Ultimate Christmas Eve Cocktail

Food

Last weekend Andy and I enjoyed a night in, decorating the Christmas tree and sipping on festive beverages.

While you’ve probably had spiked eggnog before – rum i’m guessing? Andy and I discovered that nog + peppermint schnapps is a by-far superior combination.

The schnapps blends really well with the thickness of the eggnog, and cuts back on the drink’s sweetness while also adding a festive peppermint burst!

To make the treat yourself simply pour out the desired amount of eggnog (feel free to venture beyond the suggested serving size), drizzle in a splash of schnapps (again, feel free to be heavy handed), and top with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and nutmeg!

Have these ingredients on-hand for all Christmas get-togethers and celebrations!

P.S. Only 8 days until Christmas!

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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

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Food

With every season there are a handful of recipes that are on my absolute must-make list. For fall, we’re talking butternut squash, homemade applesauce, cheesy bowtie bratwurst casserole and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

It’s no secret that pumpkin spice is a an all-time favorite for most (#PSL season started two months ago), and this recipe combines the rich, rustic spices of fall with milk chocolate for a winning combination.

As I’ve mentioned before, I also love this recipe for the cookies’ consistency (think dessert AND breakfast) and love how many batches the dough renders.

And while this recipe is super simple, it’s also quite elegant – great for both cookie connoisseurs and beginning bakers alike!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.
  3. Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
  6. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds.
  7. Stir in the chips.
  8. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges.
  9. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks or paper bags.
  10. Share with friends and family for a hyggelig time!

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*Original recipe retrieved from FoodNetwork.com

Fruit Kabobs!

Food

It’s that time of year again: barbecue season! And while we all love a good burger, bratwurst, and heaping serving of potato & macaroni salad, sometimes we find ourselves in the mood for something a wee bit healthier.

Fruit kabobs are a simple way to fill that health-craving void. All you need for these simple kabobs are wooden skewers, strawberries and a fresh pineapple (or canned pineapple chunks if you’re in a rush).

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Wash strawberries and cut them in half.
  2. Cut your pineapple by first cutting off the outside skin. Proceed to cut the meat of the pineapple into chunks.
  3. Spear your kabobs, rotating between pineapple and strawberry.
  4. Enjoy!

Protein-Packed Spinach + Kale Smoothie

Food

smoothieThis Thursday I had the grand pleasure of having all four of my wisdom teeth extracted. Many of you out there can commiserate with the pain, odd looks from people who are staring at your enlarged “chipmunk cheeks” and your inability to eat just about everything.

None the less, while the past five days have been trying in their own regard, they have made me much more adventurous in the smoothie realm!

Following an oral surgery such as a wisdom tooth extraction, it’s vital that you don’t allow your inability to chew get in the way of your nutrition. As I discovered, smoothies are an easy, delicious and pain-alleviating way to get the nutrients you need when you are unable to chew or, seriously, even open your mouth.

While I tried several veggie smoothies over the past week, this Spinach + Kale smoothie has by far been my favorite. Check out the simple recipe below:

Ingredients:

2 cups spinach

1 cup kale

1 tablespoon peanut butter

3/4 cup milk or almond milk

1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use a vegetable-based powder)

1 frozen banana

Directions:

Blend spinach, kale, peanut butter, milk and protein powder until smooth. Add in banana and blend again.

Enjoy immediately or store in a mason jar for later!

Greek Yogurt and Walnut Dip

Food

Working at Chobani, I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate Greek Yogurt into my cooking. Aside from being a great snack or mini-meal, the yogurt’s thick and creamy texture make it a healthy, versatile ingredient to cook with, and can be used as a substitute for butter, oil, cream cheese, mayo and, most commonly, sour cream.

While I’ve used Chobani yogurt in Swedish meatballs, tuna fish salad, shrimp tacos, bean dip, cheesecake and salad dressing, my simplest rendition was created using the recipe I’m featuring today: Yogurt, Dill and Walnut Dip. 

I originally found the recipe on Real Simple and love how few ingredients it takes to make a filling and healthy snack. Because – let’s be honest – dip is addicting, so the healthier the better!

INGREDIENTS

  • cups Plain Chobani Greek yogurt
  • clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, plus more for topping
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill, plus more for topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, garlic, walnuts, dill and kosher salt.
  2. Top with additional chopped dill and walnuts.
  3. Serve with carrots or pita chips.
  4. Enjoy!

Marble Cake with Apricot Filling and Decadent Mocha Frosting

Baking

A special post-birthday shout-out to my boyfriend Andy who turned 33 this week! While last year we celebrating by exploring the fabulous town of Skaneateles, this year we celebrated by going out to eat at SUMO hibachi and later enjoying his favorite cake – a marble filled with apricot preserves and topped with a rich mocha frosting.

