Friday, December 19, 2014

Eggnog Caramels

This was such a perfect recipe - for about 24 hours. Unfortunately I stored it wrong, or left it out too long before cutting and storing, because mine went from beautifully soft, buttery, and chewy, to grainy. I used a cookie sheet for mine, but recommend something a little smaller so your caramels will be a little thicker.

This is my first time trying my hand at caramels, so I'm still not sure if I did something wrong or why they turned grainy after a day - but from everything I read it sounds like they weren't stored properly. I will definitely have to try them again and see if I can figure out the storage, because these are such delicious little treats to have on hand! I really wanted to take some in and share them at work - so I will try try again another day.

My son loved these and was drooling over the sheet before they were cut into bite sized pieces. He still says they're really good, even if they got a little crumbly and grainy. I am trying to decide if I should melt them down again and maybe drizzle them over some popcorn to salvage the batch - we'll see what I end up opting to do.

These do not taste like eggnog, they have a very lightly spiced taste, mostly they just taste buttery and caramelly. Yumm!

Eggnog Caramels from Culinary Adventures with Cam

2 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup honey
2 cups eggnog
dash ground nutmeg

  1. Line a 9x13 baking dish with Reynolds nonstick foil (if you don't have the nonstick foil line with parchment paper and coat well with melted butter).
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan. Attach a candy thermometer to the side (make sure it's not touching the bottom). 
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 247 - 248 degrees F. 
  5. As soon as mixture reaches the correct temperature, pour into the preparing pan and move to the refrigerator to cool and set up, allow to cool for at least 3 hours prior to removing from the pan, trimming, and cutting into desired sized caramels.
  6. Wrap each individual piece in parchment paper to prevent sticking.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

#BundtBakers - Chocolate-Peppermint Bundt Cake

#BundtBakers is a group of bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient. This month’s theme is mint and our creative host is Laura of The Spiced Life. Mint is just in time for December - and you will see a wide variety of mint selections in the list of bundts prepared for today - everything from orange and mint, to peppermint patties, candy canes, creme de menthe and more!

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send an email with your blog URL to All recipes and photographs can be found on our individual blogs, on our Pinterest board, and the #BundtBakers homepage.

The cake I am sharing today is a WONDERFUL addition to any cake recipe collection. It is moist, full of yummy sweet bites of mini chocolate chips, and lightly coated with a pepperminty glaze which makes this the perfect holiday treat.

The cake itself is very lightly flavored - you can taste the chocolate and the peppermint extract, but neither flavor is overpowering or strong. It is mild, and goes perfectly with the delicious, sweet, minty glaze. The pieces of candy cane crushed and sprinkled in are a wonderful accompaniment - giving a little bit of chewy and crunchy texture, and another pop of refreshing peppermint flavor.

This would look very pretty on a holiday dessert buffet table, take one to work to wow your co-workers, or share with your chocolate and peppermint loving family. I think a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream would go perfectly with a slice of cake!

I am so ready for Christmas to be here - it has been non-stop for me since we moved in late October - every single weekend has been full of driving about 2.5 - 3 hours total to head back to the Hiram house for cleaning, painting, packing up and carrying out the last of the items still in the garage, cleaning up landscaping, etc. One project after the next has been slowly ticked off the list, and the house is listed for sale now, but the work isn't done yet. We still have a couple more loads to bring over from the garage, and staining of the deck and porch, finishing the pressure washing and we're probably going to have the living room carpet professionally cleaned and pulled tight again to see if they can get it looking better than our steam vacuum was able to accomplish. I work a 40 hour week Monday through Friday, come home and jump straight into cooking dinner and caring for Lindsey to give Kenneth a break every night. I love those precious hours with her, and am thankful for them - but it makes the evenings pass in a blur. One day rolls into the next, rolls into the next and I am wiped out. We're approaching 2 months since our move and I'm really feeling all those weekends of working and not resting catching up with me. My mind and body are tired and really just need a break. We still have more to do, so we'll be back at the house at least once this weekend, but all of that to say - I am REALLY looking forward to the extra days off coming up. I desperately need a break. I haven't wrapped any presents, and our tree is up but there are no decorations on it. It's pretty with the lights plugged in, but depressing that it's December 18th and no decorations have made it up at all... I kind of guessed this is how it would go since we moved so close to the Holidays, but it still makes me a little sad!

