10 Amazing Cookies for Christmas

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Oh hi Christmas, didn’t see you there!

As ready as I am for you, I’m still shocked you’re already HERE. I will say though, I’ve been dreaming of you since November and have been humming your popular songs, decorating your tree and wrapping your presents all month long. You’ve been in my mind forever, but it’s just still so shocking how fast you snuck up on me!

In all honesty friends, I’m completely on top of my life everywhere else but this little piece of the internet.  I have my Christmas cards sent, my recipes bookmarked for Christmas Eve and all of Dahlia’s presents bought and en route. I’ve managed to send out pitches for new work and have submitted my invoices for all of my freelance work. The only place I’m struggling to get caught up on is this blog!

But instead of beating myself up like I usually do, I’m going to just move on with life. I mean, it’s 2020. The fact I’m still alive (thankfully), healthy and able to work is all that matters. So here you are, my darling friends, some cookies to drool over as you get ready to celebrate the holiday – however that looks. Here are 10 of some of my all-time favorites, including some classics and some re-imagined from my years as a recipe creator. 

Whether you’re zooming with your family, are lucky enough to get to see them this year, are celebrating with your quarantine pod or are spending the holidays solo, cookies are the answer to everything. End of story.

Lemon Rosemary Sugar Cookie Sandwiches


Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs to use, and not only in savory dishes. The addition of this earthy and flavor packed herb to these soft, chewy and tangy lemon sugar cookies totally takes these up a major notch. Plus the soft & sweet buttercream in the middle balances out the boldness of both the lemon and rosemary. Grab the recipe on SheKnows!

Pretty red & green pinwheels

16x9 (1)

These are one of my favorite cookies because of how cute they are. As creative as I am in the kitchen, not all of my attempts at adorable holiday desserts always turn out. These, however, turned out even better than I could have anticipated. Grab the recipe on SheKnows!

Spicy hot chocolate cookies


How can you not love a double chocolate cookie that tastes like your favorite wintertime drink? Even though I love these for the fact that they’re loaded with chocolate, my favorite ingredient is actually one you can’t see! These are made with a dash of spice (cayenne and chili pepper), giving every bite a fun little zing. Grab the recipe on SheKnows!

Cookie butter kisses


In my family, you just can’t have Christmas without a kiss cookie. My mom makes them every single year and I don’t think I’ve ever celebrate the holiday without one (or 5). I made my own version of this classic treat with luscious cookie butter instead of peanut butter last year, and holy cow were they amazing. I might just have to recreate them for Ol’ St. Nick this year! Grab the recipe here!

Milk & Cookie cupcakes (not quite cookies, but just as tasty!)


Okay so this isn’t technically a cookie, but it is stuffed with cookie dough and topped with little cookies, so it kind of counts, right? These amazing cupcakes are a dream for any cookie lover and are so freakin’ cute to boot. Surprisingly enough, they are easy to make as well so a batch might be perfect for Santa! Grab the recipe here on SheKnows!

Soft and chewy peanut butter cookies

Peanut butter cookies are my love language, and these whole wheat ones are no different. Soft, chewy and so freaking delicious, it’s so hard to eat just one. But hey, it’s the holidays and we’re all about that indulgent life, so why stop at one? These also make a great gift for those looking for a slightly healthier Christmas cookie! Grab the recipe here.

Chewy peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies (egg free!)

I know, an egg-free cookie seems like an abomination. But, hear me out. These are TO DIE FOR. They’re literally the softest cookies I’ve ever made. They’re like eating little chocolate and peanut butter filled pillows. These aren’t necessarily holiday-themed, but they taste like heaven. Pure, chocolate heaven. Grab the recipe here.

Roasted Banana and Rum Cookies

You had me at rum, baby. Jokes aside, you’ll call these crack cookies, because they’re that good. Made with roasted bananas, these are like an easier-to-eat version of Bananas Foster. Or a bite-size version of boozy banana bread. Whatever you want to call them, I can guarantee you’ll want to eat all of them, so plan on tripling the recipe. Grab the recipe here.

Gingerbread Cookie Bars

As someone who doesn’t love gingerbread, I love these bars. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to love gingerbread a little bit more than I did as a kid. These don’t taste like the traditional cookies, either. They’re moist and soft (almost like cake), but with a rich density of brownies. Add frosting and these might be your new favorite holiday dessert. Grab the recipe here.

