Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins- Thank You Sally!

Ok: Apparently I have been living under a rock for the past year or so, but I recently discovered two websites that I am pretty much now obsessed with.  Those would be Pinterest and Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Just to clear things up, it’s not that I hadn’t heard of Pinterest, I just didn’t explore it or understand what it’s purpose was exactly.  Maybe I really am getting old, but between blogs, facebook, twitter, and instagram, I didn’t really want to sit and learn how to use another form of social media.

I guess my secret is out, I am obviously 80 years old.

Anyways, I am now not only on Pinterest but constantly on Pinterest.  The website has already inspired two of my meals for later this week, so stay tuned.

Now let’s talk about Sally.  Have you guys visited her blog, Sally’s Baking Addiction?  Holy cow.  Sprinkles, cookies, cupcakes, muffins galore.  Honestly, I don’t even like to bake.  I have always preferred cooking over baking because I feel I am better able to create something unique that I cannot simply purchase by cooking instead of baking. Also, I have always felt it is rather easy to tweak meals and make them healthier but that is much harder to do with baking.  Well, Sally and her blog have pretty much inspired me to bake (or in better terms, follow her recipes step by step).

Ironically, I stumbled upon Sally’s blog during the peak of my “trying to eat super healthy for vacation” phase.  However, while perusing her blog, I noticed one of her most recent posts for ‘skinny double chocolate chip muffins’.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Now, normally I am just as skeptical of ‘skinny’ desserts as the next woman, but for some reason I trusted Sally.  Her plethora of drool-worthy photography and shared love of sprinkles made me think she knew what she was doing.  So, I ventured into the baking world with these delicious, gooey, healthy muffins.

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Sally’s Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction                         Yield: 12 delicious muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large egg whites (or 1 large egg)
  • 3/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt, plain or vanilla)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, plus a few more for sprinkling on top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray. Do not use liners.
  2. In a large bowl, combine applesauce, sugar, honey, egg whites, greek yogurt, and vanilla extract. Whisk them all together until smooth, with no yogurt lumps remaining.
  3. Sift* the flours, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together. Slowly stir in the wet ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Get any dry pockets of flour out. Fold in the mini chocolate chips. The batter will be a little chunky. This is ok.
  4. Divide the batter evenly amount 12 liners – fill them all the way to the top if you can. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F. Keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the temperature down to 375 and continue to bake for 13 more minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center of one muffin. If it comes out clean, they are done. If not, bake for only 2 more minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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The Verdict?

I absolutely loved these muffins.  I thought they were chocolatey, gooey, moist, and flavorful.  In my opinion, they don’t taste like anything has been sacrificed in making them lighter.  In fact, I have been craving a muffin for about two months now, and I can honestly say that these satisfied that craving.

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But….

I must mention that my boyfriend, for whatever credit this may hold, was not a fan of these muffins.  He doesn’t know why.  He can’t explain it.  He simply felt that there was a taste of sorts he didn’t like.  Luckily, these freeze well.  More for me.

I strongly recommend making these muffins.  They are delicious, health(ier), and super easy to make.  Some fun twists could be using peanut butter chocolate chips instead, or mixing some strawberries in the batter.

Do you guys prefer baking “healthier” recipes or do you subscribe to the notion that baking is meant to be pure fattening deliciousness?  

What are your favorite things to bake?

Do you prefer cooking, baking, or are you awesome at both?

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Creamy Tomato Soup with Focaccia Croutons

The other night was just one of those days: rainy, cold, and dismal outside.  The weather was perfect for wearing pajamas at 5pm, cuddling with pets &/ significant others, and of course: making soup!

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I noticed on the Two Peas & Their Pod blog a recipe was posted for a healthier creamy tomato orzo soup, and I was immediately intrigued.  Especially because we had 1/2 loaf tomato basil focaccia bread left over that was way past its prime and destined to be made into croutons.

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I made this soup, with only two changes, and I was very impressed.  The creaminess comes from greek yogurt so it is actually a very healthy soup.  I highly encourage anyone who loves creamy tomato soup but hates the idea of slurping up 50% saturated fat in one bowel to try this recipe!

