sugar cookies

this is the martha stewart recipe, & it's the best i've ever found.

2 cups butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups flour

1. beat together butter & sugar on medium-high speed until light & fluffy.

2. add eggs, vanilla, & salt. mix until combined.

3. on low speed, incorporate flour in two batches.

4. divide dough in half, & wrap both halves in plastic wrap. chill for at least 2 hours.

5. roll out to 1/4" thick, & cut to desired shape.

6. bake on 350 for 10-12 minutes.

chocolate-peppermint pinwheels

source: lindsay glass | raleigh, nc

i make these every christmas season! this recipe is from my friend lindsay - my baking buddy from raleigh! i tend to shy away from log cookies, but this one is super easy if you have a tiny bit of patience & you're serious about chilling the dough.

1 batch sugar cookie dough
1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted
3-5 drops peppermint extract
3-4 candy canes, crushed

1. prepare sugar cookie dough, & separate dough in half.

2. mix melted chocolate into one half, & mix peppermint extract & crushed candy canes into the other half.

3. flatten both doughs into discs, wrap with plastic wrap, & chill for 1 hour.

4. roll both doughs out to 1/4" thick onto a flexible cutting board or plastic wrap. {i use plastic wrap.}

5. place peppermint dough sheet on top of chocolate dough sheet.

6. using mat or plastic wrap to help, roll both dough sheets together to create one large, long log. {make sure to roll long ways so your cookies aren't too fat!}

7. wrap log with plastic wrap, & chill 1-2 hours.

8. cut log into 1/4" slices, & place 2" apart on a cookie sheet with parchment {important!}. {you may need to slightly reshape each slice, especially on the flattened edge.}

9. bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

10. cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet. transfer cookies on parchment to wire rack to cool completely.


massey hot cocoa

this is my mom's famous recipe - made famous because it has traveled the country by everyone who has ever tasted it & begged for the recipe!

{in a regular mug with whipped cream}

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups water
1 can evaporated milk {NOT non-fat!}
2 cups milk or half 'n' half or heavy cream

1. mix together dry ingredients with water in a soup pot over medium heat until completely blended together {no more cocoa lumps}, & bring to a simmer.

2. add evaporated milk & regular milk. {we prefer half 'n' half to make it richer! and we've been known to make it with heavy cream...} heat through.

serve with mini marshmallows on top or whipped cream.

if you want to enjoy it the massey way, serve it in a soup mug so you get a bigger serving of chocolate & more surface area for marshmallows!


kielbasa mashed potatoes

this is my comfort food. and i need alot of comfort in the winter now that i live in the midwest! this has become a staple in the casteel cafe, & it's also a regular favorite comfort food of my sister's. i originally found the idea from a rachael ray cookbook, but my recipe below is now very different from its inspiration.

3 pounds red potatoes, chopped into 1" pieces
1 link kielbasa, sliced into half moons
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons milk or cream
salt & pepper
olive oil
1 red onion, sliced thin
1 bag baby spinach
2-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1. bring the potatoes to a boil in a large pot over high heat, & reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes or until cooked & tender.

2. saute the kielbasa in a skillet over medium-high heat until warmed through & crispy on the edges. drain on a paper towel, leaving at least 1 tablespoon grease in the skillet.

3. drain the potatoes, & mash with butter & milk to desired consistency {we like it more smashed than mashed, with some lumps left}. salt & pepper to taste.

4. saute the red onion in the kielbasa fat {use olive oil, if needed} until tender & carmelized.

5. add 1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. add spinach in bunches until wilted down into the onion & vinegar.

6. mix together the mashed potatoes, kielbasa, & onion/spinach mixture. add more red wine vinegar to taste.


pumpkin soup with apple salsa & cranberry sour cream

i saw this recipe in rachael ray's "big orange book" & thought it was such a unique combination of flavors that i had to try it! i was concerned that it could potentially be gross, so untrue to my usual m.o. i followed the recipe exactly. we loved it!

olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic gloves, minced
1 chipotle pepper, finely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 bottle negra modelo {or other mexican beer}
15 oz. can pumpkin puree
salt & pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2  pinches ground cinnamon
3 cups vegetable stock
15 oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed

1 green apple, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & minced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 lime, juiced

1/4 cup canned cranberry sauce
1/2 cup sour cream

torilla chips, lightly crushed

1. saute onion, garlic, & chipotle with olive oil in soup pot over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. add beer & boil until reduced by half for 2-3 minutes.

3. add pumpkin, salt & pepper, cumin, cinnamon, stock, & beans.

4. bring soup to a bubble, reduce the heat to low, & simmer for 10 minutes.

5. combine apple, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, & salt to make salsa.

6. stir together cranberry sauce & sour cream.

serve up soup in bowls with the apple salsa, the cranberry sour cream, & crushed tortilla chips.


pumpkin pancakes

1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. ginger
½ t. salt
1/8 t. nutmeg
pinch cloves
1 c. milk
6 T. pumpkin puree
2 T. melted butter
1 egg

1. Whisk together all dry ingredients. 

2. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients.

