White Chocolate Spritz Cookies

white chocolate spritz valentine cookies

So after being stuck in the house for days, thank you Juno. I was feeling a little blah. I started thinking about being isolated and lonely and thought, “I think I need to brighten someone’s day!”.

So, I made these cookies. Any recipe where I can shoot a cookie out of a gun is alright in my book. Just sayin.

I love Spritz cookies. They are just the right size for a small treat and are so cute. The cream cheese in the dough gave them a bit of tang which is balanced out beautifully by the sweetness of the white chocolate. They were decorated nicely by Nina who desperately needed to participate in something other than shoveling for awhile. You can customize the shape and color for any holiday or theme.

After they were decorated and set, I packaged them up all pretty, so as not to shove them in my face all day and today I put them in the mail.

I sent them to a couple of people I don’t get to see very often who may also be stuck at home and may need a little something to brighten their day.

After participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap in December, I realized that getting cookies in the mail is pretty much one of the nicest surprises EVAH! So, I have decided to incorporate it into my routine. Whenever I make some cookies, I put aside a dozen and send it to someone I love.

Do you need some love? Let me know where you are (privately of course) and maybe you’ll find a sweet little package in your mailbox.

Oh yeah, here is the recipe for these little cuties. If you don’t have a cookie press, you can use a pastry bag and large star tip to make a rosette or any shape of your choice.

White Chocolate Spritz Cookies
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
11-1/4 ounces (2-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1 egg white, lightly beaten (optional if using sprinkles or sugar instead of dipping in chocolate)
Colored sugars or other decorations for sprinkling (optional)
8 oz. white chocolate, melted

Heat the oven to 375°F. With a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment) or a hand mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat again until blended. Add the flour and mix on low speed until blended.

Fit a cookie press with a die plate (I used the flower). Fill the barrel of the press with dough. You can create a “log” of dough and slide it into the barrel or just stuff it in (like I do). Press the cookies directly onto parchment or silpat lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with colored sugar if using. If dipping in chocolate do not brush with egg white.

Bake until the cookies are just golden around the edges, approximately 10 minutes (it’s best to bake one sheet at a time). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet on a rack for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Be sure the baking sheet is cool before spritzing more cookies.

If dipping, melt chocolate in either a double boiler or simply microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each, until melted. Be careful not to burn. Once melted, dip the top of the cookie and place on a cooling sheet and sprinkle with jimmies and sugar before chocolate sets.

You can also use different color melting wafers and milk and dark chocolate as well as white. Whatever floats your boat.

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from here

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Valentine Puppy Chow

valentine puppy chow

It’s cold. Real cold. And dreary. Super dreary.

Baking helps.

Baking something sweet and pretty, really helps.

Baking something sweet, pretty and so easy it isn’t even funny. Therapeutic!

I haven’t had puppy chow in years. Or shall I say “In a dog’s age”? Sorry, that was lame.

If you have never had this stuff, you’ve got to make it. It’s candy and sugar coated Chex cereal tossed with other yummy stuff. There are endless recipes out there, but today I’m going to share a perfect Valentine treat. Nina had a bake sale and she demanded everything be pink. So we gave these a try and they were a huge success.

When Nina came home on the day of the bake sale, I asked her what she bought. She rattled off all sorts of frosted cookies and mini cupcakes.

“Didn’t you even get some of your own treats?”

“Mom! By the time I got there, they were gone! My friends said you make THE BEST bake sale treats you just didn’t make enough! For realz!”

I must say, I do make some rocking bake sale treats in cute little packages. It’s all in the marketing, by the way.

This recipe totally revived my love for these tasty, bite-size bits of heaven. I am already gathering new recipes to try out. The strawberry cake mix in this recipe is really awesome though.

Warning: These are highly addictive and are not diet friendly. Unless eaten one at a time, veeeeery slooooowly. Then they are totally calorie free. Ok, not really. But you can tell yourself that if you must.

Ingredients:
5 ounces white chocolate chips
5 ounces red candy melts
1 teaspoon shortening
5 cups Chex cereal
1 cup strawberry cake mix
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 package valentines chocolate M&M’s

1. Divid the Chex mix into two bowls. (2 1/2 cup in each)
2. In microwave safe dish, melt the 5 ounces white chocolate chips. Add 1/2 teaspoon shortening so that the chocolate spreads evenly evenly. Microwave 30 seconds at a time and be careful not to burn the chocolate. Dump this in the first bowl of chex and mix evenly to coat all of the chex cereal.
2. Melt the red candy melts in the same manner. Once melted, pour this over the second bowl of divided chex and mix until coated.
3. In two gallon size ziplock bags, put 1/2 cup strawberry cake mix and 1/4 cup powdered sugar in each bag. Dump each bowl of chex mix in each bag and shake until coated with the powdered sugar and strawberry powdered cake mix.
4. Mix in the M&M’s
5. Package in little cello bags with pretty ribbon for a sweet little Valentine treat.