Creamy Tomato Soup with Focaccia Croutons

From: Two Peas and Their Pod Blog

Yield: 4 bowls

You Will Need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-15 ounce cans diced tomatoes *
  • 1-15 ounce can vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil *
  • Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (we use Chobani)
  • 1 cup cooked Orzo pasta *
  • 1/2 loaf of stale focaccia bread for croutons (my addition, HIGHLY recommended)

* I used no salt added diced tomatoes and added my salt per our taste.  I did need to add a lot of salt to achieve a good flavor, but I still feel I added less than what would be in the regular sodium cans.

* I believe you could up the fresh basil a tad, maybe add in an extra  1 TBS.

* I substituted ALPHABET pasta instead of of orzo.  No, I don’t have a five year old.  I am just a kid at heart and the sight of this in the grocery store pretty much made my day.

Lastly, my own addition that pretty much MADE this soup amazing was the hommemade focaccia croutons.  See below for how to make these.

Now for the recipe:

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bay leaves.

2. Add the tomatoes and vegetable broth. Stir in the brown sugar and fresh basil. Season with red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, to taste. Simmer on low for 15 minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaves from the pot. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup (or blend the soup in a standing blender and return to the pot). Stir in the Greek yogurt until well combined. Stir in the orzo pasta (or alphabets). Serve warm.

And for the highly encouraged, totally worth it, absolutely delicious add in….

Tomato Basil Focaccia Croutons

Like I mentioned, I had an extra 1/2 loaf of focaccia bread left over from making my roasted eggplant and tomato sandwiches, and it was getting very stale.  I made croutons out of the bread by simply cutting it up into thick cubes, combining with 1 TBS + 1 tsp olive oil, and sprinkling with a little salt (about 1/2 tsp).

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I then baked these beauties for about 10 minutes until they were nice and crispy.  I stored them in an air-tight container until dinner time when they met their fate by drowning in a bowel of creamy tomato soup.

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The next time you are craving a creamy, healthy, comforting soup, I definitely recommend you give this recipe a try.  I highly encourage the use of alphabets instead of orzo, because let’s face it: childhood favorite > random pasta that looks like rice ;)

And if you have a little extra time, whip up some homemade croutons for dunking.  You can never go wrong by adding more carbs!

What are your favorite healthy soup recipes?

Boyfriend-Approved Meatless Monday Recipe: Emeril’s Spicy Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

The Challenge: introducing Meatless Monday to a meat-loving boyfriend.

I have recently been loving the idea of Meatless Monday, as it forces me to be creative in the kitchen.  My boyfriend, however, is a hard core meat lover.  I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the TV show Parks and Rec, but my boyfriend shares the same food attitude as Ron Swanson.  Anyway, the point being that Meatless Monday is something I kind of slowly snuck into his diet without him knowing.  I simply prepare a delicious meal on Mondays, don’t use the word meatless around him, and we are good to go.  The challenge here is that the meal has to be really tasty, otherwise my cover will be revealed!

Homemade sauces are an easy and healthy way to be meatless, which is boyfriend approved because the meal is so filling once combined with pasta.

I loved the caramelized onion and cherry tomato sauce I made last week, but I wanted to try something a little different.  I got this recipe from the Food Network website, and we really loved it.  So, I wanted to share the recipe and my thoughts/tidbits with you.

I apologize for the poor photo quality.  This sauce was not oily or glistening as the picture makes it seem.  I think it may be time to start saving money for a good camera…

Spicy Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

Spicy Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

You Will Need:

1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole Italian plum tomatoes, with their juices
3 whole heads roasted garlic [see “How To” note below], cloves removed from peels

How To Roast Garlic

Roasting garlic is a very easy, albeit time consuming, cooking skill.  I had actually never done this before, but I was only one google search away from mastering the skill.

Rather than confuse you with a lengthy step-by-step, I highly recommend that you watch this video.

Emeril’s (Spicy) Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce Recipe:

[Yield: enough sauce to top about 3-4 pasta meals]

time: 1 hour 30 minutes + 30-40 minutes for roasting garlic

  1. In a large saucepan saute the onion in the olive oil over medium-high heat until soft and lightly golden, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the tomato paste, salt, balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, and basil, and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you place them in the pan, and their juices. [Note: do not add the actual tomato juice that the tomatoes are canned in!]
  5. Stir to combine well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the roasted garlic cloves and stir to combine. Continue to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes longer, or until the flavors have come together.
  7. Serve over pasta and enjoy!

