Tag Archives: holidays

I’m just going to write.

I’ve been putting off my first post of 2012 because I’m kind of a perfectionist about some things. I’ve been thinking about ways I want to evolve this blog and I haven’t posted because I haven’t fully figured out what changes I want to make. But I think I’ve realized that that’s ok. It’s my blog and it can be whatever I want it to be! It doesn’t have to be, and won’t be, perfect. Ever. So I’m just going to write!

That being said, Happy New Year! The boyfriend and I had a wonderful long weekend. We got a great deal on a new TV, filled numerous trash bags of clothes for donation, took down holiday decorations, and relaxed a lot. I also made a really yummy appetizer on Sunday that we had while we watched the Patriots game. And it’s so ridiculously easy!

Pepperoni Roll Ups
Recipe from Dinner with the Donnells
– 1 can crescent rolls
– pepperoni
– mozzarella cheese (I think shredded melts best, but string cheese works too!)

Just lay out the crescent rolls on a cookie sheet, top with 3-4 pieces of pepperoni, sprinkle with as much or as little mozzarella as you like…

…and roll ’em up! I kind of stretched the dough to seal off the ends, but nothing oozed out anyway. You might want to do this if you add more cheese. (Shout out to my brother – thanks for the new cookie sheets you gave me for Xmas! They’ve already been used many times!)

Then just bake according to the crescent roll instructions, until they’re nice and golden brown.

Mmmmm. Check out that gooey cheesy goodness.

These were so good! Not the healthiest in the world, but super easy to make and very yummy. The boyfriend’s exact words were – “These are basically heaven.” He’s a meat and cheese kinda guy. 🙂

Dinner tonight was leftover potluck pasta bake, which I’ll post the recipe for this week, and a big batch of our favorite kale chips!

What did you do for New Year’s? Did you take advantage of any sales? 

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Amazing holiday cookies

I hope everyone has been having a great holiday season! I know I’m kind of late in the game here, but I wanted to post the two cookie recipes I used as Christmas gifts because they were such a hit. And they aren’t “Christmas cookies” by any means – definitely suitable year-round!

I did a trial run of these the weekend before my surgery, and then spent the Friday before Christmas at my parents’ house making them. I may have overdone it by being on my feet all day – I was so sore that night – but the result was worth it! These babies have been getting rave reviews.

Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies

The only prep-work for these is to toast the coconut and zest the lime. To toast the coconut, just spread an even layer of coconut flakes on a plate and microwave for 20-30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, for about 2-3 minutes. DO NOT just put the coconut in the microwave for 2 minutes and walk away. It will burn. I literally stand there and watch it. It should come out a nice golden brown.

Next, zest a lime. I made sure to get every tiny little section of peel for maximum limey flavor. 🙂

Then, it’s your typical sugar cookie recipe. It yields a light, fluffy, delicious batter. I DARE you not to try the batter after the coconut and lime aromas start wafting through the air.

Then, roll the batter into tablespoon-sized balls, roll them in sugar, and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. The edges should be golden and the tops will start to crack a little. Top with coconut flakes if desired.

My Dad literally ate about 10 of these over the span of about 30 minutes. The flavors are just perfect. Definitely a cookie I’ll be making again and again!

Get the full recipe here.

Brown Sugar Cookies with Maple Glaze

The combination of brown sugar, cinnamon, and Karo syrup make these cookies moist, chewy, and super flavorful. The first time I made these I followed the directions and used dark Karo syrup, and for the Christmas batch I used light Karo syrup. They were just as good, the color was just slightly lighter (pictures below are from the dark Karo syrup batch). So either will work fine.

Just a warning – this batter is VERY sticky. I rolled the cookies by hand and my hands were completely covered after rolling three cookies. I’m assuming it’s from the Karo syrup.

The recipe makes these cookies giant, but I made them a nice small size.

The maple glaze totally makes this cookie. It’s just powdered sugar, maple extract, a splash of milk, and Karo syrup. This is also super sticky. I recommend piping it through a bag. When I made the first small batch, I just drizzled it on with a spoon. That works too. 🙂

Get the full recipe here.

And since I just made small batches of these the first time around, I’ve got batter all ready to go in the freezer! It’s perfect since it’s just me and the boyfriend at home – I can make a small batch of 1/2 a dozen cookies or so and save the rest for later.

I also tried out Martha Stewart’s Foolproof Holiday Fudge recipe. It was really simple and came out great. Tasted like the real thing! I didn’t end up making fudge for gifts though since I feel like a lot of people do. I wanted to make something different. But if you’re looking for an easy fudge recipe this one’s great.

Did you do any baking this Christmas or receive any particularly yummy homemade gifts? 

