour).
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken. Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper, dredge the pieces in flour, dip them in egg, and then coat them in panko crumbs.
  5. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, brown the chicken pieces, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove chicken to a plate, add an additional 1T. oil, if needed, and brown the second batch of chicken.
  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  7. When the dough has risen, shape it onto a baking pan (16” round or 12×18” cookie sheet both work). Leaving a 1” border, poke the middle of the crust multiple times with a fork so it doesn’t rise too much in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove crust from the oven, top it with pasta sauce (again leaving a 1” border around the outside for the crust). Top the sauce with chopped basil, chicken, parmesan, mozzarella cheese, and fontina. Bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

oatmeal peanut butter chip cookies | sunsets on the side

oatmeal peanut butter chip cookies | sunsets on the side

Sometimes it takes only small alterations to turn an original into something different and special.

That’s exactly what’s happened here.  In go the peanut butter chips, out go the raisins, and you have a soft, gooey cookie that tastes both new and familiar all in the same bite.

Make sure you have plenty of milk on hand.  I think you’re going to need it.

oatmeal peanut butter chip cookies | sunsets on the side

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
 
Author:
Makes: 4 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 ¼ cups peanut butter chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) on medium speed, beat the butter together with the brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Add the oats and stir until combined.
  6. Using a spatula, gently fold in the peanut butter chips.
  7. Using a medium (1 ¾”) cookie scoop, drop the batter onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the cookies are just barely set.
  8. Cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer carefully to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Quaker Oats.

Mushroom Goat Cheese Twice-Baked Potatoes

mushroom and goat cheese twice baked potatoes | sunsets on the side

mushroom and goat cheese twice baked potatoes | sunsets on the side

Have you guys been watching as much Olympics coverage as I have?  Man, I just love the Olympics.  The competition!  The drama!  The outfits!  The network reporters making top athletes cry after medal-winning performances!

Well, not so much on the last thing.

But, the coverage has been a staple in our house for the past week and a half.  I mean, we’re DVR-ing hockey games for pete’s sake.  U-S-A!

The only thing that feels confusing is all the eating I’m doing while watching Olympics.  Is this even right?  Oh, hi…you’re cross-country skiing UP A HILL right now.  And, I’m…eating pizza.

U-S-A?

Oh well.  As it turns out, I’m not above eating twice-baked potatoes while parked on the couch in front of the men’s super-G.  I look at it as sympathy carbing for my country.

Noble.

mushroom and goat cheese twice baked potatoes | sunsets on the side

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Twice-Baked Potatoes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Makes: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 8 oz. button mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 T. butter, melted
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ½ tsp. salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 4 oz. fontina, grated
  • 1 T. minced fresh dill
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pierce potatoes with a fork multiple times. Place directly on an oven rack and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until they’re cooked through and the inside is soft. Let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat with the olive oil and let cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are brown and most of their liquid has evaporated, about 7-8 minutes.
  3. When potatoes are cool enough to touch, slice each in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving enough of a border that the potato halves hold their shape, into a large mixing bowl. Set the potato skins on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Add the goat cheese, butter, milk, salt, and pepper to the potatoes. Mix with a hand mixer until completely smooth. Fold in the mushrooms, fontina, and dill. Scoop even portions of the potato mixture into the empty potato halves.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, sprinkle the tops of the potatoes evenly with parmesan cheese, and then bake an additional 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and potatoes are heated through.

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

happy valentines day | sunsets on the side

happy valentines day | sunsets on the side

Because nothing says “I love you” quite like a surface loaded with cookie packages…

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

Hugs are free.  Pass some out.

 

 

Scallops & Shrimp over Herbed Rice with Mustard Dill Vinaigrette

scallops shrimp and dill rice with lemon mustard vinaigrette | sunsets on the side

scallops and shrimp over herbed rice with mustard dill vinaigrette | sunsets on the side

I have always been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.  I mean, what’s not to love about a day designed to celebrate love?

I’m lucky enough to have a lot of great Valentine memories to think back to.  My favorite has to be the year when Scott and I were still long-distance dating and he flew 1,000 miles just to surprise me at my office and take me out for a Valentine’s date.  He called and told me that I needed to go down to the lobby of my building to pick up his delivery for me, and it turned out that he was my delivery.

