A Squared: December 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Top 10 Favorite Recipes from 2014

Happy New Year's Eve!

Since a lot of us have big plans for entertaining or going out tonight, I'm keeping today's post easy breezy. I love posting recipe round ups around themes like holidays and seasons or based on your most clicked or most pinned posts. Today's recipe round up is a collection of my 10 favorites from last year. I looked back at all the recipes I posted in 2014 and managed to narrow the list down to my 10 personal favorites from a year full of food.

So, (in no particular order) here are my favorite recipes from 2014. Give them a try in 2015!

1. Biscoff Cookie & Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches -- My first go at homemade ice cream and ice cream sandwiches were totally delicious. And this photo is one of my favorites that I have ever taken and posted on this blog!

2. Caprese Spaghetti Squash Bake -- While this is a collection of my favorite recipes, this one is one of yours. It took off after a retweet on the Meatless Monday account and has been repinned over and over since. It's such a satisfying meatless dinner.

3. Mom's Artichoke Dip -- My take on my mom's classic, easy, and creamy artichoke dip. It's full of flavor and perfect for whipping up in a few minutes before a party.

4. Prosecco Cupcakes with Prosecco Buttercream Frosting -- The perfect cupcakes for celebrating! I made these prosecco-laced cupcakes for celebrating my best friend's 30th birthday and they were a sweet and boozy success.

5. Italian Tuna & White Bean Salad -- A recipe inspired by my travels in Europe. I love this light and fresh makeover of traditionally heavy cream tuna salad.

6. Roasted Butternut Squash with a Rosemary Parmesan Pecan Crust -- I had a serious butternut squash moment this fall and this recipe was one of my favorites. I was super proud of the photos and the flavor was so good that I made a casserole version to serve on our Thanksgiving table too.

7. Sun Dried Tomato & Feta Baked Shrimp -- This flavorful shrimp dish is surprisingly easy to make and can easily feed a crowd too. It was a perfect girls night dinner!

8. Heirloom Tomato Salad -- A salad so simple that I almost didn't photograph it because I didn't think the recipe would be worth posting. Luckily, the colors were so beautiful I couldn't resist and the flavors ended up being so wonderful that I would have been a fool to not share this summer salad with you.

9. Cranberry Apple Kuchen -- Kuchen is a traditional German cake and one my Oma was famous for making. I made this festive American version for Thanksgiving this year and was so happy with how it turned out.

10. Orange Balsamic Glazed Lamb Chops -- I had never made lamb chops before, so this one was a bit of a gamble. The flavors turned out to be rich and wonderful and grilling the chops really enhanced their flavor.

Cheers to 2015 and another year of delicious dishes!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nutella Iced Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

These Nutella iced shortbread cookies are buttery, crunchy, and offer just the right amount of sweetness!

I know it's post-Christmas and you're probably cookie'd out, but I jumped on the bandwagon late this year so I still have one more holiday-inspired baking post to share with you today. I tried my hand at shortbread for the first time and though things started off a bit rocky, the results were really tasty!

These shortbread cookies are a fun twist on regular old chocolate chip cookies. The cookies are more pastry-like: they're melt-in-your-mouth buttery and more crunchy than chewy. The dough also isn't sugar heavy, so the addition of semi-sweet chocolate chips and a little Nutella on top add the perfect touch of sweetness to these cookies. These were great Christmas cookies (especially cut into a festive star shape), but cut them into any shape you want and serve them all year round!

Never one to just follow a simple recipe, I wanted to make my first attempt at shortbread something special... and it was a learning experience. I decided that I wanted to make chocolate chip shortbread and learned a few valuable tips that I wanted to share with you today:
  • Freeze the chocolate chips ahead of time. Shortbread dough is dry like pastry dough and requires a lot of handling and the chips will melt quickly. Freezing them gives you a little more time to work the dough before the chocolate chips start to melt into the dough from the warmth of your hands.
  • Make sure your chocolate chips are mini. I used full size, but the dough would have come together and rolled out much more easily if the chips had been smaller. Rolling it out, the dough often broke because of the size of the chocolate chips.
  • Use the proper ratio of dough to chocolate chips -- or the proper ratio of dough to any mix-in, really. At first I used 3/4 cup of chocolate chips to half the amount of dough specified below. It was impossible to bring the mixture together until I doubled the amount of dough.


