Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas 2013

Hello friends! I can't believe it's New Years Eve already. The year flew by. It was our first year in our new home, and it couldn't have been better. I think I love my house a little more everyday. I'm definitely looking forward to what 2014 is going to bring.

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas. I'm a little late with my Christmas post, but tis' the season to procrastinate. It was my birthday yesterday, so I've been understandably busy. We celebrated our Christmas on Friday, as the hubby had to work on Christmas Day. We had Christmas dinner at our house with the hubby's mother, his sister and her husband, and our nieces and nephews. It turned out to be a lovely day, the kids made out like bandits!

Our tree.

Gotta have some Oregon Duck's Christmas gear!

The boys are ready for the get-together.

Gizmo and I.

Haloti and I.

Brock's having a wee bit o' trouble with this one :)

Gavin opening presents.

Megan's excited about her doll.

Someone got a remote control car!

Christmas fun.

She's going to be a heartbreaker someday :)

What's better than an X-Box game?


A teenage mutant ninja turtle, loose in the house!
So, a new year = blog freshening time! I'm going to be updating and streamlining the blog over the next couple of days. That's just what I like to do at the beginning of the year :)

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Crunch Popcorn

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

I'm sitting here on a very sunny Christmas Eve. Cold, but sunny. It was snowing this morning, which of course got me really excited. Sadly, the snow has passed and there's really no precipitation in the forecast for the foreseeable future. Oh well. It made my coffee with peppermint mocha creamer feel very festive. What do the hubby and I have on deck for tonight? Not much. I'm making an asian stir-fry for dinner (why not?), and then it'll be time for college football! Oregon State is playing tonight, so I'm guessing we'll be watching the game, munching on this popcorn.

This popcorn has been a huge hit around here. The hubby was very upset that he didn't get more of it. His aunt came around the house looking for more. There was really no consoling people until I told them I would make more. And as popular as this is, you wouldn't believe how easy it is to make. It seriously takes 5 minutes. There's no reason not to try this popcorn. I think this maybe the new go-to holiday popcorn for us- no more popcorn barrels!

I hope everyone is having a very merry day! I'm off to wrap presents for the nieces and nephews now. I may have had all my holiday shopping done weeks ago, but the wrapping- the wrapping suffered from sever procrastination. I'm one of those people who wishes presents would just wrap themselves. Or that I could just put everything in a gift bag :)

Merry Christmas everyone!


1/2 cup popcorn kernels (or 2 bags of plain popcorn)
1 (12 oz) bag of Christmas M&M's
1 1/3 cups broken pretzel pieces
1 package Vanilla Candy Coating
non-pareil sprinkles


1. Make popcorn according to package directions. Add to a large mixing bowl.
2. Add M&M's and pretzel pieces to the bowl.
3. Heat candy coating according to package directions. Add half of coating to mixing bowl. Stir to combine using a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the candy coating, stir to coat. Avoid over-stirring, as you don't want the candy coating to start to harden before you add the sprinkles.
4. Line 2 cookie sheets with wax paper. Divide popcorn between the 2 cookie sheets, make sure popcorn is in a single layer. Coat generously with sprinkles. Allow to harden before eating. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe courtesy of Cooking Classy

Monday, December 23, 2013

Iced Sugar Cookies

 For me, there are only 2 kinds of sugar cookies. The thinner, harder, crunchier sugar cookie and the puffier, softer, and chewier cookie. I, in the strictest sense, love soft and chewy sugar cookies. Which is exactly what this recipe is for- the soft, pliable sugar cookie.

I've used this recipe multiple times, so there were no disasters in the making of these cookies. I always appreciate that. I did have quite the time with the icing, however. The icing situation went as follows- I'd always planned on making homemade icing. How hard could it be? Famous last words. There are tons of homemade icing recipes out there, but they all seemed to have a few common themes. Some were made just using milk and powdered sugar. A few added shortening. Still others involved corn syrup. I went basic this year, going for a strictly milk, sugar, and vanilla recipe. The only complaint I have about my homemade icing is that it didn't get hard enough. Tastes yummy, but what if you need to stack the cookies for travel? I might lean towards a corn syrup recipe in that case, because from what I read, the corn syrup hardens the icing right up.

