Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Recipes of 2014

Well peeps, it's almost 2015. Only 2 more days. 2 days that are holidays to me every year. 2 days, you ask? Yes. Today is my birthday (!!!) and tomorrow is, of course, New Year's Eve. I coast right into the new year every year after 2 lively days of celebrating.

Oh my gosh, typing that sentence just brought Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song" to mind. "Instead of 1 days of presents, we get 8 CRAZY nights". LOL. Instead of 1 night of celebrating on New Year's Eve, I get 2 crazy nights :)

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014: By The Numbers

Good morning friends!

I know I said I wouldn't be blogging much this week due to being out of town, but...

Thanks to insomnia, I'm the only one up and I have a feeling it's going to be that way for awhile. I've got a delicious cup of coffee, a gorgeous view over the top of the laptop of Lake of Egypt in Illinois, and I'm wide awake. Therefore, time to blog! I've got a couple of fun, year-end posts to share to wrap up 2014. I actually started this post in January of 2014, to keep track of all the events that took place this year, and right now I'm putting the finishing touches on it. Just for y'all :)

Let's jump right in, shall we?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Candy Cane Oreo Truffles

Merry Christmas!

I'm home alone this Christmas day. The hubby is working, and the family is getting together tomorrow. I'm ok with having a quiet holiday. I slept in this morning, and I've been simply lazy. Just taking a quality me-day. I don't have much on deck for the day, save for some easy Christmas Day yoga and making some Chinese food for dinner. I fully plan on popping in a "Friends" DVD, giving myself a pedicure, and Skype-ing with my West Coast family later on tonight. And, oh yes, I plan on snacking on some leftover Candy Cane Oreo Truffles. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Cake Batter Cookies

Merry Christmas Eve!

I woke up a bit groggy this morning, I'm not sure why. I awoke with kind of a jolt, only to immediately realize I hadn't overslept, missed an appointment, or something like that. A second of panic, followed by an immediate slow-down. As my heartbeat returned to normal, for whatever reason, I was thinking about how I got here. Waking up in this house. In Kentucky. Chihuahuas curled at my side. 

10 years ago, if you'd said this would be my future, I would have laughed. I was 21, a senior in college, single, and had not a second to spare. I took a full load of classes, worked 30 hours a week, and coached a club volleyball team that monopolized my weekends. 

I was waking up in a sorority house. In Oregon. To the sound of girls squabbling over who knows what (If you've ever lived with 60 girls, you know they argue about absolutely everything. No joke. Everything). Dreading having to drag my exhausted butt out of bed and into the rain to trudge to classes. 

5 years ago, the hubby and I were newlyweds. I was 26. Working crazy, long hours for a large regional bank. I was working 60-70 hour weeks. Going to work at 6:30 in the morning and sometimes having to stay till 10 o'clock at night. 

I was waking up in a rental house in Beaverton. In Oregon. To the sound of my roommate's blowdryer and the smell of Chanel perfume. Hating my life, because all I did was work. I was living to work, instead of working to live

I still never would have believed I'd end up in Kentucky. 

3 years ago, the hubby and I were starting to slide into a hopeless situation. We were living in Ashland, KY after packing up our lives to start over. In a tiny, very rundown rental. The 2 jobs that we had moved there for the hubby to get had fallen through, and the hubby was working for his father finishing concrete. For all of you who don't know, finishing concrete is extremely hard and takes a giant toll on the body. It is definitely a young man's job. The work was back-breaking, and very unsatisfying for the hubby. I didn't have a job, the hubby's job didn't pay well, and there weren't a lot of options for good jobs in the area. We'd burned through our savings and were beginning to accumulate debt.

We both felt the panic. And the heaviness of what we thought was a mistake. 

It was around this time that the hubby got his job with the company he works for now. And life turned around.

The hubby loves his job. It pays well, enough that I don't have to work unless I want to. We were able to build our dream home out in the country. And I've been extremely thankful ever since. 

