Saturday, December 17, 2016

Antipasto Skewers

I had all intentions of posting this while it was still November. At the very least.

Well, needless to say, that never happened.

On the bright side, I'm getting to it before "Fall" is officially over.

Initially I was going to share a recipe for pumpkin oatmeal cookies. But it seems that once we hit December, everyone's mindset automatically switches to winter and of course the holidays!

So as much as it pained me, I had to abandon it. We can't go backwards!

Although I'd love to go back a couple months and have it be October 17 instead of December 17! You all know I love Fall... and how is it possible that there is only a week left before Christmas? I feel like it was just Halloween.  (Although now that stores start putting out the Christmas decorations by the 2nd week of October, I should probably be used to the idea of Christmas by this point.)

Anyway, I'm so sad that Fall always seems to pass by in a flash. But we did a lot this season! In September, the Mini started nursery school - I can't even handle how big she's getting.

The Minion actually proved to be more emotional about the milestone than I was, but I still can't believe my girl is that much closer to Kindergarten!

At the end of October, we celebrated her 4th birthday at home with family, and also at an ice cream parlor with her little friends.  Her ice cream party had a Cinderella theme, as she is very into the Disney princesses at the moment.

 The party at our house, however, was a woodland theme.

Her obsession with forest animals continues, as she followed up last year's fox Halloween costume with a hedgehog costume this year!

The fox was hard enough to find (although this year of course I saw numerous foxes available in stores)... but a hedgehog proved to be impossible.

Enter my fabulous aunt, Jody, who actually made the Mini's costume by hand (and did it in just a couple days, no less!)

I have never seen a happier hedgehog. She was thrilled to strut her stuff in her school parade, and we had an awesome time trick-or-treating.


I thought Mini would get tired early, but we actually had to tell her that it was time to go home a little before 8pm! Luckily the Minion was a little more content being a penguin this year than he was being a bat, so he didn't seem to mind the late night.

It helped that Mr. Vittles fed him a slow but steady stream of M&Ms. The white on his costume was streaked with orange, red, and yellow as his flippers kept getting the way of his nibbling.

Ah, the hazards of being a penguin.

Not that it stopped him at all, though.  As he would say, "Nom nommmm."

Then came November and of course Thanksgiving.  We got to experience the first of many holiday shows at school for Mini, and even though she was quite sheepish, it was totally adorable.

I also realized I spent my 9th Thanksgiving in a row with my in-laws! My first one there was in 2008, before I was a Mrs.

me (left) with my sister-in-law, 11/2008

That year, I brought zesty carrots and boursin dip, and one of these days I will have to post the carrot recipe, because I have brought it probably 7 out of the 9 years by request! (Brought it again this year, too, haha).

But the antipasto skewers was an idea I 'pinned' long ago on Pinterest, and have been wanting to make for a while. I got my chance when I suggested it as an appetizer for my brother-in-law Chris' engagement party at the end of October.

That's right - in June of 2017, I will be getting another beautiful sister-in-law, one that has been part of the family for many years now as well. I am excited for the wedding, and for Kristen to be an official member of the family!


She has an Italian-American side of her family like I do, and I remember at the party her grandma asked if I made the "antipast" skewers.  She said they were very good.

They seemed popular, too - at a party of 60-some people, about 2/3 of the tray went in one passing.

So this would be a good appetizer if you are having a holiday party, or even just some company!

It's really more of an idea, though than a recipe, and the amounts are listed as a guide.  I didn't see any recipes on the internet that were exactly what I had in mind, so I did my own thing. I thought these flavors and colors (yes, colors - Mr. Vittles made fun of me for that one) went well together.  You might have your own twist that you prefer!

I hope everyone has a fun and safe holiday!