So the red cookies feature homemade icing, while the green icing is leftover from my mint chocolate truffle debacle. I like the mix of the red and green cookies. My snowflakes on the red cookies weren't my best icing job, but isn't it really the taste that matters? Anyhoo, I got my Christmas cookie packages shipped on Saturday and delivered cookies to the hubby's family the same day as well. The cookies have had excellent reception so far, so I think the Oregonians (and Minnesotans) will enjoy them :)

Only 2 more days till Christmas! I just can't believe it. Happy Holidays everyone!

Ingredients (makes 2 dozen):

Basic sugar cookies
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
food color
sprinkles (optional)


1. Prepare sugar cookies according to directions, eliminating caramel topping. Allow cookies to completely cool before icing.
2. In a small bowl, mix sugar, mix, vanilla, and a couple drops of desired food color until smooth. Add milk a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Ice straight from the bowl, or put icing in a pastry bag to decorate cookies. Add sprinkles, if desired. Allow icing to harden (about 30 minutes) before storing cookies. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dipped S'mores

I've got another easy Christmas snack for you. And there were no disasters in the making of these :)

These are so easy, I almost feel guilty posting a recipe for them. Almost. But hey, even simplicity can be delicious. What's more simple than graham crackers, marshmallow,  chocolate? There's a reason the s'more is a timeless classic. The flavors seem intended to be paired together. S'mores are one of my favorites, I could go on and on.

I finally finished the cookies and snacks I'm shipping to Oregon yesterday afternoon. I was hoping to ship them yesterday, so I'm a little disappointed that it took me longer. I'm shipping them today though, and as the hubby has said, "They will get there when they get there". True that. Heads up family, cookies are on the way as of today :)

On a completely unrelated note, the hubby and I are going to see the new Hunger Games movie today. Yep, I'm a month late on that one. Better late than never I always say!

Have a great weekend everyone!


(36)graham cracker squares
(1) 7-oz jar marshmallow fluff
(1) package candy coating, chocolate
nonpareil white sprinkles


1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Break graham crackers along seem down the middle. 
3. Spread marshmallow fluff on one half of cracker. Sandwich remaining cracker on top of fluff. Place on parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the crackers.
4. Melt candy coating according to package directions. Dip half of s'more into chocolate and place on parchment paper to dry. Dust the chocolate portion with sprinkles. Repeat with the rest of the s'mores. Allow s'mores to completely harden before serving. Store in an airtight container. 

Linked to: Weekend Potluck

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mint Chocolate Truffles

Oh boy, these are the easiest to make. And they are scrum-diddly-umpcious. What, you don't think that's a word? Too bad. It's my blog, and I can make up words if I want to :)

So, yes, while these are easy to make, I do have (of course) a story involving trial and error with these beauties. There are only 5 ingredients in these truffles, you would think it would be a fool-proof recipe. Enter Jessica. I can make even the simplest recipe (although this really goes for everything in life) crazy difficult. I did learn something new however, and I successfully problem solved in the process.

Here's what happened. These truffles are dipped in melted candy coating, which hardens soon after dipping. The local grocery store sells candy coating in white (vanilla) or brown (chocolate). You have to color the white coating if you want a different color. What I didn't know is that you can't color the coating with regular food coloring. I was nearing the end of my day, I only had to dip and decorate these. I melted the white coating, added my food color, and suddenly I was in possession of a giant bowl of frosting instead of green melted coating. I put the bowl back over heat, and tried in vain to melt it again. No such luck. Upon Googling my problem, I learned you never ever add water based food color to candy coating. You get frosting. And there's no turning back. Your only option is to start over. This was news to me. I was forced to jet back to the grocery store to look for oil-based food color. Laughable, I tell you. That's a specialty item you aren't finding at a small town Kroger on the Ohio-Kentucky border. After half an hour of wandering the grocery store, desperately trying to come up with an alternative solution, I found myself standing back in front of the food color. As I was standing there, dumb-founded, I noticed these little packets for making frosting.

These little packets add color and flavor to plain frosting. The wheels in my head started turning. I looked at the ingredients. No water. Hmmm, I thought. Next thought: What color is the green? Holy crap on a cracker, green is chocolate mint! It was like fate. I picked up some vanilla candy coating and a green packet. Next, I grabbed some chocolate coating and green icing (my backup plan). 

