Bosc Pear, Walnut and Gorgonzola Holiday Stuffing

 Add a twist to your holiday stuffing! This recipe takes my favorite combo of pears, walnuts and Gorgonzola and turns them into a delicious version of one of my favorite holiday sides.

Bosc Pear, Walnut and Gorgonzola Holiday Stuffing | Fake Food Free

Friends of ours hosted a Thanksgiving potluck and I was put on the stuffing list. Since mine was stuffing number 2 at the dinner and stuffing number 1 was straight up traditional, I was given free reign to get creative. So I volunteered to bring this.

I made this recipe before…in 2009! 2009?! To be honest with you, I can’t believe I’ve been blogging that long. But there that post sits, with some pretty ugly photos and in need of some revision.


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Spicy Cilantro-Lime Michelada Recipe

Spicy Cilantro-Lime Michelada Recipe | Fake Food Free

Our local Mexican restaurant makes the best Micheladas. In fact, I’d never had a Michelada before my husband convinced me to try one during a meal there less than a year ago. The spicy original flavor is delicious, but they make about eight or ten flavored ones, too. The guava version is darn tasty as well.

I had an easy description of the drink in my head, ready to type, but then a little research showed me that explaining it was going to be more difficult than I had anticipated. That’s because I’ve learned there is a bit of controversy about whether you call this drink a Michelada or a Chelada.

In their book, Beer Cocktails, Howard and Ashley Stelzer say that the Michelada is the drink that contains no tomato juice (just lime, beer, salt and Worcestershire or Maggi seasoning). It’s the Chelada that has the added tomato or Clamato juice. But they also say that there are many others that believe it’s the exact opposite.

Last night we watched the Mexico episode of Parts Unknown and wouldn’t you know it, Anthony Bourdain had a Michelada. From what I could tell, it didn’t look like there was tomato juice added.

But our local restaurant has something different to say about it. The menu states that Micheladas became popular in Mexico in the 1940s when people started mixing beer with hot sauce or salsa, and it must include lime and salt to be a true Michelada.

Since my first experience with a Michelada was with tomato juice, that is what I’m going with here.

A few weeks ago, I was sent a sample of Tecate Light and that is really how I decided that this year’s Cinco de Mayo post would be a Michelada. After tasting it, my husband and I both thought it would be perfect mixed in with the tomato juice, lime and spicy seasonings.

Instead of using a prepared tomato juice, I decided to juice fresh tomatoes for a raw juice and add seasonings. I used a centrifugal juicer to make the juice and I fed through a handful of cilantro with the tomatoes. I spiced it up with hot sauce, garlic powder, black pepper and salt and added plenty of lime juice. The one thing I didn’t have was the Maggi seasoning. That is sometimes substituted with Worcestershire sauce, but I didn’t have that either. If you have either on hand, you can add a splash to make it more authentic.

Spicy Cilantro-Lime Michelada Recipe | Fake Food Free

The combination of the raw tomato juice with the cilantro and Tecate Light made this Michelada light and refreshing with a pleasant, lingering burn from the hot sauce. As tomato season gets into full swing, I have a feeling this may become our go-to summer cocktail. Cheers and ¡Salud!

Spicy Cilantro-Lime Michelada Recipe

Servings: 4

5 small tomatoes (I used Romas)
¼ cup packed cilantro leaves
1 ¾ oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. hot sauce (I used Cholula)
¾ tsp fine ground sea salt
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2, 12 oz. cans light Mexican beer, cold (I used Tecate light)

To rim the glasses
3 tsp fine ground sea salt
Zest of 1 lime
Large pinch of ground cayenne pepper

Lime wedges

Make the juice by processing the tomatoes and cilantro in a centrifugal juicer. Stir in the lime juice, hot sauce, ¾ teaspoon of sea salt, garlic powder and ground black pepper. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. You can also speed this up by popping it in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

On a plate, stir together the 3 teaspoons of salt, lime zest and cayenne. Rub a wedge of lime over the top edge of each serving glass and rim with the spicy lime salt.

Fill each glass half full with ice. Pour 3 ounces of tomato juice into each glass. Top with 4 to 6 ounces of cold beer. Add a lime wedge and serve.

Spicy Cilantro-Lime Michelada Recipe | Fake Food Free
Disclosure: The Tecate Light used in this recipe was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so. 

Easy 4 Ingredient Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Recipe

Easy 4 Ingredient Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Recipe | Fake Food Free
When a holiday occurs on the same date every year, I’m usually pretty good at being prepared. But Easter? Easter gets me every time.


