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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.

Monthly Archives: August 2013

Baked Tex-Mex Pimiento Cheese Dip + Blogiversary Giveaway

Baked Tex-Mex Pimiento Cheese Dip

This month marked the five year anniversary of my first post. Cook Like a Champion looked very different back in 2008, and I’ve come a long way since sharing that first recipe (seriously, just take a look at that horrendous photo). I mentioned briefly a few months ago that my 5 year blogiversary was coming up, so I wasn’t sure if I should even bother writing about it when the time actually came, which is why this post is two weeks after the actual anniversary of that first post.

When I started this blog, I pretty much had no expectations for it. We had moved (twice in less than a year, at that point) and didn’t have many friends, so I found myself investing more time in cooking. It’s not glamorous, but it’s the truth. Along the way, we made friends, moved again, made more friends, did a few site redesigns, learned how not to burn caramel, made more friends (this time with other bloggers!), had a virtual baby shower, bought a house, had a baby, went to a food bloggers’ retreat, expanded our tastes, started making more food from scratch and about a zillion other things. A lot happens in five years, people, and what I’ve just mentioned doesn’t even come close to covering it. Things haven’t always been sunshine and rainbows, either. There was a family feud (and not of the gameshow variety) because something I wrote on here last year got taken way out of context. There were times (even recently) I was so discouraged that I wanted to quit but somehow couldn’t. This blog is a part of me now, and I barely remember what life was like before I started it. This blog has given me countless days of joy, and I hope that continues over the next five years (and beyond).

I had a grand dessert in mind to share with all of you to mark this occasion, but life (and a teething Clara) happened and the dessert didn’t. It will, eventually, but I think today’s recipe is one you’ll want to make sooner anyway. Not only is it perfect for cookouts, but it’s also a great game day/tailgating snack, and I know a lot of my friends are getting ready for football to start back. It’s traditional pimiento cheese with a tex-mex kick, thanks to the jalapeños, cilantro and pepper jack, and it always disappears when I make it for parties. The main reason I’m sharing it, though, is because the first time I ate it was when my friends surprised me last year. It was the single most memorable moment of my blogging career, having people I met through this site of mine show up out of nowhere to celebrate my sweet baby girl. I still think of them every time I make this dip, and it reminds me that food is about creating moments and memories in addition to full bellies. That’s why I keep blogging. To those of you that read, comment, email, share a photo of a recipe you’ve made, this is for you. Thank you for your kind words over the years. Thank you for reading and sharing. You guys inspire me every day – to try new things, to post more often, to share my stories – and it means the world to me.

Image courtesy of Tasha McKelvey

As a special way to say thanks, I’m giving you a chance to win this beautiful mini cheese plate made by Richmond artist Tasha McKelvey. I’ve got two of her pieces – a necklace that Eric got me for my birthday and a bowl that lives on our counter and holds our rings while we cook that my friend Amanda gave me for Christmas. In addition to the awesome pictures Tasha posts of her work, she also has an adorable dog and a seriously swoon-worthy kitchen garden that she posts on her Instagram. She’s also doing this 100 Days of Clay Animals project, and I’m totally obsessed with the cute little animals she’s been posting. I look at the owl at least twice a week. Not even kidding. Please check out her site to see all of her amazing work, and head on over to the giveaway page to enter.


And lastly, since I do occasionally get questions about how to start a blog and things of that nature, I think every blogger (or future blogger) should read this post from The Bloggess. It totally wins.

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Kitchen Fundamentals: Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough

This pizza dough is something I should have shared with you guys a long time ago. We’ve been making it for over three years now, but, for whatever reason, I never got around to taking a photo of it. Pizza dough is one of those things I never thought to make at home until, well, I did. And since then, it’s been impossible to go back to store-bought dough. I’ve gotten so used to making this that I pretty much always have a dough ball or two in my freezer, ready to be used in our favorite pizza recipes. This is my go-to recipe for pizza dough, and it never fails me. It provides a supple, delicious, easy-to-stretch dough every single time.