Well guess freakin' what? It worked. It worked beautifully. Adding the frosting packet to the candy made the vanilla candy coating taste like mint nonpareils. Yes, you know what mint nonpareils are. I think everyone does.

In conclusion, these rock! These truffles are moist, decadent, and rich. One truffle was plenty for me. I think these will be a Christmas tradition in our house for years to come. You can't beat the simplicity and deliciousness.


(1 package) mint Oreos
4 ounces cream cheese
(1 package) vanilla candy coating
(1 packet) Duncan Hines Frosting Creations in Mint Chocolate
White decorating icing


1. In a food processor, pulse Oreo's until the texture resembles a coarse crumb.
2. Add cream cheese, pulse until mixture resembles a moist ball of cookie dough.
3. Using a 1-tbsp cookie scoop, scoop balls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Melt candy coating according to package directions. Add flavor packet, whisk until combined. Using a skewer, dip balls into candy coating. Place dipped balls on parchment paper and allow to harden.
5. Drizzle white decorating icing on truffles and allow to dry. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe adapted from 52 Ways to Cook.
Linked to: Weekend Potluck

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Soft and Chewy Snickerdoodles

Holiday baking has begun!

My apologies for the scarcity of blog entries this month, I can't believe how busy I've been! It's been a particularly hectic holiday season over here in Northeastern Kentucky. Fun, but busy. Now that baking has commenced, I've got several Christmas treats to share with you. First and foremost are the hubby's favorite cookie, the snickerdoodle.

Snickerdoodles are normally a breeze. Normally. I had quite the first day of Christmas baking to kick off the holiday season yesterday, however. Anyone receiving my snickerdoodles this year just know you are being presented with a labor of love. I was in the middle of making a double batch of snickerdoodles, which is 9 dozen cookies, mind you. I was just about finished creaming my 4 sticks of butter with 4 cups of sugar when my hand mixer up and died. It did the metaphorical swan dive, right then and there. I was flabbergasted. I made the ill-informed decision to soldier ahead by hand. I still had to mix in the eggs, the milk, the vanilla, and then the flour mixture. Whew! It now makes sense to me why people started using pre-packaged cookie dough. At least it makes sense to my arm, which is dead this morning from dragging a wooden spoon through sticky cookie dough.

I was planning on making sugar cookies yesterday as well, but after the mixer died, I had some choice words about that. I decided to foray ahead with a cookie that didn't need a mixer. That story, however, will have to wait until tomorrow. It also has some cookie induced panic.

In conclusion, the snickerdoodles turned out fine, even with the turn of events. Yesterday's events have changed the course of today, though. I now have to stop at Walmart and get a hand mixer. I hate Walmart the majority of the year, I despise Walmart at Christmas time. With a grumble in my throat, a heavy heart, and a pitchfork to keep crazed holiday shoppers at bay, I will go. All for you, friends and family :)

Ingredients (makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies):

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly coat 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Mix in eggs. Mix in milk and vanilla.
3. In a separate large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and 2 tsp cinnamon. Whisk to combine. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix until just combined.
4. Combine remaining 3 tbsp sugar with 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Using a 1 tbsp cookie scoop, scoop cookie dough out and roll into balls. Roll into cinnamon sugar and place cookie on cookie sheet. I can fit 12 snickerdoodles on a cookie sheet, they don't spread much. Flatten the cookie slightly with a fork.
5. Bake in preheated oven 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack, and cool completely before storage.

Recipe courtesy of Southern Living

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cinnamon Swirl Muffins with Cream Cheese Glaze

Ah, muffins. It's be awhile since we last danced. Months, in fact. Not only because we spent a month in Oregon, but also because I just can't remember the last time I made muffins. The hubby has been chowing down on breakfast burritos for awhile now, so I decided to give him a breakfast break. He's nutty about cinnamon, so I knew this recipe was right up his alley.

Now, about these muffins. So good! They taste like a cinnamon roll, but without the hassle and elbow grease of dealing with yeast. In fact, they are super easy. I threw them together in about 20 minutes. The muffins are moist, and I love the ribbon of cinnamon-sugar goo running throughout the muffin. Another thing I love about this recipe? It makes 8 muffins. That's fantastic news for a 2-person household. The glaze tastes very much like cream cheese, so if you are a person who likes a more subtle cream cheese flavor (like me) you might want to add more sugar and milk to the glaze to diffuse the flavor a bit. You'll end up with more glaze than you need, but a more toned down flavor.

