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Entries in blissful eats (142)


blissful eats with tina jeffers: Meyer lemon crinkle cookies

I am hosting a small Christmas party at my house for the holiday and it’s the first time in a long time that I felt the need to try to decorate my house.  I wanted to keep it simple and not spend a fortune on decorations that I would have to stuff in my basement all year long.  I have some beautiful magnolia trees at work and I carefully pruned some branches, brought them home and created this lovely wreath. 

I’m really happy with the way it turned out and it’s the perfect project for someone that’s not too crafty. I am just so glad that I ended up with a completed project.  I am the queen of starting projects and then deserting them before I finish them.  I started with a styrofoam wreath base and just layered the leaves on the form in concentric circles, I filled it in as I went and since the leaves have a nice big stem on them I didn’t need to glue or wire them onto the frame.  I also wanted something big to cover a pair of doors in my living room so I ordered giant macrame rings that only cost $3.00 each and used some greenery that I got at my local nursery to create these beauties.  I wanted to have something that would be unique and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

After my crafting adventures I wanted this weeks recipe to be simple and easy to put together.  Meyer lemons are starting to show up at the market and I just love the beautiful color and bright citrus flavor they give to sweet and savory dishes alike.  Slightly sweeter than regular lemons they give these cookies a nice lemon kick without being too tart.  The cookie is soft and chewy similar to a snickerdoodle but loaded with bright lemon flavor.   

I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season filled with good food, friends and beautiful memories!  For more recipes and to check out my homemade gift wrap visit me at www.scalingbackblog.com.

Meyer lemon crinkle cookies


from The Cooking Channel




1 3/4 cups all-purpoose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

zest of 2 meyer lemons

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

2 extra-large eggs

2 tablespoons fresh meyer lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract



Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Set out 2 sheet pans.  Whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl and set aside.


Sift the powdered sugar into another bowl to ensure there are no lumps and set aside.


In an electric stand mixer cream the butter in the bowl for about a minute and then slowly stream in the granulated sugar.  Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes.  


Scrape down the bowl with a spatula, add the eggs one at a time, and mix on medium until incorporated.  Add the lemon juice and vanilla and beat until blended.


Turn off the mixer and add the flour mixture.  Mix on low speed until the flour disappears.


Using a small cookie scoop portion out about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the dough, then roll the portioned dough into small balls.  Roll the balls in the sifted powdered sugar, and place on the sheet pan at least 2-inches apart.


Bake the cookies for 13 to 14 minutes, until the surface of the cookies have cracked and puffed up.  Cool the cookies on a wire rack and serve.


blissful eats with tina jeffers: Spiced persimmon overnight oats

I have seen versions of overnight oats all over the Internet and I have always been intrigued.  I must admit that I have slight issues with oatmeal; the texture is always a little off-putting.  So I decided to try them with the addition of a little crispy rice cereal to give it the crunch I crave.

Persimmons are one of my very favorite fruits but the season is pretty short.  If you haven’t tried one you should really seek them out, they have a floral quality and subtle honey overtones that you won’t find in any other fruit.   There are two kinds of persimmons that are commonly found, the fuyu and the hachiya.  The fuyu can be eaten while still firm but the hachiya must be completely ripe and soft before you consume them.  They are high in tannins that will be really unpleasant on your tastebuds if you don’t allow them to ripen fully.

The oats can be enjoyed with any number of fruits and spices.  If you can’t find persimmons, try some apples or pears, hazelnuts or pecans would also be nice or a spoonful of your favorite nut butter would also be tasty.  If you don’t like them cold you could warm the oat mixture in the microwave for a minute or so before you assemble the parfait.  If you are looking for another way to enjoy persimmons be sure to check out this persimmon smoothie on my blog at www.scalingbackblog.com!

