Alley's Recipe Book
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Take 5 Cupcakes - total time 1 hour

Happy Halloween!  Trick-or-treat is postpone tonight because of a big storm heading our way (it is already getting windy and rainy outside)... so we're watching scary movies tonight instead of passing out candy.

Halloween is probably the most fun holiday.  It's all about sweets and treats, being creative and dressing up, getting scared.  All kinds of cute kids in costumes and fun parties for adults.  What's not to like?!

Every year I make sure to buy a bag of my favorite candy; Take 5.  Then I hide all of them in the bottom of the bowl and act surprised when they're the only candy left after all of the trick-or-treaters have gone home.  I feel like I never see Take 5 candy bars unless it is Halloween, so I have to save some for myself!  I mean, whoever thought to combine these five ingredients is a genius!  

So it seems only logical to turn my favorite candy bar into a cupcake (I mean, I already made a Muddy Buddies version).  Peanut butter frosting is one of my favorites!  Between PB frosting and Baileys frosting, I can't decide which I love more.  These little cakes are so delish... it is really the perfect combination of sweet and salty indulgence!

Turkey, Cheddar, and Apple Panini - total time 15 minutes


We haven't had deli meat in our house for a while.  When I realized how much was added to make deli meat what it is, it made my stomach hurt.  I have always wondered why we eat things that doctors recommend pregnant women to avoid.

No deli meat certainly does not mean that we don't eat sandwiches at home!  We frequently have shredded chicken leftovers in our fridge.  This time we had some turkey leftover from a turkey tenderloin I made earlier in the week (so this would make a great sandwich for you leftover Thanksgiving turkey).  

In the past I have been wary about adding fruit to savory meals.  I never really understood adding fruit to salad (except tomatoes).  But now I rarely make a salad without some kind of fruit, whether its is dried cranberries, fresh strawberries, or sliced apples.  I felt the same way about sandwiches... I mean adding cheese to an apple didn't seem like a flavor combination I would enjoy.  But I wanted to try it, and this sandwich changed my mind!

The crispness of the apple, the creamy, sharp cheese, and the savory, tender turkey makes this sandwich the trifecta of textures and flavors!

Weekly Menu


After the frost last week, I had to take down my summer garden.  To my surprise, there were still lots of tomatoes hiding out there!  The most likely to ripen are sitting on the windowsill.

While I was tearing down one garden, I was also planting for the next.  After seeing this idea on Chiot's Run... I bought some crocus bulbs and planted them in the back yard.  Can't wait until the little purple flowers are popping up in the Spring!

This week's menu...
fritto frittata
quinoa and veggies

Butternut Leek Soup - total time 1 hour


It is winter squash season again and we get bombarded with pumpkin flavored advertising.  Although the pumpkin is one of the unofficial mascots of Halloween, I never really understood the pumpkin craze during this time of year.  With so many winter squash options, why is it pumpkin that gets the lattes, rolls, cupcakes, and so much more.  Personally, I prefer butternut squash and the smell of it roasting in my oven filling my house with yummy smells.

Since it is always cold in Ohio when winter squash season rolls around, I end up using them in soups and pastas almost exclusively.  This recipe is no different.  After a long day outside tearing down my summer garden in the cold winds, what better way to warm up than a bowl full of creamy butternut soup?!

This soup is a little on the sweet side because of the butternut and cream.  To balance that out is some crispy sage and paprika that brings a little "Thanksgiving-y" flavor and the truffle oil adds even more richness to the soup.  The soup is bold enough to stand alone as a meal, but even better paired with your favorite grilled cheese.

Sticky Drumsticks - total time 45 minutes


Everyone likes a good chicken recipe (well, except vegetarians).  Too often we only use chicken breasts though.  Yes, it is a very meaty portion and has the least amount of fat, so in that sense it is the best cut to use.  But that only makes up a quarter of the chicken (or even less), what happens to the rest?  If we're going to eat meat, we should eat it responsibly, not just by choosing free-range chickens, but also using the whole chicken.

When I saw the Novice Chef's recipe on Pinterest using chicken drumsticks, I knew I wanted to try it.  But knowing we don't like things too sweet, I had to make some edits.

These drumsticks are kind of like a teriyaki glaze, sweet from the honey and a little salty from the soy sauce.  Perfect combination!  Don't forget the wetnaps... you're going to need them!

Weekly Menu

I made chili for the first time yesterday for a Sunday football chili cook-off.  Well, I guess it wasn't really a cook-off (although it was the most crockpots I have ever seen collectively), it was more of a as-soon-as-you-set-it-down-it's-gone kind of chili smorgasbord and there was not voting and no winner (besides the Colts).  But yeah, chili for the first time... it turned out okay.  Not sure what I was expecting.  I don't like chili, which is why I have never made it before.  But every home cook has their own chili recipe... with a secret ingredient or technique that makes it different from every other chili.


How do you make you chili?  

I don't like beans (which is part of the reason I'm not chili's number one fan), so I didn't put beans in my recipe.  My husband said the beans are what makes chili, well, chili.  I'm not sure I follow his logic.  It is the chili peppers/powder that makes chili what it is, whether its the blue ribbon winner or your uncle's secret recipe.

