Posts in Holidays

truffle cookies valentines day

Salted Chocolate Truffle Cookies (Gluten Free)

February 13th, 2017 Posted by Baked, Desserts, Holidays No Comment yet

I love Valentine’s Day! I know it’s over commercialized, but I love finding ways to make it personal to me and Joel, and the other people in my life that I love. I believe it’s always a good thing to celebrate love and to share love with others.


easiest cranberry sauce

The Easiest Cranberry Sauce

November 22nd, 2016 Posted by Food, Sauces, Thanksgiving No Comment yet

So the biggest meal of the year is coming in two days. We can do this! I just want to express how incredibly easy this recipe is. Please make cranberry sauce this year, it’s so tart and tangy and good, and really, the easiest thing you’ll do besides pouring that second glass of wine. 


spiced nuts

Spiced nuts and more Thanksgiving ideas

November 23rd, 2015 Posted by Appetizers, Food, Holidays, Thanksgiving 1 comment

Do you have a couple recipes that are a “go to”? Those ones that people can’t get enough of, and just always turn out? If you need one more, try these spiced nuts! It seems like every family gathering we have, there’s spiced nuts, a large bowl of hummus, cheese and crackers, and wine. Those are the staples, what more do you need?


Party in a Jar!

September 4th, 2015 Posted by Appetizers, Holidays, Snacks No Comment yet

Party in a jar is a great holiday gift or hostess gift.

I think we need a little party. Let’s shake it up, crack open some wine, and rip apart some really good bread. Oh yea, you know what I’m talkin’ about. 

One jar of this stuff and you’ve got an instant party–anytime, anywhere! I first saw this at the farmer’s market in Corvallis. The party in the jar was first made by Alsea Acres, who makes some of the best goat cheese ever! While I did “borrow” the idea, you can make your own with Alsea Acres goat cheese, or the cheese of your choice.  I took some of this up to visit family in Canada on an impromptu road trip (impromptu as you can get when you still need to renew your passport, eh?) and they loved it. It has everything included for a great appetizer. 

You can put almost anything you want in this and it comes together so quickly, you could make it about an hour before you run out the door. I used 6 ounces of soft goat cheese for two of my jars, and chunks of feta for the other two jars. Other cheeses you could use include fresh mozzarella balls or shreds, feta cheese, goat cheese, even little cubes of parmesan would be good in this. You just marinate the cheese, garlic, red pepper, and herbs in olive oil and spices and spread it over bread or gluten free crackers. My mom is gluten free and even toasted up some Udi’s GF bread to smear with this cheesy concoction. I have to admit, that was pretty good too. 

Here’s how to get the party started: 

Layering is the name of the game with this. 

These come together in a snap and they are perfect for the holidays

Start with some garlic, peeled and crushed. 

These come together in a snap and they are perfect for the holidays. Layer cheese, roasted red pepper, garlic and herbs and cover with olive oil.

Add the first layer of cheese and some chopped peppers and spices. 

These come together in a snap and they are perfect for the holidays. Layer cheese, roasted red pepper, garlic and herbs and cover with olive oil.

Add more cheese. 

These come together in a snap and they are perfect for the holidays. Layer cheese, roasted red pepper, garlic and herbs and cover with olive oil.

Add more peppers, garlic, herbs and spices. You could add even more garlic if you want to.

Cover the whole thing with olive oil. You want to fill the jar with liquid. The oil becomes infused and is excellent along with the cheese on bread, pasta, more bread or even to saute chicken or fish in.

These come together in a snap and they are perfect for the holidays

You can eat it immediately, but you can also let it marinate in the fridge for a couple days or even a couple weeks. It will only get better with time. The cheese is preserved in the oil, but you probably don’t want to leave it longer then 1 month. 

These come together in a snap and they are perfect for the holidays

When you are ready to start a party, take it out of the fridge and let it “thaw.” The oil will have solidified, so you need to set it out about 40 minutes before you want to partake. 

Here’s how you eat it: 

Rip off a piece of bread (or take a cracker out of the bag) and dig either a spoon, or a wide knife in the jar, cutting into some cheese and simultaneously getting some olive oil out. Spread onto bread (a soft, yet crusty, loaf). or cracker, with the olive oil dripping everywhere. Eat. Take a sip of wine. Yeeeees. 

Best eaten outside on a balcony, in a quaint neighborhood in Vancouver, BC. If you can’t manage that, just find a lovely corner of your world. Share it with your friends and have a little party. 

Party in a jar, marinated cheese with peppers, garlic and rosemary!

