Monday, December 29, 2008

Splitting town with Split Pea Soup

Mmmm Mmm Good! I love soup. It's so comforting and filling, not to mention the fact that there are about a million and one kinds of different soups out there...a flavor for every tast. I am a big fan of the progressive soups that have ZERO WW points, but I also love their low fat lentil soup.

I mentioned that we had ham for Christmas dinner and of course inside every ham is a ham bone. I remember growing up how much my dad hated peas!! But somehow he loves pea soup (his own of course). So we both agreed that a batch of homemade pea soup was a must make.

We started out with two bags of yellow peas (he prefers the yellow over the green), and set that to boil in about 12 cups of water. Later my dad mentioned that his intention was to use homemade turkey stock in lieu of water but i jumped the gun and started the peas while he was a church! opps. No worries. He also mentioned that he would have put the ham bone and rest of the add ins right into the water with the peas (I waited no knowing the plan). So, as soon as they got home from church we quickly added in diced onions, celery, garlic, two bay leaves and the star: Ham bone. The peas had probably already been in the pot for about two hours. (again you can start with everything in the pot at once!). I probably would have added carrots as well but not everyone at home is a fan of them. You can really add just about anything you wish. it's your soup!!

Since we were headed to another Christmas get together that night we put the soup outside (natures fridge) and planned on warming it the next day. This really let all the flavors stew in one another. The next day it was reheated and yummy. We each had a bowl along with some of my grandma's leftover rolls.

I forgot to take a picture before eating so this is the leftovers that erin and I are taking as we hit the road tomorrow morning.

There is nothing like soup after a long week of feasting!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Hangovers....

Are you ever surprised at how much you can eat and drink over the holiday's? Each morning i would wake up thinking this would be a "lighter" day eating wise...and by the end of of the day...not so much. There are just so many traditions to hold and food to eat. I really tried to let myself indulge a bit and hit up the gym everyday to keep myself feeling healthy!

We used to get together with family for Christmas dinner but the older everyone gets the more obligations they have on that day so this year my Aunt Gina and Uncle Pat hosted a dinner on the 26th. My Aunt Gina is Italian and a great cook which equals Lasagna and Meatballs. We all brought something to pass. I made my black bean dip and threw it on a plate with veggies (I tried to go with something healthy).
My mom was asked to make her homemade Egg-Nog. Now I must say this is one of those Christmas traditions that I speak about, BUT it is really really rich. I'm taking whole eggs, half and half, evaporated milk, ice's all in there. She serves it in little punch cups and everyone raves about it. Everything in moderation!

I have blogged about my HG egg nog before so I thought I would try HG Pumpkin Nog as another egg nog option at the party. It turned out great. I made a batch of original and a batch of the pumpkin. The pumpkin won over the crowd. Although my mom's was definitely the best I was glad that people tried mine!!

I think I am on holiday food overload...and i'm only half-way through vacation :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Traditions

MERRY CHRISTMAS! I love Christmas. I love the whole day and I also love eating the whole day! We have very specific things that we make on Christmas and frankly it just wouldn't be Christmas morning with the breakfast casserole baking in the oven!

This year was erin's first year experiencing Christmas at my house and we didn't want to disappoint :). We start off opening presents under our "santa" tree (that's right folks we have two trees: one for santa and one for the family) and drinking morning coffee. My mom always picks up all the holiday creamers: eggnog, gingerbread, bailey's (opps how did that get in there at 9am in the morning dad?!). This year we took a mini break from presents to throw the breakfast casserole together along with orange cinn. rolls. YUM. This year my mom also picked up fruit to make a great fruit salad, so I was in charge of that.
Look how amazing this breakfast looks!

As mentioned in my prepping post we also have mimosas and bloody mary's as well. We start the morning quite "spirited!!!".

After the craziness of the santa tree we all enjoy looking at our new gifts and usually watching a new movie...or two...or four!

We weren't planning dinner until around 6:30 because we were waiting for my Sister and Brother in law to come! Plenty of time to make all our dishes. I started with the Asiago, Potato and Bacon Gratin.

I had prepped the potatoes and had to saute up the shallots and cook the bacon. I also needed bacon for the Brussels Sprouts so I put my dad on bacon cooking duty. I combined all the dry ingredients and threw the casserole together...1, 2, 3. Simple! I didn't take alot of pictures this day :(, but did get the casserole before it was completely gone! It was a hit.

