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.

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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

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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

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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!

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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.

 

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Crockpot Applesauce

apples

Fall in New England is all about apple picking. We head out to the orchards to pick, trying every type of apple at least once. Then we hop on a tractor and head to the barn to stuff ourselves even further with hot cider donuts. There is no way you can leave without one (or two or three) after smelling those little beauties coming out of the fryer and being tossed in cinnamon and sugar.

We always tend to bring home way too many apples. Which is a good thing because after scarfing down a few of those cider donuts and maybe some apple pie, did I mention they also have hot pie and homemade ice cream, you’re gonna need some health food. Fortunately apples are perfect for a diet. So it’s a good thing we pick a cart load.

But after awhile, you really don’t want to look at another apple in your lunch bag, and you may or may not use them as target practice, you can always make this applesauce before they go bad. They will last a couple weeks if you store them in the refrigerator.

You can’t get much easier than this. Just throw your apples in the crockpot with the sugar and water and cook on high for 3-4 hours. You can use cinnamon if you are just going to snack on the applesauce or leave it our if you are going to use it to cook with.

My daughter hates chunks, so I will run the cooked apples through a food mill to remove all the skins. Then I throw them in jars, cover and store in the fridge (up to 5 days or freeze up to 2 months). Trust me, it won’t last long. It’s great for snacks or a side dish.

If you don’t have a food mill, just peel your apples first, then mash them with a potato masher when they get good and mushy. You can leave it chunky or use an immersion blender to get it super smooth. Personal preference.

You can make large batches if you are going to can them. You can follow the directions here

Feel free to use more or less sugar depending on your taste and how tart your apples are. I like to taste the fruit but the rest of the family likes it sweet. Again, personal preference.

    Crockpot Applesauce


3 lbs. apples, unpeeled. cored and chopped (a variety is best, but whatever you have will work)
1 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

Enjoy!

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October in a nutshell

The first week of October started fairly normal. The weather was unseasonably warm and the trees were gorgeous. Fall is by far my most favorite time of the year.

Then came Sunday, October 5th. Where it all turned to crap.Pull up a chair. Spoiler alert..it’s pretty gross. Here’s the timeline of events.

  • Sunday 10/5…Nina had a sore throat & temp
  • Monday 10/6…Took Nina in for strep test (negative) she stayed home from school. Felt pretty good all day then threw up at bedtime. Which isn’t terrible. We moms handle throw up all the time. However, it was brown, then bright red, obviously blood. Not too much blood, but I called the doctor to get their input. Any blood in barf is not a good thing.  It was then that I noticed she had a sore on her lip that she said had bled during the day. We thought maybe that’s where the blood came from.
  • Tuesday 10/7 2:00 am…Nina woke me up saying she didn’t feel good. I rushed her to the bathroom where she proceeded to fill the sink with brown blood clots. The clots  were so big I had to kind of give her the Heimlich to help her get them up so she didn’t choke. No need to call the doctor. We were off to the Emergency Room. She continued to bleed and fortunately they found out it was her tonsils and not something more serious. We stayed there until 8:00 a.m then headed off to the Ear, Nose & Throat specialist. The bleeding had stopped and he gave her an antibiotic, scheduled her for a follow-up in a week (unless she started bleeding again) and sent us on our way. Oh, by the way, did I mention I felt awful and my throat was killing me?
  • Wednesday 10/8…Nina felt better. I had a temp, sore throat & went to bed without dinner. That’s sayin something folks.
  • Thursday 10/9…Felt a bit better and went to work.
  • Friday 10/10…Husband and Andrew didn’t feel great. Came home to find Andrew asleep on the chair with a sore throat & temp. No surprise there. That morning I noticed these weird little pimple-like things on my fingers. Not many, so I kind of brushed it off.  About 2:00 a.m husband spiked a temp of 102.5 and after the temp came down we Googled all the symptoms and thought it might possibly be Hand, Foot & Mouth disease. Although this usually affects children and infants under 5 years old, we were pretty confident of our diagnosis. Oh, by the way, did I mention I found a letter from the nurse stating “Hand, Foot & Mouth was going around school?
  • Saturday 10/11…The clincher. Andrew came in my room in the morning “Mom. I have bug bites all over my face and arms!”. We quarantined ourselves for the weekend and hoped for the best for Monday. Oh did I mention both boys now had blisters?
  • Monday 10/13…Andrew and Nina went to school. Me & Husband stayed home because of the blisters on our hands.
  • Wednesday 10/15…Nina’s follow up with the ENT. “Tonsils need to come out. How about next Thursday?” Sure! No Problem! Telling a 7-year-old she has to have her tonsils out the day before Trick or Treat. That ought to be fun.  Oh, by the way, did I mention I started a new job in the midst of all this?
  • Thursday 10/16…Andrew and I headed into Boston to Mass General to see the maxillofacial surgeon about Andrew’s jaw shifting to the right to see if his arthritis was back. First bit of good news! No arthritis! Woot Woot! Oh, and did I mention I got a new Alex & Ani bracelet in the Bruins Pro Shop? It was a good day and well-deserved, I must say.
  • Friday 10/17…Surgery day for me. Double hand surgery. Left large ganglion cyst and right carpal tunnel release. More good news, surgery was a success. Although I guess I didn’t think things through as having both hands bandaged left me pretty useless. Nina had to wash my hair. And the bathroom walls. And floors.
  • Saturday & Sunday 10/19 & 20…I hung around recuperating. It drove me bananas!
  • Monday 10/20 I spent at the lady doctor for my yearly and had a mammogram. Don’t forget to do that ladies!!!
  • Tuesday 10/21…Back to work and a week of no family health issues. HALLELUJAH! Praise the Lord!
  • Thursday 10/30…Nina’s tonsillectomy went well. The doctor said they were some of the biggest he had ever seen and she is recuperating well. She had played the pity card all week and collected more candy than you can imagine.
  • Monday 11/3…Nina still at home healing, but doing great. She had a rough night. I’ve been getting her up every 4 hours for medicine and around 2:30 this morning she said “Mom, I gotta say, I’ve had about enough of this business”.  “Me too baby”.

