Baked Polenta with Roasted Veggies


Is January over yet?  No, it's only halfway through, you say?  WHAT IS HAPPENING.  Christmas was 79 years ago.  How is it only January 17th.  I suppose it's a good thing that January lasts an eternity, because it takes me 79 years to get back into a decent routine.   I finally feel like I've recovered from the madness of the holidays and am capable of cooking, working out and returning emails.  Just in time for a 3-day weekend and blizzard... yeesh.  But, will it be a blizzard?  The weather people are like, we'll get somewhere between 0 and 9 feet of snow.  Enjoy.  I guess I should rush off to the market to buy 29 gallons of milk as people tend to do before "possible" snow storms.  

Or, I could stick to buying vegetables and polenta so I can make this delicious side dish again.! Carson and I loved the combination of sweet, roasted vegetables and buttery polenta, all topped with a bright, salty vinaigrette.  We served it alongside salmon, but you could also add beans for protein (this recipe does that, which I loosely based the dish on) and make it a Meatless Monday dinner.  I hope you enjoy it, and stay safe and warm this weekend with your gallons of milk.        

Baked Polenta with Roasted Veggies
Serves: 4-6

4 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp capers
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 pre-packaged tube cooked polenta, sliced into 2-inch pieces
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 yellow red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 zucchini, cut into 2-inch chunks
4 roma tomatoes, quartered

Mix 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, capers, shallots, garlic and salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  On a buttered baking dish, lay out polenta.  Slice the 2 tablespoons of butter and place a sliver on top of each piece of polenta.  On a baking sheet, arrange the vegetables.  Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.  Place both vegetables and polenta into the oven, and cook for 20 minutes, flipping the polenta and tossing the vegetables halfway through baking process.  Once cooked, arrange polenta and veggies on a platter and drizzle with lemon caper vinaigrette.  

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies


There's something about the countdown to Christmas that makes me want to bake something every single day.  I literally have pounds of butter in my fridge and 12 different kinds of chocolate chips in my pantry to fuel this desire, but life keeps getting in the way which is super annoying.  If I could, I would cancel all plans and permanently affix holiday pajamas to my body and eat butter.  I mean, bake with butter, and then eat what I bake.  Alas, I have to be a mom and a wife and buy presents and work and attend parties and concerts and exercise so I can eat said amounts of copious butter.  

This is why I appreciate SIMPLE recipes!  These Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies are very simple, and ridiculously delicious.  That's probably because the recipe comes from my friend and Pastry Chef, Chelsea Kravitz.  It's good to have friends who are Pastry Chefs, by the way.  She works at a local restaurant, Schout Bay, which is a 'must' on its own if you're on Long Island... and if you ever do go, her desserts are a MUST must.  Also, check out her website The Bakery Lady and again, if you're local, she makes the most divine baked goods to order.  That's right, I said 'divine' because I'm proper and what not.  If you're not a Long Islander, just drool along with her Instagram posts.  Aaaaaand, make these amazing cookies!  Recipe below...

The Bakery Lady's Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp salt
Raw sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk together flour and baking soda, set aside.  Mix melted butter, both sugars and molasses.  Add egg and beat 1-2 minutes.  Add spices, salt and fresh ginger.  Fold flour mixture into wet, just to combine.   

Place raw sugar in a shallow bowl.  Scoop tablespoon sized gobs of cookie dough and roll into balls.  If the dough is sticky, throw it in the fridge for a half hour.  Roll the balls in sugar and place on lined baking sheets 2" apart.  

Bake, rotating halfway through, for 7-10 minutes.  They should be puffed and a little cracked on top, slightly set around edges.  With the back of a ladle or spoon, press gently into the top of each baked cookie fresh out of the oven to encourage a chewy center.      

Pattie's Snowballs


Is there anything better than a handwritten recipe, all worn and smudged with buttery fingerprints?  When I posted my late mother-in-law's recipe on Instagram, so many of you wrote that the writing looked identical to one of your own loved ones.  Why is that?!  It seems there was something so universally elegant about the cursive back in the day... it just seemed to dance on the page.  I don't think I could replicate it if I tried!  Also, how do you write a cursive 'Z'?  I have no clue. 

During the holidays, I always look forward to pulling out these passed-down recipes because, after all, traditions are what makes everything so merry!  And I try to cling to the 'merry' as much as possible, because, you know... there's also the S T R E S S.  But for that, there are cookies!  Am I talking in circles?  You know what I'm saying.

These Snowballs were my mother-in-law's favorite.  She would make batch after batch and freeze them - enough to last long after the new year.  Baking these sugary, buttery treats reminds us that she's always with us...  

