Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is basically a switch up from my original Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe I posted earlier on my blog. Since it's Halloween I just happen to have some of those little individually wrapped caramel squares in the house. And I thought to myself "Man this would be good in cookies!" so that is exactly what I did!

I was tempted to look for a recipe that specifically called for them, but then I thought to myself again "Why try another cookie recipe when I already have the best one at my finger tips?"

Exact same recipe, just add pieces of the caramel squares for a totally different cookie experience.

Oh and these cookies were so good that I forgot to take a photo, so I had to take one the next day at work...hence the classy styrofoam plate. ;)

  • 2 ¼ cups of flour
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • ½ cup of butter
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 cup of packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (for some reason I think the mini ones taste better)
  • 3/4 cup of chopped up bits of caramel squares

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking sheet and set aside.

2. Cream together the butter, sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. Mix in the eggs and vanilla.

3. Beat in flour, baking soda and salt. Incorporate the chocolate chips and caramel bits.

4. Drop spoonful’s onto baking sheet. And bake for approx. 10 mins. The trick to these cookies is to slightly under bake them. There should just be a small hint of golden around the edges and tops of the cookies. They will firm up when cooled. This will ensure they are moist, soft and chewy.
Store in an airtight container.

Makes roughly 2 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

I must admit I am not a huge fan of quinoa on its own. But I love love love this salad! All of the veggies and flavors combine and something magical happens.
  • 2 cups of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed
  • 1 cup of uncooked quinoa
  • Half of one large red onion, dice
  • 1 large red pepper, dice
  • ½ cup of kalamata olives
  • ½ cup of crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ tsp parsley
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

    1. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar, set aside.

    2. Cook quinoa in the chicken broth, along with the garlic clove. (I use my rice cooker and it works great!) Discard the garlic and scrape the quinoa into a large bowl.

    3. Add the onion, pepper, feta, olives, parsley and salt to the quinoa. Drizzle the olive oil dressing and mix evenly. Refrigerate and serve cold.

      Saturday, October 26, 2013

      Home Made Focaccia Bread

      Nothing compares to home made bread. Warm out of the oven, it is heaven!
      • 2 ½ tsp of active dry yeast
      • ½ cup of warm water (very important it’s between 105 degrees and 115 degrees)
      • 1 ½ cups of milk
      • 6 tbsp of olive oil
      • 5 cups of flour (I used 4 and 1 cup of whole wheat)
      • 2 tsp of salt
      • 2 tsp of rosemary (dried or fresh)
      • 1 tsp of thyme (dried or fresh)
      • Coarse salt, to taste

      1. In a small bowl, pour the yeast over the warm water. After 5 mins or so it should become creamy, mix and stir in milk and 4 tbsp of olive oil. Set aside.

      2. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, rosemary, and thyme. Mix in yeast mixture with a wooden spoon, a soft dough should form.

      3. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it becomes smooth. Place in a clean bowl and cover with plastic, set aside for about an hour, the dough should double in size.
      Tip from my step mother – do not let it sit too long or it will fall. 

      4. Grease a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Shape the dough into a rectangle and transfer to the pan so it covers it completely. Cover with plastic and let it rise one last time, about an hour.

      5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Press you finger tips into the dough so it’s dimpled, about 1 inch apart. Drizzle the remaining olive oil across the top of the dough. Sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake for approx. 25 minutes, bread should be golden and firm to the touch.

      Thursday, October 24, 2013

      Linen Closet Update

      I believe the root of all my re-organizing lately stems from the fact that I want to move. We are starting to outgrow our little condo, and storage space is a hot commodity. Trying to keep everything looking neat and tidy when shelves are at capacity is not an easy task. So until the day comes where we can finally move, I am trying to do little things to keep me sane that can "move with us".

      Since I am a naturally organized person, my linen closet was never a total mess but the original boxes I used were starting to fall apart and I wasn't feeling the color anymore so I decided this would be my next project.

      I searched the web for some inspiration and decided on a mix of baskets and fabric boxes in various sizes (all from IKEA) I also purchased some sub-dividers for each box so that I could keep them tidy inside. Most of the boxes I chose have a space on the front for labeling which comes in super handy if you are using multiple boxes of the same shape/design.

      Some words of wisdom - Try to pre-plan of you want your space to look like before heading to the store. Even though I did this and even drew a little diagram, it was very over-whelming in the storage section at IKEA.

      I will admit, this project wasn't cheap. I had big time buyers remorse after checking out. The little things can add up fast! BUT I find myself opening this closet throughout the day just to admire it. So in my eyes the money was well worth the happiness it brings me.

