Sunday, December 9, 2012

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

I make homemade caramel and dip apples in my classroom each and every Halloween.  This year was my 11th year of doing it and I went a little crazy with the amount of caramel that I made and apples I bought, so I had to come up with a way to use them up.  This recipe is easy and quick.  You can sub in jarred caramel sauce, if you don't have leftover homemade.  



Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lower Carb Mexi-Mac and Cheese

Whenever the weather gets cold I crave two things, soup and macaroni and cheese.  When I first started cutting processed carbs out I thought pasta was a "no no" good, but then I found Dreamfields Healthy Carb Living pasta with only 5 net carbs per serving! It tastes just like regular pasta, but is made from some type of special wheat that keeps blood sugar from spiking.  Pretty great stuff, but still  high in calories, so it can't be a weekly treat.  I wanted to be able to have a nice portion with this and up the veggies, so I included chopped cauliflower in with the pasta while it boiled.

If you aren't into the low-carb thing then just use regular pasta.  I did this and made my mac and cheese and then a pan for my hubby with no cauliflower and with regular pasta.  You could also make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth.

Hope you enjoy!

It shows the same amount of carbs, but your body only processes 5 grams with each serving.  Just make sure you cook it al dente!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Fall Baby Shower

I had the extreme pleasure of getting to plan a baby shower for one of my best friends this past month.  When she told me she was pregnant I think my first words were, "no way", and then I said, " I am planning your shower".  Her, her hubby, and incoming baby Duke deserved to have a day that celebrated what a beautiful family they all made.  They are well loved people, so this was a shower for 40!

Since this is a long post, I have posted the menu and recipes separately.  Click here to go to them.
I used 10 yards of muslin for table covers and burlap for runners.  The silverware and napkins are the orange and white chevron bags that I found at Sweet Lulu's

Fresh flowers and assorted fall decorations finished off the table tops.
We served cold spiced apple cider in the mason jars with lids and straws
that I found at Sweet LuLu's

Duke Bryant!

The adorable cake, cupcakes, and cake pops were made by a
friend of a friend were delicious!  


Since it is Fall and I am known for my caramel I decided to give each guest a fresh apple and a jar of my homemade caramel.  My helper, Linda, and I wrapped them up in a cellophane bag, tied it up with raffia, and included a "Thank you" sticker. We had 36 of them to put together, but it wasn't too bad.  The jars I used were the 4oz ball jelly jars, I bought the apples at Costco (used a mix of Gala and Granny Smith), and it was great that I could make them in steps ahead of time.  

This is after it had been
carried home :)
I didn't take a pic after
I made them :(

The other take home favor was a "Baked Goods Bar", a twist on the usual "Candy Bars".  I would love to take credit for all of these amazing treats, but I have some fantastic friends who pitched in and helped a Kate out!  Thanks to them this was a wonderful addition to the baby shower and a nice surprise for our guests.  I will have the recipes for these treats on another post! 
We had pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spiced snickerdoodles, truffled brownies, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies, and Magic Bars.  
Magically Delicious!

Burlap as the table clothe, pumpkins as decor, and some garland from Michael's.
 I had paper bags and goodie bags for people to take the treats home in.

Fall Themed Baby Shower Menu



The pinwheels are on the white tray in the middle.

Gruyere and Prosciutto Pinwheels (recipe follows)
Gruyere Pinwheels 
Veggie cups with low fat ranch dip 
Bruschetta Cheeseball "Pumpkin" with assorted crackers 

Gruyere and Prosciutto Pinwheels
1 box puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves 
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
6 thin slices of prosciutto (3 per sheet of puff pastry)
salt and pepper

Lay out sheet of puff pastry, spread 1/4 of mustard over the puff pastry (or less, if desired), sprinkle salt and pepper over the mustard, sprinkle 1/2 of the grated cheese and thyme, top with 3 slices of prosciutto.  Roll up and wrap in plastic wrap.  Keep in freezer (can be frozen 3 months in advance).  When  you are ready to bake them: remove rolls 30 minutes before baking (keep wrapped), preheat oven to 375 degrees, cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, slice each roll into 1/4 inch slices.  Place on baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until browned.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Leave the prosciutto out for a vegetarian option. 

Main Course - all of these recipes are based off of one of Rachael Ray's "Five in a Day" meal plans.  The Chutney is her exact recipe that can be found here.

Fall Spiced Roasted Shoulder of Pork (recipe follows)
Citrus Scented Mashed Sweet Potatoes (recipe follows)
Spicy Apple Chutney (recipe on the link above)
Fall Spinach Salad 
Balsamic glazed, Fall roasted vegetables

Fall Spiced Roasted Shoulder of Pork - this roast must be prepped the night before and will need room to sit unwrapped in your fridge. It takes 6 hours to cook, so plan ahead. 