With all that said, I am so thankful to be where we are now. I love our little house surrounded by the woods, at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. No road noise, no visible cars driving by, just a few neighbors, and lots of pretty trees and leaves. The leaves have to be blown off about every week or other week or so from the driveway which is new for us - we didn't really have any trees at the last house!

Last night the power went out, and that really stunk. This is an older house and the insulation is not that great, we've been talking a lot about beefing up the insulation to help achieve a little more energy efficiency and keep the house warmer. The windows need to be replaced eventually as well as most are not double paned. So, when the power went out in the middle of the cold, cold night our little Lindsey awoke with no nightlight and no noise machine and started crying. I didn't want to just leave her to cry herself back to sleep because I was afraid she was going to get cold since she will not leave a blanket over herself - so after trying rocking her for awhile and then laying down on the floor in her room for awhile, I gave up and brought her to bed. That is pretty much the only sleep I got - a couple hours of fitful sleep worrying about rolling on my baby. I am not used to having her in bed with me so it stresses me out a little - plus she is a wild woman and moves around a lot.

In any event, I am extra exhausted today - and we'll see if caffeine is enough to get me through the day. I think a nap, a long one, may be required to catch up... soooo tired....

Maybe I just need a slice of yummy chocolate cake with my coffee to perk me up. :)

Look at all these delicious cakes to pick from today!

Chocolate-Peppermint Bundt Cake from Tutti Dolci

1 cup boiling water
6 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 TBS sugar
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp peppermint extract
3 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1 to 2 TBS milk

1 TBS butter, melted and cooled
1/8 tsp peppermint extract

2 peppermint candy canes, crushed

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a 12-cup bundt pan with nonstick baking spray (or generously grease and flour your pan). 
  2. Whisk together boiling water and cocoa powder in a small bowl, then set aside to cool. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid, beat the room temperature butter, sugar, and peppermint extract at medium speed until well blended (about 2 - 3 minutes); add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. 
  4. Blend the yogurt into the butter mixture, followed by the cooled cocoa mixture. Slowly add the flour mixture in batches, blending between additions but just until combined (do not over mix).  Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth; tap pan once or twice sharply to remove any air bubbles. Bake 34 - 35 minutes, until cake begins to pull away from edges of pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then carefully invert onto the rack and allow to cool completely (or invert directly onto a cake plate if preferred).
  6. For the glaze, combine powdered sugar, milk, butter, and peppermint extract in a small bowl; stir in half of the crushed candy canes. Place the wire rack with cooled cake over a piece of wax paper and drizzle the cake with glaze and then sprinkle the top with the remaining crushed candy canes. Allow to set before serving. 
  7. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies from Mazola®

This is another delicious peanut buttery oatmeal cookie recipe (and the dough is yummy too!) I have several of these type of cookies in my recipe index because we definitely enjoy this type of cookie, and this is another delicious one to keep on hand. They are soft, lightly crispy on the bottom, and full of tender bites of chocolate. Perfect to enjoy fresh from the oven, and warm with a little vanilla ice cream (Kenneth's favorite way to eat homemade cookies)!

These are great for work or school lunches, or a tasty snack as well. They store well and keep fresh for several days (I think this batch lasted about 4 days at our house, maybe 5). You can always freeze some as well, and pull them out when you're ready to enjoy!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies from Mazola® on AllRecipes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
1/2 cup Mazola® Corn Oil
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups bittersweet or white chocolate chips (optional) (I used semi-sweet)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Beat peanut butter and butter in a large bowl with mixer at medium speed until smooth; beat in oil. Beat in brown sugar and sugar until blended, then eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture and chocolate chips, if desired.
  2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten with fork dipped in sugar, making crisscross pattern. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to cool completely on wire rack. Store in tightly-covered container.