Party in a Jar
Recipe Type: Appetizer, Snack
Author: Sugar Pickles
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 small jars
  • 6 ounces soft plain goat cheese
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, chopped into 6 or 8 rough squares/chunks
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/3-1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped or cut into thin strips
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  • red pepper flake (optional)
  • 4 small jars with lids (about 8 ounces)
  • about 2 cups of Olive oil for filling the jars
  1. In each small jar, place two cloves of peeled and crushed garlic. Add a few pieces of roasted red pepper into each jar. Top that with a few (4-5) leaves of rosemary, a pinch of red pepper flakes if using, and a few grinds of pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Then add the first layer of cheese. You want about two chunks in the bottom of each jar. I did two jars of goat cheese and two jars of feta. For the goat cheese, I just crumbled it into the jar in large chunks as I added it.
  2. Keep layering, cheese, peppers, herbs and spices, until you reach the top of your small jars. When you fill the jar with all the cheese goodness, slowly and carefully pour olive oil over it to fill the jar. The very top doesn’t need to be covered, but just fill as much as you can with out spilling it. You can serve right away, or store in the fridge for a few days or even a few weeks.
  3. This is great with bread, crackers or even drizzled over pasta for a quick meal.


Jars: Ball 8-ounce jelly jars

Cheese: I used whatever was on sale at my grocery store, but I strongly recommend visiting either Alsea Acres or your local cheese shop/farmer’s market. Good quality cheese is a treasure and a treat! 


Mother’s Day Gift Guide

May 2nd, 2015 Posted by Holidays, Lifestyle, My Favorite Things, Shopping 1 comment

   mother's day gift guide 2015

My Mom is such an inspiration! She’s an athlete, and business woman and a regular gal pal. She just recently became a grandma too! So I think this Mother’s Day is extra special. I have so many ideas in my head, I don’t know what to do! But here’s a TON of ideas for original stuff to get your Ma this year. 

Etsy lovers: 

If you love the unique, or if your Mom does, check out Etsy. Just make sure you allow time for delivery. 

My Mom likes astrology and the moon, and she loved this poster. If your Mom is into that, get her this! It’s beautiful. I got this one for Joel too. 

Little Low has AH-dorable cards, art prints, and more. I especially love the “what’s in bloom” posters, the flowers version, and the garden version. (photo from Little Low’s shop)

Little Low poster

For the NEW Mom in my life, I’ve got my eye on this custom monogram letter for the baby’s room. I also love these stylish baby headbands. So cute! 

Artistic Moms and those who love texture (and tea or coffee) would love one of these mugs. So pretty and detailed. 

Athletic Moms:

You can never have too many yoga pants! Since I work from the comfort of my own home, I have been buying more and more. But my Mom actually DOES work out, so I think she would put these to good use!

I love anything made by Lucy. I have a basic black pair from 10 years ago and I swear to god, they haven’t worn a bit! I even gained weight and they have enough stretch to still fit. I love these pants! 

I just got this workout top from Old Navy, and I love it! It’s modern and comfortable.

Moms who love to help a cause:

Check out this online store that works with artisans in Haiti and imports delicious coffee! I have to say, I’m biased, because it’s run by my bestie. 


For those interested in something more recent they can help out with, you can send a donation to Nepal in the name of your Mom. There are several sites that do this, but here’s one through Crowdrise

And last, but not least… Foodie Moms! 

These are so everywhere… Weck jars. You can get the best deal if you go to the Weck website. Fill them with fancy flours (see what I did there?) or your special biscuit mix or in my Mom’s case, some gluten-free flour mix and Mom will have something delicious to eat AND look at. I think I just figured out my own Mother’s Day game plan! My Mom also loves my Almond Milk, so maybe I’ll give her some of that too.

almond milk-18

Spiralizers are also everywhere! If your Mom has one of those already, check out some of these cookbooks just for this of-the-moment tool. 

I’m kinda a spice junkie and I love to share new ones with my Mom too. If your Mama is the same, check out or get her a gift card to The Spice and Tea Exchange or Penzeys

If your Mom loves going out, see what restaurants in your area would be interesting to her. A couple I know my Mom likes are Prasad in the Portland Pearl District, Mother’s Bistro and I think she would really like Kiva which is a spa AND a restaurant. Such a smart idea! Instagram shot below of a co-worker lunch I had there.

kiva cafe portland oregon

For more ideas, crafts, recipes and downloads for Mother’s Day, check out my Pinterest board

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 5.55.54 PM

I hope you and YO’ MAMMA have a super happy Mother’s Day! 

Easter Baskets for Grown-Ups

March 29th, 2015 Posted by Easter, Holidays, Sweet Sundays 2 comments

Easter baskets for grown ups
We are having Easter at our house this year. This started last year, and I love carrying on the tradition. It’s just an excuse to eat ham, really (I mean, let’s be honest), but family dinners, even if they are small, are fun for me. Planning menus, cleaning, and organizing what dishes to use, these are all things I get really, really excited about. 