1 pork shoulder roast (1/2 lb. per person being served)
1 cup sea or kosher salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. dried fennel seed
2 tbsp. dried thyme
1 bunch fresh thyme (optional)
1 cup white wine or water

Night before:  remove roast form the package, dry, and set on a baking sheet with a lip.  With a sharp knife, cut shallow lines across the top, fatty part of the roast, do again in the other direction.  Mix together the salt and brown sugar.  Place the roast, uncovered in the fridge overnight.  

The morning of:  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Remove the roast from the fridge, wipe off any excess sugar and salt.  Place the roast in a large roasting pan, on a rack if possible.  Rub on the fennel seed and thyme.  Pour wine or water in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Roast for 6 hours at 325.  Check the roast after 3 hrs, if it is too brown, cover with foil.  After 3 hours, baste the roast every 30-45 minutes, if possible.  

To serve:  Remove the roast, cover and let rest for 30 minutes.  Slice and serve with pan drippings.  

Citrus Scented Mashed Sweet Potatoes

6 large sweet potatoes (yams)
1/2 stick butter 
1/2 cup veggie or chicken broth 
1/2 tbsp. orange zest
juice from 1 orange
salt and pepper

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes.  Place in a large pan with cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook until a fork can pierce the cubes.  Drain and place back into the pan.  Put butter, broth, S&P, zest from orange, and juice from orange in the potatoes.  Mash with a potato masher until they are creamy and lump free.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Still by my side... homemade caramel

I never understood growing  up how people could like those hard caramel candies that the grocery store sold or how they could ever eat an apple that had been dipped in it.  This was because I grew up spoiled by homemade treats and goodies.  Every Christmas my mom would pull down her big, heavy bottomed pot and I knew that it was caramel time.  Part of me would dread this because caramel time meant countless hours cutting wax paper into squares, cutting the sticky caramel, and individually wrapping each piece.  I would ask my mom, "Can't we just put them in a bag?" and she would patiently explain that it would turn into a blob and that if you were going to make something as special as caramels then you had to put the time into cutting and wrapping them.

Flash forward 20 years to the first Christmas we had with my parents after they moved back to California and in with us and I got to make those same caramels with my mom again.  The next fall I moved to the high school to teach and wanted to do something fun with my students, so I thought of caramel apples.  I asked my mom to help me make homemade caramel and of course she did.  6 batches later we were exhausted, but the smiles on my students faces were worth it.  There is something astounding about sharing a childhood memory/delight with others and being able to share it with my students was such a gift.  

Flash forward another 13 years and here I am again making caramel for my students.  However, today was bittersweet because I didn't have my mom there helping.  I felt her by my side all day and occasionally talked to her, especially after making a mistake or when I almost dropped my IPhone into the hot caramel trying to take a picture (she would say, "Oh Kateybug, we are making memories").  My heart is irrevocably changed by my mom's passing, but doing things like this brings me a little closer to her.  I may be sobbing as I type and had a cryfest when I started the first batch, but it was worth it. 

I am sharing this family recipe in hopes that you will make it with someone you love and pass it on.  

My Mommalove's Homemade Caramels


Heavy bottomed pot
Candy thermometer
Heavy wooden spoon with a relatively long handle


2 cups granulated sugar 
2 cups heavy cream (separated into 1 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup portions)
1 cup butter
1 3/4 cups light corn syrup
2 tsp. vanilla 
1 tsp sea salt (Kate's touch)


1.  In a large, heavy bottomed pot put all of the ingredients, except 1/2 cup cream and vanilla.  Bring the mixture to boil over medium-high heat. 

 2.  Boil over medium-high heat, stirring often, for 20-30 minutes.  Until it turns from a very light liquid to a light brown thicker mixture.  The boil should not stop when you stir the caramel.

After 10 minutes
After 20 minutes, light brown and thick

3.  Pour in the reserved 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  Be careful!  As you stir, this will bubble up and may splatter.  Place the candy thermometer in the pot and continue to boil until the mixture reaches the temperature that you desire, depending on the chart below: 
240 degrees and ready for dipping!

220 degrees:  light, thin caramel sauce 
240 degrees: darker thick caramel sauce (ideal for caramel apples)
250 degrees:  Pan caramels that you will cut and wrap
280 degrees:  Toffee

If you will be apple dipping, it is a good idea to keep the caramel warm in a crockpot while you dip.

