This and That

Hello friends! As I'm sure some of you have noticed, I've been rather M.I.A. lately. I used to post multiple times a week and now I'm down to about one or two posts a week, if I'm lucky. While this blog is meant to be a hobby for me and not a means of making money or gaining fame, I can't help but feel a little disappointed in myself for letting my beloved blog get pushed to the background of my life. Although Cooking to Perfection is still extremely important to me, there are so many other things going on in my life that are taking my focus away. Instead of trying to force myself to find time to do a post here and there, I have decided to take a mini break. This is most definitely not a permanent break. I'm treating this more as a vacation--just a time to take a breather and focus on other events, people, and things that need my attention at this time. But don't think you are getting rid of me for good! And, as a friendly reminder, I am still a recipe contributor over at Cocktails With Mom and I post bimonthly. I am also a co-founder of Reading and Recipes, which posts on Thursday every week. So if you feel so inclined, please come visit me on either of those sites and say hello. Or say hello here! I'll still check back periodically.

Fourth of July Recipe Round-Up

I don't know about y'all, but I cannot believe it's already July. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was packing away my boots and sweaters, and getting excited for wearing sundresses and rockin' my newest sandals. And now it is July. Craziness! With  no signs of summer slowing down, I have the urge to get a move on checking off my list of must-do summer activities. Day trips to the beach, country concerts, baseball games, and all day music festivals are some of the best parts of summer. Grilling out and having a potluck-style cookout is also another favorite. Fun friends, delicious food, cold beverages, and sunny weather-it doesn’t get any better than that.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies {Small Batch}

Is there anything better than a perfect chocolate chip cookie? I know there are plenty of extravagent desserts made with the most spectacular ingredients, but who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies? It's a universal dessert that pleases just about every taste bud out there. And what makes a perfect chocolate chip cookie? Crumbly and thin? No thanks. Lacking flavor or texture? Gross. Chewy, thick, melt-in-your mouth delicious? Yes, please! These cookies fit that description to a T.

Southern Style Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

I don't know about where y'all live, but it has been so hot and humid around D.C. lately. On days with temperatures above 90 degrees and air thick as water, I hardly want to eat, much less turn on the oven. My slow cooker and making salads or cold meals are a life saver on scorching spring and summer days.

Fudgey Brownies

You know those days when your brain is telling you to eat fresh, wholesome foods, but your taste buds and stomach are telling you buy a roll of cookie dough, take a spoon to it, and call it dinner? Yeah, I have those days a lot. I'm going to blame my genetics since I come from a family of sweet eaters. Give us a choice between salty or sweet and we'll choose sweet just about every time.

Low Carb Mexican Zucchini Boats

I've been having some serious Mexican food cravings lately. There is something about summertime that makes me want fresh guacamole, crispy tortilla chips, an extra large margarita, and one of my many favorite Mexican entrees. Mexican food just seems like it was made to be eaten outside, with abundant sunshine, and warm temperatures.

Skinny Chocolate Raspberry "Ice Cream"

Is there anything better than ice cream on a hot day? Ok, well maybe a pool, cocktail, and a few attractive males holding fans and filling your cocktail every time it is half full would be better. But a close second is skinny ice cream. Yes, it is possible to make at home in a matter of minutes and without an ice cream maker. Your taste buds and scale will thank you for this recipe!

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Do you have a favorite muffin recipe? Blueberry, bran, honey wheat, chocolate chip, cinnamon swirl...the list goes on. I used to think I was a blueberry muffin girl through and through, but I'm slowly beginning to realize that my favorite muffin changes about as often as the weeks change. Right now my favorite are definitely these Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.

Mini Pineapple Upside-down Cakes

Who doesn't love a little surprise every now and again? If you are anything like me then you love surprises, but only if you don't know about them. If I know there is a surprise coming, I will bug everyone in sight until I can get a hint about the surprise so that I can try and figure it out. After a few surprises and my obnoxious attempts to get hints, my friends and family have learned not to surprise me, or to keep it just that-a surprise.

Southern Banana Pudding

I don't know why I've waited so long to post this recipe. Banana pudding is one of my all time favorite desserts. It might be because I'm from North Carolina and banana pudding is the dessert of the south (in my humble opinion). But it also might be because the combination of creamy vanilla pudding, sweet sliced bananas, and chewy vanilla wafers is nearly impossible to beat. Not to mention how simple this recipe is to make. Stick around for a bit and I'll explain.

