Nine Halloweens Ago... [A Halloween History w/ Pics]

It was nine Halloweens ago that I met my husband. That is a lot of Halloweens, and a lot of costumes. For many Halloween is about costumes, candy, parties, and drinking.... and it's still about those things for me too, but with a special twist. Our anniversary may have been replaced by our wedding date in June, but this day will always have an extra special meaning for me and hubby.

Last year, I told you about how we first met (and you can read our Halloween Love Story here), but this year--our ninth year of togetherness--I wanted to talk about something different. Today I want to talk about costumes. Seriously. I certainly don't remember all of the nine costumes I have worn, but I sure do remember the best ones. Let's visit them, shall we?

Year #1- German Brothel Whore 
Yea, what can I say. I was 18 and a slip and some pearls and German accent were a cheap and easy costume. They also worked by landing me my husband... now whether or not he thought I looked cheap and easy, we'll never know. Looking back though, I think he would probably say that I was more expensive, especially over these nine years.

I will never forget that costume--I really wish I had a picture of it, but I don't. Daren's costume that year? You have to read A Halloween Love Story to find out!

Year #2...or was is #3? 
We used to have a Halloween party every year because it was a good excuse for us to have our anniversary with friends. I remember this one year where we partied our butts off. I was dressed as a pirate lass and Daren was dressed as a doctor. All night he kept saying, "I'm not a doctor, but I'll take a look!"

I searched high and low and managed to dig up this beauty circa 2004 or 2005, we aren't exactly sure:

What I am sure of? We look pretty young and therefore, awesome. We were also having a great time, which is totally evident. 

Either year #4 or #5, eh, whatever! Let's face it by this point, we've lost count! 

This was the year that my mom had a Halloween party, so I decided to go as Frida Kahlo, one of my personal heroes. I pulled off this costume like a champ. I wish I could wear this costume every Halloween. Okay, who am I kidding? I wish I could wear this costume EVERY DAY! I wanted Daren to go as Diego because obviously that would be the coolest thing ever... instead he and his dad decided to go as ninjas... or something like that. 

They made good ninjas, what can I say? 

Year #7 when we got back on track with counting. 

This was a great year because we got to see our first Halloween Phish show together which was awesome. It was also our first married Halloween. BEST of all? We finally seemed to come back to the matching costumes thing, although we kind of made up our own theme, which is how we roll.

Funniest part of this was that I was once again dressed as a whore and he was once again in a suit. Back to basics, in a strange way! My costume was "Cherry Bomb" this time, I was a Russian Escort. Daren was a wealthy Arab patron of mine, Shiek Yerbuti.

We look hot, right? The guy behind us was a friend we made on the beach in Atlantic City [did you know a lot of Canadians travel there?? Yea, neither did we!] 

Present Day- Year #9 

We didn't dress up this year. We did plan on heading to a concert to see the XX last night, but Hurricane Sandy changed our plans. So today we are just enjoying one another and I am going to make some spaghetti. After nine years, we have learned to roll with the punches more, and try to be adaptable. Hurricane Sandy may have tried to put that to the test, but we rose to the occasion and I was once again reminded that we make a pretty good team.

I love ya babe!

Happy Halloween everyone!! 

From The Canning Vault: Applesauce!

Applesauce seems pretty straight forward, right? But don't worry, I'm not serving it with a pork loin or anything because, let's face it, that would be predictable. My mom proclaimed, when we made this applesauce, that she would be using it for baking, and since it's her birthday today [HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!] we're going to do just that!

I found THIS RECIPE on Pinterest and knew I wanted to try it right away. But it didn't call for applesauce. So I tweaked it a little bit and got a delicious, flour-free muffin that I am completely excited about!!!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and get your ingredients ready! Applesauce, baking power, baking soda, eggs (not pictured), two bananas, old fashioned rolled oats, and brown sugar! 

