December 17, 2010

2010 Christmas Cookies

This year I made three new cookies for Christmas, two of which I think are total keepers and one that I don't like too much, but you can't win them all. I made some great Chocolate Mint and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cinnamon Spirals and Orange Cinnamon Biscotti dipped in Dark Chocolate. Yeah...delicious.

The Chocolate cookies are quite delicious. I made some last weekend to make them and get ideas, but I used regular milk chocolate chips, so this time I used Andes Creme de Menthe chips and dark chocolate chips (since I had some leftover from dipping the biscotti). They are mighty delicious and stay chewy when you store them in a plastic baggie rather than a plastic container, I found. And I love some chewy cookies! I found the main recipe here at and just changed the chips.

Chocolate Mint Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am not a big crispy, hard cookie person, but I am intrigued by making biscotti cause they are pretty easy and kinda fun to make. For some reason when I think Christmas flavors I thought of orange and spice, so I went with an orange and cinnamon biscotti and then decided to doll them up and dip the sides of them in dark chocolate. The orange scent alone, even before taking a bite makes these biscotti delicious. Then you take a bite with the dark chocolate and the orange zest flavor and its a winner. I added some sliced almonds in the dough but I think I should have added more or used bigger pieces. These are really yummy cookies and great for Christmas with a mug of hot cocoa! I found the recipe here at

Orange Cinnamon Biscotti Dipped in Dark Chocolate

The last cookie I made....were a pain my butt! The dough is bland and crumbly and hard to roll out and then roll into spirals...I don't know. I was expecting a lot from these cookies I guess. A lot more flavor, a lot more easier and fun to make and they just made me a little sad and disappointed. I mean, they are alright but not my favorite. The dough is just butter, cream cheese, flour and I said. Bland. The only flavoring is in the cinnamon sugar filling, but I don't think it's enough. The cookies comes out almost like a shortbread but softer because of the cream cheese I think. They are ok. Try them if you like. They come out looking really cute though! I got the recipe from a friend on Facebook but you can find it here at Good Housekeeping also.
Cinnamon Spirals

So for this holiday season try out some new cookie recipes and you might be surprised what you can make and how delicious they can be!

Eat, Drink and Merry Christmas!


December 13, 2010

Cajun Chicken Smashed Sammies

My Hubsie worked from home today due to the nasty weather out, which is even more fun for me because then I get to make a fun lunch! I usually am just making interesting and fun dinners, but for lunch it's always just leftovers or a can of soup or something. So today I decided to make some chicken sandwiches and potato oven-fries. They were really delicious!!

Cajun Chicken Smashed Sammies

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices thick-cut sourdough bread
Cajun seasoning (I use Wild Tree Cajun Blend)
2 slices cheese, whatever you prefer

Season the chicken with the cajun spice rub and let sit in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a skillet with olive oil over med-high heat. Add chicken top-side down and let brown on that side. Flip chicken over and let brown for a couple minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and let cook for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked and juices run clear. Transfer chicken to cutting board and let rest.

Heat another pan over med heat. Cut your thick bread slices and spread butter on one side of each slice. Spread mayo on the other side of 2 pieces. Cut up the chicken into large cubes and place on the bottom piece of bread, butter side out. Add your cheese, I used pepper jack on one sammie and cheddar on the other, and top with bread spread with mayo.

Place sandwich in skillet and place another heavy pan on top to smash it down. Once browned and crispy, flip sandwich over and smash again with the other skillet. Remove sandwich once brown on second side and serve hot!

So...there is this place Melt near us and normally its a 2 hour wait just to be seated and then another hour and a half or so before you even get your food...I think I can totally rival them with my sammiches! I mean, no, they are not Melt, but just as good and made fresh and I think less greasy. And I could have added another slice of cheese and they would have been even better and gooey.

Also, please excuse my photos, the ONE place in my apartment I get the best light and take all my pictures currently has our Christmas tree, so my photos won't be very good for a little bit. But please enjoy the recipes and ideas!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!


