Foodie Bites

I am thankful for… Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

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Just a little more than one week until Thanksgiving and my head is already spinning in anticipation of my Turkey Day food coma. Every Thanksgiving my family sticks to a very traditional Southern menu, but last year I took a gamble on a new recipe and it definitely paid off. In copious naps and tight pants, that is.

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I had been batting around the idea of adding pumpkin to mac and cheese ever since I posted my love letter to pumpkin last year and included a recipe highlighting this odd pairing. While most recipes I tried were perfectly gooey and cheesy, I found them to be just a little too sweet. A few tweaks and I’ve finally settled on a recipe I hope will become a new tradition. A little hint:  Try not telling guests it’s pumpkin until after they’ve taken a bite and are exclaiming that they just have to know what makes the Mac and Cheese so creamy and flavorful. Disclose this tidbit before and you’ll wear yourself out trying to convince people to try just one little bite. But then again, you might have more leftovers for yourself that way — so maybe that’s actually the way to go.

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

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16 oz. cavatappi (or your pasta choice)

4 tbsp. unsalted butter

2 cups milk (if using nonfat, add a little half and half)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. dry mustard

2 tsp. red pepper

4 cups cheddar cheese, grated

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 375F. Boil pasta until al dente. Drain and rinse. In a large sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat and whisk in flour until well combined. Add in milk slowly while whisking. Whisk in the remaining dry ingredients. Let simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally (around 5 to 10 minutes). Remove from heat and add in 3 cups of grated cheese. Once cheese has melted, add in the pumpkin and stir well until all the lumps are out of the sauce. Gently stir in the pasta until it’s mostly coated in the sauce. Pour macaroni and sauce into greased baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cup of cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes until cheese is golden brown.

Serves 8 to 10. 

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Life Bites

A Hydrangea Revival

photo via 79ideas.org

photo via 79ideas.org

While Fall is a mere 13 days away (not like I’m counting or anything), there’s still time to appreciate some of the favorites of summertime — warm nights, watermelon flavored drinks, sundresses, having an excuse to eat s’mores without a campsite… My favorite of these last gasps of Summer? Hydrangeas.

I am no gardener by any means, but it always seems that when the hydrangeas start blooming, Fall won’t be too far away. Knowing my love for them, a few weeks ago my mom gave me a pair of the most gorgeous light blue hydrangeas. The flowers were so beautiful, I could not believe it when after only one day on my desk they were droopy and lifeless.

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Fresh hydrangeas in water after one day. Pretty sad, huh?

Fresh flowers dead after a day? Um, no. A quick google search revealed a technique for reviving the flowers too cool not to share. It’s practically magic.

How to Revive Wilted Hydrangeas

What You’ll Need:

sad, wilted hydrangeas

strong scissors

a pot of boiling water + 2 cups water

a cup filled with fresh water

a clean vase of fresh water

Begin by boiling 2 cups of water in a small pot. Remove the wilted hydrangeas from their current vase and pat the stems dry with a paper towel or cloth. Discard used water from vase and fill with fresh. Set aside. Clip an inch or so off the stem of the hydrangea. Remove the pot of boiling water from the stove and dip the freshly cut stem into the pot of water so just the stem is covered a couple of inches. Keep the stem immersed in the hot water for 30 seconds being careful not to burn yourself with the steam. Remove flower from water and immediately dip into cup of fresh water. Repeat process with the rest of your hydrangeas. Once done, arrange flowers in clean vase of fresh water.

While dipping flowers in boiling water seems borderline destructive, what’s actually happening is the boiling water is helping to permanently unclog the stem of the flower, allowing the fresh water to nourish the blooms. That’s as green-thumb technical as I can get, so just take my word for it. In my case, after dipping the flowers, they were completely perked up and gorgeous by morning and they stayed this way for a week and a half afterward. See, it IS magic!

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Revived Hydrangeas after Dipping

 

 

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Life Bites

happily #unsocial

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Let’s get right to it: In case you were wondering where I’ve been the past month or so I can finally dish. I was happily participating in the #unsocial challenge for inweekly. The challenge meant no social media for a month (I’ve stayed off a few platforms a little longer because I relished the challenge). To find out what went down, check out the issue at inweekly.net. Read up and then try the challenge yourself — it’s shocking how happy it will make you.

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Life Bites

To Be Continued…

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A Bright Bright will return July 13th!

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Foodie Bites

Snickerdoodle Cookie Cheesecake

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It’s no secret that I love combining foods:  cookie dough stuffed pretzels, pumpkin and mac and cheese, caesar salad on pizza, pumpkin and pralines and cheesecake… you get the idea. Maybe it’s my indecisiveness, maybe it’s just that some things are better together. This recipe combines two greats — snickerdoodle cookies and creamy, cinnamon-y cheesecake.

The recipe starts with making a simple snickerdoodle cookie recipe (yes, from a prepared mix!)

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Once the cookie crust is baked but still soft, layer your cheesecake mix on top and bake until cheesecake sets and is a nice buttery golden.

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Let cool completely and then sprinkle with cinnamon and powdered sugar and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Snickerdoodle Cookie Cheesecake

Crust:

Snickerdoodle Cookie mix and corresponding ingredients

Cheesecake:

3 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened

1 5.3 oz. container of plain 0% Greek yogurt

3 eggs

2/3 c. granulated sugar

1/4 c. light brown sugar

1 tbsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a springform pan and mix snickerdoodle cookie mix according to instructions. Press dough into bottom of pan until flat. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden. Do not over cook. Remove from oven and let cool while prepping cheesecake mixture.

Lower oven temperature to 325F. Combine softened cream cheese, yogurt, both sugars and cinnamon. Beat until well combined. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Make sure all the lumps are out of the mix. Add vanilla extract and blend in gently. Pour over cookie crust. Bake for 40 to 45 minute until cheesecake is firm. Cool completely and sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Book Club Bites

‘Me Before You’: A Word Doodle Review

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If you recall a few months ago we kicked off the a bright bite book club. I will confess, it took a little longer than I would have liked to complete the first book, but I have been pretty busy (read:  Pinterest-ing, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”/”House of Cards” marathoning, totally avoiding the book after I read the first few pages).

Let’s get right to it. The first a bright bite book club pick, Jojo Moyes’ “Me Before You,” my fellow book club ladies and I felt could best be summed up with this little word doodle:

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 Book Club Pick No. 2

The next pick will be “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.” by Adelle Waldman. The book details the many simultaneous relationships of Nathaniel P. and his many ladyfriends. This little snippet from Sasha Weiss’s piece in the New Yorker entitled, “Love, Actually:  Adelle Waldman’s Brilliant Debut” pretty much sells it for those of us in the “GIRLS” generation:

“Waldman, herself a woman in her early thirties, has cleverly chosen to tell the story of our generation’s romantic chaos not from the perspective of a woman panicked that she’s wasting her prime but from that of a young man trying to enjoy his. Her Nathaniel Piven, a thirty-something-year-old Brooklyn novelist and burgeoning public intellectual, is thoughtful yet careless, open-minded yet absurdly entitled. In trying to understand the source of his self-satisfaction, which is ultimately the source of his power, Waldman has written a book of stately revenge, exposing all that is shallow and oblivious about Nate, and men like him. But it’s also a book of beautifully modulated sympathy—for men as well as women. In this tricky time when both men and women are expected to enjoy casual sex while the ideal of committed coupledom still looms, Nate can be forgiven for not knowing how, exactly, to behave.”

Hope you’ll read along and if you read “Me Before You” don’t hesitate to comment your thoughts. Here’s to finishing pick no. 2 in less than a month!

LAoNP

 
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Foodie Bites

Happy First Day of Spring

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[Image via Sylvia’s Simple Life]

I am beyond happy that today is the first day of Spring. Winter ’13/’14 was horrible. Before you go rolling your eyes at this Southern lady, can I first say that 1. I spent the majority of February frozen in New York and 2. It snowed at my house in Florida — yes, Florida. In what world is that natural?! 

To welcome Spring — and hopefully warmer temperatures — I am sharing a recipe for a pretty Spring cookie that I made for the birthday of my sweet friend Jennie last year. The recipe is very easy, as it uses store-bought Funfetti cake mix, and produces a colorful, almost downright girly cookie reminiscent of the bright pastels of Spring.

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Funfetti Cookie Sandwiches

1 box Funfetti Cake mix

2 tsp. cornstarch

1/3 c. oil

2 eggs

1 container frosting of your choice (or be ambitious and make your own)

sprinkles or colored sugar

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine cake mix, cornstarch, oil and eggs. Mix thoroughly, making sure to break up any lumps in the batter. Roll into balls that are about 1-inch and drop onto greased cookie sheet. Slightly flatten cookie dough on sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (I like to take them out at 8 minutes and then let them cool on the hot cookie sheet for another two minutes so they stay soft). Remove from cookie sheet and let cool completely on wire rack.

Once cooled, match up cookies with their mate by size. Frost the bottom side of the cookie and assemble cookie sandwich. Cover a shallow plate with sprinkles and then roll the frosted sides of your cookie through the sprinkles or sugar. Let frosting set for an hour or so before attempting to package, just make sure you don’t eat them all while waiting for them to setup!

Yields:  12 sandwiches or 24 single cookies

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