Barilla Oven-Ready Lasagna with Meat Sauce and Bechamel

This was such a yummy lasagna recipe that we enjoyed a couple nights ago! I've never done a bechamel sauce in lasagna before, and it added such delicious creaminess and richness to the dish. Absolutely perfect and I will definitely use this method again.

The original recipe calls for a jar of meat sauce, but I prefer to cook my ground beef (seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and italian seasoning) and then combine with a jar of sauce - use whichever method you prefer!

We served this yummy lasagna with a big Caesar salad and some homemade garlic cheesy bread rolls for a very filling, cozy dinner. Perfect for this cold weather. I've been craving lasagna for awhile now, and this one totally hit the spot.

I actually had three recipes I'd created already and had to get home and photograph last night - including this one. I rushed to get this one, some yummy tortellini soup that I'll share soon, and my bundt for the month (sharing tomorrow!) all photographed and I only have about 60 minutes, tops, of decent light through the dining room window once I'm home. The dining room is still a mess too - we have our combination vent hood / microwave sitting on a chair in the back corner, near my table I use for pictures, and it was a lovely obstacle to try not to run into or knock over - in addition to that I had my adorable photography assistant, aka clingy teething 15 month old who wants mommy to hold her from the minute I walked in the door until bed time... ok, not quite that bad, but for the first half hour it was. Once I got some teething tablets and food in her she settled down.

It made for a challenging first hour at home, but I was able to get a few decent shots of them all and call it a day! Then it was onto cooking dinner for everyone else and getting the little Ladybug to bed. She heads to bed around 6:30 most nights, so we usually have time for at least a couple shows while dinner is cooking and being eaten to sit and unwind for awhile after the day. It is my favorite time of day, quiet time to snuggle with my hubby on the couch and just be for a little while before heading off to bed and hoping for a decent night of sleep.

Oven-Ready Lasagna with Meat Sauce and Bechamel adapted from Barilla on AllRecipes

1 (9 ounce) box Barilla® Oven Ready Lasagne
4 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 24-oz jar spaghetti sauce
1 lb ground beef, cooked and seasoned to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning
2 - 3 TBS dried basil, more to taste (or use up to 1/2 cup fresh basil)

  1. Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. For the bechamel, in a medium saucepan melt butter and stir in the flour; cook 2-3 minutes. Whisk vigorously as you add the milk into the butter-flour mixture. Continue whisking and and bring to a simmer; cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and 3/4 of the Parmesan cheese.
  3. Pour 1/5 of the Barilla meat sauce (or the combined ground beef with spaghetti sauce) and 1/5 of the bechamel into the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish; top with a sprinkling of basil. Cover with three noodles and repeat for 3 layers. For the top layer add the remaining Parmigiano cheese and a final sprinkling of basil. Cover with foil.
  4. Bake until the corners are bubbling and slightly brown, about 20 minutes. Let the lasagna rest for 5 minutes before serving.
That face!! Big girl is growing so fast - already 15 months old...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bacon for a Crowd (or your family!)

I have discovered what has become life changing for weekend breakfasts at our house. This is SO simple, but works BEAUTIFULLY every single time (as long as you don't over cook it like I did one time and end up with very yummy, brittle, crumbly, dark bacon that you can't bear to throw out so you crumble and decide to use for bacon bits later).

I love this method. No more bacon grease splatters, no more curly bacon (much easier for sandwiches, etc.!), no more standing over a hot pan and trying to avoid getting hit in the face when you flip bacon. Preheat your oven, lay out the amount of bacon you need on a foil lined baking sheet, pop it in, set the timer and DONE!! One less thing to coordinate while you're preparing the rest of your breakfast. I love this and we've used this cooking method pretty much every weekend since I discovered it since we have bacon usually at least once over the weekends to go with pancakes, waffles, eggs and toast, etc.