So, now it’s November and here’s to hoping things are turning around. Time to start getting ready for the holidays (yes I said it) and now that I can wash my hands adequately, time to get cooking again!

What have you been up to?

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Barbecue Chicken & Vegetable Skewers

DSC_0390

This is one of those recipes that that is so simple you wonder how haven’t made them before. Now I think we’ve all made some variation of grilled meat and vegetables on a stick, right? But these are different. These have bacon woven in between all the chicken and veggies. Yes, bacon. Beautiful, delicious bacon. It caramelizes while it cooks and the saltiness make a perfect partner to the pineapple chunks and tangy barbecue sauce.

It’s genious.

I can never make enough of these. They were great for summer outings and I tend to make them for dinner often with a side of rice. I usually make extra so I can take some for lunch the next day as well. Sometimes I actually have some left to take for lunch.

I suggest you try these sometime soon. The prep time can take a little while, you know with all the chopping and skewering going on. But it really isn’t all that difficult or time consuming. If it was, I wouldn’t make them. You know me. That’s how I roll.

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into chunks
1 lb bacon
2 large red and or yellow peppers cut into chunks
1 large onion (vidalia or yellow) cut into large chunks
2 c. pineapple chunks (fresh or canned although fresh stay on the stick better, canned work)
2 c. barbecue sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue)
Skewers (soak wooden skewers while prepping veggies

Heat the grill to medium high heat.
Start the skewer with a pepper then start the bacon and continue winding bacon through each item alternating everything, in no particular order. No rules here. Once everything has been skewered, baste with barbecue sauce and place on the grill. I don’t skimp on the sauce. I load it right on!
Cook, turning several times, approximately 15 minutes until cooked through. They can be a bit of pain to turn, as things tend to spin on the stick, but don’t lose heart. You’ll get the hang of it. No worries if something falls off the stick. It’s still delicious.

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the lovely Tiffany at Creme de la Crumb

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All About That Bass

mt

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I’m supposed to do
‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places

I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real
C’mon now, make it stop
If you got beauty, beauty, just raise ‘em up
‘Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top

Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.”
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along

Because you know I’m
All about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass
Hey!

I’m bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
No I’m just playing. I know you think you’re fat
But I’m here to tell ya
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top

Anyone else digging this song? It’s so catchy and yes I do “shake it, shake it” a little more on my runs when it’s playing. Here is a little playlist I put together of some songs that make me move a bit faster and hold my head a little higher when I feel like I’m struggling during a workout.

Did I miss any? What songs motivate you?

1. All About that Bass..Meghan Trainor
2. Roar…Katy Perry
3. Perfect…Pink
4. If today was your last day…Nickelback
5. Unwritten…Natasha Beddingfield
6. In the middle of starting over…Sabrina Carpenter
7. Fat Bottomed Girls…Queen (Sorry ladies, just keepin it real)
8. Girl In a country song…Maddie & Tae
9. Mean…Taylor Swift
10. I will survive…Gloria Gaynor
11. Firework…Katy Perry
12. Born This Way…Lady Gaga
13. This one’s for the girls…Martina McBride
14. Till I Collapse…Eminem
15. Let It Go…Idina Menzel
16. Survivor…Destiny’s Child
17. Shake it Off…Taylor Swift
18. Dog Days Are Over…Florence & the Machine
19. Brave…Sara Bareilles
20. One Step at a Time…Jordin Sparks

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Sugar Cookie Bars

sugar cookie bar

As you know, I’m always looking for a simple, yummy, sweetie to throw in lunch boxes. These were super simple, quick, delicious and oh so pretty.

I can’t wait to frost some with purple, orange and green for Halloween.

This afternoon I emptied Nina’s lunch box and there were at least six bags of assorted, half-eaten snacks. I asked what they were and she said she got them for trading her cookie.

True story.

    Sugar Cookie Bars

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1½ Tbsp Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 recipe vanilla frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 13″ x 9″ baking dish, set aside. In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy about 3-4 minutes. Stir in egg and egg white. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until blended. Slowly add dry mixture and stir until well combine. With buttered hands, gently press (so gently almost patting) mixture into buttered baking dish. Bake 16 – 19 minutes until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and edges are lightly golden. Cool completely, cut into squares but leave in the pan and frost. Once frosted, I lifted each out of the pan and piped individually.

Vanilla Frosting

    Ingredients:
    1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups powdered sugar
    2-3 Tbsp half and half
    1 tsp vanilla
    Pinch of salt
    Several drop food coloring (optional)

    In a mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, whip together butter and powdered sugar and half and half until fluffy. Stir in vanilla and salt. Add in food optional food coloring and mix until well blended.

    Recipe courtesy of the incredible Jaclyn of Cooking Classy

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