2 killer treat recipes and my favorite accidental christmas decoration

i brought this toffee to a party recently, and at least three people asked for the recipe that night. thought I’d share the love since it’s just that good, and also ridiculously easy!


baked toffee

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (i used semi-sweet)

preheat oven to 375 degrees.  line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper, leaving ‘tabs’ on two sides so you can pull it out of the dish after it cools.  combine butter and brown sugar, bring to boil over medium heat, stir.  boil for 3 minutes.  stir in 2 c of the pecans, and pour mixture into the baking dish.  bake for 15 minutes.  remove from the oven and sprinkle entire surface with chocolate chips.  let them melt a bit, and they will spread out easily (i used a silicone spatula for this).  sprinkle with remaining nuts (forgot this part this time, and it was still great, next time i might sprinkle with a little sea salt instead of nuts).  let it cool completely in the refrigerator.  lift the ‘slab’ out of the dish and cut into small pieces.  i think about 2×2 pieces work well since it’s pretty rich.

baking note: you have to be pretty exact when you’re making candy, so watch your times on boiling and baking or it won’t turn out just right.

now, these.  its just not christmas without them, and the ladies seem to like them a whole lot more than the men.  kinda funny.  if you make them, you’ll have to let me know if the same is true at your house!  they’re pretty, light, and super yummy.


christmas kisses (meringues)

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 3 1/2 T raspberry jello powder
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 T vinegar
  • 1 c mini chocolate chips

preheat oven to 250 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  beat egg whites with salt until foamy.  mix jello and sugar in a separate bowl, then gradually add to the egg whites.  beat until the mixture stands in peaks.  add vinegar and chocolate chips.  drop by teaspoons onto parchment paper.  bake for 35 minutes.  after all batches are baked, turn off the oven and put cookies back in overnight.  this will help them dry out and become really crispy.  store in an airtight container with no other cookies.  they will get chewy if they take in any moisture.

baking notes: make sure your mixing bowl is really clean.  any oils can throw off the recipe.  also, make these small so you can eat them in one bite.  they’re crumbly!

let my cute assistant show you how it’s done.  first, sing a song to the mixer.

img_0695 here’s what the mixture should look like before you spoon it onto your baking sheet. img_0703 think she snuck a few chocolate chips??  img_0705

and if you’re not bored to tears, let me show you my favorite little christmas decoration that happened by accident.  i had been looking for a himmeli wreath for this spot for months, and who came through?  the target of course.  i threw in some of those teeny led lights just for fun, and it provides the prettiest little glow.  i just might leave them up year round.



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sharing a secret {fleur de sel}

we all know that sweet + salty is a darn good match.  well, recently, i had the idea to add a special little touch to a batch of chocolate chip cookies that i baked.  i topped them with a light sprinkling of fleur de sel, a lighter tasting salt that is a great compliment to sweets {you may have heard of fleur de sel caramels?}.  it lends the perfect salty bite to keep a it from being too sweet, and it takes your regular ol’ chocolate chip cookie up a notch.


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feeling a little {greek}

we were lucky to take an amazing trip to greece in 2009, and have so many wonderful memories of the sights, people, and food.  it was kind of our last hurrah before kids.









we ate our weight in greek salad and gyros, and it has become a go-to in our house.  i have tried to recreate a version of it at home, and tonight was pretty darn close.  it made us think of the amazing islands, whitewashed buildings and wine….ahhh, yes, the wine {as evidenced above}.


thyme chicken

  • chicken boobs – as many as you like
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt & pepper
  • leaves from 5 sprigs of thyme
  • greek seasoning {i like cavender’s}

preheat your oven to 350.  throw your chicken in a baking dish and drizzle it with evoo.  hit it with some salt and pepper and half of the thyme and some greek seasoning.  flip the chicken and do the same thing on the other side.  bake for 30 minutes.

pita bread

  • pita {i like kronos}
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt

heat a frying pan or griddle to medium on the stovetop.  drizzle a little evoo on both sides of the pita and salt on one side.  brown each side slightly.

greek salad

  • cucumber {peeled, halved, and seeds scooped out, then cut into 1/2 inch square pieces}
  • red pepper {chopped in 1/2 inch square pieces}
  • purple onion {sliced thinly}
  • tomatoes {chunked}
  • feta
  • salt & pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

chop all your veggies and hit with a little salt and pepper and a light drizzle of evoo.  add a sprinkling of feta when you’re ready to serve.

enjoy!  preferably with white wine.  on your patio.  with thoughts of greece in your head.

also, beckett went for a walk in my wellies tonight.


Categories eat

a go-to {spinach & strawberry salad}

as you well know, things have been a little hectic here lately.  after several weeks of eating quick, and sometimes unhealthy meals, i have been on a real spinach kick.  i’ve been trying to have a big salad for lunch most days, and this one has become my go-to.  mom, thanks for reminding me about this one.

spinach and strawberry salad {with a few extras}

  • large handful of baby spinach
  • 4 – 6 strawberries, sliced thinly
  • 6 – 8 slices of mandarin oranges {i just used canned}
  • slivered almonds, toasted
  • craisins
  • raspberry viniagrette



Categories eat

nutella. banana. muffins. {i.e. heaven}

ok, so if you follow me on instagram {@carabrooner}, you know what we had for breakfast.  nutella banana muffins.  well, i received so many requests for the recipe (which i wish i could claim as my own) that i thought i’d just throw it on here for all to enjoy (good suggestion lindsay!).  i have made these a few times, and they are the perfect way to use overripe bananas – because, let’s be honest, even if you buy just two bananas, one will go bad.  i am warning you, you will want these for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, and just try not to eat any nutella while you’re making these.  i say it’s impossible.  at least in this house.  so without further ado…..


nutella banana muffins

yield: 18 muffins


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 medium over-ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans  {i left these out since i’m not a huge fan of pecans}


preheat oven to 350°F. line muffin pan with liners.

in a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt until well combined. set aside.

in large bowl, whisk together banana, sugar, brown sugar. beat in egg, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. slowly whisk in the flour mixture, until there are no lumps. fold in pecans.

fill muffin tins 3/4 full. top each muffin with about 1 teaspoon of nutella and use a toothpick to swirl it into the batter.

bake muffins for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

serve warm or store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

in other news, we’ve done some fun stuff around this house the last few weeks that i’m excited to share.  hope to do that soon.

Categories eat

lighten up {a post-holiday dinner}

if you’re like me, you did a little over-indulging this past weekend.  oops.  to help bring us back to normal, i’m planning to make some lighter dinners this week, and this one is on the menu.  i made it a few weeks ago and added italian turkey sausage, an onion and green beans, which made it a bit heartier, but i know it would be just as good if you prepared it without the meat.  i neglected to take any photos, so you’ll just have to trust me that it looks good and tastes great too.


– 5 1/4 c vegetable broth (i used chicken broth since i was adding meat)

– 1 (14.5 oz) can italian-style stewed tomatoes

– 1 clove garlic, minced

– 1 (16 oz) package of cheese tortellini, thawed

– 10 oz spinach, rinsed and chopped

– 1/2 package of frozen green beans

– 1 white onion, chopped

– 1 lb. sausage (i used turkey sausage)

– parmesan cheese for topping


bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. add tortellini and bring to a boil; reduce heat slightly and boil for 7 minutes, adding the spinach for the last minute. drain and add the tomatoes, green beans, and broth (and browned sausage and onion if you wish); simmer for 20 minutes. enjoy!

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a salad {for the fall}

with the weather cooling down, salads have not been my go-to in the recent weeks.  that is, until i saw a recipe for one that just screamed fall.  i  zhushed it up a bit, and i gotta say, it was really good…even on a cool day.

combine these ingredients to your little heart’s content, and i promise you’ll be one happy camper…


  • spinach
  • apples
  • almonds or pecans
  • feta or blue cheese
  • craisins

dressing – combine equal parts oil and vinegar to lightly dress your salad

  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Categories eat

a fast dinner {stir-fry}

let me just say, the part of this meal that takes the longest is cooking the rice.  the rest comes together really easily, and our little family thinks it’s pretty darn good.  and if you’re someone who plans meals while at the grocery store or farmer’s market; (me), this is an easy one to adapt to whatever you feel like that day.  also let me say that there is no real recipe here.  just get enough protein and veggies to feed the people in your house, and you can adapt the sauce based on that.

  1. pick a protein:  chicken, beef, pork, shrimp
  2. pick some veggies:  broccoli, bell pepper, carrots, onions, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots are a few suggestions
  3. sauce:  kraft asian toasted sesame dressing (looks like this) + peanut butter (whatever is in your pantry will work) – to feed four people, you’ll use roughly 1/2 c dressing and 1/4 c peanut butter

{last night’s combo:  chicken, broccoli, carrots, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts}

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summer {staples}

last night, we had a dinner that makes it feel like summer.  grilled chicken, sweet corn on the cob, and chinese coleslaw.  i usually keep it pretty simple on the chicken – olive oil, salt, and pepper – grill, done.  i boiled the corn, but if i had been thinking we would have grilled that too.  here’s my recipe for the chinese coleslaw.

chinese coleslaw

  • 1/2 pkg coleslaw
  • 1/2 pkg broccoli slaw
  • 2 tb green onions
  • 1 red pepper, sliced thinly
  • toasted almonds
  • crushed up ramen noodles (yes, the 25 cent pack)
  • i added a little feta cheese when i had some leftovers for lunch, and i would add some in the future


  • 1/2 c rice vinegar
  • 2 tb vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 c sugar (this changes a little every time, i usually just taste along the way until i’m happy)

what also comes with summer is grass, and the mowing of it.  it feels kind of good to do it the first few times each season (we are equal opportunity mowers in this family).  the short guy is really into the lawn mower right now – i’m tellin’ you, this kid loves anything with a motor!  i was having a girls night out last week, and because we were leaving town, the lawn had to be mowed.  so, before i left, i helped jared get b in the backpack and they mowed together.  it was pretty darn hilarious.  i am a crazy safety person and perpetual worrier, so i promise you that he was fully secure and could never escape this thing.  don’t call family services.

Categories eat

a favorite {fast lunch}

warning, this is healthy, but honestly, i think it’s so full of flavor that you might not notice.  it requires a small amount of cooking, but it’s only about 5 minutes.

lemony spinach

serves 1

  • 2 large fistfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 – 3 T water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash cayenne pepper (omit if you don’t like it spicy)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • sprinkle of feta cheese and sliced almonds
heat a pan on medium.  once hot, add olive oil, spinach, and water.  cover and cook for about 5 minutes until the spinach is fully wilted, stirring a few times along the way.  after the spinach is done cooking, add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne and cook for another minute or two uncovered.  plate the spinach, and add a sprinkle of sliced almonds and feta cheese.  yum!
pair it with a hunk of chicken or whatever you fancy.  today, i paired it with some leftover sweet potatoes and i was a very happy camper.  and now, i can eat my body weight in chips and salsa tonight at chicas’ night out.  you gotta pick your battles, right?

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