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12.31.2012

Top Ten Recipes of 2012

Another year has come and gone. As I've taken the past 2 weeks off to reflect on my blog, my cooking and baking skills, and my photography. I can say I am super proud of myself. I have some really great recipes on here, and I am so happy I was able to share them with you all. I have enjoyed all of your feed back positive or otherwise, loved interacting with you all and most of all love love love all the new friends I have made.

So cheers 2012! May 2013 be filled with many more great recipes and full bellies.

~As a small recap of the 300ish posts this past year. My most viewed recipes of 2012!~


Cadbury Mini Egg Blondies

Buffalo Chicken Mac n' Cheese


Vegan Snickerdoodle Pumpkin Bread


Cream Cheese Filled Pumpkin Snickerdoodles via: Indigo Scones


Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting

Caramel Apple Crisp Cheesecake

Red Velvet Oreo Cake

Roasted Garlic Baked Spaghetti  

Avocado Bacon Ranch Deviled Eggs


BLT C Lettuce Wraps



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12.18.2012

I'm Burnt Out

Yesterday I was one of many bloggers that chose to do a day of silence in remembrance of the victims in the Newtown shootings.

I am at a loss of words, I don't know what to write. I do know I don't feel right posting a recipe and writing a fun blog post right now. I feel shitty. I am not that articulate (go figure... blog writer and all HA!) to explain to you all how I as a mom am handling the thoughts of having your child ripped from your life. I just can't.

We all have different ways of expressing our feelings and coping with a tragic event. I for one can't get the images out of my head. I want to do anything and everything I can do, to prevent this type of senseless act from happening again.... I have been in touch with my local legislation, I have written letters and drawn pictures to the victims families in CT, and I want to do more..... That could have been one of children's names on the list of the 26 killed on Friday.

So in my day of silence (partial day... I cheated a couple times!) I came to some conclusions.

1) I am addicted to my smart phone. This is not a funny addiction, one that I can poke fun at like my addiction to baking... hence the blog name. This is a real addiction. I have my phone in my hand at all times. I am constantly on twitter, facebook, and instagram. You all know it... you see me there. You might be on it as much.... I don't know. But What I do know is that I don't like it.... I don't want to be connected all the time.

2) I watch the news TOO much! I have been crying for 4 days. I'm not joking. I can't tear my eyes away from ABC or CNN. When the news isn't on in the house... I'm reading it on my damn phone or listening to it on NPR!

3) I had so much more fun yesterday NOT blogging than I had in a long time. I took time to appreciate every aspect of my life. I counted my blessings and I am vowing to not take my time for granted with my family.


4) Blogging is burning me out. The community that exists amongst you all is great. I have made a ton of friends. But I find the drama, the constant worry about stats, PR, monetizing my blog.... utterly exhausting.

I have blogger burn out my friends. And honestly... I just want to sit on the floor and play Lego's with my kids.



 How do you battle blogger burnout?  And how are you coping with the Newtown tragedy? 


 
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12.16.2012

The Perfect Hot Chocolate with Candy Cane Stirrers



I feel kind of funny writing about Sundays With Joy this week when my mind is elsewhere. I am still wrapped up in the CT shootings. Trying to wrap my head around my sadness for those families, why a senseless act like that happens in our world, and how easily that could have been our school and my son. I have had nightmares the past two nights like I am sure so many parents have. I know in my head, that crime is at an all time low here in the states, in fact we have one of the lowest crime rates in the world. It doesn't take away my fears of sending my child to school tomorrow, or the fear of being shot in a movie theater, mall or any other public place. That thought is always in the back of my head.



I have written and deleted this blog post 3 times now and am sitting here thinking what is appropriate to write? How do I sit here and talk about hot chocolate when the country is mourning 26 innocent people. 20 of them between the ages of 5-10?

I just have no words right now.

So I leave you with this....



Every child should have memories of waking up on a snowy morning to bundled up and play in the snow. They should come inside to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate topped with tons of whipped cream or fluff. These are the little things that make childhood memories. I know I will be taking more time outs from life to enjoy simple pleasures such as a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day with my kids.