Easy Brown Sugar Cherry Pie

Summer is finally here! Not only are the scorching temperatures in D.C. screaming summer, but the fresh produce in my grocery store also lets me know that winter is long gone and summer is here to stay. I must admit that I did a little happy dance when I saw fresh blueberries on sale at my grocery store. Blueberries are my all time favorite food. I could survive off of blueberries if I had to; so, naturally, I bought four pints. I might just turn into one gigantic blueberry, and I'd be totally fine with it.

XXL Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookie

Is there any better combination than chocolate and peanut butter? I certainly can't think of one. Mint and chocolate is a close second, and so is the fantastic trio of marshmallow fluff, graham crackers, and milk chocolate; but I honestly don't think I'd pick any of those over the devine chocolate/peanut butter duo. There is a reason that Reese Peanut Butter Cups are one of the top three most sold candies in America, according to NBC news. Everyone loves chocolate and peanut butter together; we might as well just consider it a fact.

Chewy Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

I love finding new ways to make a delicious recipe even more scrumptious. I'm always up for the challenge of taking a "perfect" recipe and kicking it up a notch, as Emeril would say. One recent example of my mad scientist experiments is with the traditional oatmeal raisin cookie. I am a huge sucker for oatmeal raisin cookies. A lot of people turn their heads at the chewy, hearty, sweet cookies, but I'm the girl grabbing my share and everyone else's. You don't like oatmeal raisin cookies? Great, more for me!

Apple Crisp for One

I present to you one of the easiest, quickest, single serving dessert recipes I've made to date. Not to mention that this dessert can be considered "healthy" since it has fresh fruit in it. Well, that might be a stretch since it is topped with fabulously sweet and crunchy streusel, but just work with me.

Craisin Almond Chicken Salad

I have a weird relationship with mayonnaise. The thought of mayo almost always makes me gag. It's so white, plain, and...well...fattening. If I'm ever ordering a sandwich, I always, always make sure it doesn't come with mayo on it. I'll have mustard or hummus, please and thank you. Or if I ever do find a glob of mayo on my otherwise delicious sandwich, you better believe I'm taking a napkin to that bun and soaking up every little bit of it. I think my negative feelings towards mayo started when I learned how to read a nutrition label. As soon as I discovered that little label on the side of food, I quickly eliminated a lot of ingredients and products from my diet without even thinking twice. Darn you sneaky label with almost always disappointing information.

Mini Cheesecakes

I'm all about mini foods lately, especially dessert recipes for one or two people. There is something so aethetically pleasing about miniature desserts. They just look better and somehow taste better. I always want ten more mini cupcakes or mini cookies, but am usually all set after eating one cupcake. Is it a mental thing? Or are mini desserts just that irresistable?

Clean Eating Baked Spaghetti Squash

Got another clean eating post for ya! I know "clean", healthy recipes aren't as fun to read about as delicious, rich, full of calories dishes, but work with me; I promise to give you some indulgent recipes too.

Clean Eating Apple Bread Pudding

So, about my clean eating goal: I'm failing miserably. Actually, that's a lie. Any dietary improvements are a step in the right direction. But let's just say that I haven't exactly completely eliminated refined sugar and processed foods from my diet. Heck, I went through an entire bag of Jolly Rancher Chews while I was sitting in the airport for almost 10 hours on Sunday. That's a reasonable excuse, right?

Tasty Travels: Charleston

One of the many things that I've been doing lately (other than neglecting poor Cooking to Perfection) is traveling. I absolutely love to travel, especially to places that I've never been. Seeing new parts of the world, trying unique dishes, and learning about different cultures and regional customs are a few of the reasons that I travel at any chance I get. I lucked out recently because I was invited to participate in one of my best friend's beautiful wedding in Charleston, SC.

Rainbow Row

Whiteout Cupcakes

Hi. It's me, Elaine. The blogger behind Cooking to Perfection. It's been a while, hasn't it? Will an easy, simple recipe that makes two beautiful, tasty cupcakes make up for my lack of posts lately? I sure hope so.

Lemon Bars

Spring has sprung! Well, actually, in D.C. it is more like summer has sprung. This weekend is a little cooler compared to the 90 degree days we had earlier this week; so, for the sake of the current weather conditions and this post, we'll stick to spring.