Here’s how to make it:

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

  • 1 box of marble cake mix (I’ve mentioned before that the men in my family prefer box-cake. Thankfully, it’s a great solution when you are looking to save time and feature your frosting.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs

For the filling:

  • 1/2 jar of Smucker’s Apricot Preserves, 18 oz

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature (or unsalted, if preferred)
  • 2 tbs instant coffee granules
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate– cooled slightly (you can use chocolate chips for this)

Painting with #cakebatter. 🥄

A post shared by Emilee Smith (@emileejaysmith) on

DIRECTIONS

  1. Bake the cake according to the instructions on the box, using two 9-inch rounds.
  2. Let cake cool completely.
  3. Spread the apricot preserves over the first round. Be generous, as the cake will absorb the preserves over time.
  4. To prepare frosting, whip butter and instant coffee granules together until fluffy.with an electric mixer.
  5. Turn mixer to medium/high speed and slowly pour in whipping cream and whip until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  6.  Mix in vanilla extract and melted chocolate while whipping on medium/high speed.
  7. Turn mixer speed down to medium/low and slowly add in your powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until the frosting has reached your desired thickness.(Tip: If you are using a strong variation of instant coffee, you will want to use the full four cups of sugar to balance the bitterness of the granules.)
  8. Gently place the second round of your cake atop the first.
  9. Generously apply frosting to the top and sides of your cake.
  10. If desired, decorate with chocolate chips and cocoa powder.

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Original frosting recipe retrieved from http://www.bakeaholicmama.com/2014/01/chocolate-cake-with-whipped-mocha.html. The recipe has been altered from its original format.

 

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Baking

Last night as I was preparing for the impending snowstorm, I decided to try making a rich and cozy dessert: bread pudding.

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Although I had never actually made bread pudding before, I found through some internet skimming that most recipes were extraordinarily simple. I decided to give it a go and found that with such a short time required for preparing the dish, bread pudding actually makes for a great week-night dessert, or in this case, addition to a blizzard preparedness plan.

I followed the recipe closely, though I used chocolate chips or morsels instead of grating a bar of chocolate and also had to bake my pudding ten minutes longer than the recipe suggested.

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The dessert really did come out great, and the blend of cinnamon, almond, chocolate and Kahlua made for a great cozy-feeling dessert on a cold winter night.

If you do decide to give this recipe a try, I also recommend topping it with whipped cream.(Homemade is obviously the best if you have the time, but if not, store-bought will more than do!)

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I acquired said recipe from FoodNetwork.com and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking to try out a rich and flavorful dessert. Click here to check it out!

Grandma Labriola’s Pat a Choux Dough Recipe

Food

Growing up, I was very fortunate to come from a food-loving Italian-American family. With homemade meals and desserts set on our table day in and day out, I grew up learning to appreciate food and the culture and traditions that come with it.

While my grandmother is adept at making absolutely every kind of dessert imaginable, one of my favorite treats was always cream puffs. (I think most children could empathize with this).

Below you will find her recipe for pat a choux, a light pastry dough used for making cream puffs and eclairs, among other French-inspired treats.

While the end result of a homemade cream puff is quite impressive, I think you’ll find that the process to making them is actually quite approachable.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • powdered sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Bring 1 cup water and ½ cup butter to a boil in a sauce pan on high heat
  2. Once boiling, shut the stove off
  3. Add 1 cup of flour and stir until the dough forms a ball
  4. Take the dough off of the stove and beat in four eggs, one at a time
  5. Use a spoon to drop the dough onto an un-greased baking sheet, spacing them apart. There should be enough dough to make 12 cream puffs.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown
  7. Allow the pastries to cool, away from drafts
  8. Once cooled, cut off the tops of the pastries
  9. Pull out the soft dough in the middle of the pastry
  10. Fill the pastries with filling (whipped cream for cream puffs– homemade or, if you’re in a rush, store bought)
  11. Top with powdered sugar
  12. ENJOY!

Italian-Approved Stuffed Shells Recipe

Food

Although I do not look Italian, it is the culture that is my most direct lineage. That being said, I grew up eating a lot of Italian food. Aside from it being my favorite food to eat, it is also my favorite food to cook.

Today, I’m sharing with you a deeply satisfying recipe for stuffed shells, a dish that’s both easy to make and delicious to eat.

What you will need:

1 (16 oz) box of jumbo shells

1 jar of preferred marinara sauce (I like Prego)

1 (32 oz) container of ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded

parsley (fresh or dried)

salt

pepper

garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Boil your shells until they are al dente (this means that they are firm, and still have a bit of a crunch to them).
  2. Combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, a ½ cup of mozzarella, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic powder together in a large bowl. IMG_1429-0
  3. Spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of your 9×13’’ pan.
  4. Drain the shells and begin stuffing them with your cheese mixture. Be generous in the amount of cheese you are stuffing your shells with.
  5. Next, cover your shells will the remaining sauce. (For an interesting twist, mix in fresh sliced mushrooms with the sauce before pouring the sauce over the shells).
  6. Cover with the remaining mozzarella.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the shells are heated through and the cheese is bubbly.
  8. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!