Joy's hot chocolate is a mixture of melted chocolate chips and white chocolate with milk.... even a bit of instant coffee. To kick mine up a notch I topped it with a peppermint whipped cream. Simply whipping heavy cream with a bit of sugar and a 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract.

Then to make it so much more fun..... candy cane stirrers. These are simple to make and would even make a great gift for Christmas paired with a fun mug and some hot chocolate mix?

For Joy the Bakers Perfect Hot Chocolate... you need to get a copy of her book. Click HERE for where to find it.



To make Candy Cane Stirrers:

1 box of peppermint candy canes
1 cup of milk chocolate chips
Christmas sprinkles (optional)

In a double boiler mix and milk chocolate until smooth and melted. Dip ends of candy canes in chocolate, place on parchment paper to harden. Sprinkle festive sprinkles (optional).

Are you a member of Sundays With Joy? Please link your blog post up below. Not a member but want to find our more on becoming one? Click HERE for info.


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12.14.2012

Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies Dipped in Milk Chocolate



When I was little my parents often received one of those store bought Christmas tins of shortbread cookies. I was the only one besides my mom who ate them. Shortbread has always been one of my favorite cookies.

This year instead of using granulated sugar in my cookies I opted to go with brown sugar to give them a  toffee flavor. I then dipped them in some milk chocolate (left over from the cookies I shared yesterday!) and then sprinkled them with crumbled heath bar bits.

I think I ate 2 whole sticks of butter in 24 hours..... I ate the entire plate of cookies by myself! As my boys would say.... "What a pig hog!"

They are so good, I strongly recommend you make them. These cookies are also part of Cookie Week. A group of my favorite ladies are sharing their favorite cookie swap cookies, all week long. Check out my friend Kirsten's blog for some great cookie related giveaways! While your at it... go check out Megan's as well... she has 12 days of giveaways going down! During Cookie Week, every cookie swapped Glad is donating $1 to Cookies for Kids Cancer.



Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies Dipped in Chocolate and Toffee

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 cup room temperature butter
2/3 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup heath bar bits or toffee bits of any kind

Directions:

In the bowl of your electric mixer using your paddle attachment mix flour, butter, and salt together until very crumbly looking. It may take a few minutes for the butter to work into the flour and it may appear to be very dry. This is ok!

Remove from mixer and inside the bowl kneed the dough with your hands until it comes together and has moistened into a cookie dough. 

On  a parchment paper lined cookie sheet shape dough into a large rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. 

Using a tooth pick score lines for where you want to cut the cookies and add little holes to each one. I poked mine about 4 times per cookie. 

Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until they are golden around the edges. 

Remove from oven and cut along the lines you made before baking. Allow to cool completely before removing from cookie sheet.

Mean while in a double boiler add in chocolate and allow to melt, mixing constantly until smooth.

Dip cooled cookies into chocolate and place on a pieces of parchment paper. Sprinkle with toffee bits and allow to cool. 

Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.... or cookie swap them!
            
  
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12.13.2012

Chocolate Dipped Biscoff Sandwiches



Raise your hand if come Christmas Eve you are scrambling, trying to make gift baskets or cookie tins for those you have forgotten? Or you have had all these great plans to bake tons of cookies but life got in the way?

This happens to me. Every. Single. Year! I always go out buy cute boxes and tins tons of ribbon and bows... have a long list of people I will give homemade gifts too.  I just never get around to it. Then it's crunch time!

I turn to the easiest things I can think of... which pretty much means anything dipped in chocolate. It works! Everyone needs a little chocolate in their lives and it means zero baking for you!

Chocolate dipped peanut butter cracker sandwiches are probably one of my most favorite quick no bake cookie type treats. This year I took it up a notch and used Biscoff Cookie Spread and some fancy Christmas sprinkles.

Here's how you do it....