November 11, 2010

Harvest Biscotti

Ok, so I STILL had leftover canned pureed pumpkin...seriously. I shouldn't have bought the big can, but then again I couldn't have made all these extra pumpkin treats, so here it goes.

I've been thinking of making biscotti for a long time, since I am Italian and it is a classic Italian cookie, great with coffee or tea. Biscotti is a twice baked biscuit-like cookie that is baked as a log and then cut into the sliced cookies and baked again to make them nice and crisp. I was thinking, since it's my first year hosting Thanksgiving *panic* that it might be nice to have a little treat for my guest to take home after dinner. I wanted to test these out first to make sure they are good enough for company. So here goes nothing!

Harvest Biscotti

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 cup dried raisins and cranberries (Sun-Maid has these packaged together)
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and spices. Add the raisins and cranberries and mix to incorporate thoroughly.

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, pumpkin and vanilla extract. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture. Give this a rough stir to generally combine ingredients, dough will be crumbly.

Flour our hands and a clean kitchen surface and lightly knead the dough. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Form the dough into a large log, roughly 15-20 inches by 6-7 inches. The loaves should be relatively flat. Only about 1/2 inch high. Bake for 22-30 minutes at 350, until the center is firm to the touch. (you can also form 2 smaller logs, to make bite-size biscotti, change baking time to 18-25 minutes.)

Let the biscotti logs cool for 15 minutes, then using a serrated knife, cut into 1 inch thick pieces. Turn the oven to 300 and bake the biscotti pieces for 15-20 minutes. Cool completely.

Biscotti may still be a tad moist and chewy, so if you prefer the crispier biscotti let sit uncovered overnight in a dry space. Serve and enjoy!

(recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)

I choose to do the two smaller logs to have smaller biscotti, but I think I might like to have the larger ones for my guests (my guests being my parents, in-laws, my eldest brother and my youngest brother's family.) These are pretty tasty, and I really like the soft texture of the raisins and cranberries in the crisp and crumbly biscuit cookie. I think even adding nuts for crunch and a salty taste would be great as well. These were really easy to make and I think that my guest will really enjoy them as a take-home treat!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!!


November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Rolls

I had leftover pumpkin from when I made my pumpkin cream cheese muffins and I knew i had to use it up so it didn't go bad, but I hadn't been inspired by anything, and I didn't want to make muffins again. So I started peeking around online and found an amazing idea. Pumpkin cinnamon rolls! What could be better?! So here's the recipe I found and I hope you enjoy!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Rolls
(find original recipe here.)

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 T granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Cooking Spray
3 T granulated sugar
3 T brown sugar
2 T flour
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 T chilled butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup powered sugar
1 T hot water
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

To prepare the buns, dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand for 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Add 2 cups flour, pumpkin, and next 5 ingredients (pumpkin through nutmeg); beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of the remaining 3/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into the dough. If an indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Punch dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Roll up the rectangle tightly, starting with a long edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Cut roll into 12 (1-inch) slices. Place slices in a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 25 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bake the rolls at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon water, and vanilla extract in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle glaze over buns. Serve warm.

These cinnamon rolls came out great! They were quite easy to make. The longest process was letting the dough rise and then letting the rolls proof once in the pan, but besides that, I felt they were super simple to make. These don't have much of a pumpkin flavor as I expected but there is only 1/2 a cup of pumpkin in them, but they have a nice spice and flavor to them. The pumpkin gives these a lovely orangey color. They are really moist and the cinnamon sugar filling is really delicious. I think these are totally worth the effort and they are really, really good!!! Perfect for a nice fall morning, to go with your cup of coffee or tea.

Fresh out of the oven, waiting for the glaze

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!


October 27, 2010

Recommended Reading: By The Time You Read This I'll Be Dead

I haven't done one of these in a really long time, I guess I hadn't been reading anything that really struck a cord or that I thought you guys would enjoy as well. But this book really hit me, and I really, really love this book. Even though it's a pretty sad and depressing story, I really loved makes you think.