As seems to be the tradition, it snuck up on me once again. I just hate to miss making something for a day that can be celebrated with chocolate, so I got busy and put together some super simple, 4 ingredient peanut butter cups.


A little while back, I was sent these colorful, BPA-free silicone baking cups from The New York Baking Company. These flexible little guys turned out to be a candy cup making dream. They are oven safe up to 475 degrees F as well as freezer, microwave and dishwasher safe. I used them to form and freeze my peanut butter cups and they peeled off so easy for a perfectly ridged edge. They are such a great thing to have around for both baking and candy making.


Easy 4 Ingredient Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Recipe | Fake Food Free
I tried to keep these peanut butter cups as simple, clean and unrefined as possible for a better treat. While they only contain four ingredients, I do want to note that natural peanut butters can vary widely in texture. If your jar is brand new, you may have some extra oil to deal with, but if it’s been in the fridge a few days it will likely be firmer. Textures can vary by brand as well.


Right now I use the natural crunchy Kirkland brand peanut butter from Costco – just peanuts and sea salt. My peanut butter was thick after being refrigerated. If you are using a just opened jar, you might need to add a little more powdered sugar when making the filling. You want it to be like a thick cookie dough that you can form into a small disk.


These cups are large and super rich so one can easily serve two people. But I promise not to judge if you eat the whole thing.


Easy 4 Ingredient Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Recipe | Fake Food Free

Easy 4 Ingredient Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Makes: 8 large peanut butter cups


1 cup dark chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli® 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)
2 tsp virgin coconut oil
½ cup crunchy natural peanut butter
2 tbsp powdered sugar (I use Trader Joe’s Organic)


Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and add the coconut oil. Microwave on high until melted, about 2 minutes, but be sure to stir it every 30 seconds.


Arrange 8 silicone baking cups on a baking sheet. Transfer 1 tablespoon of melted chocolate to each cup. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes.


In the bowl of mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the peanut butter and powdered sugar. Mix on high until combined, about 45 seconds. It should resemble a firm cookie dough that can be shaped by hand.


Form the peanut butter into 8 small flat disks. Place a disk in each cup over the bottom layer of chocolate.


Pour 1 tablespoon of the remaining chocolate over the peanut butter disks. Go back with any remaining chocolate and fill the cups so that the chocolate covers all of the peanut butter.


Gently tap the baking sheet on the countertop to smooth out the surface of the peanut butter cups and release any air bubbles. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes, or until firm.


Peel away the baking cups and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


Disclosure: The silicone baking cups mentioned in this post where provided by Rizzi from The New York Baking Company for review purposes. I was not required to write about them and received no compensation for doing so.
Thanks for reading! All images and content are the property of Fake Food Free unless otherwise stated. Please do not republish full recipes and images without written permission. What is okay? Feel free to Pin images, share links to my posts or share the photo in a round up post with the title of this recipe and a link back to the post. Confused about copyright and food blogs? Here is some helpful information on Recipe Attribution. If you want to use a photo or full recipe, just ask. I’m sure we can work something out.

Whole Grain Chocolate Cookie and McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream Sandwiches

This hearty, whole grain chocolate cookie is best served with a delicious ice cream. One of my new favorites is McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream based in Santa Barbara, Calif. 
Whole Grain Chocolate Cookie Recipe | Fake Food Free

My first New Year’s Eve in California was spent in Santa Barbara. It was just last year and we were on the fourth day of our five day cross-country move. Knowing that we didn’t want to spend that particular night in a roadside hotel, we drove a few extra miles to the beach.

It was a short trip with two pugs along so we didn’t see much of the city, but since that little taste, I’ve wanted to return. I thought I had plenty of reasons for wanting to go back, but a few days ago I found one more.

This ice cream…

I was introduced to it through the Winter Fancy Food Show that I attended last month. You can order it online, but I fully support using it as an excuse to visit California.

Despite my endeavors to make most of the foods we eat, occasionally you come across something that you simply cannot master as well. You can’t make it any more delicious or natural. This ice cream is that for me.

McConnell’s has been making their ice cream since 1949, but I have yet to come across a company that uses such great ingredients or creates a product that tastes as good as this. I know. It’s ice cream. But the texture and flavor of McConnell’s is truly outstanding.

The ice cream is made from raw milk and cream from California grass-fed cows that is pasteurized and homogenized in-house. It’s then combined with cage-free organic eggs, some pure cane sugar and all kinds of natural, local ingredients like organic fruits and nuts.