Bacon for a Crowd from Joyce on AllRecipes

Bacon (desired amount)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange bacon on baking sheet in a single layer with the edges touching or slightly overlapping.
  2. Bake in preheated oven to desired degree of doneness; typically 10 to 15 minutes. Remove bacon from the baking sheet with tongs or a fork, and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Secret Recipe Club 2014 Cookie Carnival - Speculaas

Welcome to this special December edition of the Secret Recipe Club! For this special edition cookie exchange, I was assigned to The Tasty Cheapskate where I found a HUGE collection of cookie recipes to browse through. You can read more about Jean on her about me page! It was fun for me to get to "meet" someone outside of my usual Group D for reveal days. I adore my group, but it is always nice to discover someone new and branch out from your comfort zone every now and then too. Find Jean on Pinterest or Facebook too!

Look at this list of cookies I had to pick through!

Cookies and Brownies/Bars
100% Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies
Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Better Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Optional Nutella Filling
Cadbury Milk Chocolate Cookies
Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies
Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Cinnamon-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Coconut Macaroons
Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie Bars
Double Chocolate Mint Cookies
Dutch Almond Bars
Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
Gingerbread Cookies
I Ran Out of Eggs Egg-Free Cookies
Jean's Chocolate Chip Cookies
Katie's Chocolate Chip Cookies
Katie's Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (aka Whoopie Pies)
Kip's Chocolate Chip and M&M Cookies
Lemon Chick Cookies (for Easter)
Lemon Doodles
Molasses Crinkles
Nutella Cookies
Pumpkin Cookies
Seven Layer Cookies (Magic Cookie Bars)
Stir 'Em With a Spoon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Thumbprint Cookies--caramel and peanut butter
Triple Choc Cookies
Triple Chocolate Cookies

Ummm... where do I start?!! I kind of got suckered into the Speculaas - the story behind them is pretty cool and involves Jean spending time in The Netherlands and experiencing Saint Nicolas Day and songs about Sinterklaas!

I kind of messed this one up - but it didn't matter because they came out incredibly delicious despite my best efforts to ruin them. I halved the recipe because seeing a full cup of butter in a cookie recipe makes me think it is going to make way too much and I should make half the called for recipe... however, this is meant to be a thick, bar-style cookie, so I should have gone with the original recipe and followed the instructions. I tried baking the halved recipe on a baking sheet, and so I ended up with fairly flat cookies because they spread so much (and I didn't chill prior to baking). They were still buttery, wonderfully spiced, crispy on the edges and chewy too. Everything I could ask for in a Christmasey cookie! Those cloves were probably my favorite part - I had whole cloves to start with, so when I ground them in the mortar and pestle, some of the pieces were still a little larger than "finely ground" but it just added an extra bite of spice in some of the mouthfuls of cookie. The nuts added a nice touch of texture (though I used chopped walnuts because apparently I am out of almonds).

This is definitely a keeper - very different from pretty much anything I've ever made before. I LOVED all of the wonderful flavors in these cookies. I kept feeling like I was drinking spiced apple cider, the way the spice lingered in the back of my throat. These cookies taste like Christmas. Definitely give them a try!

Speculaas from The Tasty Cheapskate

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature (2 sticks)
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs, beaten
3 ½ cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp anise extract
1/8 tsp salt
½ cup sliced almonds

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Beat butter, vanilla, and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs. 
  3. Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and then stir into butter mixture (the dough will be stiff). 
  4. Roll or press dough into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Press almonds lightly into dough. Bake 15 - 20 minutes. 
  5. Cool and cut into squares.
  6. You can also chill the dough and then cut it into rounds or into shapes before baking.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Baked Creamy Cheesy Chicken Flautas

This was a quick, easy, and delicious work night dinner we enjoyed recently! We love Mexican flavors, but sometimes get bored with nachos or tacos, so I try to branch out a little bit every now and then. Kenneth is not a big fan of enchiladas because he doesn't like how wet they are, so I thought this would be a good alternative and it was! It was perfect to use up two chicken breasts we had thawed in the refrigerator as well. It's something I had pinned not too long ago and I was trying to figure out what to use the two chicken breasts for (since three people can't just eat two chicken breasts unless they're cooked into something!) and when I searched my handy dandy Chicken Pinterest Board for inspiration I found exactly what I wanted to make. Kenneth started the chicken on the stove top to boil while I was driving home, and then I whipped the rest up and got these in the oven before putting miss Lindsey Rose to bed for the night.