Clean Eating Strawberry Banana Muffins

Omgosh I didn't think this day would ever come. Last night I wore my first sundress of the season. WITH flops. Yes. It was just days ago that I was wearing my Northface jacket, jeans, and long sleeves; thank the weather gods for finally giving us some warm weather and sunshine. The temperature is expected to reach close to 90 degrees in the DC area tomorrow, so we might just skip right over spring and go straight to summer--you won't hear any complaints from this girl. As long as I get to wear my dresses and flops, I'm happy happy.

Triple Chocolate Cookie for One

Is there anything better than a dessert made for one? Take a cupcake, for example. That cupcake is all yours. Every cake crumb and gram of frosting has your name, and your name only, written all over it. No need to feel guilty about hogging the cupcake because it is a single serving made just for you. If you catch someone eying your scrumptious (insert your favorite cake here) cupcake, you can kindly point them in the direction of the cupcake stand and continue to enjoy your special cupcake. Slightly possessive? When it comes to sweets, I completely support hyper possessiveness.

Italian Cream Cake

Happy (belated) Easter everyone! I was hoping to get this post up on Sunday; however, March Madness and the Duke game on Sunday coupled with computer issues yesterday delayed me from posting this fantastic recipe until today. My most sincere apologies for putting off this post as long as I have-once you try this cake, you will understand why I feel so bad for keeping it from you.


Are you sitting down? Chances are yes if you are reading this on a computer or laptop. If you are browsing my blog on your phone, then go ahead and take a seat. I have some pretty big news: I think I might have invented the new and improved peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Well, to be totally honest, I think anything is an improvement over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Please tell me I'm not the only one. I've never particularly enjoyed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In fact, when I was younger I always asked my dad to hold the jelly and just give me extra peanut butter. I was a pb fan from my earliest days. When I felt the need for an extra sugar rush, I always added a few scoops of marshmallow fluff to my peanut butter sandwiches. This treat, which is known as a fluffernutter sandwich, is still one of my favorite comfort foods.

Graham Bread

Just in case you didn't already know this about me, I love quick breads. I'm a lover of carbs and a lover of quick and easy recipes; so, obviously, there is no surprise that I am a huge lover of quick breads. It's rare that I have enough time to wait on dough to rise, so I'm a fan of breads that can be mixed and baked in under an hour. I also prefer recipes that call for simple ingredients that I probably already have in my pantry. And what do ya know...this Graham Bread happens to fit all of these descriptions. Happy about this? I know I am.

Brown Butter Oatmeal Scotchies Muffins

Browning butter is very much the "in" thing for bloggers and foodies to do. Everywhere I look, I'm seeing blog posts and recipes that call for brown butter. It's hard to argue why it is such a popular ingredient because it makes cookies/cake/muffins/treats taste ten times better than regular butter does. Since I do consider myself a foodie, I figure it's only appropriate for me to jump on the bandwagon; what better way to start than with these muffins?

Moroccan Lentil Stew

I keep hearing all of this news about global warming, but I must say that current DC weather conditions make it hard to believe. This past Wednesday was the first day of spring, and yet I saw snow flakes Thursday morning. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. Spring should mean warmer days with crisply cool evenings...not snow. As much as I love our environment and want to do everything to protect it (reduce, reuse, recycle!), I'm really a fan of warmer weather; so, a little global warming here and there can't hurt anyone, right?

Cream Cheese Swirl Guinness Brownies

Let's talk about beer for a second. Beer, a lot like wine, has been an acquired taste for me. When I first started drinking, I could not stand the smell or taste of beer. Even the lightest beers made me turn the other way and ask for every high schooler's new drinker's go-to: Mike's Hard Lemonade. Now I think about Mike's Hard Lemonade and gag. Funny how things change. Even to this day, I'm still learning to appreciate different beers. I no longer squinch my nose when I try a new beer, but I still have a long way to go to fully appreciating beer, especially darker beers. Now you might be wondering why I decided to make Guinness brownies. If you are anything like me and haven't developed a taste for Guinness, don't worry; these brownies are amazing despite the strong, dark beer in them.

Healthy Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

I love carbs: pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, corn, oats...the list goes on. If I had to pick a favorite carb, I'd have to go with freshly baked bread, with fresh pasta as a very close second. I seriously don't know how people not only accepted the low-carb fad diet that defined the 90's, but also somehow stuck with it. I might have lasted a few hours before caving. Meat and vegetables all day, every day? No, thank you.