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Kitchen/blogging hiatus

Sooo, I haven’t really posted since Thanksgiving. Maybe you thought I was one of those people who started a blog and then gave up on it shortly after starting it. But I swear, I want to keep blogging. I’ve missed it! And I’ve thought of writing every day.

But here’s the thing. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, I had a health scare. I’ve had knee pain for years and just ignored it, because it wasn’t that bad. But earlier this year, I started doing yoga. And I LOVED yoga. But my knee pain was a hindrance, so I finally went to the doctor. After a normal x-ray and six weeks of physical therapy with no improvement, I went to get an MRI.

They found a BIG tumor in my knee, right at the joint where my knee bends. And then we had to wait a week to see an orthopedic oncologist, not knowing anything else. We basically spent a week thinking I might have cancer. It was the slowest, weirdest, scariest week I think I’ve ever had.

But the specialist knew right away from looking at the MRI that it was benign. It was a rare type of tumor that starts in the joint lining. They don’t know what causes it. And mine, because it was so large, had probably been there for years. It had actually started eating away at my bone.

So two weeks ago today, I had surgery to remove the tumor and get a bone graft for the section that had been invaded. It’s been a slow recovery. I’ve literally left my apartment twice since the surgery. It is really hard to get around. I’m in a full leg immobilizing brace. I can hobble around on it a little, but leaving the apartment means involving the crutches which are cumbersome and exhausting to use.

Anyway, sorry for the long story. Basically, I really can’t be on my feet for more than 10 minutes or so at a time. So I can’t cook. I could have done a few fluffy blog posts but it’s kind of been a roller-coaster past few weeks and I just haven’t felt like writing something sub-par. It’s just one of those times where real life gets in the way. 🙂 But more importantly than missing a few weeks of blogging, I’m healthy, healing, and tumorless, and couldn’t be more grateful for that.

The weekend before my surgery, I tried out some recipes that I plan on baking and using as Christmas gifts. The boyfriend and I leave for Boston on Thursday to be with our families for Christmas, and I’m hoping my mom will be my helper in the kitchen so I can get these done. So get ready for posts on…

these…

these…

and these.

I’m guessing I won’t post while I’m back East. There is just too much to fit in for the few days we’re there. But I will definitely be back at it after the holidays. I just wanted to write something to say this isn’t an abandoned blog!

I hope everyone has a happy, healthy, relaxing holiday!

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Thanksgiving recap

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Sorry for the lack of posts recently – the past few weeks have been really hectic!

The boyfriend and I were with my aunt, cousin, her husband, and their five-year-old twins for the holiday. Along with some extended family, there were 15 of us at Thanksgiving dinner! We drove down to Orange County last Wednesday afternoon and just got back Sunday night after a great day at Disneyland!

Unfortunately, I totally neglected taking pictures of all the food. But I managed to snap this one – the remnants of the cranberry apple baked brie appetizer I made – it was a hit!

Cranberry Apple Baked Brie
All I did was unroll a sheet of puff pastry, spread on Trader Joe’s cranberry apple butter, put a wedged of brie in the middle of the puffed pastry, and wrap it all up. I whisked an egg and brushed a thin layer on top of the pastry, and baked at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes until it was golden brown. Here’s a picture of what it actually looked like (from Iowa Girl Eats) since I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough – this dish was devoured!

This was a successful appetizer. It was gone in no time! And you can totally use any type of jam/spread you want for the flavor. I got the idea here, which used pumpkin butter. But the cranberry apple butter was an amaaaaazing complement to the cheese.

I also contributed the mashed potatoes. Unfortunately this is the only picture I got of them, haha – but that’s what 10 pounds of potatoes looks like!

You can obviously cut down the portions on this, but these are the amounts I used to feed 15 people (and we had plenty left over).

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
– 10 lbs potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
– 2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
– 24 ounces sour cream, at room temperature
– 1/4 cup milk, at room temperature
– 2 heads garlic
– salt and pepper

– To roast the garlic, cut off the tip of each head, drizzle with olive oil, and lightly salt and pepper. Wrap in tin foil and bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
–  Cook the potatoes in salted water until fork tender, about 15-30 minutes depending on how full your pot is. I actually separated the potatoes into 2 pots so they would cook faster. Drain and return to pot.
– Add garlic, butter, and sour cream. To add the roasted garlic, hold by the stem of the garlic head and just squeeze the cloves out. They should slide out pretty easily.
– Mash everything together with a masher (I made the boyfriend do this part).
– Add in milk in small amounts at a time, until you’ve reached your desired consistency.
– Add salt and pepper.

I’m so sorry I don’t have a picture of the finished product! But these potatoes tasted amazing. There was just the right amount of garlic, and the sour cream makes them so creamy.