I have learned my lesson on not using muffin cups! I used the foil ones and I read on the original recipe that paper ones are not a good idea with this recipe. So I felt like a winner, right out of the gate! 

One great thing about this recipe is that you can use your blender for it. Which is exciting to me because I love my blender. Read about my love for my blender by clicking here

In the original recipe, it calls for 2 1/2 cups of old fashioned oats. I only had a cup and a half....but I just went with it. The muffins didn't rise as high because of it, but they were SO good. 

Brown sugar! I used this instead of white so that the muffins would be nice and moist! 

A couple of eggs... 

And a cup of homemade spiced applesauce! 

I had to stir the contents a little in the blending process, but in the end, all's well that blend's well. 

Then I filled my pans! 

25 minutes later.... 

I ate on these alllll week long. They were the perfect before work out breakfast for my spin classes, too! 

Flour-Free Banana Muffins 

You Will Need: 

Two bananas
1 cup applesauce 
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

12 foil muffin cups


Place foil muffin cups in your muffin pans. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put ingredients in your blender.

Blend it until smooth, stirring when necessary. (You basically want the oats to be fully incorporated and smooth.)

Pour batter into prepared muffin pans.

Bake on 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean!


My Life in Aprons [With Pics!]

Ever wake up and feel like you have a bunch of aprons? It happens to me alllll the time. And they just aren't getting their due, if you ask me. My aprons get a lot of play in my house. They are another of those unsung kitchen heroes and they deserve just a little more credit, don't you think? Me too.

So to those ends, I wanted to share my collection of aprons with all of you. Because they are awesome. And wacky. And sentimental. And FUN! So, here they are [drum roll please]........... MY APRONS!

Polka Dots & Lace! 

This apron gets the most use. I love this apron because it's sweet and a little bit sassy and red, (which means it covers up stains really well!) 

Lunch Lady Apron! 

I feel like this apron is for a lunch lady. And hey, you know what? I make lunch all the time. 
Special feature of this guy? He ties around the sides not the neck and back.... AND 

It's reversible!!! Lucky me. Double your pleasure....double your mess! 

Earthy, gifted apron

This was a birthday gift from a dear friend, and I absolutely love this apron. In fact, it was this apron that sparked me to write "Fear Not The White Apron." Now that I have gotten over my fear of white aprons, I find I quite enjoy this one. 

The Wedding apron!

This sweet lil number was a gift at my wedding shower and thought the whole idea was quite brilliant. They laid out this apron and let everyone sign it. This was also when I found out what creative and crafty family and friends I have because look at the great stuff they drew and wrote all over it! 

I am not going to lie, I love this apron, but that doesn't mean I am about to cook in it. Sentimental value. I am afraid to wash it, and therefore afraid to mess it up. It's okay to have just one I don't use, right? 

Check out the details my friends and family drew in! 

The Mexican! 

OLE! This piƱata and cactus apron came from my aunt and uncle who live in Mexico! I like to wear it when I am making chicken mole, or tacos, or even nachos in the microwave. 
It's really fun, huh?! 

Scottish Apron 
[With American fabric from the 50s!]

This was a gift from my mother in law and she picked it up while she was in Scotland. The funniest part about this awesome apron is that it looks like it could have come from Mexico AND the fabric that was used to construct it is actually from the United States. I find all of that incredibly fascinating and it demonstrates that every apron has it's own story! 

Rooster Apron

This apron came from my mom whose sense of humor is firmly intact. I find it hilarious, but I can only put it on when I am in the mood to cocoa-doodle-doo! Haha. Or at Thanksgiving. Certainly it's fall themed and I love the novelty of this apron. It always makes me smile. 

Christmas Apron 

This is my Christmas themed apron complete with candy canes and weird Santas. Every girl needs one! Plus, you do a lot of cooking and baking during the holiday season! 

So now that you have seen my collection, tell me what you think? Which apron is your favorite? Do you make use of aprons when you cook? Share in the comments section below! 

