I’ve put together a series of random photos from the holidays to share.
Happy New Year!
I’ve put together a series of random photos from the holidays to share.
Happy New Year!
This year is coming to an end. It’s been such a difficult year, emotionally and physically. Stupid spine for not being able to handle the impact of running! I wanted to take a minute to touch on some things I’ve been thankful for throughout the year. I realized how amazingly strong my family is. I never sat down to think about how rare it is to have a family that is so incredibly supportive and loving. Despite all the obstacles my family has had to overcome this year, we managed to get through them together. I managed to keep my traditions and make some new leaps. All the “firsts” without my beloved Uncle, my Grandma’s surgery and all the other things in between; I wouldn’t have been able to bear them without the strength I received from my family. From my family and from Kyle. I don’t know what I would do without their presence in my life. I love them all so much.
Now that I’ve gotten all sappy and teary-eyed, I would like to share some of my holiday!
I believe I mentioned a hint of recipes in a prior post and I will not disappoint! I made gingerbread cookies with a recipe from Simply Recipes. I followed her recipe almost exactly, but cut down on the nutmeg and added in some cayenne. I’m not a huge gingerbread fan myself, but everyone loved them!
I had high ambitions to decorate all the gingerbread I ended up making but WOW I didn’t realize how hard it is to ice cookies with a piping bag. After the six ninjabread men, I had to move on. I had other things to make! I did dip the christmas trees in white chocolate to make them a bit more festive at least!
I made some caramels. Cayenne pepper caramels. They were WAY too delicious. See, I have this problem when I make caramel: I constantly burn my tongue. I just can’t keep the spoon filled with luscious, molten, sugary goodness away from my mouth. Oh well. Its totally worth it! I followed the recipe for salted butter caramels that David Lebovitz has posted on his awesome website. He makes me want to visit France, which is never somewhere I had on my wish list of places to go. It is now! The only change I made to his recipe was to add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and to sprinkle some on top of the cooling caramel.
My top two favorite cookies I added to the cookie trays: white chocolate oatmeal cookies with rosemary and this fantastic recipe for kolachkys I discovered after months of searching over at Lemons and Lavender.
This recipe is amazing. I am so happy I happened upon her website! I used jarred apricot jam to save myself a little bit of effort. My dad and brother were so excited! My brother was also super excited about the homemade pumpkin butter I made for him with Angela’s awesome recipe over at Oh She Glows. I substituted orange juice for apple juice and adjusted the spices to taste. The recipe is fantastic and totally fool proof! Just be sure you have a lid or you may end up with pumpkin butter on the walls.
The white chocolate oatmeal cookies with rosemary, while it may sound strange, is a beautiful combination. I wasn’t really excited about the texture of the oatmeal cookie recipe I used, but I urge you to try adding it to your favorite oatmeal cookie recipe (after taking out the raisins.. I don’t think THAT would be such a great combo) and see what you think!
Oh. Those yummy looking pretzels in that jar? Yeah that’s addicting as all getout. Its a recipe my supervisor copied out of a Midwest Living magazine for me. Cinnamon sugar pretzels. Oh yeah. Don’t start eating them. You won’t stop. All you have to do is toss a 16 ounce bag of twist (or snap) pretzels with 2/3 cup canola oil, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Bake them in a large roasting pan in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring 2-3 times.
The poor chocolate red wine cookies didn’t get made for the cookie trays because (unfortunately) I came down with some kind of flu/cold bug on Christmas Eve. I simply had no time to fit them in. But don’t worry, Bill and April got their special cookies last night at the bar where my family went to listen to our friend DJ. More on that at another time, though.
I believe I got off on a bit of a tangent, eh?
Well on Christmas Day I felt a bit better. In honor of my Uncle Jeff’s favorite snack (blueberries) I made a fantastic old fashioned blueberry cake I found over at 101 Cookbooks. I had to sub a bunch of ingredients I didn’t have, but the cake turned out wonderfully. It went onto the brunch table at my mom’s with some delicious scrambled eggs, sausage and hash browns. We exchanged a few gifts and made our way to my Aunt’s mother’s house. Dinner was delicious and the love of the family warmed the entire house.
I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the holiday.
I hope your year has been just as memorable as mine has. Enjoy the rest of it and I will see you all next year!
I’ve been on a tiny hiatus from blogging. It isn’t that I haven’t been baking up delicious treats or experimenting in the kitchen. I have definitely been doing that. I just need a bit of time to reflect this time of year. I’ll be celebrating the holidays with my dad’s family tomorrow night and my mom, dad and grandma as well as my aunt and her family the following day.
I promise to post some of my delicious recipe links as well as one of my own I made up just as soon as I get this year under my belt.
Thanks for reading and I hope your holidays are spent with those closest to you. Count your blessings every day and make sure to tell those you love that you love them.
Though I know Christmas is still a week away, I was somehow lucky enough to receive some early presents!
How do these things happen?? Well..