Spiced persimmon overnight oats


Serves 2




2/3 cup rolled oats

1 tbsp chia seeds

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

pinch salt

½ cup almond or hazelnut milk

1 teaspoon honey


1 persimmon, diced

½ cup crispy brown rice cereal

¼ cup chopped pistachios

honey to drizzle on top


Combine the oats, chia seeds, spices, and salt in a bowl and then pour the milk over the top, add the honey and stir well to combine.  Place in the fridge overnight.  To assemble the parfait layer a small amount of the oat mixture in the bottom of a jar, top with half the brown rice cereal and persimmons.  Repeat with another layer of oats, cereal and then top with the persimmons, pistachios and drizzle with honey.


blissful eats with tina jeffers: Stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce

As I was sitting here trying to finish up this post I took my eyes off my dog for a few minutes and she managed to steal my friends glasses and eat them into oblivion. 

This is my life and this is why I am struggling to get enthusiastic about the holiday.  I can’t even keep my dog from shredding every single item that crosses her path, what is she going to do a Christmas tree? 

Every year I suffer from the syndrome of good intentions.  I want to transform my home into a winter wonderland of beauty and wonder, bake dozens of cookies to gift to friends and handcraft each and every item I gift. 

The month of December is one where I run around like a chicken with my head cut off, snarling at everyone to just stay out of my way.  I want to enjoy the holiday and my family so I’m trying to pick just a few projects and keep things simple.  However we are hosting a large party in a few weeks so I’ll let you know how that goes. 

Having dishes that I can prepare ahead of time and freeze really helps out with staying on task.  This is a dish that makes a pretty fair amount and I usually make extra so that I can take it out of the freezer and have a home cooked meal on the table without any preparation.  

The shells are stuffed with a mixture of ricotta, Parmesan and Swiss chard.  The chard adds a nice texture and helps lighten the dish a bit.  You can serve them with your favorite tomato sauce but this butternut squash sauce is sublime.  Rich, creamy and slightly sweet I can eat it by the spoonful.  The addition of the apple cider vinegar really brightens the flavors and balances the natural sweetness of the squash.  I think I might try just tossing it with a little spaghetti next time and adding a few fried sage leaves and hazelnuts.

I hope you all a sane and beautiful holiday.  Enjoy your friends and family and don’t worry about everything being perfect.  I’m going to try my hardest to do the same.  Be sure to visit me at www.scalingbackblog.com for more recipes!

Stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce


Serves 6



For the sauce:

1 medium butternut squash (about 1 ½ pounds)

½ medium red onion, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon red chili flakes

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

½ cup chicken or vegetable stock

½ cup half-and-half

salt and pepper to taste


For the filling:

1 pound Swiss chard

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese

1 egg, beaten

½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon finely grated nutmeg

1 cup grated mozzarella


¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


20-25 jumbo dried pasta shells


Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a large, sharp knife, trim the ends of the squash and cut it in half lengthwise.  Peel with a vegetable peeler. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard.  On a baking sheet toss the butternut squash and onion with the olive oil, chili flakes and salt.  Roast until the squash is tender, about 40 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Transfer squash to a food processor or high-speed blender.  Add apple cider vinegar, chicken stock and half and half, process until smooth adding a little more stock if needed to thin if necessary.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Cook the shells according to directions in well-salted water until al dente.  Drain and let cool enough to handle with your hands.  Lightly oil a large baking dish or several smaller dishes.

To make the filling, combine the ricotta, egg, mozzarella, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl

Remove the stems from the Swiss chard and finely chop and slice the rest of the leaves into ribbons.  Add the chard stems to a medium skillet with the tablespoon of olive oil.  Sauté for a few minutes until they start to soften and then add the rest of the chard and cook until wilted.  Let cool slightly before adding to the ricotta mixture.

Spread a 1/3 of the sauce across the bottom of a lightly oiled 9x13 inch baking dish or several smaller dishes.  Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture and arrange in a single layer in the pan.  Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, uncover for the last 15 minutes or until the shells are hot and cooked through.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve.


blissful eats with tina jeffers: Greek yogurt cheesecake with pomegranate syrup

I love Thanksgiving and all the food that comes along with it.  Unfortunately my family has no desire to eat turkey and pumpkin pie so I have to adjust my expectations and come up with a menu that everyone wants to eat.  It doesn’t matter what we eat as long as we take the time to spend the day with family and loved ones creating memories that last. 