      Tuesday, October 22, 2013

      Pumpkin Scones

      That’s right! More pumpkin! These scones are sure to kick your pumpkin craving if you aren’t sick of it yet! They are so good!

      I originally planned on leaving them without the icing but I caved, it makes them sweet and gooey like a cinnamon bun.

      • 4 ½ cups of whole wheat flour
      • 5 tsp of baking powder
      • 2 tsp of cinnamon
      • ½ tsp of nutmeg
      • 1 tsp of salt
      • ½ cup of brown sugar, packed
      • ½ cup of cold butter (1 stick)
      • 3 cups of pumpkin puree
      • 1 cup of milk
      • 1 cup of walnuts, chopped
      • 1 cup of raisins

      1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, grease a large baking sheet.

      2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and sugar. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter or your hands, until it forms a course meal.

      3. In a spate bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, and milk. Add into the large bowl with the meal, stir until combined with a wooden spoon.

      4. Mix in walnuts and raisins. Drop large spoonfuls on the baking sheet. Bake for approx. 16 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

      5. Wait until scones are completely cool before icing.

      For the icing

      • 1 cup of icing sugar
      • 1 tsp of vanilla
      • 2 tbsp of milk

      1. In a small bowl, mix together icing sugar, vanilla and 1 tbsp of milk until smooth. You may need to play around with the quantities of sugar and milk to get the consistency you are looking for, I prefer my icing thicker, but if required add part or all of the remaining tbsp of milk.

      2. Using a spoon, drizzle over the scones. Store in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container.

      Sunday, October 20, 2013

      Glitter Pumpkins

      I love Halloween, I actually love all holidays and I always have such big plans to go all out. But they always sneak up on me and I run out of time. This year wasn't an exception but I saw this idea on a day time talk show and I fell in love with the idea so I made time. On the show they used real pumpkins which looked great, but I decided to use fake ones so I could reuse them for years to come.

      For this project you will need - various sized fake or real pumpkins, Mod Podge (I used the glitter kind), a large paint brush, various colors of fine glitter (orange, purple, black) and aerosol hairspray. I got all my supplies from Micheals.

      I put down a garbage bag to avoid glittering the whole kitchen. I would recommend doing one color at a time and washing the brush in between to avoid sparkle cross contamination.
      Holding the stem of the pumpkin, brush a generous coat of Mod Podge across the pumpkin, sprinkle the glitter all over the pumpkin until it's covered. You might have to filter the glitter that didn't stick back into the jar to re-use. Set the pumpkin on a plastic bag to dry, you might have to turn it on it's side to allow the bottom to dry as well. Once, completely dry, spray with hairspray. This will make sure the glitter stays on the pumpkin.

      Happy Halloween! :)

      Saturday, October 19, 2013

      Engagement Photos

      Uggggh I hate getting my picture taken! I am not photogenic person. But unless I sucked it up through a photo session, there would be no record of Andrew and me ever having a relationship!!! That may be an exaggeration but it would be nice to have a few professional photos that we both like that we could put up and give to family.

      It ended up being last minute decision, luckily my dad is an awesome photographer and was able to accommodate us before the leaves turn brown and our city becomes a winter wonder land.

      It actually wasn’t so bad since we just did a quick session that was only about an hour and a half total. If he’s up for it we might even get him to do another mini session with us and the dog. :)

      Here are a few of the ones we liked -

      Mason Jar Fruit Crisp

      Perfect fall dessert in a single serving jar!

      I had some left over fruit that was about to turn and some extra mason jars from my spice reorganization so I decided to make these. It was super easy and I didn’t even bake them at the time! Just put them together and popped them in the freezer until I decided it was a good night for dessert.

      I’m all about make ahead and freezing things. Sometimes the week can unexpectedly get away from you so it’s nice to have some quick things on hand just in case. And they are oh so cute!

      Thank goodness they are mostly fruit…I know that doesn’t make them “good for you” but let’s pretend because I pretty much ate one for dessert every night until they were gone.

      I kind of just winged-it with the quantities, using how much fruit I had on hand, so you might need to tweak it a little depending on how many you plan to make. I ended up with 7 one cup mason jars.

      For the filling –

      • 6 cups of fruit (I used blackberries, strawberries, and gala apples)
      • 2 tbsp of flour
      • 2 tbsp of sugar
      • 1 tsp of vanilla
      • 1 tsp of cinnamon

      For the crumb –

      • 11/2 cup of flour
      • 1 cup of large oats
      • 2 tbsp of brown sugar
      • 1 tsp of cinnamon
      • 1 stick of butter, cold (1/4 cup)

      1. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the filling until all of the fruit is evenly coated. If using apples I recommend peeling them first.