My Thoughts & Tidbits

  • This sauce has kick to it!!  We were pretty surprised by how spicy it was, and we like spicy things.  I feel that the hotness of the red pepper flakes and the hot sauce overpowered the roasted garlic taste.  Next time I plan on reducing (or maybe even omitting) the red pepper flakes and adding 1-2 extra cloves of garlic.
  • The spiciness of the sauce did die down when it was re-heated for leftovers the next day.  The sauce was delicious this way, as all of the flavors came together perfectly.
  • This sauce pairs very nicely with whole wheat pasta.  I feel like some sauces are not powerful enough to mask the sometimes cardboard-y taste of WW pasta, but this one does the trick.  So go ahead, make it healthy and use the good-for-you stuff.
  • Note that the roasted garlic portion is 3 heads, not 3 cloves.  Yes, this is a lot of garlic!  Yes, you do need it all!
  • As previously noted, crush the tomatoes and their juices for the sauce, but do not add the actual juices that the tomatoes are canned in.
  • This sauce would taste amazing with some spicy chicken sausage in it.  Next time I make this without a vegetarian meal in mind, that is definitely what I will add!
  • This recipe is a bit time consuming between roasting the garlic and the steps in which the sauce simmers.  However, you are not actively engaged for much of this recipe.

This sauce was fantastic!  It is healthy, flavorful, versatile, and inexpensive.  This is a great base recipe for vegetarians, meat lovers, boyfriends, and even kids.  Next time you need an easy yet hearty meal, try this fresh, homemade tomato sauce!

Fried Mac n Cheese: What Heaven Tastes Like

I wouldn’t normally be one to blog about a dish from a run-of-the-mill chain restaurant such as the Cheesecake Factory, but I have the itch to blog and this appetizer was a-maz-ing.

What brought us into the Cheesecake Factory in the first place was the fact that we had a $75 gift certificate from the holidays to use and a free slice of cheesecake (admit it- their cheesecake is to die for).

Fried Mac n Cheese

Fried Mac n Cheese

We started off with this fried mac and cheese appetizer that was seriously delicious.  The fried portion was perfectly crispy and seasoned, and the inside was ooey and gooey macaroni and cheese.  Not questionable cheese filling with a piece of pasta, but actual macaroni and cheese that would have been awesome on its own.  Equally as delectable was the sauce served on the bottom of the plate.  The best way to describe the sauce is creamy tomato sauce meets romesco sauce.

Our entrees were ok but nothing to write home about.  Our cheesecake of choice was the Oreo cheesecake which is not pictured because it wasn’t around long enough to capture a photograph :)

I highly recommend that the next time you are in the mood for a drinks and appetizer type night with your friends or hunny, hit up the Cheesecake Factory and order t0 this fried Mac and Cheese.  We have $10 left on our gift card (don’t you love it when that happens),and our plans literally include a return trip for Fried Mac n Cheese and wine.  And maybe cheesecake…

We all know that chain restaurants are not quite as exciting as home cooked meals or fancy dinners out, or even hole-in-the-wall foodie finds, but sometimes we just end up at one of these places for a meal and are pleasantly surprised.  Similar story? Share!

Giada’s Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies

Not that you should ever need a reason to bake delicious cookies, but I’ll give you some anyway in case the wanna-be-good side of you needs a little convincing.

  1. It’s Friday, and weekend calories don’t count
  2. Its February and you have a whole month to burn these off
  3. It’s the weekend of Superbowl Sunday, and these would be the perfect sweet and unexpected addition to a party, plus you can pawn some off on your friends to eat.  Assuming there are any left by Sunday, of course.

I made these cookies a while ago, before I started blogging, so I apologize for the lack of photo quality.  Not that my usual iPhone/Instagram photos are so professional, but at least they focus on the food more than this.

Chocolate chip hazelnut and toffee cookies

Chocolate chip hazelnut and toffee cookies

These cookies have everything you love about chocolate chip cookies, but the addition of hazelnuts and toffee adds an unexpected yet totally pleasant pop of taste that makes them extra special.  They are simple enough to please picky eaters but different enough to not be your same old boring chocolate chip cookie.

