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HAPPY HALLOWEEN! No Tricks, Just Treat Yourself to this Delicious Pumpkin Cookie with Cream Cheese Frosting!

Cookies are hands down the ultimate comfort food for fall. It seems that every holiday celebration features a favorite cookie as a part of the seasonal celebration. Serve these little Pumpkin bites warm with a cold glass of milk. Don’t forget….always underbake!

PUMPKIN COOKIES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

pumpkin-cookies

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.
  2. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Stir in the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture by hand until just combined.
  3. Drop on prepared baking sheets by heaping tablespoonfuls; Butter the bottom of a drinking glass and then dip the bottom of the glass in a bowl of sugar. Flatten the dough balls with the bottom of the glass until they are about ¾ inch thick, dipping the glass in sugar as necessary to prevent sticking.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 13 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack.
  5. Once cookies have cooled completely, frost or drizzle with cream cheese frosting.
  6. While the cookies are cooling make frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and pumpkin pie spice and beat until smooth and creamy.
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Mother’s Day Calls for Mom’s Chicken

Cookbooks, recipe cards, recipe files, have all been replaced by Pinterest, online cookbooks and online recipe sites such as Cooks, Epicurious, Delish,  All Recipes, Cooking Channel, Taste of Home and more. It’s not a bad thing, but for sure, you will find a multitude of variations on anything you want to cook.

Wedding showers were the best. Often times, the gift was to include a recipe card for the bride’s recipe files. I vividly recall attending a friend’s wedding shower more years ago than I like to remember. As Connie opened her gifts with the attached recipe card, her mother proudly announced, “The next grease mark on any of my cookbooks will be the first!”  We all politely smiled and nodded in agreement. 

How things have changed. Cooking is now an ‘in thing,’ whether created by television cooking programs like “The Chew,” or perhaps drinking too much wine in a restaurant became hazardous to your ability to drive home safely. In any event, it has changed, and the new customs of sharing great memories of food with friends and family is deep-rooted in the days long ago when it was customary to many ethnicities. 

My mother, Marilyn, an artist, created a cookbook with matching bookmarks, many years ago and sold them at a local gift shop with the help of her sister, Dorothy, and Polly Paphilous, the food editor for the Akron Beacon Journal. It never made the best seller list, but I can assure you that anyone who purchased a copy was privy to some delicious recipes. One of my favorites and super easy is “Mom’s Chicken.” I typically use boneless, skinless thighs which I find more flavorful and moist. The Parmesan cheese forms a delicious crust. Remember to grease your pan.

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Dear Friends,

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to you, your mom, or any woman in your life who has provided the unconditional love and caring that it takes to be a great role model and give children the ability to reach for the stars.

My mother is 87 this year and still loves to bake cookies for my father turning 90. I’m blessed, not only with still having them in my life, but also for the wonderful memories I will cherish forever. Watch for my next blog post, “Cookie Nirvana,” where I will feature some of my mom’s most delicious cookie recipes. Until next time….

MOTHER'S DAY       🍷Cheers! Laura

P.S. Swing by my online store for great gift ideas! FOLIO TRENDS! Great women’s clothing and accessories at incredible prices! fullsizeoutput_1ddd

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Spring Break with a Side of Fries

Today was enlightening. My first day of vacation and not only did I wear my usual two piece bathing suit, skirted and high waisted, of course, but I noticed a distinctive sign that I needed to lose weight. The sign wasn’t as blatant as you might think. The scale this morning didn’t yell, “GET OFF OF ME!” ….no one tried to harpoon me on the beach……but the sign was there. You see, every chaise lounge at the pool is equipped with a numbered flag that you raise in order to let the server know that you would like to order food. Yep! You guessed it, mine had no flag.

So, my daughter, Jodi and I decided to have a late lunch of blackened mahi tacos with a mango salsa; healthy, and flavorful. It was happy hour, and we were happy,  so we enjoyed a skinny margarita. Suddenly, our server delivered these amazing french fries to the next table. Jodi and I shot each other a glance and beckoned the server to bring us an order. This little diet destructor was well worth the calories; …….thick cut french fries served with a fresh raspberry mayo on the side. We IMG_7567quickly justified consuming these fat fried bursts of flavor by reminding ourselves that we did water jog🙃.  So, essentially, the moral of this story is “calories in and calories out.” There are, however, good calories and not so good calories, but an occasional splurge isn’t a bad thing. Unfortunately, I often justify these binges by thinking, “If this were my last meal, it would totally be worth it.” It was.