  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 6 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 Tbs. milk
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, frozen
  • 1/2 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir flour and sugar to combine. Use a pastry cutter or food processor to cut butter into the flour mixture until incorporated and a fine crumbly mixture is formed. Stir in milk.

Knead the dough with your hands until it just begins to come together. Stir in chocolate chips and then continue to knead with your hands until a smooth ball of dough is formed. Cover and chill for 20 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter (simple shapes without a lot of detail work best with this dough) to cut out cookies. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 22-25 minutes until set and just golden around the edges.

Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before using a spatula to remove cookies and transfer to wire rack to cool completely. To speed up the cooling process, you may also refrigerate the cookies for 10-15 minutes too.

Once completely cooled, you can ice the cookies. Spoon the Nutella into a small zip-locking bag. Cut a small (1/4-inch or smaller) opening in the corner of the bag and squeeze the Nutella out of that opening to ice the cookies with the design of your choice. Refrigerate to completely set the Nutella icing.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Warm Up with Winter Drinks

Hey all! I'm checking in from my family's cabin in northern Michigan where Alex and I are taking a much needed extended holiday break.

Because my parents' place is a long way from civilization, we made sure to stock the car last week with a few holiday libations to enjoy with the family up here. The house is a good 30-40 minute drive to a grocery store or liquor store where the selection is pretty basic and definitely doesn't compare to the great stuff we can get here in the city at our mega-liquor stores, local craft beer shop, or even our grocery store. So, we made a few last minute beverage runs and I know that several of you will be doing the same for your upcoming New Year's festivities. Here's a roundup of 10 beverages I am currently loving this winter. These are perfect for creating festive cocktails, toasting to friends, family, and the New Year, or just for enjoying and warming up on a cold winter's night.


Warm Up with Winter Drinks

1. VOVETI Prosecco -- Nothing says "celebrate" like a little bubbly and Italian prosecco is my bubbly beverage of choice. With fruity notes of green apple, peach, and melon and a creamy texture with light acidity, this is the perfect sparkling wine for proposing a toast! Serve it with some antipasti for the perfect party pairing.

2. Jolly Traveler Winter Shandy -- This is my husband's holiday pick. Already a fan of Curious Traveler-- a citrusy lemon and grapefruit-infused beer-- he totally fell for their festive Winter Shandy. Jolly Traveler is a traditional American wheat ale brewed and flavored with orange, pomegranate and warm spices that make this shandy taste like a holiday beer should.

3. Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut -- This Spanish cava blend is another fabulous bubbly option for your upcoming celebrations. With notes of apple, pear, and ginger, this sparkling wine is perfect for toasting on its own or for pairing with spicy foods-- like some Spanish-style tapas, perhaps? The sleek black bottle makes this a unique wine for gifting and through December 31st, you can enter Freixenet’s 100th Anniversary Sweepstakes for a chance to win a VIP trip for two to Barcelona to tour the world-famous winery as part of Freixenet’s centennial celebration of their first bottling too! 

4. Beso del Sol Sangria -- The easiest sangria to serve at or bring to a holiday party. A blend of Spanish Tempranillo wine with fruit and citrus juices makes for a light and refreshing ready made sangria. Just add fresh fruit for a party drink to serve a crowd-- and check out my holiday sangria recipe for inspiration!

5. G'Vine Gin -- For the mixed drink lovers, G'Vine is a new twist on good old gin. A hybrid of traditional grape distillation and the new use of the rare grape vine flower, this gin has great warmth and floral notes and would be perfect shaken up into a holiday cocktail with a little citrus and cinnamon.

6. Shiner Holiday Cheer -- Another pick from my husband, the beer drinker. A Texas man, he loves Shiner Bock, but during the holidays he especially their holiday variety. With caramelized malts and flavors of peach and pecan, this is a southern twist on a festive holiday beer.

7. Samuel Adams Merry Maker -- This seasonal gingerbread stout from the brewers at Sam Adams is strong in flavor and alcohol content! Brewed with rich roasted malts and spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger, this beer is about as festive as it gets.