Speaking of moms, I had the opportunity to be a guest on the Mom Enough podcast recently, so please check it out here!  Marti, her daughter Erin and I chatted about picky eaters, healthy meals, holiday traditions and how all of us moms have to sneak away to eat a dessert from time to time.  It's a really fun show led by some brilliant women who keep it real.  My kind of people :)  

Pattie's Snowballs
Makes 2 dozen

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp (1 stick)
3 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Cream butter until light and fluffy.  Add sugar and blend well.  Add flour, then vanilla and fold in nuts.  (Mixture will be crumbly but will come together with your hands.)  Roll into small balls (about golf-ball sized) and place on greased baking sheet (I simply line mine with parchment paper).  Bake for 20-30 minutes (I do 20).  Roll in powdered sugar while warm, and then once more when they cool off.

Happen Bakers: Sophie Boulos


Alright party people, please get ready to meet the newest member of my Happen Bakers series...

Sophie Boulos is a 16 year-old girl living in Montreal and is an extremely talented baker.  Chiffon cakes, chocolate mousses, Belgian waffles, even homemade pizza...you name it, she's baked it!  Besides being a skilled baker, she's an athlete, an active participant in various community services (such as animal adoption) and a nearly-graduated high schooler busy looking towards the future.    

We all know that teenage life can be stressful - especially the last year of high school - and Sophie turns to baking for comfort.  While she finds the process calming, she also appreciates how gratifying it is to share her creations with friends and family, or even members of her community.  How refreshing to see a young female driven with the desire to give back!  And after one glance at her Instagram, I'd like to move to her community to be on the receiving end of such donations, thanks.

I'm particularly excited that she decided to bake a Pumpkin Pie for her Happen Bakers post, and not just because it's perfectly appropriate for this time of year (I wrote a lot of words that begin with 'P' in that sentence).  If you've been a loyal follower of this blog, then you know it's the one food I just can't do...but my aversion shouldn't prevent you wonderful readers from acquiring a delicious recipe of the classic dessert!  So, now you have one, and you have Sophie to thank.  Thank you, Sophie!  
Read on for the recipe, and to learn even more about this talented young individual..

Click HERE to get the recipe for Sophie's Not Your Grandma's Pumpkin Pie!  
What she has to say about it:

Everybody knows that grandmothers are some of the best bakers around.  Their simple recipes make you feel warm inside and are very hard to beat.  Now, I am not saying that their recipes get old, but sometimes making a few adjustments can turn a classic into something unique and out of this world.  Being from Canada, I had to use maple syrup, and this addition is but one of the few simple changes I made to the original.  This is the best pumpkin pie around!  

When did you start baking?

I've been in the kitchen ever since I can remember.  There are even photos of me as a baby watching Food Network!  Since my mom is a stay at home mom, I would spend lots of time with her cooking in the kitchen.  I cooked much more when I was younger and started to bake pretty seriously starting at about 10 years old.  What inspired me to start baking were my grandmothers, my mother and the Food Network.  

How did you learn?

I learned on my own by watching TV shows, videos on YouTube and by practicing non-stop.  I also spent much time in the kitchen with my mom as a young child and was always eager to participate in the making of whatever she was preparing.  My grandmother and I would bake mini muffins and other goodies from time to time, so baking definitely makes me feel nostalgic.  

What do you love most about it?

The fact that it helps to relieve my stress when I'm feeling overwhelmed at school and it also allows for me to do something special for the important people in my life.  For example, I bake all the time for people's birthdays at school and for my family and when I see the joy it brings them, that is the best feeling.  I also love to give back to my community through my food and the joy a small gesture brings people never gets old.     

What's the most challenging thing you've attempted?

Definitely a chocolate soufflĂ© and cherry clafoutis.  

What's your dream dessert?

Either anything with chocolate like a warm chocolate molten cake with vanilla bean ice cream or something lemony and delicious like lemon meringue pie.  

Name 3 celebrities you'd love to bake with...

Definitely Ina Garten as I absolutely adore her and her recipes, Yolanda Gampp and Christina Tosi.  

Most epic kitchen fail?

I was baking some oatmeal raisin cookies and the first batch came out scrumptious.  I forgot to set the timer for the second batch and by the time I remembered that they were in the oven, they had gone black!  

Any favorite songs you listen to in the kitchen?

I love to listen to soul music and old classics.  Anywhere from "I Feel Good" by James Brown to "Smooth Sailing" by Leon Bridges to "One Love" by Bob Marley.  

Favorite food site or YouTube channel?

Probably Yolanda Gampp's channel, How to Cake It, because everything she makes is ridiculously impressive.  

When you're not baking, you are...

Playing sports (soccer, volleyball, basketball, badminton, touch football), hanging out with my friends and my dog, volunteering in my community or painting.  

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

That's a really hard question because I'm graduating high school this year and am not quite sure what I would like to do just yet.  In a perfect world, I would like to have completed my MBA and Juris Doctor as well as have graduated from the Cordon Bleu.  I know that this is not realistic to accomplish in only 10 years, but I see myself attaining these goals eventually.  I see myself remaining involved in my community and having a catering business where I can showcase my desserts and make some money to put towards my further education.    