This trip, I decided to create healthy and delicious meals using all of the fresh fish Florida has to offer. At the local fish market, grouper was recommended as a hearty fish that could easily be made into a piccata dish. Wikipedia explains piccata as “meat or fish sliced, sautéed, and served in a sauce containing lemon, butter and spices”.  Often prepared with veal or chicken, this recipe proved to be a keeper. Enjoy!

GROUPER PICCATA

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  • 4 grouper filets about 4 oz. each,  blotted dry and seasoned with 1/2 tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. capers, drained
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • thinly sliced lemon slices

Dredge fillets in flour.
Heat 2 tsp. oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high until it shimmers. Add half the fillets and cook until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer fillets to a platter; tent with foil. Repeat heating and cooking with remaining oil and fillets.
Add wine, lemon juice, and capers to skillet; cook 30 seconds. Off heat, swirl in butter until it melts; season with 1/2 tsp. pepper and 1/4 tsp. salt, add lemon slices until softened.  Serve fillets with sauce over rice or angel hair pasta.

Dear Friends,

On the plane ride home from vacation, we hit a bit of turbulence. The kids on the plane clearly coming home from spring break, squealed with excitement at the sudden dips and turns. The parents, on the other hand looked horrified. Looking for a diversion, I noticed the cloud formations outside of my window and admired the unusual landscape the sunlight created as the rays bounced off of the sloping hills and valleys of the thick clouds.

Snapping a photo of this unusual scenery, placing it in the archives of vacation memories, it occurred to me the way in which this is a reminder of our need to “take time and smell the flowers” as we get older.  For so many years, we simply hurried to our next destination either not knowing or not realizing that life itself is a journey filled with moments worth pausing for celebration.

As always, thanks for stopping by and cheers to enjoying the journey. 

🍹 Laura

P.S. Check out my new store FOLIO TRENDS where you find great styles and incredible prices! Sign up for email alerts to get great savings!

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SURPRISING DOLLAR STORE TRICKS (AND TREATS) FOR ENTERTAINING

So, you are invited to holiday parties for every holiday, and the worst thing is when you forget to label your dish with your name, or it gets washed off, and you either never get your dish back, or its months, and yes, maybe a year or two. And when the next occasion arises to use that perfect dish,  you  insanely look everywhere. After every cupboard, drawer, and storage bin has been ransacked (that’s an extreme word, but true) you realize that you took an appetizer to Sally’s house, and never got your dish back. SOLUTION: THE DOLLAR STORE.

I know, I know, your mother always told you to watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves. However, can you put a price on your favorite pumpkin platter or your divine deviled egg dish? NO. The seasonal serving opportunities await your dollars at the dollar store. By the way, I am not making any money endorsing this retail establishment, although, not a bad idea!

Today, we are going to a fall clambake and my $2.00 purchase created this fun seasonal serving idea for a delicious desert that I call PUMPKIN PIE CHEESECAKE BITES. I have two favorite versions for this dip.

Normally now, I just leave the serving dish with the leftovers at the party, but this one came out so cute, I’m conflicted, so I may bring it home 🎃

PUMPKIN PIE CHEESECAKE BITES

RECIPE 1 (a little sweeter than recipe 2)

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Ingredients

¾ cup International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer
1 3.4 oz package pumpkin spice instant pudding
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
Graham cracker crumbs for garnish

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl, whisk together the International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer with pumpkin spice instant pudding. Set aside for about 5 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the softened cream cheese and sugar.
Add in pudding to cream cheese mixture and beat.
Once well combined, fold in the 2 cups of thawed whipped topping and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, fill bowl with Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Dip topped with graham cracker crumbs.

If you can’t find pumpkin spice instant pudding (it’s pretty  seasonal), you can use either vanilla or cheesecake instant pudding with a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.

PUMPKIN PIE CHEESECAKE BITES

RECIPE 2

INGREDIENTS

1 -15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 -8 oz. container Cool Whip, thawed
1 package 1.5 oz. Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 

Directions

Cream together all ingredients with an electric mixer until well combined and fluffy. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Serve with Vanilla Wafers, Cookies, or Graham Crackers.

img_6499Dear Friends,

Celebrating something every day helps to create the happiness we all deserve to have. For me, its difficult to overlook the inevitable snow, but I love enjoying the beauty of this season and everything that comes with it.

Cheers to you! Laura

 

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4 MUST HAVE FALL RECIPES

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As the evenings grow cooler and the day’s shorter, I enjoy autumn’s beauty of gold and red but knowing that winter looms in the not so distant future, I try to find ways to celebrate the season and create personal happiness.