I didn't take any pictures of my Butternut Squash Casserole because It went the same as Thanksgiving...simple and delicious. I will say that I would recommend steaming the squash on the stove if possible. The microwave took awhile with that much squash! I just prefer my steamer basket.
I helped my mom with my Grandma's rolls as well. These are so great. They look almost like biscuits but have a sweet flavor to them. I grew up having these only at Christmas time and they are something that I will always make around the holiday. These are pretty messy to make, just use ALOT of flour:). Here they are awaiting their 20 min bake time.

Finally on to the Brussels Sprouts with Bacon-Horseradish Cream! Now doesn't that even sound amazing...I had already cut up the sprouts the night before and my dad took care of cookin up the bacon so all that was left was the "sauce". These came together really quickly right after the turkey came out. Honestly I don't think I could have a Brussels Sprout dish without loving it.

After dinner we moved on to our Family tree. I just love giving gifts to all my family members :). I just love Christmas. We had my mom's famous pies for dessert and my sister and brother brought over a raspberry cheesecake (i stuck with the pies).

My stomach was full.
and my heart was fuller!

Prep Work

So remember my crazy thanksgiving post? Yeah well, we tend to eat similarly for Christmas. What can I say i come from a family of eaters! We have so many traditions at Christmas, but since this is a food blog I will try to stick to our "foodie traditions".

Going in chronological order we normally spend Christmas Eve at my grandparents house having Venison Cacciatore and eating all my grandma's baked goods. While growing up my grandpa and dad both used to go hunting so we always had venison in the freezer. I was never a huge fan...a bit gamey for my taste. There are many cuts of venison (deer meat) and some are more gamey than others, and when you put the meat in cacciatore it really gets rid of the gaminess. This dish has been passed down from my grandpa to my dad and now my cousin Josh makes it. This year we didn't have the dish until the day after Christmas (we also enjoyed a great Italian feast at my Uncle pats and Aunt Gina's)...but I couldn't talk about Christmas food traditions without mentioning that one
Of course the first thing i discussed with my mom when I woke up on Christmas Eve was Christmas dinner! As mentioned before we tend to have the same food for Christmas that we have for Thanksgiving. Alot of our dishes make a reappearance. Even though my Mom was hosting I of course wanted to contribute some dishes as well. My mom had planned both Turkey and Ham for meats so i choose to make a Scallop Potato dish from Cooking Light (per erin's request), a Brussels Sprout recipe from Weight Watchers and my HG Squashtastic dish from Thanksgiving! I also told my mom I would handle making my grandma's rolls.
I really wanted to enjoy Christmas day so I prepped some of my ingredients for the dishes the night before. As much as I love to cook sometimes the prep work is not so much fun! I ended up doing alot of the "cutting" the night before:
-Brussels sprouts
-peel and cut the butternut squash (with the help of my dad...thanks dad!)
Christmas morning I used my NEW KNIVES (thanks Santa) to prep the rest of the ingredients for the dishes so that when dinner came all I needed to do was throw them in the oven.
My mom and I also worked on my grandma's rolls because they have to sit for about three hours before popping them in the oven for twenty mins.
We sipped Pomegranate Mimosas and finished the prep work....all ready for dinner :)!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Beer Sample #2...

I told you I would have plenty of time to catch up on my winter beer tasting. Our next pick was Wachusett Winter.
The Wachusett Brewery is probably only about 1/2 an hour from where we live so not only did we want to support a local business but the bottle was festive and fun!

I liked this one. It reminded me alot of Winter Warmer (by Harpoon and currently my favorite winter brew). It was an amber colored beer and although it had the flavors of the season (hints of cinnamon and nutmeg I think) it didn't overpower the beer. Definitely better than the last but I still think 2nd to the Winter Warmer.

I head upstate tonight for Christmas with my family. It will be the first time erin and i actually get to spend Christmas together...that beats ANY winter brew :).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowy Sunday before Christmas

I have been blogging up a snow storm recently! I don't know if it's in anticipation of being M.I.A. during Christmas or if my new year's resolution is coming early! Never the less have I got a doozy of a post for you!

