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Donut wreath

December 23, 2013
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If you’re looking for something fast and festive to take to a holiday get-together, this just might be for you.  In my daughter’s eyes, nothing says “special occasion” like donuts, so she was completely over the moon for this donut wreath I took to her holiday party.  Store-bought donut holes and sprinkles added at home.  I also attached a pretty bow with a toothpick and we were ready to go.  

Merry Christmas!!

 

Sugar cookie dough bark

December 20, 2013

 

I tried to finish up some Christmas things over the weekend, including getting some cookies baked and put into the freezer to take to my parents’ house next week.  I made this sugar cookie dough bark too, because Claudia wanted something covered in sprinkles.  And also because we love any treat that lets us eat “raw” cookie dough.

This bark is super easy and has only 4 ingredients!  But, a disclaimer…. it’s really sweet, so be prepared for a major sugar rush.  Claudia and I decided we’d like to try it again, but next time with chocolate cookie mix and chocolate candy melts.  I do love how pretty and festive this one turned out though.  Perfect addition to a Christmas cookie tray.

Recipe:  Sugar Cookie Dough Bark

(from Crazy for Crust)

1 pouch sugar cookie mix, like Betty Crocker
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbsp. milk
24 oz. package of white candy melts
sprinkles

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper and set aside.  Mix sugar cookie mix, butter, and milk in a medium bowl until creamy.  Melt half the candy melts (following package directions) and spread the melted candy in an even layer on the cookie sheet.  Top evenly with cookie dough and press gently to cover candy layer.  Chill for 10 minutes.  Melt remaining candy melts.  Pour over the top of the chilled cookie dough and spread evenly to cover.  Add sprinkles.  Chill until hardened, then break apart.

Bacon chocolate chip cookies

December 11, 2013

bacon choc chip cookiesBacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

The whole chocolate-covered bacon thing has been pretty popular on the boardwalk the past couple summers.  I hadn’t tried it until my nephew shared some with me during a visit to a local flea market.  (Hi, Owen!!)  That combination of salty and sweet is a big draw, and chocolate-covered bacon gives you the best of both of those worlds.  So how about in cookie form?

The bacon flavor is subtle in these cookies, but if you’d like it to have more of a presence, just add more crumbled bacon than I did.  I’ll probably bump it up a bit if I make them again.  I’m also curious how they’d taste with a hickory smoked bacon.  I bet that would be good – salty, sweet, and smokey.  I’ve never had a smokey taste in a cookie before, but I’m game to try it!

Recipe:  Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

(recipe found at Food, Fun & Life)

3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. bacon fat  (After you cook your crispy bacon, drain the fat into a glass and pop it into the refrigerator until it cools.)
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
2  1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
8-10 oz. bacon, cooked until crispy  (1/2 – 3/4 cups of crumbled bacon)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Mix butter, bacon fat, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time and beat after each addition.  Add baking soda and mix well.  Mix in vanilla, then add flour and mix until combined.  Stir in crumbled bacon and chocolate chips.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly on cookie sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

DIY instant oatmeal

October 29, 2013

Homemade Instant Oatmeal

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?  In my family, mornings are very often busy and chaotic, so squeezing breakfast in is sometimes a challenge.  I’m great at making sure the kids get something good in their bellies before they head out the door, but I’m not always as conscience of getting my own day going in a healthy way.  This homemade instant oatmeal has been a perfect solution for me.  I absolutely love it and the flexibility of being able to add-in anything I’m in the mood for keeps it from getting boring.  It takes just a couple minutes to mix everything up and transfer it to a big container, and then I have breakfast at my fingertips.  Once you taste the difference, you’ll never go back to those store-bought packets again.

Recipe:  DIY Instant Oatmeal

(adapted from One Good Thing by Jillee)

10 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
1 cup non-dairy powdered creamer
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar  (If you prefer a sweeter bowl of oatmeal, you can use more sugar to suit your taste.)
2 tsp. kosher salt

Place 8 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats to a large bowl.  In a blender, blend 2 cups of oats until powdery, then add to the other oats.  Stir in powdered creamer, brown sugar, and salt until well mixed.  Transfer to large container for storage.

To make a bowl of oatmeal, scoop 1/2 cup of the instant oatmeal mixture into a bowl.  Heat 3/4 cup of water to boiling (I use the microwave.) and pour over oatmeal.  Let oatmeal sit for 1-2 minutes.  Add whatever dried fruits and/or nuts you enjoy.