This year in the Jeffers household we will be consuming fried chicken and this delicious cheesecake made with Greek yogurt.  I know it’s weird but it also perfectly represents the oddness that is my family.  The best part of this dessert is that you don’t have to worry about taking up precious oven time and you can make it a few days in advance and have it ready to go.  The recipe comes from Bon Appetit and the only change I made to it was to reduce the sugar a little bit and I pre-baked the graham cracker crust.  The first time I tried it I didn’t like the texture of the crust without baking it and I found it overly sweet.  The yogurt gives it a lovely tang and creamy texture. 

Greek yogurt cheesecake with pomegranate syrup


From Bon Appetit



For the crust:

            Nonstick vegetable oil spray

            1 1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs t

            1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

            2 tablespoons sugar

For the filling:

            2 teaspoons powdered gelatin

            1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature

            1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

            3/4 cup sugar

            2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

            1 teaspoon vanilla extract

            1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the pomegranate syrup:

            2 cups flash-pasteurized pomegranate juice

            1/4 cup sugar

            2 tablespoons light corn syrup

            Pomegranate seeds



For the crust:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.                

Coat bottom and sides of pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom with a parchment-paper round. Using your fingertips, mix remaining ingredients in a medium bowl until mixture holds together when pinched tightly. Pack onto bottom of pan in an even layer (using the bottom of a flat measuring cup works well). Bake crust until just golden, about 7-8 minutes.  Set aside and let cool completely before you add the filling.


For the filling:

Place gelatin and 1 1/2 tablespoon cold water in a heatproof bowl. Let stand until softened, 5-10 minutes.

Pulse cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt in a food processor, scraping down sides as needed, until completely smooth.

Pour water to a depth of 1/2-inch into a small skillet over medium heat. Place bowl with gelatin in skillet; stir until gelatin dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove bowl from skillet.

With processor running, drizzle gelatin into cream cheese mixture; mix until well blended. Pour into prepared crust. Tap pan firmly on the counter to break up any big air bubbles. Smooth top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least 6 hours before serving. Cheesecake can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.


For the pomegranate syrup:

Bring first 3 ingredients to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; simmer, whisking occasionally, until syrup is thickened, shiny, and measures a generous 1/2 cup, 35-40 minutes. Let cool.  Cover; chill. Rewarm slightly before serving.

Cut cheesecake into slices, dipping knife into a large glass of warm water and wiping dry between slices, and place on plates. Drizzle pomegranate syrup over and scatter pomegranate seeds around.


blissful eats with tina jeffers: Kabocha squash and ricotta toasts  

A few years ago I had the pleasure of dining at ABC Kitchen in New York City.  It was one of my most memorable meals I had while visiting the city and the dish that stuck in my mind the most was the squash and ricotta toasts that I had as an appetizer.  There is nothing unusual about mashed squash but the addition of maple syrup and apple cider vinegar lends a sweet-tart depth of flavor that I don’t remember ever experiencing.  The squash would also make a wonderful side dish on it’s own, perfect for your Thanksgiving table.

Kabocha squash and ricotta toasts        


Serves 4


From The New York Times




2 pounds of kabocha or other winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ¼ inch pieces

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon dried chile flakes

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup maple syrup

4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick

½ cup whole-milk ricotta

coarse salt

4 tablespoons fresh mint



Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Combine the squash, ¼ cup olive oil, chile flakes, and 1 ½ teaspoons of salt in a bowl and toss well.  Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook, stirring every few minutes, until tender and slightly browned, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees.


Meanwhile, heat another ¼ cup olive oil over medium –high heat, add the onions and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are well-softened and brown, 15-20 minutes.  Add the vinegar and syrup, stir and reduce until syrupy and thick, for another 15 minutes; the mixture should resemble jam.


Combine the squash and onions in a bowl and smash with a fork until well combined.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired.  


Spread the bread on a baking sheet and lightly coat both sides with the

Remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Bake until crisp and slightly golden brown 5-7 minutes.  Spread ricotta on toasts, and then top with the squash mixture.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and garnish with mint.