Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges with Pistachios, Goat Cheese & Pomegranate Glaze

I have a thing for dishes that bring together sweet and salty flavors in one bite. It's like every mouthful hits all the right notes and sends you going back for more (and more and more!).

I first tried these Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges topped with Pistachios, Goat Cheese and Pomegranate Glaze at an event I went to last week sponsored by Wonderful Pistachios (yes, they of the amazing TV commercials!), where we all teamed up to make a bunch of delicious winter recipes featuring pistachios.

You can read more about that party here, but if it's the recipe you're looking for, scroll down!

I have made this easy sweet potato side dish twice since the party last week, and am already thinking about doing it again for Christmas or maybe even our New Year's party. It is THAT good.

The sweet potato wedges are crispy on the outside and tender inside, and paired with the salty roasted pistachios and goat cheese. And then the perfectly sweet and spicy pomegranate juice glaze ties the whole magical thing together. Ahh...SO GOOD!


A Winter Cooking Party with Wonderful Pistachios (Plus 3 Pistachio Recipe Ideas!)

Last week, I got the chance to attend a fun little cooking party sponsored by Wonderful Pistachios. The event was hosted by Momtrends, and brought together an amazing group of blogger ladies for a festive night of cooking, eating, drinking, and sharing.


Pistachio Brownie Cookies

The perfect cross between brownies and cookies, these chewy dark chocolate cookies studded with pistachios are an awesome treat for holiday parties (or for those days when you're craving chocolate like it's nobody's business!).


Pistachio and Cherry Popcorn Balls

Popcorn balls have always been one of my favorite holiday treats, and this recipe from the Wonderful Pistachios event I attended last week was wonderful.

Though this recipe calls for dried cherry, feel free to improvise, adding other dried fruits (or a mix of them!). Dark chocolate chips would also be lovely, as would a dash of almond extract, to bring out the nutty flavors.


Sweet & Spicy Coca-Cola Chicken Wings

There are few dishes more crowd-pleasing than a giant platter of piping hot crispy chicken wings. Whether sticky and sweet or spicy and saucy, they're just one of those things that make a whole lot of people, a whole lot of happy.

And if you come across a recipe that's sweet AND spicy, like these easy Coca-Cola Chicken Wings? TOTAL WIN!

Homemade chicken wings are one of my favorite party foods to serve at any time of year. They're perfect for game-day parties, obviously, but I also love them for birthday parties and casual weekend get-togethers. The apartment building we live in even served them up at last year's annual Christmas tree decorating party, and people were so excited!


DIY Gift Idea: Candy Cane Sugar Scrub

I love peppermint. I drink peppermint tea constantly, love minty hot chocolate, and will never turn down a peppermint patty or a junior mint.

And I LOVE this yummy and easy homemade peppermint scented Candy Cane Sugar Scrub!


DIY Gift Idea: Sand Art Brownie Mix

Do you remember making sand art designs at the carnival as a kid? That was always one of my favorite activities.

I loved making patterns with the colored sand, though after a few weeks (or even days!) of bumping the bottle around, the colors would all mix together and I'd end up with a bottle filled with ugly purple-brown sand that my mom would

That's why I love this project so much. You get the fun of the pretty layered ingredients, which can then be mixed up into a delicious batch of brownies!


Sheet Pan Roasted Tomato Soup

Let's make soup in the oven!

I work from home the majority of the time. I absolutely love this, especially on cold winter days, when I just have no wish to go outside. The only unfortunate thing about this is that my building keeps the heat on very low during the day when they assume everyone is away. It's a cost and energy saving method, which I understand, but it also means that Hudson and I (and all the other work-from-home neighbors) spend most of the day shivering and piling on layers.

It sucks, but one way that I deal with it is by putting my oven to work. Long slow braises, roasted veggies, every baked good ever... If I can find an excuse to crank up the oven, I do.


Maple Cranberry Pecan Pie

If you have to pull together a holiday dessert at the last minute, I highly recommend going with pecan pie. It's the easiest pie to make--just stir together a few ingredients, pour into a crust, and bake!

The whole thing seriously takes minutes to prepare, and the final product?

SO satisfyingly gooey and delicious.


Spicy Tabasco Brownies

I can't believe it's taken me this long to post a recipe for spicy brownies on this blog. I make them all the time, but it wasn't until recently when a friend asked for the recipe that I realized that I hadn't actually ever shared it here.


Chocolate Coca-Cola Quick Bread + 5 Make-Ahead Christmas Breakfast Tips

The holiday season usually brings along a bevy of overnight guests and party invitations, for which a recipe like this Chocolate Coca-Cola Quick Bread will most definitely come in handy.