I got four varieties to try:

Olive Oil & Salted Almonds – Mild and creamy. Vanilla lovers will enjoy its simplicity.
Milk Chocolate & Raspberry Jam – Smooth chocolate meets fresh raspberry swirl.
Eureka Lemon & Marionberries – It’s like California and the Pacific Northwest came to a party in my mouth.
Oaxacan Chocolate – A flavor so rich and complex (with hints of cinnamon) that you’ll keep taking bites just to analyze it some more.

While I was completely intrigued by the Oaxacan Chocolate, I decided that the Eureka Lemon & Marionberries was my favorite. It was tough to choice!

This ice cream needs nothing more than a spoon, but I thought I would use it in a Valentine’s Day dessert. I tested out a cookie recipe with whole grains, raw cane sugar and California butter to complement all the natural ingredients in the ice cream. The goal was a mildly flavored cookie that’s sweetness or flavor wouldn’t overpower the ice cream. These were perfect.

Whole Grain Chocolate Cookie Recipe | Fake Food Free

Whole Grain Chocolate Cookie and McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream Sandwiches

Makes: 6 ice cream sandwiches

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup raw sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup raw sugar for rolling the cookies
1 pint Eureka Lemon & Marionberries McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream (or your favorite flavor)

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed, and increase the speed to medium-high. Beat for about 2 minutes or until well combined.

Reduce the speed to medium and mix in the egg. Mix in the cocoa powder. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

Mix in the cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the flour, a little at a time. Mix just until all ingredients are combined.

Scoop out the dough and roll into generous golf ball size portions. Roll in the raw sugar and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Place only 6 to 9 cookies on each baking sheet. Press the cookies slightly flatten them.

Bake for 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and centers of the cookies are somewhat firm. Cool for 1 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, allow the ice cream to soften at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Place six of the cookies bottom-side up on a flat surface.

Top with a generous ¼ cup of ice cream. Place the remaining six cookies on top, bottom-side down, to create the sandwich. Gently press the cookies so that ice cream spreads to the edges. Depending on how generous you are with the ice cream. You may have some leftover. I suggest eating it.

Wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Whole Grain Chocolate Cookie Recipe | Fake Food Free
If you are looking for more ways to use McConnell’s Ice Cream, check out Salty Sweet Life’s Pear, Gorgonzola and Thyme Galette!

Disclosure:  I received this product for review purposes. I was not required to blog about it and I received no compensation for doing so. All thoughts and content here are my own. It’s really good ice cream!

12 Favorite Recipes for Game Day

It’s that time of year again — the time that makes football fans, commercial watchers and puppy lovers happy. And let’s not leave out those of us who can’t get enough of everything food. I think we have the best deal of all – the challenge to come up with the most coveted snacking spread of the year.

In case you are short on ideas, I’ve gone back into the Fake Food Free archives and put together a collection of some great options. Unfortunately, there are no foods shaped like footballs and tiny helmets, but there are plenty ideas for meat eaters and vegetarians who want to keep the focus on real, homemade foods.

Enjoy the game!

(Clicking on the title will take you to the recipe.)

8 Best Cocktails for New Year’s Eve

After two weeks of travel to visit New York City, explore the Christmas markets in Vienna and Krakow, and spend time with family in Indiana and Kentucky, I’m back at my computer. 
2013 has been so amazing I can hardly put it into words. I’m sure I’ll miss some things, but here are a few highlights.
Aside from how wonderful it is to now be a California resident, I also live by the water with access to fresh seafood and salty air. Something I’ve always wanted to do.
I ran my first marathon. (And I ran it across this.)
My husband and I celebrated 10 years of marriage.
I landed my first magazine column. (You can find it at Hobby Farm Home.)
I’ve finally (successfully) transitioned into a full-time freelancer. Writing about food, developing recipes and taking food photos is now my job. 
I got to gaze in awe at Lake Tahoe for my 35thbirthday. 
I was able to show my family around the Bay Area on their first visit to California.
I saw New York City at Christmas time.
I explored the Christmas markets of Vienna and Krakow.
What a year! I have no idea how 2014 is going to top it, but I’m convinced that it will.
A great year deserves a special toast. So here are 8 of my favorite cocktails to help you close out 2013 and ring in the New Year. Some are here on Fake Food Free, and others are from the work I’ve done for the blog the Daily Squeeze. 
(Just click on the drink name to get to the recipe.)

What will you be toasting to on Tuesday night? Any favorite memories from 2013?
Happy New Year!!

Ginger Molasses Cookie Bars Recipe

This past summer, I discovered my favorite cookie. It’s sold at Blue Bottle Coffee in Oakland. I’ve always been a fan of gingerbread-like desserts, but this cookie takes it to a new level. It’s made with fresh ginger and ground black pepper. It’s slightly crunchy on the inside, but soft and chewy on the inside. Darn near perfect when it comes to cookies.

When I tried it, the idea of both fresh ginger and black pepper in a cookie were new to me. I’ve wanted to try making something similar ever since. I think creating the right cookie texture is going to take me much more practice than I am able to commit to this holiday season, so I went the easy route and incorporated the flavors into a bar.

It’s certainly not an exact replica, but for someone who can’t get enough gingerbread this time of year, these chewy, spicy cookie bars hit the spot.

Ginger Molasses Cookie Bars

Makes: 16 bars

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp turbinado sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1 large egg
½ tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 cup white whole wheat flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground clove

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 inch baking pan lightly with unsalted butter.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter, coconut sugar and 1/3 cup of the turbinado sugar. Cream together on medium to medium-high speed, about 2 minutes. Add the molasses and mix for about 30 more seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the egg and mix 30 more seconds. Mix in the fresh ginger.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and mix just until all ingredients are combined.

Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of turbinado sugar.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the edges begin to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely and cut into 16 bars.

Holiday Gift Ideas: My Favorite Things for Food Lovers

It has been such a great year in food around here! I’ve been exposed to so many new ingredients through California farmers markets. I’ve enjoyed even more cuisines of the world with all of the restaurants around our new home. Networking in the food industry and at food conferences has exposed me to new people and new types of work. I’ve also had the pleasure of reviewing some outstanding new cookbooks over the past few months.

It’s been a good year.

So as we approach the season of gift-giving, I thought I would jump on the gift guide bandwagon and share a list of my favorite things. I figure there are enough of us food lovers out there that one can never have to many gift ideas.

These are a few things I’ve encountered this year that I highly recommend. And if you have any favorites to add to the list, I’d love to hear about them.

Oregon Olive Mill Extra Virgin Olive Oil


I learned of Oregon Olive Mill only a few short weeks ago and I was immediately drawn to the company. It is the only estate olioteca in the Pacific Northwest. This family owned company was started by fourth generation Oregon farmers. A 120 acre olive farm in Oregon? What an unexpected surprise! I received a sample and did a little tasting of my own. This is the kind of oil that your mixed green salads and sliced tomatoes are begging for. My favorite was the Arbequina, a Spanish variety. It’s described as being fruity with hints of green grass, banana and a nice spicy finish.

Trader Joe’s Nut Oils

If you can’t tell yet, it’s been an oil year for me. I’ve been exposed to so many delicious new oils. This variety pack came out for the holidays at Trader Joe’s, so I’m not sure on the availability, but I wanted to share it in case you can find it. These are unrefined nut oils produced in California using French expeller-pressing methods. I haven’t used many nut oils and this 3-pack has been a wonderful introduction. They are so good drizzled on veggies, oatmeal or popcorn.

Navitas Naturals Cacao Goji Power Snacks 

When it comes to food products, I usually only feature those that can be used as ingredients in my recipes, but for these, I make an exception. I was introduced to these cacao goji snacks at the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle. At first, I wasn’t sure how much I liked them, but as I ate more, I got hooked. I’m always on the lookout for something low in sugar and free of soy protein isolate that I can eat before my runs. I eat one or two squares before I head out. They worked so well for me and caused no stomach stress at all.

Homemade Hand Scrubs

This year I’ve been doing a lot of recipe development and food photography for the Daily Squeeze blog and it has been a blast! Some of my posts there have me experimenting with turning my food into beauty products. Something I’ve not done much of before. One of my favorite products so far is this Coconut-Citrus Sugar Scrub. The coconut oil makes your hands so soft and the citrus has such a pleasant aroma. It is a great, easy-to-make gift.

Chef’s Coat

Earlier this year, The Chef’s Emporium sent me this lovely monogrammed chef’s jacket. No, I’m not a chef, but I do a lot of cooking for my work and this has proved to be such a nice tool to have. I’ve found myself at local cooking classes and media events that involve cooking, and it is a plus to have my own jacket instead of using what is provided. This one has the perfect fit with ¾ length sleeves and I love that it is black instead of white. (I tend to be messy in the kitchen.) You can check out more about why I like it in my review on the Chef’s Emporium website.