So when I was a kid, we always got Easter baskets. Sometimes my mom and dad would make little scavenger hunts for us to find them too. Since we have all adults coming to dinner, I’m making Easter baskets for grown ups! 

It’s fun, and it involves chocolate. SO WHY NOT!? 

There are a couple tips I’d like to share when it comes to Easter baskets for adults: 

1. Include some of the “good” chocolate. I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy, but lately candy like Snickers, M&M’s, and things like that are so overly sweet tasting to me. I’m a dark chocolate lover, and I like chocolate that tastes good, deep and rich, and doesn’t have a waxy texture. So I added some higher quality chocolates, maybe some Lindt with sea salt, or Ghirardelli, for a nice treat. 

easter for adults 2015-3

2. Go with nostalgia. I added some candies from our childhood: Robin’s Eggs, Twix, and a small chocolate bunny. But other good options are Cadbury Eggs (if you like that sort of thing) and Peeps! 

easter for adults 2015-2

3. Add small things that aren’t candy. I found some little things that could be fun for an adult, like grow your own herb kits and scratch and sniff stickers (because who DOESN’T like scratch and sniff stickers). I also added a wind up chick and bunny toy, because I thought it would be hilarious to harass the cats with these.

easter for adults 2015-4

4. Add one or two things that are useful and lasting. Getting one small thing that I will actually use is always a great surprise! Joel has been lamenting that we never have enough measuring spoons, so that’s what is going into his basket. I like the kind that are narrow enough to dip into a spice jar, so it’s like a gift for both of us! 

Sources: Herb growing kits and Easter eggs: Target. Easter baskets, wind-up toys, Robins Eggs and other candy: Safeway and the Dollar Tree. Measuring spoons and scratch and sniff stickers from Cost Plus World Market. 

Grown-ups just want to be kids again! 

Happy Easter! 

spring 2015-16 

Dill Butter

March 16th, 2015 Posted by Appetizers, Bread, Homemade Condiments, St. Patrick's Day No Comment yet

ingredients for dill butter

This butter is crazy addictive. It will make you eat WAY more bread then you have any business eating. It is one of those things I physically have to remove from my sight to get me to stop. It’s THAT good! It’s especially good with any kind of soda bread situation for St. Patrick’s Day! 

But seriously, make bread and make this butter, you won’t be sorry (okay, so your thighs might be sorry…) It’s super simple. 

Chop some shallots. I have to use onion goggles because I am a wuss. My best gal pal, Aslan, got these for me. Thanks, they work! 

onion goggles

When I was chopping these shallots I was remembering how Aslan and I would talk about dinner and cooking when we were both first married ladies. We cooked from our issues of Everyday Food Magazine (now discontinued, sniff!) and told each other about the messes and successes. That magazine was my monthly food bible for many years! Now, though I still use a lot of Martha Stewart recipes (but only the ones that work!) I try a variety of recipes, mostly from Pinterest or from my ever growing cookbook collection (latest buys were: Joy the Baker’s new book, Homemade Decadence, and Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust.)

This one is from one of my fast growing favorites: Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Everyday. She makes it with rye soda bread. Divine! You can also try it with this rich and sweet soda bread from The Slice of Life.

dill butter

Irish butter is so fitting here. Kerrygold is delicious! 

I like to mix up most of the ingredients, then add the dill. It’s more delicate! 

dill butter

Put out like this to serve or in a small bowl. Slice bread or lay down some cracker action. BOOM. You are now Queen of the Butter. 

dill butter


Recipe from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Everyday.

Dill Butter
Recipe Type: Homemade Condiments, Snacks
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 cup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/3 cup good quality mild goat cheese or soft farmers cheese
  1. In a bowl, mix together the dill, chives, shallots and butter with a fork. Add in the dill when the mixture is mostly homogeneous. Gently mix in the cheese, in large crumbles, so that the mixture is a bit chunky.
  2. Serve immediately with soda bread or crackers, or store in the fridge for up to a week. If you store in the fridge, bring it back to room temperature before serving.


DIY Corned Beef: the ultimate guide

March 13th, 2015 Posted by Holiday Traditions, Main Dishes, Meat, St. Patrick's Day No Comment yet

I’m not Irish, but I love the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day. Ireland looks so beautiful and rugged. At least according to Waking Ned Divine and P.S I love you. The green hills, the smoky and cozy pubs. And just what IS IT about those accents? I don’t know…. 