Chocolate Dipped Biscoff Sandwiches

What you need:

A couple sleeves of Ritz crackers
Biscoff cookie spread (Or nut butter of any kind)
A bag of milk chocolate chips (or dark/semi-sweet)
Christmas sprinkles

Assembly:

In a double boiler continuously mix chocolate until it is melted and smooth.
 
Spread biscoff spread over the top of one cracker and then sandwich together with a 2nd cracker.  

Dip cracker sandwiches in chocolate covering all sides. I use a spoon to do this.

Remove from chocolate and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with Christmas Sprinkles and allow to harden and cool. 

If you do not use all the chocolate don't fret, and can be heated up and used again in something new.... like a chocolate drizzle for cookies,  dip some pretzels or berries in it the list is endless! Get creative.


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12.12.2012

Maple Bacon Sugar Cookies ~Kicking Kids Cancer's Butt One Cookie At A Time! ~




It's here again! The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. Hundreds of us food bloggers participated last year and now again this year. But for a good cause! All the money raised in our cookie swap was donated to Cookies for Kids Cancer. OXO matching all of our donations.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

I can't even begin to understand the amount of work it takes to organize a cookie swap this large with people spread out all over the country. Lindsay and Julie, my hat goes off to you both. You've done a fabulous job. Celebrate when this is all over and done with!


I shipped one dozen cookies to each of the my matches spread our all over the country. WA, IN and AZ. I sure hope they received them in one piece! This year I sent my three matches a chewy Maple Bacon Sugar Cookie. This is a cookie recipe  I adapted from my Slice and Bake Maple Sugar Cookies, that I made last year. This recipe is SO easy. You can roll the cookies into balls and flatten them like I did this time. You can shape them into a log and slice them off as you want them.... or you can roll them out and make a fun sugar cookie for the holidays. Being that I put bacon in them this time around I was leery of doing a slice and bake just because I feared the bacon would get in the way of my slices and make them look sloppy. So I opted to roll them into 1 inch balls and flatten them with the palm of my hand. You could also do this with a fork much like the classic peanut butter cookie.



So far I have gotten 2/3 of my cookies from the lovely ladies that had me as their match. A huge thanks to Kelly her cookies hit the spot with peppermint and chocolate. WIN! Problem though... Sydney ate almost all of them. Stupid mutt.... Then Tara from Chip Chip Hooray sent me her super delicious Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies. Those were a huge hit with my kids, they had never had butterscotch apparently and went kinda nuts for them. I know they are totally deprived right? I guess I need to do some butterscotch baking in the future!


Before we get the Maple Bacon Sugar Cookie recipe, I have a small confession. My husband came home... "ooo something smells good!" He then grabs a cookies and eats it. I look at him with a sly look on my face not saying a word..... "AHH you are a terrible person! There is bacon in these! That's like giving an alcoholic a beer and telling him it's soda!" Apparently he didn't find me trying to squeeze bacon into his day as funny as I did. Damn his vegetarian diet!



Maple Bacon Sugar Cookies
(Recipe adapted from my Slice and Bake Maple Sugar Cookies, which was adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of room temperature butter
1/2 cup  sugar
1/2 cup light-brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff peoples!)
1 cup cooked crispy bacon, crumbled into tiny pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

 In your electric mixer cream butter and sugars together on medium speed.

Add in egg yolk, syrup and bacon.

Sift together your flour and salt add into mixer while it is mixing on medium/low speed 1/2 a cup at a time.

After dough comes together, shape into 2 disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll cookie dough into 1 inch balls and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Flatted each ball with the palm of your hand. Bake for about 10 minute or until the edges start to get golden. For a crispier cookie bake longer. Chewy requires less cooking time. Remove cookies and transfer to a cooking rack.


NOW in addition to the The Food Blogger Cookie Swap I am also participating in Cookie Week with a group of my best blogging buds! Glad is donating $1 for each cookie swapped to  Cookies for Kids Cancer! Way to kick some cancer butt one cookie at a time!


