Holiday Gift Guide

Tis the season of gift giving! I put together a few items to inspire you this holiday season, and all year round. From the expert chef to the kitchen novice, there is something for everyone. Take a look below for gift ideas from $10 to $100.

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John Daly

This is my go-to beverage for summer parties. A John Daly is nothing more than an Arnold Palmer with vodka. What makes this version a bit different from others is the higher ratio of tea to lemonade. Omit the vodka in the recipe below for a non-alcoholic version of this refreshing drink.

Whether you are spending the day on a boat, sitting in your backyard or tearing it up at your neighborhood block party, this is a big crowd pleaser and easy to scale from 1 – 100 people.

Mise en place

NOTE: quantities of each ingredient will vary depending on how many people you are serving. One might define a “part” as a shot glass for an individual cocktail, or a “part” could be defined as a quart (4 cups) for a crowd. Simply replace “part” with any volume measurement.

  • 1 part fresh squeezed or chilled lemonade (look in the refrigerated section, not the center shelves of the store)
  • 1 part vodka
  • 3 parts high quality unsweetened black tea
  • juice from fresh lemon or sliced lemons (optional but really delicious addition)


  1. Mix everything together and chill over night if possible. If you can’t wait that long, no big deal.
  2. pour over ice
  3. sit back, relax and enjoy!


  • Use quality ingredients. I prefer Trader Joe’s Tejava unsweetened black tea and a good quality, refrigerated lemonade . Other brands such as Simply Lemonade and Pure Leaf/Golden Peak/Honest teas are also good.
  • When making for a crowd I like to buy gallons of water, drink the water and save the gallon jugs. I’ll mix it and pour it into the gallon jugs. They fit nicely in a cooler, are easy to pour from and you don’t have to worry about bringing the container home.
  • Label your beverage! This is a very important step to insure the kiddos or anyone else wanting to avoid alcohol doesn’t think it is juice.
  • On the above note, make a version without vodka for others to enjoy. It is a thoughtful and inclusive gesture as a host(ess)

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Like the rest of the internet, I have been making a lot of banana bread lately because it checks all of the boxes for me as we shelter in place– it’s comforting, uses accessible ingredients, and oh-so satisfying.

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Pumpkin Cake

If you’ve ever spent any amount of time with me, our conversation is likely to include some talk of food. I love to hear about family holiday traditions, favorite restaurants, new spices, gardening, late night snacks, cooking techniques, party ideas, and my all time favorite topic…recipe sharing. Continue reading “Pumpkin Cake”

A Simple Framework to Get Dinner on the Table

It’s 5:30 PM and as I stare through the green tinted glass, I feel the train slow to a dead stop. I roll my eyes and start to mindlessly flip through my Instagram feed. After several minuets I hear the all too familiar voice over the loudspeaker say, “This train is operating twelve minutes behind schedule due to freight train interference, Metra apologizes for any inconvenience”. As I sit there my frustration builds and then quickly shifts to anxiety as I realize how late it is and I haven’t the slightest clue what to make for dinner. There’s nothing in our fridge, I’m exhausted, and so hungry I could cry. I feel a wave of guilt wash over me as I consider eating out. Continue reading “A Simple Framework to Get Dinner on the Table”

Brown Butter & Sea Salt Toasted Crispies

If something’s not broken, why would one try to fix it? The Rice Crispy Treat’s a far cry from being broken and quite honestly, it seems impossible to make it better. But dare I say, this version is better than the original?

Refining a classic recipe is a great opportunity to reinvigorate flavors and make something old, new again. A few extra steps spent browning the butter and toasting the cereal send this classic treat over the top.


Just look at that stretch!!!! The marshmallow to cereal ratio is key here.

Like a great magic trick, watch these chewy delights disappear in the blink of an eye. Bring these and you’ll be the most popular one at the party.


Here’s a look at how this humble treat comes together…



Working in two batches, toast the cereal in a pan. You’ll need to stir often to insure even browning. I’ve tried toasting the cereal in the broiler but it resulted in a blackened layer on top with an under side void of color. I find browning in a pan works best.


See the difference in color? Toasting imparts additional flavor depth and gives the cereal extra crunch. It’s a fantastic contrast in texture with the gooey marshmallows.


You’ll need to take the pan off the heat after the butter is browned. That said, use your heaviest bottomed pan to brown the butter. The heavier the pan, the better and it will hold the heat and continue to melt the marshmallows.


Remove the pan from the heat and add the marshmallows. Continue to stir until it’s all melted.


Add the toasted cereal and 1/4 heaping teaspoon of kosher/sea salt and mix.


Press the gooey web into your lined pan and sprinkle with additional sea salt.


Allow the bars to cool and then cut into squares.

Easy, right? Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Makes 16 bars

Mise En Place

  • 8″ x 8″ x 2″ square pan, lined w/ parchment and sprayed with oil or butter
  • 5 1/2 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 10oz. bag of marshmallows
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon of kosher/sea salt
  • More flaky sea salt to sprinkle on top



  1. Prep your 8″ pan
  2. Working in two batches, toast the cereal in a pan on the stove top. Apply medium heat and stir often. You’re looking for a caramel brown color but not too dark. Set aside.
  3. Place your heavy dutch oven pan over medium heat and brown the butter. Keep an eye on it and stir often. The butter won’t do much for a while, then all of the sudden it will vigorously bubble, and in the blink of an eye it turns golden.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and sir in the marshmallows until all melted.
  5. Add the heaping 1/4 teaspoon of kosher/sea salt
  6. Fold in the toasted cereal and mix until combined
  7. Press into the prepared pan and sprinkle some additional flaky salt on top.
  8. Allow the pan to cool, cut into squares and watch them disappear!