This book tells the story of Daelyn and her stuggles with every day life, with her parents on 24/7 suicide watch over her after her 3 (or more) failed suicide attempts. This last one leaving her mute and having to wear a neck brace all the time. She is considered a "freak" at school and feels very alone and worthless. She has horrible things happen to her and you might feel the same after what this girl has went through. But then again maybe with a better support system from her parents she might not of felt the way she did...but who knows. Either she isn't communicating properly or her parents just don't know how to listen.

Daelyn finds a website dedicated to "completers", those who will finally off themselves...for the last time. No more failures. She finds comfort in knowing that no one is gonna talk her out of it on this site and its there to help these people tell their stories and vent frustrations.

There is a twist when this random boy comes up to her one day, while waiting for her mother to pick her up from school, and starts chatting with her. He's very persistent and is there everyday to meet her and talk with her...but does she have the ability to let someone in, even though her "date of determination" is only 23 days away?

This book kept me enticed all the way through. I was invested in the character. I wanted to yell at her, I wanted to hug her, I wanted to be her friend. I wanted to tell her everything was ok...
Emotional charged and pulling on heartstrings, this book is a winner.

And I don't know what my view is on the whole "bullying" situation, but I am glad this book is out there to show what it can do to someone's life...when the bullying is day in and day out, no matter where they may move or what new school they go really makes you think.


October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Streusel Muffins

Its that time...time for my famous pumpkin muffins!!! I changed it up a bit this year and put together a mish-mosh of 2 different recipes that I have come across and my own little twist. These muffins are packed with everything fall! They are moist, flavorful and just make you feel happy when you eat them.

Minis ready to be devoured

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Streusel Muffins
Makes 12 regular muffins (original says 24 I got 12) or 48 mini-muffins

1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 8-ounce package cream cheese (I used 1/3 fat free)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line or grease your muffin tin and set aside.

1. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, water, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla. Whisk until combined and smooth.

3. Slowly stir in flour mixture to wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.

For the filling:

Beat the cream cheese until softened. Beat in the brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla until all ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.

For the streusel topping:

In a bowl combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. With your hands mix in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

4. Fill muffins tins about 1/3 of the way full with the pumpkin batter. Add a good dollop of cream cheese to the center of each one. Fill the tins about 3/4 full and top with streusel topping.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes for regular muffins and 10 minutes for minis, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Place muffins tins on wire racks for cooling. Remove from tins and enjoy!

(Took bits and pieces from Two Peas and Their Pod and the streusel from GroupRecipes)

These...are...amazing. They are so good!! I am so glad I tinkered around with a few different recipes to make something so good and truly delicious! I sort of just went by what I had I hand and what I could do with what I had. I am really glad I found how to bake the cream cheese right into the muffins, cause I used to pipe them into the bottoms and it was a pain and I felt like you never got quite enough.

And not only is the cream cheese amazing but that slightly crunchy and sweet brown sugar topping is awesome. I think it makes the whole muffin! And the muffins itself, when you don't get a bite of cream cheese is delicious and moist. Very flavorful and light.

These muffins are a winner!! You must make these for a fall gathering or for your neighbor or someone you love, or just for yourself. They are that good!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry ~Happy Autumn~


October 11, 2010

Cheesy Potato Broccoli Soup with Crispy Proscuitto

I was clicking through the food blog The Craving Chronicles and came across this amazing soup recipe that was cheesy and hearty and full of good stuff. The original recipe didn't have broccoli, but I had some cooked, and leftover so I threw that in and I thought it was perfect. The crispy proscuitto on top, definitely makes the whole dish!! You need that salty bite with the cheese and potatoes, its absolutely delicious! This soup is a gonna be a new fall favorite!

I'm in love with these huge soup mugs!

Cheesy Potato Broccoli Soup with Crispy Proscuitto
(original recipe found here.)