Creamy, cheesy, lightly spiced, and easy to adjust to your personal tastes by adding your favorite toppings before serving. I had mine with some diced avocado and tomato, and Kenneth enjoyed his with sour cream and diced avocado! We enjoyed these with some tortilla chips and salsa on the side. (I think my son could eat his weight in salsa if we let him!)

Baked Creamy Cheesy Chicken Flautas from Jo Cooks

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 tsp minced garlic
¾ cup canned corn, drained
1 cup salsa
½ cup sour cream
1 ½ cup Mexican cheese blend (I used a blend of cheddar and mozzarella)
8 - 10 6 inch flour tortillas
¼ cup butter, melted
Condiments / toppings of choice: diced avocado, salsa, diced tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole, shredded lettuce, etc.


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat a nonstick skillet with the olive oil over medium high heat, add the diced onion when the oil is hot, saute for a few minutes and then add the minced garlic. Continue to cook for about 5 - 10 minutes more or until onion is tender. 
  3. Add in the shredded chicken, corn, salsa, sour cream, and cheese. Gently combine until heated through and cheese is melted.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the tortillas for a few minutes in the pre-heated oven to make them easier to work with (I only needed 8 tortillas, but the original recipe calls for 10, so depending on how full you fill them you may need all 10).
  5. Prep a 9x13 baking dish with a tablespoon of the melted butter. Lay a tortilla flat and fill with about 1/4 cup of the filling mixture (more or less as desired). Tightly roll up the tortilla and place it in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  6. Brush the tops of the tortillas with the remaining melted butter. 
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until tortillas turn golden brown.
  8. Serve with condiments of your choice: salsa, diced tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole, shredded lettuce, etc.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Turkey Sloppy Joes

I apologize that none of these pictures are very good - but this recipe is very yummy and that is why there are no good pictures! We ate this and the leftovers in a short amount of time, and it was always dark when we were eating so I didn't have any good light to shoot them with. This is another recipe I found at Lauren's blog Sew You Think You Can Cook. It's a fantastic recipe that you can easily adjust to your personal tastes and preferences. I can't even tell you for sure the changes I made because I taste tested and added some more ketchup, mustard, and some salt and pepper to taste.

I love this for a quick, filling, and yummy work night meal! Hot sandwiches always go over well at our house, and this sloppy joe mix was enjoyed by all. I like that it uses ground turkey instead of ground beef - it changes up the "normal" flavor and texture profile you might be used to with ground beef, and is a very nice and welcome change. I will definitely keep this one handy and imagine I know exactly what we'll be making the next time ground turkey finds its way into the refrigerator! (My teenager was very disappointed when he learned the leftovers of this one were gone!)

Turkey Sloppy Joes slightly adapted from Sew You Think You Can Cook

1 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 tsp minced garlic
1 lb ground turkey
salt and pepper, to taste
2 TBS tomato paste
1/4 cup ketchup
1 TBS Dijon mustard
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
Sliced cheese (optional)
Hamburger buns

  1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and turkey, season the mixture with salt and pepper, cook for 10 - 15 minutes or until onion is tender (add additional oil if needed to prevent mixture from sticking).
  2. Stir in tomato paste, ketchup, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, red wine vinegar, and tomato sauce. Simmer, covered, for 10 - 15 minutes; taste test and adjust seasonings as desired.
  3. Serve on hamburger buns with a slice of cheese (if desired). Enjoy!