A funny side story for the day- the hubby and I went to the gym today. After I was satisfied with the amount of cardio I'd done, I joined the hubby on the basketball court to shoot the ball around. I don't think I've even picked up a basketball since high school. I couldn't believe how heavy it was to shoot, and even to pick up. Basketball, much like riding a bike, was something I obviously took for granted as a kid because I never once thought about the weight of a basketball. Things like that are funny. Like hoola hooping. Have you ever tried to hoola hoop as an adult? Awk-ward.

Anyhoo, my arms are spent and my tummy is happily full of cinnamon swirl muffin. Happy Friday indeed :)


1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar (divided)
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter + 1 tbsp, melted (divided)
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
2. To make muffins- In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine. In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup melted butter, milk, egg, and vanilla. In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp sugar, cinnamon, and 1 tbsp melted butter, forming a paste. Add wet ingredients (milk/egg mixture) to the dry ingredients (flour/sugar). Mix gently and only until ingredients are just combined. Add cinnamon mixture to the bowl, but do not completely mix in. You want a swirl of cinnamon goo running through the muffins. Spoon mixture into muffin tin. Bake in preheated oven 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool muffins completely before glazing.
3. To prepare glaze: Combine cream cheese through vanilla in a small bowl. Add more milk (if needed) until you reach a desired consistency for dipping. Dip the muffin tops into the glaze before placing on a cooling rack to set completely. Let glaze completely set before storing muffins.

*Recipe adapted from Recipe Girl*

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Home Decor: Holiday Decorating

Happy Wednesday!

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm 30 years old, and I'm just starting to accumulate holiday decorations. This is my first home, and we've been in it for 1 year as of yesterday (side note- I can't believe it's been a year already!). While the hubby and I have had our Christmas tree for a couple of years now, I've never had any other holiday decor. I never really cared. Call it getting older, or whatever you want, but the list of things that interest me has changed wildly from when I was younger. I am now ravenous about decor. So weird. Anyhoo, building a home full of decor takes time and mucho dinero. A little at a time has always been my motto. Here's what I added to my collection this year:

I already have a house full of hurricanes, because I'm a candle nut. I'm finding that switching the material in my hurricanes is one of the cheapest and easiest decor changes I can make. I removed the sand from my dining room table hurricanes, and replaced it with cranberries. Very festive!

I'm also crazy about flowers, I love a poinsettia for the holidays. I also couldn't resist this little snowman snow globe.

I usually keep fruit in these glass jars I keep on the island. Again, it's super easy to switch out the material. I filled one with ornaments, one with decorative pretzel sticks, and one with Christmas lights (the glass jar in the back, it's hard to see). 

Glass full o' Christmas lights. 

Our tree! We've had it for 4 years, but I still love it. The hubby has to fight me every year to take it down. 2 weeks into January :)

I love this rustic, country holiday sign. I placed this on the entryway table. 
Another update-

I did the unthinkable. I joined a gym. Dun..dun...DUN. I hate gyms, but I've determined I hate running when it's under 40º. After a 5 day rest from running and a complete case of cabin fever, I knew something had to be done. I never realized how much I took my elliptical for granted before it kicked the bucket! Yesterday was the first day I went, and it actually wasn't too bad. I don't think the gym membership will last once the weather is nice again, but it will do for the winter. I gotta move, or I go nutty cuckoo.

I hope everyone's having a good week, I can't believe how fast time flies during the holidays. Pretty soon I'm going to have to start baking!

No complaints there :)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Tidings

This is going to be more of a catch-up post than anything else.

I'm having a hard time getting back in the groove post-vacay. Traveling right up till the Thanksgiving holiday made our return home a bit challenging. As soon as we got back in to town, before we had had a chance to decompress, it was Thanksgiving. So on top of taking care of everything we needed to (due to us being gone for a month) we also had family obligations. Things have calmed down this week, it's starting to feel more like the holiday season.

I just love the holidays. While I don't appreciate the Christmas retail season, I do appreciate the Christmas season. The spirit of Christmas, if you will. I love having my tree up, I couldn't wait to get a poinsettia, and I'm most excited to pick up a few Christmas decorations at Hobby Lobby tomorrow. The hubby and I are also having our third Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, with his sister's family. I happen to love Thanksgiving food, so I'm perfectly fine with third round of Thanksgiving goodies.