Cold feet. Not in that symbolic way, but in the literal way.
Kyle insisted on buying me these boots I’ve had my eye on for.. oh.. 2 years.
Emu boots!! SO EXCITED! They’re so warm and comfy! I love them!!
My other present you ask?
Only something I’ve been needing for the past 3 years. Something that I finally had to just bite the bullet and buy for my safety and comfort..
My Mazda 3! And a 2011 at that! In the color I’ve been obsessed with since it came out for 2010 – gunmetal blue mica!
I hope all of you get the Christmas presents on the top of your list this year!
Merry Christmas to all!
Man it’s been a crazy week/weekend. I spent the holiday in Plainfield with my Aunt Dawn, cousins and her family.
There was turkey to be stuffed and baked
sunsets to be watched
battleships to be sunk (my very first time playing the infamous Battleship, mind you)
turkey to be carved
tables to be set and filled with delicious food (see the cheesy mashed potatoes in the front?? mmmmm)
homemade wine to be drunk
Time for dessert!! Pies, donuts, ice cream and cookies! Yum!!
My Aunt Dawn’s sister is the US ambassador’s assistant over in London, so we skyped her from the living room so we could still share our holiday.
It was a great night filled with yummy food, remembrance of those who couldn’t be with us and lots of fun, loving family time. I do love Thanksgiving!
So after the feasting of Thanksgiving I decided to attempt to make walnut butter again. I love, love, LOVE walnuts. Top two nuts – walnuts and brazil nuts. Well and roasted chestnuts (I just discovered this a few nights ago. Yum yum!)
The last time I tried to make walnut butter it was too bitter, not creamy and just not that great. Oh I still ate it, but I didn’t know how to improve it. My dad kept saying that my aunt used to add something to make it less bitter but he couldn’t remember what. So I turned to Ashley of The Edible Perspective. She’s the queen of homemade nut butters and had some terrific ideas on how to cut the bitterness, including adding some cashews to the walnuts. I’m still working on getting the flavorings right, so when I do that I’ll post a recipe. If you’re in serious need of some homemade peanut or almond butters, hop on over to her website and browse around. Such yumminess!
I’ve been bread baking. Thanks to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Awesome book, truly awesome.
I’ve only used their master recipe so far, but altering the spices, I’ve made oregano garlic bread and vanilla bean cinnamon bread! So easy, so delicious. I’m SO proud of my newfound baking skills.
I’m also really hoping that the library “forgets” I have their copy.. haha!
I happened to whip up an awesomely simple soup the other night as well. Mmm.. soup.. mmm… egg drop soup! So simple, so delicious!
Egg Drop Soup
3 cups water
1 beef bouillon cube
3/4 cup pasta of your choice
1 cup arugula, torn
1 egg, beaten
Boil water and dissolve the bouillon cube. Pour in alphabet noodles (or pasta of your choice), toss in arugula and boil until pasta is al dente. Turn off the heat and slowly drizzle in the beaten egg while stirring the soup gently with a spoon. You’ll see the egg cook itself in the hot soup and get all cool and thready looking. Then you get to devour it! Yum, yum!
Also.. NEW BANGS! Love em! I’m trying to grow out my hair. I’ve had it short for years and just need a change. To alter the monotony of the growing out process, I decided to try out some super-short bangs! I’m so glad I took the plunge!
I do have some awesome recipes to post. I promise.
It has been so busy here. My weekend flew by in a whirl. Unfortunately we had to put my cat to sleep on Saturday morning. She had kidney failure and wasn’t responding to treatments. It was a rough morning, one to match the pouring rain and blustering winds. After the fact I still had the Halloween party at my bro and sister-in-law’s house. The following day was a birthday party for my friend’s little girl (she’s 3 already, wow!) and all of a sudden it was Monday again and I still hadn’t gotten to the heap of laundry in the corner.
I’ll post photos and all sorts of yumminess just as soon as I get my own computer to a wifi hot spot!
Cupcakes, costumes, muffins and perogies are coming your way.
I haven’t been doing much baking or cooking lately. Nothing really fantastic anyway. Lots of oatmeal or a simple pasta or just chunks of pumpkin as I throw it in the food processor to puree. =)
But it hasn’t been all mundane day to day life! This weekend we went to Michigan! Can you believe I live 2 hours from the border and have NEVER been there?! Man, I sure changed that this weekend! We went to St Joseph and Saugatuck. Out of the two, St Joseph was our favorite. The people were MUCH friendlier than in Saugatuck (save for the awesome Mother Moon shop, the art galleries we stopped in and the totally awesome British pub we ate in) and it was far less crowded. Well, without further ado – here’s our trip!
We asked two separate store owners where we should grab a bite to eat. The answer was the same: Pump House Grille
And wouldn’t you know: we saw both people there eating their dinner, too.
The meal was DELICIOUS. We ordered the Bleu Burger with their seafood soup. Awesome soup. Awesomer homemade rolls..