Rosemary Raisin Bread

February 3rd, 2015 Posted by Bread, Easter, Holidays, Sandwiches No Comment yet

rosemary raisin bread sweet Hawaiian bread

I saw this recipe back in the summer, and while you could make this bread anytime, something about the combination of rosemary and raisins got me thinking fall or winter. But really, this would make excellent ham sandwiches with leftover ham from Easter Dinner. 

rosemary raisin bread

Yes, I’m already thinking about Easter dinner. I don’t celebrate Easter, per se, but I cook on Easter without a doubt. Easter bunny? Sure. Chocolate? Hell yea. Ham, au gratin potatoes, pineapple upside down cake (or maybe this cake from the late Everyday Food magazine) the whole shah-bang is going down in my kitchen. This year I’m thinking the Parker House rolls will be replaced by this bread, formed into sweet, soft pillows. Are ya with me? 

This bread tastes just like those sweet Hawaiian rolls I used to buy all the time (before I started reading the back of the package). I was so pleased that these tasted just like an old store-bought favorite, but even better! This bread also tastes like it has butter in it, but it’s actually olive oil! And it only has one long rise, so it’s done a little faster then most yeasted breads. Can this bread file my taxes and cure cancer too? Maybe for an Easter miracle….

Check out the full post on the Slice of Life site, view the recipe and see how to make it. Recipe slightly adapted from the The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger

rosemary raisin bread ready for sandwhiches!

Hoppin’ John

December 30th, 2014 Posted by Holiday Traditions, Lunch, Main Dishes, Soups No Comment yet

The New Year is full of symbols of prosperity. Jade plants, collard greens, oranges, and black eyed peas—these are all supposed signs of prosperity and wealth. I like foods that symbolize things. It makes me wonder how the food got such a reputation, why it is considered lucky, and that maybe, just maybe, it will work? It’s fun to start the year off with a good omen. Wether the folklore is true or not, it’s not a bad way to start out eating something delicious! 

Black eyed peas, collard greens, and smoked ham are natural friends in this recipe. The jalapeño and red chili flakes give this a really nice mild to medium heat level.

hoppin' john new years day

There is additional cooked ham added to this, you could almost just use the smoked ham hocks if you didn’t have extra ham laying around. When the hocks are done cooking with the soup (at the very end) remove them to a cutting board and let them cool a bit. Then use a knife to cut off the fat and roughly chop up the meat. It is so tender. 

Cooking beans is a lesson in planning ahead, but if you didn’t remember to soak your beans over night, you can try the quick soak method. I just filled a pot with 8 cups of water and two pounds of washed and picked over beans. Then you bring it to a boil and let it boil for 2 minutes. After that, you turn the water off and move the beans off of the heat while they soak for one hour. Drain them again and they are ready to use in this recipe—you will cook them longer with the soup. 

hoppin' john new years day

After they quick soak, add in the ham hock and some epazote if you have it.

hoppin' john new years day

Epazote is traditionally used in Mexican cooking, but it really adds a nice flavor to a pot of beans, so I thought, why not? I’m glad I chanced it. 

epazote in hoppin' john

This dried Epazote has a mild sweet flavor, which is a nice undertone to the ham and the veggies and rice in this soup. I recommend an Oregon Pinot Gris with this. Happy New Year’s! Cheers to 2015! 

hoppin' john new years day


This recipe was slightly adapted from Saveur



Hoppin’ John
Recipe Type: Soup
Author: Sugar Pickles
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8-10 servings
  • 1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
  • 2 smocked ham hocks
  • 1 tablespoon dried Epazote (optional)
  • Olive oil for the pan
  • ½ cup finely chopped cooked ham
  • ¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 2 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb. collard greens, ribs removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 5 cups cooked long-grain white rice for serving
  • green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
  1. Soak your beans over night or do the quick soak method. For quick soak: Add the rinsed and picked over beans to a large pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Let stand one hour, then drain.
  2. Bring soaked peas, ham hocks, and 8 cups water to a boil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, skimming foam occasionally, until peas are tender, about 30-35 minutes. Drain peas, reserving 2 cup cooking liquid along with ham hocks; set aside.
  3. Add some olive oil to a 12-qt. pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped ham, red chili flakes, garlic, jalapeños, carrot, onion, celery, and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add reserved ham hocks, and cooking liquid, along with collards and 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until collards are tender, about one hour. When the collards and the beans are tender, remove the smoked ham hocks to a cutting board and let them cool slightly. Extract the meat, slicing through the ham hock and cutting off and around the fat chunks. Add all the meat back into the pot and discard the ham fat. Add the cooked and reserved beans back into the pot.
  4. Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Spoon rice into bowls and ladle soup over rice and add sliced green onions.
Slightly adapted from Saveur.



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