Monday, January 15, 2018

Magazine Monday #3: Tomato, Pineapple, and Carrot Muffins

I realize this combination of things sounds insane, but you're going to have to trust me.

(I wonder if I can do a search on how many times throughout the life of this blog I've said, "trust me."  I bet it's a ton.  But, like, seriously.  Trust me.)

Don't worry -- it's not chunks of tomato.  It's a blended tomato.  Does that help? (I feel like that doesn't help). Also, the original recipe called for dried pineapple, but I couldn't find that, so dried pears it was, and and they work really well!

Finally, the recipe (both in the magazine and online) failed to give a temperature to bake these at, so I went with the standard 350°F, and that worked out great.

Everyone that tried these liked them, and only Dennis said he could taste the tomato in them.  (This was after he'd eaten one and was on his second one, and I'd just told him what the "secret ingredient" was, so I'm not certain I believe him...)

Make these to bring into the office this week to combat the winter blues I know everyone is feeling at this point!

Tomato, Pear, and Carrot Muffins
Makes 24 muffins
From Every Day with Rachael Ray, September 2017



1 large tomato, about 8 oz., halved and cored
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup melted coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups chopped dried pears (or dried pineapple)
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup unsweetened flaked (or shredded) coconut

Preheat over to 350°F and line muffin tin with paper liners.

In a blender, puree the tomato to make about 1 cup of puree.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, allspice, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, and tomato puree.  Beat in the eggs, then beat in the flour mixture.

Mix in the fruit, carrot, and coconut.

Divide the batter amongst the 24 paper-lined muffin cups.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack.

 Hand modeling courtesy of Dennis

Monday, January 8, 2018

Magazine Monday #2: Instant Pot Polenta Cacio e Pepe

I bought an Instant Pot a couple of years ago because I was seeing them everywhere, and they were getting rave reviews.  Before Christmas one year, I saw one for the lowest price I'd seen them, so I snatched it up.

And then it sat.

For over a year.

I didn't know what to do with it.  I'd never used a pressure cooker before (which is essentially what the Instant Pot's main purpose is), and the pressure cookers I remembered from my childhood scared the crap out of me.

I finally busted it out when Dennis mentioned that he'd really like a pot roast, and I realized I could make a pot roast in about an hour rather than the several hours they traditionally took to make if I used the Instant Pot.  In this Instagram post, you can see the first time I released the steam on a pressure cooker (Uh, if you use an Instant Pot, don't do it like this, because the steam escaping also has fat in it, and you'll have grime all over everything in your house if you don't put a towel or something on the escaping steam), and in this post, you can see the 4th pot roast I made in a month because it was so good.

Anyway, The Instant Pot is super cool.  I don't know if I'd call myself a member of the Instant Pot cult, but it's very handy for making foods that usually take a ton of time more quickly.

When I found this recipe for Polenta Cacio e Pepe (polenta with cheese and pepper), I marked it as one to make before I realized that it called for the polenta to be made in a pressure cooker...and then after paging through my Instant Pot instruction guide, I realized the thing has a button on it specifically for "porridge."  Bingo!

Also, I made this for dinner, and as we were eating it, Dennis, who is vehemently anti-savory grits said, "This is grits."  I said it wasn't, but then we determined polenta and grits are basically the same thing, and I have the distinction of making the first savory grits-like dish Dennis has ever liked.  50 points to Slytherin!

The original recipe does not call for sausage, but I thought it would be a nice addition, and that's why, if you ever look at my recipe labels, I have this one marked as Vegetarian.  It could be vegetarian, and the original recipe is's just that my modifications made it not so much vegetarian.

If you don't have an Instant Pot, just make the polenta the old-fashioned way!

This is a great wintertime warm, filling meal, by the way, so it felt like a good January recipe.

Polenta Cacio e Pepe with Italian Sausage
Makes 4 servings


1 cup polenta (not quick-cooking)
4 cups beef broth (or water)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
Kosher Salt & Pepper
1 package hot Italian sausage (optional, but recommended)

Press the Saute button on the Instant Pot and add the broth (or water).

Combine the polenta, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and pepper to taste in a small bowl.

When the liquid begins to simmer, pour in the polenta a little at a time while stirring to avoid clumping.

