Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Food

I’m an avid fan of Food Network‘s Holiday Baking Competition and, as a result, have watched many-a-baker create Mexican hot chocolate inspired goodies. While I’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying Mexican hot chocolate, I’m a sure-fire (spicy reference intended) fan of chocolate and pepper combined and have been eager to try out this flavor profile during the holidays.

This weekend I made my first batch of Mexican hot chocolate cookies and it was truly love at first bite!

SO gooey, with a satisfying zip of spice from the cayenne pepper and chili powder. The recipe is also really easy which is another plus, especially this time of year!

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) butter
  • 4 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (you can also use bitter chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate together in the microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl) in 25-second increments, whisking between each interval. Cool the chocolate mixture to room temperature.
  3.  Beat the brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and eggs on low speed until well combined. Pour in the cooled chocolate and continue to mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate batter and mix on low speed until just combined.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
  6. Scoop the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie (they expand!).
  7. Bake the cookies for approximately 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. The cookies should be puffy and still fairly soft when removed from the oven.
  8. Immediately slide the cookies, still on the parchment paper, onto a wire cooling rack.
  9. Enjoy this recipe with friends, co-workers and loved ones this holiday season.

P.S. 13 days until Christmas!

Original recipe retrieved from http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/spicy-mexican-hot-chocolate-cookies-1962907#reviewsTop
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Holiday Book Review: “Hiddensee: The Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker” by Gregory Maguire

Review

In the past, I’ve been pretty upfront about my love for nutcrackers. I love the story, their ties to folklore and the belief that they can be used to ward off evil and bringing good luck (I may be a tad superstitious).

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A fan of fantasy novels, you can only imagine how excited I was to hear that Gregory Maguire was taking on the story of the nutcracker in his most recent novel “Hiddensee: a Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker.”

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That being said, let me make one thing clear: Like most of Maguire’s novels, this book is absolutely not the story that you think you are getting when you pick it up. This story does not focus on the nutcracker, but rather, his maker, Heir Drosselmeir the toymaker.

Without giving too many spoilers away, I will say that the book follows Drosselmeir through life, beginning with his youth as a young boy named Dirk. While at first you suspect (and maybe hope) that Dirk will grow into the nutcracker, that theory is quickly dashed when his mentor dubs him Drosselmeir.

There’s no getting around it: this book is odd. It’s quirky, dark and at times requires your complete concentration. It is not a cheerful rendition of German children dancing around the Christmas tree, plagued by the wretched mouse king.

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It’s a highly symbolic journey into the human subconscious, with its theme for longing for childhood innocence making it relatable. It is, first and foremost, beautiful. I’m not sure I realized just how much I enjoyed this book until after I was done reading it.

Like all Maguire novels, this book makes you think. This is probably why I loved it so much. I’d recommend this read to nutcracker fans, literary nerds and fantasy enthusiasts alike. An absolute must-add for your holiday reading list!

P.S. 17 Days Until Christmas!

Holiday Wreaths

Crafts

If you’ve been following my Instagram, you’ll have noticed that as per usual, I’ve been kicking off the holiday season in full force! In our household, the Christmas season officially begins on black Friday.

I’ve brought out the nutcrackers…

Said to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck, I love filling my home with nutcrackers during the holiday season. #themagicofchristmas

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Designed our Christmas cards…

And spent the last two Sundays making holiday wreaths.

After participating in a craft class three years ago at our local nature center, wreath-making has become a favorite family tradition and was a craft I was able to show a group of friends over a glass of wine and a cheese board.

Whether you’ve made a wreath before I not, I promise it’s a very simple, very rewarding project and encourage you to invite your friends and family over for a jolly-good, wreath-making time.

For full instructions on how to construct your first wreath, click here.

Snowman Embroidery

Art, DIY

This winter, I set about making my first snowman-inspired embroidery, inspired by the idea of making my grandmother a homemade gift.

Growing up, like most children, I was quite the expert in homemade gifts, constantly gifting my family members with the crafts and artwork I labored over in school and during my free time.

I’m happy to say my craftsmanship has improved quite a bit over the last 15+ years or so, but my desire to give homemade gifts has remained the same. Knowing that my grandmother would appreciate a handmade gift the most, I set about creating this embroidery for her in late November.

