From East to West

Just over a week ago, I was in Charleston, SC with my best girl-friend Emily. We went to my favorite restaurant, Five Loaves (my boyfriend was mighty jealous), went on an Art Walk on Broad Street, and ate her Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake bars. The week I spent in Charleston, I was on the beach and in flip flops. I ran, and I actually sweated.

Now I’m back home, in Boulder, Colorado-and since my return it has snowed and frozen over. Last weekend the temperature dropped 32 degrees in 4 hours. I’ll just say it went from comfortable, to windy, to freezing. I woke up the next morning to what? Snow. Welcome to our first October in Colorado. Cooper (the adorable puppy pictured below) wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I can’t blame him-if I had only been alive for 4 months, 3.9 of which had been warm or hot-I would be confused too.

So what do girls like us do on weekends when we are trapped inside? Especially when they just received a KitchenAid as a gift from a mom’s friend?? Bake, cook, obviously. Here are a couple recipes I tried out:

Light* Baked Spaghetti

*Tim grew up in southwest Virginia, and occasionally craves the flavors of down-home southern cooking. I typically search out the slightly healthier options of his favorites, so I won’t feel quite as guilty about eating twice as much as a should.


  • Kosher salt
  • 6 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • Cooking spray, for the pan
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions; drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bell peppers, mushrooms, seasoned salt and Italian seasoning and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, 3/4 cup water and the basil and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to combine with the sauce. Spoon half of the pasta mixture into the casserole dish. Sprinkle with half of each cheese. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and cover loosely with foil sprayed with cooking spray (do not let the foil touch the cheese). Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

No meal — or weekend — is complete without dessert. One of Tim’s favorite cookies are fig newtons. I enjoy them quite a bit myself, and wanted to see if I could improve the goodness with a bit of homemade twist. The results were spectacular. A big hit at home, and the office, where I took half of them. The orange zest and juice really bring out the flavors of fig and brown sugar. Emily will be proud, I’m sure, to read that I have eaten about 15 cookies in the last three days.

Whole Wheat Fig Bars


  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening, I use butter or 1/3 cup margarine
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 pinch salt

Fig Filling

  • 1 (8 ounce) packages dried figs, stems removed
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together shortening, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until creamy.
  3. Add all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, orange peel and salt, beating until blended.
  4. Refrigerate dough 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Prepare fig filling and set aside, see below.
  6. On a floured surface, roll dough into 14 inch square.
  7. Cut dough into 4 equal strips, each 14 inches long and 3 1/2 inches wide.
  8. Spoon 1/4 of fig filling in a 1 1/2 inch wide mound down center of each strip.
  9. Using a long spatula, lift sides of each dough strip over filling, overlapping slightly on top.
  10. Press edges together to seal.
  11. Cut strips crosswise in half for ease of handling.
  12. Place, seam side down, 3 inches apart on greased baking sheets.
  13. Brush off any excess flour.
  14. Cut each strip into 7 (1 inch) crosswise pieces, but do not separate.
  15. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until puffed and firm to the touch.
  16. Cool 5 to 10 minutes on baking sheets; then cut apart and remove to racks to cool completely.

Fig Filling.
In a medium saucepan, combine figs, water, orange juice and granulated sugar.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat and simmer 5 to 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally; cool.

I didn’t have time to take pictures of this round of cooking. I will in the next post, definitely.
Until next time (and I think next time is Apple Turnovers and something with the pie pumpkins we got at the farm this weekend), Annie out.

Change is in the air

So.  I have to present for journal club tomorrow on a subject that is not my area of expertise.  I’ll be presenting an article on titantium dioxide, a nanoparticle that is an emerging contaminant, found in sunscreens, cosmetics, sporting goods, stain-resistant clothing, tires, electronics, and medicine.  Needless to say, aside from witty commentary and sparkly powerpoint animations, I’ve been trying to think of a way to distract from my obvious lack of expertise.  And then I realized: FOOD!  Food is an excellent distraction for most people, and if it’s not a distraction, at least they’ll be sugar high and too happy to point out my erroneous citations or flawed thinking.  I’ve also been pinning about 10 different pumpkin recipes a day since October started, and have already bought 6 cans of pumpkin since the official first day of fall.   I ended up picking Pumpkin Nutella Bread, because I thought it was finger-friendly and appropriate for a mid-morning snack.  I also love this blogging duo, and have found that all their recipes are foodie-tested, boyfriend-approved. 


So they came out of the oven, and of course I had to try one to make sure it could knock their socks off and render them defenseless against my scientific brilliance.  Well, the first time could have been a fluke, so I had to try again.  Heck, I’m a scientist, so why not just try them in triplicate?

Needless to say, their power has been fully tested.  I surrendered completely, sliced a huge piece, plunked a dollop of ice cream on top, and enjoyed it properly.  Mmmm.  Heavenly.Image

I am definitely making these again.