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  • Have a Spooky Halloween!

    Cheddar Witches Fingers - Cheese straws in the shape of fingers, complete with a black almond "finger nail." Delicious and totally spooky.

    Candy Apples - You don't need to go to the fair to get my favorite treat because you can make these at home. Black food coloring gives them a festive touch.

    Pumpkin Caramel Sauce - Having a not-so-scary Halloween party? Serve ice cream with this pumpkin infused caramel sauce on top.

Kale and Pumpkin Seed Pesto Pasta

Kale and Pumpkin Seed Pesto Pasta

As we transition from summer to fall, our meals have been reflecting the change of the season. Light summer dinners give way to heartier fall ones, but I’m not quite ready for winter’s soups and slow cooker meals. Choosing meals during this time of year has never been easy for me. Most of my favorite foods are out of season, or at least on their way out, and I usually spend this month feeling uninspired in terms of dinner (though it’s my favorite time for baked goods).

This pasta bridges the gap between the seasons. Still light enough for warm evenings but hearty enough for cool ones, it’s the perfect balance for this time of year. I love pesto for so many reasons – its adaptability, its simplicity, and its ability to be frozen for another day. If you have yet to find the kale love, this pesto is a great introduction. It’s nutty and fresh and not too bitter. Clara has even licked it off the spatula every time we’ve made it, so you know it must be good.

Since this pesto makes enough for a pound of pasta, we typically make the entire batch of pasta but only cook half a pound of pasta. The remaining pesto keeps wonderfully in the refrigerator or freezer and becomes an easy way to cook dinner on a hurried night. We’ve also made it with sunflower seeds, which is what the original recipe called for. Both ways are delicious!

Kale and Pumpkin Seed Pesto Pasta

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Chocolate Chunk, Coconut and Cashew Cookies

Chocolate Chunk, Coconut and Cashew Cookies

Cookies are one of life’s little pleasures, don’t you think? A great cookie is hard to beat, but I don’t know anyone who agrees on what exactly makes a good cookie. My description includes a big cookie full of chopped chocolate (for better texture) and lots of nuts. Oh, and throw some brown butter in there and you’ve practically sold me. Really, the more stuff that’s in the cookie, the better, as far as I’m concerned. That’s why I took this recipe for chocolate chip cookies and added cashews and coconut. It’s a wonderful combination, and these cookies are full of different textures. You get a bit of chewiness from the coconut, crunch from the cashews, and pockets of chocolate. A bit of coarse salt sprinkled on after baking adds that special something that really makes these cookies shine, and the brown butter adds a wonderfully nutty flavor and depth.

I typically bake cookies on a whim since they’re so quick to mix up, but I made these cookies with a specific purpose in mind. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you know that food is one of the ways I show love. New baby? I’ll bring food. Going through a rough time? Again, food. There have been plenty of times in my life that I felt words couldn’t truly express my feelings. When I can’t find the words to say, food says what I can’t. It shows someone that I care. Food is something we eat to nourish our bodies, but it can also be so much more than that, as is the case with these cookies.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and I’m dedicating this post to OXO’s Good Cookie Campaign to support Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. For each post, OXO is donating $100 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Additionally, specially marked OXO products are available for purchase, with 25 cents of each sale being donated in support of pediatric cancer research. Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease of children in the US, but less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s budget goes to all childhood cancers combined. So you can see why I was eager to participate in this campaign to help bake a difference. Sometimes a cookie is just a cookie, but sometimes it’s more.

Chocolate Chunk, Coconut and Cashew Cookies

Full disclosure: I received OXO tools in order to make these cookies, but all opinions expressed here are, as always, my own. For every stickered item sold, OXO will donate 25 cents in support of pediatric cancer research as part of its $100,000* pledge to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Look for specially marked OXO products at participating retailers in September.

* In 2014, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer through specially marked baking tools, bake sale matches and other fundraising efforts. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a recognized 501c(3) public charity duly incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey. Your donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. 100% of proceeds raised by Cookies for Kids’ Cancer fund pediatric cancer research.

