About ANerdCooks

A nerd cooks... and eats, and bakes, and mixes the occasional cocktail!

Sweet Potato Pecan Muffins

These muffins are sweet, flavored with Fall spices, and incredibly moist thanks to the addition of roasted sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Pecan Muffins | A Nerd Cooks

Up until today, it has still been HOT in North Carolina. Despite what the thermometer says, it’s Fall in my heart (and according to the calendar).

Pumpkin gets a lot of attention this time of year. I’m as guilty as the next guy of this, too. I love pumpkin. I’m a certified basic bitch, okay?

BUT there are other seasonal vegetables that deserve our attention. Take the humble sweet potato, for instance. They’re naturally sweet and delicious, a vibrant orange color, and perfect in baked goods.

These muffins are super moist, just like a pumpkin quick bread, and the honeyed pecans add a nice bit of crunch. They’re perfect for breakfast or a snack.Sweet Potato Pecan Muffins | A Nerd Cooks

These muffins will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container.

You’ll need (yields 12 muffins):

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 cups sweet potato, about 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, roasted and mashed
  • 3/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped, plus more for topping the muffins
  • honey, for drizzling onto muffins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves together.  Set aside.

In another medium-sized bowl, combine the sugars, eggs, oil, and mashed sweet potato until smooth.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.  Fold in the pecan pieces.

Divide the batter between the muffin cups (they will be very full).  Top with a few more pecan pieces. Drizzle the top of each muffin with a little honey. The honey helps the pecans on top to get candied a bit while baking.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.

Allow the muffins to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

In search of additional sweet potato goodness? Check out these Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookies! Or maybe you’re on the hunt for more breakfast treats? Try these Sweet Potato Waffles with Candied Pecans on for size.

Sweet Potato Pecan Muffins | A Nerd Cooks

Sweet Potato Pecan Muffins | A Nerd Cooks



Kalimotxo Cocktail

Red table wine + cane sugar cola + a squeeze of lime juice = a refreshing, super easy cocktail.

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Kalimotxo Cocktail | A Nerd Cooks

I was flipping through a couple of cookbooks earlier this month and came across this recipe again. It’s the Kalimotxo cocktail. The Internet tells me that the Kalimotxo is popular in the Basque region of Spain. So, there you go. There’s that.

AND! A Kalimotxo is composed of… wait for it… red wine and soda! I know that this combination may sound strange, but trust me!

Kalimotxo Cocktail | A Nerd Cooks

I’m telling you, this drink is like sangria, but perfect for lazy people. Two ingredients (three if you count the lime juice) poured in a glass over ice and you’re done.

Because the ingredient list is so short, you really want to make sure that you’re using the correct ingredients. For the wine, you don’t need to use anything fancy. A cheap to moderately priced red table wine (I used a Rioja) will suffice. But for the soda, make sure you grab something that is made with cane sugar and not high fructose corn syrup. Have you ever had the Coke that’s made in Mexico (affectionately called MexiCoke)? It tastes SO much better than the stuff that’s made in the U.S. I’d go for that. It’s pretty widely available in regular grocery stores.

Kalimotxo Cocktail | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe comes from the cookbook Over Easy: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Leisurely Days, by Joy Wilson (aka Joy the Baker).

You’ll need:

  • Red table wine (I used an inexpensive Rioja)
  • Cane sugar soda (I used MexiCoke)
  • lime wedges, for juice and garnish
Kalimotxo Cocktail | A Nerd Cooks

Over ice, fill a glass half full with wine. Top with soda and squeeze a lime wedge. Garnish with another lime wedge if desired. Sip and enjoy!


Strawberry Crumb Bars

Summer’s almost over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a sweet strawberry crumble bar!

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Strawberry Crumb Bars | A Nerd Cooks

So, yes. It’s been a while. I’ll save you the excuses. Let’s just cut straight to the food!

It’s not too late for strawberries, is it? I hope not, because these bars are tasty. The crumb is buttery and lightly sweet. Cinnamon plays surprisingly well with strawberries (check out this Strawberry Crisp for another excellent example). The filling is sweet, but not too sweet thanks to lemon zest and juice. Strawberry Crumb Bars | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe is based on the Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

You’ll need:

For the crumb –

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg

For the filling – 

  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tbs lemon juice
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 13 oz. strawberry preserves
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper.  Butter the sides and parchment, or spray with cooking spray, and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Pulse a couple of times until everything is combined.  Add the butter and egg to the flour mixture.  Pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.

Taking half of the crumb mixture, pat it into the bottom of your prepared pan.  It will be on the thin side.

Rinse the food processor.  In the same bowl, add the filling ingredients and pulse briefly.  Do this until the berries are coarsely chopped but not puréed.  Spread this mixture evenly over the crumb base.

Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over top of the strawberry layer.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the crumbs on top are lightly browned.  Allow it to cool completely before cutting it into squares.