Antipasto Skewers

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 8-oz. stick pepperoni
  • 1 8-oz. stick salami
  • 1 6-oz. wedge of provolone cheese
  • 2 6-oz. cans pitted black olives
  • 1 12-oz. jar pepperoncini
  • long "fancy" toothpicks or thin craft sticks
Wash & dry tomatoes. Cut salami & pepperoni into slices about 1/2-inch thick pieces. Cut each piece in half so you have a semi-circle.  Set aside.  Cut provolone into 1/2-inch thick cubes & set aside. Drain olives then place on baking sheets lined with paper towel to dry.  Drain pepperoncini and cut into small pieces, then place on baking sheets lined with paper towel to dry.  (Keep sheets in refrigerator if drying for a while). Then assemble skewers.  Keep refrigerated if not using immediately.

Original Recipe, Inspired by ideas found on Pinterest

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream (No Machine Required)

Here we are at the end of July already.  A few weeks ago, Mr. Vittles and I were sitting out on the deck, enjoying some toasted marshmallows around the chimnea after the kiddos went to bed.

At one point, some neighborhood kids went flying by on their bikes, laughing and seemingly having the time of their lives.

It made me nostalgic for my own childhood, when summer meant something entirely different.  "Remember when we were kids and summer was awesome?" I said aloud.

My husband replied "Yup. Now it's just hot."

And really, that's so true. At some point, summer loses its magic and becomes more of a pain than a wonder.  Sure you get to go to the pool or beach and do things like eat outside.  But for the most part, you just have to do all the same stuff you do all year, except now you get to sweat while you do it.

But that line of thinking got me wondering if maybe I needed to take a breather from 'adulting' once in a while, and enjoy summer like a kid again.

So one beautiful afternoon, while The Minion napped, The Mini and I blew bubbles and played in the treehouse.  We laid down in the grass for what seemed like ages just looking up at the clouds through the trees.  And it was wonderful.

The Minion turned one last month and got lots of fun outside gifts like a pirate ship water table, a balance bike, and a whale sprinkler - so we've been having lots of fun with those.

Then this week, I decided to show the Mini how we could made ice cream the old-fashioned way, with rock salt, ice, and some elbow grease. But I always see recipes for vanilla, and while that's nice and traditional, I wanted to try something different.

Mini is all about the baking experimentation, so that was fine with her.  We got the "gredients" (as she calls them) at the store, to try a peanut butter version.  I have always been intrigued by the peanut butter powder I seem to see everywhere now, and I figured this would be the perfect application.  We also bought a huge sleeve of peanut butter cups, and Mini was coveting them like a pirate hoarding buried treasure.

"These are all for me, right?"

"No.  They are for everyone.  We have to share."

Immediate tears. "But I want ALL of them!"

Boy, do I know that feeling.  Peanut butter cups are pretty much the best thing ever.  I convinced her to let me cut one up for our ice cream, then we took turns shaking our concoction. By 'taking turns' I mean I did about 95% of the shaking.... and I must say, it came out great.

It was a pretty hot day, and this does melt more quickly than store-bought ice cream, so we had to eat super fast - but she didn't seem to mind!

As it turns out, I still got to enjoy some vanilla yesterday, when my nephew Holt came over to play.  The Mini was on a road trip with her dad to go see my brother-in-law compete in an Ironman triathlon (go Uncle Nick!), so it was just Holt and I with the Minion.

I let Holt pick between the two flavors, and he is apparently more of a traditionalist.  He is also a much more jovial shaker...

...although despite his enthusiasm, the length of my 'turn' was only reduced by approximately 5% in comparison to my first session, haha!  (Needless to say, every kid wants to shake until they try it for about 10 seconds, so get your 'guns' out for this one.)  But our ice cream came out just as good, and vanilla is the perfect canvass for lots of sprinkles! Yum.

Happy summer, y'all!

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream 

Ice Cream:
1/2 C. half and half
1 T. sugar
1 T. + 1 t. peanut butter powder, such as PB2 (I found it at Walmart, in the peanut butter section)
1 large Reese's peanut butter cup, cut into small pieces
1/8 t. vanilla extract

Other Ingredients:
1 large & 1 small ziploc bag
lots of ice
1/2 C. rock salt (such as Morton's ice cream salt, I found it at Walmart in the salt section)

Combine all ice cream ingredients (half & half thru vanilla extract) in a sandwich or quart-sized ziploc bag.  (I would recommend first placing the bag over a cup or bowl to stabilize it, before you add the ingredients).  Seal bag tightly & set aside.