4-6 slices proscuitto
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 carrots, sliced
1 lb. approx. red potatoes (10-12 small or 4-6 large) peeled and cubed
1 qt. box chicken broth or stock
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Place slices of proscuitto on a lightly greased or Silpat lined sheet pan. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to cool, and then break into crumbles.

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add onion and carrots and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and enough stock to just cover and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, melt 3 T butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Once melted add 3 T flour and whisk to form a roux. Allow to cook, 1 minute. Add the milk slowly, whisking constantly to smooth out any lumps. Continue to heat while whisking until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Once it reaches desired thickness, remove from heat and stir in your grated cheese.

Once potatoes are tender, pour the cheese mixture into the potato mixture, stirring to combine. Heat to a simmer and let thicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each bowl of soup with crumbled prosciutto and enjoy!

Warm, cheesy goodness for a Fall day

One big, soup mug full of this soup was enough for a good meal! Add some bread to dunk and I'm sure it's even better, and more satisfying! The Hubs added oyster crackers, which are delicious and great with soup as well. This soup of full of hearty potatoes and veggies and feels good in your soul. It was super easy to, incredibly easy! You dirty 2 pots, but its ok cause the soup is so yummy! The potatoes are nice and tender and the carrots still have crunch and the broccoli adds nice color and flavor, all around a great bowl of soup. The best part is the prosciutto on crispy and salty, I am in love! I love prosciutto when its not crispy, and I like this crispy topping rather than bacon, I would choose prosciutto any day!

Hey! Don't take that yet!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry...and warm up with a bowl of soup!


Banana Oatmeal Cookies

I came across a banana oatmeal cookie recipe a couple weeks back and thought that those sounded amazing! I love, love, love oatmeal cookies, and I love baking with bananas so it seemed win/win for me! I looked up a few more recipes and found one that seemed perfect and thought I'd give it a try since I have some overly ripe bananas chilling on my counter.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies
(adapted from this recipe.)

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 white sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup banana, mashed (about 2)
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat in egg and bananas. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips or nuts if using them.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

These soft, dense, flavorful cookies are great!! Really easy to make, although the whole, combining the sugar with the flour and THEN beating in the butter, was a little weird, but whatever, maybe that is why they are kinda thick and cakey. Also, I decided to go with brown sugar instead of all white sugar, because, well, I just like it more and I think that caramel-y flavor you get with brown sugar goes perfect with bananas. Also, to the last bit of batter I added a small handful of hazelnuts to see how those turned out. I think the nuts needed to be in bigger chunks, but I like the taste and texture of nuts in oatmeal cookies.

I hope you get inspired by these delicious cookies and use up some over-ripe bananas you may have sitting on your counter.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!


September 30, 2010

Harvest Pork Stew

Fall is official here and I have been craving the flavors and feelings of autumn! To welcome in October I pulled together a yummy, hot and hearty bowl of a harvest pork stew filled with sweet potato, carrots and apples!

Harvest Pork Stew
(inspired by this recipe.)

1 pound boneless pork tenderloin, cut into cubes
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cups chicken broth/stock
salt and pepper
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 large Jonagold apple (that's just what I picked up), peeled and cubed
2 medium or small potatoes, peeled and cubed
10-12 baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise

In a large pot, heat a good drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat and add the cubed pork. Brown the pork on all sides and add the onion, carrot and garlic and cook until pork is no longer pink and onion is soft and translucent. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add in the sweet potato, potato and apple. Bring back to a simmer and cook, uncovered until potatoes and apple are cooked and fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add a slurry of flour and water to the broth and let thicken. Serve with a big chunk of hearty bread for sopping up the juices.

Total Autumn Harvest Goodness

This stew was pretty fantastic. I felt it could have used something more...maybe some apple cider to pick of the brown bits from the bottom of the pot after browning, just a splash. I just wanted a little more "oomf" to the overall flavor of the broth, but the veggies and the pork were great! The apple was a surprise, cause it soaked up all the juices and then at the end you got the apple flavor. A nice added sweetness and soft texture. I think the sweet potato was key. It added great color and flavor. I would have liked to use a butternut squash but I thought I would try the sweet potato first, we'll do squash next time.

