Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

Welcome to my world!

Search for Recipes & More!

Subscribe via Email:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Still Hungry?
my foodgawker gallery
Search for Recipes & More!


Subscribe to TAA by Email!

Delivered by FeedBurner


Follow the Food

The Pantry

Entries in cookbook challenge (4)


Springtime Cupcakes + Cookbook Challenge Link Up

I learned something really important over the four day weekend.

Four day weekends rule!

I feel like I accomplished so much this weekend...a desk detox, wardrobe detox and reorg, lots of family time, some friend time, some gym time...and I feelrefreshed today and ready for the week. Can every weekend be 4 days?!


So for Easter Sunday, I went with an old standard for dessert...cupcakes! My original plan was to make a cake, however, for any party, I always love bringing desserts that are easily distributed. No cutting involved, just grab a cupcake and go. Not to mention that I could make a whole bunch and bring some to Shaun's parents and some to my aunt's house. It's really a win all around.


I didn't get crazy with flavors here. I went with a classic chocolate cake and my newly perfected vanilla buttercream. I decided to try out a recipe from my Southern Living Cookbook (thanks Aunt Chet!)...and kill two birds with one stone since this also fulfills part of my Cookbook Challenge!


The cake was incredibly easy to make and came together in a snap. I really liked these cupcakes. For me, the could have been a little more chocolatey (perhaps a little espresso powder in them next time?), but overall, they were moist with a little crumbliness and they set up with a little chewy crust on top. I liked that part :) Lastly, I simply dyed some buttercream with Wilton Violet food coloring and topped them with springy non-pareils.

Springtime Cupcakes

Yields 3 dozen cupcakes
for the cupcakes:
*Adapted from Southern Living's Basic Chocolate Cake
1/2 C shortening
2 C sugar
2 large eggs
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped & melted
2 1/4 C cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 C buttermilk
3/4 C water
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

for the vanilla buttercream:
*Adapted from my Giants Superbowl cupcakes
1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
4 C confectioners sugar
3 - 4 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 - 4 toothpicks of Wilton violet food coloring gel

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 3 muffin tins with paper liners.

In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the shortening unil fluffy, gradually adding the sugar. Beat well and add the eggs one at a time, until completely combined. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the microwave. Cool for a few seconds and add to the egg mixture, mixing well.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this to the chocolate mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk but ending with the flour. Mix on low until all are completely combined. Mix in the water on low and then stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the batter into the lined muffin tins. I used a medium cookie scoop for the perfect amount (Note: not a heaping scoop...just a plain old scoop will be plenty). Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

Once cooled, make the frosting.

Beat the butter until fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar, one cup at a time until combined and fluffy, adding milk as necessary to thin it out. Mixer should be on medium-high speed. Mix in vanilla. Add food coloring to your desired color and beat until gorgeously purple. Frost cupcakes and top with sprinkles.

Eat many, immediately.


So that was my big baking item this weekend. Pretty, no? I was really happy with how these turned out, though, as usual, my frosting skills could really use a little sharpening :)

Questions of the Day:

What did you eat/make over the holiday weekend?

What's your favorite kind of cupcake? My favorite combination is always chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream!


Cookbook Challenge: Spaghetti, Turkey & Spinach Casserole

A few weeks ago, I started the Cookbook Challenge.

I haven't really given you an update on how it's been going!

I haven't really been keeping up with the once a week thing, but I have been trying to use my cookbooks more. I actually made a recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook that wasn't so great, so I ended up rewriting it...that recipe to come!

Meanwhile, this past week, I decided to make a dish from The Deen Bros. Y'all Come Eat. I really love this book. It's comfort food with a twist and decidedly much less unhealthy that the Queen Deen herself. I actually found a few recipes from this book that I can't wait to try. Not to mention that I actually own a signed copy, a gift from right before Shaun and I were married.


I had wanted to find a recipe that would make a large dish that would last for a number of days. What can I say? Sometimes I'm just lazy like that. When I found the recipe for Mama's Spaghetti Casserole, I knew I found something delicious that I could healthify and keep us fed for a few days time.


With my healthy edits, this recipe is only 7 Pts+ per serving!