Next, fill a large, gallon-sized ziploc bag about halfway with ice.  Add rock salt and shake to distribute.  Nestle small bag inside the large bag, so that it is surrounded by ice cubes.  Then seal large bag, and shake consistently anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, or until the ice cream mixture thickens to desired consistency.  Make sure the small bag stays surrounded by ice as much as possible. Serve and eat immediately.

Makes 1 to 2 servings (depending on the size of your consumer(s)!)

*Helpful hints: The shaking part can get quite messy as the ice melts, and the large bag may start to leak, so I definitely recommend doing the shaking outside.  I also recommend setting out your serving bowl(s) before you make the ice cream, so you can empty it out and start eating right away- it does melt fairly quickly.  (Or maybe I'm just too impatient and I don't shake it long enough, ha!)  You can also experiment with more or less peanut butter and/or peanut butter cups to your taste.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lemon Ricotta Mousse & Raspberry Parfaits

And... just like that it's May.

Soon enough it will be summer, although the weather we've been having lately certainly doesn't seem like it!  Apparently April's showers decided to come late this year. At the time when I'm usually deciding whether or not to bust out my sandals, I'm instead deciding if I'm ready to give up my boots! It's been cold and rainy for what seems like weeks, and now I'm just waiting for it to go from cool to blazing hot.

I hate when Mother Nature skips over Spring.  Not that Spring is my favorite season, I'm much more of a Fall kinda girl.  But I just like a little transition between the seasons!

On Mother's Day last weekend, we had a fabulous break in the nasty weather that seemed almost summer-like.  We sat outside for a while at my brother-in-law's house, and it was darn near HOT in the sun!

I can't believe I celebrated my third Mother's Day with my Mini Smalls, and now my first with the Minion.  They are getting way too big and time is going by entirely too fast.

This year, the Mini picked out my gifts from her and her brother (cupcake socks, and a stuffed rendition of the 'Kung Fu Panda', respectively).  I am looking forward to many more years of 'interesting' gifts from them!

I always get a little sappy around Mother's Day because it makes me think of my own mom and how much I miss her.

This recipe would have been right up her alley, although Mini Smalls was utterly confused.  When I was cleaning up the food processor, she asked if she could taste the "batter."  I explained that we weren't baking this, it was done- and she was not exactly impressed.  Mini's become my little baker, and she couldn't wrap her mind around a 'treat' that was just some ingredients whipped together with no oven required!

But thankfully our Mother's Day guests (my stepmom and dad) were a little more into the dessert than she was.

Unlike my husband who loves cavity-inducing sugar levels in his desserts, my stepmom is not super into sweets. But she said she really liked this dessert because it was refreshing and not sickeningly sweet. I would have to agree!

Lemon Ricotta Mousse & Raspberry Parfaits

1 C. heavy cream
1 T. powdered sugar
1 15-oz. container whole-milk ricotta
1/4 C. sugar
1 t. lemon zest
1 C. raspberries, washed & dried

In a small bowl, toss sugar & lemon zest.  Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar until well-combined, and set aside.

In a food processor, process cream & powdered sugar for approximately 2 minutes until consistency of whipped cream. (You can also do this with a mixer if you'd prefer).  Be careful not to overmix and turn the cream to butter.  Place whipped cream in a medium bowl, and set aside.

Add ricotta to the now-empty food processor with sugar/zest mixture. Process until very smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping sides if necessary.  In batches, adddd ricotta mixture to bowl with whipped cream, and fold together gently until well-combined.

Set out 4 (or 6) parfait cups, small mason jars, or other dessert dishes/bowls.  Place a heaping spoonful of ricotta mousse into each.  Top with raspberries, then another large scoop of mousse. Top with remaining raspberries. Sprinkle with additional lemon zest, if desired.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Recipe Adapted from Giada di Laurentiis' Raspberry Ricotta Mousse

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Crispy Rice Treats

Has it seriously been almost 3 months since my last post?

I can't even believe that is possible.

Then again... a lot has happened since then.  Nothing bad or overly exciting... just busy life, I guess.