3. pour ¼ cup batter per pancake onto a griddle at medium heat.  cook 3 minutes per side.

yields 8-10 pancakes.

pumpkin gnocchi with pepita pesto cream sauce

source: danae original

i stumbled across pumpkin gnocchi at world market a couple weeks ago & knew i had to try it! i thought what better to make with it than something with pumpkin seeds?! [pepitas = shelled pumpkin seeds] so we made this recipe up tonight & loved it.

{pictured with italian bread & roasted veggies}

2 packages pumpkin gnocchi {regular is fine, too}
1 kielbasa link, sliced into thin half moons
olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 to 1 cup half 'n' half 
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup basil
1/2 to 1 cup roasted & salted pepitas
zest of 1 lemon

1. boil water. salt it. add gnocchi, & cook according to package directions.

2. saute kielbasa in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil until crispy on the edges.

3. using the same skillet & kielbasa drippings, add butter & melt. add flour, & whisk to create a roux.

4. add chicken stock & half 'n' half slowly until reach desired consistency.

5. add cheeses & grated nutmeg.

6. grind basil, pepitas, lemon zest, & olive oil in a food processor until reach desired consistency & flavor.

7. toss gnocchi, kielbasa, & cream sauce together. top each serving with a generous dollop of pepita pesto.


broiled salmon

i have no idea where i found this recipe idea, but it's been so long, i seriously doubt my version looks anything like the original anymore! make sure you use good-quality, fresh salmon for this.

1/2 - 1 pound salmon, cut into 2-4 pieces

     - 1/2 cup soy sauce {enough to coat bottom of a shallow dish}
     - 1/4 cup lemon juice {half as much as the soy sauce}
     - 1-2 tablespoons honey
     - salt {dash, pinch, whatever looks good to you}

1. marinate salmon for 30 minutes to 1 hour {you can do it longer if you like, but i don't recommend overnight}, turning at least one time.

2. space each piece evenly along a baking pan lined with foil.

3. broil 2-4 minutes per side {depending on the thickness of your filet - 4 minutes for 1" thick}.

the center should flake easily revealing fully cooked pink, & the edges get crispy & caramelized!

this pairs great with sweet potatoes & broccoli prepared your favorite way.

veggie patties

i tried this rachael ray recipe when i was doing the vegan thing {just for fun} back in april. shaun even liked it! we added it to our favorites to make even post-vegan days.

2 parsnips, peeled & grated
1 large carrot, peeled & grated
2 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
3 scallions, chopped
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg, beaten
salt & pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

1. combine all the ingredients except the oil in a bowl.

2. heat 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium heat. using about 1/2 the veggie mixture, drop 4 mounds of the mixture into the skillet, flattening each mound slightly to make a patty. cook 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. repeat with remaining mixture, adding more oil if necessary.

recommended to serve at room temperature.

butternut squash soup

we love this spicy take on an autumn staple. i'm always intrigued by any recipe that's super different, especially in pairing flavors you wouldn't always think of being good together. i got this recipe from southern living's 2003 cookbook {modified some, of course}.

olive oil
8 cups vegetable broth
1 medium to large butternut squash 
1/2 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
3 to 6 whole cloves
1 garlic bulb, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & minced
1 can diced tomatoes {i like fire roasted}
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon dragon salt
salt & pepper
6 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2" strips
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise, & scoop out the seeds. place cut side up in a microwaveable dish with ~1" water. microwave covered for 10-20 minutes until soft like a baked sweet potato.

2. toss tortilla strips on a pan with vegetable spray & coarse salt. bake at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes until crisp.

3. drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot over medium-high heat. saute onion until tender, about 5 minutes. add garlic & jalapeno, & saute for 1-2 minutes.

4. add broth, lime juice, sage, & cloves to onion mixture. reduce heat, & let simmer.

5. scoop cooked squash out of shell, & add to the pot. stir well to blend together.

6. add diced tomatoes, cilantro, dragon salt, & salt & pepper to taste. {do this right before serving, at least for the cilantro, so it keeps it bright green color & fresh taste.}

dragon salt
1/3 cup coarse salt
1/3 cup coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup cayenne pepper
1/4 cup dried dill
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon celery seeds



this is a seasonal favorite in the massey family. we drink it throughout the autumn, & we always drink it on christmas morning {&/or on whatever day we celebrate christmas together}. it's also a staple at "common ground" - the monthly coffeehouse we hold in our basement for our youth group. it's easy to make & reheats well, too!

1 part apple juice
1 part cranberry juice
1 part orange juice

{i buy 64 ounce containers of each juice & dump each entire container in to a large pot together.}

2 cinnamon sticks
6-8 whole cloves

{adjust the ratios of these if you use less juice in a smaller pot.}

1. pour juices together into a large pot.

2. add the whole spices.

3. simmer on low until piping hot. {you can do this on higher heats to make it quicker, but watch it so it doesn't boil over!}

4. remove the whole spices with a slotted spoon. {i actually don't bother.}

that's it - easy peasy!

taco soup

i got this recipe from my friend, danielle. she's a great cook & baker, & she has some really quick & easy recipes. i like this one because it's made primarily from your pantry!

