Monday, April 14, 2014

Carrot cake sandwich cookies

carrot cake cookie sandwichesI love cookie sandwiches. I know I've mentioned that multiple times before. And these carrot cake sandwich cookies are one of my faves. They are moist, not too sweet and totally delicious. Perfect for spring, perfect for Easter, perfect for anytime.

Juliet absolutely LOVED the carrot cake cookies, she had one before I added the frosting and devoured it faster than I've ever seen her eat anything. Then I tried one and I got it.
carrot cake cookie sandwichesIt took me about 45 minutes to take the photos for these cookies because it was my first time shooting with my new Canon 7D and I was getting so frustrated. The settings are all in different places and I was having a hard time getting a good shot because I didn't know how to make the adjustments with exposure and focus that I needed.
carrot cake cookie sandwichesI'm pretty sure these cookies toppled over right after I clicked the shutter for this photo

My mom would love these cookies, she loves carrot cake. I took this batch to work today but just realized I better save a couple for her!

Carrot cake sandwich cookies (recipe adapted via Cooking Light)

Ingredients

2 cups shredded carrot (I used organic baby carrots and shredded them in my food processor with the grater attachment)
2/3 cups packed brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
1 large egg
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine shredded carrots and 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in a bowl, toss to coat. Place carrot mixture in a fine mesh sieve; let stand to drain for 10 minutes. Discard liquid.

Place 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium microwave, safe bowl. Microwave for 45 seconds or until melted. Add oil, rind, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract; stir with a whisk until well-combined. 

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, remaining brown sugar (about 1/2 a cup), cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. 

Add carrot mixture and butter mixture; stir until just combined. drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets; gently pat down to flatten. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 11 minutes or until set. Remove pans from oven; let stand for 3 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on a wire rack. 

Combine cream cheese, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 3 minutes or until fluffy. 

Add powdered sugar, beat at low speed 1 minute or until well-combined. Spread about 1 tablespoon icing on flat side of cookie; top with another cookie, flat side down. Repeat with remaining cookies. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Peanut butter oatmeal cookies


peanut butter oatmeal cookies
After Erik, Juliet and I spent a bunch of time outdoors last Sunday (in the awesome 60 degree weather) we needed something to do the rest of the afternoon. So we made cookies.

I am a big fan of the Weelicious site (and cookbooks) because the recipes are generally pretty easy and healthy. And every single one I've ever made has turned out well.

I am a big peanut butter fan, like eat a huge spoonful right out of the jar big. And Juliet is too. She always asks for peanut butter with a spoon and a bowl and she eats it right up. peanut butter oatmeal cookiesThese peanut butter oatmeal cookies are great with a big glass of milk for dunking. I was really tempted to turn these into sandwich cookies with a peanut butter cream cheese frosting but then I decided to stop while I was ahead. I really didn't need these sitting around my house tempting me so I sent them with Erik to work the next day.

If you love peanut butter, you'll love these cookies. I might get crazy next time and add some chocolate chips.

Peanut butter oatmeal cookies (recipe via Weelicious)

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or with an electric mixer, cream together the butter and honey for a minute.

Add the egg, vanilla, and peanut butter and beat for 1 more minute.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda and salt.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until combined.

  1. Drop 1 tablespoon of the dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Flatten down with the palm of your hand and make a checkerboard pattern with a fork. 

  2. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

French fries with homemade garlic truffle aioli

Potato fest It may be surprising but I had never made aioli before last weekend. Whoa have I been missing out. It's amazing. And very, very easy.

On Saturday, my girlfriends (Emily, Shannon and Natasha) got together for a "potato fest" dinner. Us four gals get together about once a month and we try to rotate cooking at one of our houses with going out to eat. For the dinners, we often choose a theme and then plan our dishes around that. We've had mushroom fest, seafood fest and now potato fest.

Of course potato fest was my idea because I'm pretty much obsessed with potatoes. I rate restaurants based on how good their french fries are. I would choose fries over any dessert any day of the week. Except for when I was pregnant with Juliet. I basically subsisted on cake for 9 months. Ok, not really but I did eat cake a lot.

Potato fest was a bit random but it was sure delicious.

Here is a run-down of our meal (which we really approached more like a bunch of appetizers and sides):

Chorizo hash browns
French fries with garlic truffle aioli (recipes below)
Spiced sweet potato and roasted broccoli toast
Savory spinach and parmesan creme brulee (basically a crustless quiche)
Sweet potato bread

Potato fest I loved the evening light I caught as I was snapping photos of our dinner. 

These sweet potato roasted broccoli toasts were made by Shannon and they were awesome. The recipe was pretty complex and had a lot of great flavor. This was probably one of the favorite dishes of the evening.

We had a few bottles of wine but this was by far our favorite of the evening, a Sterling Vineyards Cabernet. Really delicious. We spent a good half hour trying to recall whether or not we stopped at Sterling Vineyards when we went to Sonoma about 6 years ago. After some Googling we realized we had never been there, but decided it will definitely be on the list for the next trip to wine country.
Potato fest Potato fest Emily made these chorizo hash browns. I really liked these hash browns, the chorizo gave it a spicy, bold flavor. It wasn't an easy dish though, Emily shredded the potatoes, squeezed out all the excess liquid, browned the chorizo and then cooked it all on the stovetop.