8. Uproot Wines -- If you're looking for wine to serve or drink over the holidays, Uproot is a really cool concept. Instead of describing the wine with text, Uproot uses a variety of colored blocks on each label describing the flavor palette you'll find in each bottle. The concept is great and the wine of equally good quality too.

9. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum -- Whether it's a festive holiday spiced cocktail or a hot toddy, spiced rum is the perfect mixer for a variety of winter drinks. And nobody does spiced rum better than Captain Morgan! Try it with a little apple cider-- one of my favorite simple holiday cocktail combos!

10. Juve y Camps Cava Brut Rose -- This sparkling Pinot Noir is one of my favorite sparkling wines. It's a gorgeous deep magenta color, the flavor is more intense than your typical cava or other bubbly, and it feels like drinking something a little more festive at this time of year. This wine has a lot of fruity notes and pairs well with spicy foods so serve it with something bold!

*Editor's Note: Complimentary samples of Voveti, Freixenet, Jolly Traveler, G'Vine, and Captain Morgan were provided to me in order to facilitate this post. The opinions expressed herein are my own.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Happy Christmas Eve!

God willing, right now Alex and I are in an SUV filled to the brim with snacks, comfy winter clothes, Christmas presents, Clery, and all of his doggy things and we're deep into the 7+ hour drive from Chicago to my parents' place in northern Michigan. We will be there for a longer "Christmas vacation" than I have been able to take since college and I can't wait!

So I just wanted to check in today and wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year-- from my little family to yours!

I'm signing off for the holidays-- see you again Monday!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Coconut Cherry Macaroons with Chocolate Drizzle

Doing some very last minute holiday baking? These coconut cherry macaroons with chocolate drizzle are a delicious holiday treat and with only a few ingredients, they are super easy to make!

I am usually crazy about getting ready for Christmas. I start my shopping before Thanksgiving, I have the tree up and decorated the day after, and all of the cookies are baked and the gifts are wrapped days (if not weeks) before Santa's big day. This year... that just didn't happen. With a new house, a new puppy, a lot of visitors, and some extra work and wedding travel for Alex and me, this fall and the beginning of winter really just slipped by me. And now I'm scrambling to get everything ready for Christmas. So this past weekend, we shopped, wrapped, packed, and of course, baked.

Traditional coconut macaroon recipes call for sweetened shredded coconut, but I had some of these big unsweetened coconut flakes in my pantry and I wanted to see how they'd work in this recipe. The results were really delicious with a treat that has a crispier flakier crust, but still that great chewy inside that you want from a coconut macaroon. Since the coconut was not pre-sweetened, I added a bit of sugar to the recipe and also dried tart cherries which help to sweeten and also add another layer of flavor to the macaroons. They're still not as sweet as the traditional recipe normally is, but I really prefer it that way because you get a lot of that real coconut flavor that makes the macaroon so delicious and special. I also love the combination of coconut, chocolate, and tart fruit (like in this cookie recipe) so this seemed like a natural addition since I planned on drizzling the macaroons with chocolate as a finishing touch.

These macaroons are the perfect last minute holiday treat. Just mix up the macaroon ingredients (it's only 6 items!), drop on a sheet to bake, and then drizzle with microwaved chocolate chips. It doesn't get much easier than that!


  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • 6 cups unsweetened coconut flakes *I used these from Edward & Sons
  • 3/4 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk condensed milk, sugar, vanilla, and egg whites until fully combined. Fold in coconut flakes and cherries until incorporated and coated with the condensed milk mixture.

Drop the mixture in 2 Tablespoon-sized mounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until the mixture is set and top is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before using a spatula to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, add chocolate chips and oil to a medium glass bowl. Microwave on medium power for 90 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir until chocolate chips have all melted and a smooth chocolate mixture is formed.

Use a spoon to drizzle chocolate over the top of each cooled macaroon. Refrigerate until chocolate is set and serve.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Top 10 Foodie Experience Gifts

Gift giving can be really tough-- especially when we all have so many 'things.' I've seen so many great gifts cross my path recently that weren't anything tangible, but instead were interactive experiences or gifts that could be enjoyed, eaten, or drunk, but that won't take up precious space in your kitchen cabinets. So, if you're looking for a gift for the foodie that has everything (or if you need a last minute gift to give with Christmas only a few days away) here are 10 great ideas for gifting a gourmet experience.