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Peach Mint Old Fashioned

Peach Old Fashioned

On this edition of “summer, please don’t go,” we’re talking about peaches (again). And bourbon. Because as much as I love pumpkin, well, everything, I’m just not ready for it to invade my life quite yet. Of course, this is influenced by the fact that one of the hottest weekends of summer just happened. It just doesn’t feel or look like fall outside, so I think I’ll hold on to summer just a little bit longer. Also, there’s this drink, which is a good enough reason for me to enjoy summer while I still can.

Eric is our cocktail maker, so this recipe is all him. I will occasionally have an idea for a drink, usually one inspired by a fancy cocktail I had at a restaurant, but Eric is the real brains behind our drink recipes. It all started with a bottle of bourbon I bought for this bourbon chocolate bundt cake (which I made for the first Big Summer Potluck we attended). What was leftover after I made the cake became the first Old Fashioned I ever drank.

Now, I know some people think muddling fruit into an Old Fashioned is some type of sacrilege. I don’t really care because this drink is awesome, so call it a whiskey cocktail if it makes you feel better. This drink takes advantage of fresh summer peaches and the mint we’ve got growing on our back deck. The mint and peach pair so wonderfully with the bourbon, with neither overpowering it. It’s easy to make and even easier to drink. If that’s not the description of a perfect summer cocktail, I don’t know what is.

This recipe is easily increased to make more than one. Also, we prefer ours without the club soda, but we’ve included it in the recipe since many people prefer it with.

Peach Old Fashioned

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Homemade Rotel-Style Tomatoes

Homemade Rotel Tomatoes

Our summers tend to end with a mad dash of canning and preserving food. It’s hard to beat having a pantry stocked with preserved summer produce and opening up a jar of homemade strawberry jam well after peak strawberry season has ended.

Tomatoes are one of those foods that people are often wary to can, but the method is pretty much the same as any other. The key is acidifying the tomatoes, which we did using bottled lemon juice. That’s really the only major difference. Though I’ve read a pressure canner is the better option for canning tomatoes, we didn’t have any problems using the water bath method.

This particular batch of tomatoes is Rotel-style. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, Rotel tomatoes are diced tomatoes mixed with green chiles. Rotel was a staple in my house growing up and was usually eaten in the form of “queso” made with it and a block of Velveeta. My favorite was when it had ground sausage, too. That was my go-to party recipe in high school and college. These days, we use it in things like this southwest pasta or these chicken enchilada pinwheels. And with tomatoes this good, you can bet a version of that childhood dip I loved so much, sans Velveeta, is in the works.

If you’re new to canning, check out my post on the basics of water bath canning to get you acquainted with the process. I promise it’s not as intimidating as you might think!

Homemade Rotel Tomatoes

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Peach Chutney Burgers with Bacon and Goat Cheese

Peach Chutney Burgers with Bacon and Goat Cheese

We’re quickly approaching the end of summer/start of fall, and this time of year is my favorite, mostly because of the crossover of my favorite foods. Tomatoes and okra are still plentiful, but pumpkins start showing up at the farmers market, too. We’re grilling out and baking with pumpkin in the same weekend. It’s kind of awesome.

Since a lot of you will be enjoying a long weekend in a few days, I thought I’d share a burger recipe to help you celebrate. These hamburgers just scream summer to me. The sauce for these burgers is a combination of peach chutney and sweet onion. Fresh peaches, bacon, goat cheese and basil make this burger feel gourmet and add so many layers of flavor and texture. I don’t want to be annoyingly descriptive, but just think about all these burgers having going on – crisp bacon, tangy cheese, sweet peaches, spicy chutney, fresh basil. Seriously, how could these burgers be anything less than fantastic? We all loved them, though we left the chutney off Clara’s burger since it was super spicy (that happens when you make chutney with a whole habanero when the recipe only calls for half, oops). If you want to change up standard burgers, this recipe is a great way to do so.

Peach Chutney Burgers with Bacon and Goat Cheese

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