Monday, December 30, 2013

caramelized pear bread pudding

One thing I really love about the holidays is cooking (and eating) special recipes that I don't often make throughout the year. Since we were home for the Christmas week, I kind of over did it on the food thing.  And by kind of, I mean totally.  I totally over did it.  So fat right now but so worth it.

My husband loves bread pudding so I made one on Sunday.  It was four days after Christmas but I am in full "eat like it's a holiday" mode until January 6th.  I just can't stop.  

Anyways...enough of my bad eating habits....bread pudding is such a simple dessert. Anyone can make it.  I made a small-ish recipe but it can easily be double or tripled.    The amounts below should be enough for at least six people.

caramelized pear bread pudding (serves about six)
-two thirds a loaf of challah bread
-3 eggs 
-1 cup milk
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-5 small-medium pears - diced
-3 tablespoons butter plus a little extra for greasing the baking dish.
-3 tablespoons honey

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Use a little butter to grease a square baking dish (a 9"x9" size is good) and set aside.
3. In a skillet, melt the three tablespoons butter.  Slowly cook the pear pieces in the butter until nicely browned.  Stir in the honey and remove the pan from the heat.
4. Whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.
5. Layer a few slices of bread in the bottom of the baking dish, top with half the pears, then more bread.  Pour the milk and egg mixture over the bread and bake for 25 minutes.  After 25 minutes, pour what remains of the pears, butter, and honey over the top of the bread pudding and bake for another 15 minutes.  You will know it is done when it is golden brown and has puffed up.  Serve as is or with ice cream or whipped cream.  Or...both :).

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

apple donut muffins

A few weeks ago, I stopped into Azucar, one of my favorite places in San Diego for a treat. They have the best cookies and scones and coffees and everything.  I am a little addicted to the place.  Anyways, when I was there I saw something called a "donut muffin" and I had to try one. Well, my mind was blown.  Amazing.

The next day I decided to try my own donut muffins.  I looked around online and put together a recipe that is a slightly dense muffin.  After baking you roll the mini muffin in melted butter and cinnamon-sugar.  You can make this recipe in a traditional sized muffin pan but I love the mini's.  The denser texture combined with the butter-cinnamon-sugar coating gives these little muffins the perfect donut taste.  SO good.

apple donut muffins (makes about 30 mini muffins)
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup cider
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium apple - peeled and grated
2 teaspoons cinnamon + 1/4 cup sugar + 4 tablespoons melted butter (for after baking)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a mini muffin pan.
2. In a larger bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and brown sugar).  Set aside.  In a different bowl, mix the 3 tablespoons of melted butter, cider, egg, vanilla extract, and the grated apple.
3. Combine the wet and dry ingredient and spoon into the muffin pan.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Remove the muffins from the pan and dunk first in the bowl of melted butter, then in the bowl of cinnamon-sugar.
5. Set the coated muffins on a plate to cool.  I found that these muffins tasted more "donut like" when they had cooled for about 15 minutes.  When they were piping hot, the texture was more muffin-esque. Try it, you'll see what I mean :).  Also, depending on how buttery and sugary you want your muffins to be, you might need more than the amounts of cinnamon, sugar, and butter that I recommended for the topping.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

diy advent calendar

When I was a child, we had a felt Christmas tree advent calendar that my grandma had made for us. Every day in December, I would race down to the tree (had to beat my brother and sister :)) and hang a new ornament on the felt tree.  By December 25th the tree was full.  I have such fond memories of this simple advent calendar and decide to make something similar this year.

A felt tree is a great idea, but I wanted to make something that was more my style.  Plus, I will never be able to sew like my grandma, so I chose a super simple wood diy.

Supplies ~
-One 36" x 24" piece of wood.  I chose the most inexpensive option Lowe's.  It was about $8. You can easily choose something larger or smaller to fit your space.
-Paint.  Use any color you love! I used the emerald Pantone color from Lowe's for the tree and gold for the trunk.
-Small nails (to hang the ornaments) and thumb tacks or glue to secure the paper bags.
-25 small ornaments.  I chose to create ornaments in Photoshop (free printable below!) but tiny ornaments from the craft store or Target would also work.
-A few small paper bags to hold the ornaments.  I got mine at the craft store. You could easily use small envelopes or any other light weight bag that can easily be tacked or glued to the wood.
-brushes and painter's tape

Steps ~

This diy is super simple.  Almost too easy.  First, create a triangle tree and a rectangle trunk with painter's tape.  Paint the tree and the trunk and let dry.

Once the paint has dried, remove the tape and hammer 25 small nails to the tree.

If you wish to create your own ornaments, you can use these that I created.  Just right click on the photo, open it in a new tab, and print.  I printed my ornaments on card stock and used spray glue to glue the sheets down to thick cardboard.  Finally, I cut the ornaments out and punched a hole in the top of each one for hanging.

Finally, tack a few small paper bags or envelopes on the board below the tree.  Fill each bag with ornaments and hang one each day in December.  By the 25th your tree will be full :).

Happy December everyone!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

mini pumpkin nutella swirl cakes

Every Fall I make something pumpkin.  I am not a crazy - pumpkin-in-everything kind of person, but I do like it.  Originally, I wanted to make pumpkin chocolate chip muffins but I was out of chocolate chips so I went with the one thing I rarely neglect to restock - nutella. I decided to make mini pumpkin bundt cakes (a muffin tin is fine too) swirled with nutella.  They were perfect - I want to swirl nutella into all my baked goods :).

mini pumpkin nutella swirl cakes (makes 12 mini bundt cakes or 12 muffins)
-2 cups all purpose flour
-3 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon salt
-3/4 cup white sugar
-one can of pumpkin puree
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
-1 large egg
-1/2 cup of nutella

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, mix together the pumpkin, sugar, oil, and egg until well combined.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
4. Heat the nutella in the microwave for about 20 second (you don't want it to be hot, just slightly pourable) and stir into the batter.  Don't stir until it is completely mixed in.  Just do a few turns of the spoon so that it is swirled into the pumpkin batter.
5. Spray a muffin pan or mini bunt pan (I got one at Target and love it) with non-stick spray and fill with the batter.
6. Cook for about 25 minutes.  Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for about ten minutes before removing.  Store in an air tight container for up to three days.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

apple-cinnamon-sugar pancakes

I made these last weekend and they're my new favorite pancake.  Super easy, quick, and perfect for Fall.  

apple-cinnamon-sugar pancakes (this recipe will make about 12 pancakes)
-1 cup of four
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 egg
-3/4 cup of milk
-1 apple (grated with a cheese grater)
-2 tablespoons of melted butter (cooled)
-cinnamon and sugar (for dusting the pancakes)

1. In a bowl, whisk together all the flour, baking soda, and salt.  
2. Stir in the remaining ingredients (except the cinnamon and sugar for dusting).
3. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and rub with butter or spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour 1/4 cup of the pancake batter in the pan (I did three pancakes at a time).  Wait for bubbles to form, flip, and cook for another minute.  Remove from pan and repeat until all the batter is gone.
4. Fill a small bowl with 1/4 cup white sugar and cinnamon (I used about two teaspoons).  Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the pancakes.  This cinnamon-sugar coating gives the pancakes the nicest, sweetest crunch.  It's so perfect.


Friday, October 11, 2013

weekly snapshots: 3

1 - Finally pulled out my moccasins this week.  Feels like Fall.
2 - Tortellini soup.  So good.
3 - My little monkey.
4 - Sweet potato donuts.  Nothing wrong with fried dough.
5 - Unmade bed, covered in clothes, and Finn makes himself comfortable.

I hope you guys all had a good week :).

Monday, October 07, 2013

mini monkey bread

To me, monkey bread is a total 1980s dessert. I think this is because the first time I had it was in the 80s. I was maybe in kindergarten?  I don't remember but for some reason, I was sent home with a little book of recipes and a recipe for monkey bread was in the book.