2013 Cookbooks

So many great cookbooks have come out this year. Below is a list linking to my reviews here on the blog. I would recommend each and every one I’ve had the opportunity to explore. These authors and photographers just keep dishing out amazing food and stunning photos. It’s truly inspiring for the food lover.

Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti & Garrett McCord
The Adobo Road Cookbook: A Filipino Food Journey-From Food Blog, to Food Truck, and Beyond by Marvin Gapultos
Everyday Thai Cooking, Quick and Easy Family Style Recipes by Katie Chin
I Scream Sandwich by Jennie Schacht
Flavored Butters by Lucy Vaserfirer
Bakeless Sweets by Faith Durand
Home Made Summer by Yvette van Boven
Bountiful by Diane Cu and Todd Porter

Disclosure: Most of these products were sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about them and received no compensation for doing so. 

Sourdough Stuffing with Artichokes and Sundried Tomatoes Recipe

Stuffing is my favorite dish on the holiday table! This recipe for sourdough stuffing combines local flavors with a traditional favorite.
 Sourdough Stuffing with Artichokes and Sundried Tomatoes | Fake Food Free

When I first started thinking about this year’s Thanksgiving menu (and believe me, I’ve been thinking about it a while), I was set on traditional. I didn’t cook at all last year. I was visiting my husband here in California, in the midst of our move, and we ate Thanksgiving dinner at a local restaurant.

Knowing this year would be different, I started planning early. Sweet potato casserole, my usual cranberry pecan stuffing — it had all been penciled in. But then I considered all the new ingredients I have access to. It seemed silly not to take full advantage and incorporate them into some new traditions.

So I’ve shifted gears a bit. There will still be some old favorites, like my grandmother’s pumpkin pie. But otherwise, I want avocados, artichokes, dates and figs to make an appearance. I’ve never had such access to these foods and it seems to me they should fit right in with what we are used to this time of year.

I’ve been experimenting a little so that the big day isn’t a big fail. My first challenge was the stuffing (my favorite thing on the menu, next to cranberry sauce).

It had to be sourdough. No exceptions. Then I came across some California sundried tomatoes and I thought they would be the perfect partner for the artichoke hearts I’d been considering.

Sourdough Stuffing with Artichokes and Sundried Tomatoes | Fake Food Free

The result? What a winner! The sweet sundried tomatoes and the tart artichoke hearts were meant to be with the tangy sourdough. I don’t always add an egg white to my stuffing, but this time I was glad I did. It created a soft, but solid center that was balanced by the crispy, crunchy edges on top.

I may not go back to my old favorite. Or I might have to start making two stuffings. I haven’t decided yet.

Sourdough Stuffing with Artichokes and Sundried Tomatoes

Makes: 4 servings


1 ½ tbsp olive oil
½ cup red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp finely chopped sundried tomatoes
3 canned, unseasoned artichoke hearts, chopped (marinated would work, but it may add a different flavor)
3 ½ cups toasted sourdough bread cubes (I cut my own from a stale loaf and broiled for about 5 minutes)
1 ¼ cups vegetable stock
1/8 ground black pepper
1/8 tsp poultry seasoning
¼ – ½ tsp salt
1 egg white


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 1 quart casserole dish or loaf pan with your oil of choice.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.

Add the sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Cook for 1 more minute. Turn off the heat.

Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Add the cooked vegetables. Add the vegetable stock a little at a time as you stir the stuffing. Continue to stir until the bread cubes are well saturated.

Stir in the black pepper and poultry seasoning. Add the ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt to taste (you may need less if your stock is salted).

Once you’ve added the right amount of salt, stir in the egg white. Continue to stir until it is incorporated into the stuffing.

Transfer the stuffing to the baking dish. Press it gently into the dish to smooth the surface.

Bake for 20 minutes, until the edges are browned and the top has a nice golden color. Serve warm.

Sourdough Stuffing with Artichokes and Sundried Tomatoes | Fake Food Free

Thanks for reading! All images and content are the property of Fake Food Free unless otherwise stated. Please do not republish full recipes and images without written permission. What is okay? Feel free to Pin images, share links to my posts or share the photo in a round up post with the title of this recipe and a link back to the post. Confused about copyright and food blogs? Here is some helpful information on Recipe Attribution. If you want to use a photo or full recipe, just ask. I’m sure we can work something out.