      2. In another bowl, mix together the flour, oats, sugar, and cinnamon. Using a fork or your fingers, cut in the cold butter until it is well incorporated and you have a crumb type mixture.

      3. Spoon the fruit filling evenly into the jars. Top with crumb and slightly press into jars. Secure lids and freeze. OR bake jars without lids at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Top should be brown, and sides should be bubbling. If baking from frozen, follow the same directions, but increase the bake time to 30 minutes.

      Wednesday, October 16, 2013

      Morning Glory Muffins

      There’s a lot going on in these little muffins! The perfect post-Thanksgiving muffin to get you back on track and eating a more balanced diet again. ;)

      • 2 bananas, mashed
      • 2 cups of carrot, grated
      • 2 apples, grated (skin on)
      • 3 eggs
      • ½ cup of coconut oil (melted)
      • ¾ cup of brown sugar
      • 1 ¼ cup of whole wheat flour
      • ½ cup of oats
      • ¼ cup of ground flax
      • ¼ cup of bran
      • 2 tsp of baking soda
      • ¼ tsp of salt
      • 2 tsp of cinnamon
      • ½ raisins
      • ½ cup of walnuts, chopped
      • ½ of coconut flakes
      • ½ cup of chia seeds

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease a 2 muffins tins for 15 muffins.

      2. In a large bowl or kitchen aid, mix together banana, carrot, apple, eggs, coconut oil and sugar.

      3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, oats, flax, bran, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Incorporate this dry mix to the wet mix in the large bowl.

      4. Add the remaining ingredients and stir just to combine. Spoon batter into muffin tins and bake for approx. 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes approx. 15 muffins.

      Tuesday, October 15, 2013

      Thai Coconut Curry Explosion Soup

      I couldn’t be happier that the weather is getting cooler so I can make all my favorite soup recipes again! This was actually my first time attempting this recipe but it turned out great! Every now and again I get a bad hankering for some Thai goodness, and this soup definitely hit the spot!

      Andrew wasn’t thrilled when he saw the recipe as he isn’t a fan of coconut, however I assured him it wouldn’t really taste like coconut so he tried it and agreed. However, the spice was a little too intense for his liking but that was fine with me because that meant I got to eat all of the left overs myself! :)

      The original recipe can be found cookbook “Chopstix” but I of course made some changes so here is my version –

      • 1 can of coconut milk
      • 1 liter of chicken broth
      • 1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 1 inch pieces
      • 1 tsp of ginger
      • 2 tbsp of red curry paste
      • 3 tbsp of fish sauce
      • 2 tbsp of lime juice
      • Zest of one lime
      • 1 tbsp of Chinese chili sauce (more or less depending on spice level)
      • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced thinly
      • 1 red pepper, cut into strips
      • 10 mushrooms, thinly sliced
      • Package of rice noodles (I used brown)
      • 1 tbsp of sesame oil

      1. In a large saucepan combine the coconut milk, chicken broth, lemon grass sticks, ginger, curry paste, fish sauce, chili sauce, lime zest and juice. Bring to a simmer.

      2. Cook the chicken in a wok until no longer pink, add to the saucepan along with the mushrooms, and red pepper. Continue to simmer for another 20 minutes.

      3. Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles separately. Once cooked, toss with sesame oil and set aside. (I always cooked these types of noodles separately as they tend to absorb most of the broth when cooked in the soup itself)

      4. Before serving, remove the lemon grass stalks and discard. Place some of the cooked noodles in a soup bowl and pour the broth over top. Alternatively you could add all of the noodles to the soup at this point and serve out of the pot. Makes 6 servings.

      Monday, October 14, 2013

      Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

      I remember when Andrew and I first started dating, one night while we were talking on the phone he was making banana chocolate chip muffins. I’m pretty sure he used a mix but I was impressed none the less. So these muffins bring back fond memories of when Andrew used to be found in the kitchen and not on the couch. ;)

      I always always always have tons of frozen bananas in the freezer. And since this is one of Andrew's fav's I usually make these muffins at least once a month. Sometimes I'll even swap out the chocolate chips for blueberries if I have some on hand. Either way this recipe is fantastic, moist muffins that aren't too banana-y.

      • 1 3/4 cup of flour
      • 3/4 cup of sugar
      • 1 tsp of baking powder
      • 1 tsp of baking soda
      • 1/2 tsp of salt
      • 1 egg
      • 1/2 cup of oil (olive, canola, coconut)
      • 1/2 cup of plain yogurt or sour cream
      • 2 - 3 ripe bananas, mashed
      • 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips or blueberries

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease a muffin tin.