Recipe adapted from the fabulous Alyssa at The Recipe Critic

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roasted Chicken

roast chicken

I am doing my very best at eating clean now that I have completed my cleanse. And I’ve got to say, I think I’m killing it! I made it through the weekend, Pats playoff game included without eating crap and actually without overeating at all. Although I didn’t hit the gym, but I can only handle one hurdle at a time, so I won’t beat myself up too much.  Does beating myself up count as a workout? Well, it should.

One of my biggest challenges during the week, as I am sure it is for most, is time. Like, not enough of it.

I typically spend my Sunday getting ready for the week. Prepping food, cleaning the house, looking at everyone’s schedules and trying to get a mental picture of our week. Now that I am hitting the gym, it is even more important to get as much done before the Monday chaos begins.

Today, I’m going to share with you a simple recipe that can help you through the week. It takes very little preparation and you aren’t standing over the stove cooking, so you can be taking care of other things.

It is a simple roasted chicken.

Even if you aren’t a “cook” you can easily tackle this and have fresh, healthy, tender chicken for sandwiches, enchiladas, salads, whatever.

I must tell you first, if you are cooking meat, you need a good meat thermometer. It is a must!  Each piece of meat is different. Every oven is different. Times and temps here are just guidelines.

I use the Thermapen. It is a bit pricey, but worth it. I got mine as a gift from the hubby. He digs gadgets. He comes home with some pretty cool stuff that I typically raise my nose at and ask him what he was thinking, then when he isn’t looking I hug it and ask it how I ever got through my life without it. Like this shirt folder, which by the way, is fun for the whole family. We had shirt folding races on New Year’s Eve. Yah, I know. You wish you lived my life. I get that aaaaaalllll the time! NOT! 

But okay, back to the chicken.

To make sure it stays nice and juicy, a quick brining step is all you need. Combine 1/2 cup salt and 2 quarts of water in a large stockpot and stir to dissolve.

Place the chicken in the brine and cover. My pot was small enough that the entire bird was submerged, but you may want to flip it halfway through to make sure the entire bird gets covered. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Remove the bird from the brine and pat dry. Brush entire bird with 2 tablespoons melted butter and season with salt and pepper. You can add some herbs or lemon to the cavity if you wish, but it’s all up to you. I don’t. But that’s just me.

Preheat oven to 375F and place the bird in a roasting pan, breast side down. Cook for 15 minutes then turn the chicken so it is breast side up and increase the oven temp to 450F. Roast until and instant-read thermometer reads 160F in the breast and around 170F in the thigh, about 30-35 minutes. Again, this is where an instant-read thermometer comes in. It is an essential kitchen tool. Nothing worse than cutting into a pink chicken. Grody!

Once chicken is cooled, pick the meat off the bones and shred with 2 forks and store in the fridge for use during the week or it makes a great quick dinner as well. Some mashed potatoes and a vegetable and voila! Dinner!

Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of the totes UH-MAZING Annie at annies-eats

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beachbody 3-Day Refresh Review

refresh

The holidays are over.

I don’t know about you, but I may have over-eaten a bit during the holidays. Maybe.

I needed a jump-start into a new, healthier lifestyle and I needed it quick. I found myself eating when I knew I was hungry and definitely not eating the right things. What with all those delicious holiday treats around. I couldn’t resist!

Enter the 3-Day Refresh from Beachbody.

I have never done a cleanse before, but I needed to kick my bad eating habits to the curb and I needed to do it fast before even my yoga pants started splitting at the seams. I also needed a program that was simple and to the point.  Drink this. Eat that. That’s it!

The box contains 3 days of product and an instructional manual. It’s fairly straightforward. The schedule is the same each day as to when you should eat and drink the shakes, but it gives you lists of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats to choose from. It also has several dinner recipes so you can mix it up a bit.

I used the regular Chocolate Shakeology, which I really like. It also comes in vegan which is recommended for the cleanse, but I didn’t know that when I purchased it, so I used what the regular. The chocolate shake is probably the tastiest meal replacement shake I’ve had. It isn’t chalky or chemically tasting and it doesn’t upset my stomach, which has happened with many other shakes and protein drinks.