Skinny Chocolate Biscoff Muffins

We finally had a sunny, warm weekend in D.C., and I couldn't have been happier. I was finding any and every excuse to be outside and soak up some sunshine. Naturally, frozen yogurt was on that list of excuses; so was walking to Trader Joe's, strolling through Clarendon to window shop, and meeting friends at our standard spot to enjoy a few drinks on the patio. To say that I was ready to throw on my bathing suit and welcome spring with open arms is an understatement. Anddd here we are, two days later, experiencing dark, rainy, dreary weather. Guess I'll keep my bathing suit in my closet and beg the weather gods a little more this weekend.

Hawaiian Chicken

When it comes to cooking dinners lately, I've been pretty lazy. It seems like I haven't been home at all the past couple of weeks. My time has been spent everywhere but in the kitchen; I've been looking at condos, traveling, playing in the get the idea. But just because I'm lacking the time to invest in cooking dinner doesn't mean that my dinner has to lack flavor.

Irish Soda Bread

Happy March (a few days late)! I spent this weekend celebrating March so much that I didn't have time to post this Irish Soda Bread. Better late than never, right? Plus, what recipe is more appropriate to post for the month of March and the upcoming St. Patrick's Day than a traditional Irish quick bread? So without further ado, let's chat about this bread.

Skinny Strawberry Banana "Ice Cream"

After confessing to y'all about my ice cream addiction and how I could polish off a half gallon with no problem (I really should have entered an ice cream eating contest), I figured I'd share one of my favorite healthy recipes that cured by obsession with the addictive, creamy dessert. This Skinny Strawberry Banana "Ice Cream" gives you the same sweet, creamy, chilled satisfaction that full-fat ice cream does, but with a fraction of the fat and calories.

St. Patrick's Day Giveaway!

I know, I know... it's not even March yet, so why am I already hosting a giveaway for St. Patrick's Day? Well for starters, March is the best month. March is full of of reasons to celebrate, including longer days, the start of spring, St. Patrick's Day, March Madness, and, last but certainly not least, my birthday. Even though we still have a few more days left in February, I'm going to jump the gun and start acting like it's March. Cool? Cool.

Roasted Vegetable Greek Salad

As soon as I wrote my Skinny Secrets post, I found myself surrounded by so many temptations. If I said I didn't go out and enjoy a few drinks and a humongous slice of pizza this weekend, my nose might grow a few inches. It's funny how sharing skinny tips and tricks is so much easier than sticking to them. Oh well...good thing bikini season is still a few months away!

Skinny Secrets: How to Healthify Recipes

With spring right around the corner, that means that warmer weather, longer days, baby animals, Easter eggs, fresh flowers, bumble bees, and abundant sunshine isn't too far away. Pretty soon pools will start to open, families will begin to plan trips to the beach, and clothing stores will only sell items that reveal a lot more skin than the standard winter attire. What does all of this mean? Well for me, it means CELEBRATE! Sunshine and warm weather could stay forever and I'd be a happy camper. But what does this also mean? Time to get that body ready for bikini season.


Chocolate Banana Honey Muffins

I've had a thing for chocolate and bananas lately. Well, to be totally honest, I always have a thing for chocolate, but the bananas have snuck in my baking quite a bit. Usually I use bananas as a means of healthifying (yes, I just made up a word) a recipe by reducing or eliminating the fat/oil called for and using mashed bananas instead. It's an easy and delicious way to make a recipe skinny. You should give a try sometime!

Lemon Blueberry Bread Pudding

Who's ready for spring? I know this girl is. I made a quick trip to North Carolina this past weekend and it snowed. Snow in North Carolina! Are we serious? Bring on March 20th, blooming flowers, baby birds, and warm weather, please and thank you.

Boston Cream Pie

Birthdays are pretty cool. Favors, fun, friends, family, and fabulously, fantastic food. (I like alliteration...could ya tell?) I love baking desserts for my friends and family any time of day or year, but I especially love going above and beyond for their birthdays. I usually ask for requests from the special person; otherwise, it's up to me and my creative mind!

Tasty Travels: Costa Rica

Hola amigos! Have you been wondering where I've been? Well I didn't want to rub it in your face before I left, but I can't keep it a secret for any longer: I went to Costa Rica for the first time!! And, I kid you not, it is one of the most fun, exotic, beautiful places that I've ever been. I'm already planning trip nĂºmero de dos to visit all of the places that I didn't get a chance to see.

Black Bean Hummus

Looking back, it probably would have been smart to post this dip on Superbowl Sunday for all of you party people who love hummus. I apologize for my brain fart! But hey, this recipe can give you an excuse to have people over more often. A delicious hummus recipe is just as good of a reason as any.