*Note-- Many of these vendors and experiences are local to Chicago and the Midwest. If you're gifting to someone who lives elsewhere, consider finding vendors like these in your area too!

1. Cheers! How about a Wine of the Month Club gift? Wine of the Month Club offers a variety of gift options for the vino lover on your list. They offer several different wine club memberships to suit every wine lover: from 2 bottles to 12 and from a California wine selection to a variety of vintner-selected limited edition wines, there is truly a Wine of the Month Club membership for everyone.

Not interested in gifting a membership? Wine of the Month Club also offers great gift baskets too! As a wine lover, I was so excited to recently receive this Barrel O' Wine from Wine of the Month Club. It was not only adorable and clever packaging, but it included an excellent variety of wines: A California Shiraz, a Spanish Tempranillo-Garnacha blend, a California Chardonnay, and a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.*

2. I love to cook and I do it often, but I have to say that I always enjoy and learn something new at a cooking class. Cooking classes can be fun for any food lover and here in Chicago there are a ton of different options-- whether you want something more classroom-style like La Scuola di Eataly (where you sit back and eat while the instructor demonstrates) or something super hands-on like The Chopping Block where I had to hand roll my own pasta, there's something for everyone! No matter where you are, a cooking class is a fun and interactive gift-- and great for groups too.

3. Know someone who loves food, but not so much the cooking (and subsequent cleanup)? Give a  Kitchensurfing gift card! Kitchensurfing makes the private chef experience accessible by allowing anyone to select a menu, a local chef, and book a dinner party (or date night!) right on their website. The chefs will come prepared to cook and serve right in the comfort of your kitchen. Check out my delicious experience with the service at Kit's place here.

4. How about someone that likes to cook, but just doesn't have the time? Madison & Rayne takes the the prep work out of cooking by delivering chef-designed recipes and fresh seasonal ingredients-- that have already been cleaned, cut, and portioned for you-- right to your door! The meals come together in a snap and are really delicious. A gift certificate to Madison & Rayne is perfect for the busy cook or food lover. I tried the service and had a lot of fun with it!

5. Give the gift of cheese. Because cheese. Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine offers an amazing selection of cheese-centric gifts. And better yet: they also sell monthly cheese club subscriptions! So, if you're shopping really last minute or you'd like to give the gift of cheese all year long, consider one of Pastoral's Cheese of the Month or Charcuterie of the Month packages for the gourmand in your life.

6. For the beer lover: How about a gift certificate to Brew Camp? Brew Camp offers Chicago beer lovers everything they need to take their love of beer to the next level. From home brew kits to classes on everything from how to brew at home or the ins and outs of kegs to beer accessories, this place has everything you need.

7. There is no better way to get to know your city or neighborhood than by tasting its best food. Gifting a Chicago Food Planet Tour is a delicious way to experience the best of the Windy City's food-- and to learn some interesting facts about some of Chicago's coolest neighborhoods. I have tried the Near North and Wicker Park/Bucktown tours and loved both. Next stop: Chinatown!

8. A Vintage Michigan membership is the perfect gift for a Midwest wine lover. For the wino that wants to get out and experience it firsthand, this annual membership offers its members discounts and special perks at wineries, shops, hotels and inns, wine events, and restaurants all over Michigan. I'm a huge fan of norther Michigan wineries (like in Petoskey and Traverse City) and love supporting these local businesses so this is an inexpensive gift that allows for tons of fun perks!

9. I am a sucker for these food and drink of the month clubs because they are such great ways to try something new that you might love. A Craft Coffee subscription offers the same, but for the coffee lover. They'll match the subscriber up with new coffees they'll love based on their individual preferences and send them new coffee each month. Cool, right? They're offering holiday gift subscriptions that you can gift to the coffee lover in your life for a limited time, so get on it!

10. Give the gift that keeps on giving with Heifer International. For a food-centric gift that does some good this holiday season, consider a gift from Heifer International. Heifer's mission is to provide families in third world and developing countries with the means to pull themselves out of poverty by teaching valuable life skills and trades and you have the opportunity to help fund this movement. You can, for instance, buy a goat or a flock of chicks for a family in Africa or Asia which not only provides them with a stable food source but also with an ongoing source of income. Donate to Heifer International on behalf of the foodie in your life and let them share the joy of the holiday season with those less fortunate this year!