Whole Wheat Sugar Cookie Bars

I didn’t mean to put two cookie bars are the bottom of the list, mostly because these are two of my favorite recipes. These soft sugar cookie bars taste like those famed Lofthouse cookies, except so much lighter and made without those pesky additives. If you want, omit the rainbow sprinkles for holiday ones and add a dash of eggnog to the frosting instead of cream. You’ll thank me later. Grab the recipe here.

Happy Holidays, y’all. Now go eat about 10,000 cookies because you’ve survived 2020, and that’s something to be proud of.

Cinnamon Sugar Baked Donut Bites

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These cinnamon sugar baked donut bites are so easy, you’ll want to make them all week long!

We’re keeping with the easy theme this week, and I’m pretty sure y’all aren’t mad about that, are you? With back to school in full swing, the seasons changing and the stress, I mean excitement, of upcoming holidays, easy is something we all need a little bit more of.

Especially when it comes to donuts, which is one of the hardest things I’ve had to give up on my quest for fitness. Can I live without meat? Yes. Dairy? Probably. Donuts? UGHH.

The thing is, I rarely indulge in a flakey, cakey, sprinkle topped donut, but when I do, it’s like armageddon. I black out and before I come to, all of the donuts in sight are devoured and I’m in a sugar and fat induced coma that’s nearly impossible to shake. Maybe it’s because as a kid, I’d enjoy donuts anytime I went home to see my grandparents and have such fond memories of them.

Or maybe it’s just the simple fact that they’re sweet little balls of dough that are deep-fried, dredged in glaze or chocolate and often filled with an insatiable variety of creams, jellies or custards. I’ve never met a donut I didn’t like, and considering how many people I meet that I loathe, that’s saying something. I kid. Mostly. Even though I adore these baked banana nut donuts and could consume 62 of these bite-size whole wheat strawberry ones, these decadent little morsels might be my favorite yet. I feel a bit like a hack, though, because they’re not homemade at all, actually.

They’re made with biscuit dough! Doing my best Sandra Lee impersonation, I really just made these out of boredom one day. I had two rolls of biscuit dough in the fridge, enough cinnamon to coat a baby (thanks to a recent trip to India) and heaps of milk (thanks to a farmers market impulse buy). Normal people would probably bake the biscuits for dinner, but I decided to turn them into little donuts and then slather then in a cream cheese cinnamon roll icing glaze.

You could omit the glaze, but why would you? Only truly terrible people would do that, and none of you lovely folks fit that category. So just don’t, okay?

Cinnamon Sugar Baked Donut Bites


Yields about 12 – 16 donut holes, depending on size. Recipe adapted from Pillsbury.
Prep time: >8 minutes
Cook time: About 18 minutes


For the donuts:

  • 1 can (16.3 ounces) buttermilk biscuit dough (I used the reduced-fat version)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter

For the glaze:

  • 4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a cast iron skillet with nonstick cooking spray. (Note, you can also use an 8 x 8 round cake pan or a 9 x 13 glass baking dish as well).
  2. Remove the biscuits from the canister. Using your hands or a knife, break each biscuit apart into two or four pieces (depending on how big you want the bites to be).
  3. Melt the butter in a microwave for about 30 seconds (at 100% power). Whisk the cinnamon and the brown sugar together.
  4. Using a fork or your hands, dip the dough bites into butter and then cover liberally in the cinnamon brown sugar dusting. Place into the skillet. If you want, you can place them further apart to make separate bites, or do as I did and lump them together. This gives you almost a pull apart doughnut cake in the end.
  5. Bake for about 16 – 18 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. While the bites cool, make the icing. In a mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese, sugar, butter, almond extract and vanilla extract. While the bites are still warm, drizzle the glaze over them (or pour liberally, your call). Garnish with chopped nuts and enjoy!

Nutritional information per serving (about 2 bites):

Calories: 322
Fat: 12.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 42 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 4.2 grams

Easy Grilled Flank Steak with Cilantro Pesto

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Unless you live in Denver (sorry friends – that blizzard looked rough), there’s a chance it’s finally feeling nice and warm outside. Which is exactly why we’re starting this Tuesday with a big, beautiful, sexy slab of grilled flank steak with cilantro pesto. Because if this doesn’t make you break out the shorts, flip flops, margarita makers and wide-brimmed hats, I don’t know what will.