This moist and not-too-sweet bread is rich with hints of chocolate and a touch of classic Coca-Cola flavor. It's lovely on its own with a mug of your morning coffee, or toasted with a spread of jam or cream cheese as a quick snack later in the afternoon.

It's one of those snacky cakes that can be left on the counter all day for enjoying as you wish.


Cranberry Sauce Margarita

What is the best way to use up leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce? Drink it!

In margarita form, that is!

This ridiculously good Cranberry Sauce Margarita is made with leftover homemade cranberry sauce ( has to be homemade. The jelled canned stuff won't work here.), tequila, fresh lemon juice, and a bit of triple sec.

It's beautifully tart and tangy and strong. (I can attest to that last part after testing this recipe a couple times. Ooops!)

Oh and you know what? You don't even have to wait until after Thanksgiving to enjoy it. Skip the pinot noir and mix up a pitcher of these instead. Your guests will love you.

You'll notice that I used fresh lemon juice in my margarita instead of the usual lime. I actually prefer the way the lemon tastes with the cranberries, but give it a try both ways and see what you prefer.

And since homemade cranberry sauce tends to differ, use that as a guide when determining how much acid to add. If your sauce is super sweet, you may want more lemon juice. If it's a bit tart? Then less.

Taste and see what works best for you.

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!

Loved this recipe? Here are three other Fall Cocktail Recipes you might like:

And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

Thanks so much for reading

Cranberry Sauce Margarita
Serves 1, multiply as desired

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup homemade whole berry cranberry sauce (do not use canned or "jellied" style cranberry sauce--you need the chunky stuff)
1 tablespoon triple sec
1/4 cup reposado tequila
A few whole fresh cranberries, for garnish

Combine lemon juice, cranberry sauce, triple sec, and tequila in a large shaker. Add ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is frosty.

Fill a cocktail glass with ice and strain drink into glass. Garnish with a few whole cranberries, and serve immediately.


Warm Kale, Sausage & Butternut Squash Salad

Can something with sausage in it still be called a salad? I think yes.

This Warm Kale, Sausage & Butternut Squash Salad needs to happen in your kitchen soon. It's the kind of dish that's supposed to be a side, but which can totally satisfy all on it's own.

It's a good weeknight dinner. It's a great weekday lunch.

I know, because after I took these photos, I sat down and ate the whole thing. The whole time I kept thinking that I should stop and save some for Eugene, but then there was none left to save.


This dish cooks all in one pan. You start with the sausage--obviously. I like a spicy Italian sausage, but use your favorite--turkey, chorizo, heck...even soyrizo if that's your thing!

Saute until brown, then add the squash and let that cook. The kale is last, along with some seasonings--salt, pepper, a little balsamic vinegar--and a bit of grated cheese, if you'd like.

(I like.)

Into a bowl, then onto a table. Or if you cook it in a pretty cast iron pan, it can go straight from stove to table.

Even easier!

Loved this recipe? Here are three other Winter Salad Recipes you might like:

And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

Thanks so much for reading

Warm Kale, Sausage & Butternut Squash Salad
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, removed from casings
3 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
1 yellow onion, diced
8 cups chopped kale
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown for about 5-7 minutes. Add the butternut squash and onion (and a bit more oil if there isn't much fat in the pan--this will vary based on the sausage you use), and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender. Stir in the kale, letting the heat from the pan wilt it slightly. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a serving dish, drizzle with balsamic and sprinkle on the parmesan. Serve immediately.


Spiced Apple Cider Rum Punch Cocktail

I know this season is usually all about hot apple cider, but I'd love to suggest something a little different: spiced apple cider mixed with rum and fresh lemon juice, served very very cold over ice.

I served this refreshing Spiced Apple Cider Rum Punch at a party I hosted last night, and can report that it was a total hit. The punch bowl was completely empty by the end of the night, and several guests asked for the recipe.

And honestly? It's so simple!

This is a great recipe to keep in your back pocket for any parties you're hosting this winter (or...if you're just craving something different for happy hour).

Loved this recipe? Here are three other Fall Cocktail Recipes you might like:

And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

Thanks so much for reading

Spiced Apple Cider Rum Punch Cocktail
Makes 1 cocktail, multiply as needed

1/4 cup gold rum
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground cloves
1 cup apple cider
1 orange slice
1 cinnamon stick
Ice, for serving

Combine gold rum, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a cocktail glass. Stir to combine. Fill glass with ice. Add apple cider. Garnish with cinnamon stick and orange slice. Serve immediately.