Another must have....bread! And of course I gotta give props to Blackbird Baking Co. The have the most amazing, hearty, earthy, perfect for dunking bread...the Country Brown Levain. Its like a wheat sourdough...its amazing. They have a Country Blonde Levain as well, which has a nice sourdough flavor but I think I like the brown better. Seems heartier and more earthy. And the last hour of their work day is Happy Hour where everything is half off!! You can't go wrong! Delicious, fresh bread and pastry for 1/2 off! It's a dream.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry....ITS FALL!!!!


September 27, 2010

Chocolate - Chocolate Chip Shortbread

I had one of those days where I was so bored and didn't know what to do with myself, so ya know, I decided to make cookies! I am really into shortbread at the moment and I just bought some cocoa powder, which I never have on hand, so I thought chocolate shortbread would be fun. I had some left over chocolate chips and decided to add those in as well. I got the general recipe from My Baking Addiction's Mocha Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Nutella, which sound amazing, but I didn't have the espresso granules, so I just went with straight chocolate flavor. I only made a half batch, the recipe below makes a full batch.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Shortbread
(adapted from My Baking Addiction)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)

In a large bowl cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla.

In a medium bowl whisk or sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture until fully incorporated. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with floured 2 - 3 inch cookie cutters, or cut your own rustic shapes. Place cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 300 for 15-20 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool.

I have to say, these are some great little shortbread cookies. They are not too sweet and have great chocolate flavor. They were really nice and buttery and had great texture. The chocolate chips didn't add much to the overall cookie, so you could really go with or without them.

I didn't refrigerate the dough as long as the recipe says, mostly because I was impatient and it was 8 o'clock at night. But I do feel that if I did it might have been easier to handle and maybe they wouldn't have spread as much in the oven. I wasn't expecting them to spread cause other shortbread's that I have made didn't, but I was wrong.

Chocolatey-Buttery Deliciousness

These are great little cookie with nice chocolate and buttery flavor and a nice crisp texture...I hope you try them out!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!


September 22, 2010

Blueberry Lemon Mini-Muffins

For Glee Night (yes that's right...Glee is back!) I had my best bud Kay over with her sister and we made some fruit stacks of bananas, strawberries and blueberries covered in chocolate, and we had tons of blueberries left over. So I got excited cause I could make some blueberry muffins! I also had a lemon that was getting close to being past its prime, so I thought, "oh man, lemon and blueberry are delicious together!" I Googled recipes for "lemon blueberry muffins" and found a great sounding one from Food Network. But of course I had to make them mini...they are just so darn cute!

Blueberry Lemon Mini-Muffins
(original recipe here.)

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed

2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffins tins.

In a large bowl cream together the sugar and butter. Stir in eggs and milk. Add vanilla and lemon juice. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the dry ingredients a little at a time until combined. Gently stir in the blueberries.

Divide the batter among the muffins tins. In a small bowl mix together brown sugar, butter and lemon zest with your fingers or a fork, and sprinkle over the top of each muffin. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes in the pans then transfer to cooling racks.

Bubbling-Blueberries Batman!

I have to say, you are better off following my typed out recipe because I noticed a ton of typos in the Food Network's recipe. Tablespoon written in the direction instead of teaspoons or lemon zest instead of was annoying.

But these little nuggets of lemon and blueberry freshness are delicious! I ate 3 of them while taking the photos of them...they are quite yummy. I don't see the point of the topping. And of course due to typos from Food Network I put the zest in the batter instead of in the topping, so they were quite lemony and the brown sugar and butter just sort of caramelized and kinda ran off to the side of the muffins. So I don't think the topping is necessary.

These light mini-muffins are refreshing and really should try them!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!!


