Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hot Holiday Cocktails with Torani #sponsored #AToraniHoliday

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Disclaimer: I received complimentary product and compensation for this post.

Do you live in an area of the globe that's chilly during the holidays? Isn't it great to sip a cocktail that warms you from the inside out when there's a chill in the air?

So, I don't live in a place like that anymore. These cocktails still hit the spot. When the AC is on and I'm snuggled up in my PJs, I sip on one of these cocktails and close my eyes and can almost picture snow on the ground.


If you're like me, your liquor cabinet isn't as robust as you might like. However, with Torani syrups, you can amp up your cocktail game in a big way. For the following recipes I used White Chocolate, Blood Orange, Belgian Cookie, and Caramel syrups. I definitely suggest getting a few pumps for easy access. You could even make a cool cocktail station for a party with various flavors lined up.


I portioned these out for single servings, but I imagine they'd be wonderful in three separate crock pots, decorated with holiday flair on your party table! To make a big batch, it's easy enough to adjust. However, be careful with flavorings and spices. Err on the side of not a total 1:1 ratio for larger portions. Add slowly, tasting between additions. For example, if you're making 10 times as much of the Hot White Chocolate, add 2 pumps at a time of White Chocolate Syrup and taste to make sure the flavor isn't too concentrated.



White Hot Chocolate

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 pump (~1 tbsp) Torani White Chocolate syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 oz vanilla vodka

-Heat milk and cream to desired (hot!) temp and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Serve with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon.


Mulled Wine

  • 1 cup sweet red wine
  • 1 tsp mulling spices
  • 1 pump Torani Blood Orange syrup
  • 1/2 oz blackberry brandy

-Mix together the wine and mulling spices. Heat in a small saucepan or in the microwave until hot. Let the wine heat, then let sit for a few minutes to let the flavors blend. Re-heat if needed, and stir in the remaining ingredients.


Caffeinated Cookie

  • 1 cup coffee, brewed
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 half pump Torani Belgian Cookie syrup
  • 1 half pump Torani Caramel syrup
  • 1 oz whiskey

-Mix all ingredients in a mug and serve while the coffee is still hot.


Giftable Holiday Treats - Non-Corn Syrup Peanut Brittle

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If you're like me and wait until the last second to do EVERYTHING... then thank goodness for make-at-home gifts. Like peanut brittle. Or any kind of nut brittle! It's classy, tasty, and just about everyone loves it. Plus, despite it being a bit temperamental, it really is a quick and easy treat to put together.

I didn't have any corn syrup on hand, but I found an awesome recipe for peanut brittle without corn syrup, and I didn't even need to dig out my candy thermometer! Score.


Dipped in bittersweet chocolate or put in a Christmas tin, it makes a good last minute gift for just about anyone.

Peanut Brittle, Sans Corn Syrup
(Recipe from Average Betty)
  • 3 cups peanuts (or any nut you'd like!)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
First, prepare your cookie sheet. I used a cookie sheet covered in tin foil, sprayed liberally with no-stick cooking oil. A silpat would also work.

In a large pot over high heat, melt the sugar into the water, stirring constantly. Once sugar is dissolved, let alone for ten minutes. Stirring occasionally, watch the liquid like a friggin HAWK and as soon as it turns a light amber color, REMOVE FROM HEAT.

Immediately stir in salt, butter, vanilla, and baking soda. Step back! It WILL foam violently. Quickly fold in nuts and turn out onto your cookie sheet with a silicone spatula. Spread evenly and press down with spatula.

Let dry, about 20 minutes, and break apart with mallet or hands. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Holiday "baking" - Candy Cane Oreo Treats

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What do you do when you...
1. Love Christmas
2. Love getting gifts for friends and family
but
3. Are two thousand miles away from family and therefore need travel-friendly options
and
4. Are pretty broke at the moment?

Our first Austin Christmas back in 2013

Answer: Melt lots of chocolate in the microwave and try to be as careful as possible.

I am a messy, accident-prone cook. I discovered this while living at home with my parents: I can go over the kitchen five times with every cleaner I can think of and I will STILL miss a glaringly huge area that I somehow just didn't see. I decided that I would try to keep my mess as contained as possible and create stovetop-only goodies since I've had more than enough kitchen foibles already, using as little kitchen space as possible for this endeavor.

Enter: white chocolate covered Oreos.