When I woke up this morning the snow was still falling. Erin and i had plans to finish up Christmas shopping but due to the weather i suggested a day of baking and wrapping. She jumped on santa's sleigh and away we went.

Now i know that i spent all last Sunday baking, and that would be plenty for a sane person, but I really had a few recipes that I wanted to try AND it was a perfect day to make some chili. We also had to work on some homemade gifts for friends so why not make it a productive day.

My baking to do list consisted of: Cocoa Fudge Cookies, Rice Krispie Treats, Angel Delights, Low Fat Cranberry Macaroons, Holiday Coffee and of course Chili! I know it seems like alot but two of the cookie recipes don't even have to cook, one of them I have made previously and the other was really low fat...i couldn't pass them up! After a quick trip to the store for supplies (and spirits) I assembled my supplies and began baking.

I started with the Cocoa Fudge Cookies which I had made last year with great success! This is a recipe from Cooking light and these cookies are delicious. They turned out great again this year! They have a chewiness of brownies and definitely have a nice coco flavor. YUM!

While these were cooking I moved on to make Angel Delights the Grand Prize cookie this year in Eating Well's annual cookie contest! I remember when I got the magazine thinking how easy these looked to make. It started off great but when it came to rolling the balls it was extremely difficult to get them to stay together. I tried using spray butter on my hands but it was a struggle the entire time!! When i got ready to blog i looked up the recipe again on the website and saw that most others had the exact same problem! (that's always reassuring) The editors noted that you have to cook the dates and butter for 8-15 minutes (this was not noted in the magazine version)to really make a paste consistency. When i did it i probably only cooked my mix for 3 mins?! Needless to say I made it through the "balling" and put these in the fridge! These suckers only have 52 calories a pieces and are a great little sweet...but boy were they alot of work.

WARNING: Things went a bit down hill next...I had stumbled across a recipe for Low-Fat Cranberry Macaroons and they looked simple, low fat and yummy. MUST TRY. I began by beating the egg whites and I even made sure to call my expert baking mom to see what "Soft Peaks" meant so I didn't jump steps too quickly. Sadly I don't know what went wrong. I will let the picture speak for itself. After the first batch came out a bit runny I thought to add more rice krispies to soak up the extra liquid....not so much. I salvaged a few of the cookies but mainly by just forming them together in a ball.

Not to lose heart I quickly moved onto the Low Fat Rice Krispie treats! I never knew that these were so low in fat/calories either. These were a no brainer and came out perfectly. I let them set in the fridge for a few hours and then cut a couple of holiday shapes out and left the rest squares. I had every intention of giving them some holiday decor, but to be honest I was ready to have a bit of a baking break. Leave it to snap, crackle and pop to restore my faith in my baking :).

I realized about this time that erin and i hadn't really eaten all day long. time to start that chili! I originally made a Weight Watchers recipe but since then it has kinda morphed into my own creation:

  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • handful of baby carrots diced
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1 1/2 cups of stock (i used homemade turkey stock from Thanksgiving)
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce
  • butternut squash cubed (i bought a bag of frozen)
  • 1/2 container of diced mushrooms
  • 1/2 bag of frozen corn
  • 1 Tbls. of Paprika
  • 1 tsp of Cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp of red pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • can of beans (your choice, i like the canalli) and a pepper of your choice
  • salt and pepper to tasteCombine the onions, garlic and carrots until soft. Then add in the meat and brown for about 5 mins. Then add everything else except the beans and pepper and bring to a boil. Put on simmer for about 30-45 mins and then add the beans and pepper and cook for about 15-20 more. The longer it sits the better the flavors develop.

As the chili was finishing up I finished my last task. Holiday Coffee. This is a coffee that my mom throws together every year and the rule is that you can't drink any until you see the first snowfall of the year. What a great day to make this one huh? I wanted to give this to a few teachers that erin works with that are currently doing Weight Watchers. I was able to substitute enough ingredients that it made the drink fat free! Although I can't tell you the recipe (it's my mom's secret and I do want Christmas gifts from her this year :) I will tell you that it combines: hot coco, coffee, non dairy creamer, instant coffee, cinnamon and nutmeg!

I must say after a long day of baking I am ALL BAKED OUT. just in time to travel home for the holidays!

break from eating to laugh


I know that my blog is a food blog, but while researching recipes this morning over Cinnamon Bun coffee, I guilted erin into filling out a Christmas Survey. No seriously I kinda gave her the silent treatment until she did it...boy did she deliver. thought I would share all of her Christmasness with you. Enjoy! (i sure did)

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person that sent it to you.......
Tis the Season to be NICE! HO HO HO
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
wrapping paper...expertly packaged with curled ribbon if katie wraps, and a sad, quilted patch-up job using multiple papers if i wrap.
2. Real tree or Artificial?
real tree (preferably of the charlie brown variety, but usually of the rockefeller center variety per katie)
3. When do you put up the tree? the day after thanksgiving. but, to be fair, katie usually puts it up and i usually "oversee" and "direct."
4. When do you take the tree down? as soon as the needles dry out and the branches drag on the floor. for our tree, that was last week, but katie would stab me with an icicle if i asked to take it down before christmas.

5. Do you like eggnog? only katie's healthy egg nog. the regular stuff is too thick. (that's what she said).
6. Favorite gift received as a child? probably my red ten-speed that i was riding around the living room at 3am on christmas morning. or my talking big bird that my parents packaged in a giant drill box. don't be fooled, even baby lesbians don't want drills, so after i got over crying for an hour, i was very happy to find it was actually a talking big bird. i will also loooove the nintendo wii that katie is getting me for christmas this year!! i mean, she better be getting it for me or else I don't think I will believe in Santa anymore.
7. Hardest person to buy for? my brother chucky is why gift cards were invented.
8. Easiest person to buy for? katie. because i love her and because her list and varied.
9. Do you have a nativity scene? no....but katie and i could dress up and stage a living installation starring us and the cats.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards mail!!!!!! email is for grinches.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? definitely a pack of blank vhs tapes that i waited to open until last because they were heavy and i thought they might be something really nice.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? charlie brown's christmas!! and fred claus!! use two hands for the milk, katie.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? december 26th of the previous year. hahahhhhhhahaa jk. like december 24th.
14/ Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? regifting rules!! especially when you're an impoverished teacher's assistant.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? i prefer to drink festive cocktails.
16. Lights on the tree? small colored lights. definitely NOT the giant ones that my dad uses. he also uses reflectors, which look like cupcake tins.
17. Favorite Christmas song? currently? the 12 days of christmas by that acapella group. "i had christmas down in africa!! do do do da do do do"
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? travel to the north pole. and by the north pole i mean watertown, ny. hey, santa lives there!!
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen (and misfit RUDY). 20. Angel on the tree top or a star? a star. if i wanted an angel on top, i'd have katie climb up and sit there!!
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning, and let me just say that any time after midnight qualifies as "morning."
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? lines and last-minute shopping and those salvation army bell ringers. well, expect the guy outside christmas tree shop. i heart him.

23. Favorite decoration or color theme? snowflakes!!!!!! even the ones i make that look pathetic next to lisa's amazing orgami.
24. What do you want for Christmas this year? nothing. just the love of my friends and family. wii are all really nice and wii only want the best for each other and wii would never imagine asking for anything, now would WIIII?????
25. Who is most likely to respond to this? katie, my very own buddy the elf. daaaaaaaaaaad! daaaaaaaddd!!!

Feel free to join in the Christmas Fun and comment with your own post.

Yuletide taste like...

I officially tried my first holiday beer. I know, kinda late, but I figure i have a whole week of Christmas vacation to catch up with no work to worry about. Prime tasting conditions.

Erin had picked up this bottle at Julio's liquor, which in case I haven't mentioned before is the BEST package store ever! They always have tons of beer choices and great wines with amazing prices. You can find anything there. She chose Yuletide because it was one of the cheaper ones and she liked the festive bottle! (that's my new platter Santa brought early!)
when i got home from work yesterday we cracked the beer, poured it into our Reindeer pint glasses and sipped away.
So...not my favorite. It has a spicy amber taste which was good, but the thicker consistency soon gave me something to dread. It kind of reminded me of drinking a Guinness, so it came as no surprise when erin offered to finish it off. I moved onto a skinny margarita :).

Let's just say we both had plenty of Holiday Cheer!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday Morning Snow Storm Smoothie

So sadly I have to work tonight but I woke up wanting to "make" something. I thought about using up some fresh cranberries and making pancakes, but i have to hit up the gym before work and didn't really think that pancakes would sit well on a treadmill run :(

I opted to go with my typical oatmeal and then make a banana smoothie with some frozen bananas i had in the freezer. I love making smoothies, but in the winter it's not a typical occurrence in my kitchen.

I modified a HG
Banana Breeze smoothie and made up my own below (warning title is lame!)

Simple Banana Smoothies: serves two! (1 WW point each)

1 frozen banana (i freeze mine with the peel so just microwave it for 30 secs. to make it peelable)
1 cup of skim milk
6 packets of splenda
1/2 tsp of vanilla
8 ice cubes (i think it always helps to know exactly how many cubes to add for the right consistency!)

These hit the spot with a warm bowl of oatmeal. Erin and i make another smoothie using peanut butter, banana and granola that made her suggest using graham cracker or i thought even gingersnaps to give the smoothie another texture.
the possibilities are endless!

Happy Blending.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Key Lime in a Snow Storm

We are snowed in!! I love the snow so I don't mind snow storms at all.
I officially started Christmas vacation today AND my office closed early due to the looming snowstorm in New England! Erin also got out of school early and by the time she got home the snow had begun...

Now on to the title of this post. Since we were home at an odd hour, and dinner was a few hours away, what a perfect opportunity to sample another Larabar flavor! I wasn't as hungry because I had a late morning bowl of oatmeal, so I let erin pick the flavor. Key Lime Pie. Now I would have leaned toward Gingersnap or Cinnamon Roll, something "holiday" or a "festive flavor". But since I was only taking a sample I went with erin's pick.

IT WAS DELISH! At first bite its like you are biting into the crust of the pie, then the more you chew you get the tartness of the lime. Its really good and really true to it's name. Again the ingredients are all natural so the textures are wonderful and chewy. I even asked for a 2nd not like me :). I think this tops my list so far, even in the middle of winter. Erin says this is a close 2nd for her...

Which ones next....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Brown Paper Pacakages of POP CHIPS

About a month ago a got an email to send a friend a gift of Popchips. Basically you had to be one of the first 100 people to respond to an email to send someone samples of popchips. Not only had I never tried Popchips, but I knew that erin would love to try some healthy chips as well. She is really good about trying anything I bring home and we both love chips.

I had actually forgotten about this until erin called me the other day and said that a large box had arrived for her called POPCHIPS! I was psyched.

When I opened the box i was shocked by how many bags they gave us! Typically when you order "samples" they send you one, which is fine by me. Free is free. There were five
different flavors: original, BBQ, salt and pepper, salt and vinegar and Parmesan garlic. They have about 120 cals. and 4 grams of fat. The portions are per bag, which I always love, and they give you a nice amount. I love salt and vinegar chips so I was especially excited to try that flavor...they were really good!!! If you have ever tried Soy Crisps they were almost exactly the same in taste and texture. Both erin and i liked them and would absolutely pick them over greasy chips.

I love getting mail! let me take it one step further, I love getting food mail! I love trying new products that are delicious and good for you. It is so reassuring to know that there are companies out there looking out for not only our health but our taste buds too!!

If you send it...i will eat it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Larabar UPdate of flavors....

I recruited erin to help me sample the Larabars and so far we have sampled two!
I knew it would be hard with all the holiday snacks to stick to healthy ones, so we opted to try them together so they didn't have to be our entire snack time.

I started off with the flavors that I have duplicates of first so that I wouldn't be as disappointed if I loved the flavor but didn't have it anymore in my cupboard. May sound strange to you but erin totally knows me and suggested the exact same thing.

So the first flavor we tried was the Coconut Cream Pie bar. This one was also highly reviewed by Tina so I couldn't wait to try it. Erin and I both really liked it!!! It had such a unique texture and the flavors were quite striking. I could really taste the coconut flavor along with an almost graininess that shredded coconut can bring to dishes. I wasn't sure how erin would fare with these because in my mind they are quite "healthy" tasting, which I love! She normally shy's away from these type of products but she really really enjoyed the texture/flavor as well. She mentioned that it was more like a chewy cookie than a healthy granola bar. Well put! (that's why she is technically the writer and I am just a humble blogger). I saw the ingrediants were: dates, almonds, unsweetened coconut, coconut oil and cashews. I mean of course it's good!!

Next we moved on to Peanut Butter Cookie. I thought for sure erin would pick this over the coconut flavor but she still says that the first one "takes the pie" so to speak :). I don't think it had the peanut butter flavor i was expecting...with that said it was still great. Honestly the textures of these bars really shine!

Which flavor shall be next....I'm thinking something festive like Gingersnap perhaps...
Stay tuned...

Thai-tastic Tuesday Dinner

Although I have been doing alot of baking and making recently I haven't really made a meal in quite sometime. Between the holidays and parties most of my cooking has been snacks and cookies! Not that I'm complaining but eating soup and sandwich can get a bit boring! So when erin suggested that i cook something for our Tuesday date night I loved the what to make.

I spent my breakfast time perusing the usual sites to see if something grabbed my interest. I quickly decided I wanted to cook an ethnic dish, but quite frankly felt that i had exhausted all my Mexican dishes lately. I moved onto Indian food (which both erin and i love) but most of these had quite a bit of ingredients that I would have to purchase. Finally I remembered a recipe from my Hungry-Girl Recipe book: Rockin Shrimp Pad Thai. Unfortunately I can't link the recipe because you have to buy the book to see this one, but it's soooo worth it.

This recipe uses Tofu Shirataki noodles, which are extremely low in calories and high in fiber! I made a few alterations to my dish adding: brussels sprouts (surprise surprise), mushrooms and I add a bit more of the sauce to ensure all the veggies were coated. I stuck to the two packages of Tofu noodles as well as the measurements for the scallions and bean sprouts. I used egg whites instead of egg beaters just because that is what I had in the fridge! I know this isn't as helpful without the recipe but seriously, BUY THE BOOK. You won't run out of things to make!

It was a HUGE success! First off the recipe serves two and we even had leftovers (I think because I added so many veggies). At first bite the chili sauce is quite powerful. Now erin loves spice so she really enjoyed it but I had to thin mine out a bit with some soy sauce. Also we both agreed that although the sauce was great you didn't get a strong peanut flavor from this as you might expect. I think next time around I might cut back on the chili and up the amount of peanut butter. Something to note however is that I read alot that when you want to lose weight to add hot spices to your food as it can cause you to slow down/limit the amount of food you eat...that sure worked last night.

It was really good though! Both erin and I commented on how nice textures of the egg whites and bean sprouts were in the dish.

I must say...It was Thai-tastic!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas cookies, crafts and cocktails (or mocktails)

What's better than cooking/crafting and cocktails with a Christmas theme? That basically sums up alot of my loves (and erin was there so that's all of them!). When erin and I were invited to a day of Christmas fun in Peekskill, NY not even a three hour car ride could stop this Rudolph mobile from heading there! Our friends Terra and Scott were gracious enough to host this extravaganza and our friend Katie joined us with her sewing machine in tow!

As the title suggests Katie and Terra had planned out a day full of baking and christmas crafts. I definitely stuck to the baking, but erin took the day to hand paint everyone individual ornaments. She also took a break to help decorate some sugar cookies...which is where my baking day begins. Terra had picked up a table full of goodness to create goodies with. We had a long laundry list of baking to do so after a quick trip to Micheal's (for crafting supplies) Terra and I began the baking. She swears by the packaged Sugar cookie mix and instead of using butter she substitutes a 1/3 cup of oil and a tablespoon of water. Because we were doing roll-out cookies I had to add alot of flour to the mix while rolling them out (thanks katie!). The first attempt at rolling out was quite frustrating because the mix was way too sticky, but after katie's tip I just kept adding flour until i got the consistency needed to keep a nice cookie shape. we had picked up a large tin of Christmas cut outs so we had alot to choose from!

I made two batches of these suckers and we all took a break to decorate them in all of ways :). I'm not going to lie some were kinda scary, who knew that snowmen look frightening with red sprinkle eyes? haha. And you know when you are sick of decorating when you start just adding sprinkles to everything. Oh another katie tip: if you want to make brown reindeer, red and green frosting make a nice 'reindeer brown'!

While I was making these Terra stirred up some tasty, and easy fudge using the recipe on the back of the Fluff container. who knew?! We didn't add the nuts to this and almost added twice the chocolate needed but Terra rescued it just in time. But i do wonder...could there ever be too much chocolate?