Put the lid on the Instant Pot and make sure the valve is set to Sealing.

Press the Keep Warm/Cancel button, then press the Porridge button.  Adjust the time to 8 minutes.

(If you're using the Italian sausage, start cooking it at this point and cook through until the temperature in the center of each sausage is at least 145°F.)  Slice the sausages.

Once the 8 minutes run out, leave the Instant Pot on Keep Warm for 15 minutes to allow most of the pressure to subside on its own, then turn the valve to Venting.

Remove the lid and stir in the butter, both cheeses, and salt to taste until well-combined.

Put the polenta into bowls and top with more Parmesan cheese, pepper, and sausage.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Magazine Monday #1: Grapefruit Beer Cocktail

Happy 2018 everyone!  I hope your holidays were good, your hangovers were short, and your year will be awesome.  Welcome to my inaugural Magazine Monday!

You know how Sarah Cooks the Books all started out because I have a ton of cookbooks I wasn't using?  I'm starting Magazine Monday because I have a giant file of recipes I've ripped out of magazines that generally just kind of...sit there.  They're well-organized and filed neatly, but they don't do anything.

So I'm going to try ( guys know how things around here can get) to do a new magazine recipe every Monday for the next 52 weeks.  I managed to update my Instagram every single day last year, so I clearly can keep up with things like this, but let's see if I will.

You would think that as the first blog for the first day of a new year, I'd be encouraging you to drink green juice and eat lots of kale and detox after the holidays with...whatever one detoxes with.  But no.  I'm encouraging you to drink more booze.

This cocktail is actually intended as a summer drink, I'm certain (considering it was in the May issue of a magazine), but since I live in Southern California, I guess that's all relative.  Pin this one for when you're sitting around your pool this summer and want something fruity but with a little bit of a punch.  That's this.

I couldn't find grapefruit beer, which is what the original recipe calls for, since it was December at the time, but I used a Fat Tire, and it was good.  A lemon beer might be good, too.  Basically any kind of beer that isn't super dark and heavy.

Cheers to a happy new year!

Grapefruit Beer Cocktail
Makes 4
From Food Network Magazine, May 2017


It's difficult to find a good collage layout for 5 photos...

2 ruby red grapefruits, halved
2 Tbsp. grated, peeled fresh ginger
2 12-oz. bottles grapefruit beer (I used Fat Tire, though)
1 12-oz. can grapefruit soda
3/4 cup bourbon

Slice one round of grapefruit to use for garnish, quarter the slice, and juice the remaining grapefruit into a pitcher.

Wrap the ginger in a piece of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel and squeeze the juice into the pitcher.  (Or, if you're me, push it through a fine strainer because you do not keep cheesecloth on-hand.)

Stir in the beer, soda, and bourbon.

Fill 4 glasses with ice.  Pour the cocktail into the glasses, and garnish with the sliced grapefruit.

Monday, December 4, 2017

#FBLCookieExchange: Spiced Molasses Cookies

Cookie swap time is really and truly one of my favorite times of the year.  If you're not familiar with the Food Blogger Love Cookie Exchange (which has taken the place of The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (RIP), a whole mess of food bloggers get together and are each given the names of three other food bloggers.  Then we all make three dozen cookies, send a dozen to each person to whom we are assigned, and receive a dozen from the three people who got our names. 

Yes.  36 delicious, homemade cookies showed up in my mailbox, and I could not be more thrilled.  

Also, in addition to all of us receiving baked goods through the mail (and who doesn't love receiving baked goods through the mail?), every blogger who participated made a donation to either No Kid Hungry (an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger. They believe no child should go to bed hungry; click here for more info) or Rescues for JoJo (an all-volunteer non-profit that helps “undesirable” shelter dogs find new homes. They have saved over 70 dogs, and these are animals that would likely otherwise be passed over by adopters due to health, breed, color, or other factors; click here for more info), or both!  Great causes, great really can't go wrong here.

(See my posts from past cookie swaps here:  2014, 2015 (1) (2), 2016.)

This year, I got cookies from Megan of Strawberry Blondie Kitchen, who sent me Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies...

...Colleen of Faith, Hope, Love, and Luck...who sent me Crystallized Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies...