Thank you Sophie!  I am certain that your future will be sweet :)
(Pun intended).  

Orange Soup


It's officially Soup Season.  Fall ended abruptly over here and left us all scrambling for our dusty winter coats.  My daughter still doesn't understand why she can't wear sandals to school because it's "sunny" outside but I think yesterday, she finally understood.  It's freezing!  Therefore, it's time to hunker down over the stove making soup after soup after soup... all of the soups.  

We all know that I have picky eaters, but my girls do love their soups.  Under one condition: I label them by color.  White, green, orange... NEVER DO I EVER call it by what it really is: Cauliflower, Broccoli or in this case, Carrot, Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash.  No sir, it is simply called "Orange Soup" in this house and then it gets eaten.  It's not lying, it's being CLEVER.  

Whatever you call it, you will love this creamy soup made up of yummy, fall vegetables.  The small amount of cream is optional, but come on, just add it...you know you want to :)   

"Orange Soup"
Serves: 6


2 tbsp olive oil
1 heaping cup chopped carrots
1 heaping cup chopped sweet potato
1 heaping cup chopped butternut squash
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp turmeric 
Salt and pepper to taste
1 32 oz. container chicken stock (approx. 4 cups)
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

In a heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.   Add onions and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook onions for 5 minutes or so, until they start to sweat.  Add garlic, and cook for another minute or so.  Add your orange veggies, and season with some more salt and pepper.  Add the other spices, and cook for about 5 minutes.  Then, add your chicken stock, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until vegetables are cooked through.  Turn off heat, and using an immersion blender, puree soup to desired consistency.  (If you don't have an immersion blender, you can transfer soup to a blender.)  Add cream and stir, and season once more with salt and pepper to taste.  

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake


It's October!  It's time to wear sweaters and drink pumpkin lattes and listen to your children change their minds over their Halloween costumes every 7 minutes!  That last part aside (make up your damn mind!), I really do love this time of year.  It takes me a hot second to fully embrace that appreciation, however.  If you ask me in mid-August if I'm looking forward to fall, I'll cry in your face.  But now that it is upon us, I'm totally in the mood for it.  Football Sundays, pumpkin patches, soup weather and baking up all the traditional autumn goodies.  BRING IT ON, CINNAMON AND NUTMEG AND GINGER.  Sorry for shouting.  

The other day, I watched my "virtual friend" Audra make this live on her Instagram, muted, because I was supposed to be watching my daughter's karate class.  Anyway, even with no sound I knew I had to make it myself.  So I did, and let me tell you... WORTH IT!  It's good for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack, whatever you fancy, and best served in my opinion with ice cream or coffee.  Or both. Go wild!!  And enjoy the season.

Recipe HERE.

The cutest little helper in all of the land...

Happen Bakers: Faith Quintero


Hello!  New Happen Bakers time!

Meet Faith, a 14 year-old girl who reached out to me on Instagram.  After checking out her page - named FaithfullyCreated - I was COMPLETELY blown away by her talents.  A true artist, Faith whips up sweet confections that rival those displayed in the trendiest of bake shops.  Um, hello Kids Baking Championship??  Scoop this girl up at once!  Many of her recipes are her own, and they are all decorated in the most original way.  Catered for friends and family, Faith's attention to detail is beyond anything I've seen from someone so young, and it's evident her skills will take her far.  In a world where kids can be absorbed by tablets and social media, it's so refreshing to see what someone like Faith can accomplish.  

Go check out FaithfullyCreated now, and continue reading below to learn more about this talented baker!  By the way, gotta give the girl a shout out for the name pun... wink wink :)    

Click HERE to get Faith's original recipe for her FaithfullyCreated Chocolate Cake.

When did you start baking?

My grandma inspired me to bake when I was 2 years old. 

How did you learn?

I learned how to bake by watching and helping my grandma bake cookies and brownies.  But now I learn new tips and tricks by watching hours and hours of YouTube.

What do you love most about it?

The thing I love about baking most is the joy on the faces of the people I bake for and the fact that it helps me through tough times and to de-stress.  

What's the most challenging thing you've attempted?


What's your dream dessert?

To eat the world's most expensive ice cream or to make a cake taller than me.  

Name 3 celebrities you'd like to bake with...

Most epic kitchen fail?

My most epic kitchen fail were my first four attempts at a vegan cake (IT WAS DISGUSTING).  

Any favorite songs you listen to in the kitchen?

I love to listen to anything I can dance to while baking (but no cursing or country music).  Mostly Shawn Mendes. 

Favorite food site or YouTube channel? 

My all-time favorite YouTube channels are ManAboutCake and HowToCakeIt...I watch hours of them!

When you're not baking, you are...

...doing homework, sleeping or hanging out with friends. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

 I hope it doesn't take me 10 years, but I am saving up for a 36-inch KitchenAid oven so that I can take my business to the next level and open a bakery!

Thank you Faith!  Continue to blow the world away!    


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