Key West


Following the drive down the Florida Keys, we stayed overnight in Key West at Papa’s Hideaway. I managed to research and book this bed and breakfast less than 24 hours in advance. Most inns have a minimum night stay, or bust the budget for us poor college students, but Papa’s Hideaway was a hidden, and economical, gem. Located just a few blocks from the busy section of Duval St, and within walking distance to the Southernmost Point, the bed and breakfast gave us refuge from the noise without lacking any Key West charm. Breakfast was simple–nothing homemade, simply boxed cereal, bagels, or toast. However, that was all we needed.


Wandering the city on foot is the best way to view the city, both in terms of people-watching and architecture. Despite eating breakfast at Papa’s Hideaway, we snuck in another meal at the Six Toed Cat Café.


No Key West trip is complete without a slice of Key Lime Pie:


On our way back up the Keys, we serendipitously happened upon this:


We reached Key Largo just in time to catch yet another beautiful sunset:


Drivin’ the Keys

Please excuse my tardiness in posting. I was driving down the Florida Keys this past week:


And if you know me well, you know that the first thing I do when traveling is research where to eat.

Cue: Sparky’s Landing, in Key Colony Beach, at US 1 mile marker 53.5.


The mojitos were fresh, but the conch fritters stole the show:


Fried shrimp, a fish sandwich, and grilled shrimp salad were also enjoyable, and a fitting welcome to the Florida Keys:


Of course, before we sat down to eat, we had to make a pitstop at Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada at US1 mile marker 77.5. Whether ecologically-sound or not, feeding tarpon and getting attacked by pelicans was the most entertaining $2 of my life:


After a long morning of eating, and watching tarpon eat, it was time to take a nap at Bahia Honda State Park. Despite being too windy to snorkel, it provided a great spot to rest in the sun:


We arrived in Key West just in time for the perfect finale to our day:


Sweet Rosemary Sesame Pecans


I made these Sweet Rosemary Sesame Pecans as a Christmas gift this year. Addicting, sweet, salty, and savory, these were devoured within minutes. I might have to start a new holiday tradition with this recipe. The best part is that this snack is whipped up in a matter of minutes. Keep a watchful eye when toasting the pecans, since the sesame seeds cook up quickly.

Sweet Rosemary Sesame Pecans

Adapted from YumSugar

1 cup demerara sugar

1 tbs sea salt or kosher salt

1 tbs minced fresh rosemary

1/4 cup sesame seeds

2 egg whites

1 lb pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a bowl, mix sugar, salt, rosemary, and sesame seeds. 

In a separate large bowl, whisk egg whites until just frothy, then add the pecans. Toss to coat. 

Add the herb mixture to the pecans. Toss to coat.

Spread nuts on baking sheets in an even layer. Bake 20-25 minutes, until toasted and the coating is hard. 


Milk Chocolate Pistachio Cookies


I know what you are thinking: another cookie recipe?

What if I told you that these Milk Chocolate Pistachio Cookies are filled with melty chocolate chunks and hearty pistachio pieces, with a slight chew and a slight crunch?

Is your mouth watering yet?

 I created these treats as a way to use up a Santa-shaped solid piece of Godiva chocolate–repurposing of gifts at its finest. You can use any type of chocolate, from chips to chunks, from semi-sweet to dark. Of course, milk chocolate has a much lower melting point than darker chocolate, leaving melted streaks of chocolate throughout my version of the cookie. I’m not complaining.


Milk Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Adapted from Martha Stewart 

Makes 18-22 cookies

1 1/8 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

3/4 cup chocolate chunks

1/2 cup shelled pistachios, unsalted and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In small bowl, mix flour and baking soda.

In separate, larger bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, and butter. With a mixer, beat until fluffy. Reduce speed and add salt, vanilla, and egg. Beat for one additional minute. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture. Mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. 

Drop tablespoonfuls of dough on prepared cookie sheets, spaced 2″ apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges are slightly golden. Let cool on tray for 2 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. 


Ginger Spice Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks


I’ve always shied away from making spice cookies mostly because my uncle is famous in our family for his version. His are of the gingersnap variety, i.e. crunchy. This recipe, Ginger Spice Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks, is not crunchy, and thus I don’t feel like I’m invading on my uncle’s cookie celebrity.


In fact, these cookies are chewy and moist, thanks to the applesauce and molasses. What is most unbelievable is that, before adding the white chocolate, these cookies are free of fat. Sugar, on the other hand, is plentiful. But what’s the holiday season without a little sweetness? Store these in an airtight container–the cookies get chewier with time.


