When it finally felt like fall, I was so excited to cook with butternut squash. I immediately looked up recipes on my favorite food blogs, and I came upon this one, which is easy and pretty quick and perfect for a vegetable side dish. The combination of flavors was so fresh and perfect for the season, I can't wait to make it again.
crusted butternut squash
serves about 4

1 Butternut Squash (about 2 lbs.)
2 tsp. Olive Oil
1/2 tsp. Fresh Ground Nutmeg
1/3 Cup Fresh Breadcrumbs/Panko
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Minced Garlic Clove
1 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Parsley
1/4 Cup Fresh Thyme Leaves
Salt and Pepper

About seventeen years ago, my mom became a breast cancer survivor. Four years later, she became a double survivor, very thankfully. Since that time, the breast cancer cause has been one that's very close to me, whether it's contributing through races and donations or really any other type of support possible. This is why I love the fashion industry and the "girl power" attitude that comes with it. Over the years, many fashion and beauty brands have come to participate in the cause, so it's very easy to get involved or contribute money through various "pink" efforts. Now, so many national companies are on board, not just in fashion and beauty, but food, tech, activewear and many other genres of business. I'm so thankful that such a large number of companies get on board so that more people struggling now and in the future can have success stories like my family's. I love you, mom, and I'm grateful every day for your fight.

Chop't salads, Panera bread and Crumbs Cupcakes are just a few food outlets that contribute to BCA efforts, both with financial contributions and specialty food items and containers that signify the cause.

Tons of beauty brands participate in BCA efforts with different pink beauty offerings the contribute to the cause. Amongst them are popular brands Essie, Ralph Lauren, Bobbi Brown, Bumble and Bumble, Clinique, Estée Lauder and Paul Mitchell.
Image via: BobbiBrown.com
Image via: Clinique.com
Image via: EsteeLauder.com
Fashion brands are also quick to get on board with the cause. Big names like White House Black Market, Rebecca Taylor, Ann Taylor and LOFT, Lilly Pulitzer, Van Cleef & Arpels and Coach all have clothing, accessory and jewelry offerings as contributions.
Image via: LillyPulitzer.com
Image via: Vancleefarpels.com
Image via: RebeccaTaylor.com
Image via: Loft.com
bonus: sports! love from the men
The NFL really goes all out with their "Crucial Catch" campaign. Goalpost protectors, shoes, mouthguards, gloves, cheerleaders' uniforms, refs' accessories are all in pink for the cause. Image via: FoxBusiness.com
Okay, I know it's cheesy, but I love themed food and desserts. If I had unlimited budget and time, tonight's Breaking Bad finale watch party would be stocked with food and sweets that represent the many food-translatable events throughout the series. Because I only had the time to make one thing, I decided to go with the obvious: blue "meth" no-bake cake batter truffles, which I found here after much searching for something a little different. Normally such a niche item would seem weird to post, especially with the show ending, but sans food coloring (or with a different color), these truffles are a great traditional dessert alternative. Use chocolate cake or yellow cake (or funfetti!) and add nuts, chocolate chips--clearly, these are easy to alter. I had to make a few adjustments to the original recipe on these specific ones, but now I feel officially ready for a successful viewing. How bittersweet (get it?).
cake batter truffles
makes about 30 truffles

for the truffles
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened (do not melt)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3-4 Tablespoons whole milk
8 drops blue food coloring to start, more or less to desired blue-ness2 Tablespoons blue sugar crystal sprinkles, chocolate chips, nuts, or anything else you want to add to the dough (I did not use these)

for the coating
16 ounces (8 squares) vanilla almond bark (if you want to use food coloring to dye coating, use white chocolate instead. Almond bark does not accept dye!)
4 Tablespoons white cake mix
A handful of blue sprinkles or sanding sugar* (or any other topping you want!)

I think it's safe to say I never met a grilled cheese I didn't like (all you have to do is take a quick look at my unintentionally but admittedly dairy-centric "sandwiches" board on Pinterest). And as appealing as the idea of a "moist maker" is, my pescatarian diet combined with my deep-set apprehension toward all things gravy-related prevents me from eating what most would consider a typical Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich (sorry, Ross).