Because now I feel grateful almost every morning I wake up. Because I wake up in my nice, warm bed in my beautiful master bedroom with 2 beautiful dogs right next to me. Because I'm not exhausted. Because I don't hate my life. Because it's not misery to get out of bed. 

Life works in such mysterious ways :)

And... it's Christmas!

I have realized that all the treats I've shared thus far require very little work, and little-to-no baking. Well, this cookie takes care of that. The baking, that is. They are still very little work, though. These cookies actually utilize boxed cake mix with fantastic results. I was surprised by how much these cookies taste like sugar cookies. Really, really soft sugar cookies. Biting into these cookies is like biting into a little pillow. They really are that light and soft. Plus, everyone loves sprinkles, right? If you need a last minute cookie, these would be great. Thanks to the cake mix, it takes no time to mix the dough. They bake quickly, and come out delicious. No chilling. No rolling pins. You don't even need a mixer if you don't want to use one. I mixed these by hand. Easy peasy. 

Seriously. Whip some up today! 

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas Eve! Merry Christmas friends! :)

Ingredients (makes ~25 cookies):

1  (18.25 oz) box vanilla cake mix
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sprinkles


1. Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly coat 2 cookies sheets with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and baking powder. Whisk to mix.
3. In a separate large bowl, combine eggs, oil, and vanilla. Whisk vigorously. Add cake mix mixture to wet ingredients. Stir vigorously until there are no remaining pockets of dried cake mix. 
4. Add sprinkles to dough, use a spatula to fold in. Do not oevermix, or the sprinkles will start to bleed.
5. Using a 1 tbsp cookie scoop, drop rounded balls onto cookie sheet. I placed 16 cookies per sheet. They don't spread a ton. Bake for 8-9 minutes, but do not allow the cookies to get brown. 8 minutes was perfect for my oven. Remove from heat and allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Remove from sheet and place on a cooling rack. Cool completely before storage.

Recipe courtesy of Sally's Baking Addiction.
Looking for other quick cookie recipes? Try these!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Rolo Turtles

This is the simplest recipe ever, but don't think that means this candy won't have a large impact. Because it will. You see, I finished all my baking on Friday. Which means I spent the weekend delivering treats to my in-town family. And I got so many comments on this candy! It was the hubby's favorite out of everything I made this year. The hubby's aunt asked how I made these, and I was happy to let her know. 

You're only going to need three ingredients- Butter Snaps, Pecan Halves, and Rolos. That's it! Oh, and about 3-5 minutes of your time. Seriously! You simply place a Rolo on a Butter Snap, bake in the oven for 3 minutes, and then press a pecan half down onto the Rolo. Voila! A treat everyone is going to love, and no one is going to know you spent 5 minutes on it. 

I had some leftovers of this candy after making everyone's treat bags, so I simply put them in a bowl on the kitchen counter. I must say, quite a few went missing. 

Are you ready for Christmas? We are only a couple days away! The hubby and I have finished all our shopping, and I only have to wrap a few items in the next couple of days. I love the feeling of having everything done. It was just last week I was feeling crushed under the sheer weight of everything I needed to do by Christmas. And now, that weight is gone. Phew. 

After Christmas, the hubby and I are headed to Illinois. The hubby's cousin (who used to live in Cincinnati) has been living there for a couple of months and we haven't yet gone to visit him in the new digs. We're headed out Saturday and will return early on New Year's Eve. Which means- probably not a lot of blogging next week. Boo. I know you're all disappointed. I'm excited though, we'll be celebrating my birthday while we're away. I really have no expectations for my birthday. As long as I get to have Mexican food, I will be a happy kid. And of course, a margarita :)

One more random and off-the-wall comment (this has been a random post, hasn't it?) before I go- I'm getting an ice cream maker for Christmas! My brother is shipping one out, and I'm beyond excited. I've been pinning homemade ice cream recipes for years now, dying to try one. And now, I get that opportunity! You can bet you'll be seeing some ice cream recipes in January. And February. And March. And (let's face it) all summer. You're all in trouble now!

