Category Archives: Holidays

Butternut Squash Hummus

This hummus is amazing, and, this recipe may end up being an all-time favorite.  (What else would I expect from Ina Garten?!)  It does take a bit more time to make than traditional hummus recipes, but trust me, you will be happy you took the extra time to prepare this.  There’s something so interesting (and addicting) about the butternut squash roasted with cinnamon, and then blended together with tahini and yes, even sriracha.  Sweet, savory, and an ever so slight kick.  The hardest part is figuring out what to eat it with, because this recipe makes A LOT of hummus!  If you’re looking for something to bring for Thanksgiving, try this – we think it’s sure to be a hit (and even Vegan friendly).


Butternut Squash Hummus

adapted from Cooking for Jeffrey

serves 6-8 according to cookbook, but I think it’s more like 12-18


1 1/4 lb butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp kosher sea salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, liquid reserved

1/4 cup tahini

1/2 cup non-dairy plain yogurt* (I used Forager brand)

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

5 cloves garlic, finely minced

3/4 – 1 tsp Sriracha (depending on preference)

Pure Grade A Maple Syrup, for serving


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the butternut squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and cinnamon.  Toss with hands, and arrange in a single layer on a half sheet baking pan.  Cook for 25 minutes, until tender.  Let cool for 15 minutes.

In a food processor, fitted with a blade, add all ingredients except the liquid reserved from the garbanzo beans and the maple syrup.  Once butternut squash is cooled, set aside 1/4 cup of the squash and add the rest to the food processor and pulse everything to combine.  If you want it smoother (I like it this way), add the liquid reserved from the garbanzo beans in small increments until you reach your desired consistency.  Be careful not to puree completely – it should have some texture.

Finish by putting hummus in a medium sized serving bowl.  Top with reserved butternut squash and drizzle a little maple syrup if desired.  It should last up to 3 days in the fridge.

*You could also use traditional dairy plain yogurt.  The recipe calls for plain whole-milk Greek yogurt.  I don’t eat dairy, so I subbed for an equitable vegan option.  If using a vegan option, I like nut-based plain yogurts, and make sure they don’t include “carrageenan” in the ingredients – not only is it questionable in my research if it causes digestion problems, but I’ve also found with it, the texture of the yogurt can be off too.  My favorite non-dairy plain yogurts to use in recipes are Kite Hill (almond yogurt) and Forager (cashew yogurt).  I also don’t eat soy, so I’m not sure how soy yogurt would taste, though I’m sure as long as it’s plain, it could be easily substituted.


Sweet Potato Kugel

Cooking is the easiest way for me to zone out. I think that’s why I like making new recipes so much – I can focus on something and completely forget everything else going on around me. And, when there’s a day that I can go spinning and cook new recipes- well, that’s the ultimate. 

I read about this Sweet Potato Kugel recipe on a holiday round up from the cooks that authored The Yiddish Kitchen. I made bagels from their cookbook a few months ago, and I completely forgot about this kugel. I didn’t grow up on kugel like most. Actually, I was so particular, I would only eat it at my friend’s mom house, because then I knew it would be good! Anyway, this recipe is super easy and simple.  I even found precut sweet potatoes at Trader Joes to make the recipe even easier to make. You could certainly use regular sugar (the color will likely be different if you do) and you could use full-fat coconut milk, which probably makes it taste even more like the holidays. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Kugel

Adapted from The Yiddish Kitchen

Serves 8,12,16, or 25 – depending on how you cut it 


2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into rubble or noodles with a spiral slider or vegetable peeler (or 1.5 pkgs of Sweet Potato Ribbons from Trader Joes)

3 tbsp olive oil 

Canola oil for greasing the pan

1 cup canned lite coconut milk (or full-fat, canned)

1/3 cup coconut sugar

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 375. Grease an 8×8 inch casserole dish. Then, in a skillet, heat the sweet potatoes in the olive oil over medium heat for about 6-8 minutes, or until sweet potato softens. 

While the sweet potato is cooking, mix all the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring well to combine. Once the sweet potatoes are ready, remove them from the heat and incorporate into the egg mixture. 

Next, pour the mix into the prepared casserole dish and bake for about 30-50* minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Slice and serve warm. 

*the recipe says 30-40 minutes, but maybe because I used lite coconut milk instead of full fat, it took more like 50 minutes. After 35 minutes, I kept adding 5 more until it was set – the center took the longest time to do so. 

Grandpa’s Breakfast Potatoes

As I’ve mentioned before, my Grandpa loved to cook, as did both of my Grandmothers.  Of all their specialties, Grandpa’s breakfast potatoes are one of my all-time favorites.  Growing up, breakfast was always an occasion.  Aside from the great food, and something cracking someone up into a fit of laughter, it was where we discussed what was for dinner.  What’s more important than that?!  Not to mention, the potatoes themselves were special because they were pretty much the only time I remember eating them, other than on a holiday.  With Passover during the past week, we had Shabbat Sha-Breakfast last Friday night, and I decided it would be fun to make Grandpa’s potatoes.  My only challenge was figuring out a spice combination similar to his secret seasonings mixture (which made everything taste better).  My Grandpa set a high standard for this recipe, but I think I came pretty close.  Next, I’ll try to make my Grandma’s coffee cake, that she always wanted “just a sliver” of.  Yum!