I’m not sure that one can be topped.  That’s just Scott, though.  Spontaneous, fun-loving, thoughtful, kind.  That long-distance dating thing wasn’t easy, but it sure had its share of high points.

I’m so lucky that he’s my Valentine…

…my Valentine that doesn’t live 1,000 miles away anymore!

When it comes to celebrating these days, though, we almost always stay in.  The crowds are larger here in St. Pete during the winter anyway, and the restaurants are positively spilling over on Valentine’s Day.  So, I usually make us a special dinner in.  And, my guy is a seafood dinner man all the way.

scallops and shrimp | sunsets on the side

This is a great meal for a night in when you want your dinner to feel a little fancy.  It looks and tastes like something you’d order in a restaurant, but it will be much easier on your wallet.  There are three different components to this meal, but all of them are easy, and the seafood cooks in a snap.  It’s a good portion for two (if your appetite is as big as ours), and I guarantee your date will feel spoiled and loved.

scallops and shrimp over herbed rice with mustard dill vinaigrette

scallops and shrimp over herbed rice with mustard dill vinaigrette | sunsets on the side

Scallops & Shrimp over Herbed Rice with Mustard Dill Vinaigrette
 
Author:
Makes: 2-3 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ cup + 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ T. Dijon mustard
  • 2 T. red wine vinegar
  • 2 T. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 T. minced fresh dill, divided
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided (plus more for seasoning)
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, divided (plus more for seasoning)
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 ¾ cup chicken stock
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ lb. shrimp (I used 31-35 count), peeled & deveined
  • ½ lb. scallops (I used 20-30 count)
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. For the vinaigrette: Pour ½ cup of the olive oil into a glass measuring cup or small bowl. Add the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, shallot, 1 T. dill, ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Whisk together vigorously until the vinaigrette combines and thickens.
  2. For the rice: Stir the rice, chicken stock, and remaining salt and pepper together in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and let simmer – stirring occasionally – for 15-20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove the rice from the heat, let it stand for 5 minutes, and then stir in the parsley, remaining dill, and ½ cup of the prepared vinaigrette.
  3. For the seafood: Pat the shrimp and scallops dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and remaining 1 T. olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the scallops to the hot pan. Sear the first side for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side. Remove the scallops with a slotted spoon and place on a plate.
  4. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook the same way (sear the first side for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side). Add the scallops and their juices back into the pan with the shrimp, pour in 1 T. of the vinaigrette, and cook for just 1 minute longer to coat the seafood in the sauce.
  5. To serve, place the rice on a plate, top with scallops and shrimp. Garnish with lemon slices and drizzle more vinaigrette on top, if desired.

M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

m&m chocolate chip cookies

m&m chocolate chip cookies | sunsets on the side

My husband does a fair amount of traveling for work.  Most of the time it’s just local travel, but a few times each year he makes a road trip to a site a few hours away.  Usually, when he takes those trips, I make treats for him to take to everyone on the team.

A little goodwill never hurt anything.

So, to kick off this round of treat baking for an upcoming journey, I’m starting with my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe and then I’m going to Valentine it up a little bit.

That’s a thing, right?  Valentining things up?

m&m chocolate chip cookie dough | sunsets on the side

This version of chocolate chip cookies is the one that my mom has always made, so it’s the one that I always make.  So many things in life are that way, aren’t they?

It’s an adaptation of the recipe that started it all: the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe.  But, this one uses shortening in place of butter and an extra (almost) quarter cup of flour to offset that change.  It gives the cookies the soft, chewy consistency that I love.

The only other addition here is that I swapped half the chocolate chips for Valentine-colored M&Ms.  I mean, if work friends are getting cookies, they might as well be holiday-appropriate!

m&m chocolate chip valentine cookies | sunsets on the side

M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Makes: 4 dozen
Ingredients
  • 2 ¼ cups (plus a scant ¼ cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup Crisco
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup M&Ms
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) on medium speed, beat the Crisco together with the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Using a spatula, gently fold in the chocolate chips and the M&Ms.
  6. Using a medium (1 ¾”) cookie scoop, drop the batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the cookies are just set.
  7. Cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Nestle Toll House.