September 15, 2010

Hubsie's Birthday - Caramel Apple Cupcakes

So I know I have said that I am not a cupcakes baker...but it was the Hubsie's birthday and I wanted to make him something special. In the latest Everyday with Rachael Ray they had a recipe for Caramel Apple Cupcakes. Now the name alone should make your mouth water, but then there was the picture of them...all caramelly and gooey and dripping in caramel. I had to make them for something!! And seeing that my husband's birthday is close to the first day of autumn, these sounded perfect.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes
(original from Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine)

1 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Fuji apples (about 1 pound) peeled and shredded
1 1/2 cups chewy caramel candies
1 T heavy cream

1. Arrange a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with baking liners. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth. Whisk in the oil and vanilla. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined, stir in the apples. Spoon the batter into prepared pan until almost full. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely.

3. In a small, microwavable bowl, combine the caramel candies and cream. Microwave for 1 minute at medium power, then stir; repeat in 30-second intervals until melted and smooth. Let cool. Spread the frosting generously on the cooled cupcakes.

These cupcakes are quite delicious...and rather messy as you can see in the above photo. They are jam packed with apple flavor though, and the caramel is soft and chewy. I found these were really simple to make even though it felt foreign to me to add the wet ingredients to the dry when I am used to do it the other way around.

Whats also exciting is that in making these past couple apple recipes I figured out how to use the shredder attachment on my food's amazing! My hand grater recently broke and I didn't even want to think about having to sit there and grate an apple over it, so I remembered I had that attachment for my processor and it is a godsend! Made super quick work of it and I can shred the apples right before having to add them to the recipe so I don't have to worry about them going brown on me. Its awesome! Its probably sad that I am just now finding out that, that attachment is awesome but I never used it before, or had a reason to.

One downside is I stored these in a cake pan with a lid...and well it seems the caramel just kinda melted off the I don't know about that. The recipe said nothing about how to store them...maybe I should have refrigerated them? I have no idea. I just know I opened the lid and noticed caramel all over the bottom of the pan around each cupcake...they are still yummy though!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry...and celebrate someone's birthday!


September 10, 2010

Apple-Cream Cheese Muffins

Every autumn I make Pumpkin Muffins with cream cheese piped inside after baking. I was looking through some other food blogs and found a lot of them baking the cream cheese right in the muffins. I thought this was genius and kinda sad I didn't think of that, but I wouldn't have known exactly how to if I did think of it. But its still a little early to be making the pumpkin muffins, those are more of an Oct/Nov. thing so I looked up muffin recipes with another fall flavor, apples. I found a great recipe from Betty Crocker for these muffins and decided to give them a go!

Apple-Cream Cheese Muffins
(for original recipe click here.)

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large apple, peeled and shredded, about 1 cup
1/3 cup (3 oz.) cream cheese

Streusel topping:
3 T packed brown sugar
2 T flour
1 T butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350. Line 15 muffin cups with paper liners. Reserve 1 T of brown sugar for muffin filling.

In a large bowl with electric mixer, combine remaining brown sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt on low speed until mixed. Reserve 1 T of beaten egg for muffin filling. Add oil, applesauce, vanilla and remaining egg to flour mixture. Beat on medium speed until mixed. With a spoon, stir in apple.

In small bowl, mix cream cheese, the reserved 1 T egg and reserved 1 T brown sugar until mixed. Fill muffin cups less than half full with muffin batter. Top each with 1 tsp. cream cheese mixture. Top with spoonful of muffin batter to fill cups 2/3 full. In small bowl combine streusel ingredients and sprinkle over batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool slightly for 10 minutes.

I am not gonna lie...I forgot to add the vanilla...just totally overlooked it. These aren't the most flavorful muffins, but it could be because I forgot the vanilla it might have given it a bit more. The streusel topping is nice, I don't think I have ever made one with just flour, brown sugar and butter, so it was interesting. I think it could use more cream cheese filling, like maybe even a whole tablespoon instead of a teaspoon...I like cream cheese. At least the one I taste-tested didn't seem to have enough. Also I like the flavor of lemon juice in cream cheese fillings, so maybe next time I will try adding some.