All my girlfriends are really amazing cooks.
Potato fest Natasha cheated and made a dish sans potatoes. But don't get me wrong, this savory creme brûlée was really tasty. This is a crustless quiche, or even a strata but she got the recipe out of her creme brûlée cookbook, so creme brûlée it is.

Of course I made french fries because my love for fries runs deep. And now that I have made aioli I am more crazy about fries than ever.

Homemade baked, crispy french fries

2 pounds baking potatoes, scrubbed clean
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Slice potatoes into long, thin slices (I leave the skin-on but feel free to peel them if you prefer). In a large bowl, soak the potatoes in water for at least 30 minutes (this removes excess starch and helps them crisp up in the oven). Drain, rinse potatoes one time and then dry well (pat dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel).

Add the olive oil and toss to coat.

Spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray and add fries in a single layer (don't overcrowd).

Sprinkle with salt and pepper (don't be too modest with the seasoning, fries should be somewhat salty in my opinion).

Bake for about 25 minutes, flipping fries about everything 7-10 minutes. Remove when fries are slightly browned and crispy.

Garlic truffle aioli (recipe adapted Life Ambrosia blog)

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1/2 - 3/4 of a lemon
2 egg yolks (I used organic eggs but for optimal safety use pasteurized eggs)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3/4 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons black truffle oil

Preparation

In a food processor combined garlic, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, lemon juice, parsley and egg yolks.

Process until garlic is fully minced.

Slowly pour in the olive oil and then the truffle oil until the mixture emulsifies. It should be smooth but somewhat thick. If it seems too thin add a bit more olive oil.

Taste and add more of any of the ingredients that seem lacking (in my experience, this will be obvious. I tasted mine and knew it needed more salt and a little more lemon).

Not surprisingly, us gals were sufficiently carb-loaded and full after our potato fest. But what a fun evening it was.

Do you and your friends have dinner clubs or themed dinners? I'd love to hear about it, please comment and share!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Inspiration for a spring brunch

Spring brunchSpring is in the air, right? Well, maybe not so much. But it's totally in my heart. I am just willing it to come. We need warm weather. It was 10 degrees when I left the house the other day and it. was. cold. Freezing. And something about that just made me angry and put me in a terrible mood. And I wasn't the only one. All of us in MN are so sick of the cold. Our bones are permanently chilled.

Ok, enough weather talk. Technically it is spring. And if I can't feel it in the air at least it can be felt through my entertaining endeavors.

One of the easiest ways to entertain is with brunch. Guests are always happy with a glass of champagne in-hand. I think it's the bubbles, or maybe the fact that they're drinking before noon. Either way, brunch is awesome and one of my top favorite things ever in life.

I'm thinking of starting a new content feature that is all about "how to's" when it comes to entertaining. These posts will provide inspiration for hosting your own parties. They'll include menu ideas, recipes and decorating tips, all in the Eat Drink Pretty style.

How to throw a spring brunch gathering

Menu:

Mini quiche lorraine or this asparagus, morel and ramp quiche
Cinnamon rhubarb muffins  (or purchase a variety of store-bought pastries)
Fresh fruit
Goat cheese with baguette or bagels
Mimosas/bellinis/champagne with fruit (set up a simple mimosa bar with orange juice, peach juice, fruit and champagne. My favorite bubbly is cava or prosecco).
Coffee and tea

Decor:

Tulips in individual glass vases
Lemons in cylinder vases

I have so many ideas for these "how to" features such as:

How to throw a pizza and wine party
How to host a spring dinner party
How to host a neighborhood BBQ
How to create an afternoon tea party

I could go on forever! What do you think? I'd love any suggestions for "how to" posts you'd love to see.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mini quiche lorraine

Mini quiche lorraine{Photo taken with the iPhone 5 and edited using Afterlight}

You most likely know by now that I love quiche. Regular sized, mini quiche, vegetarian, meat-filled, puff-pastry, pie crust, etc. I love all of it. Egg bakes and stratas rank pretty high up there, too. If I ever published a cookbook a quiche cookbook would be at the top of my consideration. It's so versatile. Of course the obvious brunch entree comes to mind, but quiche works great at dinner as well and it also can be transformed into minis for a cocktail party.

So when my colleague hosted a "Paris at Midnight" themed gathering last Saturday mini quiche lorraine seemed like a great choice. Savory little bites filled with bacon and cheese? Sign me up.

This is an easy recipe that creates a really delicious appetizer. We had a blast at the gathering and the quiche was a hit. In addition to my quiche, we had about 5 baguettes (seriously!), tons of cheese, crepes for dessert, lentil pate and many bottles of champagne. Savory/salty food pair really well with champagne. That's not obvious but it's so true. Even potato chips go well with champagne. French fries, too.

Ok, now I'm getting way too hungry. 

Mini quiche lorraine (recipe adapted via iVillage)

Ingredients

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (to keep things easy I purchased already cooked bacon)
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese, shredded
1 15 ounce package refrigerated pie crust
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon oregano

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 24 cup mini muffin tin with cooking spray or butter. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, yolk and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper (about 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon each). Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, use a 2 1/2 inch round cutter to cut 24 rounds out of the piecrust (the mouth of a glass works, too). Press the rounds into muffin cups.

Divide crumbled bacon and cheese evenly between the lined cups, then divide egg mixture between cups. Sprinkle oregano between the quiche.