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12.11.2012

"Beef"Less Wellington A Vegetarian Holiday Meal

I won't lie. I feel like my fun has been sucked out of cooking lately. Not only has the husband gone all veggie on me but he also cut out alcohol and sugar. Cooking isn't as fun anymore. I can't seem to wow him with a salad or a plate of quinoa. And I'll be frank. I'm sick of veggie burgers of all kinds.

One of my all time favorite things to do is to cook a fancy meal for him on holidays or other special occasions. I am like a fish out of water.... what does one cook for someone who doesn't like filet, or roasted turkey? One of our favorite special occasion meals is a Beef Wellington. I make it for Christmas and Valentines Day almost every year. He loves it.... or loved it I should say. And this girl..... loves herself some tenderloin wrapped in pastry. It makes my heart pitter patter.

One day while looking at the latest photos on FoodGawker. I stumbled upon this recipe. A veggie loaf wrapped in pastry.... looking much like a Beef Wellington. SCORE! I can still do something similar for our Christmas HOORAY!

For my "Beef"Less Wellington, I used a combination of pureed chick peas to hold everything together, some cooked quinoa, sauteed veggies and some bread crumbs. I used a store bought pastry... shoot me. As you all know I'm a big fan of preaching why you should not buy puffed pastry at the store because it's not that hard. You can make it the old fashioned way like HERE or the KAF Blitz version which I prefer as a time saver, for that click HERE.

Now. All vegetarians seem to have different rules they follow as of to what they eat and can't eat. Some eat fish and eggs. Some don't. My husband does eat some fish and eggs. I'm sure though to suck more fun out of my life, he will stop eating those eventually as well. But until then I'm using fish and eggs dammit! So  in this Wellington I did use some Worcestershire sauce. This has anchovies in it. I also brushed it with an egg wash to make it look pretty. Both of these steps are completely optional.



"Beef"Less Wellington

Ingredients: 

1 batch prepared puff pastry
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1/2 cups diced yellow onion
1 cup diced mushrooms (any kind will work) 
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tbs of butter
1 tbs of Worcestershire sauce
1-11/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 beaten egg for egg wash 

Directions:

In your food processor puree your chickpeas. With a rubber spatula scrap chickpeas out into a large mixing bowl. Mix with cooked quinoa

Meanwhile in a medium sauce pan saute diced vegetables and garlic in the 2 tbs of butter until tender. Remove from pan and dice in your food processor. You want the pieces to be teeny tiny... but not pureed Remove from food processor and mix into the chickpea mixture. 

Using a rubber spatula mix in the Worcestershire sauce and add the bread crumbs a 1/2 cup at a time. Mix in bread crumbs just until the mixture comes together and can be formed into a ball or loaf. It should resemble hamburger in texture. 

On a lightly floured surface roll out your puff pastry to a 1.5ft x 1.5ft square. Shape your vegetable mixture into a loaf shape on top of the pastry on one end leaving about 1-2 inches of pastry on the top and bottom. Fold the top and bottoms up over the log and begin to roll it in the pastry wrapping it tight in pastry. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Brush pastry with a beaten egg.

Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes. Or until it is golden on all sides. Allow it to cool for 15 minute before slicing.   
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12.10.2012

Salted Hard Cider Caramels



I am not huge into candy making during the holidays. I tend to leave that to my Nana. She is famous for making huge baskets and tins filled with truffles, chocolate covered cherries, fudge and other Christmas goodies. I dabble in fudge making, maybe make some cookies..... and then there are caramels.

I have seen many recipes for salted caramels and cider caramels in the blog world for a long time now. I've always steered clear of them simply because I hate making anything that calls for a candy thermometer. I go through candy thermometers like you wouldn't believe. I think I buy a new one every single Holiday season. I break them, lose them.... who knows what with them.

This year I was determined to make some candies before I lose the new thermometer. First thing on the docket... make your own caramel candies. But not just any caramels. Woodchuck Hard Cider Caramels! I think it's at the point where I could write a book on recipes using Woodchuck.