Carrot Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

I love carrot salads like this one--easy and colorful and popping with bright and tangy flavor that compels you to keep going back in for one more forkful. (And another. And another...)

After some carrot cake baking this past weekend, I found myself with a bunch of extra shredded carrots, so figured a Carrot Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette was definitely in order.

I think carrot salads usually tend to be too sweet--often seasoned with sugar and warm spices, but what I was craving was something light and acidic. This easy dijon mustard vinaigrette whips together in just a few seconds, and works perfectly with the sweet shredded carrots. A bit of a fresh parsley and it's done!

I used pre-shredded carrots that I bought for the cake this past weekend (I love a good shortcut and was not in the mood to wash my food processor afterward), but you can use carrots you shred yourself. Or you can even just slice them thinly. Whatever works best for you.

The one thing I will advise is that you make this at least two hours before serving. Carrots are a hard vegetable, and they need a couple hours to soak in the dressing and soften up a bit. It's good right away, for sure, but it's GREAT a couple hours later. Trust me on this.

I love this salad on its own as a side dish, or as a condiment--use it as a topping on sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, or fish tacos. There are seriously so many good uses for this easy dish.


Loved this recipe? Here are three other Winter Salad Recipes you might like:

And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

Thanks so much for reading

Carrot Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
Serves 4

5 cups shredded carrots
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup apple cider or red wine vinegar
1/3 cup neutral flavor oil (grape seed, avocado, vegetable, etc.)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, oils, and honey until well combined. Add the shredded carrots and parsley and toss well to coat. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper, then toss again. Cover, and let sit at room temperature 2 hours. Toss again and serve.

Bertucci's Italian Sausage Soup

When I was in college in DC, my best friend Ilana and I used to have a standing Thursday night dinner date at a restaurant near our campus called Bertucci's.

If you've never heard of it, Bertucci's is an East Coast-based chain of Italian restaurants known for their ridiculously good freshly baked rolls and pizza. It wasn't anything out of this world, but we loved the food (and the hot waiter who always used to give us free dessert!) so it naturally become our favorite.

Ilana and I both used to order the same thing over each week, soon not even pretending to look at the menu to get something different. My go-to starter was always the Italian Sausage Soup--a simple, but hearty soup made with sausage, crushed tomatoes, spinach, and rice, topped with a generous handful of cheese.

It was savory and rich and cozy and the absolute perfect thing to warm up with at the end of a cold winter school day...


Buttermilk Banana Pancakes

There are a few things that Eugene loves more than anything else. There's me (naturally) and Hudson (sometimes), and then there are the edible things.

Things like pancakes and pie and pannacotta.

(Am realizing now that his favorite edible things all seem to start with a "p.")

Pancakes are first on that list because they're definitely one of his favorites, but I admit that I don't really make them that often. When it comes to breakfast, I'm definitely more of a savory girl, and since there are only two of us here (Hudson can't eat pancakes), it's rare that I go to the trouble of making them.


Papardelle with Pork & Pumpkin Ragu

This Papardelle with Pork & Pumpkin Ragu was born because, upon getting home from Italy a couple weeks ago, I promptly found myself daydreaming about pasta.

The truth is, I don't actually feel like I ate enough of it while I was there. Before our trip, I had fantasies of long lunches in the sun with multiple courses and glasses of wine, followed by lazy walks through ancient cobblestone streets, afternoon naps, and equally lush dinners.

We only had about four and a half days in Italy--a brief detour at the tail end of a two-week trip spent primarily in Greece, but I figured it would still be enough time...


Apple Picking near New York City

A few weeks ago, I messaged my friend and pointed out that it's been way too long since we've hung out. "Let's plan a cozy fall dinner!'

"Or we could go apple picking," he replied.


Puerto Rican Tembleque (Coconut Pudding)

Tembleque was my favorite dessert growing up. Tembleque is a Puerto Rican recipe for a jiggly coconut milk pudding similar in texture to pannacotta or jello.

I actually think that there has never been a more perfectly named dessert than tembleque, which in Spanish roughly translates to "wobbly" or "trembling," and is what this pudding does when you give it a tiny shake.

It's sweet and creamy and rich with coconut flavor, though it's actually completely vegan and dairy-free, made from coconut milk and cornstarch, rather than gelatin. It's perfect for entertaining since there are few who can't enjoy it.