The thing that really feels like the holiday season around here? The weather! It has been unseasonably cold and rainy here. Well, I say unseasonably, but really this is only my 4th winter in Kentucky. It could also be that I'm noticing the weather more this year because I started running. I can tell I'm going to have get creative with my workouts for this month, and maybe January as well. I completed my first indoor workout in 3 months today, thanks to Winter Storm Cleon. Strength training is important, and I have been neglecting that. It was a tough workout with some reluctant muscles. I can see how obsessed with running I've been! If I get desperate enough (i.e. the weather gets bad enough), I may even do the gym thing for a couple of months. That's a last resort, I hate gyms. With a passion.

Lastly, I was going to make muffins today. After an hour and a half of lazy yoga, a shower, lunch, a mani and a pedi- I'm not really feeling like baking. Curling up with my current read, Apart From The Crowd, sounds more in order. Or maybe Friends :)

Who am I kidding? Friends is already on.

Muffins may or may not follow this weekend. The hubby and I are running in a Jingle Bell 5k on Saturday, so baking might not happen then either. We'll see. I hope everyone's having a fantastic week, because it's almost over!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pan-Fried Risotto Cakes

Pan-fried risotto cakes? More like Pan-fried deliciousness!

You may have noticed that my Shrimp Risotto makes a big batch. I had a lot of leftovers.  A lot! I got 2 dinners for 2 people and 2 lunches for 1 person out of one freakin' batch of risotto. Now that's economical! I feel like risotto is always touted as sophisticated, elegant, and expensive. It may be sophisticated and elegant, but expensive? No, it is not.

Cold risotto straight from the fridge is perfect for this recipe. It naturally clumps together, making it super easy to form into "cakes". Dip the cakes in an egg wash, dredge through some panko, and fry them a few minutes on the stove. These were hot, crunchy, and oh-so ooey-gooey with cheesy risotto. My latest idea is to roll the risotto into risotto balls, fry them, and dip them in warm marinara. There's always next time for that :)

I hope everyone's having a great Christmas-y week!


Canola oil
3 cups Shrimp Risotto (or any leftover risotto)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup panko


1. Pour enough oil into a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium heat.
2. Form 1/2 cup of risotto into a patty. Dip into egg wash, then dredge into panko. Completely coat risotto in panko, shaking off any excess. Repeat with remaining risotto.
3. Place risotto patty into hot oil. Cook 3 minutes or until golden brown, then turn over. Cook 3 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to let risotto cake cool 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Shrimp Risotto

Until very recently I'd never made risotto. I'd never even tasted risotto. And, to be perfectly honest, I'd never ever heard of risotto until I watched "Hell's Kitchen". Well, throw all those "never's" out the window!

Risotto has been on my To-Do list for a long time. This dish has a bad rap for being labor intensive and easy to screw up. I found that while, yes, you have to babysit the risotto while it's cooking, it's actually a pretty straight forward process. I see the potential for many other variations as well. Once the risotto is cooked, you could add pretty much any flavor combination you want.

Having never made or tasted risotto, I had no idea what I was aiming for. Hours spent watching the Food Channel drilled home the fact that I was looking for soft, chewy rice that was neither crunchy or mushy. That the risotto should be creamy, not sticky. I was pleased with the final results, it turned out to be creamy, cheesy goodness. The best part? We have plenty leftover, which means I'm going to make risotto cakes tonight. Yum!


4 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp butter
1 shallot, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 & 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lb large raw shrimp; peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
3 tbsp fresh chives, chopped


1. In a sauce pan, heat chicken broth over medium heat. When broth begins to boil, turn heat to low and keep warm.
2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallot to pan, saute for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, saute for 1 minute.
3. Add rice, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Stir to combine. Once butter has been completely absorbed by the rice, add wine to the pan. Continue to stir until wine has been completely absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth to the pan, stirring constantly until chicken broth has been completely absorbed. Repeat with the rest of the broth, until the rice is soft and chewy, but not mushy. This will take 30-35 minutes.
4. Add shrimp, cheese, and chives to the pan. Stir until shrimp is cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.