      2. In a large bowl or kitchen aid, mix together the banana, oil, sugar, yogurt/sour cream, and egg.

      3. Add in the remaining ingredients except the chocolate chips/blueberries. Mix well.

      4. Add in the chocolate chips or blueberries and spoon batter into muffin tin. Bake for approx 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.

      Saturday, October 12, 2013

      Chicken Avocado Wraps

      I have an unhealthy love for these wraps. They are sooo amazing and yet so easy! They make a great weeknight meal or weekend lunch. The only downside about them is they have to be made fresh and don’t keep. But all the ingredients are easy to keep on hand so you can make one whenever you darn well please! :)
      Make sure you don’t skip the grill part. I know, warm lettuce seems icky but with these wraps it just works! This is definitely going to my new staple meal while Andrew is working out of town.

      • 4 Whole Wheat Tortilla Wraps
      • 2 Ripe Avocados, Sliced
      • 1 Tomato, Sliced
      • 2 cups of Shredded Iceburg Lettuce
      • 2 cups of Cooked Chicken Breast Strips (You can cook up your own or use the pregrilled ones that can be found in the deli department)
      • 2 tbsp of Mayo
      • Salt & Pepper

      1. Spread mayo evenly in the center of all 4 tortillas. Divide chicken, avocado, tomato and lettuce among the tortillas. Sprinkle with a little S&P, wrap up tightly and place on Panini grill for about 2 minutes or until tortilla is slightly crispy. Cut each wrap into 2 and devour!

      Thursday, October 10, 2013

      Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

      This week has been hard for me. My desire to consume copious amounts of sugar has been off the charts. Unfortunately for me baking cookies is much easier than driving to the store to grab a pint of Chunky Monkey so that’s exactly what I did. I ate one cookie after I made them and it totally hit the spot. But now I’m stuck with a whole batch in the freezer. I’ve done my best to pawn them off into Andrew’s lunch which I’m sure he doesn’t mind. But to be truthful I have eaten my fair share. At least these cookies are totally worth it. Chewy, and just the right amount of peanut butter to chocolate ratio.

      • 1/2 cup of butter, softened
      • 1 cup of peanut butter
      • 3/4 cup of white sugar
      • 1/2 cup of brown sugar, packed
      • 1 egg
      • 1 tbsp of milk
      • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
      • 1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
      • 3/4 tsp of baking soda
      • 1/2 tsp of baking powder
      • 1/4 tsp salt
      • 1 cup of mini semisweet chocolate chips

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

      2. In a large bowl or kitchen aid mix butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add the white and brown sugar, egg, milk, and vanilla. Mix well.

      3. Add in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Place the dough in the fridge for 10 minutes before using.

      4. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Baking for approx. 12 mins. The cookies should look undercooked when you remove them from the oven, this is the secret to chewy cookies. Makes 3 dozen.

      Tuesday, October 08, 2013

      Oven Roasted Potatoes

      A quickie for a weeknight…
      • small bag of baby potatoes (I used multicolored)
      • 1 tbsp of Olive oil 
      • 1 tsp of lemon juice
      • 1 tsp of sea salt
      • 1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed 
      • Fresh Rosemary, torn into small pieces

      1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the potatoes in half or quarters if they are much larger than the rest.

      2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, until all the potatoes are even coated. You can either bake right away or let sit in the fridge for a few hours.

      3. When ready to bake, spread the potatoes out on a large baking sheet and bake for approx. 30 mins, turning potatoes over half through. Potatoes should be lightly brown and crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.

      Monday, October 07, 2013

      Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

      Or as I would like to call it "PMS Cake". This is chocolate, layered with more chocolate with a sprinkle of chocolate on top. It's my treat day at the office this week and as soon as I saw the recipe for this cake I knew it would be making an appearance.

      I'm using my treat day as a trail run as I am in charge of bringing dessert to my mom's Thanksgiving dinner this weekend. However for round two I made it into 2 - 9''round cakes, with a vanilla cream filling in the middle, and the chocolate ganache with fruit on top. (Recipe is the same for 2 round cakes)

      Considering how decedent this cake looks it's a pretty easy, no fail recipe. And because the recipe calls for sour cream, this cake is very moist.

      For the Cake

      1 cup of butter, plus more for the pan
      1/3 cup of cocoa powder
      1 tsp of salt
      1 cup of water
      2 cups of flour, plus more for the pan
      1 3/4 cups of sugar
      1 1/2 tsp of baking soda
      2 eggs
      1/2 cup of sour cream
      1 tsp of vanilla

      1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour you baking pan(s).