This recipe is so sweet and buttery and not a health food at all. It's also incredibly easy.  If I made it when I was can easily make it now.  It's a hard one to screw up ;).

I used a mini bundt pan because I just thought it was so much cuter than an average bundt pan, but either will work.  You can even make this in a square baking dish or muffin tin.

mini monkey bread
-one package of store bought biscuits (if you are using a standard sized bundt pan, you can make this with two packages of store bought biscuits)
-3/4 cup sugar
-a few teaspoons of cinnamon (use more or less depending on how cinnamon-ey you want the bread)
-a stick of butter, melted

1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pull the biscuits apart and cut each in quarters.  I used whole wheat biscuits but it doesn't matter. Whatever kind you use, they will just end up tasting like delicious pieces of butter, cinnamon, and sugar.
3. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl and toss in the biscuit pieces until well coated.  Press the sugar coated biscuit pieces in the bundt or mini bundt pan.  If you use the mini one, only put in about three pieces.  I over stuffed a few of them and there wasn't enough room for the butter to coat each piece.  

4. Pour melted butter over the top and bake for about 30 minutes.  If you do minis, 30 minutes is enough time.  A whole cake will likely take about ten minutes longer.  You will know this recipe is done when the biscuit pieces have puffed up and are golden brown.  This dessert is best served warm.

You have been warned - these little guys are addicting.  I ate at least five of them.  What can I say?  I'm a sucker for cinnamon-sugar :).

Monday, September 30, 2013

healthier chinese chicken salad

I love a "chinese" chicken salad.  The peanuts, the fried wantons, the peanut-ey dressing. It's just SO good.  Below is my attempt to make this favorite a little healthier than the average restaurant version.  It turned out really good.  I didn't even miss the fried wantons :).

healthier chinese chicken salad {serves two-three}
-1 chicken breast, grilled and chopped
-chopped romaine (about two cups)
-chopped kale (about a cup)
-chopped radishes (I used three radishes)
-carrots, diced (I used one large carrot)
-cucumber, chopped (I used hald of a large one)
-a handful of fresh cilantro, diced
-a small handful of peanuts

for the dressing
-4 heaping tablespoons of all natural creamy peanut butter
-1 1/2 tablespoons honey
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-fresh grated ginger (about a tablespoon or two)
-a splash of chicken broth or vegetable broth to thin out the dressing

1. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper, grill and chop into bite size pieces.  Set aside.
2. Put all the veggies and peanuts in a large bowl and toss together.  
3. Make the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisking together. It helps to microwave the peanut butter for a few seconds first.
4. Pour the dressing over the veggies, toss all to combine, and plate.  Top each salad with some chicken....or leave off the chicken if that isn't your thing.

This salad is an easy make ahead dish. The kale will soak up the dressing and be better by the second day.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

grilled peach and goat cheese salad

Well, my past two recipe posts have included peaches, so I thought I might as well continue that trend while peaches are still somewhat in season :).

I made this salad last week - it is so simple and delicious.  I LOVE goat cheese and fruit.  A standard lunch in my house is salad greens, fruit, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar.  I also love to add a few nuts.  I am not a fan of nuts in general but I do love them on a salad.

All you need to do to make this salad is...
slice a peach grill it for a few minutes on each side until tender
top a plate with salad greens, the grilled peaches, and nuts (I used raw almonds for this one but hazelnuts would also be delicious)
finish with crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

peach-basil sangria

A few weeks ago I had dinner at a restaurant called Queenstown and I tried their peach-basil sangria.  It was so good that I knew I had to make my own.