Grandpa's Breakfast Potatoes

Grandpa’s Breakfast Potatoes

Grandpa’s Potatoes
serves 2-4

1 cup – 1 1/2 cups diced potatoes (frozen or pre-packaged)
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
Kosher salt
Garlic powder
Fresh ground black pepper

1. Heat a large nonstick pan over low-medium heat and add olive oil. Add onions. After a few minutes add a small pinch of salt and some pepper. Saute until starting to brown.
2. Add potatoes and cook until start to soften. Add a few shakes of garlic powder and paprika. Add more pepper, if desired.
3. Cook until potatoes are desired consistency.
4. Serve hot and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Tomato Basil Soup

It’s that time of year when I start to gather recipes that I can use during Passover.  While I’ve made the Barefoot Contessa’s Tomato Basil Soup in years past, I just found a new recipe from Phoebe Lapine, that’s likely to replace it.  As the title suggests, it is a slow cooking recipe (about 5 hours), followed up with a quick blend of the mixture, leaving you with a delicious tomato soup with a kick.  It’s a great to make during the weekend, with enough leftovers for the start of your week.  Best part for me, no dairy and minimal clean up!  Will this make your Passover list?

Some notes

  • I used 2 tbsp. of olive oil, instead of 3 tbsp
  • My carrots were small, so I used 4
  • I used Tabatchnick Chicken Broth, only because I find it generally adds a good flavor to tomato soups.  However, next time I make it, will be trying with No-Chicken Broth
  • I used 1/2 tbsp. Kosher salt, instead of 1 tbsp.
  • Instead of a blender, I used an immersion blender, for a few seconds.
  • I think this recipe yields more like 10 servings


Homemade Pico De Gallo

Attempted to make a Vegan 7 Layer Dip this weekend (will share that later), and in the process tested out a great recipe for homemade Pico de Gallo.  It’s incredibly easy to make, DELICIOUS, and yields a decent amount.  Although, it’s so good, not sure how it could last more than 24 hours!

Some notes

  • I made this the night before I served it, and it created a fair amount of liquid in the container.  Next time, when putting into a serving bowl, I would use a slotted spoon, so it’s not so watery.
  • Use the seeds from the jalapeno if you want to make it spicier.
  • Truth be told, I started with 2 tomatoes, and mixed in with the onion and cilantro.  I added more tomatoes, until it looked like there was an even tomato to onion ratio.  That’s the goal.
Homemade Pico de Gallo

Homemade Pico de Gallo

Homemade Pico de Gallo
(adapted from Pioneer Woman)
Yields about 4 cups

4 on the vine organic tomatoes, chopped small
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
1 large bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 lime
Kosher salt, to taste

Place the first four ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, stir together. Squeeze juice of one lime on top. Stir again. Add a pinch or two of salt, to taste. Will last up to 24 hours in fridge.

Struffoli Inspired Pancakes

One of the perks to winter holidays, is the feasibility in taking a day or two off from work.  Last Friday, we did just that and with our spin class set for mid-morning, I had some time to make us a hot breakfast beforehand.  In gathering ingredients to make us Egg Pancakes, I spotted some sprinkles in the pantry that reminded me of Struffoli that I’ve seen made on Giada at Home as an Italian Christmas treat.  With that in mind, once each pancake was done, I topped them with some syrup and sprinkles – just like that, our plain breakfast, became a colorful treat!  Next time you’re making breakfast for yourself, or company, this is a great way to start the day off smiling.  (Heads up that the coloring from the sprinkles melts, and ends up as color swirls.)

Struffoli Pancakes
adapted from Bethenny’s Faux Pancake
serves 1

1 egg
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. raw sugar
1/4 tsp. Earth Balance Butter
Sugar-free Syrup
Sugar sprinkles

Heat a 8-inch nonstick pan on medium-low heat. In a mixing bowl, combine first four ingredients and whisk together. Set aside. Melt the 1/4 tsp. butter in pan and spread around base and side of pan with silicone spatula. Pour egg mixture into pan and let cook until edges begin to brown and egg mixture begins to solidify enough to be able to flip on other side. Flip over and cook another few minutes. Slide pancake onto a dinner plate. Pour a little syrup and a few shakes of sprinkles. Enjoy!