      2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, cocoa, salt and water. Once melted, remove from heat and set aside.

       3. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, and baking soda. Add in half of the chocolate mixture, mix well. Then add the other half. This batter should be thick. Add the eggs one at a time, then finally the sour cream and vanilla.

      4. Pour into prepared pan(s) and bake for 40 minutes (bunt pan) or about 20 minutes (9'' rounds) or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Cool before glazing.

      For the Glaze

      1/4 cup of butter
      1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
      1/4 cup of heavy cream

      1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate, combine with cream until smooth. Pour over cake. Let this glaze cool and harden before slicing.

      Sunday, October 06, 2013

      Recipe Binder Make Over

      When I was younger my mom had tons of recipe books. She would look through a handful of them every time she wanted to meal plan or bake something. Fast Forward 18 years and I have a total of 5 cook books, none of which have ever been opened. If I’m ever feeling inclined to make something I just search for a recipe online. This habit (along with my addiction to Pinterest) has led to a giant 3 ring binder full of random recipes. I originally had it organized by course using tabs, but I decided it would be in my best interest to divide them up into 3 smaller binders. That way my collection could grow and eventually I could use an entire binder per category (IE Appetizers, Beverages, Main Courses, Baking Etc) and then sub-divide it by sub-category (IE Muffins, Cookies, Cakes etc) using tabs within each binder. Which in theory should make it much easier to locate the recipe I am looking for.

      I bought presentation binders so I could insert a spine, cover page and back page.  I ended up downloading templates from Bizuza Printables on Etsy. (My other unhealthy addiction) It's an adorable chevron design, and the color is completely customizable. I chose "Eden" as my color for my binders.

      My reorganize also gave me an opportunity to sort through my recipes and ask myself “Am I REALLY going to make this?” The ones I said no to, got tossed. I had to make some tough decisions but similar to my closet clean ups I knew deep down what the answer was.

      Wednesday, October 02, 2013

      Pumpkin Oatmeal Flax Muffins

      Still sticking to my baking healthy plan....sometimes I surprise myself. :)

      I decided to do another pumpkin recipe since it's Fall. Something about this time of year almost feels magical. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and we've all forgotten just how cold and awful Winter can be. The idea of sitting inside all cozy with a book and latte just seems like a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Not to mention us girls get to wear all of our favorite boots, sweaters and jackets again. And since these muffins are loaded with healthy ingredients, you can get the taste of Fall, guilt free! ;)

      • 1 cup of Pumpkin Puree 
      • 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
      • 1/4 cup of butter, melted
      • 2 eggs
      • 1 cup of whole wheat flour
      • 1/2 cup of oatmeal
      • 1/4 cup of bran
      • 1/4 cup of ground flax
      • 1/4 cup of chia seeds
      • 1/2 cup of raisins (optional)
      • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts (optional)
      • 4 tsp of baking powder
      • 1 tsp of cinnamon
      • 1/4 tsp of ginger
      • 1/4 tsp of nutmeg
      • pinch of cloves
      • 1/2 tsp of salt
      • *1/4 cup of skim milk or water - if required

      1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 12 cup muffin tin

      2. In a large bowl or kitchen aid, mix the pumpkin, brown sugar, butter and eggs.

      3. Add in the remaining ingredients, except the water, and mix just until combined. If you over mix pumpkin it can become tough. If required, add the milk/water to the mix. The mixture should be thick but not dough-like.

      4. Bake for approx 15 minutes or until the tops are slightly brown and a toothpick comes put clean. Makes 12 muffins.

      Tuesday, October 01, 2013

      Living Proof

      Jennifer Aniston is known for her gorgeous hair, so why wouldn’t you try out a product that she co-owns with her stylist? My sister started using it, and you know how sisters are, so naturally I had to try it too! Glad I did, because I love it! Now don’t get me wrong these products won’t make you magically have Jen’s hair. But they will definitely accentuate what you do have. So far I have used the Satin Hair Serum, and then I used my Sephora points for a travel sized Prime Style Extender.

      You’re supposed to use both on clean, damp hair. I however, am rule breaker and only use the Serum on my wet hair. I use the Style Extender once my hair is dry on the front pieces that tend to misbehave the most. The Style Extender does exactly that, keeps your style looking the way you want it, longer. Whether it’s curly or straight, it’s going to sit still. And the Serum makes gives your hair a smooth stain finish. As an added bonus, this stuff smells wonderful!