It’s true what they say about the fact that the simplest things in life can make us the happiest.  I like to challenge myself with complex dishes from time to time in the kitchen, but there are also times when I am going to a party or invited to dinner and I just want something quick, simple and delicious to bring.  A friend of mine made this dip at a party and it was just so flavorful and yummy, I couldn’t stop snacking on it.  I was pleasantly surprised when she shared the recipe for this Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Dip that it only involved a few ingredients and could be made in a matter of minutes.  This dip is great served with sliced veggies, pita chips or tortilla strips.  It would also be a great sandwich spread!

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(Recipe adapted from

char red peppers

chop peppers, add all ingredients to food processor and purée

What is your favorite quick and easy dip?
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Now that fall has flung (:)) I have been craving chili.   So last weekend, I took my time, made a day out of doing things around the house and put some chili on the stove.  I let it simmer and after smelling it all day, I couldn’t wait to dollop on some sour cream and add a sprinkle of cheese and dive in.  Does anybody know why chili and cornbread are a natural combination?  Me neither, but regardless, I was happy to try out another recipe from the Baked Explorations book.

I have a friend who puts Cheetos in his chili and another who eats cinnamon rolls with chili!

What is your favorite chili accompaniment?  

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whisk eggs

add buttermilk, honey and melted butter and combine

combine dry ingredients

add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold to combine

fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake


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Some signs of the seasons changing are blatantly obvious.  Others are more subtle and require careful observation to notice.  Here are some of my favorite things about summer changing to fall:

~The colors of the leaves as they change from bright green to yellow to blazing orange and red.

This is my favorite tree in our neighborhood

~The smell and the crunch of the leaves that have already been shed.  Even with your eyes closed, the sound of the leaves crunching under your feet and the distinct earthy smell of the dry leaves is a sure sign that cooler weather is here to stay.

~The crisp cool air that puts some extra pep in your step as you find yourself scurrying back inside as quickly as possible to chase away the shivers.  Somedays in the spring/summer I feel guilty staying inside when I “should” be enjoying the nice weather outside.  Fall allows me to lose that guilt because in the Midwest, no one can fault you for staying in the warm comfort of your home.

~Tall fall boots:  functional and fashionable.  What’s not to love?

~Dates with my husband.  A simple drive to enjoy the fall colors, a trip to a pumpkin patch or an apple orchard and I’m one smitten sweet tooth.

~Snuggling under a blanket with my cat.  I get so giddy at the idea of curling up on the couch with my favorite Restoration Hardware blanket and allowing my cat to cast her spell on me.

 (Restoration Hardware blanket)

You know the spell where she nuzzles into me and gazes longingly into my eyes as hers get heavier and heavier until she finally succumbs to the draw of a catnap.  It is virtually impossible not to get drowsy myself watching her peaceful and limp little body.

~Pumpkin cookies!  This is a pretty classic recipe and my mom made them every year, but only in the fall.  So it can’t officially be fall in my mind until I have had these cookies!  They are so soft and not too sweet.  I like to add a little crunch and extra texture by adding nuts and/or chopped dried dates to the cookies.  And the brown sugar frosting tastes like maple and adds the most beautiful sheen to top off these classic fall cookies.

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cream together crisco and sugar
add pumpkin and vanilla
add dry ingredients
add nuts and/or dates, if using
drop onto cookie sheets
bake the babies
for the frosting, melt together brown sugar, butter and milk
after cooled for 10 minutes, add vanilla and powdered sugar
frost cookies immediately
I had a cute little one to help clean my spatula 🙂
What are your favorite fall things?
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As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received some great products from Newman’s Own.  I really like the Newman’s Own products that I have tried and I appreciate that they use natural ingredients.  One staple that is always in my refrigerator is Newman’s Own Lighten Up Italian Dressing with Lemon.  Their dressing is one of the key ingredients of the Antipasto Pasta Salad that I am sharing with you in my video debut!  It’s a recipe that is very customizable to the tastes of you and your family which you know I love!  I hope you enjoy it!

Antipasto Pasta Salad

by Mercedes Porter

Keywords: appetizer entree pasta


  • 1 pound tortellini
  • 3/4 cup Newman’s Own Italian Dressing
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives
  • 1 whole roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup pepperoncinis, sliced
  • 1/2 cup boccaccini (miniature mozzarella balls)
  • 1/4 pound genoa salami, sliced into strips
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add tortellini and cook until al dente.

Drain pasta and place into serving bowl. Immediately toss with 1/2 cup of the dressing.

Combine all other ingredients with pasta.

Pour remaining 1/4 cup of dressing over pasta salad and toss to coat.

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Try to settle down.  The American Academy of Motion Pictures will be accepting Oscar nominations for several months yet.  😉

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The other day, my husband asked me, “How long do you think it would take you to make all of the recipes that you have torn out and bookmarked?”  He was referring to my addiction.  Whenever I want to buy another cookbook, my mom says, “Why would you want to buy another cookbook when you have every recipe you could want at your fingertips online?”  The first step to healing is to admit that you have a problem, right?  Well sweetsies, here goes.  Hi I’m Mercedes and I am addicted to cookbooks, cooking magazines, cooking blogs, and really any thing associated with recipes.  The biggest problem is, I don’t want to get better.  When my magazines come in the mail every month or a new cookbook arrives at my door, I am like a little girl that has just received a puppy.


I can’t wait to scour the pages and dogear or place a post-it tag onto the recipes that I want to try.  And then there are all of the talented bakers on the blogosphere.  You should see my “Recipes” folder in my email.  It’s slightly ridiculous (in a good way of course).

Last week I decided that it was time to make a dent in that folder.  When I saw this recipe from Allie, my mouth immediately started to water and I could not wait for an excuse to make these bars.  Coconut and chocolate is one of my favorite combinations and with the beautiful fall colored M&M’s in the store candy aisles, I couldn’t wait to make these ooey gooey bars.


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melt butter

cream together melted butter and sugars

add eggs, vanilla and salt

add flour, coconut and M&M’s

pour battre into prepared pan

bake until golden brown

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