...and Nicole of For the Love of Food who sent me wonderful Caramel Apple Cookies!

So many ridiculously amazing cookies.  Thank you all!  (Dennis thanks you, too!)

The people I sent cookies to were P of The Saucy Southerner, Renee of If Spoons Could Talk, and Lisa of Blogghetti.  (As a side note, I fangirled, like, a lot at being paired up with Lisa.  I've followed and loved Blogghetti for years!)  The cookies I chose were Spiced Molasses Cookies from this month's Bon Appetit magazine.  

I was thinking about what cookies to make the day the issue showed up in my mailbox, and I thought, huh, I bet there are some cookie recipes in here.  I was not disappointed. 

These are so good.  Excellent for Christmas cookie exchange parties, or just to bribe your co-workers not to talk about your behavior at the company holiday party.

Thank you so much to Allison of The PinterTest Kitchen and Sarah of The Fantastical Sharing of Recipes for organizing this again.  I'm already looking forward to next year's swap!

Spiced Molasses Cookies
Makes 36-40 cookies


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. molasses
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. milk

Whisk together both flours, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add egg and mix to incorporate.  Add 1/3 cup molasses and stir until just combined.

Reduce mixer speed to low and incorporate dry ingredients.  Mix until just incorporated.

Pat dough together into a ball and wrap in plastic.  Chill for about 1 hour until firm.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Scoop out level tablespoonfuls of dough and roll into smooth balls.  Place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake cookies for 9 to 12 minutes.  (Mine were done after 10 minutes, 30 seconds.)  Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Whisk together powdered sugar, milk, and remaining 1 Tbsp. molasses until smooth.  Drizzle glaze over cookies.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Taste of Chocolate 2009 Cookbook: Choc-Chops (Chocolate Spiced Pork Chops)

I got super busy during the time I was doing #Choctoberfest blog posts, and I forgot to post this one!  I thought it would be a real shame to miss posting this one, because it was quite good.  As we saw with the Chocolate Flank Steak with Pineapple Salsa, chocolate can be just as good on savory stuff as it can in desserts!

This is another recipe from Donna Powers-Wilson, who also submitted the aforementioned flank steak recipe.  I did that thing where I deviate wildly from a recipe because, in my head, "4 1 1/2 thick bone-in pork chops" was the same thing as way thicker no-bone pork chops.  (Spoiler alert:  Not the same thing.)  

So while Donna's recipe calls for searing and then baking in a cast-iron skillet, Sarah's recipe is strictly done on the stovetop.  It's still delicious, though!

Serves 2-4, depending on your leftovers situation


I was a dummy and forgot to take a picture of the pork chops pre-cooking.  Whoops!

2 Tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. oregano
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil (or olive oil or coconut oil or...)
4-6 pork chops 

In a large bowl, combine all spices and rub mixture evenly over pork chops.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Begin by cooking pork chops for 3 minutes on each side, then continue cooking until they reach an internal temperature of at least 145°F.

Serve hot.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

#Choctoberfest Final Day! Taste of Chocolate 2009 Cookbook: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread (Sponsored by Imperial Sugar)

Today is the final day of #Choctoberfest, and I saved my favorite recipe last to pair with a sponsored post from our Gold Sponsor.

Imperial Sugar is a Gold Sponsor of Choctoberfest, and if you follow me on Instagram, you can see why.  (Check out the post from the day the shipment of sugar they sent me came in!)  Imperial Sugar sent every Choctoberfest blogger who signed up with them literally 88 pounds of sugar to use!  Since 1843, Imperial Sugar has been the go-to sugar brand for family holiday baking time, so when it came time to make my favorite fall bread, it seemed like a perfect match.

I didn't have to go too far into the history of the person who submitted this recipe to the Taste of Chocolate cookbook...because it was me!  Funny story, actually.  I had never made this bread before when we were putting the cookbook together, but we needed more recipes to go in it, and when I googled "chocolate recipes," this was one of the first things that came up...and for good reason!  This stuff is amazing.

Since Dennis and I wouldn't be able to eat the entirety of this bred (especially with all the other Choctoberfest treat lying around!), I took this bread into work, and it was a BIG hit.  Most people didn't know who made it, though, and when people have found out it was me in the days since, everyone has begged me for the recipe.  So here it is!