On to this week's menu...
Alley Doughs (calzones)
chicken with dijon cream sauce and salad
jerk shrimp po' boys
butternut and leek soup with grilled cheese
cashew chicken and potatoes

Easy Guacamole - total time 5 minutes


Have you ever been scared to try a food?  I was convinced I would not like avocados, there was no way... so I didn't even try it.  Then one day, my friend ordered some guacamole at a Mexican restaurant, I finally got curious and tried it.  I can never look at salsa or queso dip the same way... bring on the guac!  And actually, every California-style sandwich (with avocado) while you're at it!

This was one of the things I made for my cooking night on vacation, which was enchilada night.  Seconds after I put the bowls of guacamole on the table, it disappeared (it might have had something to do with my "dinner time" is two hours later than normal family dinner time).  When we got back home, I realized I have not posted the recipe yet, maybe because I thought it was too simple since it only takes five minutes and it doesn't require any actual cooking.  Then a text message last week reminded me I still have not posted the recipe!

This recipe showcases the avocado without adding too much extra.  I mean, do you really want to mask that buttery flavor?!  Because of the simplicity, you can make a big batch and use it as a sandwich spread, add it to pasta, make tuna salad, or top a side dish.  It is also perfect for game day!

Baileys Brownies - total time 1.5 hours


Have you tried Starbucks VIA yet?  It has been available for a couple years now.  I actually haven't had it plain yet (you know, just as coffee), but it has been awesome for baking!  The instant coffee that was available before VIA was so bitter that after a few coffee flavored desserts, I just couldn't make any more!  But that has changed!

My favorite way to have coffee is with a little bit (or a lotta bit) of Baileys.  Some times that craving just happens and it is either not time for coffee (and the caffeine that accompanies it) or it is too early for Baileys.  So my favorite coffee ends up being reserved for the weekends... unless... you make it into a brownie!  Didn't think you could make that coffee and Baileys combo any better... but we just did!  :)

This recipe is definitely rich with all of these bold flavors, so the brownie is a little fluffier instead of fudgy... otherwise you wouldn't be able to eat more than a bite or two! Pair it with a tall glass of milk because you're going to need it!

Weekly Menu

Ugh, last week I was lazy and didn't plan a menu.  I was reminded why I started doing this in the first place!  

"What do you want for dinner?"
"Food.  What do you want for dinner?"
"Good food."
... 10 minutes later...
"What do you want for dinner?"

Ugh!  I hate that inevitable conversation when nothing is planned.  I actually did have two recipes planned in my head, but that obviously was not enough!  We even had several nights planned for meals at restaurants.  Just goes to show, always make a menu!  :)

One of those nights out included going back to Athens for homecoming...


Walking around town with college friends reminded me how much I miss college!  Miss being able to walk down the hallway to see friends, getting loud at hockey games, two drink pool games, walking up those darn brick hills, Court Street shenanigans, and everything that is college (except tuition, I still get a reminder of that every month).  Now we're all grown up and spread out across the country, some of us even have kids.  It was nice to have a day in Athens to forget about our grown up lives if even for just a moment.

Alight... this week's menu...
creamy tortellini soup
paninis of some sort (since we normally never have bread, but made grilled cheese today)
pretzel chicken and potatoes
jerk shrimp and salad

Creamy Shrimp Bowties - total time 40 minutes


We ate quite a bit of seafood last week while we were in the Seattle area... salmon, Dungeness crab, black cod, mussels, and more.  Almost got tired of it... almost... but when seafood is that fresh, you have to enjoy it while you can!  I mean, we saw the salmon swimming upstream.  We watched the fish get thrown around at Pike Place Fish Market.  And we walked down the spit of the Dungeness crab refuge.  You can't get fresher than that unless you caught it yourself!

Considering all the seafood, we didn't have my husband's favorite... shrimps!  This recipe is so easy and flavorful and is almost a one-pot meal.  And the fact that we're making the sauce from scratch and getting dinner on the table in 40 minutes makes it a perfect weeknight dinner!  The cream in the sauce adds the perfect richness, the wine adds some complexity, and cooking the shrimp in the sauce means you keep all of that shrimp flavor.  This is definitely one to keep in frequent rotation!

Weekly Menu


Wow, it has been several weeks since I last posted anything!  Between some hectic deadlines and vacation, menu planning and cooking were put on the back burner (hehe, pun intended).  Now that the projects are under control and we are back from Seattle and Olympic National Park... it is time to get back into a schedule.  That includes a menu for this week... but first... a little bit about vacation!

We spent a few days in Seattle, only a couple blocks away from Pike Place Market!  It was the Coho Salmon homecoming when they swim upsteam from the ocean to spawn in the fresh water.  We got to see them swimming at the Ballard Locks and noticed baby salmon in some of the streams throughout the week.  We went to EMP, saw the Space Needle, ate a lot of good food, and walked around the city a lot!

Then we headed across the Sound to Olympic National Park!  As soon as we put our bags down, we were off hiking up Hurricane Ridge to see the sunset over Mount Olympus.  We stayed in the rain shadow, hiked to a sub-alpine lake, spent some time on a beach with sea stacks, and walked through a rain forest!  So many different climates and weather conditions to be prepared for!  It was beautiful!

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It's one of those vacations you need a vacation from to recover!  Not exactly an option right now, so here is this week's menu as we have already started into the week!

slower cooker roasted chicken and mashed potatoes
salad with leftover roasted chicken
quesadillas and mexican potatoes


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