Besides the craziness that is always 'the holiday season,' I did take a solo trip to Savannah toward the end of January, with my mom's side of the family to surprise my grandmother for her 85th birthday.

My aunt drove her and her two friends up from Florida, to visit my uncle & aunt & cousin (who live in Savannah).  What she didn't know is that my other two aunts, my uncle, most of the rest of my cousins, and I were all there too!  We surprised her at my uncle's house, but since there were so many of us, we rented a house on Tybee Island.

My Grammy is the 2nd one from the right, in the front row.  We are all wearing hats that my aunt had made, which said "Happy 85th from your shorebirds." So cute!

It was tough to leave Mr. Vittles and the kids though, especially because the Jersey Shore ended up getting hit with a really serious blizzard AND I ended up getting extremely sick a few days before we left.  But she was so surprised, and it was completely adorable and totally worth it. You could tell that she was truly overwhelmed with joy to see everyone.  It has been years since that many of us were together in one place, so it was really nice to spend that time as a family.

Not long before the Savannah excursion, Mr. Vittles, the kids, and I took a trip up to Connecticut to see my dad's side of the family.  It was really hard to have our first Christmas without my grandmother Yaya... but of course we all still had a lot of laughs together. She wouldn't have wanted it any other way!

My great-aunt Theresa actually told me a story I had never heard before, which had me rolling.  Apparently, when my mom and dad were newlyweds, Yaya gave my mom a baby picture of my dad.  Aunt Theresa went to my parents' house one day, and saw the baby picture on my mom's dresser.  She was curious to know why my mom had the picture there, and my mom explained that Yaya had given it to her, and it was my dad as a baby.

Except... it wasn't my dad.  Turns out, it was my dad's cousin, Aunt Theresa's son.

Now, as a mother of two wee ones, I'm not entirely sure how you mistake a photo of your nephew for your own son?  And it's not like she had 12 kids, she had 3.  I dunno, maybe in 20 years it will make more sense to me.  But either way, it is such a classic Yaya moment, and I loved hearing the story.

She was also notoriously bad at picking out gifts for people, but she LOVED to shop.  So at first it was a little sad that we didn't have any crazy Yaya gifts to laugh at this year, but dad and stepmom surprised us all by wrapping every terrifying Christmas gift they had ever received from Yaya, and re-gifting them to each member of the family. A couple of my personal favorites included a light-up crystal paperweight with a hot air balloon inside, and a hat with a photo of my dad, stepmom, and I....and our names underneath (just in case my dad ever forgot who we were?)

Mr. Vittles was lucky enough to get that gem.  You haven't lived 'til you've rocked a hat with a captioned picture of your wife & in-laws.

In any event, one thing I noticed over the months of holiday & family gatherings, is that I often get asked "Do you still have that food blog?"

And my answer is obviously yes (otherwise I wouldn't be typing this!) but I am always a little ashamed to admit how infrequently I post.  I wish I could say that I still posted 3 or 4 times a month, but with a full-time job and a 24/7 job as a mommy to a 3 year old and 8-month old... there is barely enough time in the day to maintain, let alone do any extras.

It makes me sad, though, because I genuinely enjoy the creative outlet of adapting recipes, making new things, and staging photos.  And I have always found writing to be therapeutic. Sometimes I have ideas for a new recipe for the blog that I get so excited about, I can hardly wait to find time to get to the kitchen.

"Ideas."  In case you haven't noticed, I have a lot of ideas.

When we were in Savannah, I was actually reminiscing with my cousins about something we all did as teenagers - we went to a non-profit research facility and completed a very extensive aptitude test.  My mom did this when she was a teenager, and though she never really shared what her aptitudes were, she apparently found the testing useful enough to bring me to New York City and do it myself.  My grandparents started this tradition with all of their children, and as far as I know, all of my cousins did it too.  At best, it helped some of us choose a career path; at worst, it was very interesting to see what we were naturally good at, and what we were not.

To be honest, I didn't get much out of it by way of career choice, but I definitely did find it interesting.  One part where I scored 'off the charts' in ability was something they called "ideaphoria." For that portion of the test, they give you a jump-off point, and you have to write as many thoughts as possible about that topic in a given period of time.

Apparently, I had a whole lot of... thoughts.

And so far, they hit the nail on the head with that one. Unlike interests, aptitudes are supposed to hold true over the course of your lifetime - and I will tell you that I still have a boat-load of ideas.

The problem is, I have neither the time nor the motivation to execute about 99% of them!

But I do have a blog that I've grown very fond of, and even if I only get to share one idea a month (or every 3 months?) then so be it.

So this recipe turned out to be one that had me really excited, and I ended up surveying the wares of 3 different stores before I found satisfactory ingredients to bring my idea to life.

I was racking my brain to think of what I could add to the marshmallow & butter mixture to make it strawberry-flavored. Initially, I settled on instant strawberry pudding - until I realized there is no such thing.  (Or at least not that I found.  Maybe someone should develop that as a product?  Just sayin.')

The next thing that came to mind was strawberry gelatin, but I was not sure what that might do when combined with hot marshmallow cream.  Gelatin overload?  So then I settled on strawberry frosting... until I found marshmallows made by Jet-Puffed that are already strawberry-flavored! Problem solved.  But I still added some of that frosting for good measure, because let's face it- extra strawberry and sugar can only make it that much more delicious, right?

To match my enthusiasm for the recipe, I wanted to get a decent photo.  The winter is the absolute worst time for food photos, because there is such a small window of natural light (especially for someone that works or is tending to kiddos throughout the majority of daylight hours!)  But luckily for me, Mr. Vittles and I recently cleaned out our finished basement, and cleared a space for a table and chairs as a craft area for the minions.

When I was a kid, we actually had a special room in our house devoted to creating.  My mom called it "the Studio."  It was filled with supplies like markers and paper and glue and stamps and glitter and clay and beads.... and more importantly, the space to spread all that out and make something with it.  I have a lot of memories of working on things in there, from Christmas presents to school projects.  I can see that Mini already has a flair for creating, so I'm thankful we have the room available to have our own miniature 'studio' for the kids.

I dunno, there's something that just seems really nice about having a big, flat area to do stuff.  Anyone knows me personally has probably figured out that I have some difficulty controlling the level of clutter in my life, so an empty surface in my house almost seems downright luxurious!

One of the fun things we did in Mini's new craft area was to paint one side of a closet door with chalkboard paint.  So last night I decided to draw a little Valentine-themed backdrop for my treats.

My treats!  Duh, that's why you're here, right?

I'll be honest, I'm usually not huge on fruit and chocolate together- but there is something so irresistible to me about a chocolate-covered strawberry.  They actually remind me now of my sister-in-law, because she prefers them to cake as her special birthday treat.  But it's still classic Valentine's Day, if you ask me!

Seriously, these are pretty delicious, guys.  Embarrassing fact: I actually gave myself a stomach ache eating too many of them.  So just beware of the V-Day tummy troubles, and don't say I didn't warn ya!

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Crispy Rice Treats

Cereal Bars:

  • 3 T. butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 8-oz package strawberry marshmallows (I used Jet-Puffed Strawberry Mallows)
  • heaping 1/4 C. canned strawberry frosting
  • 5 cups crisp rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies)

  • 1 12-oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 T. butter
  • sprinkles, if desired

Grease a 13x9 pan & set aside.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, heat butter on high until melted (about 45 seconds). Add marshmallows, and toss to coat in butter.  Heat about 90 seconds, in 30 second intervals & stirring after each, until marshmallows are completed melted & mixture is smooth. Stir in strawberry frosting.

Add rice cereal, and mix well to coat.  Using a greased spatula or piece of waxed paper, firmly press mixture into bottom of prepared pan.  Cool completely.  Then place chocolate chips and 2 T. butter in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until mixture is smooth.

Pour chocolate over the top of cooled bars, and spread to evenly coat entire surface.  Top with sprinkles, if desired.  Let chocolate topping harden, then cut into squares.  Tip: I like to cut off all the edges, for a more uniform look.

Recipe adapted from Kraft, Jet-Puffed Marshmallow packaging


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