Clara August 2013
Clara wanted to help take the picture for this post. She’s sweet like that.

If homemade pizza dough seems like too much trouble, let me assure you that this recipe comes together in no time. Just like my pie dough, I let my food processor do all the work for this recipe. It takes less than 5 minutes of hands-on time and then 60-90 minutes for the dough to rise. Totally worth it.
Homemade Pizza Dough

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Blueberry Jam

Blueberry Jam

You could say we’ve become slightly obsessed with homemade jam, both making and eating it. What was once considered old fashioned has suddenly become trendy, and I’m totally okay with that. Jam making is fun (and obviously so is eating homemade jam), so I can see why it’s regaining popularity. I’m slowly adding recipes to my jam category, and I hope to have even more this time next year. We’ve developed this desire to can practically everything. I’m telling you this now so you don’t think I’m crazy every time I excitedly post a picture of ridiculously awesome fruit sales on my Facebook page.

This blueberry jam is stellar, much better than any jam I’ve ever purchased. Of the jams we’ve made so far, I enjoyed making this one the most. Squishing loads of blueberries with your hands is highly therapeutic. Seriously. I think/hope this will become a favorite task of Clara’s in summers to come, but I’m happy to do it for the time being. Some of this jam was originally destined to be swirled into blueberry muffins, but oops – we ate it all. Good thing we have two more jars in the pantry. Here’s to hoping I can actually do something with it before eating it all up.

Blueberry Jam

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Sausage, Goat Cheese and Arugula Stuffed Peppers

Sausage, Goat Cheese and Arugula Stuffed Peppers

In terms of produce selection, August is my favorite month of the year. Tomatoes, peppers, okra, peaches, figs, berries – you get the point. Pretty much all of my favorite foods are available in August. I love spending my Saturday mornings at the farmers market with Eric and Clara, especially when we bring home so many wonderful foods and so much inspiration for the upcoming week.

This dinner was the result of a random “what can we make with what’s in the fridge?” type of meal about three years ago.  We had peppers and spinach from the farmers market, neither of which had a purpose, and that’s how this dinner came to life. The concept of it stuck around, and I’ve played around with the fillings based on what we have on hand. It’s always meat + cheese + greens. My favorite combination is sausage, goat cheese and arugula, but anything goes. It’s hard to go wrong when peppers are stuffed with anything. Using this basic recipe as a guide, I’m confident you can come up with an endless array of stuffed peppers to try before summer is over.

Sausage, Goat Cheese and Arugula Stuffed Peppers

 

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

You guys probably already know about my love of cupcakes. I’ve been baking cupcakes like crazy the past few weeks, and it’s been so much fun. There are few things I love more than baking for others, and cupcakes are my favorite thing to bake. I get into a rhythm and can have them done in practically no time. They feel comfortable, like I could make them with one hand tied behind my back (or, you know, holding a toddler, which I frequently do while baking). There’s something so rewarding about pulling a pan of perfectly baked cupcakes out of the oven, and the smell that lingers in my kitchen is definitely a plus.

This is the sixth chocolate cupcake recipe on this site, and I think it’s my favorite. I’ve made plenty more that never made it on here because they were too dry or not flavorful enough. In terms of chocolate cupcake recipes, this could be “the one.” Don’t get me wrong. All the ones I’ve posted are ones that I loved. This one just bakes up so, so beautifully – fluffy with a slightly rounded top. This recipe gives me chocolate cupcake perfection every.single.time. And I like things that are dependable. Don’t you?

I made these cupcakes for Eric’s birthday and again for a surprise engagement party for our friends Dan and Rebecca. They were well received both times, which is really no surprise considering chocolate and peanut butter is one of the best flavor combinations ever. This frosting is out of this world. It’s like peanut butter mousse, and I actually want to eat all of it instead of scraping most of it off my cupcake (I usually prefer a smaller frosting to cupcake ratio). It’s so smooth and fluffy and light and goes wonderfully with chocolate cupcakes. You can’t go wrong with this recipe.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

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