So, it should come as no surprise that the first thing that came to mind as I stared into a fridge full of Thanksgiving leftovers was to combine the gouda that had served as our hors d'oeuvres with some tangy, sweet cranberry sauce for a Turkey-less day-after-Turkey-Day sandwich. Melty, tangy, sweet, and just a little salty, this recipe further proves my theory that there's no such thing as a bad grilled cheese sandwich.

cranberry + gouda grilled cheese
makes 1 sandwich

2 slices whole grain bread (or your favorite bread for grilled cheese)
1/4 leftover cranberry sauce, room temperature or cooler (like this recipe)
1 teaspoon butter 
lots of gouda cheese (that is my exact measurement)

I come from a city that's famous for its chili, but I've never been a fan of Cincinnati chili. I grew up with my mom and aunt making this veggie chili as an easy dinner that leaves tons of leftovers which freeze well to have on hand for many future dinners. This chili can be served over spaghetti (Cincinnati style) or in a bowl, as shown. I made a batch just as the weather started to turn cold so I could stock up the freezer for those days I need a filling meal but want to put off braving the cold to grocery shop (which will happen often).
vegetarian chili
1 batch serves 4-6

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 1 teaspoon fresh basil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large yellow or sweet onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (chopped)
2 8oz. packages of sliced fresh mushrooms
2 stalks celery (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
1 14.5oz can stewed tomatoes
1 15oz. can tomato sauce
3 diced green chilis (find cans of these)
2 15oz cans spicy chili beans

for serving
sour cream or plain yogurt
shredded cheese (cheddar or mexican mix work best)
red and/or green onions
spaghetti (optional)

This dish has been a staple for my mom's Yom Kippur break fast for as long as she's hosted it, so I decided to follow suit. This is perfect for big brunches...or whenever because I could probably eat the whole thing myself. I halved it because I only had a few people over, but it turned out just as delicious. It's super easy, but be prepared to make it in advance since you have to let it refrigerate overnight!
french toast casserole
serves 6-8

13 to 16 ounces bread (she calls for french, but brioche or challah add a great texture and sweeter flavor to this dish)

8 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
dash salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans (optional; I roasted them and served them on the side)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
maple syrup

Sometimes I just need to bake things. And thanks to Pinterest, easy recipes are not hard to come by. I saw this recipe, which is possibly the easiest baking I've ever done without simply using a box mix or break and bakes. Just because they're easy doesn't mean they're not also extremely delicious.
Oreo-peanut butter-brownie cakes
1 box 8x8 size brownie mix
24 Oreos
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
12 cupcake liners

Last fall when I was here interning, I found out about Madison Square Eats, and visited it an embarrassing number of times over the month or so it was open. This year, I made sure to make the pilgrimage, and (not surprisingly) the food didn't disappoint and the atmosphere was just as pleasant. I brought my camera along to document... and tried to pretend like I was a legit photographer.
view from outside of the park.
Calexico, a Mexican food truck parked at the south entrance posts its usual whereabouts on its Twitter page. I tried this last year and it made for well-portioned and delicious Mexican, and a nice Chipotle to-go alternative!
Delicious food in a pretty downtown setting. (obligatory "atmosphere" shot
I beelined for AsiaDog, one of my food festival faves.
Maura opted for Roberta's, a delicious Brooklyn-based wood-oven pizza place. I also had this last year, and it is some quality pizza.
I went with 2 veggie dogs, the mel + steve topping and vinh topping (with veggie paté).
I shared one of these ice cream sandwiches from Melt Bakery last year at a Grub Street food fair, and after one bite, I knew sharing would take too much self control. So when I saw these here this year, I was happy to get a red velvet allllll to myself. mmmm.
red velvet perfection.
Maura went with snickerdoodle, also delish.
in which I try to be a photographer.
peace out, MSP.
Crab rangoon is one of my favorite guilty takeout pleasures. Crab, cream cheese and fried dough: what's not to like? Other than the fact that it's extremely unhealthy, of course. When I found this recipe for a lighter baked version on Pinterest, I couldn't wait to try it. I'm not going to tell you that it tastes exactly like its deep-fried counterpart (it doesn't), but the flavors are spot-on, and the wontons still come out crispy and ready to be dipped into sweet and sour sauce. 

I lightened up the recipe even more by substituting Greek yogurt for the recommended sour cream and reduced-fat neufchâtel cream cheese instead of regular cream cheese. As long as you include all of the spices and use some semi-decent canned crab, it will taste just as delicious. My best piece of advice is to make a lot - they'll go quickly (and you can reheat any leftovers in the oven or toaster oven fairly easily).

baked crab rangoon
makes about 20-24 

2 tablespoons nonfat plain greek yogurt (you can also use nonfat sour cream)
8 oz neufchâtel cream cheese, softened 
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup lump crab meat, drained
20-24 wonton wrappers

I've always loved experimenting with grilled cheese. Whether it's with a different kind of bread, mixing cheeses or adding something new to the traditional recipe, I'm always up to try a twist on the comfort food. I saw this recipe and knew I'd have to try it. French onion is one of my favorites, and even though this isn't true french onion, it was good, easy and the perfect update to a tried and true classic.
french onion grilled cheese
makes 2 sandwiches

2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin, about 1/4"
3 tablespoons butter softened, plus additional for outsides of bread
3 tablespoons white wine
4.5 oz gruyere cheese, shredded...or more! (I felt it needed more than this)
4 slices bread (I used sandwich multigrain, the options are endless)
salt and freshly ground pepper