Check out the details here!

I’ve got to say, I wasn’t hungry. Day 1 and the beginning of Day 2 I had an incredible headache, which has since gone away. I assume it was caffeine withdrawal. But I don’t know. I found the vanilla refresh shakes and the fiber sweep kind of icky, but I’ve never been a fan of vanilla. By Day 3 they kind of grew on me though. I found you really need to mix them with really cold water for them to taste their best.

I thoroughly enjoyed the dinner stir fry I made each night. A few minutes of prep and a few minutes of cooking time and totally delish! I really looked forward to it each night and will continue to make itfor dinner.

I did exercise each day. I did 25 minutes of cardio and did circuit training at the gym.

All in all, I felt great throughout the 3 days, I never had an upset stomach. I didn’t spend 3 days in the bathroom and I honestly never felt hungry.

I thought it was a very positive experience actually. I felt empowered. Less bloated. Energetic.

Would I do it again? Sure! Although I hope I don’t have to. It was a great jumpstart into what I hope is a new lifestyle of clean, healthy eating.

Are you ready for the results?

Inches Lost:
Waist=1
Hips=1 1/2
Thighs=2 (each)
Bust=2

Weight Lost: 7.6

Let me know if you want to give it a try!

Posted in scattered thoughts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome 2015!

2015

I can’t believe it’s 2015. Well, it will be soon anyway.

I don’t know about you, but for me, there is something magical about a new year. Like I can wake up tomorrow morning and somehow while I slept, I was transformed into all those things I have wanted to be. The old me no longer exists. The negative voice has been silenced and all my shortcomings are behind me. The slate has been wiped clean and there is only unblemished potential.

I always try to write down my resolutions. Somehow dreams become more concrete when you can see them and touch them. When you waiver, they are there to remind you of their importance and guide you back. Sometimes you have to start over. Sometimes you have to re-prioritize. Sometimes your dreams simply change.

Regardless of how magical New Year’s Day can be, I must tell you that I have never been a positive kind of person. That is when it comes to me. I am hard on myself…always. I am my own worst enemy. And it never worse than New Year’s Eve.

“Well, another year of missed opportunities. Weight gain. Messy house. God, I’m such a loser!” That would be the typical self talk.

Not this year. I’m getting too old for that kind of crap. Anyone else feel the same way?

It’s time to focus on the positive. So, here are some of the things I did in 2014.

  • I made a career change. A small one, but a change nevertheless
  • I got my family through a real shitty, scary time of health issues. And I didn’t have  a breakdown.
  • I got a whole bunch of amazing new followers on this little blog, and I am truly touched by and grateful for each and every one of you
  • I ran a 5k
  • I was more adventurous in the kitchen

Here is my list of resolutions for 2015.

  • The always constant diet resolution, which by the way starts on January 2nd because let’s face it, that leftover Chinese take-out isn’t going to eat itself
  • Simplify. In so many ways.
  • Spend more time enjoying the outdoors. Hiking, kayaking, gardening, going to the beach
  • Blog better
  • Cook more with my kids
  • Write more
  • Learn to use my sewing machine
  • Entertain more
  • Be more productive
  • Be less indecisive
  • Be kinder to myself
  • Give back

Now I’ve shared. They’re written, they’re real.

How about you? Want to share?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Chocolate Linzers with Berry Wine Jam

chocolate linzers

Today I am sharing a recipe link to a new friend, Amanda at A Cookie Named Desire.

I received these gorgeous cookies in the mail a couple of weeks ago and I honestly have to say, this was the most decadent, grown up cookie I have ever tasted. The chocolate cookie was dark and firm, not crumbly at all and the star shaped window gave you a glimpse of the tempting berry jam sandwiched inside.

I am so glad to have gotten to know Amanda. She is so sweet and super talented and I am so happy to now call her a friend. If you have a moment (you’ll need more, trust me) click on the picture and check her out. Please tell her I sent you.

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Grinch Cookies

grinch cookies

This year I participated in The Fourth Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. This event supports Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a national, non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used to fight pediatric cancer, which claims more young lives than any other disease in the US.

I am so proud and excited to be a part of this event.

I received names and addresses of three food bloggers and sent them each a dozen cookies. I also received three dozen cookies from three different bloggers. I’ll be sharing their awesome recipes later. Truth…I’ve been eating a lot of cookies lately. Hips don’t lie! This week I’ll be linking you up with the other awesome bloggers that I was introduced to. They are really awesome and I can’t wait to share their awesomeness with you!