 

Pork carnitas rice bowl

October 6, 2013
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Pork Carnitas Rice Bowl

Ever since my first visit to Chipotle, it’s become my favorite place to eat out.  It’s a good thing it’s not too local for me or I’d want to go on a weekly basis.  Since I can’t, I’ve had to figure out how to bring those flavors into my own kitchen instead.  Jim actually says this version is far better than Chipotle’s.  It’s definitely nice to be able to eat the leftovers for a day or two.

The pork literally falls apart after cooking in the crock pot while we’re at work, and I really take a shortcut with the rice, so it’s a quick and easy weeknight meal.  Ever seen those microwaveable bags of rice?  You can buy brown rice that cooks in 90 seconds.  I make a couple bags of that, add some minced red onion, lime juice from one whole lime, some salt and pepper to taste, and a handful of chopped fresh cilantro and I’ve got a tasty base to start our rice bowls.  Next, we add the pork, some shredded lettuce, fresh tomato salsa, corn salsa (I follow this recipe exactly and it’s perfect), guacamole, greek yogurt (or sour cream), and some chopped chives or green onions on top.  Jim adds (rinsed, canned) black beans to his too.  I’m craving a rice bowl just writing about it.  That’s how good it is.

Recipe:  Pork Carnitas
(adapted from Shared Appetite)

8-10 lb. pork shoulder (bone in) or 6-8 lb boneless pork shoulder
2 Tbsp. canola oil
2 tsp. chili powder
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
kosher salt

Cut the pork shoulder into big chunks and rub with kosher salt.  In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and add pork pieces.  Turn to brown on all sides.  Once pork is browned, transfer pieces to crock pot.  Add 1 cup of water to the pan and stir to scrape up the brown bits in the bottom.  Add the rest of the ingredients along with a good pinch of kosher salt.  Stir to combine.  Pour mixture over the pork in the crock pot.  Cook on low heat for 8-10 hours.  When pork is cooked, shred with 2 forks and return to sauce in the crock pot until ready to serve.

Fresh summer salsa

September 21, 2013

salsa2Fresh Summer Salsa

My tomato plants have been absolutely gigantic this year!  We have a deck that’s one story above the ground and my two tomato plants have literally reached the deck.  They have grown voraciously all summer and they are just crazy to see.

This fresh salsa has been the perfect way to use all those tomatoes and it’s delicious to boot.  It’s great for dipping, but my favorite way to eat it is piled high on my homemade version of a rice bowl from Chipotle.  Yum and Yum!

Let’s call this post the first of my homemade Chipotle trilogy.  I’ll share the corn salsa and the pork carnitas that go into it too.  It is all delish!!

Recipe:  Fresh Summer Salsa

(from A Pair of Pears)

3 tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 jalapeño
1/4 tsp salt

Chop everything to your desired size and gently stir.  Enjoy!!

 

Panini press layer cake

September 15, 2013
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Panini Press Layer Cake

Who knew that panini press sitting in my pantry could make a little bitty cake?  Just look at this tiny layer cake – absolutely adorable and just right for two to share.  Claudia and I made this just as we were saying goodbye to summer vacation and getting ready to head back to school.  It always makes us sad, so we needed a treat to make the transition back to school a little sweeter.

There was a lot of fun factor with this cake too.  Our only other panini dessert attempt ended in disaster, so this was more like an experiment than anything.  Happily for us, it worked and we got to enjoy the results.

Recipe:  Panini Press Layer Cake

(from Panini Happy and How Sweet It Is)

1 egg

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

2 Tbsp. melted butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 heaping tsp. baking powder

pinch of salt

1 1/2 Tbsp. milk

Preheat the panini grill to 350°F or medium-high.  Spray two 6-ounce ramekins with baking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and sugar together until they are combined.  Stir in the vanilla and melted butter.  Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt until the batter is combined and smooth. Stir in the milk.  Divide the batter equally between the two ramekins, ideally filling each about halfway.  Set the ramekins on the panini grill and close the lid so that the upper grates make contact with the upper edges of the ramekins.  Bake the cakes until they are set and spring back when touched in the center, about 17 to 19 minutes.  Allow them to cool for 5 minutes in the ramekins, then invert them onto a rack to cool completely.  Assemble the layers and frost.

 

 

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