Embracing the changes as we grow older is very much the same and parallels the seasons of our lives. An article I read recently addressed happiness. The essence was simply about the rules we establish for personal happiness and the more rules we do have for that happiness can set us up for unhappiness.  If your joy depends on the weather being sunny and warm each day, and you live in a place where the climate is very seasonal, for example, then you are setting yourself up for unhappiness. I have truly found, that acceptance of my own changes, and yes, that of the changing weather, has made a huge difference. As trite as it may sound, having a half full cup is a healthy cup.

Fall reminds me of pumpkins, apples, squash and wonderful memories of with my children, gathering candy from enthusiastic neighbors, and spending time with friends on those crispy evenings.

Enjoy these delicious seasonal recipes and keep making cherished memories!

ROASTED SPAGHETTI SQUASH

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup of Four-Cheese Italian White Cheese Blend (Mozzarella, White Cheddar, Provolone, Asiago)
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh ground pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Hold your spaghetti squash firmly, cut in half length-wise and scoop out the innards and seeds. Place both halves on a baking sheet, held in place by a small foil ring to ensure stability. Sprinkle fresh cracked pepper over each half.

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat and sauce the shallots until tender, about 4 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, combine heavy cream, chicken broth, shallots and fresh thyme.

3. Sprinkle a first layer of grated cheese in the cavities of each squash halves. Divide the cream mixture on top of cheese in each halves, then top with additional cheese.

4. Roast in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the flesh of the spaghetti squash is very tender when poked with a fork. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

In a hurry? Place the raw spaghetti squash halves face down in a shallow dish with a bit of water, and microwave for 8 minutes (less or more, depending on the size of the squash). The flesh will be almost cooked through. Then  proceed with the remaining steps and bake for only 20-25 minutes in the oven.

SPINACH and ARTICHOKE STUFFED SPAGHETTI SQUASH

I found this delicious recipe and picture on Pinterest. It’s a keeper! 

spinach-artichoke-spaghetti-squash-recipe-taste-and-tell-3-optIngredients
1 spaghetti squash, seeded
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup chopped onion
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup light sour cream
3 ounces less fat cream cheese
¾ cup grated parmesan, divided
3 cups packed baby spinach
1¼ cups canned artichoke hearts, chopped
¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
chopped fresh parsley

Place the spaghetti squash in a microwave safe dish, cut side up. Pour about half an inch of water in the dish, then cover with plastic wrap and microwave until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly, then with a fork, scrape up the strings from the squash.

In a pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, 5-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 60 seconds. Add in the sour cream, cream cheese and half of the parmesan cheese. Stir until the cream cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the spinach and artichoke hearts and cook until the spinach has wilted. Pour half of the mixture into each spaghetti squash half and gently pull up on the spaghetti squash strings to combine with the sauce as much as possible. Top with the shredded mozzarella and the remaining parmesan. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if desired, and serve hot.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH ESCAROLE SALAD WITH CHIPOTLE RANCH DRESSING 

Found from Cuisine at Home and Serves 8

salad

 

FOR THE SQUASH—
11/2 lb. butternut squash
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and black pepper

FOR THE DRESSING—
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise or greek yogurt
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice 2 tsp.honey

1/2–1 tsp. minced chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce

FOR THE SALAD—

1 head escarole, chopped (about 8 cups)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400°. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Peel skin from squash. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Cut flesh into 11/2-inch chunks; toss with oil, salt, and pepper. Roast squash on the baking sheet until browned, 25–30 minutes. Cool squash to room temperature. Mince garlic with the 1/2 tsp. salt, then place in a medium bowl. Whisk in mayonnaise or greek yogurt, buttermilk, lime juice, honey, and chipotle until dressing is well blended. Refrigerate dressing until ready to serve, or up to 2 days.

Toss escarole with desired amount of dressing. Top salad with roasted squash and cranberries; garnish with pine nuts.

PUMPKIN COOKIES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

pumpkin-cookies

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.
  2. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Stir in the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture by hand until just combined.
  3. Drop on prepared baking sheets by heaping tablespoonfuls; Butter the bottom of a drinking glass and then dip the bottom of the glass in a bowl of sugar. Flatten the dough balls with the bottom of the glass until they are about ¾ inch thick, dipping the glass in sugar as necessary to prevent sticking.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 13 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack.
  5. Once cookies have cooled completely, frost or drizzle with cream cheese frosting.
  6. While the cookies are cooling make frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and pumpkin pie spice and beat until smooth and creamy.