Easy Lightened Up Coffee Cake

I think my body is still recovering from the sugar high that I experienced during the holidays. It's the only reason I can think of as to why I am constantly craving sweets. Now I have always had a sweet tooth, but lately it has been out of control. In attempts to force myself to cut back on sugar consumption, I have purposefully not bought any sugary snacks and have tried to refrain from baking lots of sweets. So what do I do instead? Grab a bag of plain chocolate chips and munch on those. Sweet tooth, you win once again.

Crock Pot Creamy Spaghetti

Do you ever feel like you have bad picture days? No matter what angle you stand at, no matter how you smile, no matter what clothes you wear, no matter how you wear your just look like poop. Well if I could imagine what this Crock Pot Creamy Spaghetti feels like, I would say that it is having a bad picture day.

Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

I knew this would happen. It happens every year, usually earlier than January. But it eventually got me: the dreaded head cold. Yep...the cold I've been fighting off, and I thought beating, for the past couple of days decided to hit me like a ton of bricks this morning when I got up for work. I called my boss to explain how I felt and he told me to go straight to bed. As you can imagine, I didn't argue with him.

Healthy Chicken 'n' Dumplings

All of this snow and cold weather is making me miss the south. While "home" is only a four hour drive from DC, I feel like the weather is usually significantly different better. The sun always seems to shine, the temperature is always a good five or six degrees warmer, and there is hardly ever any snow or ice. should take lessons from the South. Work on this please.

Quinoa Veggie Stir Fry

Sometimes I get in a rut. I'm definitely a creature of habit. When I find something that works, I stick with it. For example, I may or may not have packed the same lunch every day from kindergarten to eighth grade. And the only reason I had to switch things up was because I got braces (and sandwiches are not braces friendly). While finding a recipe that works is great, I constantly have to remind myself to switch things up a bit and try something new.

Skinny Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Anyone have any fun getaway plans coming up, like jetting off to a tropical island or a relaxing on a long cruise? Around this time each year I find myself missing summer and craving warm sunshine, sand between my toes, and the sound of waves crashing. Not only do I find myself missing the beach but I also find myself wishing that I could turn into a bear, hibernate, and wake up when it's warm again. If you need to know something about me, it's that I love heat and will do anything to avoid cold weather. Until I can get powers to make myself turn into a bear half of the year, I settle by taking a trip each year to someplace warm. A few years ago it was the Bahamas, then Aruba, and this year is Costa Rica. I couldn't be more excited to visit Costa Rica for the first time and escape the cold, dreary weather in D.C.

Healthy Recipe Roundup

With everyone talking about losing a few pounds, toning up, and eating healthier, I thought I'd share some of my favorite good-for-you recipes. These are ten of my go-to breakfast, snack, dinner, and dessert recipes that help me feel satisfied without packing on the pounds. Here's to hoping these recipes can help you stick to your weight loss and overall being healthier goals!

{So rich and delicious that it will be hard to stop at just one! Good thing they only have 100 calories per cookie.}

Oatmeal Cream Pies

Growing up, Little Debbie's Oatmeal Creme Pies were one of my favorite treats. My parents rarely bought a lot of sweets from the grocery store because they wanted to feed me healthy and nutritious foods. When I was younger, I thought I was being deprived of what all children should be allowed to eat-there isn't anything wrong with Lucky Charms, Twinkies, and gallons of soda! Now I thank my parents as often as I can for instilling good eating habits in me. However, when I was younger I just pouted. But on the days that I opened my Barbie lunch box decorated with tons of stickers to find a Little Debbie's Oatmeal Creme Pie, my little first grader heart would be filled with happiness. Then I would proceed to gobble it up in 2.5 seconds. It's the little things.

Roasted Curry Ginger Cauliflower

Let's talk about cauliflower. I think it's safe to say that cauliflower is not high on anyone's list of favorite vegetables. It's white, bland, and has zero pizazz. I have to admit that I never grab a cauliflower floret from a veggie tray-the carrots and broccoli are just so much prettier. And, after all, we eat with our eyes, so colors are a pretty big deal in the food world. Sorry boring, white cauliflower; sometimes the truth hurts.

Skinny Pumpkin and Cream Muffins

Most of you are probably still sick of pumpkin from the overload of recipes that you saw and made for Thanksgiving. I, on the other hand, am still craving the stuff. When I find something I like, I stick with it. Notice that about my oatmeal obsession? Yes, I am a creature of habit.

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