*Editor's Note: While I received a complimentary gift from Wine of the Month Club, the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Recent Happenings

What a crazy couple of weeks it has been! I was just looking back on the last few weeks and realized that for a full month we were either celebrating Thanksgiving or entertaining guests or Alex or I was traveling for work leaving the other one behind as a single puppy parent... I am wiped and ready for a much needed holiday break. And with all of that going on, you can imagine that I haven't had a lot of time (or energy) for going to a lot of events-- which is a shame because 'tis the season for parties! A few cool things have come up lately though and I wanted to take a few minutes and tell you and these fun foodie happenings.

Gingerbrunch at Freestyle

My friend Kit recently invited a few blogger friends to Gingerbrunch at Freestyle in the Dana Hotel. It was great to catch up with the girls and enjoy a great brunch. I have never been to Freestyle and I ordered the Spanish Scramble, which was amazing! Similar to Huevos Rancheros, it was a bed of tortilla chips tossed in savory ranchero sauce topped with scrambled eggs with peppers, pico de gallo, sour cream, and avocado. Basically, all of my favorite things.

After a quick mimosa toast, the ginger portion of Gingerbrunch began. Every Sunday from 11 AM to 3 PM in December, Freestyle invites brunch patrons to build their own gingerbread houses. They supply the pieces, the frosting, and the candy, and the rest is up to you!

I haven't built a gingerbread house in forever, so this was so much fun. Jennie and I hung a gumdrop wreath on the front of our house and went for some geometric patterns on the roof. Lauren and Erin showed of their handiwork below and Kit showed us all up with her ornate Necco wafer-shingled roof that she did all on her own.

This was such a fun and festive way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Interested? Get yourself to Freestyle this Sunday to build your own! It's $30 and mimosas are included!

Pierogi Fest

My friend Meredith recently invited Alexis and me to join her for a Saturday at her parents' home in Indiana to learn the art of pierogi making from the best: her Baci!
I love pierogies and was super excited to learn how to make them from an expert. Baci was a tough leader and not shy about telling me there was too much filling in my pierogies or throwing the dough back at Mere when it wasn't rolled out to the appropriate thickness. But she knows her stuff and can make the dough from memory and from feel, which I find totally fascinating. And she oversaw all of us as we punched out over 40 dozen potato-filled pierogies that afternoon.

A big thanks to Mere and her family for including me in this holiday tradition! It was so much fun and baking with Baci reminded me of baking with my Oma, so it brought back some fun memories. And I can't wait to share these pierogies with my family this Christmas!

And one more fun thing-- I got a shout out on TV! Several months ago I shared this recipe for Cheesy Pizza Pull Apart Bread, inspired by a recipe that I saw on The Kitchen on Food Network. I tweeted a photo of it back then and got a reply from chef Marcella-- and this past weekend they mentioned it on the show! They did, however, refer to me as a 'he'.... but I will take what I can get. Thanks for hte mention, The Kitchen!



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate & Goat Cheese

This healthy and flavorful salad is the perfect addition to your holiday menu-- it's easy to make and the colors make it feel super festive!

Yesterday I shared a delicious winter sangria recipe with you that I recently served to a few girlfriends. On that same night (while my husband was out of town at a conference) I decided to also take advantage of my dinner company and make a few dishes that I knew the girls would appreciate. First up on the menu: Brussels sprouts! I can't get enough Brussels sprouts and I know that my friend Mere agrees, so I couldn't wait to test out a new recipe on the girls.

This shaved Brussels sprouts salad is a great combination of flavors and textures that meld together perfectly. I love shaved Brussles sprouts in a salad-- they are hearty and hold up really well to dressings (even if you dress them and refrigerate overnight or for a day or two) and the tangy cabbage-like flavor is a great complement to the sweet and juicy pomegranate seeds. Some toasty pecans, creamy goat cheese, and a pomegranate-infused Balsamic vinaigrette really round out this simple and flavorful salad.

Pomegranate is such a festive fruit to serve at this time of year-- and I love the way that the bright red seeds look against the green sprouts with the white of the goat cheese. Talk about a perfect salad for your Christmas dinner table! It's a great salad for your holiday table or any other time too. And it would be delicious as an entree served with some grilled chicken too.


  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, rough chopped
  • 3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 4 Tbs. pomegranate balsamic vinegar *Regular balsamic will work if that's all you have on hand
  • 4 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. dried chives
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Using a mandolin, slice Brussels sprouts until finely shaved. If you don't have a mandolin, use a sharp knife and thinly slice each sprout or use your food processor's grater attachment to shave the sprouts.

Add shaved Brussels sprouts, onions, pomegranate seeds, and pecans to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, honey, vinegar, Dijon, chives, salt and pepper together. Pour over the sprout mixture and toss to combine. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.

Top with crumbled goat cheese and serve.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holiday Sangria with Beso Del Sol

Cheers! This Saturday, December 20th is National Sangria Day. Let's celebrate by toasting with a glass of festive holiday sangria featuring Beso Del Sol!

Beso Del Sol is a premium 100% natural sangria made by blending Spanish Tempranillo wine with fruit and citrus juices to create a light and refreshing sangria. All of the flavor you're looking for in a traditional red sangria can be found here and unlike most premade sangrias, the flavors are fresh and light and not syrupy or too sweet.

This bag-in-a-box variety is the perfect base for a festive holiday party sangria: You don't have to worry about adding a ton of different ingredients to your sangria recipe with Beso Del Sol-- just toss in some of your favorite fruit, chill, and serve! Bonus: Each box contains the equivalent of three bottles of wine and the bag-in-box design helps the sangria to stay fresher longer.

I recently had some girlfriends over for a pre-holiday dinner and wanted to serve a festive drink. I used Beso Del Sol as the basis for a holiday sangria flavored with fresh oranges, cranberries, and pomegranate seeds. The fruit soaks in the sangria for several hours along with a few cinnamon sticks to create an intensely flavored seasonal sangria. I love this flavor combination: the hit of warm and spicy cinnamon with the sweet and tangy fruits meld together nicely in this Tempranillo base. It's the perfect drink for a Christmas party, ringing in the New Year, or for celebrating National Sangria day this weekend, of course!


  • 1 orange, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup whole cranberries, frozen
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, plus additional for serving
  • 1/2 carton Beso Del Sol sangria
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberry raspberry flavored sparkling water

Place orange slices, pomegranate seeds, cranberries, and cinnamon sticks in a large pitcher. Pour Beso Del Sol sangria over the top and chill in the refrigerator for several hours.

When ready to serve, add the sparkling water to the pitcher.

Fill glasses with ice and garnish each with a cinnamon stick. Pour in the sangria and serve.

Editor's Note: This post was sponsored by Beso Del Sol, however all opinions expressed herein are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that make A Squared possible!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Citrus Herb Rubbed Turkey & a Nudo Olive Oil Giveaway

This recipe may be a bit belated (or early, rather) if you're planning your Thanksgiving menu, but a big roasted turkey is perfect for Christmas dinner too-- and you'll love this fresh and flavorful turkey rub!

For the past few years I have made an apple cider glazed turkey for Thanksgiving dinner that is really delicious, though a bit labor intensive. Because we were entertaining a bigger crowd this year I opted for a turkey recipe that was still big on flavor, but that gave me a little more freedom to work on other dishes while it roasted away. This Citrus Herb Rubbed Turkey is full of fresh flavors, comes together pretty quickly, and makes for a tangy and flavorful pan gravy too!

You could also cut this recipe in half and use the rub on a roasted chicken too!


  • 1 (12-13-lb.) whole turkey
  • 2 Tbs. fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped 
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 Tbs. Nudo Al Limone Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbs. fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 Tbs. fresh orange zest
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • Half an orange, cut into two wedges 
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and divided
  • 3 carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into large wedges
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups low sodium fat free chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove giblets and neck from turkey and discard. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Trim and discard excess fat. Use your fingers to gently loosen the turkey skin so that space is formed between the skin and meat.

In a small bowl combine chopped sage and next 9 ingredients (through pepper). Mince 3 of the garlic cloves and mix those into the herb mixture. Use your fingers to rub about 3/4 of the mixture under the skin of the turkey, making sure it is evenly distributed. Rub the rest of the mixture evenly over the outside of the turkey.

Place the remaining 3 garlic cloves, orange wedges, 2 of the lemon wedges, and half of the onion inside of the turkey cavity. Tie legs together to secure. Place the turkey on a roasting rack breast side up in a roasting pan. Fill the bottom of the pan with the remaining lemon wedges, onion wedges, celery, carrots, and bay leaf. Pour in the chicken broth and wine.

Cover the turkey loosely with an aluminum foil tent and bake, removing every 30 minutes to baste with the liquid in the pan. If the liquid begins to evaporate throughout the cooking process, replenish with additional broth or wine as needed. Roast at 350 for 2 hours and then increase heat to 400 degrees and remove foil tent. Roast for an additional 30-60 minutes (continuing to baste) until the internal thigh temperature is 165 degrees.

Let turkey rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before carving.*

One of the secret ingredients that adds tons of flavor to this holiday turkey recipe is Nudo Al Limone Olive Oil. Nudo Olive Oils are not only super flavorful and beautifully packaged in bright whimsical tins, but the company's history and mission is really interesting too! Nudo began back in 2005 when two men left their careers as successful TV producers to buy and manage a 21-acre olive grove in Italy. It has since become a wonderful program that involves not only local olive farmers, but the end users of the olive oil too!

Olive farmers from various regions of Italy are responsible for caring for their own trees and the oil produced goes into the Nudo Italia adoption program. Olive oil lovers like you and I have the opportunity to adopt our own olive trees and receive the oil from those trees in return to enjoy in our own kitchens. It's a wonderful way to support smaller artisan olive farmers and the oil has a truly amazing quality and flavor. This would be fun for any food lover to take advantage of-- and what a great gift for the cook in your life, right? Check out their website for more information on how to adopt your own olive oil tree!

Nudo olive oils come in a variety of different flavors and I was really blown away by the intense real flavors in these oils. They are amazing to cook with or to simple drizzle over a finished dish to add a quick punch of flavor. I am partial to the lemon variety, which is what I included in that delicious turkey rub. The basil flavored oil is also a favorite and delicious drizzled over a simple pasta with vegetables or a caprese salad and the garlic variety is amazing on roasted potatoes. These olive oils come in a variety of other flavors too: from orange to hot pepper to herb varieties to coffee... there is something for everyone!

So, would you like to give them a try? Today you have your chance! I'm giving away a gift pack of three delicious and versatile flavored Nudo olive oils. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to win a selection of basil, lemon, and garlic flavored olive oils to use and enjoy in your kitchen!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Recipe inspired by an original Cooking Light recipe.  

Editor's Note: I was given a complimentary sample of Nudo olive oil to facilitate this post. The opinions expressed here, as always, are my own.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Winter Warm Up at Elephant & Castle GIVEAWAY!

It's cold outside, so get yourself indoors-- specifically, over to your nearest Elephant & Castle location-- and warm up with their new Winter Warm Up menu!


Elephant & Castle Pub and Restaurant is a cozy British-style pub with locations all over the US and Canada. There are 3 here in Chicago that are always packed full of people enjoying a beer and the kind of traditional meets modern pub food that Elephant & Castle has become famous for serving.

Elephant & Castle has recently launched a Winter Warm Up menu, perfect for a comforting meal inside while it's cold and snowy outside. The new menu includes some great new dishes like an Asian-inspired Miso Ramen Bowl made up of fresh ramen noodles in a white miso stock with thinly sliced BBQ pork and togarashi spice. They're also featuring a festive Turkey Burger with mayo, cranberry compote, lettuce, onion and melted swiss cheese... I cannot wait to try that one! There's also a Scotch Egg on the menu, which is something I have recently tried and totally fallen for-- it's a soft boiled egg wrapped in seasoned ground pork with a crisp panko crust and red ale mustard sauce on the side for dipping.


Are you hungry yet? Well, you're in luck because I am giving away a $50 gift card to Elephant & Castle so that you can stop in and give the new menu a try for yourself!

Use the Rafflecopter widget below for multiple chances to win:

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