I pinned this recipe from In Katrina’s Kitchen and could not wait to make them. This was the perfect opportunity. They are super simple and totes adorable!

The Grinch is my absolute favorite Christmas special. Ok, I’m a Charlie Brown Christmas fan as well, but who can resist Cindy Lou Who and Max the Dog. I mean really.

“He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”

These cookies are not only cute and clever, they are really delicious.

They are going to be a great classroom Christmas party treat and with some creative packaging, an adorable little gift.

Ingredients:

1 box french vanilla cake mix (not yellow cake mix or your cookies will be a funky color)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
green food coloring, 1 drop gel or 2 drops liquid
Confectioners (powdered) sugar for dusting
Sprinkles or candies, large heart-shaped

Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 350° F.
2.With an electric mixer, cream together cake mix, food coloring, oil, and eggs.
3.Chill the dough for 10-15 minutes.
4.Drop by Tablespoon into confectioners sugar and roll into balls.
5.Place on baking sheet and press 1 large heart candy/sprinkle.
6.Bake for 8-9 minutes until just set.
7.Let cool 2 minutes on pan before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

*Note: Make sure you chill the dough well or your cookies will spread and flatten. They’ll still be delicious though.

Enjoy! And Merry Grinchmas!

*Note: If you’re a food blogger and would like to be notified of next year’s cookie swap sign ups click here

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

National Brownie Day: It’s In The Mix! Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownies

brownie

So today is National Brownie Day.

For me there is nothing like a warm, dense, fudgy, dark chocolate brownie. Nuts or no nuts, whatever! Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream, and I’m in heaven! Hooray for chocolate overload!

I have made homemade brownies, and don’t get me wrong, they rock. One day I picked up a box of this mix and the husband told me I had to post them on my blog. I had hid my shame in the trash can and totally lied when asked if this was a new recipe. I finally came clean and decided since I do have some favorite mixes, that I’d share this one.

It truly makes a perfect brownie. Actually better. It takes but a minute to mix it all together and since good quality chocolate is costly, this is much less expensive.

I keep a box of this mix in the house at all times. I can’t tell you how many times it has come to my rescue for that bake sale that no one told me about, or spur of the moment dinner guests. It can really be your salvation.

Honestly, this mix easily rivals a homemade brownie. Leave them as is, or top with toasted walnuts (which I always do), top them with peppermint patties or frost with a rich ganache if you want to get all fancy schmancy. Not to mention cheaper. Good quality chocolate comes with a price, you know.

Pick some up at your local grocery store. Trust me, you’ll be in brownie love!

Happy Brownie Day!

Click here for some homemade recipes

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perfectly Roasted Turkey

turkey

There are so many different ways to cook a turkey. Stuffed or not stuffed. Brine or no brine. Roasted. Fried. You name it.

I always get my bird and stuffing at the local turkey farm. I love their stuffing. Honestly, it is amazing and I have yet to replicate it or even come close.

Now for the stuffing debate. Do you call it stuffing or dressing? Some say if it is prepared inside the bird, it is stuffing and if it is prepared outside the bird, it’s called dressing. But apparently it is a regional term.We New Englanders typically call it stuffing, regardless of whether it is stuffed inside or prepared outside the bird. But Southerners call it dressing because “stuffing” doesn’t sound very appetizing.

Do you stuff your bird? I always do. That stuffing that crisps up during the cooking process while basting the bird never makes it to the table. That’s mine! I do always bake an extra dish. I need lots of stuffing for those “leftover” sandwiches. Which in my opinion are the best part of Thanksgiving. It has become part of our tradition that after everyone leaves and the kitchen is cleaned up. We put up the Christmas tree and then later that evening enjoy a “leftover” sandwich and some football or a Christmas special. That night it one of my favorites all year. Family and good food is always a winning combination.

Turkeys are not difficult to cook. With this technique (and a good meat thermometer), your bird will always come out with a beautifully browned, crispy skin and juicy tender meat. No fail!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

The Perfect Roasted Turkey

1 20-22 lb. fresh whole turkey, giblets and neck removed from cavity (reserve for gravy if desired)
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. dry white wine
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse turkey with cool water, and dry with paper towels. Let stand for 2 hours at room temperature.

2. Place rack on lowest level in oven. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine melted butter, white wine, garlic powder, paprika, parsley, and 1 tsp. each salt and pepper in a bowl.

3. Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack in a heavy metal roasting pan. Remove the pop-up timer if it has one. If using a digital meat thermometer, insert into the thickest part of the thigh. Do not poke into a bone and set the temperature to 180F (stuffing should be between 140 degrees and 160 degrees).