1 pound ground beef
2-3 cans vegetables with liquid {i like corn, black beans, & green beans}
1 can diced tomatoes {i like fire-roasted}
1 can tomato sauce
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet ranch mix

1. brown & drain the ground beef. {if you can do this in the bottom of your soup pot, this is a one-dish recipe!}

2. add the canned vegetables/tomatoes.  add water or beef broth if you want a more liquid consistency. add more tomato sauce if you want a thicker consistency.

3. add the seasonings.

4. let simmer till warmed through & the flavors have melded together.

serve with shredded cheese, tortilla chips, & sour cream!


pot roast with carrots & potatoes

i don't use my slow cooker a whole lot, but it is the only way i make pot roast.  i've done dozens of variations on this recipe, & it's never come out bad!  i use a 6-quart slow cooker, but you can adjust the amounts to fit in whatever size you have.

2-4 pounds pot roast
5-6 small red potatoes, chopped into 1" pieces
1 pound baby carrots
1 onion, sliced thin {or 1 box lipton onion soup mix}
worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper
4-6 cups liquid {water, beef broth, coffee}

1. if your meat is frozen {which mine always is}, thaw it at least enough to be able to rub salt & pepper on it.  i generally put my roast in mostly frozen.

2. create a generous bed of potatoes & carrots {& onions, if desired} on the bottom of the slow cooker. leaving just enough room for your roast to sit in the middle.  salt & pepper them.

3. rub salt & pepper into your roast & set on top of the veggies.  {some recipes call for searing the outsides of the roast - i never do this & mine still comes out great, so it saves you time & a dirty pan!}

4. cover your roast with a generous sprinkling {about 1/4 cup} of worcestershire sauce {the one ingredient i never ever change}.  sprinkle on onion soup mix, if desired.

5. add liquid. usually, i use 1 cup coffee {don't know why, but it's good} & the rest water.  but i just made  it this week with only water, & you can also use beef broth instead.  use however much liquid it takes to cover the vegetables & half-way submerge the roast.

6. turn the slow cooker on.  cook on high heat for 3-4 hours if thawed, for 5-6 hours if frozen.  cook on low heat for approximately 2-3 hours longer.  i cook mine until it registers a temperature of 175F which is well-done, but it's never dry.  you can turn it down to "keep warm" until you're ready to serve it.


rustic vegetable tart

my friend olivia's favorite day of the year is october 1st because it symbolizes for her the beginning of autumn! every year, she enjoys various autumn rituals on this day, including an earthy fall-inspired meal with friends. my sister, vanessa, is rooming with olivia now & so got to share in this feast. she called me up for this recipe, & it was a hit along with olivia's pumpkin soup. it's great as an appetizer for several people or a meal for 2-4 people. {this recipe is not original to me, but it is - of course - modified. i *think* it's from rachael ray.}

olive oil
4 c. vegetables, chopped into 1/2" cubes
   - sweet potato
   - turnip
   - carrot
   - red onion
   - eggplant
   - parsnip
   - butternut squash
   - acorn squash
   - cauliflower
2-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped {optional}
1 t. dried rosemary {or other earthy herb of choice}
1/2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 9" pie crust {store-bought}

{i usually pick 4-5 veggies that look good in the store, & i mix & match the recipe each time i make it.}

1. mix together chopped vegetables with olive oil, garlic if desired, & the rosemary. coat thoroughly, & spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
2. roast vegetables at 350F for 30-35 minutes, turning once halfway through.
3. roll out pie crust - you can make this as one large tart or as several individual appetizers. one tart: place crust on baking sheet. smaller servings: cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter, & place each one in a muffin tin.
4. pour vegetables into the center of the tart(s), leaving a 1" border for the large tart. sprinkle with crumbled feta, & fold edges over the vegetable mixture.
5. bake tart(s) according to pie crust directions.

serve large tart for dinner with a wilted lettuce salad or a serving of roasted meat. serve appetizers along side any hearty meal - especially great with soups!


black bean stoup

this is quick & easy, made with mostly pantry staples!
{the recipe is modified from a rachael ray cookbook.}

olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & diced
1/2 red pepper, seeded & chopped
3 celery ribs, diced
1 dried bay leaf
1 can corn kernels, drained
2 cans black beans {do not drain!}
2 T. ground cumin
2 t. ground coriander
2-4 c. vegetable stock
chipotle tabasco, to taste {optional}
salt & pepper, to taste

1. heat a soup pot over medium-high heat with a coating of olive oil.
2. add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, red pepper, celery, & bay leaf to the pot. cook until tender.
3. add corn & black beans, along with cumin & coriander. warm through.
4. add 2-4 cups of vegetable stock to desired consistency. {we like it with less liquid.} add hot sauce plus salt & pepper, to taste.
5. turn down heat to medium or low, & simmer until ready to eat {10-20 minutes}.

serve with grilled cheese sandwiches!