Bake until quiche crusts are golden brown and egg mixture is puffed and completely set in the center, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the quiche to cooler racks. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dreaming of a spring picnic

Pineapple, banana and spinach smoothieHappy first day of spring! Can you even believe it? Well the answer for me is, quite frankly, no. It's still in the 30s in MN and my entire body is craving warmth that only the sun can provide.

Two years ago I was on maternity leave and the weather was amazing. Spring came early to MN and I was outdoors pretty much every day beginning in March. We hit 70 degrees and even had our first BBQ of the season on March 15. The number of picnics and BBQs we had that season were seemingly infinite. It was bliss and pretty much the best 3 months ever with my little babe.

Now that spring is here(?) I'm starting my bucket list for outdoor activities I hope to do. Picnics are always at the top of that list. Looking back at the hundreds of posts in the Eat Drink Pretty archives I found lots of lovely picnic experiences that we've enjoyed including:

A picnic at the lake with friends
A picnic during a fun cabin weekend with Erik (this was featured on The Kitchn)
A Mother's Day picnic in our backyard
The first picnic of the season

I pulled together a list of fun items to help you enjoy your spring picnic from Uncommon Goods, an online marketplace that has tons of creative and high quality items (especially perfect for gifts). Check out all their offerings here for outdoor dining and here for garden goods. There are so many great ideas for sprucing up the outdoor space for all your outdoor entertaining.

Here is a list of items to checkout for your upcoming picnics:

Glassware outdoors is never a good idea so these shatterproof wine glasses and carafe are the perfect solution. If you are hosting a more sophisticated outdoor soiree like a dinner party, these set a much more complementary tone than plastic glasses.

Honestly I've never considered doing fondue outdoors but why not? How awesome and fun. This fondue pot's steel frame protects the burner from the wind. And now my mouth is watering thinking of bread dipped in melty cheese.

Anytime a picnic or outdoor dining is involved we usually have lawn games as well. I love these wine glass holders, you can set your glass down when it's your turn to throw bean bags and not worry about the glass tipping over in the grass. Anything that conserves wine is at the top of my list.

This wine sack is a covert way to bring wine out in public during your picnic, sign me up. Much less obvious than pouring straight of the bottle. What's with public drinking being against the law anyway?

This picnic backpack is modern and sleek and includes tablesetting for two as well as an insulated pocket for your food.

Shouldn't all picnics include a cheese board? I think so. This cheese bark board would fit right into any rustic picnic setting. Cheese and bread is such a simple way to add a little sophisticated to any event.

And no picnic is ever complete without delicious food. You can keep things really easy with sandwiches or spend a bit more time whipping up a pasta salad or bruschetta.

Pineapple, banana and spinach smoothie Here is a list of recipe ideas for your spring picnic:
  • Pasta salad with goat cheese and tomatoes
  • Buttermilk pudding cakes (so easy, these are made in muffin tins. Bring a container full of cut strawberries and a whipped cream and build them on-site)
  • Bacon, avocado, turkey and tomato sandwiches - pile all the ingredients onto a rustic bread
  • Caprese skewers (finger foods at a picnic are ideal. So easy and always everyone's favorite)
  • Bruschetta in a mason jar (easiest recipe you'll ever find for bruschetta)
And don't forget your picnic supplies:
  • A picnic basket or cooler
  • Parchment paper: for wrapping sandwiches, breads, cookies, etc
  • Plates/napkins/silverware/glasses: either disposable or reusable if you don't mind packing up dirty dishes to wash later. Definitely the more environmentally friendly route.
  • A big blanket: your location may have a picnic table but if not a picnic right on the ground works great as long as you remembered your blanket.
  • Hand sanitizer: I love this natural spray from Honest company
  • Phone: no not to check email and social media but to put on music to set the mood.
  • Wine/beer/lemonade/water: I'm a big fan of booze at my picnics
  • Activities: anything from bean bags to a frisbee to a kite for flying with the little ones
Now I'm really itching for a picnic. Perhaps I'll just bundle up the family and have a spring picnic in the snow? I better be sure to include a thermos full of hot soup!

Don't forget that Mother's Day is coming up in less than two months! Uncommon Goods has a ton of great gift ideas like these for you to peruse and then (subtly) drop hints to your partner. It worked for me last December for my anniversary (I got this wood cookbook stand that I wanted and I love it).

Happy spring.

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post by Uncommon Goods. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Brown soda bread and reuben dip

Brown soda bread and reuben dipHappy St. Patrick's Day! Have you already celebrated or is that happening today? The answer is both for me. Erik and I had my family over on Saturday (last minute plans) and I cooked up a storm. And today is the annual St. Patrick's Day party at work so the chances of much work getting done are not good (the party begins at 11:30am).

I mentioned I had a baking bug last Friday and I seriously spent about 3 hours in the kitchen making:

Brown soda bread, recipe below
Reuben dip (and rachel dip,which just swaps out turkey for the corn beef), recipe below
White cheddar topped shepherd's pie (one with beef and one with lentils. I followed this recipe pretty closely but swapped chicken stock for the water and added frozen peas)
Brown soda bread and reuben dipThis reuben dip is crazy good. It is so savory and if you love reuben sandwiches, you will go nuts for this dip. My family devoured it.

I also whipped up a quick homemade thousand island dressing for an extra dipping element for the bread and reuben dip. If you think about thousand island and what's in it, is sounds pretty funky, but taste-wise it's great combined with the right thing. Yup, it's basically mayo and ketchup (plus vinegar, garlic, onion).
Brown soda bread and reuben dipThis brown soda bread is amazing with butter and jelly, too. 