Quick Fix: Italian Tuna Melts

Okay, I realize that tuna does, in fact, come in a can. And I have talked a lot lately about giving up canned goods, which I totally am. But this can has been sitting in my cupboard for a while, and what was I going to do? I was hungry!

Before I can fully abolish cans, I first must use up all the ones in the cabinet, of course... and let's also acknowledge that the first step to solving any problem is acknowledging you have one. It's a process laid out in steps and I am somewhere toward the end, and yet not fully recovered. If you find yourself there, and you also find a can of tuna there with you, then maybe this is the recipe for you.

Let's face it, tuna is good. Tuna melts are better. Add an Italian twist and you've got yourself a tuna melt that will knock your Americano socks off. Which is, subsequently, why I am not wearing any socks right now. While I get my socks on, let's check out some pictures, shall we?

We've got a good line up here. Bread, tuna, onion, cheese, capers, parmesan, mayo. You get the idea. 

Start by draining you tuna and then adding your mayo. If you want to  be conservative, you can add one tablespoon of mayo. If you want to go wild at lunch, go for two heaping scoops of mayo. I went for two because I am crazy like that. Crazy at lunch. 

Capers. They are like tiny olives, all briny and lovely and full of spunk. They give this recipe a pow-ka-bowie! 

Now, if you aren't crazy about garlic, you can skip it. For me, garlic is life. It is everything. It is an ingredient in this recipe! And I add a whole, yummy minced clove. 

Add a quarter of an onion, diced. 

Out of my 16 ounce jar of canned tomato, I just pulled a couple out and sliced them all up. Then I added them to the tuna. 

Final step: put some mozzarella in it. We are measuring by the fistful on this fistful for me! 

Lay out your bread on a sheet pan. Four slices, your choice. I used a lovely marbled rye that added a ton of flavor. But if whole wheat is more your thing, I won't judge! 

I put my tuna on the bread. Mostly evenly. 

And now we are sprinkling a healthy dose of parmesan cheese on it. 

A note about this cheese. My husband's Aunt Carol, who I totally adore, once asked me why I make all this great food and use this cheap sprinkle cheese. I told her it was so I could afford all the other food, which is partially true. Also, I believe it's totally good enough. I like it. And because it's cheap, I can use it generously. Someday, when I make my millions, I will probably still use sprinkle cheese. 
Sprinkle cheese: I can't quit you. 

Let's do this! 
We're going under a lo broil for 10 minutes; you all know how I feel about lo broil--it's an oven function I live for. 

Can you say YUM!? I can. I devoured these open faced beauties in seconds flat. Okay, maybe a minute. Whose counting?! 

Italian Tuna Melts 

Time: 15 minutes | Serves 2 | Difficulty: Easy 

You Will Need: 

1 can of tuna, drained
1 or 2 tablespoons mayonnaise 
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 onion, diced
2 canned tomatoes, (or fresh if you got 'em), sliced 
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fistful of mozzarella
parmesan cheese, to sprinkle 
4 pieces of bread


In a bowl, mix together the drained tuna, mayo, capers, onion, tomato, garlic and mozzarella. Stir to combine fully. 

Place your bread on a sheet pan. Top with the tuna mixture. 

Sprinkle cheese over tuna/bread. 

Bake on a lo broil for 10 minutes until warm and parmesan is getting golden. 

Serve! Enjoy! 

*Note: I ate this alone, and put the extra two pieces in the fridge overnight and they were great the next day! 

Shepard's Pie for Two Recipe

I love the cooler fall and winter months because they bring with them the ability to cook and eat all those cold weather dishes I love soooo much. Shepard's pie was not something my mother ever made. No, not in our Italian-American home; this was a dish I was introduced to through the school lunch program. I kid you not.

School lunch taught me a lot about the way other Americans were eating. Which is probably why it is the thing I miss the most about school. Of course, this dish is traditionally one that comes from our English counterparts, and for that we thank them.

My version is for two, served individually. This makes a great meal on a cold night, served simply with a nice piece of homemade (or just plain yummy) bread.

For my version I am using about a half pound of venison. Venison is not everyone's cup of tea, and I am hip to that. You can use any red meat variety you enjoy. For example: beef, bison, lamb, ostrich, or veal, or a mix would work just as well! 

Make sure you get it nice and crumbly while it browns. Whenever my husband wants to help and we are browning meat, breaking it up into fine little crumbles is his specialty. 

Meanwhile, while your meat is a-browning, peel and cut up two carrots. I like the rounds, but you can cut 'em any way you like! 

Also, take two potatoes, peel them, quarter them, throw them in a pan and cover them with water. Can you guess what we're doing? If you guessed "boiling them" you win! 

What I like to do is throw the water in and let it come to a boil. Then I set the timer for 15 minutes for small spuds and 20 for the larger ones. Let 'em go! 

Our meat is browned so now we are ready to start adding some veggies. 

We got our carrots. 

Some frozen corn...

And some diced onions! 

Now, I chose to go simple here because I feel like most people will have these veggies on hand. But you can add any veggies you like--green beans, peas, etc. This is your Shepherd's Pie, and you should enjoy it how you like! 

Now it's time to add the spices. I started with salt. 

And worcestershire sauce! [of which I am a very big fan, by the way!] 

Let the veggies and spices cook down and start to get tender about 5-7 minutes. 

A little red wine goes a long way int his recipe and gives it a great flavor. 
Let it reduce a few minutes. And by a few I mean about 2 or 3 minutes. 

Once the wine is reduced, sprinkle your flour over the veggies and stir it up. 

Then pour over your beef broth! 

Mmmmm.... then it's all thick and gravy-ish. Perfection! 

By now your taters are all done. So drain 'em and then add them back to the pot. Add butter and milk. 

And mash! Add a little pepper and salt, too. You want those mashers to be seasoned and yum-tastic! 

Now, divvy up your meat and veggies between two small casserole dishes. I picked up these beauties at the local grocery...fancy, I know. They were cheap and they are also great for French onion soup! 

Top with the mashed potatoes! 

Now throw (okay, don't throw, place) them in the oven until they are bubbly and a little golden! 

Serve some great bread! I made a homemade rosemary bread! 

Shepherd's Pie for Two 

Time: 1 hr | Serves 2 | Difficulty: Medium 

You Will Need:

About 1/2 pound of red meat (venison, lamb, beef--your choice!)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced into quarters 
1/3 cup corn (I use frozen, fresh works too) 
1/2 onion, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth 
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce 
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil 
dash of cayenne pepper 
palmful of salt 

Special equipment: two individual casserole dishes. 


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a heavy skillet, add your olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add the meat and using a spatula, crumble the meat into uniform bits while it browns, about 5 minutes. 

While meat is browning, add potatoes to a pan and fill with water. Place them on the stove on high and allow them to boil for 15 minutes for smaller taters and 20 minutes for larger ones. 

Meanwhile, your meat will have browned, and it's time to add your veggies and spices! Add the corn, onion and carrot. Give it a stir and then add your cayenne pepper, palmful of salt, worcestershire, and garlic. Stir and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the veggies are starting to get tender. 

Add your wine and allow to reduce for about 2 minutes. 

Sprinkle the flour over top the meat and the veggies and stir to combine. Add the broth and allow everything to come to a boil. It should be a nice thick gravy now. Reduce heat and allow to simmer. 

By now the potatoes should be done. Drain them and return them to the pan. Add the butter and milk to the potatoes. Using a potato masher or fork, mash the potatoes up. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

In your two casserole dishes, divvy up the meat and veggies. Top with the mashed potatoes. 

Place both casserole dishes in the oven and cook on 375 for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are goldening and it's bubbly. 

Serve with bread and enjoy!