 

The process started out much the same as my other pieces, beginning with some google research (imagery inspiration is so important) and moving on to a pen sketch on fabric. When designing this piece, I knew I didn’t want to go too big (I was working on a limited time frame) but I also knew that it had to be big enough to make for a substantial gift. Not to mention a larger piece allows for more intricate details.

Another design decision that had to be made was whether or not I wanted to embroider snow falling in the background. While French knot snowflakes would have furthered the piece’s sense of whimsy, I ultimately decided against them, not wanting to distract from the main element and focus (the snowman). With the design being so clean, I decided against the clutter of snowfall.

 

After filling in all of the colors and patterns, I framed the piece and tied a festive blue ribbon onto the fastening, allowing the artwork to be easily hung. Although the snowman in the drawing is wearing Christmas colors, I designed him with the intention of being left out all winter, knowing that my grandparents would want to enjoy him all season, as opposed to only one month during the year.

While I’m in no hurry to embroider another snowman any time soon, I’m happy to report that the gift went over extraordinarily well! Having been the person who first got me hooked on embroidery, I know my grandmother was able to appreciate the time and effort put into each and every one of the countless stitches.

Happy Holidays!

Holiday

Happy Holidays from the Perpetual Creator! I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with peace and joy. Keep your holiday spirits high as we prepare for New Year’s Day this weekend and be on the lookout for some perfect holiday recipes!

Celebrating the Magic of Winter and Wishing for a White Christmas

Art

Today marks the first official day of winter, also known as Winter Solstice.

A season that tends to get a bad wrap due to the raised energy bills and driving inconveniences, it’s undeniable that winter also possesses the ability to be the most beautiful time of year. (It also happens to be one of my favorite seasons!)

This year in Central New York, it’s looking like we may actually, finally get a white Christmas! While the Christmases of my childhood were always white, the last few years have left us New Yorkers in a green-spell, dooming us with rain and warm weather on Christmas day.

Sending out some white-Christmas vibes, I’m sharing with you a recent colored pencil drawing of mine, inspired by Disney Frozen protagonist Elsa, the Snow Queen.

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Inspiration:

It’s no secret that I love Frozen and have mentioned before my fascination with winter-themed magic.

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This drawing was fun to do from the fan art perspective as the imagery was not taken directly from the film. Rather, I modeled the drawing after a real-life image of an arm and added my own Frozen-inspired touches.

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Although New York doesn’t have its own personal winter sorceress to ensure we have snow this Christmas, I’m hoping the wishes and prayers of its residents is enough to allow this holiday to live up to its fullest and most magically picturesque potential!

P.S. Only 3 days until Christmas!

Christmas with the Celts

Holiday, Inspiration, Review

To get into the holiday spirit, my family and I decided to attend a show brought to our local Arts Council: Christmas with the Celts.

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If given the opportunity, I would highly recommend attending this show, as it was a combination of lively energy, festive music and the perfect amount of Christmas that you are looking for during the holiday season!

#Christmas with the #Celts! 👏🌲🍀🎻

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The performance even incorporated local Irish step dancers during a handful of songs and a local elementary school chorus joined in during the group’s rendition of John Lennon’s “So This is Christmas.”

With the tickets only costing $31.00 per person, I’m was very happy with the quality of the show! Seriously, how can you listen to Celtic music and not be happy?

Here’s to checking off that Christmas season checklist! 

P.S. Only 7 days until Christmas!

Reviewing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (No Spoilers!)

Inspiration, Pop Culture, Review

I’ve been so busy writing Christmas and Fall inspired posts that I haven’t had the chance to reflect upon Fantastic Beasts. Having seen the film two weeks ago, I’ve been itching to write down my thoughts on the film and share them with the creative and wizard-loving community.

The first thing I’m going to say is this: Go see the movie. If you have not yet seen it, but believe that you may possess even just the slightest interest in doing so, then stop reading this and go to the theater immediately.

Because my overall review is that Beasts was, truly, Fantastic. 

Clearly very different from the Harry Potter story, this film brought something new to the table: A plot line and experience of the wizarding world seen through the perspective of an adult, littered with maturity and the vibrancy of early-1900s New York City.

