Not-So-Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

I have to admit, I love to cook but hardly ever bake. Baking is so precise and I feel that I don’t get to improvise as much as I would like to. However, for Valentine’s Day I really wanted to make a great dessert so I decided to give baking another try. When thinking of the colors of Valentine’s Day I immediately thought of a red velvet recipe….until I realized that most recipes call for an entire bottle of red food coloring! We aren’t really food snobs in my house, but the idea of mixing an entire bottle of food coloring into the batter turned my stomach a bit.

After thinking for a bit, I decided to swap in fresh beet juice for the food coloring. While it didn’t give the vibrant color that red velvet recipes are known for, there was a subtle tinge of red after the whoopie pies were done baking. This is a recipe that I adapted from the Food Network and you are more than welcome to leave out the beet juice entirely if you would like uncolored whoopee pies- it tastes the same either way!

2 ounces milk chocolate, melted

12 tablespoons butter, melted

½ cup light sour cream

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh beet juice

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ¼ cups flour

1 cup sugar

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda


8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 tablespoons butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the butter, sour cream, eggs, vinegar and beet juice together. In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Once everything is combined carefully add in the melted chocolate and mix well.


Spoon batter onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, try to get them as uniform in size as possible and bake for about 10 minutes.


While the cookies are baking, mix the cream cheese, butter powdered sugar and vanilla together to make the filling. Once cookies have cooled, sandwich a generous amount of filling between 2 cookies and refrigerate until firm- about 30 minutes.


Easy Shrimp Scampi


When thinking of what to make my husband for Valentine’s Day this recipe instantly popped into my head. Before my husband I were married we had our wedding rehearsal dinner at a wonderful little Italian restaurant in our city, the food was so delicious but the standout dish was the shrimp scampi. We keep saying that we will go back to the restaurant to celebrate our anniversary or a special occasion, but it just hasn’t happened yet. This has become my go to recipe for any romantic occasion celebrated at home, and it never disappoints.

I love that this dish looks and tastes complicated, but it is so easy to make! I am a huge garlic fan, so feel free to use a little less garlic if you don’t love it as much as I do! I really think this recipe rivals most Italian restaurants, just make sure to serve it right away or the butter sauce may start to clump together. I serve this on some freshly cooked linguine with a Caesar Salad on the side.

8 tablespoons of butter

1 pound shrimp, peeled and with tails removed

3 tablespoons garlic

Juice of 2 lemons

Splash of dry white wine

Cooked pasta


Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a pan, add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add raw shrimp and cook until pink.


Add the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter, juice of two lemons and a splash of dry white wine (I find 2-3 tablespoons is plenty). Sauté 5 minutes or until butter is completely melted and the flavors have mixed together.

Serve over your favorite pasta.


Eggless Caesar Salad Dressing


Valentine’s Day is coming up and I have no intention of leaving my house on that day. I know most people get excited to get dressed up and go out for a nice meal. I am the complete opposite! I hate the crowds and the expectations that go along with Valentine’s Day, I would much rather relax at home with my husband and daughter.

Just because I’m staying in doesn’t mean I can’t have a great meal on this holiday. This year I’m making shrimp scampi, a Caesar salad with homemade dressing and red velvet whoopee pies without the red food coloring. Caesar salads are great because they are tasty and look so nice next to almost any entrée. I love the dressing, but get a little grossed out by raw eggs that are in most recipes for this dressing. My recipe omits the eggs and it so delicious! It’s not quite as heavy as the traditional Caesar dressing and takes less than 10 minutes to make.

½ pound shredded parmesan cheese

1 ½ lemons, juiced

½ cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon anchovy paste

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 small shallot

Place all ingredients and into a food processor and blend until smooth. So easy!


This recipe is perfect with just romaine lettuce and some croutons. I mixed my dressing with some baby spinach and greens and topped with just a bit of black pepper. The lack of eggs makes this dressing so light and wonderful!  I like to store this in a mason jar in the fridge, just give it a quick shake before you dress your salad.


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Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Dipping Sauce


I have a special place in my heart for sweet potatoes! When my daughter was a baby sweet potatoes were her first solid food, and she gobbled them up. I don’t think I’ll ever forget her adorably messy face as she tried to get the food into her mouth as quickly as possible. Now that she’s a toddler we still eat sweet potatoes regularly, just in a different form.

Baked sweet potato fries are the perfect finger food for a toddler or an adult, I frequently make a double batch so there is plenty for me to snack on as well! However, dipping them in ketchup just doesn’t seem to do them much justice. Instead of ketchup I make a fast 2 ingredient chipotle dip that pairs perfectly with them. The smoky spice of the chipotle peppers compliment the sweetness of the fries to perfection!

I’m finishing up my month of appetizers with such a delicious and easy recipe. Next month I’ll be sharing some of my favorite freezer recipes.


2 large sweet potatoes

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 canned chipotle peppers

8 ounces sour cream


Preheat oven to 375 F. Peel the sweet potatoes and slice into long strips using a large knife. You can make these any size you would like, I like mine to be a little thicker than the average French fry.

Spray a baking sheet with olive oil and place fries on top, make sure they don’t overlap! Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until done. I like to flip mine halfway through.

While the fries are baking, combine 2 canned chipotle peppers and 8 ounces sour cream in the blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

I love to serve these in small mason jars, spoon some chipotle sauce on the bottom and add some fries.


Baked Wontons with Shrimp and Cream Cheese


One of my favorite take out restaurants makes amazing cream cheese wontons. Although they are delicious I found that adding shrimp makes it even better! The base for this recipe could easily be served as a cold seafood salad, but it is so wonderful when wrapped in a wonton wrapper. You can usually find fresh wonton wrappers in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, they were near the hummus at my local store.

Usually, these are deep fried and you are more than welcome to fry these up if you so choose. I decided to bake them at 350 F for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Give them a quick spritz with olive oil if you want a crunch that is reminiscent of the deep fryer.

8 ounces cooked shrimp, tails removed

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 green onion

Small handful of cilantro

30 wonton wrappers

Pulse shrimp, green onion and cilantro in food processor until finely chopped. Mix into cream cheese by hand until well incorporated.


Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 F. Place a teaspoon of filling in each wonton wrapper.

Wet the edges of each wrapper and seal closed. I recommend keeping the wonton wrappers chilled until you are ready to use them or they can get dried out.


Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.


Fajita Stuffed Potato Bites


Slightly spicy with plenty of cheese, these appetizers are always a hit!  Instead of the usual cheese and bacon combo, bell peppers and green chiles turn a classic appetizer into an exciting new dish.  I like to use small golden potatoes for this, they make the perfect two-bite appetizer.  However, if you would rather turn this into a meal the recipe can easily be adapted for russet potatoes.  If using the golden potatoes please just take extra care when scooping them up, the skin is much thinner than other potatoes.



12 golden potatoes

¼ red bell pepper, diced

¼ green bell pepper, diced

1 ounce diced green chiles

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

6 ounces sour cream

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 ounces shredded pepperjack cheese

Bake the potatoes at 350 for 40-50 minutes, or until cooked completely.  Once cooled, halve all potatoes and carefully scoop out the potatoes.  The skins of these potatoes are much thinner than russets, so I like to leave a little potato intact to make it a little more sturdy.


Mix the potato, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, green chiles, cheddar cheese, sour cream and garlic together in a bowl.  Carefully spoon the mixture into the potato skins.  Top with shredded pepperjack cheese and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden.


Spinach and Feta Stuffed Mushrooms


Stuffed mushrooms are a staple of any family event, but they are never as exciting or flavorful as I would like. Instead of just filling the mushrooms with bread crumbs and butter, this recipe full of flavor. The feta cheese gives it just enough bite and the mozzarella melts perfectly to make a smooth and delicious filling. If you want to make this a little healthier, just swap lower fat versions of cream cheese and sour cream- you won’t even be able to tell the difference!

I like the use the mini-portabella mushrooms for this, it creates a pretty hearty appetizer. However, if you are looking to make this into a meal it could easily fill 2 or 3 full sized portabella mushrooms.  These are pretty rich so if you are planning on serving them as a main dish you may want to pair the mushrooms with something light like a salad.

6 ounces fresh spinach

8 ounces cream cheese

3 ounces sour cream

2 ounces feta

3 Tablespoons breadcrumbs

1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning

2 cloves of garlic, minced

6 ounces shredded mozzarella, divided

6 mini-portabella mushrooms

Place spinach, cream cheese, sour cream, feta, bread crumbs, Italian seasonings, garlic and 3 ounces mozzarella in food processor and blend until smooth.

Wash mushrooms, remove stems and gills.


Fill each mushroom with a generous amount of filling and top with remaining shredded mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.


Quick and Easy Caprese Bites


Is there anything better than fresh mozzarella? This recipe is insanely easy….and so addictive! Whenever I serve these at a party they are gone in the blink of an eye! During the summer I make these at least once a week, it’s so simple but so delicious. Keeping them bite size makes this a really easy dish to serve and eat, no fork or knife needed!


1 container cherry tomatoes

1 container pearl mozzarella

1 bunch basil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar



Halve the tomatoes and mozzarella. Tear basil into bite sized pieces. Layer tomato, basil and mozzarella- skewer with a toothpick. Easiest recipe ever!

Serve with balsamic vinegar. You can either drizzle the vinegar on top of the bites, or serve it on the side so people can serve themselves.


Slimmed Down Spinach Dip



Last week I needed a quick and easy dish to take to a pot luck, this recipe instantly came to mind! In less than 20 minutes I had a great dip that everyone loved, the bowl was scraped clean before I could even enjoy a bite myself.

Spinach Dip is a staple at any party, but between the mayo and sour cream the calorie count is pretty high. To slim it down I swap out greek yogurt for the mayo and add some light sour cream and cream cheese to the mix. The trick is to use light sour cream instead of fat-free to keep the great flavor that everyone knows and loves. You can serve this in a sourdough bread bowl, but I find it’s great in a regular bowl with plenty of raw veggies to dip with!


1 cup low-fat greek yogurt

1 cup low-fat sour cream

2 ounces light cream cheese

1 10 ounce package of frozen spinach (thawed)

1 bunch green onions

Juice from ½ a lemon

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon herbs de province (to taste)

Fresh cracked pepper


Place all ingredients in food processor or blender. Blend until smooth, chill 30 minutes and serve. Since the ingredients are low fat the consistency may be a little thinner than other dips, refrigerating it for at least 30 minutes will help to thicken it up. If you like your dip extra thick, add an extra ounce or two of cream cheese.