4.  Remove the caramel from the heat.  Add in the vanilla and stir.  Be careful, it will hiss and spit at you. 

I am hosting a good friend's baby shower soon.  I made extra caramel for the favors.  These are 4oz ball jars.  Click here to see the favors!

Monday, September 3, 2012

We're Jammin'

One of the cruel twists of mother nature is  making fresh fruit plentiful and cheap when the weather is the hottest and jam making must occur!  However, for the past few years summer jam and pickle making have become a part of my summer vacation.  We head up north to spend time with my BF and her family, the men go fishing for a few days while Al and I concoct jam recipes, process fruit, and bond.  We recruit her daughter Evalyn to help and we always learn something new about one another (this year it was a classic, but some things must be kept private).  It is my favorite part of summer and I wouldn't trade it for anything, not even a trip to somewhere tropical.
Besties since college!  
The jammin' crew!

Al and I tend to be a little free handed with our jam making.  We toss around ideas and just go for it.  Sometimes it turns out and sometimes we make sauce instead of jam :)  We try to organize ourselves and make plans, but we inevitably have to make 10 trips to the grocery store, 5 trips to the hardware store for jars, and occasionally end up  on a never ending search for flowering dill (we never did find any this year).  In the past we have made Bite Me Blueberry Plum Jam , which involves homegrown plums, jalapenos, and cherries. Twisted Blueberry Plum , a new take on blueberry, plum jam that has grapefruit in it.  Sadly this year her plum tree didn't produce much, so we hard to turn to another stone fruit, peaches!

We asked Al's husband to bring us home some peaches (he has connections) before he left on the annual fishing odyssey.  Alison and I came home to 1 large crate and 2 small crates of peaches.  A total of 168 pounds!  Al figured that he was trying to keep us out of busy and out of trouble with all of those peaches.  Twelve work hours later, we peeled, sliced, and packaged 84 lbs. of peaches.  We were sick of peaches!  Now we had to figure out what to do with them all.  First, we decided to replicate a chutney we had made a few years back, but with peaches instead of apricots.  Then we wanted to come up with something similar to our Bite Me jam, so we came up with Sassy Peach, which has jalapenos.  Finally, we made some plain old peach jam and blueberry peach sauce (stupid liquid pectin).
The bounty~

Some turned out, some didn't... we learned a LOT and were pretty frustrated at the end.  Here is the lesson I will share with you.  Use only low sugar pectin and recipes!  Liquid pectin sucks and regular jam recipes end up tasting like sugar and not fruit!

Can't wait until next summer, when we can do it again!

Kate, Al and Ev's Sassy Peach Jam

What do you do when you are given 168 pounds of peaches?  You make jam, of course!  This jam is full of fresh peach flavor and has the background notes of spicy jalapeno.  It can be served over cream cheese, pour over baked chicken or pork, and added to bbq sauce for a different twist. Make sure to use low sugar pectin, nothing else works as well!


6 cups peeled and diced peaches (slightly mush them  up with a potato masher)
3 jalapeños, diced (remove seeds if you don't want it as spicy)
4.5 cups granulated sugar 
1/4 cup lemon juice 
1/2 cup water 
1 box low-sugar pectin 

In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, mix the peaches, 1/4 cup sugar, jalapeños, water and pectin. 

 Cook on medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil.  
Add the rest of the sugar, bring back to a hard boil and boil for 1 minute.  

Hot pack the jam and either turn over to seal or hotwater process.  You can also make this a freezer jam. 
make sure to boil your lids
Use a jar funnel to fill the jars, wipe the rim and inside jar
with a sterilized rag

Use a lid lifter to help put the lid on the jar
and then lightly tighten a ring around it. 

Bite Me Blueberry Plum Jam

Alison and I came up with this recipe after making our Twisted Blueberry Plum and thinking, "Hmm.. Jalapeños would be great in this".  This jam has a kick, but it is not overpowering.  We serve it over cream cheese, in wonton cups filled first with cream cheese, or my dad likes it straight up on toast.


3 limes, sliced as thinly as possible 
6 pounds washed and chopped plums
2 pounds pitted fresh cherries 
8 jalapenos, diced (include sees if  you like it spicier)
5 pounds granulated sugar 
2 cups filtered water
1 box low-sugar pectin


In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, put the sliced limes and water, simmer for 30 minutes.  Do not allow it to boil dry.  Add in the plums, cherries, and jalapeños.  Cook until the fruit is soft and pulpy.  Add the sugar and boil for 30 minutes, constantly stirring.  After 30 minutes, add the pectin and boil for 1 minute.  Pack into warm sterilized jars.  We hot pack these by putting the lids and rings on the jars and flipping them over to seal.  You can hot water process or just put in the freezer. 