Struffoli Pancake

Struffoli Pancake

Struffoli via Live Love Pasta

Dairy-Free Quesadilla Bites

We found the cutest little corn “slider” tortillas yesterday at our local market and made for quite the fun dinner last night.  While we were putting all the ingredients together for our mini black-bean tacos, Scott was curious how the Daiya (vegan) cheese we picked up would taste in a quesadilla.  A few minutes later, we had a delicious snack!  We shared one, cut into 8 triangles and topped it off with a dab of  Whole Foods Cocina Mild salsa on each piece.  Vegan or not, this is an easy recipe, and would make a great appetizer the next time you have friends over – or even for a late night snack on New Year’s Eve.

Carolyn & Scott’s Dairy-Free Quesadilla Bites
Yields 8 triangles per 2 tortillas, adjust per desired serving size

2 Slider Size Corn Tortillas (we used MiRanch Organic Corn)
2 tbsp. Daiya Cheddar Shreds
4 tsp. Salsa (we used Whole Foods Cocina Mild, in refrigerated section)

Heat a nonstick pan or griddle. Place the tortillas on pan to heat for about a minute. Add the cheese to the tortilla on the left, spread to make an even layer. Place tortilla on right, on top, and let heat through for about 2-3 minutes. Check if melted, and if so, flip to other side, for about 30 seconds. Take off the heat, and cut into 8 triangles. Place 1/2 tsp. of salsa on each triangle and serve warm.

Dairy-Free Quesadilla Bite

Dairy-Free Quesadilla Bite

How to Dress Your Turkey

An early memory I have of Thanksgiving is my Grandpa teaching me how to dress our Thanksgiving turkey.  If you knew my Grandpa, you know this involves no stuffing (or “dressing”).  Instead, it uses four, maybe five things – 2 pieces of paper, 1 pair of scissors, a stapler, and a pen.  Check out the pictures below to see how you can do this at home (with or without kids!).

Step 1 – Take two pieces of 8.5×11 paper and fold in half.

Step 2 – Fold the non-creased long edge about a 1/4 way in.

Step 3 – Starting at the folded edge, make (roughly)1/4 inch cuts to the crease you made in Step 2.

Step 4 – Roll the cut paper to a little larger than a quarter diameter, and hold in place with your fingers.

Step 5 – Staple once, at seam, to hold in place.

Step 6 – Place on turkey legs, right before Turkey is ready to be served.
(Doodles+notes optional)

Almost Best Thanksgiving Stuffing

When it comes to testing out new recipes, I’m a bit of a research fiend. We’re hosting Thanksgiving Brunch later this week, meaning my research for recipes commenced about two months ago. We’ve got a great menu planned, and the stuffing is particularly special. I searched through countless recipes, videos and DVR’ed Food Network episodes, until I found the winner from the Barefoot Contessa. While the recipe is meant to cook as part of a Turkey Breast Roulade (turkey breast wrapped around stuffing), I am opting to cook the stuffing on its own – between the sausage, dried cranberries, dried figs, and celery – just seems like I can’t go wrong.

So, little did my mom know when she came over, about a month ago, she’d be spending the day with me to test out the recipe.  After all, what research process is complete, with out testing it out before game day?!  Roughly two hours spent going to six markets, left us with a deliciously memorable stuffing.  My favorite  is my mom’s Passover stuffing, so to compare this to hers, wouldn’t make sense – apples to oranges.  That said, this is an incredible recipe and fairly easy.  Buon apetito!

Some notes

  • The recipe is that much easier to make, by pre-chopping and measuring all ingredients before cooking.
  • The recipe calls for Calvados (apple brandy) or any brandy, to soak the dried figs and cranberries in.  We don’t store hard liquor at home, and my mom had the GENIUS idea to use two mini bar bottles of brandy.  At BevMo! this translated to less than $3 for the perfect amount for the recipe.
  • For purposes of our Thanksgiving company, we need the recipe to be Kosher.  Luckily, we live close to Jeff’s Gourmet Kosher Sausage Factory (also home to Scott’s favorite burger), and used their veal sausage.  This isn’t the “sweet and spicy” mix the recipe suggests, but still turned out great.
  • I omitted Pine Nuts because I don’t like them.  Not sure how it would enhance the stuffing since I think they are fairly soft when cooked.
  • For butter, I used Earth Balance non-dairy butter.
  • You can do everything in this recipe the night before, and bake it Thanksgiving morning, in the last 45 minutes of the turkey’s cooking time.

Sausage & Fig Stuffing

Happy Halloween + Sandy + Giving

This is what my mom made for us in her free time this week (below).  She continues to be a source of endless energy, inspiration, creativity, and unconditional love – and for that I am incredibly grateful.  Speaking of which, I am grateful for so many other things this week and can’t help but think of those in the Northeast.  I remember vividly the 1994 Northridge earthquake – being in our family friend’s house for two weeks, while we cleaned up the aftermath at our house.  It’s not an easy time, and as human nature often proves, we are strong survivors, making the best out of not-so-great situations.  If you are able, remember to give what you can the the American Red Cross, to help those in need.

Mom’s Halloween Treats