Juicy steak

One of the (many) benefits of living in coastal South Carolina is the weather. Minus a few chilly mornings and a few rainy days, the weather has been almost perfect since we moved in. More sunny days than not, and most afternoons touching the 70-degree mark by 2pm. Coming from an area that still had snow a few weeks ago, this has been a MAJOR game-changer in not just our moods (or tans), but also the way we eat.

easy cilantro steak

Instead of heavy soups, cheesy casseroles or yet another pizza, we’re eating delicious spreads of beautiful grilled meats, fresh vegetable salads and tons of corn on the cob. Because unlike home, you can light up that grill in December down here. Which is why most of our dinners are enjoyed al-fresco on our porch or outdoor patio, with the beautiful sounds of charcoal sizzling and ducks squawking in the background. (How serene is my new backyard?!)


Although I made this steak a few weeks ago (before travel, life and, well, travel) took over, it’s definitely going to be on the rotation all summer long. Not only is it SO easy to prepare, it’s even easier to make – just a few minutes on each side to sear and slightly char. Now, I’m a full believer that steak should be enjoyed medium rare – and if you want to eat it any other way, you’re dead to me. I kid (sort of). If you’re really skeevy of the pink inside, cook a little longer to your preference.

Easy grilled steak

Just don’t tell me about it.

Although the steak is the Oscar winner in this dish, we couldn’t leave without honoring the best supporting actor – the cilantro pesto.

  creamy cilantro pesto

It’s no surprise that I’m a giant sucker for this iconic leafy herb – I’ve used in more dishes than not. However, I’ve never made a pesto with it. The steak sings on its own, of course, but I wanted even more flavor backed into each bite – so I dressed it with luscious spoonfuls of this bright green pesto. The two paired together just works. Bright and earthy, vibrant and bold – it’s the perfect marriage of classic American and South American flair.

steak with pesto

So go ahead – fire up that grill and eat like it’s summer. Your new piece will thank you.

Easy Grilled Flank Steak with Cilantro Pesto

Easy steak with creamy pesto


Serves about 6.
Prep time: >10 minutes
Cook time: About 12 minutes
Total time: 22 minutes


For the steak:

  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning
  • Dash of salt and pepper

For the cilantro pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh cilantro, large stems removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup high quality olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat grill to high heat. Lightly grease the top with cooking oil or spray.
  2. Liberally season the steak with steak seasoning and salt and pepper. (Ensure both sides are coated).
  3. Using tongs, place the steak onto the grill and sear both sides (about 1 – 2 minutes on each side) to get a nice color. Reduce heat to medium-high, and cook another 4 – 5 minutes on each side (for medium rare). Remove steak and let rest about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor. Pulse on high until creamy. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Once steak has rested, slice (against the grain). Serve with pesto and enjoy!


Nutritional information per serving (about 3 ounces steak and 2 tablespoons pesto):

Calories:  353
Fat: 27 grams
Carbohydrates: 8 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Protein: 26.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 10

Black Bean Hummus Pasta

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I’ve written over 20,000 words these past two days, so I’m taking a much needed breather. The thing is, I’m so incredibly caffeinated that I can’t just sit and watch Southern Charm without typing, so I thought it’d be a blast to update this little corner of the world wide web. Ya see, it’s been a bit since my last update, and it was pretty heavy. (Thank y’all SO much for your kind words, by the way!) So, let’s go with something a little less heavy, figuratively speaking.

creamy hummus pasta2

Black bean hummus pasta. I made this, um, way too long ago. Like, when I still lived in Charleston long ago. Like, when I wasn’t even a vegetarian yet and weighed 35 more pounds long ago. It’s so weird looking back on these photos and thinking of the space I was in. Miserable with my weight, in a place I felt lost, and with a man who I didn’t know anymore.

Creamy hummus pasta2

It’s so weird that you can feel everything all over again just by looking at a photo. BUT, we aren’t talking about heavy stuff. We’re talking about black bean hummus. Honestly, it’s kind of all I eat now that I’ve cut meat, most dairy and heavily processed wheat products (like pasta, bread) out of my diet. Plus, I’ve partnered with Sabra so my fridge is literally STOCKED with mini hummus cups. Which are the perfect post-Orange Theory workout snack, especailly because I’ve opted just eating it with a spoon.