Spaghetti, Turkey & Spinach Casserole
*Adapted from the Deen Bros. Y'all Come Eat
Makes 8 servings; 7 pts+ per serving

1 lb. uncooked whole wheat spaghetti
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed & drained
1 26 oz. jar tomato sauce, kind of your choice
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, grated
1 C reduced fat mozzarella cheese, shredded

Prepare the spaghetti according to package directions.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown ground turkey in a skillet set over medium heat. Season with salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Break up the meat as it cooks.

Drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the spinach and Parmesean. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and add to bowl. Pour in tomato sauce and mix well, but gently, with a rubber spatula. Pour into a baking dish that has been greased with cooking spray. Bake for about 20 - 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the edges are browned. Cut into squares and serve!


We really enjoyed this dish. You can even made some extra sauce on the side for serving. I didn't think it necessarily needed it, but I can never really get enough sauce!

Questions of the Day:

Have you tackled any cookbook challenges lately?

What's the last thing you made?


for more Cookbook Challenge recipes, check out my Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney.


psst...It's link day on The Peach & The Pit!! Cute puppies, sloths, Walkers and more!


Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney

Last night, I came home to a nice surprise...Shaun had picked up a Giants Superbowl tee for me! I immediately put it on! He's a keeper, that one.


We proceeded to make dinner together, watch a few eps of Sons of Anarchy and then we flicked on the Puppy Bowl, which we had DVR'd from Sunday night. Have you guys ever seen it? It's a fake Superbowl for puppies on Animal Planet. It airs at the same time as the Superbowl and essentially it includes sweet little puppies running around, chasing each other. Yeah, it's pretty awesome.


For dinner last night, we decided to tackle our first cookbook challenge! The first book on the list: Williams-Sonoma Wine & Food.


This is such a beautiful book and was gifted to me by Lindsey a number of years ago. I'm ashamed to admit that I have really not given it the attention it deserves. It's one of those books that kind of intimidated me because it's so pretty and sophisticated. I'm so happy that we finally took the plunge.


I selected a pork tenderloin with apple and onion compote. I have actually never made a pork loin before since Shaun was of the non-pork eating variety, until very recently. It also had a fairly short cooking time. So when I saw this recipe, I knew it had to be on the list.


The verdict? It was SO delicious! And incredibly easy. Ok, Shaun actually did most of the cooking. But it looked incredibly easy.

The pork tenderloin was tender with a light crispness on the outside and the apple and onion compote added some sweetness and made the meal just a little special. This is one for the permanent collection! Though this book is very helpful in terms of wine pairings and the like, we actually went wine-free. However, the book recommends a Pinot Gris or a Pinot Noir as a pairing.

Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney

*Adapted from Williams Sonoma Wine + Food

**7 Weight Watchers Points+ per serving

for the pork:

1 pork tenderloin, about 1-1 1/2 lbs
kosher salt
black pepper
2 Tbsp apple jelly
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

for the apple chutney:

2 Tbsp unsalted butter or margarine
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced or diced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and diced
1/3 C golden raisins
2 Tbsp apple jelly
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 C white wine or low sodium chicken broth (I used the latter)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Use a roasting pan or line a baking sheet with foil and set an oven-safe wire rack over it. Place your pork loin on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, whisk together the apple jelly and mustard. Brush the pork all over with the mixture. Roast about 30-35 minutes, or until the inside is pale pink and a probe thermometer reads 145-150 degrees. Remove from oven, cover with foil for 10 minutes.

While the pork is roasting, make the chutney. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter or margarine and saute the onions about 8 minutes. Add the apples, raisins, apple jelly, ginger, mustard and stir to combine. Pour in the wine or chicken stock, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer. Stir occasionally until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes.

To serve, slice the tenderloins into thin slices and serve with the apple chutney.


The original recipe called for 2 tenderloins, but for just the two of us, we didn't need more than one. With one loin, we will get about 4 light servings out of it. Perfect for lunch today!

We enjoyed some couscous on the side. Probably should have gotten some greens in there. Oh well...next time!

So there you have it. My first cookbook challenge was a success!

Questions of the Day:

Did you watch the Puppy Bowl?

What seemingly common ingredients are out of your comfort zone?