Though I could absolutely rant and rave about this film, I’ll keep it simple with my top three favorite things:

1. The Beasts. Anyone who reads this blog knows of my love of mythical and fantastical creatures. If you loved watching Harry fly over the lake with Buckbeack, or perhaps secretly wished for Norbert’s prolonged residence in Hargrid’s hut, then you will love the creatures brought to you in Beasts. While the niffler provides sufficient humor, the thunderbird emanates wonder and encourages imagination.

With so many other creatures also presented during the film, the beasts are a large part of what makes this film fantastic.

2. Character Development. Without a doubt, Eddie Redmayne makes this film. Socially awkward and enraptured by seemingly “dangerous” characters, Newt Scamander is a character for whom you find yourself rooting for.

Also captivating is our first muggle/no-maj main character, Jacob, who adds an immense amount of humor to the periodically dark storyline.

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Sisters Porpentina and Queenie also make for well-developed main characters, playing like-able, as well as complete and total opposites.

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3. Storyline. This storyline, while playing into Harry Potter, was also completely fresh. It was also a great balance of light-hearted humor and serious, symbolic themes. Although this was her first screenplay, J.K. Rowling has outdone herself once again.

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This year has been a big one for the wizarding world, bringing us the release of  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well as the beginning of this new Fantastic franchise. Ultimately much more pleased with this film than I was with the Cursed Child play book I look forward to seeing it one more time before it leaves theaters and ultimately encourage you to do the same.

Early Christmas gift perhaps?

Until then, so the fan art begins…

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Christmas Checklist: Finding Your Holiday Spirit

Festivity, Inspiration

It’s that time of year again! The most wonderful time of the year as a matter of fact, and everyone is abuzz with excitement and anticipation as Christmas day looms closer.

Though our culture tends to associate this season with gift-giving, most of us know that there is so much more to this holiday and that it is the traditions that make it special. While the Christmas season technically kicked off two weeks ago, there is still plenty of time to enjoy the activities and traditions that make this the most wonderful time of the year.

But perhaps you’re still in need of a little holiday spirit? Not a problem. Check out my Christmas to-do list for inspiration:

  1. Decorate the house and transform your home into a holiday wonderland.

2. Trim the tree, because it wouldn’t be Christmas without a grand and shining tree sparkling through your window.

🌲❄️☃️

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3. Make a festive wreath to hang on your front door.

4. Bake an abundance of Christmas cookies (because calories don’t count on the holidays).

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5. Watch a Christmas classic, such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” 

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6. Check out a Christmas show or performance, such as the “Nutcracker Ballet.”

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7. Attend a Christmas-craft class or do one on your own!

8. Read a winter or holiday-themed book.

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9. Sit back and enjoy the snow.

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Here's to hoping the #snow stays put for the next two weeks. #whitechristmas #samadams #sundayfunday ❄️🍺

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10. Spend time with the ones you love most.

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It’s the little things in life that we remember, and the little things that count most. Be sure to make this holiday season count!

P.S. Only 18 days until Christmas!

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Capturing Everyday Magic: Snowflake Embroidery

Art, Inspiration

Most of us can remember making snowflakes when we were children, frantically cutting geometric shapes out of pieces of paper and hanging them throughout our childhood homes.

Still entranced by snowflakes as an adult, I decided to bring snowflake art to the next level, completing this freestyle hand embroidery inspired by the movie Frozen.

 

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This piece, while differing greatly from my usual subject matter with its focus on pattern, was very relaxing to work on. After drawing the outline in pen, I then worked very methodically: filling in one piece at a time, following with the corresponding sections in the other five points.

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As of late, I’ve been using my embroidery pieces to capture the idea of every day magic. Objects or occurrences that occur in nature (or perhaps they’re believable enough that they just might) that possess a fantastical or magical quality.

I was inspired by the Frozen snowflake in particular, as it is used as a symbol of Elsa’s powers and magical abilities.  The snowflake’s design represents the power of strong colors and geometric shapes, and their ability to transform something created by nature into something otherworldly and beautiful.

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Greatly pleased with the outcome, I plan on framing this piece and hanging it with the rest of my holiday decor this Christmas season.