Grape Juice-Glazed Breakfast Sausages

Breakfast sausages already have a ton of amazing flavor, but if you're entertaining guests for a brunch party or have family staying with you for the holidays, this is a simple way to turn simple cooked sausages into an elegant side dish.


9 Easy Cranberry Recipes to Try

It's cranberry season, and while homemade cranberry sauce is at the top of a lot of our lists, there are a lot of other great ways to use up fresh cranberries. From Fresh Cranberry Brownies to an easy Cranberry Ropa Vieja, read on to check out a few of my favorite easy cranberry recipes.


10 Snacky Treats for Cozy Fall Nights

Something about the chilly weather just makes me want to curl up with a good book or movie and a really good snack. Whether you crave things that are salty or sweet, read on for a few of my favorite homemade snacks!

Playing with my Food

A few months ago, I started a fun little photo series on my Instagram featuring different objects (mostly food) in my hand.

I took the first few at home, and then when I went on my trip to Greece and Italy, I took a few of the things we ate there.

It would sometimes involve things like running around to find a white wall (I did that at the aiport in Rome and in the town of Amalfi with that gelato.) The octopus was messy since it was freshly caught and cleaned and dripping with water (I boiled and then grilled it after I took the photo.) The charred pepper was too hot to hold in my hand, hence the tongs.

I started using the hashtag #always_inmyhand to collect them and thought I'd share a few of my them with you today.

(The eggplant and the octopus are my favorite.)

Click on over to my Instagram to see them all--I add new ones every week!

Follow me @alwaysalejandra and say hi so I can follow you back, too!




Easiest Ever Dark Chocolate Rice Pudding

I've had a thing for rice pudding lately. Maybe it's the chilly nights or the earlier sunsets that have me craving a bit of extra comfort. Whatever the reason, a creamy bowl of rice pudding served right off the stove is basically the only thing I want.

And this chocolate version? Perfection.

I remember when I was in college, I went through a season of making rice pudding all the time. (I was having a bit of a crisis regarding my major and making pudding was my preferred way of avoiding having to make any binding life decisions.) The recipe I used then was a super fussy one that involved multiple pots and the oven and active stirring time, which my roommates totally loved.

But last winter, while working on my e-cookbook, I started playing around with rice pudding recipes again and realized that, like with most things in life, it doesn't have to be that hard.

This easy recipe is rich with both cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips, plus a few cups of coffee to deepen the chocolate flavor.

(Coffee has this magical ability to make chocolate taste chocolate-ier. It's awesome.)

And when I say easy, please note that I really DO mean easy. This recipe contains only three steps: boiling the rice with water, cocoa, and coffee, adding in the milk eggs and sugar, and then letting it simmer.

There's minimal stirring, too, because I have no patience for that.

Serve hot or cold (your choice) with a big dollop of loosely whipped cream it's a truly lovely thing.

Loved this recipe? Here are three other dessert recips you might like:

And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates

Easy Dark Chocolate Rice Pudding
Serves 6-8

1 cup long-grain white rice

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups brewed coffee
2 cups water
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 granulated white sugar

2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips, divided
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine rice, cocoa powder, salt, coffee, and water in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for 10 minutes or until water has mostly evaporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, milk, cream, and sugar. Pour into rice, and stir until combined. Add 1 cup of chocolate chips and stir in. Let simmer on medium-low about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally just until it starts to thicken. (Note that pudding will continue to thicken as it cools, so err on the side of stopping sooner for the silkiest texture.)

Remove from heat, stir in the remaining chocolate chips. Serve warm or chilled, as desired.


7 Awesome Things to do with Oats

Wondering what to do with that giant can of rolled oats you have in the pantry? From granola to cake to cookies, here are a few of my favorite easy oatmeal recipes.

1. Homemade S'Mores Granola
This easy homemade granola is kicked up with chocolate and marshmallow chunks. Get the recipe.

2. Flourless Pistachio Oatmeal Muffins
Ground pistachios and oats make the base for these awesome flourless (and gluten-free!) muffins. Get the recipe.

3. Lavender Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Oats are ground up into a flour before being baked into these light and slightly chewy oatmeal cookies. Get the recipe.

4. Apple Pie Oatmeal
Creamy oatmeal is topped with this spiced homemade apple pie filling for a breakfast that tastes just as good as dessert! Get the recipe.

5. Almond Croissant Oatmeal
This cozy bowl of oatmeal tastes exactly like an almond croissant. OK...well maybe not EXACTLY, but it's pretty damn close. Get the recipe.