Black bean pasta

I don’t eat a ton of pasta, but this one I’m definitely okay with splurging on. For one, it’s super powered with fiber and protein, which means you don’t need as much to feel full (like it’ll stop a carb-a-holic like me from overindulging). Luckily for me now, I’m in a house with four other hungry people (including a 192 pound power lifter), so a big bowl of pasta like this won’t last through the night, better yet another day. That makes it easier for me to control my portions and feed people I love in the meantime!

black bean hummus2

I have another article to pen, a million more photos to edit and a workout to get to, so we’re going to skip the small talk and just get right to the recipe. I have an arsenal of more recipes to share, so stay tuned the next few weeks. We’re bringing this blog baby back to life!

Black Bean Hummus Pasta

Spicy hummus pasta2

Hummus serves 8. Pasta serves about 6.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes


For the hummus:

  • 15 ounce can of black beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (save 1/2)
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeded and chopped (save 1/2)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for garnish
  • Chopped nuts

For the pasta:

  • 1 package (16 ounces) spaghetti + 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped tortilla chips or pita chips
  • Fresh basil chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. To make the hummus, place the black beans, basil, tahini, lime juice, jalapeno, habanero and garlic clove in a food processor. Pulse on low. Gradually add the water until the mixture starts to thin. Add salt and pepper to taste. Measure out about 1 cup and save the rest.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add the pasta and a dash of salt. Cook until al-dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, saving 1 cup of water.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk 1 cup of hummus with pasta water and stir until creamy. Add in the tomatoes and mix to combine. Serve with crushed chips and chopped basil. Serve warm.

best creamy hummus

Mango Coconut Smoothie Bowl

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This is, hands down, my favorite flavor profile in the entire world. This mango coconut smoothie bowl might just be my new favorite thing.

Crunchy creamy smoothie bowl

When I was in Thailand, I’d get a mango sticky rice for dessert every. single. day. See, the Thai people do it right. They don’t eat shitty desserts filled with preservatives or sugar, they eat all natural desserts made from things found in nature.

smoothie ingredients

I miss Southeast Asia more than I can verbalize. I miss the sounds, the smells, the people. What I miss the most, tough, is the tastes. Despite the fact I got sick (from the water – NOT the food), the food I had there in the kitchens of the locals, picked up from the markets and made for us at local restaurants was some of the best I’ve ever had. Every dish was so incredible packed with flavor – fresh chiles, homegrown spices, locally sourced meats and veggies. Everything tasted like it was made with nothing  but love.


Now, I know the US has an incredible food culture – I’m not doubting that. I love visiting the states and biting into every delicious morsel. Food is here is made with love, but not in the way the Thai dishes are. It’s so hard to explain and maybe someday I’ll be able to say what I actually mean.

Mango coconut smoothie bowl

Until then, I’ll talk about that dessert. Now, I’ve thought about recreating it for the blog about a million times. But I know it wouldn’t do the actual dessert justice. So instead, I took those exotic and refreshing flavors and turned them into something you can have for breakfast – a smoothie bowl!

Easy delicious smoothie bowls

Unless you’ve been living somewhere without Pinterest, you’ve probably seen the smoothie bowl craze. I’m not one to jump on bandwagons, but I just couldn’t resist. I mean, look at how frackin’ beautiful these bowls are? It’s a smoothie with added fruits and crunchy stuff. (“But I love caramel and crunchy stuff!”) Once you get over how pretty it is and stick your spoon into the thick, creamy smoothie, you’ll melt.

creamy smoothie bowl with mango

Or, if you’re really lucky, you’ll wake up on the white sandy beaches of Phi Phi Island.

Mango Coconut Smoothie Bowls

Super creamy smoothie bowl


Serves about 2.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Total time: About 10 minutes


  • 2 cups frozen mango chunks
  • 1 medium frozen banana
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (I used low-fat, feel free to sub in full-fat)
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons honey

For the toppings:

  • About 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup crunchy granola
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup mango chunks, defrosted
  • Additional honey for drizzle


  1. Combine the mango, banana, coconut milk (start with 1 cup and add more if necessary), flax seed and honey. Pulse on high until thick and creamy.
  2. Pour the smoothie into two deep bowls. Top with blueberries, granola, coconut flakes, mango chunks and additional honey for sweetness. Serve immediately!

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 475
Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 70 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 7.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 12

Easy Homemade Berry Frozen Yogurt

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Enjoy those last dog days of summer with this easy homemade strawberry frozen yogurt!