Happy 'Week of Christmas' everyone! Make some of these and slip them in someone special's stocking!

Ingredients (makes ~90):

1 (12 oz) bag of butter snap pretzels
1 (19.75 oz) bag of Rolos, unwrapped
~90 pecan halves


1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place butter snaps in a single layer on cookie sheet. Top each butter snap with 1 Rolo. Bake in preheated oven for 3-5 minutes or until Rolo begins to soften, but not melt. 
3. Remove from heat, and top each Rolo with a pecan half. Press it down into the chocolate. 
4. Allow to cool overnight. Allow pan to cool, cover with plastic wrap and leave until morning. Once candies are set, store in an airtight container. 

Recipe adapted from Hershey's
Looking for other chocolate and/or caramel recipes? Try these!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Salty Peanut Butter Cup Bark

Well, we've made it!

Hold on to your hats folks, you're in for several Christmas treat-related posts. There will be so much chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, funfetti, and nuts you'll be begging for a week of salads come January. Ok, admittedly that's probably a bit of an exaggeration. But if you're anything like me, you'll be done with the sweets come January. 

However, today is not January. Today we begin with a salty yet sweet, crunchy, chocolatey,  peanut buttery treat. Peanut Butter Cup Bark!

You're only going to need three ingredients. Well, technically four, but the fourth ingredient is peanut butter and most people keep that in their pantry. Bark is soooooo easy to make. I wanted a salty, cracker crust on the bottom of the bark. I ended up crushing the Ritz crackers (or the totally cheap store brand variety, thank you very much) and spreading a super-thin layer of cracker crumbs before I laid the chocolate down. Make sure and spread the thinnest layer of cracker crumbs. Only the crumbs touching the chocolate will actually stick to the chocolate, so keep that in mind. Less is more here. I love the hint of saltiness the cracker crumbs bring to the table. 

After spreading the cracker crumbs, melt some chocolate melting candy and spread it evenly over the cracker crumbs. I poured it as evenly as I could to avoid disturbing the cracker crumbs. I found if I used a spoon to spread the chocolate in one direction, the cracker crumbs pretty much stayed put. Even so, you may disturb some of the cracker crumbs and that's ok. It doesn't really affect the outcome of the final product. 

I will tell you that I was pretty pissed when I was making my first batch. When I was spreading the chocolate around and the chocolate kept picking up crumbs, I was mad. Wanting to throw my spreading spoon out the back door kind-of mad. I have learned, through trial and error, to just power ahead when I think I've ruined something. Sometimes I really do ruin things, but sometimes the final product turns out just fine. And that was the case for this candy. I chopped up the Reese's and drizzled the peanut butter over the bark and dejectedly placed the tray in the fridge. I wasn't sure what would happen, if the candy would turn out ok. 

And the candy turned out just fine. 

I pulled it from the fridge and began to break it apart. The bark behaved exactly like it was supposed to, and I breathed a dramatic sigh of relief. And then immediately popped a second batch into the fridge. 

This candy was one of my favorites that I made this year. It's true, I love peanut butter cups so it's not much of a stretch that I love these. I just have to keep telling myself to keep my mitts out of that peanut buttery tupperware. It's hard though...

I've got all my treats done, save for my Snickerdoodles. In hindsight, I probably should have given myself three days to make all the cookies, instead of two. That's a lot of work for two days. Anyhoo, Snickerdoodles will be made today. Which hopefully means I'm shipping this afternoon. Shipping may happen tomorrow, though. Either way, I'm facing a weekend with no deliveries on Sunday so I'm not stressing too much about getting these out today. 

Have a great holiday weekend everyone!