4. Fold wing tips under turkey. Sprinkle 1 tsp. each salt and pepper inside turkey. Fill large cavity and neck cavity loosely with as much stuffing as they hold without packing too tightly. Tie legs together loosely with kitchen string. Fold neck flap under, and secure with toothpicks. Gently lift the skin (you don’t want it to tear) and rub the butter under the skin and using a pastry brush, baste with the wine/butter/herb mixture.

4. Place turkey, legs first, in oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush, baste turkey with butter and wine. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to cook for 2 1/2 more hours, basting every 20-30 minutes. Watch the pan juices and if it gets too full, spoon out and reserve for gravy.

5. Turn roasting pan so that the breast is facing the back of the oven. Baste turkey with pan juices. If there are not enough juices, continue to use butter and wine. The skin gets fragile as it browns, so baste carefully. Cook 1 more hour, continuing to baste.

6. After this fourth hour of cooking. You can use an instant-read thermometer in and the turkey should be golden brown. The breast does not need to be checked for temperature. If legs are not yet fully cooked, baste turkey, return to oven, and cook another 20 to 30 minutes.

7. When fully cooked, let rest for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the gravy. Pour all the pan juices into a glass measuring cup. Let stand until grease rises to the surface, about 10 minutes, then skim it off. Meanwhile, place roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup dry red or white wine, or water, to the pan. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the pan until liquid boils and all the crisp bits are unstuck from pan. Add giblet stock to pan. Stir well, and bring back to a boil. Cook until liquid has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the defatted pan juices, and cook over medium-high heat 10 minutes more. You will have about 2 1/2 cups of gravy. Season to taste, strain into a warm gravy boat, and serve with turkey.

Enjoy!

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Beef Stew

beef stew

The weather is getting cold and I don’t know about you, but I need hot food! Salads just don’t cut it for me when it’s chilly. I need something warm and satisfying. I hate to use the term “comfort food” because my husband hates that term. Like really hates it. I’m not quite sure why actually. It’s just one of his quirks, I guess. So, I won’t call it that.

But let’s be real. This is one of those simple meals that just makes you feel good. Its delicious aroma fills the house while it cooks and warms you up from the inside out, fills you up and keeps you full for hours. That’s comfort food. Sorry honey. But it is.

I’m not sure if it’s the wine or the fact that this cooks so long, but the beef is so tender and the broth is perfectly flavored. I hope you add it to your winter meal repertoire.

Slip on your snuggie and light the fire and enjoy a bowl.

Yup, comfort food. There! I said it.

Beef Stew

1- 1 1/2 lb. stew beef, cubed
2 Tbls. flour
2 Tbls olive oil
2 c. carrots, peeled and thickly sliced (or petite carrots) approximately 6
1 stalk celery, chopped (I slice in half and take it out at the end because I don’t like cooked celery, bluck!)
1 medium onion, largely chopped
1 container petite mushrooms or regular button mushrooms quartered
1 large russet potato, cut into 1/2″-1″ cubes
2 bay leaves
1 c. red wine
1/2 Tbls. Gravy Master
College Inn Low sodium Beef broth (32 oz.=1 box)
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch mixed into 1/4 c. water
2 c. frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbls dried parsley, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Toss beef with flour to coat.
  3. On the stove top, in a large cast iron Dutch oven, heat olive oil on high heat and brown beef on all sides, approximately 5-7 minutes and remove meat and set aside.
  4. Pour the wine and using a wooden spoon, deglaze the bottom of the pan. You want to scrape all the yummy brown pieces off the bottom while the wine is reducing. Keep stirring approximately 3-5 minutes until the wine is to the consistency of a thin gravy then add the Gravy Master and stir together.
  5. Add all vegetables, except potatoes and peas and saute 5-7 minutes until they soften a bit. Add the bay leaves.
  6. Add the beef broth and stir.
  7. Add the cornstarch & water mixture and stir.
  8. Cover and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 45 minutes then add the potatoes and stir. Continue to cook covered for an hour.
  9. Add peas, then cook another half and hour.
  10. Remove bay leaves (and celery if you’re like me), add parsley and salt and pepper to taste and serve with a chunk of your favorite, hearty bread for dipping.

Enjoy!

**Note: This stew comes out fairly thin, but if you like a thicker gravy type stew, just add a bit more cornstarch to your water. I suggest a 1/2 tsp. at a time. Always mix the cornstarch into water first, then add to your stew or you’ll end up with little cornstarch balls. Gross. Just be careful not to add too much or you’ll have a solid block of stew.

 

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment