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Preview: Sugar, Spice and Sometimes Nice

Sugar, Spice and Sometimes Nice

Updated: 2018-03-02T10:49:16.735-05:00


New Home


After a long hiatus, I have launched a new blog. I hope you will join me at my new home at

Cherry Blossoms


It's Spring in DC and the cherry blossoms are in full-bloom. I stopped by the Tidal Basin a few weeks ago when my parents were in town and the trees were lovely!


Green with Envy


It's Spring in DC! I am so excited to see green everywhere especially at my favorite store - Kate Spade. Here are a few of the items that are on my wish list.

Helpful How-To - Scarves


I am obsessed with scarves (especially monogrammed ones) right now. Scarves are the perfect accessory for almost every outfit and are completely functional since I am always cold. There are a few sites outlining various ways to style your scarves, but by far my favorite resource is the Land's End site. This site shows 20 different ways to tie your scarf each in an easy to follow format and makes even the most stylishly challenged person feel chic.

My Favorite Things - 2010 Edition


Before we get too far into 2011, I thought it would be fun to do a little recap of my all-time favorite products of 2010. These are things that I absolutely love and would recommend to all of my friends!This is the cookbook that I used the most during 2010 and will keep using in 2011. I love how there are recipes organized by each fruit and vegetable.My favorite beauty product of 2010 are the Korres lip gloss. The colors are perfect and I love that they don't feel "tacky".My second favorite cookbook of 2010 was the Williams Sonoma Essentials of Healthful Cooking. This one will be a regular in my 2011 cooking rotation.I finally got the Navy Hunter Wellies that I have been dreaming about for years. I couldn't be happier. I also picked up the fleece welly socks that make these boots perfect for rain or snow!My go to accessory this year has definitely been the Kate Spade Clean Slate Bangle. It is so simple and classic that it is a great addition to almost every outfit.2010 was also the year of the scarf for me. I love these Lands' End cotton scarves. They come in almost every color and can, of course, be monogrammed. YAY![...]

Christmas Cookbook Collection


If you know me well, you know that I absolutely love cookbooks. I find that cookbooks are a great place to get some inspiration and add some variety to our meals. I know so many people who never use their cookbooks and just let them sit on their shelves. I think that is such a waste so I really try to make an effort to use my cookbooks. I hate getting stuck in that routine of making the same dishes over and over so I try to use at least one new recipe from my cookbooks each week.

The holidays are the perfect time to add to my wonderful collection. This year, I really lucked out and got some great new books. I will keep everyone posted as I try each of them out.

These are the cookbooks I received this year:

(image) This cookbook was from my fabulous brother. This book is packed with amazing looking desserts and I can't wait to try the whoopie pies.

(image) This cookbook was a gift from my Mom. I have been dreaming of this book from quite a while and I am glad to finally have it on my shelf. I used this book to make roasted acorn squash as part of our Christmas dinner. The squash was delicious!

(image) This last cookbook was a gift from my Dad, our family cookie maker extraordinaire. This cookbook has been tested and approved by him so I know that there will be lots of yummy cookies at our house in 2011!

Christmas Eve Dinner


One of the best things about the holidays is that there is more time to cook! I made good use of my day off work making a special Christmas Eve dinner for Van and I.

I found a rack of lamb on sale at Whole Foods and decided that was perfect for our dinner. I decided to use Emeril's recipe for mustard crusted rack of lamb. The lamb turned out really well and had a great flavor. The lamb was perfectly cooked on the outside, but the middle was more rare than medium rare. This worked out fine since it was more than Van and I could eat and after we reheat the leftovers they will be fine.

To accompany the lamb, I made Chef Charlie Palmer's Potato and Parsnip Gratin and sauteed broccoli with garlic and red pepper flakes. The gratin was sooo yummy. This was the first time that I have made a gratin from scratch and it was the ultimate comfort food. I splurged and purchased a really expensive Gruyère to use in the dish and I think it really took the dish to the next level.

Browning the Lamb
Lamb before adding the Mustard and Breadcrumbs
Potato and Parsnip Gratin Before Baking
Gratin after Baking

Lamb after Baking

IOTW - Pumpkin


In honor of Halloween, I thought I would focus on pumpkin. There are many great ways to use pumpkin in the kitchen. It is wonderful in desserts such as cakes and cookies and can be used in a variety of other dishes like pasta, soups and scones. Pumpkin is high in lots of vitamins and minerals including: vitamin A, vitamin K and iron.

Every year since I was little, my family has made pumpkin cookies to celebrate Halloween. I have posted about these cookies a few times, but I don't think that I have ever posted the recipe. So here is my recipe for great pumpkin cookies:

(Warning: this recipe is doubled and will make around 3 dozen cookies)
6 cups flour
2 cups oats2 tsp baking soda2 tsp cinnamon1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp of pumpkin pie spice (or use 1 tsp allspice, 1tsp cinnamon, 1tsp nutmeg)
2 cups butter2 cups brown sugar2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups raisins
2 cups solid packed pumpkin


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a very large bowl cream the butter then add the sugar and eggs. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the pumpkin. (Waring: Do not use an electric hand mixer to mix the dough is very thick). Fold in the raisins.

(image) Drop onto a greased baking sheet in the shape of pumpkins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cookies and decorate.
I normally frost about half the cookies and leave the other half un-frosted. To help set the frosted cookies, I place them on a baking sheet in the freezer for about 10 or 15 minutes. These cookies also keep really well in a freezer.


Delicious Dinner Thanks to Food and Wine


The best part of having a three-day weekend is more time for cooking! Tonight I made the Creamy Chicken-and-Mushroom Fricassee from Food and Wine. The recipe was really easy to make and turned out really well. This is definitely a recipe that I will be making again.

Seasoned Chicken Ready for the Oven
Onions and Mushrooms

The Benefits of Cooking With Wine(image)
Roasted Chicken
Simmering the Chicken
Dinner is Served


Yummy Apple Bread


It's officially Fall and to celebrate the season I made a delicious apple bread from Southern Living. This bread was so rich, it was practically a dessert! Of course, that was probably the reason that Van liked it so much.

I substituted walnuts for pecans since I already had those in the pantry. I also added two teaspoons of cinnamon to give it a little more flavor. The Southern Living recipe can be found here.

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, divided
  • 1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped, peeled Granny Smith apples (about 3/4 lb.)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake 1/2 cup walnuts in a single layer in a shallow pan 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted, check after 4 minutes.

2. Beat sour cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla at low speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until blended.

3. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to sour cream mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in apples and toasted walnuts. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 9- x 5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining walnuts; lightly press into batter.

4. Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, shielding with aluminum foil after 50 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack.

5. Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a 1-qt. heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, and spoon over top of bread; let cool completely (about 1 hour).

Helpful How-To - Chicken


Many people, myself included, have felt a little intimidated and grossed out about preparing a whole chicken. I have discovered that it is actually a great way to make chicken and that it is really easy. Usually, a whole chicken costs less per pound and will provide plenty of leftovers that can be used throughout the week - which is great if you are really busy or trying to save money!Here are some helpful how-to's to roasting a chicken at home.First, pick up a whole chicken at the grocery store or Farmers Market. This chicken was on sale for $1.29 per pound at Whole Foods this weekend.I think it is really helpful to gather everything you need before you get started - roasting pan, seasonings, small bowls, chicken. I like to set the roasting pan next to the sink so I don't drip anything on the counter.Unwrap the chicken and then check the cavity and pull out the packet or any of the organs. These can be cooked or you can get rid of them.Then clean and rise the chicken. Pull out any remnants of feathers and cut off any excess fat. (It doesn't have to be perfect - Just do what you can!) Then rise the chicken under running water in the sink. Place on the roasting pan and pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.Now it is time to season the chicken. In order to avoid cross contamination, I separately prepare the seasoning in small containers. I add salt and pepper to one small bowl and herbs and garlic in another. I also cut a lemon in half.Use the salt and pepper to season the cavity. Sprinkle it around the sides of the cavity and rub it in so it looks like the picture below.Then begin seasoning the outside with the herb mixture. I use 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped with thyme and parsley. If I have fresh herbs, I will use those and if not I will use dried. I have also used a variety of herbs including basil, rosemary, oregano depending upon what I have on-hand. If you don't feel comfortable coming up with your own mixture, I would recommend taking a look at other recipes for ideas.Coat the outside of the chicken with the herb mixture and then start by the top of the cavity and gently pull apart the skin over the breast. There will be two separate pockets and it should easily separate from the meat. Add the garlic and herbs under the skin. This really helps flavor the meat. Place the lemon halves into the cavity.Smear a little bit of butter (less than one table spoon) on the outside of the skin to help crisp and add a little more salt and pepper to the skin. Tie the legs together by wrapping butchers twine around each leg and place in a 400 degree oven for one hour. Tying the legs together helps the chicken cook evenly.Keep an eye on the chicken and cover with aluminum foil if it begins to get too brown. I usually do this about half-way through the cooking time. Check the temperature of the chicken with a cooking thermometer. The inside temperature should reach 160 degrees. Let the chicken rest before serving.(My final chicken)(Photo of Tyler Florence's Chicken from Food Network)[...]

A Bushel Of ...


Aside from a little confusion about a bushel of apples versus a bushel of crabs, our first annual crab feast was AWESOME! We got 8 of our friends together, ordered a bushel of crabs (about 70 crabs) and spent the afternoon on our deck eating as much as possible. It was a perfect Saturday afternoon and it was all thanks to my husband's brilliant idea!

Crab Apples
About Halfway There
Drink of the Day

This Week is Brought to You By...


...OPI No Spain No Gain. I love it when I can coordinate my nail polish with my life.

This polish is actually the most delicious wine shade and will be one of my go-to colors for fall.


IOTW: 8-Ball Squash


I saw these cute 8-Ball Squash at Whole Foods last weekend and couldn't resist. They were locally grown and really inexpensive. The 8-Ball Squash taste like zucchini , but are maybe a little sweeter. I sliced and sauteed them with oregano, thyme and parsley as a side for dinner this week. They would also be great stuffed with rice and other veggies.




I made a quick trip to NYC on Monday to do a site visit for an upcoming event and had the opportunity to try Gordon Ramsay's Maze. The reviews on Yelp were mixed so I wasn't sure what to expect.

The portions were definitely small so my coworker and I decided to do the three course prix fixe option. Everything was delicious except for the sea salt ice cream - that was something I could live without. The service was wonderful albeit a little slow. Overall, a great meal.

Pan fried Tasmanian ocean trout with butternut squash gnocchi
with brown butter vinaigrette
Roasted chicken breast with spring morels
pickled ramps, new potatoes, fiddlehead ferns and thyme jus
Chocolate fondant
green cardamom caramel, sea salt and almond ice cream

Something New - Ingredient Of The Week (IOTW)


One of my recent goals is to make more time in my life to cook and explore new recipes. To help encourage my creativity in the kitchen, I am going to be featuring a new ingredient of the week (IOTW). Hopefully, this will help encourage others to try something new to spice up their kitchen routine.

The IOTW for this week is ..... Fromage Blanc!
(image) I'm sure that you are probably wondering what is fromage blanc. Well, I was wondering the exact same thing when I found it in one of the recipes in my Williams Sonoma Essentials of Healthful Cooking book.

After a bit of research, I learned that fromage blanc is a soft, creamy cheese that has fewer calories and less cholesterol than cream cheese. Thus, the "healthy" part. I was able to find fromage blanc at Whole Foods in the cooler section next to the creme fraiche.

Fromage blanc is a really tasty substitute for sour cream and would be a yummy spread on crackers or on top of a baked potato. The recipe in the Williams Sonoma cookbook creates creates a delicious topping for red potatoes mixing fresh chives, basil and parsley with fromage blanc.


Cookbook Love


I have always loved cookbooks, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed trying to find one that I will actually use on a regular basis. This summer I got lucky and found two absolute must-haves - Williams Sonoma Farmers' Market and Essentials of Healthful Cooking.

I find that I often get carried away eating out or just not eating well and that I forget about things like vegetables. These cookbooks have lots of great veggie options and just plain delicious food.
(image) What I love about the Farmers Market Cookbook is the dedicated page for each fruit or veggie, instructions for how to pick them and ingredient specific recipes. Wondering how to pick asparagus or what to do with the 12 zucchini you just picked from your garden? This cookbook is for you.

(image) What I love about the Essentials of Healthful Cooking book is the variety of recipes, nutritional information and calories for each dish, and lots of tips and techniques.

Fourth of July + Cupcakes


I am a firm believer that nothing screams holiday like cupcakes! For July 4 I made Hershey's perfectly chocolate cakes with homemade butter-cream frosting. YUM!


Sunday Brunch


I decided to do something special for Easter and make eggs benedict from scratch. I have never attempted to poach eggs, let alone make my own hollandaise sauce. I looked at several difference recipes and decided to use a Tyler Florence version I found on Food Network. I used whole wheat English muffins from Whole Foods and smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon.

This recipe was a total success. I managed to get everything ready at the same time and not ruin the sauce. It was great! Even Van, who typically doesn't like egg dishes, thought it was good.


Sunny Day and Sweet Tea Vodka


For those of you who are unfamiliar with the wonderfulness that is Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, I highly encourage you to check it out. In my personal opinion, the best way to drink Firefly is to make a spiked Arnold Palmer. Pour one part Firefly and one part lemonade over ice. Garnish lemon slices and enjoy! It is the perfect drink for any sunny afternoon and is my go-to drink for summer.


The Best Thing About DC in the Spring


The weather was absolutely gorgeous and so were the cherry blossoms. What a perfect way to spend my lunch.
(image) (image) (image)

After Sun Skin Savers


After our adventure in Mexico and the not-so-successful SPF 55, my skin was in need of some serious TLC. As soon as I got home I turned to my favorite after-sun skin savers. I figured with spring break and summer on the way it was the perfect time to share.

First, is Alba's Kona Coffee After-Sun Lotion. It is loaded with EGCG help neutralize free radical damage and smells so much better than that green aloe gel stuff. If you love coffee, it will really make you feel better.
(image) I also recommend Alba's Sugar Cane Body Scrub to help exfoliate peeling skin. Again, it smells amazing and is gentle, but still effective.(image)

What I Did on My Vacation


I wouldn't consider myself to be a brave person. I'm scared of lots of things like heights, flying, roller coasters (don't laugh) and absolutely frightened of snakes.

Van is always the first to try everything and being with him has helped me get over my fears and experience life. So when we had the opportunity to have our picture taken with a snake on our vacation, I volunteered.

Thankfully, I only had one little freak out before they gave me the python. As you can see, I'm actually smiling.


Spring Kate Spade Love


Maybe it was the 20 feet of snow in DC, but I am dying for Spring. Since Van bought me a new Kate for Christmas, I am on probation for a while. Thankfully, I can still dream.

There were so many cute things for Spring that I couldn't resist putting together a grouping of all the things I would buy on an unlimited budget. I am really loving all the navy and white this season.

Orange Cake


During my great blizzard baking extravaganza last week, I made this orange cake for Van. I only had one orange in the house so I topped off the fresh squeezed juice with regular orange juice. I also just used the zest of one orange.

The recipe only made enough for one cake, but in the future I would double it and make a frosted layer cake. This would also be nice change of pace from the usual chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.

Ready for the Oven
The finished product with Hagen Dazs Peach Sorbet.