Strawberry Crumb Bars | A Nerd Cooks

Strawberry Crumb Bars | A Nerd Cooks

Confetti Pudding Cookies

These cookies are super soft, full of sweet vanilla flavor, and covered in colorful sprinkles!

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Confetti Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

I originally intended to cover these cookies in red, white, and blue sprinkles for the 4th of July, but after trips to 2 different grocery stores, couldn’t find sprinkles in those colors. Very disappointing. They were going to be Firecracker Pudding Cookies.

Once I resigned myself to using multicolored sprinkles, I really debated calling them Funfetti Pudding Cookies. But I feel like they’re not technically Funfetti since the sprinkles are only on the outside and not the inside, too.

Anyway, I settled on Confetti Pudding Cookies. Still an okay name, right? At least the cookies are cute. And they taste great. The sprinkles make the outside a bit crunchy, while the cookies themselves are soft and tender.

Confetti Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

The original recipe for Pudding Cookies comes from Crazy for Crust; I’ve also shared Lemon White Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies and Chocolate Cookies and Cream Pudding Cookies, too.

*dough requires ~1 hour of chilling*

You’ll need (yields approximately 24 cookies):

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until smooth.

Add the pudding mix, baking soda, and kosher salt. Mix until combined. Add the flour. Mix again until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed. Add the white chocolate chips and mix on medium-high speed until they are well distributed throughout the cookie dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the sprinkles into a shallow bowl. Scoop ~2 tbs balls of dough and roll it around in the sprinkles. Place the sprinkle-covered dough balls onto the prepared cookie sheet. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the chilled balls of cookie dough on the prepared baking sheets, approximately 2 inches apart. Bake 9-11 minutes, or until the edges just start to turn brown.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Confetti Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

Confetti Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

Container Gardening 2017 – Herbs and lemons

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Hi all! I realized I haven’t shared anything about container gardening in a while, and I wanted to quickly share with you some of the things that I’m growing this summer:


I have two of these planter boxes on legs. One of them is dedicated solely to basil. Lots and lots of basil. I have three plants that are doing quite well. I use it in so many things: salads, risotto, and Caprese salads (versions 1 and 2 here).


I also have some mint growing, which methinks will be excellent in some mojitos. There’s also some parsley growing in this planter box, but it was pretty wilted and sad looking when I was taking the pictures.


My Meyer lemon tree has been doing really well, too! I got it last spring as a 2 year old tree from Four Winds Growers. It spends the cooler months in our guest bedroom, which fortunately gets a lot of southern light. Once things warm up, I move it out onto our front porch (if you can call it that), where it thrives in the heat and sunlight.

It has flowered a couple of times. The first time, last summer, a couple of small lemons even set. Unfortunately, when I was away at a conference, things took a turn for the worse and the lemons dried up and fell off. Very sad.

It flowered again this spring, and two more lemons ended up setting.


Sadly, since taking these pictures, the smaller of the two lemons died and fell off. Very disappointing. But the larger lemon is still hanging on. Fingers crossed that it makes it.

Since moving the tree outside, I’ve been battling with some pests. In the near future I’ll show you how I’ve been handling them. Stay tuned!

The Palace Cafe Cocktail

This cocktail is fresh, herbaceous, and very refreshing.

This post contains affiliate links.

The Palace Cafe Cocktail | A Nerd Cooks

I declare this my official summertime cocktail.

This recipe makes good use of the Rosemary Infused Vodka and Homemade Sour Mix that I shared with you over the past couple of weeks.

They’re fizzy, sweet, and perfumed with herby rosemary flavor. They are also slightly dangerous in that they go down very easily.

The Palace Cafe Cocktail | A Nerd Cooks

This cocktail is inspired by one that I enjoyed at The Palace Cafe in New Orleans. The food was delicious there, too.

You’ll need (makes 1 cocktail):

Add ice, vodka, Domaine de Canton, and sour mix to a cocktail shaker. Shake until very cold. Strain into a glass with ice. Top with ginger ale and garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Sip!

The Palace Cafe Cocktail | A Nerd Cooks

Homemade Sour Mix

Homemade Sour Mix is so easy to make, and is so much better than the neon green store bought stuff.

Homemade Sour Mix | A Nerd Cooks

Just like it says above: super easy to make and waay better than the store bought stuff. Stash it in the fridge and break it out whenever you feel like whipping up a cocktail.

You’ll need (makes ~3 cups):

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 3/4 cups lime juice, freshly squeezed

The first thing you’re going to do is make a simple syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water.  Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from the heat and allow it to cool completely. Once cooled, pour the simple syrup into the container in which you’ll be storing the sour mix.

Add the lemon and lime juices to the simple syrup. Give everything a shake until well combined. Seal the container and store the sour mix in the fridge.

Stay tuned, because I’ll be sharing a cocktail next week that uses this sour mix AND the Rosemary Infused Vodka that I shared recently.

Homemade Sour Mix | A Nerd Cooks