Y’all, who is ready for some fro-yo? Yes, I just said fro-yo and NO, I don’t feel bad about it.

So, can we talk for a second about how many people on my social media networks are already talking about fall? Not just talking about fall, but wishing for it. Trust me, I’m not a huge fan of sweating and I love that crisp Autumn weather and all of the #basic favorites that come along with it. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life and my travels, it’s this – we all need to spend more time living in the moment.

I may lose some credibility here, but there’s a movie that describes this better than I can. It’s called Click. It stars Adam Sandler, I know, but it actually portrays this exact dilemma in a really powerful way. As a synopsis, Adam’s character has trouble living his life in that moment so he procures a magical instrument that can fast-forward his life.

It sounds cheesy but it truly showcases what it’s like to wish away the moment you’re in for a better one. Trust me, there were moments of this year I wish I could have fast-forwarded through and skipped past without having to truly experience them. Looking back now, though, I wouldn’t trade those moments even if I had to. They were hard, emotional and truly challenging, but they’ve helped shape who I am today and I’m forever thankful for that.

As much as I want fall, I’m not ever going to wish away summer to get it. Instead, I’m going to live in this very second, eat a big bowl of this homemade strawberry frozen yogurt, and enjoy a few more nights on the front porch with a glass of rose, listening to the familiar buzz of secadas.

Life is short enough, why don’t we stop wishing for what’s next and just start appreciating for what’s happening right now?

Easy Homemade Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Yields about 1 quart (4 cups).
Prep time: 5 – 8 minutes
Chill time: 2 hours


  • 1/2 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 1/2 pound fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Fresh mint for garnish


  1. Mix the strawberries, raspberries, sugar, honey and lemon zest together.
  2. Add the berries and yogurt to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl, cover with saran wrap and chill for at least 2 – 3 hours.
  3. Once chilled, place into the frozen canister of an ice cream maker. Churn for about 15 – 20 minutes or until thick and creamy.

Nutritional information per serving (1/2 cup):

Calories: 88.5
Fat: >1 gram
Carbohydrates: 21 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 2.25

Chocolate Whiskey Bread Pudding

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Can we briefly talk about how much I fail at holidays? Most of my food blogging friends have been posting St. Patrick’s Day recipes since the end of February and here I am, the day before, with an St. Paddy’s themed dessert. Oops? However, I’m a firm believer in better late than never so I’m going to pretend like I’m not an epic failure and move on.

whiskey bread pudding

And what better thing to move on to than chocolate and whiskey? I must admit, I was never a huge fan of bread pudding as a kid because we didn’t really eat much of it. My mom made such a wide assortment of other delicious desserts that there was never really a need to branch into the puddings. However, I will say, the first bread pudding I ever had completely changed my perspective.

Whiskey bread pudding2

It was an eggnog rum and chocolate chip bread pudding that was serving during a holiday party. As a 17 year old, I wanted anything with any sort of alcohol in it so I completely devoured like 3 pieces. Of course, I didn’t realize that the alcohol actually bakes out of it and I was just eating 15,000 calories, but it was that bread pudding that converted me into a BP lover.

melted chocolate sauce

Sadly, my husband doesn’t share my love for it, but I will say he ate two pieces of this without batting an eyelash. Most likely because this pudding was covered in a chocolate whisky sauce, but it’s still a win. I think the best way to get him to eat things he normally doesn’t like is to slather it in chocolate and whiskey.

Now there’s an idea!

Chocolate Whiskey Bread Pudding



Serves about 10 -12. Slightly adapted from My Recipes.
Prep time: 30+ minutes
Cook time: 1 1/2 hours
Total time: 2 hours


  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 7 cups chopped whole wheat french bread, slightly stale
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup light cream
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons honey/maple flavored whiskey (I used Jim Beam)
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh whipped cream for garnish
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat with tongs. Remove from heat and pour into a grease 9 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Bring the milk, light cream and whiskey to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in chocolate chips. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, the brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Continue to whisk until thick and smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture over the bread, tossing the cubes so they are all evenly coated. Cover with foil and let sit for about 30 minutes. Add a few pokes into the foil to allow steaming.
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Let sit until slightly cooled.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the remaining chocolate chips and oil in a microwave safe bowl for about 60 seconds, stopping to stir at 30 seconds.
  6. Serve the bread pudding with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of melted chocolate.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 400
Fat: 15
Carbohydrates:  48
Fiber: 3.5 grams
Protein: 11 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 10

Garlic and Butter Mussels over Butternut Squash Bisque #AD

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Rediscovering America . The opinions and text are all mine.