The next baking, or should I say making, task was No-Bake Cookies! I added the ! point to emphasis how much I was looking forward to helping out with this one. I might have asked Terra about five times when we were going to start these. They were so easy to make, and so easy to eat too! For some reason i always thought that no-bakes had to sit for awhile to solidify but we sampled these after only about 1/2 hour of sitting. The nice part about this too is that you can make them as large, or as small as you want. This is NO baking involved so these are good to work on while you have something else going in the oven. YUM.

After baking all these recipes I thought I would share one of my own with the group. I sorta figured that we had plenty of goodies to eat, but what about something to drink? Over breakfast i confirmed that we were all egg nog lovers, so naturally I wanted to make my
HG Egg Nog. The ingredients are pretty simple and its A-MAZE-ING. You basically just combine all of these in a blender:

5 cups Light Vanilla Soymilk ; 1 small (4-serving) package Jell-O Sugar Free Fat Free Instant Pudding mix, Vanilla ; 6 no-calorie sweetener packets (like Splenda) ; tsp. rum extract or imitation rum extract ; 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

I doubled this recipe and I also DO NOT add the rum extract. I don't partically like the flavor of rum so that was a no brainer. I also eyeball the nutmeg and always end up adding wayyyy more. It's just so flavorful! Obviously you could add real rum to this recipe. **one important step is to let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour. This allows the pudding to make the mix a bit thicker giving it that authentic egg nog creaminess.

Couldn't you just drink the whole pitcher?:

We had an amazing day! festive and fun.
We all vowed to make this a new Christmas tradition.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Amish Friendship not my friend

I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post that erin's mom had shared Amish Bread with all of us. On top of that she also picked me as one of the "pass along" friends to continue the recipe.
I was super excited to try it and when you pass it along it comes with a page of instructions as well (i linked the recipe above because it also explains where the tradition originated).

In true fashion when it came to add in the next ingredients (you spend a few days just stirring the starter up) I wanted to try and make it a bit more healthy.
On Day 10 you:
Add 1 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1 cup sugar (splenda)
1 cup milk.
Stir. Take out 3 cups and place 1 cup each into three separate plastic containers. Give one cup and a copy of this recipe to three friends. To the balance (a little over one cup) of the batter, add the following ingredients and mix well.
1 cup oil (applesauce)
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
In a separate bowl combine the following dry ingredients and mix well:
2 cups flour (1/2 wheat and 1/2 white)
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 - (5.1 oz) box instant vanilla pudding (the only thing I had was Fat free/sugar free)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup nuts (omitted, erin doesn't like nuts in bread)
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix and pour into two well greased and sugared bread pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.
Okay so...didn't turn out as good as Mrs. K's. I think that too many substitutions and primarily the whole wheat flour caused it to be a bit dense. The flavor was okay but it just didn't seem to have the airiness that I think it needed.
Also in full disclosure I didn't use a ceramic bowl which the recipe clearly calls for!
I think i may have messed a bit too much with this one. I ended up freezing one of the loafs to take home for Christmas (it turns out my brother is a HUGE fan of this bread). I think I will see what they all of think of it as well.
At least friendships don't end over crappy bread!!
(oh and by the way I chose not to pass this one along...:)

Surprise Party Snackies

I love having house parties and erin and i were worried when we moved that no one would come to visit us :( (we live sorta out of the way for some of our city friends). But we underestimated what great friends and family we have! erin just turned 27 on the 2nd so in honor of her big day a few friends from NYC drove down to surprise her. time for our first house party!

I of course knew that people were coming so i planned ahead of time to have a nice snack table for noshing as we boozed it up! I don't eat alot of meat, as you can tell I'm sure, and our friend dan and erin's sister lizzie are both vegetarian so i wanted to have dishes that everyone could enjoy. that being said it was erin's birthday party so it needed to be good too!!
I decided to have the typical spread of veggies (orange pepper, fresh mushrooms, broccoli. and baby carrots) with hummus. We also had some chips with salsa and a platter of cheese and crackers. Oh, and a bowl of erin's famous bridge mix. I wanted to spice things up a bit a picked a dip from Eating Well that looked simple and delicious: Black Bean Dip. I had everything in the cupboard already and the assembly took all of two minutes (including opening the can of beans!). Loved it. It will definietly be a regular addition to party spreads.
Next I wanted to do something cooked, even though we weren't having dinner I think its always nice to have something hot as well. Another recipe that has been in my "to make" list is HG's Pigs in a Blanket. These also were super simple to assemble and I made them up before any of our guest arrived so all I had to do was pop them in the oven. I made two batches, one with fat free hot dogs and one with veggie dogs. I didn't quite figure out how to cut each triangle piece into four more triangles...but I managed to just roll each piece of dog up in a blanket. They were nice and cozy. YUM! These were a hit as well. Behold the spread:

For desert erin really didn't want a cake this year (she is trying to stay healthy in between holidays...that's my girl), and keeping with a party idea I thought it would be fun, and festive, to make gingerbread men/woman in this case for decoration. These were a low-fat (of course) recipe that I found. After the master plan was hatched I realized that I didn't have a person cookie I free handed it. It didn't turn out awful!!

The rules were that you had to decorate a "woman" that looked like erin and then she would judge the winner...the entrants were quite interesting ;). Everyone had fun being creative and I think erin had fun judgingI entered with my friend Molly and we WON! (ours is the one with the red mittens)
I swear it wasn't rigged at all, but try telling that to some of the guys!

I think our friends had a great time...and more importantly I think erin had a fun filled birthday.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pie, Pie, My oh My!

My mother is the pie queen. Her crust's are infamous in our family...and before I left home I can't ever remember having a store bought pie. Forbidden!
She made it look so easy so I never could understood why people didn't make their own crusts/fillings etc...My mom could do it in a half hour. Then she taught me, and although i still refuse to buy a pie I definitely give myself longer than a 1/2 hour!!

It's hard work. frustrating. maddening even! But making your own pie can also be extremely rewarding, for both your palate and your pride :). I will admit that whenever I make pies with my mom I have her do the rolling of the crust. She says it just takes practice, but mine have yet to turn out like hers do here:
Another shocker may be that I also use Crisco in my crust. I know...this is totally against my prior blogging but this is my MOM's recipe...I just couldn't substitute. I mean look at that flakiness...And i really only make pies a few times a year! Holiday's are always an exception to the rule.

We had three pies for Thanksgiving, apple, pecan and Gingered Pumpkin (my pick and make). This was super simple to make. I made the crust (with mom rolling it out) and then let it sit in the freezer for thirty mins. while I made the filling. I used my fresh pumpkin puree!! YUM. sadly I had to run to work before it was ready for the topping, so I trusted my favorite Sous Chef and food photographer (erin) to finish it off. i think she did a great job.
when we sliced into it you could see the different colors and the taste was Delicious as well. I think the pumpkin filling had more texture due to the fact that it was fresh, but if you like that smooth no texture taste make sure to really really puree that pumpkin (or use canned of course).
My mom's apple is right out of the Betty Crocker Cookbook and the Pecan is my Aunt Carolyn's (who passed away from Cancer a few years ago) famous recipe that she passed along to my Mom. I normally have a piece of apple and a piece of pumpkin but in honor of my Aunt I nibbled off some of the pecan top as well! I think my mom may have had to slap my hand away...desert it all a blur :).
We served the pies with fat free cool whip (come on it totally tastes the same), and then for leftovers, later that weekend, I had my apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese . Seriously if you have never tried apple pie with cheese it's amazing! erin did comment that ice cream would have really made it complete!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My First Foodie Package


I have been reading on all the blogs about the nice packages and giveaways that foodie blogger's receive for sampling. I even came pretty darn close to placing in the POTM challenge, in which i would have received a pretty cool package. So when i got home yesterday and saw a box on my Christmas table I quickly ripped it open and found these inside:

I can't believe i got so many flavors...I don't even know where to begin. (they may have sent one of every kind!!!!!!)

Now i know that I have been sampling autumn ales, but this gave me a perfect excuse to sample something a bit more health and blog friendly :). (not to mention that I have more than enough time and vacation days to sample Holiday/winter ales!).

So let the tasting begin. I already have a coconut cream pie one in my purse (I picked that one because I got two of them and I didn't want to give up any of the flavors yet). I will begin with a statement that I don't normally eat "bars". They typically do not satisfy me, however I have seen SO MUCH positive feedback regarding this brand that I can't wait to prove myself wrong!

To be continued....