I don't have a juicer so the consistency of my peach juice was slightly thick...similar to a tomato juice.  I thinned it out by adding sparkling water.  If you want it even thinner, add in more sparkling water or plain water.  And if your peaches aren't sweet enough for you, add in a little simple syrup.

peach-basil sangria
-6 peaches
-1 cup of plain sparkling water
-a bottle of sweet white wine (I used an inexpensive moscato)
-a huge handful of basil leaves 

1. Chop the peaches (you can leave the peel on) and put in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  I added about 1/3 cup of water to get the blender going.
2. Put a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and strain the peach puree.  Discard the leftover pulp.
3. Put the peach "juice" in a large pitcher and add in the handful of basil leaves.  Pour in the sparkling water and wine and stir all together.  
4. Serve over ice with an extra basil leaf for garnish.

Monday, September 16, 2013

in the moment

I recently read a book called The Art of Racing in the Rain.  The book is told from the perspective of the main character's dog.  The main character is a race car driver (which is something I have absolutely no interest in) but the book is more about the man-dog relationship than about race car driving. 

If you're a dog person, you should read this book.  Even if you're not a dog person, it's worth a read.   It's the sweetest thing. I loved reading a book narrated by someone who could not verbally communicate with the other characters.  All he could do was listen. It made for a really interesting perspective.

Throughout the book the dog storyteller (Enzo) talks about life from his perspective. One thing he discusses is how dogs live in the moment and humans tend to live in the past or the future.  He says that's the problem with humans.

Good memories, bad memories, sad times, no matter what, we tend to spend a huge part of our lives living in the past.  The rest of the time we are thinking about when something will happen.  We wait for a vacation or when we have that dream job, house, family, and so on. 

Rarely do we just live in the moment.

Some people are better at doing this than others.  I, for one, am horrible when it comes to living in the moment.  I am always thinking about what will happen next month, next year, or in 30 years. Sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball and could see my life in 30 years.  I want to know how it's all going to work out.  I want to know if I am making mistakes or not doing enough of something.  It stresses me out to not know.  I hate surprises.  When I was a kid, I would read the end of books before the beginning so I didn't have to live in suspense.  

Dogs live in the moment all the time.  It's their nature.  They remember things but they don't hold on to any crap and they're not worried about what will happen tomorrow.

While that would be a nice way to live, it does not really work for humans all the time. We have to plan for the future - both large and small details.  I like to plan and I love having a plan.  It makes me content.  However, I do want to be better at just living in the moment and not worrying so much about how it's all going to be at the end of my life. Things might not go as planned and even though it might be hard at times, it will still be ok.  

I know humans are the most intelligent beings, yet sometimes a sweet little dog can teach us a thing or two about living for each day and taking the good and the bad one day at a time.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

mini blueberry-peach pies

Saturday it all hit me - my jet lag from our Rome/Ireland trip that followed by a busy {and let's get real, at times alcohol soaked} four days in Vegas.  Mix in a stupid cold that stuck around for two weeks and I was exhausted on Saturday.  I slept half the day, woke tired and then went back to bed at 8pm.   The one thing I managed to do all day was make these mini pies and eat.

I also went to the store because we were out of garbage bags.  Although we could have easily gotten by for one day with old grocery bags, I made the trip because Yogurtland is located next to the grocery store. After two mini pies I really needed a massive serving of froyo and candy.  It was just one of those days :).

These pies are the perfect "look like you slaved but they're ridiculously simple" dessert.  Make them and wow everyone with your baking skills.  

mini blueberry-peach pies {makes six mini pies - double for more}

-a cup of blueberries
-two large peaches - chopped
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

-1/4 cup sugar
-1/3 cup vegetable oil
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 egg
-1 cup and one tablespoon all purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a bowl, toss together the blueberries and peaches and cinnamon.  Set aside. 
3. In a second bowl, put all the ingredients for the crust and mix together with a wooden spoon until well combined.
4. Fill six ramekins {or small mugs that are oven safe if you don't have ramekins} with the fruit and top each ramekin with the dough.  I started with a small handful of dough, flattened it into a disc shape, and spread it over the top of the fruit.  Once the dough is pushed to the edge of each ramekin, use a sharp knife and mark the top of each pie with an X.
5. Put the ramekins on a baking sheet {they will spill over!} and bake for about 20 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the crust is golden.

I ate mine with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It was perfection.

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