Monday, December 11, 2017

Holiday "baking" - Candy Cane Oreo Treats


What do you do when you...
1. Love Christmas
2. Love getting gifts for friends and family
3. Are two thousand miles away from family and therefore need travel-friendly options
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

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


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

 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

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.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What I've Been Eating, Travel Edition - Santa Barbara California


First and foremost: I'm going to be posting some older recipes this week to get y'all ready for Thanksgiving! Stay tuned!

Second of all: Oops, that was an unexpected hiatus! You'll notice I didn't even finish getting all my Halloween recipes up. D'oh! Oh well, they're in draft for next year. Let me know if I should do a "Nighmare Before Christmas" series and get them up in December. I have jello shot eyeballs, bat wings, and my attempt at a Thorax Cake.

The reason for my short absence was actually due to a change in employment. Though I wasn't actively looking for a new job, I came across something interesting and decided to go for it. It turned out to be an incredible opportunity and I couldn't be happier I made the jump! The process was incredibly quick and suddenly I was on a plane to Santa Barbara for TWO WEEKS for training, leaving me very little time to blog.

I'd never been to Santa Barbara, but I adore California. I was excited to explore this gorgeous little town after spending the day in work training. And guys, I'm in love. If they ever need to transfer people to the home office from Austin, I will be first in line. Mountains on one side, beach on the other (literally, the home office looks out onto the bluffs), amazing seafood... this is my dream place.

I had a food and beverage allowance, even with breakfast and lunch provided during training. So I was really able to go anywhere within walking distance of my hotel when it came to restaurants and definitely did not take it for granted. Unleash a foodie with a budget for nearly anything? Score. I basically ate my weight in raw fish, as Texas is not known for seafood. Here's what I enjoyed during my visit.

Arigato Sushi | 1225 State St, Santa Barbara, CA
Immediately upon entering California on a Sunday evening, I knew I needed to get seafood. This was the first stop I found by just aimlessly wandering down State Street, and it turns out it's a great one! This sushi combo plate was $28, and more than worth the price for the variety of nigiri offered with a bonus California roll on the side. I sat at the sushi bar and chatted with the chef, watching him carefully mold each piece of rice with his hands. The fish was fresh, the rice was perfectly seasoned, and the little extra bits of garlic and scallions on a few of the nigiri pieces really hit it out of the park. Next time I'm in town I'll check out more of their maki rolls, but for my first introduction to California sushi, this place was great.

Jane | 1311 State St, Santa Barbara, CA
My second night in town I wanted to treat myself to something a little fancy. Jane was a little more upscale, and a few patrons in line scoffed at me when I said I didn't have a reservation (I walked past them to sit at the bar). The theater is right next door, so this is obviously a great date night location if you're in the area and want to feel classy. Chicken Piccata is one of my favorite dishes, and turns out it's Jane's signature dish. It was perfectly cooked and a decently sized portion. Since I had no way of keeping it or warming it up later, I had to sadly leave behind my leftovers, to dream about the rest of the trip. Their wine list is extensive and if you have the budget for it, check out some of the California wines.

The Drunken Crab | 416 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 
A few of my coworkers were surprised I enjoyed this spot so much--as it's new, it hasn't gained much of a reputation yet, and the storefront is a little easy to miss with the hustle and bustle of State Street. But don't let that stop you--this place is a true gem. I overdid it by ordering soft shell crab, New England Clam Chowder, and oysters and only made a mere dent in the spread. They're known for their crawfish and Louisiana cuisine, but I was feeling a little less spice when I popped in here for a bite after wandering the beach. Also I make the trip to New Orleans at least once a year and figured crawfish was best left as a special treat for the next time I visit. Special shout out to the chowder in the sourdough bowl, it was the perfect marriage of New England flavors with West Coast.

Bigeye Raw Bar | 38 W Victoria St #119, Santa Barbara, CA
You guys. This was my FAVORITE place, and I am sad I didn't get the chance to go back. The freshest oysters I've ever eaten in my life, the best spicy tuna roll I've ever had in my life, and THE BEST POKE I'VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE--okay tbh I had never had Poke before BUT STILL--y'all need to go here. The fish is so fresh and light tasting I would bet money it was caught that morning. The restaurant is hidden in the back of the Santa Barbara Public Market, with counter seating only, so I imagine it fills up quickly during peak hours. But this just means that any raw-fish doubters in your party can snag a bite elsewhere in this upscale cafeteria and y'all can sip wine from "Wine + Beer" across the aisle as you enjoy your incredible fish (another favorite of mine). Win-win. 

Rori's Creamery | multiple locations
Two of my favorite flavors are in that cup: S'mores and rootbeer. And they go surprisingly well together! But all of the organic ice creams at Rori's would be delicious, I'm sure. Soft, creamy, flavorful. There's really not much more you can want out of your ice cream. Plus, it's also at the Santa Barbara Public Market! It's the perfect date night: Poke at Bigeye, wine at Wine + Beer, and finish it off with ice cream at Rori's. Boom.

Okay, you know what? If you go nowhere else in Santa Barbara, go to the Santa Barbara Public Market and just eat your way through because there are SO MANY amazing options. Next time I'm in town I want to check out the Garden or The Empty Bowl, as both were packed every time I wandered through so you can assume the food is solid.

Opal's | 1325 State St, Santa Barbara CA
What is "California Cuisine"? Opal touts its mastery of the category, so I had to find out. Turns out, it's a lot of seafood, fresh veggies, and things that are grilled. I'm cool with it. I was getting a little scared of Mercury poisoning at this point, so I decided to forgo seafood for some sort of land creature. This chicken was stuffed with mushroom and sat atop a creamy tomato sauce with herbed risotto and veggies off to the side. It felt fancy, almost healthy, and the wine pairing of a crisp white from Northern California brought out all the complex flavors of the dish. However, the cocktail list looked pretty fun and unique, if you'd prefer something a little more boozy!

Overall, it was an awesome trip and I can't wait to go back! Since the home office is here, it's likely this won't be my last visit. And I can't wait to devour more food.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Steviva Blogger Challenge: Low Carb/Low Sugar Mini Pumpkin Pies #Steviva #Nectiva #sponsored

Disclaimer: I received free product for the purpose of this post, and an incentive of a potential cash prize if my recipe is chosen as a winner. As usual, I would never share a product I didn't support or highlight a company I did not agree with.

Hello all and welcome to my contribution to the Steviva Blogger Challenge! Bloggers were challenged to make either a sweet or savory dish using a Steviva product. I actually really like Stevia, it's my sweetener of choice when I'm trying to avoid sugar. Unlike other artificial sweeteners, stevia comes from a plant, and therefore is less chemical-laden.

For these mini low carb pumpkin pies, I used the Nectivia syrup. It's half stevia, half agave, so it has 1/4th of the carbs and calories of sugar or agave.

Friends sampled these for me, and they were definitely a win. Especially with an extra drizzle or two of syrup and a dollop of coconut cream on top!

You can find the Steviva brand on their social media below:


Let me know what you think of these low carb, low sugar mini pumpkin pies!

Low Carb Low Sugar Mini Pumpkin Pies for the Steviva Blogger Challenge
for the crust

  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp coconult milk
  • 2 tbsp nectivia

For the filling

  • 1 can pureed pumpkin
  • 1/2 can coconut cream (reserve the rest of the can for the topping!)
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/3 cup nectivia

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper wrappers and spray with cooking oil of choice.

-Prepare the crust by putting all ingredients into a food processor and pulsing until it forms a dough. Use a bit extra coconut milk or almond meal until the desired consistency is reached.

-Roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness and cut out circles that are slightly larger than your muffin tin wells. Press the dough into the tins and smooth out any wrinkles.

-Prepare the filling by whipping all the ingredients together until they are a uniform color. Spoon into the crusts until nearly full, just enough to ensure the filling won't spill out during transport.

-Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crusts are golden brown and the filling is set.

-Top with extra coconut cream and a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice.