Thanksgivukkah! Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Cinnammon Sour Cream ~

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a Thanksgivukkah recipe for you guys today.

What is Thanksgivukkah you ask? It’s when Thanksgiving and Chanukkah coincide! Chanukkah goes by the Hebrew (lunar) calendar and so it’s not always in December like Christmas. It has been in November before, but it’s extremely rare that in falls on Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgivukkah! Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Sour Cream ~

Nate is a lovely hand model

According to Wikipedia, the last time it happened since Thanksgiving was declared a U.S. federal holiday by President Abraham Lincoln was 125 years ago, in 1888. The next time Thursday, November 28 will fall during Chanukkah will be in the year 79811, assuming the Jewish calendar is not revised. Crazy huh?

Being that Jews love to eat, and food bloggers love to cook, you can guarantee that this Chanukkah will have some awesome Thanksgiving/Jewish inspired treats.

The traditional Chanukkah foods are latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (donuts). If you notice, both of these foods are deep fried in oil, which is no coincidence. Oil is very important to the holiday of Chanukkah. You can read more about it here if you’re interested.

Thanksgivukkah! Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Sour Cream ~

I’ve already seen plenty of riffs on latkes for Thanksgivukkah, involving sweet potatoes rather than regular spuds. Honeslty I don’t think that’s so original, as Jews have been doing that already for years. Then I saw people made turkey donuts, which is just plain gross. I also saw a pumpkin rugelach or pumpkin kugel (pudding). 

But I wanted to be original. So I tried to think of other Chanukkah “things.” The other traditional food to eat on Chanukkah, if you can call it a food, is chocolate “gelt” or chocolate coins.Usually these coins are used to gamble while playing dreidel, a game involving a little spinning top.

Thanksgivukkah! Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Sour Cream ~

Gelt is really just money, or coins, so I figured a recipe could look like gelt without actually involving the candy that we love to eat on this holiday. That’s when it occurred to me- sweet potato gelt! I thought about using carrots since they’re smaller and would look more like coins, but they’re not as Thanksgiving-y as sweet potatoes. 

I added the dipping to sauce to make it more kid-friendly (kids love dipping!) and also to inject some more fall flavor (citrus and cinnamon) into the dish. Obviously this dish goes way beyond Thanksgivukkah and would be a welcome addition to any dinner, or even as a fun pass-around appetizer. 

I hope you enjoy, and have a wonderful Thanksgivukkah! You know you want to celebrate it ;)

Thanksgivukkah! Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Sour Cream ~

Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Sour Cream Dipping Sauce
Serves 4
A perfect appetizer or kid's food for Thanksgivukkah or just any day of the year!
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  1. 4-5 sweet potatoes/yams (try to find ones with a small diameter to make smaller "coins")
  2. Cooking spray or olive oil
  3. salt/pepper/cinnamon for sprinkling
Dipping Sauce
  1. 8 oz. sour cream (I used low fat)
  2. 1 Tbsp orange zest
  3. 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  4. 1 Tbsp honey
  5. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Cover a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes crosswise into 1/2" thick rounds. Either toss with oil or place on the prepared baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt/pepper/cinnamon.
  3. Put potatoes in oven and cook, flipping them halfway, 20-25 minutes or until cooked and soft enough to be pierced with a fork, but firm enough to be picked up without falling apart.
  4. While potatoes are cooking, whisk dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
  5. Let potatoes cool to room temperature so you can pick them up without burning your fingers and serve with sauce on the side for dipping!

Zesty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds ~

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that for the last few years, I’ve been really getting into pumpkin carving at Halloween. I had seen these really cool pumpkins online and thought “i could do that,” so I picked up some wood-carving tools and was on my way!

Two years ago, I did a “Where the Wild Things Are” pumpkin:

Where the Wild Things Are jack-o-lantern ~

My 2011 “Where the Wild Things Are” jack-o-lantern

Last year was an owl in honor of our wedding (in which there was a real owl!).

I, sadly, missed winning Movita’s Carve-Off 2012 competition by a hair!

Owl jack-o-lantern ~

My 2012 owl jack-o-lantern

Now that I’ve had 2 years to hone my pumpkin-carving skills, I think that I did my best one yet!

Movita actually posted a link on her facebook page  to the Maniac Pumpkin Carvers last week. I had never been to their page before, but when I looked thru their SERIOUSLY AWESOME pumpkins, I saw that the Wild Things pumpkin I had found on pinterest two years ago (that inspired mine) was actually theirs. 

Nightmare Before Christmas jack-o-lantern ~

I wanted to pick up some pumpkin carving tips, so I actually emailed them (not expecting a response) to find out A) where they cut the hole in their pumpkins since it’s obviously not the top and B) how they light them so well.

Nightmare Before Christmas jack-o-lantern ~

Well, they wrote back like immediately which made me so excited. I found out that they actually cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin, which is what I did this year.

Nightmare Before Christmas jack-o-lantern ~

 They also told me they rig it up with LED or CFL lights inside the pumpkin…but I didn’t have time to get the lights, so I just stuck a flashlight in my pumpkin and called it a day :)

Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington jack-o-lantern ~

My 2013 “Nightmare Before Christmas” Jack Skellington jack-o-lantern

We also finally remembered to use the tripod to take pics this year, since that’s really the only way to get a good pic of anything in the dark.

Nate carved the Oogie Boogie Man to go along with the “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme. I don’t know how we’re going to top these pumpkin next year. 

Nightmare Before Christmas jack-o-lantern ~

*I’ve updated this post to include a few pumpkin carving tips:

  1. Find a pumpkin with a nice wide, flat-ish surface on the part you’re going to carve.
  2. Cut a hole in the backside of your pumpkin that’s big enough for your hand to fit through. Remove all the seeds (and save them to eat!) and then scrape away all the stringy pumpkin gook.
  3. Find an image. It’s best to work from an image that’s in black and white. Either find one that is already b+w or convert it with some photo-editing software. is a good one and I think might be able to do it too. 
  4. Use dry-erase or washable markers to sketch out the image on your pumpkin
  5. Get some wood carving tools, knives, or any other instruments you think will help with scraping the flesh off your pumpkin- some of these need to have small points as you might have intricate details to scrape.
  6. This is kind of obvious, but the lightest areas on your inspiration image will be the parts that you scrape/carve the deepest.
  7. I don’t actually ever cut all the way through the pumpkin flesh- the light areas are simply scraped quite deep into the flesh.
  8. Start with scraping/carving out the lightest areas on your pictures so you have a reference of how deep the lightest areas are compared to not scraping at all (the darkest areas) and then you can estimate how far to scrape for the in-between gray areas.
  9. When you think you’re done, take one of those pumpkin scooper tools they sell in the pumpkin carving sets and scrape the inside of the pumpkin behind your design as much as you can. This will ensure that there isn’t much flesh between the inside and your “lightest” areas. Your design will show better this way because when you put the light inside, it will be able to shine through best.
  10. Either rig up a light bulb or put a mini flashlight in your pumpkin. The little pumpkin lights they sell in the store aren’t bright enough to shine through a “scraped” pumpkin enough to really show off your design.
  11. That’s it! Now light up the pumpkin and impress all your friends!

Since we had two huge-ass pumpkins, I was able to get quite a few pumpkin seeds from them. Roasting pumpkin seeds has been a tradition in my house since I was little whenever we carved Jack-o-Lanterns. When I made them the first year I knew Nate, he became obsessed with them and now he looks forward to pumpkin carving for the seeds more than for the pumpkin I think :)

Last year I saw a Rachel Ray recipe that recommended boiling the seeds before roasting them. I decided to give it a try and they came out great! So I thought I’d share that recipe with you today. Enjoy!

Zesty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds ~ 

Zesty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Crispy, salty, spicy seasoned pumpkin seeds!
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  1. 1 cup cleaned raw whole pumpkin seeds
  2. 1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp fine sea salt
  3. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. 1 tsp garlic powder
  5. 1 tsp onion powder
  6. a pinch cayenne
  7. 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees .
  2. In a small saucepan, bring 4 cups water, the seeds and 1 tbsp. salt to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then drain. Pat the seeds dry between layers of paper towels.
  3. Toss the seeds with the olive oil and remaining 1 tsp. salt. Spread in a single layer on a greased foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until golden, 10 to 12 minutes (or possibly a little longer).
  4. Toss with one of the seasoning blends at right and roast for 5-10 minutes more or until crispy. Keep an eye on them because they burn fast!
Adapted from
Adapted from
09. October 2013 · 44 comments · Categories: life · Tags: , ,

Halloween Cat ~

I alluded to it in my last post, but Nate decided this year that we should dress LC up for Halloween. If you remember my post from a couple years ago, we learned that cats don’t really like wearing costumes.

But Nate didn’t care about LC’s feelings, he only cared about his own enjoyment (don’t worry, I rewarded her with treats for all the torture she endured). And so in preparation for Halloween, Nate bought three costumes and he’d like you lovely blog readers to decide which she should wear:

**I highly encourage all of my cat-loving blog friends to partake in humiliating your cat and posting it on your blog as well (hint hint Rachael, Natalie, Pamela)! Coordinating background drawings are optional ;) **

Option #1: 

Cat Costume #1 ~

LC really didn’t like wearing this, hence the blurry photo.

Option #2:

Cat Costume #2 ~

She’d wear this skeleton tie every day if she could.

Option #3:

Cat Costume #3 ~

By this point, LC knew what we were up to but chose to cooperate.

On a semi-related animal note, I just finished my latest pet portrait for my coworker. She had seen my other portraits and asked if I could paint her miniature Schnauzer, Scottie.

Scottie passed away some years ago, but she told me he was her favorite dog. She wanted me to reproduce a photo of him she had that she loves. Unfortunately the photo was pre-digital photography and was a bit dark and grainy so it was hard to work with. I decided that I could best do a smaller portrait since it involved less detail, so this is my first 6″ square portrait. 

Custom Miniature Schnauzer Acrylic Pet Portrait ~

If you’re interested in having me paint your furry friend, send me an email and I can give you more info!

And finally, on a completely unrelated note, our wedding had a little blurb in Ocala Style Magazine (Ocala is in Florida)! I had been asked by our photographer to submit photos to them but never heard anything back. My parents live in Florida, though, and apparently my mom’s friend who was at our wedding was flipping thru the magazine at a doctor’s office and saw our blurb! So random :)

Click to view our blurb in Ocala Style!

Our wedding was also featured on the blog GreenWeddingShoes back in March for those who missed it! You can check out the amazing video Nate made for the wedding there :)

I hope you guys have some fun plans for the 4th. If you’re not going to someone’s party, chances are you’ve got your own bbq or picnic planned.

Still not sure what to make? I’ve got you covered for both the main meal and the dessert!

If you want something savory, these first recipes will make you the hit of any 4th of July party:

Brad’s Salsa- seriously so good you don’t even need chips



Tomato Corn Salad - sweet summer corn steals the show in this one.

Corn and tomato salad with basil


Veggie TexMex Pasta Salad- I brought this to last year’s 4th festivities! It’s got no mayo so it can sit out without worries of food poisoning.

Tex mex pasta salad


Pasta Salad with Broccoli, Feta, Capers and Chickpeas- a great cold pasta salad to serve alongside burgers and hotdogs.

Pasta Salad with Broccoli, Feta, Capers,and Chickpeas 2 ~


Wheatberry Salad- something a little different and healthier for your 4th. Great served warm or cold.Warm Wheatberry, Brussels Sprout Salad with Feta and Crispy Tofu ~


Marinated Broccoli Salad - best made the day before, so get on it!Broccoli Salad


Tabouli - classic summer salad taking advantage of all the fresh veggies available!



Cilantro Lime Hummus- the most refreshing hummus you’ve ever tasted, and a recipe that gets pinned ALL the time.

Cilantro Lime Hummus


Now, if you’re looking for something sweet, I’ve totally got you covered:

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp- with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s summer dessert perfection!

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp


Toffee Blondies- Sturdy and perfectly portable for whever you need to bring them. Also, have you seen the photo below?! I wish I had one now.

Toffee Blondies ~


Cookies ‘n Cream Bars - this recipe is crazy good. Tastes like Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream in a convenient little bar.

Cookies and Cream Bars


No-Bake Chocolate-covered Peanut Butter Crispy Bars  – a great recipe for when it’s too hot to turn on the oven. Though these are best served indoors in the A/C so the chocolate doesn’t get too melty.

Crispy Peanut Butter Bars


and finally for a little something to liven up your party while keeping you cool:

Frozen Lemon Mojito- SOOOO good and so refreshing! Can easily be made without the alcohol. Just add more water.

Frozen Lemon Mojito


Happy 4th everyone!!!


Pasta Salad with Broccoli, Feta, Capers and Chickpeas

Tomato Rosemary Focaccia ~

Nate and I headed down to his mom’s last weekend, as we usually do when we have 3 days off. I decided to undertake a bunch of recipes that take longer than I typically have. I thought it was a perfect time to get into some yeasty things.

I had marked down a couple recipes, one for a cinnamon braid bread that I decided to make for breakfast, and the other was a Tomato Rosemary Focaccia Nate found in the NY Times. Nate loves focaccia so I’ve been wanting to make it for him. This particular recipe was “healthy” because it had mostly whole wheat flour.

Tomato Rosemary Focaccia ~

While I waited for the dough to rise, I headed outside to pet the neighbor’s cat. He really seemed to like me, and after about 5-10 min of petting, I decided to come back inside. It was a little chilly and I was in my p.j.’s Well, the cat decided he wasn’t done being pet, so he followed me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get him to leave me alone, and I didn’t want him to get near my mother-in-law’s house because she has two dogs inside that don’t like cats.

I finally was able to trick him and quickly ran in the front door and shut it. It seemed like the coast was clear until I saw him poke his head in the window. He was looking for me!


He stayed on the front porch for about 15 min, meowing and pawing at the window. When I didn’t come back out, he then went to the back door and meowed there too for another 15 min. I felt so bad!

Finally, after about 30 min of this, I went outside and walked him back to the neighbor’s house. They were about to leave and were in the driveway, so they took him and put him inside. Phew. And I thought my cat was needy! Nate threatened to tell L.C. when we got home that I “had an affair with a floozy.”

But back to the food. Nate loves whole wheat breads, but I’m not as much of a fan. I find them a little on the dry side, and this focaccia was no exception. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, but you could definitely tell it was made with whole wheat flour. If I’m going to splurge on bread/pasta, I want it to be white flour all the way!

It sure was pretty, though.

Tomato Rosemary Focaccia ~

We had ourselves a nice outdoor dinner. There are few months of the year when I’m willing to eat outside. Usually it’s too cold, or mosquitoes are everywhere (mosquitoes happen to LOVE me).


Anyway, we had a perfect, sunny evening with a nice breeze.


Nate’s mom grilled up some chicken sausage and veggies and we served the focaccia alongside it.

Tomato Rosemary Focaccia ~

I made a chocolate pine nut tart for dessert that was as amazing as it sounds, but the recipe needs a little tweaking before I can share it. I followed the directions but ended up having to split it into two pans because there was too much crust and filling.

We had an awesome Memorial Day. I can’t believe the 4th of July is only a month away! Where has this year gone?

For the focaccia recipe, you can get it from the NY Times site here.