Twisted Blueberry Plum Jam

This is a tried and true jam recipe.  Make sure you slice the grapefruit as thin as you can!  We are fans of hot packing our jams.  It is just easier.  There is a slightly higher risk of spoilage, but after doing this for 3 years, it has only happened once when we were not careful with cleaning the edges of the jars.  You have to be careful to use sterilized jars (we use the dishwasher and keep them hot) and lids.


1 large ruby red grapefruit, sliced as thinly as possible
6 pounds of processes plums (washed and chopped)
2 pounds fresh or frozen blueberries
5 pounds of sugar 
1 box low sugar pectin 
2 cups filtered watered


In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot place the sliced grapefruit and water, simmer for 30 minutes.  Do not let it boil dry!  Add the fruit and berries and cook until it is soft and pulpy. Add the sugar and boil for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, add the low-sugar pectin and let boil for 1 minutes.  Pour into prepared jars and freeze, hot pack, or process pack it.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pesto Tilapia with Bruschetta Topping

The hubby's portion
I made a commitment in the summer the try more fish.  Tilapia is the 4th one I have tried and the mildest by far.  I am glad I went with a strong sauce otherwise the fish would have pretty bland.  If you want to make your own pesto, go for it.  I happened to have a fabulous mother with a gorgeous garden who makes outstanding pesto.  I keep it in baggies in the freezer.  My mom's tomatoes are also the star in the bruschetta topping.  I used Tastefully Simple's Dried Tomato Pesto Mix because I didn't have a fresh garlic on hand or feel like wrestling with an onion (lazy day, what can I say?).  If you happen to have all of the ingredients to make the bruschetta without it then rock on my friend.

This dish got a hubby rating of two servings and a fish hating wife rating of, "I was able to eat almost 3/4 of my piece (the most fish I have ever eaten)".  Our poochieroo also enjoyed my leftovers.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A lesson learned, Low Carb Pancakes

Earlier this week I decided I wanted breakfast for dinner, so I researched low carb pancake recipes.  I was looking for simple recipes that didn't use crazy ingredients and had good reviews.  I found a recipe using Pinterest (of course) at Skinny Momma's Blog.  All it required was almond flour, sweetener of your choice, eggs, and oil.  I bought the almond flour awhile ago, on a whim, and stored it in my freezer, so I was happy to find a recipe that used it.  I followed the recipe, tweaking it just a bit.  The recipe was incredibly simple and came out really good.  After dinner I decided to enter the recipe into a calorie calculator and that is where I was shocked, three small pancakes equaled almost 700 calories!  I still had to add in my scrambled eggs, bacon, and jam... this took my dinner to well over 1,000 calories.

I ended up feeling bamboozled, but then I realized that it was my fault.  Focusing on carb counts is great, but I need to make sure to see the WHOLE picture and consider the calorie count of the ingredients I use.   I guess I am bound to make mistakes on this journey, but I kept thinking, "I could have had a cheeseburger for less calories!" The lesson has been learned... for pancakes at least!  I am still sharing the recipe because it was quite good and if you are just doing a plain old low carb diet it could become part of your repertoire or if you are gluten free, this is a great recipe!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jack Sprat and his Wife (Cauliflower Pizza Crust)

My husband and I are like Jack Sprat and his wife.  Except I can eat few carbs and he is an endurance athlete who needs to eat 2-3,000 more calories than me and a LOT of carbs.  Needless to say, this is annoying when it comes to menu planning.  Notice that I say ANNOYING, but not impossible.  Last night's dinner was an example of how I do split recipes to meet both of our needs.  I made him a whole wheat pizza with regular pepperoni and then I made myself a low-carb cauliflower crust pizza with turkey pepperoni (HELLO, you can have 17 pepperonis for 70 calories, am I the only person astounded by this factoid?).
Our dinners, side by side.  Not too much difference, right?

The cauliflower crust pizza is a hybrid of two recipes.  The first one comes from the blog "What's That Smell?" All cheese crust.  The other recipe involves cauliflower and is from  I chose to make a hybrid of the two that kept the cauliflower and added cream cheese and an egg white as stabilizer.  

You will not be able to pick this up and eat it like pizza, but it will hit all of the flavor profiles that you love from pizza.  As a friend at work who I fed it to said, "It is almost like lasagna", I agree with that too!



1 small head of cauliflower, core removed and cut into florets. 

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese

4 oz cream cheese

1 tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese
sprinkle of oregano
sprinkle of basil
1 egg white
salt to taste. 
1.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Place the cauliflower in the microwave safe bowl, cover.  Place in microwave and cook until the florets are soft (5-7min.).  Remove and set aside to cool. 

2. When the cauliflower is cool enough to handle, place it in a potato ricer and rice them.  I used a food mill and that worked okay, I should have used my die with the larger holes.  If you do not have a ricer or mill then go ahead and chop the cauliflower until it is small.  Drain any liquid that comes out. 

My handy dandy food mill that I have used 3x since I got it as a present 8 years ago. 

3.  To the cauliflower add the 4 oz. cream cheese, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, salt, and egg white.  Mix until it is combined.  

4.  Spread the mixture out onto a greased baking sheet (it might not fill the whole sheet, no worries).  Sprinkle it with the herbs and parm.  Bake it for 15-20 minutes or until it is lightly browned and has some crispy edges (that is the BEST part).  Remove from the oven and turn the oven up to 400 degrees.

5.  Top it with whatever you like!  I used pizza sauce (1/2 cup for the whole pizza, if you are watching your carbs really closely, then you might want to just top it with sliced tomatoes), mozzarella cheese, and turkey pepperoni.  
Ready to go for the 2nd bake. 
**word of caution, if you like a LOT of veggies on your pizza I would precook them to remove some of the moisture.  This crust could get soggy, really easily.  

6.  Bake until it is bubbly and hot, about 15 min.  

7.  Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  
Looks like pizza, right?

Friday, July 13, 2012

BBQ Chicken under a Bacon Mat

Getting my husband to eat chicken is like getting a picky two year old to eat broccoli.  I have to "invent" ways to get him to give it a go.  This is one of ways I like to hide chicken, under a Mat O' Bacon.  He will never know, right?  I learned about the Mat O' Bacon from this blog  Bacon Mats .  BTW, these make the most delicious BLT sandwiches because there is bacon in EVERY BITE!  For those of you who are not pork lovers, I guess you could try turkey bacon.  If you do, let me know how it goes.  

The BBQ sauce is a quick and easy sauce that is based off of bottled sauce.  Feel free to whip up your own! 

Prep time:  30 min.  Cook time:  35 min. 


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts 
(mine were 6 oz each, but I recommend doing 4 oz and that is what the calorie count is based on.)

1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce 

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar 

1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce 

1 tbsp. Montreal Steak Seasoning 

1tsp. dried chile flakes 

small dash of cinnamon (optional)


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 
1.  Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.  Set aside. 
I do not eat applesauce regularly, so I guy the little kid cups and
 keep them in my pantry.
I used the same cup to measure my BBQ sauce.  

Finished sauce 

2.  Cut the 12 strips of bacon in half, so that you have 24 half strips.  You will use 6 half strips per breast. 

3.  Make the bacon mats by laying out 3 strips across and weaving 3 down.  Sprinkle with the Montreal Steak Seasoning. 

Hmmm.. it's bacon and I know it!

4.  Place one chicken breast down on the Mat O' Bacon.  Sprinkle the other side of the chicken breast with the seasoning.  Tuck the bacon around the chicken breast (you can use toothpicks to secure, but I was out). Do the same thing with the rest of the breasts. 
Don't tell him there is chicken under there.  

5.  In an oven proof skillet lay the breasts bacon side down and cook over medium high heat until the bacon is light brown and starting to crisp (5-7 min.)  

6.  Using tongs or a spatula, flip the breasts over to brown on the other side.  

7.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Top the breasts with the BBQ sauce mixture. If the bottom of the pan seems dry then you can splash some water or a white wine to loosen it up.

8.   Place the pan in the preheated oven, bake for 25 min.  or until the breasts are cooked through (if you use larger breasts, then you will need to cook them longer). 

Serve with a veggie and/or brown rice.  We did garlic broccoli with red peppers and brown rice. 
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 Serving
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 71
Calories 234
% Daily Values*
Total Fat 7.94g12%
 Saturated Fat 2.167g11%
 Polyunsaturated Fat 0.98g 
 Monounsaturated Fat 3.037g 
Cholesterol 72mg24%
Sodium 1112mg46%
Potassium 192mg 
Total Carbohydrate 9.57g3%
 Dietary Fiber 1g4%
 Sugars 3.72g 
Protein 28.2g 
Vitamin A 6%Vitamin C 8%
Calcium 3%Iron 8%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Nutrition Values are based on USDA Nutrient Database SR18
 **Remember this is for a 4 oz chicken breast.  The sodium count is high because of the Montreal Steak Seasoning.  Omit this from the recipe to reduce the amount of sodium.