These caramels are perfectly soft and chewy. A slight tartness from the boiled cider, but evened out with rich caramel sweetness and a bit of sea salt.



Salted Hard Cider Caramels
(Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

2 cups Woodchuck Hard Cider
1/4 tsp apple pie spice
4 tbs of butter   
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbs heavy cream
1 tsp sea salt

Directions:

In a sauce pan add hard cider and bring to a boil. Reduce down 1/4 a cup.

Mix in sugars, butter heavy cream and apple pie spice. Over medium heat bring up to about 252 degrees on your candy thermometer. If you don't own one. Don't fret, to test your caramel have a cup of ice water ready. Dip your spoon in the hot mixture and then immediately into the ice water. When the caramel hardens to the consistency you want in a chewy caramel it is done.

Immediately remove from heat and pour into a parchment paper lined bread pan.

Sprinkle with sea salt and allow to cool until hardened.

With a very sharp buttered knife, cut caramels into 1 inch squares.





 


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12.06.2012

I Had The Time Of My Life





For those of you who follow me on Facebook and twitter know that this past weekend I had the opportunity to travel down to Virginia to attend MixedCon.  If you don't blog you may not know what MixedCon is.... it's a 3 day food blog conference hosted by Susan and Paula.

I was so excited for my trip and started out on Friday morning at about 3am to catch an early flight to Atlanta, GA where I had a layover. While visiting Hotlanta, I met up with the funny, and fantastic Kirsten. We then both hopped on a teeny tiny plane to Roanoke, VA where we met up with the lovely Lauren. We all piled into the "Hooptie Ride" to the Mountain Lake Hotel.

 

The Mountain Lake Hotel is where the famous movie Dirty Dancing was filmed! How freaking awesome it was. I am a major Dirty Dancing fan, what girl isn't right? Way back when, I even named a puppy I received as a sweet 16 gift, Baby.

The resort has not changed much since the movie was shot back in the 80's... so I felt like I was Jennifer Grey. My friends and I totally relived some classic DD moments while walking around the property.... Along the way while trying to figure out which scenes were shot where.... we notice. Yeah the lakes gone. Like totally GONE. Apparently the lake just dries up every few years, then it comes back... we happened to hit it when it was dried up.



One thing I discovered is that I am not the only 80's movie super fan on the planet. These ladies love it as much as I do. We totally quoted the movie all weekend long.



Our days/nights were filled with classes, food, wine, friends, music, movies, and a great chance to network with other bloggers and PR reps.




What did I learn while there?

Well I took a super informative photography class with Bree. Learned a bit about videography and adding videos to your blog from Lenny. All about ebooks from Heidi. Some food styling from Tami.

Cookie decorating with Marian......

 

 

And last but most certainly not least.....Cake decorating with Duff FREAKING Goldman. We were given a white fondant covered mini cake to decorate. There were some mishaps along the way so the cakes were not perfect looking before we got to them. Duff starts off by telling my partner Kirsten and I that our cake is "F'ing ugly, he wouldn't feed it to his dog...." Yeah he so talks like that. F bombs galore and I love him for it! I even had the chance to chat him up at the airport and flight to Atlanta for our layover going home. He's quite funny... and exactly what you'd picture him to be like.





Now I may not be applying for a job at Charm City Cakes anytime soon, but I had tons of fun and I learned a boatload from all the speakers.


I had a fanfreakingtastic time with a group of food and  blog obsessed ladies who I am lucky enough to call my real life  friends! After months/years of chatting through facebook and twitter it was so nice to actually get to spend some real life time with them!


A huge thanks to my sponsor, Davidson's Safest Choice Eggs for sponsoring my trip to Mixed and to the lovely ladies Susan and Paula for making it a weekend I won't forget! "I had the time of my life."

 Sorry..... had to put  that in there ;)




For more information on Davidson's Safest Choice Eggs.... stay tuned in the next couple weeks I will  be talking a lot about their pasteurized eggs and how much I love the peace of mind in my kitchen when cooking with small kids!