The recipe is from Giada Di Laurentiis, and I got it at the Food Network Website.  Recipe is as follows:

You Will Need

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (such as Quaker)
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed, light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 oz. toffee candy bits, finely chopped (I used Heaths)
  • 1 12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (spring for the good stuff, such as Ghiradelli, it makes a difference)
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, and chopped (see below for how to husk them)

How to Husk Hazelnuts

Don’t worry- this is something I had no idea how to do at first.  To save you a google search, this is all you need to do:  Toast the hazelnuts in a toaster oven or regular oven (on 300 deg.) until they are toasted but not burnt.  You will begin to smell a toasted-nut aroma when they are ready.  They should not look black.  It is better to under-toast them than to over-toast them.  This should not take longer than 5 minutes.  Then, sandwich the nuts in between a clean dish towel, and rub lightly back and forth.  The husks should naturally begin to shred.  When all of the husks are removed, chop the hazelnuts.  This is the most tedious part of the recipe, but so worth it!

Step-by-Step

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper
  3. In a medium bowel, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  4. Place the oats in a food processor, chop finely, then add them to the medium bowl with the rest of the dry ingredients
  5. Beat together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar in an electric mixer or large bowl (I do not have an electric mixer and did this step by hand no problem)
  6. Beat in the eggs and vanilla to the butter/sugar mixture, and then add the flour.  Stir until all ingredients are evenly mixed, but not any more than necessary
  7. Fold in the toffee, hazelnuts, and chocolate chips, and mix until evenly disbursed.
  8. Form the dough into balls, about 1 TBS in size, and place them on the lined cookie sheets about 1 inch apart
  9. Bake until the cookies are just turning golden, for about 15 minutes.  Remove and cool.

My Tips & Tidbits on this Recipe:

The hazelnuts are a bit of a burden, but totally necessary for the optimum flavor of these cookies.  The husking and chopping is not as bad as it sounds, I promise!  The process is a bit messy, but easy to clean.  I strongly urge you to not substitute another type of nut or skip the nuts all together.

Use the full amount of goodies (i.e. chocolate chips and toffee).  The second time I made these, I left out some of the chocolate chips because it looked like overkill.  Lesson learned: there is no such thing as overkill with chocolate chips.  The recipe was perfect the way it was, and each and every morsel of goodness is needed!

I highly encourage you to make these cookies.  Like I said, they will please picky eaters and sophisticated taste buds alike.  Enjoy and let me know how you like them :)

Practically The Weekend

In my book, Thursday night is practically the weekend.  Which means it is the perfect time to justify having some delicious cupcakes (if you are the type that needs to justify it).

I don’t know about you guys, but this was one of those weeks that dragged on forever.  I have a big presentation to give tomorrow for my current rotation, and I may or may not have spent a little too much time cooking, drinking wine, and watching reality TV last week instead.  Either way, once the presentation is over tomorrow I can officially cross rotation #7/9 off my list.  That is another reason (still assuming we need one) to have some cupcakes!

(L): red velvet with buttercream frosting (R): vanilla with buttercream frosting

(L): red velvet with buttercream frosting (R): vanilla with buttercream frosting

These cupcakes are from Misha’s Cupcakes in Miami, FL.  There are about 4 store locations total, but the cupcakes can also be found at various locations such as the Nordstrom Cafe (Dadeland Mall location) and the University of Miami.

These are by far the best cupcakes ever.  I have tried Georgetown Cupcakes, Crumbs, and many others, and it is not even close.  My absolute favorite is the red velvet but the vanilla comes in a very close second.  The red velvet has the tiniest hint of chocolate chips that just adds the perfect touch.  These cupcakes are beyond moist and incredibly flavorful.  What sets these cupcakes apart from others is the fact that the cake, not the frosting, is the best part.  And that is not to say that the frosting isn’t absolutely delicious, but the cake is what steals the show.

Ryan and I recently got into a very heated debate with friends about cupcakes.  Our friends believe that the cake component to these cupcakes are too heavy and “muffin-like”.  They prefer a lighter, more airy cupcake with whipped-type frosting.  Now, call me crazy, but I disagree.  I want my cupcakes to  live up to their name and be round, scrumptious pieces of cake with more delicious frosting on top.  Feel free to weigh in on this debate.

For those of you in the South Florida area, you need to make a trip to Mishas ASAP (as in tomorrow) and try these cupcakes.  For those of you not in South Florida, I’m sorry.  Luckily for you, South Florida is a pretty nice vacation destination and if the beaches don’t do it for you, these cupcakes will :)

Now, if you assumed that because I am blogging I am done with my presentation for tomorrow, you are incorrect.  I am blogging because I am not done with it.  I think I have officially exhausted my procrastination options and have no choice but to be productive.

Happy almost Friday everyone!  Was this week as long for you as it was for me?  I would love to know: where was the best cupcake you ever had?  

 

Fresh and Easy: Tomato, Garlic, & Caramelized Onions Over Pasta

Monday night, despite an impending and untouched presentation I have due soon, I was in the mood to cook.  I wanted a meal that was 1) meatless (still loving meatless monday), 2) not complicated, and 3) healthy.

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Fresh cherry tomato, caramelized onions, and garlic sauce over pasta

Enter this recipe idea from Cristin’s RDealistic Diet Blog: a fresh cherry tomato, caramelized onion, and garlic sauce over pasta. I actually walked into the grocery store planning on making a different sauce recipe, but saw these gorgeous looking cherry tomatoes and knew I had to make use of them.

I followed her steps for the basic sauce and then spiced it up a little at the end.

What You Will Need

MIA: balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Missing in Action: balsamic vinegar and olive oil

  • Two containers of delicious, sweet cherry tomatoes
  • One large vidalia onion, cut into rings or slices
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO, divided
  • Balsamic Vinegar (optional)
  • Chopped, fresh herbs (optional), I used thyme and rosemary
  • Cooked pasta, cooked according to package directions

Step 1:  Caramelize the onion

Cut one large Vidalia onion into rings or slices.  Place onion pieces into a pan that has been coated with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (or butter) and heated over low-medium heat.  Stir onions around pan to coat evenly with oil or butter.  Reduce heat to low and let onions simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until they are in a caramelized state. You can add about 1 tsp. brown sugar during the cooking process to help with the caramelizing but this step is not required.

Beginning

Beginning

Finished

Finished

Note- this is the longest part of cooking this meal, but you do not have to stand over the stove the entire time the onions caramelize.  Check in on them every now and then, give them a nice stir, and go about your business.  You will know they are finished when they are extremely soft and browning.

Step 2: Simmer the tomatoes

In a large, deep saucepan (I used the one the onions were caramelizing in) heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  (Note- if using the same pan as the onions were in, it will already be very hot.  Heat your oil over low instead, otherwise it will spritz up as well as burn the tomatoes).  Add your two containers of washed cherry tomatoes, and turn so the oil coats them all evenly. Adjust the heat between low and medium.  They should be hot and cooking, but not sizzling too high.

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Step 3:  Adding in the Goodies

This sauce can cook for any from 15-25 minutes, depending on how chunky or cooked down  you want the tomatoes in the sauce.  Either way, after 10 minutes of cooking the tomatoes, add all your chopped, fresh garlic.  At this point,

  • If you want a chunkier, thicker sauce with more whole tomatoes: let the tomatoes and garlic cook on low/medium heat for 5 minutes, turning now and then.
  • If you want a thinner sauce with the tomatoes shed from their skins: cook the garlic/tomatoes for up to 25 minutes, or until it is at your desired consistency.  Stir the mixture every five minutes or so.

During the last 5 minutes of your determined cooking time, add your caramelized onions.  Then, some optional (highly recommended) add- ins include:

  • About 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp fresh, chopped thyme or basil
  • 1-2 tsp fresh, chopped rosemary
  • Chicken sausage

I went with balsamic vinegar, thyme and rosemary, and it was the perfect, fresh combination.

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Step 5: Scoop over pasta and enjoy

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I served this alongside some Alexia baked mushrooms and roasted brussel sprouts (both not pictured).  This dinner was a huge success!  The progress on my project due soon?  Not so much..

I am loving the idea of homemade sauces and would love to know your favorite recipes!