If cooking a Thanksgiving feast wasn’t enough, I’ve been busy in the kitchen for the past few days testing recipes for the amazing cookbook author and food photographer, Lara Ferroni. I’m certainly not complaining though!  It’s been really fun and I’m excited to tell you all about it.

If you’re not familiar with Lara she’s an extremely talented food photographer and accomplished cookbook author.  She’s now working on her next cookbook that features delicious sweet and salty treats but without all the junk (ie ingredients you can’t pronounce). Definitely my style of cooking!  Lara asked me to test recipes for her peanut butter stuffed pretzel balls and chocolate caramel cookie sticks. Considering I’m both a peanut butter and caramel addict, I was thrilled I got to try these recipes.

Unfortunately I’m only here to tempt you with Lara’s yummy treats- the recipes can’t be released quite yet.  But what I can tell you is that you should most definitely snag this cookbook once it’s available next fall! From these two recipes alone I know her book will secure a spot on my cookbook shelf.  Thanks for allowing me to help, Lara!

Yesterday was gorgeous but today it is full on gray and rainy in NYC. However, things are a bit brighter in our apartment thanks to Brandon’s birthday! As you can tell, November is a big month for birthdays around here. Since Brandon leaves for a work trip today, we celebrated last night with a lobster roll feast followed by extra fancy beers and wine. I definitely need to eat lobster more often on Monday nights.

To bring a little brightness to your day, I wanted to share a video of a trip we took last fall to Spain and Morocco. Brandon made this video and it never fails to put me in a good mood! Thanks for always making me smile, Brandon, I hope you have a wonderful birthday! xoxo

Hello! And happy Monday. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Ours was great. My mom and I started cooking on Tuesday and pretty much worked straight through til’ Thursday. I love the tradition of cooking together and each year it gets better and better with new dishes and more strategic planning!

Since you’re all probably very tired of eating or hearing about pumpkin pie, I decided to share our “other” Thanksgiving dessert with you today.  We always have a second dessert to accompany the pumpkin pie. In my mind, chocolate pairs best with pumpkin so I was in need of a decadent chocolate dessert.

I don’t read a lot of food magazines, but I do read a lot of food blogs. So when a picture of a dish gets seared in my memory, it’s usually from one of my favorite blogs. I had this image in my head of a sweet and salty brownie from Dana’s blog (Dana Treat) from months ago. I couldn’t even place when I read it, but I could still recall the description of this amazing brownie and knew instantly that’s what we needed to make.

This is not your typical brownie. You may have guessed that from the title but what I didn’t tell you is that this brownie also includes a thin layer of fleur de sel caramel melted into the center making it the most incredible brownie I’ve ever tasted.  If you are a fudgey brownie lover, you will die and go to brownie heaven. Words can’t do justice to how good this baked good is, so you should probably just make it.

Sweet and Salty Brownies from Baked Explorations/ Dana Treat

When trying a new baked good, I always follow the recipe exactly. So that’s what I did in this situation.  Instead of rewriting the entire recipe I urge you to head over the Dana’s blog to not only read about these brownies but to check out all the other amazing recipes she has.  I’ll admit, this is not the simplest of brownie recipes, so I’ve listed a few tips based on my experience. Don’t be deterred those, these are well worth the effort!

  • When stirring the sour cream into the caramel, be sure to use a whisk so it doesn’t clump.
  • Before stirring the eggs into the chocolate, make sure the chocolate is truly room temp.
  • When stirring the flour into the chocolate the mixture will feel clumpy- that’s ok, keep going.
  • I found it difficult to keep the caramel from spreading to the sides of the pan.  The original recipe mentioned this would cause it to burn, but I didn’t experience that.
  • These are great made a day ahead, which makes them perfect for entertaining!  Let them cool completely, then store in the fridge if serving the next day.  If they’re cold, they’re much easier to cut.  Cut them and then let them come to room temp before serving.

When it comes to Thanksgiving I like a simple table with natural elements.  I headed to the fabric store last night to pick up some pieces to pull our table together. I knew we would be using green plates and white cloth napkins, so I wanted something clean yet festive to complement those colors. I chose a few yards of a muted green burlap to serve as the main runner, and then grabbed a roll of gold tulle to lay on top of the burlap for some sparkle and warmth.  Then, down the center of the table, I’m placing miniature pumpkins with a few branches of red berries tucked underneath.

I’m so pleased with the results. And the best part?  It cost me less than fifteen dollars. The only thing I paid for was the fabric and pumpkins (the berries I cut from our yard).  This is proof you don’t need to spend a fortune! So when designing your table, first see what have around your house (both inside and out), then choose a simple color palette, and round out your plan with a few store bought elements.

There’s much cooking to be done so I’m off to the kitchen. I hope you all have a delicious Thanksgiving! Happy eating!

Well maybe it’s not so secret, and I really can’t take credit for it, but I can tell you it’s really really good. This year I’m putting cream cheese in our Thanksgiving mashed potatoes.  Yep, cream cheese!

Do you guys cook with cream cheese?  I’m a little bit obsessed with it.  Yes I love it on bagels but I find when I have some around, it’s always useful in whatever I’m cooking, whether I’m thickening a sauce or making a dish a little bit more indulgent. And in mashed potatoes it is unbelievable.  We can’t credit this one to Ina, it’s full on Pioneer Woman. I haven’t talked  much about Ree Drummond here but I’ve always liked her recipes, and I think she’s a solid go to when it comes to fool proof comfort food. I made a variation of these mashed potatoes a few weeks back and shortly after I told my mom we had to have them at Thanksgiving!  I can’t wait to top them with gravy and cranberry sauce.

I modified the recipe a little bit by cutting back on the butter.  I know, I know, me of all people! I really do love butter,  but the amount used was even a bit too indulgent for my tastes.  It is Thanksgiving though, so feel free to go all out! Either variation is sure to be delicious.  Oh, and the best part?  You can make it a day ahead! You can never have too many make ahead dishes on Thanksgiving.

I’ll be back a little later tomorrow with some super simple tablescape ideas that I’m very excited to share. And, in case you need it- here’s a stellar sweet potato recipe. Happy holiday prepping!

Creamy Mashed Potatoes slightly adapted from the Pioneer Woman
Serves 10

  • 5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1/2 cup (to 3/4 cups) whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the stove and add the butter, cream cheese, and milk. Mash until very smooth with a potato masher. Next, add salt a pepper. Taste for seasoning and add a bit more if necessary (do not under salt!).

Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish or oven proof bowl.  Place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until potatoes are warmed through (15-20 minutes).

Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Photo Credit