Dear Friends,

I hope we all are able to accept the changes in the seasons of our lives because each and every day is a blessing. Cheers to that.

Laura

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MANY COLORS AVAILABLE!

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7 Great Back to School Tips

As a teacher, I always wished that summer could last just a little longer, actually a lot longer, but as a mom, I couldn’t wait for school to start! Summer had run its course and it was time for someone else to take over! The lazy days of summer aren’t lazy anymore! The days are so packed with baseball, tennis, golf, swim team, lacrosse camps, band camp… to name a few. The few weeks and even days before school can be a great opportunity to wind down and focus on what’s important, and that would be getting ready to be in a school routine that promotes success and happiness for all ages. So, essentially it’s important for both kids and parents to get into this routine together. It’s no longer the 3 Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic, It is the 2 Rs…resting and readiness.

STEP 1: STEP INTO A ROUTINE! Structuring the days before school starts eases the transition and makes mornings bearable! Have a balanced breakfast to start the day and a set dinnertime helps! At dinner, spend some time talking about what was great about summer and what to look forward to in the coming school year. After dinner, take advantage of wind down time to the day, set an earlier bedtime, and have a quiet time an hour or so before bed. Reading a book or magazine as a family limits distractions and sets a great example. 

STEP 2: GET A JUMP ON SCHOOL SUPPLIES AND SCHOOL CLOTHES! The before school sales are a great way to stack up on supplies and save money. Get the supply list from your child’s school and shop it out! This routine gets kids excited about the new year…new clothes and new stuff. When shopping for clothes, keep in mind dress codes. That will prevent problems later. 

STEP 3: GET ORGANIZED! Make it a before bedtime habit to get ready for the next day. Lay out clothes and pack up the back pack! This will save time in the morning and make the mornings run more smoothly. Some kids enjoy making their own lunch for the next day. Fill out necessary papers for the school such as emergency medical authorizations, etc. 

STEP 4: GET READY FOR HOMEWORK! Establish a regular homework time, whether after school, or after dinner, let your child decide, but stick to it. Some kids need a break from school and others may enjoy having a snack and getting the work behind them.

STEP 5: SET UP SCHEDULES AND THE FAMILY CALENDAR! Stay ahead of the game by staying ahead! Display a family calendar where everyone can list their activities and appointments. Each family member can have their own color marker and be responsible to keep it up to date.

STEP 6: DON’T FORGET FAMILY TIME! Whether it’s dinnertime,  homework/reading time, or trips to the ice cream store, take advantage of sharing successes, thoughts and concerns. It’s easy to get caught up in everyday activities and adhering to schedules. Being a parent is being a support system and advocate for your child. Being alert to concerns can prevent them from escalating into problems later. 

STEP 7: MAKE MEALTIME ENJOYABLE! Plan ahead simple and flavorful meals that the kids enjoy can turn every meal into a special one. Healthy, kid friendly menus can be anything from french toast wrapped sausage (pigs in blankets), to a simple build your own taco. Ask your kids to offer some ideas of their own. Ownership is a great key to confidence building!

This is a delicious breakfast muffin that your kids will ask for over and over. It also makes a memorable teacher’s lounge treat for the first week classroom warriors, aka your child’s teachers!

                                           Caramel Banana Upside Down Cake Muffins

IngredientsIMG_5749

1 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
About 2 bananas, sliced in ¼ inch rounds
1½ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup mashed overripe bananas
2 large eggs
⅓ cup coconut oil or melted butter
⅓ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Instructions IMG_5750
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the muffin pan. Melt the butter in the microwave and add the brown sugar.Place 3 pieces of cut up banana in the bottom of each muffin tin. Melt 6 T. of butter in the microwave and mix in brown sugar. Spread the brown sugar mixture evenly on top of the bananas.. 
Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add all the remaining wet ingredients and beat just until combined. Do not over-beat.
Pour the batter over the sliced bananas/brown sugar mixture in each muffin tin..
Bake for 40 min. or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean but moist.
Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting it onto wax or parchment paper.

GENIUS IDEA FROM AMAZON! CHECK IT OUT!

Parents: Get all your child’s school supplies delivered right to your door Teachers: Create and share supply lists easily, year after year

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Simply type in your school name, teacher and grade level and up comes the list delivered to your door!

Cheers to a great school year and to setting the stage for success for our kids!

xo Laura