Thank you so much to all of my fellow Choctoberfest participants for making this such a fun event.  I for sure look forward to joining in next year! 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
Makes 1 loaf
(Recipe can be doubled)


1 1/2 cups white sugar (I used Imperial Sugar)
8 oz. canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 Tbsp. water
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease and flour a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, water, and eggs.  Beat until smooth.

Blend in flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Bake for 1 hour, then insert a knife to make sure it comes out clean.  If not, bake in 7-minute increments until done. (Mine took about an hour and 15 minutes.)

Cool on a wire rack.  Take any leftover bread to work and become the most popular person in the office.

Also, make sure to check out everyone's final Choctoberfest recipe below!


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#Choctoberfest Day 3: Taste of Chocolate 2009 Cookbook - Chocolate Flank Steak with Pineapple Salsa (Sponsored by Rodelle)

Happy day 3 of #Choctoberfest!  I hope everyone has been checking out all of the bloggers involved in this event...there's some really good stuff being posted in this event!

Today's post is sponsored by Rodelle.  They provided Choctoberfest participants with their Gourmet Baking Cocoa (even though I didn't bake with it!)  The cocoa powder is Dutch-processed, which provides a more consistent flavor than un-processed cocoa does.  (Dutch-processing helps in avoiding the bitterness of cocoa if you wondered.)  Rodelle's Gourmet Baking Cocoa also has a number of health benefits, including being naturally kosher-, cholesterol-, and gluten-free, and containing calcium, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Also, this cocoa contains one of the highest levels of cocoa butter on the market, allowing for a great cocoa flavor.

All that being of my goals of this event was to make and post recipes that involved chocolate but that weren't necessarily going to give you cavities,  Hard to do when the theme is chocolate, but I hit a home run with this recipe!

This is another recipe from the Taste of Chocolate cookbook, and this one is from Mrs. Donna Powers-Wilson.  I put Donna as a Mrs. instead of a Ms. because I actually know/knew her.  We used to be Facebook friends, but she's not on my list anymore.  She's still alive, though, so maybe one of these days, I'll be able to track her down and tell her how AMAZING this steak was!

The steak was great, but I'm not gonna lie; the real star here was the salsa.  When Dennis was having steak leftovers, he was like, "What's missing?"  And I said we'd eaten all the salsa when we had the steak the first time.  He was genuinely sad.  (I was, too.)

I'm not saying you have to double the pineapple salsa recipe, but I'm gently suggesting that you do.

Also, I spent a good amount of time looking for "pineapple tidbits" at the store and had almost resorted to buying pineapple rings and dicing them when I found the tidbits.  They really are the perfect size, so use them if you can find them!

Oh, and I almost forgot!  Remember yesterday, when I said I had a second Davis Chocolate item to showcase?  It was some 70% Cocoa Cocktail sticks that go excellently with a good dark, red wine and some steak!

Chocolate Flank Steak with Pineapple Salsa
Serves 2



1/4 cup white vinegar
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa)
1 Tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar (I used Imperial Pure Cane Sugar Brown Sugar)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 lbs. flank steak

Pineapple Salsa

1 large can Pineapple Tidbits, drained
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 Tbsp. cilantro (mine was frozen, but fresh is better!)
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. salt

To make the salsa
In a medium bowl, combine all salsa ingredients.

Cover and chill for at least one hour.

To make the steak
In a large Ziplock bag (or large container if you're like me and forgot to get bags), combine all ingredients except steak.

Make sure the marinade ingredients are thoroughly combined, then add the steak to the bag/container.

Chill 4 to 6 hours.

Remove the steak from the marinade and discard the marinade.  Broil on a foil-lined pan or cook on grill for 8 minutes per side, or until desired doneness is reached.  Or you can do what I did and bust out your grill pan, set your smoke detector off a bunch of times, and cook the steak to a nice internal temperature of 145°F.

Let steak rest for 10 minutes, then cut across the grain into strips.

Serve with Pineapple Salsa and bask in the glory of the most delicious steak ever to be created.

Make sure to check out the Wednesday recipes from other Choctoberfest participants below!