Fresh out of the oven
Apple-Cream Cheese Muffins

I think overall this recipe is ok. You get a pretty results and a nice fall-time flavor, but I think I was expecting more. I can't wait to make my pumpkin muffins though, those are always a big hit at the Hubsie's work!! Hopefully they will like my new take with the cream cheese baked in...stay tuned for that post!

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!!


September 7, 2010

Lemon and Brown Sugar Shortbreads

I discovered a few more food blogs...this is getting to be a problem. I end up saving up tons and tons of recipes from these fabulous food blogs...who knows when I will make all them!! Or even remember which ones I've saved! Anyway, this new one I found is Pinch My Salt. She had this great simple recipe for lemon shortbread and brown sugar shortbread. I picked up some lemons on my last shopping trip so I was happy to find something simple and delicious to use them in. I made half a batch of each cause I didn't want an over abundance of left over cookies, although I did send some to work with the Hubs, his co-workers love me :) I also didn't want to use up all my butter.

Lemon Shortbread
(find original recipe here.)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 T lemon zest
1 1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together the softened butter and sugar, until smooth. Add the lemon zest and beat until incorporated. By hand, stir in flour a little at a time. Dough will be crumbly, so dump it out onto counter top or pastry board and work it together by hand, until smooth. Pat or roll out dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into small squares, rectangles, diamonds or triangles (which ever you prefer) Arrange cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are just brown.

Brown Sugar Shortbread
(find original here.)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together the softened butter and sugar, until smooth. By hand, stir in flour a little at a time. Dough will be crumbly, so dump it out onto counter top or pastry board and work it together by hand, until smooth. Pat or roll out dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into small squares, rectangles, diamonds or triangles (which ever you prefer) Arrange cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are just brown.

These recipes are nearly identical except for the type of sugar and the addition of lemon zest. These cookies are light and crisp and the lemon ones have a nice buttery, lemon flavor that is really refreshing. The brown sugar ones are little more earthy and deep in flavor. I enjoyed both kinds, the lemon was nice, but I do love brown sugar. These were really simple to make and didn't make as big a mess as I thought they might have, with having to handle the dough on the counter.

These were fun to make in between the episodes of True Blood I was watching! Haha!! I hope you guys try these out, they were easy and would be a great with a cup of tea...hmmm I know what I am gonna go do....

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!


August 26, 2010

Cheddar Chive Muffins

I love finding new food blogs while poking around on Twitter and seeing who the current food bloggers I follow are following, or are friends with. I found one today called The Craving Chronicles and she seems fun and her food and photos look amazing. I got a few interesting recipes off her site today and I knew I was making Barbecued Chili for dinner so I was really excited when I found this recipe on her site for these savory muffins.

Cheddar Chive Muffins
(original by The Craving Chronicles found here.)
Makes 12 Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
1 egg1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
1 tablespoon dried chives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease, or line a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a medium bowl combine together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the shredded cheese.

In a small bowl combine milk, egg and melted butter. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in herbs.

Divide the batter among the 12 muffins cups. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Cheddar Chive Muffin

I have to say these savory muffins are pretty darn good. Especially dipped in the yummy Bbq yum! And! I am pretty sure if you were to brush these with some garlic butter they would come pretty darn close to tasting like Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits! I didn't get much of the chive flavor, but these muffins were dense and nice and cheesy. They were a little greasy, I thought, but that is probably because of the 3 cups of cheese.

Someone is trying to grab one before they cool...tsk tsk

These are great savory muffins and I hope you try them sometimes this fall or winter season as I think they are quite comforting and delicious!

Eat Drink and Be Merry!


August 25, 2010

Recommended Reading: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

This best sums it up: "Simultaneously tragic, and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying and loving."

"On a day that started like any other..." The main character Mia finds herself in a place between life and death. In the matter of a day she needs to make a decision, to stay or go. She looks back at memories and life experiences, but also looks ahead to what she will have to go through if she decides to stay.