My family and I had a great time hanging out. We ate too much but then still wished we would have thought about making shamrock shakes for dessert.

To me St. Patrick's Day has become about comfort food and spending time with family. Times have changed that's for sure but I wouldn't want to celebrate it any other way.

Brown soda bread (recipe adapted Epicurious)

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups buttermilk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Combine the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl, mix well.

Add butter, rub in with fingertips or pastry cutter until mixture resembles fine meal. Stir in buttermilk to form soft dough (if the mixture seems dry add a couple splashes more).

Transfer dough to prepared loaf pan. Bake until bread is dark brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Turn bread out onto rack. Turn right side up and cool on rack.

_________________________________________________

Reuben dip (recipe adapted via Franks Kraut)

Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 lb. deli sliced corn beef
1 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
12 - 15 ounces sour cream
15 ounces can sauerkraut

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375.

Warm cream cheese until it's soft enough to mix. Mix together cream cheese and Swiss cheese.

Cut corn beef into small pieces and add to the cream cheese mix. Drain the sauerkraut well and add to the mixture.

Pour mixture into greased casserole dish (I used a glass pie plate) and bake for about 20 or until the dip is bubbling.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

No bake strawberry-lemon cheesecake

No bake strawberry lemon cheesecakeOne of my favorite things is getting together with my big family on the weekends. We do this about once a month to celebrate holidays or birthdays. Last Sunday we gathered at my house to celebrate a bunch of birthdays; Erik's, my younger brother Joel and my sister-in-law Nikki.

We made a big Mexican meal including:

Shredded chicken tacos (in the crockpot, so easy)
Beef tacos (for both the chicken and beef we use this homemade taco seasoning)
Homemade spanish rice (from my mom)
Homemade corn cake (Nikki makes this and it's delicious)
Chips/salsa/queso
Fruit

And for dessert Erik asked for cheesecake. It's one of his favorite desserts (along with pistachio dessert) and when I saw this no bake recipe I thought it looked great.
No bake strawberry lemon cheesecakeThis cheesecake was really tasty. I will admit that making 12 individual cheesecakes was a bit of a pain, and a bit time-consuming. Though it was still much easier than making regular cheesecake in the oven. If that would have been the case I would have been stressing out about cracks in the cake and whether or not the spring form pan was leaking. And no one wants to experience me stress out in the kitchen. Especially me. No bake strawberry lemon cheesecakeI bought these pretty individual glass bowls from Target a few years ago for an ice cream sundae bar I put together at a party. So I literally have a bunch of them, which is usually a waste of space, but came in handy on Sunday. No bake strawberry lemon cheesecakeDespite the fact that I complained on Instagram about these cheesecakes being a pain to make, I'm glad I made them. They turned out great and everyone enjoyed them.

Looking back I have a good reason why the cheesecake took longer and more effort than it should have. Juliet was napping so I had to take the food processor into our laundry room to make the crust (it's far away from her room so she wouldn't here the noise). And then I had to whip the filling with the blender in there as well. Making dessert in your laundry room is really not ideal!

No bake strawberry-lemon cheesecake  (recipe slightly adapted via My Baking Addiction)

Makes 12 individual cheesecakes

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

2/3 cup sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
1 (8 oz package) of cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (8 oz) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/2 package frozen strawberries, thawed
Optional: fresh strawberries for topping

Preparation

In a bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter until well-combined. Divide evenly into the individual serving bowls and press down to form a crust.

In a large bowl mix together the lemon zest and sugar until combined. Add the cream cheese and mix with electric mixer until smooth. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Fold in the whipped topping using a rubber spatula.

Mash the strawberries with a fork and partially drain any liquid. Then fold in the strawberries to the cream cheese mixture carefully.

Spoon in filling to each bowl and smooth out with the back of the spoon. Top with fresh (strawberries if using).

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Note, these are fairly small portions of cheesecake but they were perfect for my family. We tend to overeat when we're together (um, hello, we went through 2 bags of tortilla chips) so by dessert we are usually too full to eat much. If you want a larger dessert than double the filling recipe (no need to double the crust recipe).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Homemade oreos

Homemade oreosHomemade oreos!

These cookies are really damn good. I made them for the Super Bowl party we were having with my family and promptly took the leftovers to work yesterday. I had to otherwise my Weight Watchers diet would have been dunzo. I've been really committed for over a week now so I can't let a tempting little cookie cramp my diet-style.
Homemade oreosThese are the best dunked in milk. I even brought milk to work today so my coworkers could get full enjoyment.

I really have a thing for sandwich cookies. They are so much better than non-sandwich cookies. I think it's because my best friend Kristin and I used to get these cookies at the mall called Double Doozies. They were huge cookies with, like, a pound of frosting in between. That was back in the day (way, way back, maybe the 90's?) when our metabolisms were awesome. Homemade oreosThe filling in these cookies is pretty much an exact match to real Oreo filling. The secret? Shortening. Sorry about that but you can't make an Oreo cookie without it. You just can't. I found an organic vegetable shortening at the grocery store which made me feel a teeny bit better about using this as an ingredient. Really though, the recipe only calls for 1/4 cup shortening which is not much at all divided between all the cookies.

The chocolate cookies aren't perfect replicas of Oreos but they come pretty darn close. A few coworkers today thought these were even better than real Oreos. So I deemed this baking experience a huge success.