Best beef burger I’ve ever had. Ever.
(apparently the best Kyle’s ever had, too)
and the AWESOMEST BILL!
After dinner we watched the sun set over Lake Michigan from atop the hill in town.
Then we got some ice cream at Kilwin’s.
The next morning on the way back into St Joseph to pick up my uber-cheap buckwheat flour ($1.50 for 2 1/2 POUNDS!) from Sweet Seasons Orchards, we came across an overlook for the lake with an awesome “grape” installment!
From St Joseph, we traveled onward and Northward to Saugatuck. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t all that impressed with the town itself. After discussing it with my mom, she agreed with me, saying they can be a bit snooty there. Tons of awesome shops line the streets but it was PACKED. They were having a chili cook-off so there was nowhere to park and tons of tourists all over. Not as much fun as our previous day. We managed to have a good time anyway, ducking in and out of co-op art galleries and visiting the awesome Mother Moon. We even found a little British pub called Chequers. I’ll admit I was a bit hesitant to go in at first but I am SO glad we did! I ended up getting the five mushroom soup and the welsh rarebit as a meal and Kyle ordered bangers and mash!
Everything was fantastic and I even finished up the meal with a “black cherry”. Guinness poured over cherry wheat ale. Yum, yum, YUM!
After we rolled ourselves out of there, we headed into Douglas to wander in and out of the art galleries.
Kyle found his long lost twin.
I got a chuckle out of the signage!
We finished up the day at the beach taking artsy-type photos!
I hope you enjoyed seeing our trip just as much as we enjoyed taking it!
Kyle’s birthday was Tuesday!
It’s why I’ve been so absent! We’ve been busy beavers! Sunday I took him out to dinner to celebrate a bit early. Destination: Sanfratello’s. Pizza choice: Pan pizza with italian sausage, spinach, fresh garlic and black olives.
Everybody “mmmmmmmmmm…” with me!
It was Kyle’s first taste of traditional Chicago style deep dish pizza.
What did he think?
Since he had to work on his actual birthday until 10 PM, I used the few hours I had after work to bake him a birthday cake! I had planned on making a Dr Pepper cake but, after some research, decided it was going to be tooooooo sweet! I opted to whip up a Root Beer Float Cake I found over at Joy the Baker. And I got to use my castle bundt pan!
Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man. This cake is phenomenal. So rich and chocolatey (I mean, one CUP of dark cocoa powder, that’s right up my alley. And Kyle’s!) The only changes I made were to cut the granulated sugar by 1/4 cup and use 1/4 cup granulated sugar plus one teaspoon of molasses in place of the brown sugar. I also added 2 tablespoons of brown rice flour and one tablespoon of dark rye flour to make up for the lack of sugar mass. Oh yeah, and I could only get my hands on salted butter, so I emitted the salt from the recipe.
If you’ve never been to Joy’s site, I suggest you scoot on over and check it out. She’s got some amazing recipes and she’s a hoot to read. One of my favorite blogs!
Oh. And please do yourself a favor. Make this cake. You will NOT regret it.
Kyle got a job! Pharmacy tech at Walgreens! Woo hoo! On a whim, we decided to haul our butts an hour and a half to the north side of Chicago after I got off work to celebrate “in style” at a place that’s been on my radar for a looooong time. I don’t know if you’ve ever had Peruvian food before, but let me tell you: Guy Fieri wasn’t kidding when he said “I don’t care if you live within 200 miles of this place, you should walk here.”
The food was phenomenal. Right off the bat, they serve delicious fresh bread with an insanely flavorful, spicy avocado sauce. Mmm mmm mmmmmm. See, Kyle and I were celebrating (both job and foodstuffs) so we split the peruvian tamales and an empanadas de pollo as well.
The tamale was out of this world good. It was by far the best I’ve ever had. I will be craving another one of those bad boys soon, I tell ya! Hell, I would go here every week if I didn’t have to drive so far to get my dinner! For the main event, I ordered the arroz con mariscos and Kyle went with the lomo saltado, which was featured on the show (as well as the tamale). I was so excited that I couldn’t even wait long enough to take a picture of Kyle’s food. Hehe!
Cesar, the owner, was incredibly friendly, offering me some of his extra spicy sauce he was about to eat with his own meal (I forgot the name of the peppers he said he used, but he grows his own !!), assisting me in opening the crab legs in my paella (I’m REALLY horrible at it haha) and chatting it up with us while we dined. Cesar sent out a little Peruvian chocolate filled with caramel (chocotejas) for us to try, too.
He even agreed to take a photo with me after he and the waitress ran out to give me my hoodie I left sitting at the table. Oops! Leave it to me to forget that but remember my leftovers!
After bidding us a safe drive home and making sure we got out of the parking lot alright (how many restaurants in Chicago will do THAT for you??) we were on our way! It poured rain all the way home and took us about 2 hours to get back but it was totally worth it! We will definitely be going back. And soon! I can taste that tamale now…