We spent the day at Disneyland on Sunday with the family, so unfortunately we didn’t get to take any leftovers home. (We had a cooler but still didn’t want to leave food in a hot car for the entire day.) But if you still have leftovers, check out these great ideas on how to use them!

Some other photos from the holiday…

Our beautiful turkey, stuffed with apples, onions, sage, and rosemary

One of the table settings

Southern California sunset (the picture really doesn’t do it justice)

Disneyland!

What was your favorite part of the Thanksgiving dinner?
I’d have to say my cousin’s yams!

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Express Holiday Gift Guide

Express just released its Holiday Gift Guide so I thought I’d share my picks. One great thing about Express is that they have something for everyone’s budget.

Stocking Stuffers for Under $30

Sparkles and sequins are always a must for the holiday season. And I just love the envelope wristlet – so cute and classy.

Gifts Under $50

If I still lived in Boston I would definitely have those faux fur earmuffs on my wish list!

Gifts Over $50

The faux fur jacket is so old Hollywood – love it!

For the Men In Your Life

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Holiday deals may disappoint this year

Check out this interesting article from Yahoo! Finance on why holiday shopping deals won’t be as good this year.

Do you have a holiday shopping strategy to save money? Will you be cutting back spending this year?

Deal Hunters May Be Disappointed This Holiday Season
by Jennifer Schonberger
Provided by Kiplinger.com

Shoppers will find only modest discounts this holiday season.

What’s the outlook for holiday sales?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are more important this year for price-sensitive consumers, but people could be hard-pressed to find the same great deals they found last year. We expect weaker spending for the holidays overall because of the turmoil in the stock market and economic uncertainty. Holiday sales will likely increase at only half of last year’s 5.5% growth rate.

What types of deals can shoppers expect?

Retailers could start holiday promotions by early November. You’ll see more deals offering a certain percentage or dollar amount off a total purchase — such as $10 off if you spend $25 or $50 — rather than x% off a particular item. Higher commodity costs for retailers are limiting their ability to cut prices. Offering a dollar amount off a total purchase allows retailers to preserve price increases for specific items while offering savings to the consumer. Shoppers should also be on the lookout for deterioration in the quality of clothing — whether it’s thinner fabric or fewer accessories — as retailers try to maintain profits.

What are the best ways to shop this year?

Savvy shoppers will find better deals online. Shopping online gives consumers the information and tools they need to compare prices. Expect lots of free shipping, too. We’ll see more retailers come up with tools to offer value. A new app from Lowe’s is a good example; besides allowing you to shop online, it lets users in the store scan items on the shelves to get more product information or watch demos. Getting on retailers’ e-mail lists will alert you to deals. You can also find deals on stores’ Twitter feeds and Facebook pages.

Where will consumers find the best buys?

Whether it’s Walmart, Target or the dollar stores, mass-value retailers will offer the best deals. Their mid- to low-income shoppers are looking for bargains more than ever in this economic environment, and competitive pressures are high. You’ll find attractive prices on PCs and tablet computers, as well as toys — particularly video games and consoles. For apparel, though, take a look at upscale department stores, such as Saks. If wealthier shoppers pull back due to the fall-off in the stock market, those stores may offer deals.

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Delicious twists on Thanksgiving favorites

Halloween is over, so that means it’s time to start thinking about the holidays! Since we’re flying back to Massachusetts for Christmas, we’re spending Thanksgiving with my cousin down in Orange County, and I’m already thinking about what I want to make. Check out these amazing ideas for traditional Thanksgiving dishes with a unique twist. I’ll let you know what I decide to try out! (All photos/recipes from Closet Cooking.)

Side Dishes

Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes topped with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

Onion Gratin

Maple Dijon Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes with Coffee Gravy

Roasted Butternut Squash with Caramelized Onions, Gorgonzola, and Crispy Fried Sage

I must say, I’m partial to anything with goat cheese in it so those potatoes are my pick!

Main Course

Parmesan and Sage Roasted Turkey Breast

Maple and Chipotle Roasted Turkey Breast

Ham Crusted with Mustard and Gingersnap Crumbs

Roasted Lamb in Coffee Sauce

I won’t have to worry about making the main dish, but I think the maple and chipotle turkey and the ham sound the best!

Desserts 

Vanilla Apple Crisp with Caramel Sauce

Maple Pecan Pie

Dulce de Leche Apple Pie

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

Pear and Cranberry Crumble 

I’m leaning towards the crumble – they are so easy and it’s hard to mess them up!

Have you started thinking about Thanksgiving dishes yet? Do you usually go traditional, or does your family switch things up?

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