Juliet loved them too. Mom-of-the-year style I basically let her eat anything she wanted on Sunday. So after a couple cookies and a mini cupcake she was hyper as heck on sugar. When Bruno Mars came on at half-time my little girl was raising the roof big time. She was dancing, twirling, jumping up a storm. It was awesome and adorable. Unfortunately, bedtime later was neither of those.

I love baked goods that only require one bowl for all ingredients and this one fits the bill (for the cookies anyway, obviously you need a separate bowl for the filling). The cookies come together super quickly and if you bake frequently you will definitely have all the ingredients in your pantry. The shortening might require an extra trip to the store but I assure you it's worth the effort.

But whatever you do, don't forget the milk.
Homemade oreos
Homemade oreos (recipe slightly adapted via Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 1/4 sticks butter)
1 large egg

Filling ingredients

1/4 cup shortening, at room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick), at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set two racks in the middle of the oven.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar and mix on low until combined. Add the butter and egg and mix on low until the dough comes together in a mass (this takes a while, about 2-3 minutes).

Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.

Take teaspoon sized dough and roll into a ball and place on baking sheets lined with parchment 2 inches apart. Flatten dough with your hand before putting into the oven.

Bake for 9 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Remove from the oven and place on cooling racks. Be sure not to handle the cookies for a minute or two so they can firm up.

For the filling, add the shortening and butter into the bowl of an electric mixer, mix on low speed for until well combined. Add the vanilla and confectioners' sugar and mix on medium to high speed for about 2-3 minutes (until filling is light and somewhat fluffy).

To assemble the cookies, scoop a spoonful of filling into the middle of a chocolate cookie and place another cookie on top, gently pressing together to sandwich.

Dunk in milk and enjoy.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Chana masala

Chana masalaMy best friend Amy and I got together over the holidays and spent hours in the kitchen making Indian food. I've talked about Amy a lot on the blog and in the early years of Eat Drink Pretty she wrote a bunch of Indian-themed posts and recipes. Do you remember Amy's amazing Indian wedding from a few years ago(part 1 and part 2)?

I absolutely love Indian food and chana masala is my favorite dish. Amy nailed this recipe, the chana masala tasted amazing. I watched her pretty closely so I now I will be able to make this dish time and time again.
Chana masalaBefore embarking on our all-day cooking event, we went shopping at an Indian grocery store about 15 minutes from my house. I stocked up on all the Indian spices needed, which is awesome because I was in serious need. Spices at the Indian grocery store are super affordable and will last a while (you get a huge amount). It's a much better route to buy individual spices (like garam masala, turmeric, coriander, cumin, etc) then buying curry power.
Chana masalaSuch amazing flavor. YUM.

Chana masala (recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons ghee (or butter or vegetable oil)
2 medium onions, minced
2 Tablespoons garlic ginger paste
2-3 serrano chiles, minced
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
3-4 whole tomatoes, chopped small (or 1 15 ounce can whole tomatoes with their juice, chopped)
2/3 cup water
2 15 oz cans chickpeas, drains and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon tamarind paste (optional)
3 Tablespoons cilantro (optional)

Preparation

Heat ghee/butter/oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic ginger paste and pepper and saute over medium heat until browned (about 5 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium low and add coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cumin seeds, paprika, and garam masala.

Cook onion mixture with spices for 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, scraping up bits that may have stuck to the pan.

Add the water, chickpeas and tamarind paste (if using). Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in salt and lemon juice.

Taste and adjust spices according to taste.

Serve with naan or basmati rice (did you know you can microwave rice? I was super wary but the basmati rice turned out great and super fluffy) and top with cilantro.

In addition to this awesome chana masala, we also made chicken tikka masala (which rivaled the best chicken tikka masala I've had in restaurants and I plan to blog about it sometime soon) and an Indian tomato soup. It was an awesome day ending with a great dinner shared with friends.

Do you love Indian food? What is your favorite dish? I could probably eat naan every day for every meal for the rest of my life. I also love pakora (a fried vegetable appetizer). Making Indian food at home is great because you can limit the amount of unhealthy ingredients (like heavy cream) that they use in restaurants. The chicken tikka I made did have cream, but not much. It was so, so good. I want some right now. It is pretty Weight Watcher friendly, too. Ok...I gotta end this post because I'm so hungry thinking of all this amazing Indian food.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pretzel bites with buffalo blue cheese dipping sauce

pretzel bites with buffalo blue cheese dipping sauceWhen the weekends come around I usually plan on making at least 2 new recipes. I spend my time on the train ride to and from work on Fridays figuring out what to make. The recipes that rise to the top are the ones with ingredients I already have in my pantry. Because I always think I can make it through the weekend without going to the grocery store. Sometimes I'm successful but usually not.

Like last weekend, for example, on Saturday I started prepping to make these pretzel bites and I didn't have eggs. So off to the grocery store I went. Who doesn't have eggs? UH.

I started preparing these pretzel bites with Juliet but she lost interest relatively soon (perhaps because there were no chocolate chips for her to nibble on while I mixed ingredients?). So I waited until her nap time to finish which was a good thing because these were a bit time consuming. They weren't exactly difficult to make, but just take a few steps and a bit of patience. Anytime you have yeast in the ingredient list you should be prepared for some waiting time.

The results are so, so worth it.
pretzel bites with buffalo blue cheese dipping sauceThese pretzels have made their way into my top favorite snacks. They are really delicious with a slightly crispy crust with a soft center. And they are perfect little bites for any dipping sauce you prefer. Keep it simple with mustard or whip up this buffalo blue cheese dipping sauce. I have a seriously thing for buffalo sauce. So my dip of choice had to include buffalo sauce in some way. But these pretzel bites are great plain as well.

Or try them with nacho cheese sauce. Yeah, that would be really good, too.

I also made some with cinnamon and sugar for Juliet (melt butter, dip them in butter and then in a sugar/cinnamon mixture). Juliet loves these and devoured them (well, she actually licked all the sugar off first and then finished the pretzel).

I will be making them again and again.
pretzel bites with buffalo blue cheese dipping sauceI received a new macro lens for Christmas from my mother-in-law. I've wanted one forever to get more up-close-and-personal food shots. I'm learning how to use this new lens but it will take some time to get it down. I am also in the market for a tripod, which I hope will help with getting clearer images. Because when I'm standing on top of my kitchen table and there is a toddler running around and my husband is rolling his eyes at me....well, those circumstances don't produce the clearest shots no matter how still I try to be as I click the shutter.

Back to the pretzels...I am already dreaming of all the upcoming events I can whip these pretzel bites up for to serve. Because I know without a doubt they will be a hit.

Pretzel bites with buffalo blue cheese dipping sauce (recipe adapted via Annie's Eats)

Ingredients

Pretzel dough

1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees F)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (to grease the bowl)

Other ingredients

10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Kosher salt

Blue cheese dipping sauce

1/4 cup blue cheese dressing (ranch works too)
1-2 tablespoons buffalo sauce (I use Franks Red Hot Buffalo)
1 tablespoon blue cheese crumbles (optional)

Preparation

Combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir well and let stand for about 5 minutes until the yeast dissolves. Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together (with the paddle attachment). Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Bring the water the baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate it. Divide it up into approximately 6 equal portions. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough into a long rope 1-inch in diameter. Use a pizza cutter to cut the row into small segments, about 1-inch each. Repeat with the remaining dough. 

Place the pretzel bites into the boiling water in batches (so they aren't overcrowded). Boil each batch for about 30 seconds, stirring once or twice to submerge all surfaces in the water. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and spread out on the prepared baking sheets. Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. 

Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 10 minutes. 

For the dipping sauce: add the dressing and buffalo sauce together and mix well. Top with blue cheese crumbles.

As Juliet would say "dip dip dip" and enjoy!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Banana chocolate chip donuts

Banana chocolate chip donutsI know it's the New Year and I think that means I'm supposed to be talking about green smoothies but instead I'm talking about donuts. Don't worry, they're baked.

Like most, I'm ready to take a break from the indulgences that the holidays bring. But instead of launching into a super strict New Year's diet I'm trying out basic moderation for a change. Which means I can eat donuts. In moderation. And besides, these donuts are actually pretty healthy. They are made with bananas and yogurt. Well and sugar, but only moderate sugar.

Juliet adored these donuts. She took one bite, gave me a huge smile and yelled "YUMMY!". To me, that equals baking success.
Banana chocolate chip donutsI baked mini donuts because they are damn cute and it helps with portion control.  Banana chocolate chip donuts Banana chocolate chip donutsBanana chocolate chip donuts (recipe adapted via Janie's Kitchen)

Ingredients

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use organic whole plain yogurt)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet mini chocolate chips)

Topping (optional)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, combine the mashed banana, sugar and yogurt. Mix until combined.

Add in the melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Mix until incorporated.

Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix just until combined (be sure not to over-mix).

Fold in the chocolate chips using a spatula.

Fill a large ziplock bag (or a piping bag if you have one) with the batter and close. Snip a small piece off the corner.

Grease a donut pan (I used this mini donut pan from Wilton) and pipe 3/4 full with batter in each mold.

Bake 11-13 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

For the sugar topping, brush the top of each donut (one at a time) with butter and dip in a bowl with the sugar. I love the extra sugar topping because it makes each donut sparkly and pretty and extra sweet. But, they certainly taste great without and for little ones that don't need to get hyped up on sugar, it would probably be best to omit this step.

Makes about 35-40 mini donuts.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 top toddler recipes

Top 2013 toddler recipesI am ending the year with a post on toddler snacks. Because really, 2013 was all about my toddler Juliet, and making food from scratch for her made both of us happy.

At the beginning of the year, I had a baby. Juliet turned 1 in February and toddler hood took over from there. She went from eating limited, soft-only solids to a full-fledged adventurous toddler that munches through raw carrots with a huge smile. I really love these toddler recipes because they are healthy (and some of them don't have sugar, flour or eggs) and taste great (for adults and kiddos both!). And they all have the approval of my almost 2 year old.  

My favorite part of the food journey with Juliet is that we now bake/cook together (with the help of  her Learning Tower). She truly enjoys it and I am so happy to be making these memories with her.

Here are the top toddler recipes from the blog in 2013

Homemade animal crackers (Juliet's top favorite item I've ever made for her, she devoured these)
Chocolate chip and peanut butter oatmeal cookies
Banana peanut butter muffins
Homemade fruit snacks (actually quite easy and so much better than the store-bought)
Wheat germ parmesan crackers
Oatmeal banana muffins (no flour and no sugar)
Homemade graham crackers
Mac and cheese with sweet potatoes
Pumpkin and oatmeal cookies (no sugar)

What are your New Years plans? We are heading to a friend's house for a party but I'll need to get Juliet home at a decent time for bed so we'll both probably be asleep by 9:30pm. And I'm quite alright with this this year.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 top recipes

Top 2013 recipes2013 was an interesting year on the blog. While there were many great recipes, the real parties element of the blog was really slow. That was mostly my fault. I had to prioritize cooking/baking for my family which meant less time for creating posts around the great party submissions I received. I really hope to bring that back in 2014, along with some other exciting things.

Like a blog redesign!

I'm very excited to get this blog a face lift (it soooo needs one, right?!). The current navigation is terrible. And the commenting systems is not user-friendly and downright frustrating. The redesign will be more than a face lift. It will be a totally new look with new branding and even a new platform (bye bye Blogger, hello Wordpress). I'll be working with the talented ladies at Wooden Spoons Kitchen and will hopefully have everything ready to share in the next few months.

In April, Eat Drink Pretty turns 5. Wow. I can't believe I've been doing this for 5 years. Sometimes I think I'm crazy. Blogging isn't easy. This year has been really tough to find the time to blog with a toddler, a busy job, etc. And I know it showed. My posting frequency waned a lot. I was uninspired some of the time. But recently I've been re-energized and hope that 2014 brings a lot of great things around the blog.

I wanted to say thank you for being here in 2013. I truly appreciate your visits, comments and emails. Thank you especially to those of you that have been around since the beginning and have stuck with me.

2013 brought a lot of great recipes around the blog and some are these are favorites in my household. Without further ado, here are the top recipes from Eat Drink Pretty in 2013.

Chickpea Greek pita
Herbed blue cheese quiche
Quinoa caprese
Quinoa mac and cheese
Kale, strawberry and avocado salad
Melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin cookies
Vinegar broiled potatoes with sour cream dipping sauce
Roasted cauliflower

Tomorrow I'll be doing a recipe round-up of the top toddler recipes from 2013. If you are interested in making your toddler's favorite homemade be sure to stop back.

If you have any requests for things you'd like to see more of (or less of?) on the blog in 2014 please comment and share, thank you!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Panko-crusted fish sticks with herb dipping sauce

Panko-crusted fish sticksChristmas was a lovely time spent with family. We enjoyed great food, quality family time and experienced the joy of tearing into present after present through the eyes of our daughter (I posted a couple Christmas photos on Instagram). The day after Christmas was spent hanging out with Juliet, taking a nap (when she napped, the best) and meeting my mom and brother for lunch. I love having laid back, relaxing days after the holidays.

I am off work until January 2 and I'm beyond ecstatic about this. I'm not sure I've ever needed a break from work more. It's just been a busy past 6 months and having a toddler and working long, stressful hours...oh man, it's tough. But that's what time off is for; rejuvenating, recharging...so that you can return to the office happy, and that's exactly what I intend to do.

These fish sticks were a random, what should we have for lunch meal last weekend. Erik and I always have tilapia fillets in our freezer. Tilapia is a mild, white fish that you can spruce up in a 20 minute meal. And it's an affordable fish as well. So after a quick tilapia fish sticks search online, I found this great recipe.
Panko-crusted fish sticksThis may just be my new favorite way of serving tilapia. It's super easy to prep and the breading is so crunchy and full of flavor. The herb dipping sauce adds freshness with lemon and herbs. These were a hit with Erik and Juliet. She loves anything that comes with a "dip dip" and these fish sticks were no exception. And I love that they are so much healthier than prepared, in-the-box fish sticks.

Panko-crusted fish sticks with herb dipping sauce (recipe via Martha Stewart)

Ingredients

1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lbs tilapia filets, cut into strips
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (see note)
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Place egg in a wide, shallow bowl, season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, combine the panko, Old Bay Seasoning and olive oil.

Dip tilapia strips into egg, shaking off excess, then into the panko mixture, pressing to adhere. Place onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake until lightly browned, about 12 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, parsley, mustard and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.

Serve fish sticks with sauce.

Note, I didn't have fresh parsley so I substituted 1/2 teaspoon of dried dill, which worked well.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sparkling cranberry white cake

Sparkling cranberry white cakeErik and I hosted a dinner party for 8 of his colleagues on Friday night. After a busy and stressful week at work, I knew we needed to keep the menu relatively simple and light on the prep work.

On the menu:

Appetizers
Brie and blue cheese with crackers and baguette
Caramelized onion tarts with asiago cheese
Cream cheese with pepper jelly served with crackers

Main course
New York strip steaks
Creamy mashed potatoes
Roasted asparagus

Dessert
Sparkling cranberry white cake with lemon filling

After seeing this beautiful image on Pinterest, I was inspired to do something similar. But I knew there was no time to make a homemade cake. That's when Target bakery saved the day. On Thursday morning I called and put in an order for an 8 inch white cake with lemon filling (lemon and cranberry pair quite nicely together). I told them white frosting only and please keep it simple (I didn't want any ruffles or edging). They agreed to put the order through even though they typically require 48 hours. And the cake was only $16.99. Thank you Target.

I've been wanting to make sparkling/sugared cranberries ever since I saw them on 101 Cookbooks 4 years ago. I had to go with a super modified version because I waited until the very last minute to prep the cranberries on Friday evening. And they turned out great.

When the cranberries were sugar-coated and sparkling and absolutely gorgeous, I literally dropped them (gently) by the handfuls on the cake. I assumed the bigger the pile and the bigger the cranberry mess I made atop the cake, the lovelier it would be.