Ginger Spice Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks

Adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes 18-24 cookies

1 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened

1/3 cup molasses

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp dried ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1/4 tsp sea salt

2 large egg whites, room temperature

1 4oz. white chocolate baking bar [I used Ghiradelli], chopped

1/2 cup sugar [I used brown] + pinch of cinnamon, for rolling cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie trays with parchment paper.

In a large bowl with electric mixer, mix brown sugar, applesauce and molasses for 5 minutes. 

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, spices, soda, and salt. 

Add egg whites to wet mixture, beat for 1 minute. At lowest mixer speed, add dry ingredients to wet mixture. Once incorporated, mix for 1 more minute. Stir in white chocolate chunks.

Chill dough in freezer for 15 minutes, or in refrigerator for longer, even overnight.  

In a shallow dish, mix sugar with cinnamon. By the tablespoonful, roll dough into balls and roll in sugar mixture. Place on sheet, with room to spread. Bake for 13 minutes. Let cool for 1 minute on sheet, then place on cooling racks.


Hearty Vegetarian Chili


Winter is depressing; this chili is not.


A warm bowl of Hearty Vegetarian Chili is the perfect solution for a winter meal. Besides the chopping of vegetables, this chili comes together in no time. The recipe makes several servings, but let it be known that the leftovers are just as good as the freshly made still-in-the-pot chili. If you can’t find fire roasted diced tomatoes, regular canned diced tomatoes are a fine substitute. If jalapeños aren’t your thing, choose another pepper with less heat (or more!). For a complete meal, top with cilantro and sour cream, or shredded cheese.


Hearty Vegetarian Chili

Adapted from Betty Crocker

1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped

2 15oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed

2 14.5oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

1 1/2 cups water

1 tbs chili powder [I used Hot Mexican chili powder]

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup frozen corn

In a stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, garlic, and jalapeños. Cook 5-7 minutes until tender, stirring frequently.

Mix in black beans, tomatoes, water, chili powder, cumin and salt; heat until boiling. Reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn and heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 more minutes. 


Brownie Mix Cookies


What a delicious problem to have: too much brownie mix. These Brownie Mix Cookies are perhaps the best way to solve such an “unfortunate” problem. If you are in need of a last minute cookie to bring to a holiday party, or you want to change up your brownie routine, these cookies are an easy and tasty solution. The result is a moist, chewy and yet sturdy cookie. Perfect for traveling or shipping, perfect with a tall glass of milk, perfect out of the oven or perfect a day later.


Brownie Mix Cookies

Adapted from I Take Joy

Makes 18-22 cookies

1 box brownie mix [I used Ghiradelli Triple Chip]

3 tbs flour

2 eggs

1/3 cup oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets. with parchment paper.

In large bowl, mix flour into dry brownie mix.

In separate bowl, beat eggs with oil. Stir into brownie mix, until thick dough forms.

Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough on cookie sheets. Bake for 10-11 minutes. Let cool for 2 minutes on tray, then transfer to cooling rack.


Oil-Free Granola

Now that our stomachs have expanded thanks to Thanksgiving dinner, here’s a lighter and yet still filling snack to help you get back on track. This Oil-Free Granola uses applesauce, or if you have any on hand, pumpkin, to bind the oats and nuts together. 

Because this recipe does not call for oil, it lacks that perfect toasty crunch found in most granolas. Instead, I got a rather granola-bar-like consistency. I added banana chips to add that desired crunch, which brought the recipe together. My suggestion to get more crunch, besides adding dried fruit, is to cook the granola in a thinner layer than I did. Divide the granola in two baking trays to achieve this. Filled with cinnamon and nutmeg, this granola is an ideal autumn addition. However, the recipe is versatile, making a snack that is appropriate for any time of day or year.

Oil- Free Granola

Adapted from The Chic Life

4 cups dry oatmeal, not instant

1/2 cup almonds, chopped or slivered

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup pepitas

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 cup applesauce, or pumpkin

1/2-3/4 cup maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

1 cup dried fruit

Preheat oven to 300F. Line two large baking trays with parchment paper. 

In large bowl, stir oatmeal, nuts, pepitas, and spices together. 

In separate bowl, mix applesauce, maple syrup, vanilla and salt together. Add this mixture to the dry mixture and stir well. Pour granola onto baking sheets in a thin, even layer. 

Bake for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Once cool, stir in banana chips.