6. DIY Oatmeal Lavender Bath Soak
Turn oats into a soothing lavender-scented soak for your bath. It's moisturizing and wonderful for dry winter skin. This makes a great little gift or stocking stuffer.  Get the instructions.

7. Flourless Cashew Oatmeal Cake 
This easy gluten-free cake is one of my favorites. It's moist with a lovely crumb and perfect along with a mug of tea or coffee in the afternoon. Get the recipe.

DIY Message in a Coke Bottle Advent Calendar

A few years ago, my husband surprised me with my first advent calendar. Growing up in a Puerto Rican household, advent calendars weren't a part of our holiday traditions, but I'd read about them in books and seen them in movies, and was completely obsessed with the idea of counting down the days to Christmas, one tiny surprise at a time.

I told Eugene this when we were dating, and would repeat it every so often when I'd see a calendar on display in a store or someone's home.

And then one December morning (after a few days of buzzing around on some kind of mystery mission) he woke me up with a homemade advent calendar he'd ordered from an artist he found online!

Each morning that month, I'd open up the little drawer of the day to find a tiny handwritten note listing an item like "1 bottle sassy red nail polish" or "1 tube luxurious French hand cream."

(Yup...these were his actual notes!)

He'd then reach into this bag of goodies he kept hidden in his closet, and present me with the gift of the day.

It was, as you might imagine, basically the best thing ever.

Advent calendars--which mark each day of the Advent season with a small hidden gift or image--are such a fun way to bring the family (or even a group of friends!) together during the holidays. They serve double-duty as both decoration and gift, and are a sweet way to have a quick moment together each day during the bustle of the holiday season.

Eugene's little notes gave me the idea to create a "message in a bottle" style advent calendar this year, using classic glass Coca-Cola bottles.

You've probably seen the "Share a Coke" bottles with names on them basically everywhere, but did you know that you can actually order and personalize the bottles with any names or words on them that you'd like?

The minute I found out about this, my brain went into total overdrive at the possibilities (Place settings! Stocking stuffers! Party favors! An entire mini fridge filled with "Alejandra" bottles!)

With this in mind, I ordered up 24 bottles, each personalized with a number 1-24. I tucked little rolled-up notes inside each one, tied with string so they come out easily and closed them with a cork from the crafts store.

Arranged on a mantle or shelf, they're a fun and festive decoration that's really simple to put together. (No major craft skills required here!)

The bright red of the Coca-Cola label is festive enough, but you can also add glitter or fake snow to the bottom of each bottle to dress it up even more, and add a few twinkly lights around the display for a little extra holiday sparkle.

From December 1st through the 24th, your family members can take turns opening up a new bottle each day to reveal the surprise.

And what to put inside?

Well that's totally up to you!

You can follow Eugene's lead, and have each note reference another small gift that you keep elsewhere. Keep it simple with cute small gifts like travel sized bottles of lotion, nail polish, candy or chocolate bars, tiny toys, or costume jewelry.

Or the message itself could be a gift--perhaps promising a day out, a pair of movie tickets, a coupon for a song download, or a digital gift card

Or how about a treasure hunt? With each note revealing a riddle or clue to a bigger gift or surprise that is then revealed on Christmas Day.

And remember that not every note has to be something material!

Feel free to alternate gift days with simple cute notes, motivating quotes for the day, a picture, or even a tiny short story (look up "micro short stories" online for ideas).

A few other tips:
  • Planning an advent calendar can take some time, so start as soon as possible.
  • If you don't have the time to order the personalized bottles, you can just use the regular glass Coca-Cola bottles you find in your grocery store, and create your own number labels to either tape around or dangle from the neck.
  • To clean the bottles before using, I suggest rinsing with hot soapy water, and drying upside down on a rack. Skip the dishwasher as it can damage the label.
  • Don't skip the string around the message or you won't be able to get the note out easily. If you want to make it even easier, leave a bit of the string dangling out of the bottle when you put the cork in.
  • And remember that once the season is over, you can pack away the bottles to use again next year.

I hope this inspires you to get creative with your own homemade message in a Coke bottle advent calendar.

Be sure to share pictures or let me know what you include in your own version!

Stay tuned for more holiday ideas from me, and hop on over to the Coca-Cola Pinterest Page for some more fun recipe and holiday inspiration.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Coca-Cola. Over the next few months, I will be sharing a series of recipes and entertaining ideas featuring Coca-Cola. All recipes and opinions are strictly my own. You can also visit the Coca-Cola Pinterest Page for more entertaining tips, inspiration, and ideas. Thank you for supporting great brands that make it possible for me to create fresh new content for you!

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