Ingredients (makes 1 (11x13) pan of bark):

1 roll of Ritz crackers (About 35 crackers)
1 (16 oz) package of chocolate melting candy
1 (12 oz) package of Reese's Miniatures, chopped
1/3 cup peanut butter


1. Line a 11x13 pan with parchment paper. Set aside. 
2. Place Ritz crackers in a Ziplock bag. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer, smash crackers into crumbs. Spread crumbs along the bottom of the prepared pan.
3. Melt chocolate melting candy according to package directions. Evenly spread chocolate over the cracker crumbs.
4. Sprinkle chopped peanut butter cups evenly over chocolate. 
5. Heat peanut butter in the microwave, 30 seconds to 1 minute or until melted. Drizzle peanut butter over the bark. 
6. Place pan in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the fridge, and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container. 

Looking for other peanut butter treat recipes? Try these!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

We have one brewery in our little, tiny town. One place that dares to ferment their own beer. The hubby and I are big, big fans. I'll take a draft Pilsner any day over a bottle of any over-produced mainstream lager. It's a good day when we parallel park in front of the 100-year old building, open our car doors, and smell YEAST.  That means beer is being brewed that day. Beer that the hubby and I may be sipping on in a couple of months. This brewery is one of the only non-chain restaurants in a small, dying town filled with Buffalo Wild Wings, various Roadhouse's, and a McDonald's every 2 miles or so. As such, it's one of the only restaurants in town that we frequent. It's our top spot for date night, you can find us there about once a week. While we may go for the beer, we stay for the pizza.

The brewery uses a thin, crispy crust that is to-die-for when they bring it to your table straight out of the pizza oven. It makes a crunch sound if you tear it in half. I love when places uses this type of crust, it's my favorite. They make a specialty pizza called, you guessed it, The Chicken Bacon Ranch. It's the best pizza there, and also, the most expensive. They have it half-price on Tuesdays, so if it's a Tuesday, you know what I be ordering. So, when I had some leftover rotisserie chicken and a few lonely strips of bacon, I decided it was time to make a homemade version. 

And the hubby went nuts. He loved the homemade version, and he's not even as crazy about the brewery pizza as I am. I think the homemade crust did him in. I could put anything on homemade pizza crust and he'll go coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs over it. 

The pizza sauce is ranch dressing, and I think that's part of the appeal of this pizza. The ranch dressing gives the pizza such a distinct flavor, and pairs perfectly with chicken and bacon. This pizza wouldn't be nearly as special with a plain red sauce. I haven't found my perfect ranch dressing recipe yet (a 2015 goal perhaps?) so I used a combination of sour cream, mayo, and a ranch dressing seasoning packet. The hubby really liked the ranch, but as I mentioned, it's not "The One". At any rate, testing out different ranches sounds like something I'll be doing in the not-too-distant future. You could also use bottled ranch dressing for this pizza, or substitute your favorite recipe. 

All right, change of subject time. I only have 2 items on my to-do list today:

1. Early morning doctor's appointment (boo!)
2. Bake Christmas cookies (yay!!!)

As soon as I get home, I plan on putting on a Christmas movie (I think it's going to be "Love Actually" today), getting out my tubs of flour and sugar, and having a grand old time tossing cookie dough around the kitchen.

It sounds heavenly :) 

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!

Ingredients (makes 1 large pizza):

3 tbsp ranch dressing
1 cup chicken, cooked, diced or shredded
3 slices of bacon, cooked, crumbled
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced (optional)


1. Prepare the pizza dough according to directions.
2. Preheat oven to 550º. Place a baking stone on the top rack. Allow oven to preheat for 1 hour. While oven is preheating, remove dough from fridge and allow to come to room temperature. 
3. After oven has preheated for 1 hour, turn oven off and turn "broil" on. 
4. Roll your pizza dough out onto a well-floured surface and into a large circle. Remove baking stone from oven (CAREFULLY!) and place on its rack. Sprinkle cornmeal over baking stone. Move large circle of dough onto baking stone. Brush ranch dressing all over the dough. Sprinkle the chicken and bacon evenly over the dough. Evenly sprinkle the cheese over the dough. Place baking stone back in oven, and broil for 5-7 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the pizza has begun to get browned and toasted in areas. Remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley (if using), slice, and serve immediately. 

Looking for other pizza recipes? Try these!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Vanilla Cupcakes with Whipped Eggnog Frosting

Holy eggnog frosting Batman!

Oh my goodness. This frosting is... There are no words. It's, like, eggnog-a-licious. It's creamy. It's sweet. It tastes exactly like eggnog! I tried an eggnog cream cheese frosting a couple of years ago, and it just didn't taste like eggnog. I believe that recipe only called for 1-2 tbsp's of eggnog, while this recipe calls for a cup and a half. It makes a huge difference. I paired my simple, but completely delicious, vanilla cupcakes with this statement frosting. It's a perfect pairing. All you need is a few sprinkles, and these cupcakes are Christmas fun!

The hubby went nutty over these Christmas cupcakes. I was surprised, as he's not the biggest lover of eggnog I've ever met. He gave these 2 big thumbs up. 

I know you're all thinking, what is this girl doing baking cupcakes when this week is going to be Bake-A-Poolza?? 

In truth, I baked these to keep me from diving into baking the Christmas cookies way too early. I'm revved up and ready, so I needed a project to keep me busy. And my plan worked!

Today, however, I'm allowed to get excited about Christmas baking. Because it's time! The hubby and I are headed out with a fairly large list that if it were to be found on the ground, one would assume they'd found Will Ferrell's "Elf" grocery list. Boxes of cake mix, melting candy, cream cheese, M&M's, Reese's, Rolo's, Oreo's, etc. I have no idea what the cashier will be thinking when she rings up my order.

Actually, come to think of it, she'll probably think, "Christmas baking". So scratch that :)

Did everyone have a great weekend? I did! I accomplished everything I set out to do. Ran, rested, did yoga. Did my weekly cleaning of the house. Baked and photographed cupcakes. Made and photographed Salted Caramel Milkshakes. Actually, I made them Boozy Salted Caramel Milkshakes, and that was the end of productivity. The boozy milkshakes led to immediate relaxation and a frantic Pinterest pinning session. A perfect end to a fairly productive weekend. It's back to reality today however, as the hubby has an early morning MRI on his knee. He's been having some knee pain while running, so we are sneaking in an MRI at the end of this year since our deductibles have been met. If his MRI is clear, I'm guessing he'll start physical therapy on his knee so he can rejoin me in running in the future. 

Before I go, I'll point out that this is another post brought to you completely by my artificial photography light. I've been really pleased with the results I'm getting. Practice makes perfect!

Happy Monday friends!

Ingredients (makes 1 dozen cupcakes):

Eggnog Frosting-
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups eggnog
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened, cut into small cubes
pinch of nutmeg

Vanilla Cake-
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
2 tsp vanilla extract

sprinkles (optional)


1. Frosting- In a small saucepan, combine sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add eggnog, and whisk to combine. Place saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture until very thick, like brownie batter. This should take 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, and place in a clean bowl (I used my stand mixer bowl). Chill in fridge for 30 minutes. Remove from fridge and allow to come to room temperature. When mixture is room temperature, mix in vanilla. Piece by piece, begin to incorporate the butter (I used my stand mixer to whip the frosting). Whip for 4-5 minutes, or until butter is completely incorporated. Allow frosting to sit for 30-60 minutes at room temp before using to allow frosting to stiffen. 
2. Cupcakes- Preheat oven to 350º and line a cupcake pan with liners. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to mix. In another mixing bowl, combine melted butter and sugar. Whisk to mix. Whisk until no lumps remain, mixture will be thick and gritty. Mix egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until well combined. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix until mixture is smooth (I just did this by hand). Divide batter among cupcake pan, bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting. 
3. Divide frosting among cupcakes, and sprinkle with sprinkles, if using. Store in an airtight container. You may have extra frosting, frosting can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week. 

Frosting recipe by Eat Cake For Dinner.  Cake recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

Looking for other cupcake recipes? Try these!