I loved the way this book was written, I loved the characters. Her parents were great characters, her little brother was a great, her boyfriend and their relationship were flawless. It was great, short read and I highly recommend it...

I didn't really get too emotional until the last 20 pages or so. All the emotion she was feeling and how her decision time grew closer and closer, it was a lot to think about...I think this book was great and had me enthralled and hanging on every memory and every person she had in her life.

In the back of the book, since this story relied heavily on music, there is a list of the songs mentioned and why the author chose them and what they meant to her as she attached them to certain characters.

Please check out If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Happy Reading!


August 24, 2010

Relaxing Day - Erie Island Coffee Company

Today, instead of sitting the in living room or on the balcony reading a book like I would normally do I decided to take a nice leisurely walk down to Erie Island and have a nice cup of tea there and read.

Iced Mochas at Erie Island

The Hubs and I had been there before and we got Iced Mochas and he also tried their Peanut Butter Mocha and those were great, and I noticed they had a bunch of loose teas available too, so I thought I would try that out today since its getting closer to fall and I love a hot cup of tea. They have many different kinds from plain green tea, to a "tummy tamer" and a summer berry, but I was interested in the Strawberry White Tea. Let me tell you it was good choice!

Strawberry White Tea, a good book and great atmosphere
what more could you want?

It was a nice light tea with great strawberry flavor, I wish they sold it in tins or something, I would have grabbed some for home. I mean you can't beat $1.90 for a large mug with as many hot water refills that you want, you can't go wrong! I had a nice relaxing time people watching, reading my book and looking over at the cliche' coffeeshop blogger sitting next to me...I love that stuff! So fun!

But anyway! If you are ever in the Rocky River area, or down near E. 4th downtown, you can hit up an Erie Island Coffee Company for your favorite coffee or tea. They have the latte artists at the E. 4th location, you know, they when the pour in the milk to your latte the can make hearts or leaves with the fun! I want to go there just to get a latte with a freaking heart on it! I am so lame.

They make their teabags for each cup of tea at Erie Island

Just wanted to share my nice day that I had for myself and I hope you get to check them out and relax with a good book and nice cup of coffee or tea. Its so fun!



I concocted a new drink at Erie Island today...and fun enough the sign outside said "Please come in and we'll help you make your own signature drink" They knew I was coming. I made a Cinnamon Mocha. They just add cinnamon syrup to your mocha but it made it nice and warm and earthy, very fall-like! They should totally put it on their menu!

Cinnamon Mocha and the Hubsie's Peanut Butter Mocha
Enjoying the lovely cool weather on their outside patio
September 6, 2010

August 17, 2010

Artichoke Hazelnut Pesto Spread

We were attended a going-away/everyone's -been-so-busy-we-should-get-together party and we were to bring something to snack on. I went looking through my many recipes I've found from many food blogs and saw a recipe I saved from Cookin' Canuck for this Artichoke Hazelnut Pesto Spread. Sounded good to me! I made double the recipe, so those measurement are in the recipe posted below.

Artichoke Hazelnut Pesto Spread
(original recipe can be found at Cookin' Canuck here.)

1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and then chopped
2 cans (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Lightly toast hazelnuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Let cool to room temperature, then pulse in food processor until finely chopped.

To the food processor add artichokes, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. Pulse until smooth. With food processor running drizzle in the olive oil. Pulse until the olive oil is combined well with the artichoke mixture.

Stir in fresh chopped parsley. Garnish top with fresh parsley and chopped hazelnuts.
Serve with cracker, toast points or raw veggies.

Artichoke Hazelnut Pesto Spread with
French Baguette and Rosemary Foccacia from Blackbird Baking Co.

This spread is nice and garlicky and had a slight crunchy texture from the hazelnuts. I think it has wonderful flavor and is sure to be a crown pleaser. It was quick and easy to put together, you are really only dirtying your food processor bowl and a small pan to toast the nuts. It tastes great on crackers or bread...but I prefer the bread, especially since its from Blackbird Baking Co.

Dig in to this great simple, tasty spread!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!!