Chocolate dipped Oreos are one of my favorite candy-counter goodies, despite the fact that they are SO easy to make at home. Simply melt chocolate, dip Oreos, top with candy. BOOM. Done.

I amped up the Christmasy-factor here by using HEB* brand Christmas Sandwich Cookies--Oreo-knockoffs with a peppermint flavored, red center--and dipping them in Almond Bark white chocolate AND topping them with crushed candy canes. The result is something that tastes amazing, feels fancy, and costs about $5 total for four packs of five cookies.

*HEB is a grocery store out here that I am in LOVE with. The organic and gluten free selection is vast AND affordable, and if you roam around midday on a weekday you can make yourself a lunch out of the free samples. Plus the in-store coupons are incredible. Definitely my favorite supermarket of all time, maybe only second to my favorite local shop back in MA.

December in Austin: 70 degrees and sunny!

Peppermint Bark Oreos

  • 1 Pack Christmas-themed or Peppermint flavored Oreos
  • 2 16oz bags white chocolate chips OR 2 packages white chocolate almond bark
  • 2 candy canes
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract (optional)

-Pulverize candy canes in a food processor or use a hammer and a ziplock bag

-Melt white chocolate according to directions (I typically do a minute half power, stir, then 30 second half power increments but this will depend on the brand) gently fold in peppermint extract.

-Dip Oreos and turn until well coated. Place on wax paper in a cookie sheet. Continue for entire pack.

-Before chocolate has set, sprinkle candy cane dust on top of cookies. Place cookie sheet in fridge and let harden for ten minutes.

PS. I also made nut brittle, pistachio bark, puppy chow, and fudge for gifts. Which would you like me to post recipes for?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Happy Holiday Season! - Peppermint Bark Cookie Puppy Chow

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It's officially HOLIDAY SEASON, guys! And if you're anything like me--ie, a broke Millennial--you might be wracking your brain trying to figure out what thoughtful gift you can make instead of buy.

Food gifts are pretty great, because honestly, who REALLY needs more STUFF? I made this delicious candy cane puppy chow a few years ago, put it in cute little bags, and it was a hit.

 Side note: is "puppy chow" a regional word? I always just called this stuff "muddy buddy" or "sweet chex mix" haha. The first time I saw a blogger post a "puppy chow" recipe I seriously thought they were making their own dog food. Then I saw chocolate as an ingredient and was SUPER confused.



The candy canes are seasonal of course but I'm sure you could make this all year round by using peppermints. Or just making cookies and cream puppy chow! I gave this as gifts to friends in mason jars--I've decided Mason Jars are The Most Useful Thing in the Universe. Forget it, towels, you've been usurped. I know Mason Jars can be a polarizing topic, but you can't deny that they make lovely gifting vehicles.

Peppermint Bark Cookie Puppy Chow

  • 5 cups Chex cereal
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips, melted
  • 6 Oreos, crushed (I used HEB brand peppermint cookie sandwiches, basically peppermint Oreos)
  • 3 candy canes, crushed
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar

In a large bowl, combine Chex and chocolate. Fold the chocolate in gently, using a little more or less melted chocolate until the cereal is well coated and sticky.

Fold in the Oreos and candy canes. Slowly pour in the sugar, mixing constantly, until cereal is well coated and no longer sticky. You may need more or less sugar.

Turn out onto a lined cookie sheet (with a silpat or wax paper) and let dry, 30 minutes. Break apart any large pieces and store in an airtight bag.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mini Pumpkin Spice Cheesecakes - Perfect Potluck Contribution

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Thanksgiving may be over, but thankfully pumpkin season is still hanging on. And if you're an insane person like me, you waaay over-stocked yourself on canned organic pumpkin.


Fun fact: a lot of canned "pumpkin" on the market is actually squash. There isn't a hard and fast rule on what you can call pumpkin. I'm not 100% sure "Organic" is a safe bet, but it's what I try to use.



One of my go-to recipes for potlucks is my famous Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake. However, I've noticed over the years that a full-on cheesecake can be difficult for potlucks. Finger food is way more portable. Plus, there's less chance of the top cracking--for us cheesecake perfectionists.

Check out this recipe and let me know what you think! Try to keep those fall flavors coming all year round :)

Mini Pumpkin Spice Cheesecakes
1 package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla (bourbon vanilla preferred!)
1 heaping tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 cups pulverized ginger snaps
1/4 cup butter
Caramel, for topping

-Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

-Prepare a muffin tin by either liberally spraying each well with non-stick spray, or lining with wrappers and lightly spraying inside each one.

-Melt the butter and mix with the cracker crumbs. They should be slightly sticky and able to be pressed together and lightly hold shape. Press a heaping tablespoon of the mixture evenly into each liner.

-Cream together the cream cheese, pumpkin, and sugars. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well, until the mixture is pourable. Pour into each liner (over the crumbs) to 3/4ths full.

-Bake for 20 minutes or until the middle of each cheesecake is set. Chill for 2 hours, then top with caramel, if desired.


Protip: I used the pumpkin spice sauce from Torani, that I got in a complimentary pack from the company for my cold brew coffee post. It was diviiiiine.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fancy Fall Drinks for Holiday Hosting - Apple Cider Sangria

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 All summer, I guzzle sangria. If there's a party at my house, or a party I'm invited to, I throw together a quick and easy white or red sangria and a wondrous time is had by all. It's just so EASY: wine, fruit, some liquor, some juice, BAM. Instant party.

But when fall hits, the sangria disappears into the abyss summer leaves behind in its wake. Instead we're drawn to our pumpkin beers, our darker wines, our mulled anythings. Our ciders...


This, my friends, is the perfect transitional alcoholic beverage. Apple Cider Sangria. Apples fresh off the branch, coupled with tart cider, sweet wine, and topped with gingerale. It's like a sweet liquid apple pie without the spice.

Divine. Enjoy.

I updated this after watching a friend make something similar at a dinner at my place. The wheels were turning in my head and I made some tweaks, and lugged this to the next party I went to. It was a hit.

Apple Cider Sangria

  • 2 medium sized apples (any kind works, but McIntosh might shine best here), sliced
  • 1 barely-ripe pear, cubed
  • 1 bottle sweet wine, I used moscato
  • 2 bottles hard cider (I used McKenzie's Seasonal Reserve, which is IDEAL here because it already tastes like pie)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/8 cup orange liquer
  • 1/4 cup spiced rum
  • Gingerale, to top

-Place fruit in the bottom of a large pitcher (note: you will need one larger than the one pictured). Pour wine over fruit and let chill for 30 minutes to an hour, but preferably overnight.

-When wine is fruit-infused, pour in the remainder of the ingredients, except the gingerale. Return to fridge and chill until ready to serve.

-Pour into glasses and top with gingerale.


Happy Thanksgiving Week! - Green Bean Stuffarole

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Guys. I'm not the best at side dishes. I literally only ever think of them on the fly, and when I do, they're typically just "uhhh I guess I'll put something green on the plate and cover it with butter?" Seriously, the "side dishes" part of my recipe collection up there is HURTING.


Then I attended a potluck where an amazing dish was served: some sort of stuffing with green beans. It was SO GOOD (or, maybe I was kind of drunk) that I ate three helpings. I'm a one-helping kind of gal, so you know this was legit.


I used what my foggy brain could remember about the dish to create this: the most amaze-ballz, MIC-DROPPING side dish for your turkey day EVER. I call it a "Stuffarole" because it's half green bean casserole, half meat-filled stuffing. Bring this to your family gathering, your office potluck, whereever, and you can drop the mic yourself, I promise.






Kickass Green Bean Stuffarole
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 package maple bacon, chopped
  • 1 package breadcrumb-style stuffing
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 3 cups green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a large casserole dish, set aside. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and whisk in the chicken broth.

-In a large saucepan, cover the green beans with water and set to a low simmer. Simmer until tender.

-While the green beans are cooking, fry the bacon in a deep frying pan. When the bacon is just beginning to crisp, add the sausage, crumbling into the pan.

-Once sausage has browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to a large bowl. Mix in the breadcrumb stuffing, and pour in the chicken broth. Mix well, let sit until fully absorbed.

-Keeping the leftover fat in the pan, toss in the onions and season with salt and pepper. When onions are transluscent, add the mushrooms. Splash with the red wine, and let cook until wine is reduced and mushrooms are soft.

-Pour the cream of mushroom soup into the pan. Add a bit of water until mixture is thick but flowing.

-Press the saturated bread crumb and meat mixture into the greased pan. Place green beans on top, and pour mushroom mixture over the whole thing.

-Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and add cheese. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.