One thing I loved about my job as a freelancer was that I constantly challenged myself in the kitchen. Because the site I wrote for relied heavily on social media networks like Pinterest for traffic, we were constantly having to come up with extremely unique and innovative recipes. Now that I’ve quit the world of freelancing and am just cooking for pleasure — food and my blog — I’ve sort of hit a creative wall block when it comes to inspiring ideas.

That’s why I was thrilled to try out Chef Sean Mendes’ restaurant — Gillie’s Seafood — and taste his take on a farmer’s casserole for Walmart’s Rediscovering America program. As part of Walmart’s Rediscovering America Program, Walmart tasked nine chefs from across the country, including Chef Sean of Gillie’s Seafood, to create one-of-a-kind dishes using fresh, local and organic fruits and vegetables available in Walmart stores.

The farmer’s casserole I tried at Gillie’s was packed with a hearty serving of in-season produce, like zucchini and squash, sourced from Walmart, along with gooey cheese, and all other things delicious. Every bite was absolutely heavenly. When chefs use fresh, local ingredients, you can always tell the difference like it’s night and day. Little did I know, my local Walmart store has those types of local, high-quality ingredients, making it that much easier to create a dish to really satisfy my cozy, warm, autumnal soup cravings!

Inspired by the local flavor I found at Gillie’s, I stopped by Walmart to pick up carrots and butternut squash to make a Garlic and Butter Mussels over Butternut Squash Bisque. While there, I also learned that they also have an online grocery pick-up service,which actually makes grocery shopping speedier if you’re in a time crunch!

I love to make a good butternut squash bisque, and this time I added mussels for two reasons. One, my husband is obsessed and demanded I make him some. Two, they add such a gorgeous textural element that really balances the soft, velvety soup. Plus, they’re freaking gorgeous, don’t you think?

On a side note, I wanted to share that I’m trying a lot harder to step outside of my comfort zone in the kitchen. As part of my goals with revitalizing this lonely little food blog, I’m trying to make writing recipes something I do because I love it and something I do more frequently. I’m happy it’s not something I rely on for a source of income (how I did that, I have no idea) anymore, but I also want it to be something I’m proud of again—something that reflects who I am as a person, a cook, and a foodie.

In addition to recipes I want to be proud of, I also want to make food that’ll inspire my picky daughter to eat. She has absolutely no desire to eat outside of her own comfort zone, so I’m always trying to find ways to sneak protein, vegetables, and new flavors into her food. This soup is the creamiest, smoothest and most amazing bisque I’ve ever had. Paired with buttery and garlicky mussels, it’s like a dream team when it comes to flavor. In fact, I’m going to remake it this week for a fun little date night in for me and my husband!



Serves about 4. Soup adapted from All Recipes.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes


For the mussels:

  • 3 pounds fresh mussels
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Fresh sea salt

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped leeks
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped orange carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped yellow carrots
  • 4 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
  • Cracked black pepper and salt


  1. To make the soup, heat the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic, and onions. Stirring constantly, heat the vegetables until soft and fragrant, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add in the carrots and squash. Heat another 3 – 5 minutes, or until they just start to soften.
  2. Pour the chicken broth, salt, and pepper over the vegetables. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes, or vegetables are extremely tender. Remove from heat and pour into blender in batches until smooth and creamy. Whisk in heavy cream.
  3. To make the mussels, rinse them under cold water and scrub lightly to remove dirt and excess film from outside of the shells. Remove the mussel beards (or those loose hairs on the shells) and discard them.
  4. In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add the green onions, garlic, and leeks. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft.
  5. Add the mussels and toss with some tongs. Add in the white wine and the broth. Cover and let steam for about 10 minutes, or until the mussels start to open up. *While the mussels are steaming, it’s important to stir them around so the vegetables don’t stick to the bottom and the mussels are on contact with the heat.
  6. To serve, ladle the soup into four large bowls. Top with a hefty spoonful of mussels and drizzle with remaining melted butter from the mussels. Garnish with fresh herbs.


Calories: 276.5
Fat: 22.2 grams
Carbohydrates: 26.25 grams
Fiber: 2.8 grams
Protein: 32 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 11

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