And I was right. 

Sparkling/sugared cranberries (recipe adapted via 101 Cookbooks)

Ingredients

1 bag of fresh cranberries
3/4 cups water
2 3/4 cups sugar

Preparation

In a small sauce pan bring 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved and remove from heat. Let simple syrup cool for about 20 minutes then add cranberries to the pan (be sure it has cooled down quite a bit because you don't want the cranberries to burst). Let cranberries steep in the simple syrup for at least 15 minutes to overnight (my cranberries were only in the simple syrup for about 20 minutes).

Remove the cranberries with a slotted spoon and transfer to a baking sheet. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes (this gets them nice and sticky). Add 2 cups sugar to a large bowl. In about 1 cup batches, drop cranberries into the sugar and fully coat them. Remove and transfer to another baking sheet. Continue with remaining cranberries until all have been coated.

Allow cranberries to dry for at least 30 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and serve or add to cake (or cupcakes or tarts, etc).

Eat and enjoy!

Fresh cranberries are so tart, I was wary these would be edible because I didn't allow them to steep in the simple syrup for very long. But trust me, they were perfect. The sugar coating gives you a sweet burst as you bite into the tartness. This balance is just awesome. Even Juliet loved them and kept asking for more.

I posted this photo on Instagram on Friday and it was quite a hit. Our guests devoured the cake and loved the cranberries. I ate the leftover cake right out of the container standing over the countertop yesterday. Yum. Yum.

Be sure to head over to this post to see if you were the winner of the Nespresso giveaway. The winner is announced in the Rafflecopter widget and I will be contacting them on Monday. Thank you so much for all the entries, I was super pumped about the response!

I'll be posting regularly this week (I'm off work all week after Monday, hooray!). We are staying in town for the holidays and will be eating great food and enjoying time with family.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A tasteful holiday + a Nespresso giveaway

NespressoI am pumped about the HUGE giveaway in this post. Be sure to scroll down to enter for your chance to win one of these beautiful Nespresso machines!

Last Saturday I hosted a cookie baking party. There were five of us gals, two toddlers and one newborn. We had a busy, fun day. And while the day was far from successful from the baking perspective, it was an awesome time laughing and hanging with friends.

Isn't that what the holidays are really about? Celebrating with friends (and family) and laughing through all the chaos that the holidays bring? In our case chaos came in the form of one cookie baking disaster after another. I loved that we were able to laugh our way through the day and have a great time. The holidays can be stressful and I've learned to embrace the imperfections along with all things merry and bright.

Now onto the really good stuff. 

Nespresso contacted me to partner with them on a post to share my thoughts on what a Tasteful Holiday Season means to me. I already had this cookie baking party planned and I thought an espresso table would go nicely with all the treats we would be baking up that day.

I covered a small table with a festive, red tablecloth and added a small chalkboard to label the drink offerings. I lined up coffee mugs, the Nespresso machine, coffee capsules displayed on a small cake stand and chocolate wafer cookies as an accompaniment to the coffee.

To add a little sparkle I lined the back of the table with holiday lights. They provided a lovely glow especially as the day turned to evening.

NespressoI received a Pixie Aluminum Nespresso machine plus the Aeroccino milk frother a week ago and I've made a latte every day since. I am a huge lover of coffee (did you know that I used to be a barista for a short stint in my mid 20s?). I drink coffee each morning. It starts my day off right and my caffeine need is real and it maybe is weird to say but isn't caffeine such a beautiful thing? Warming my hands on a hot mug of coffee...well, that just may be one of my favorite things ever.

I'm no fan of stopping in the coffee shop every day and spending all that money on an espresso drink. But I still enjoy a latte every once and a while and always view it as a special treat. Now that I have this this Nespresso I can enjoy a latte every. single. day. And in just about 30 seconds I have a smooth cup of espresso and perfectly frothed milk. And the Aeroccino froths almond milk wonderfully. I tend to add unsweetened vanilla almond milk to my coffee but let me tell you that frothed almond milk takes things to a whole new level.

Make your way to the end of this post because I am giving away a Pixie Aluminum Nespresso plus an Aeroccino milk frother to one lucky reader. This is a huge value of $330!
NespressoOther than making really lovely cups of espresso, the machine itself is beautiful. The design is sleek and small and seriously competes with my Kitchen Aid Mixer as one of the prettiest kitchen appliances that I proudly display on my counter top.
NespressoHow awesome are these? My friend Sarah brought over adorable hot chocolate, marshmallow and Bailey's in a mason jar to pass out as favors. These make awesome hostess gifts. They were a very nice touch to the coffee table set-up.
NespressoIn addition to baking a cookie recipe, each of us provided an appetizer to share. Sarah brought this delicious shrimp and avocado salad and Libby brought hearty lasagna dip with bread.
NespressoI made this creamy, awesome warm kale and asiago dip. I found it really satisfying to mix a bunch of mayo, cream cheese and asiago cheese with super food super healthy kale. Because honestly, the holidays are not about being super healthy, are they?  NespressoI always have a simple cheese tray at any gathering. This is a jalapeno havarti.   NespressoSarah is anti-bake so she made pretzels dipped in almond bark and different toppings like peppermint, chocolate chips and heath toffee.  NespressoThese were great and a huge hit. They make festive favors if you add a bunch to cellophane bags and wrap with a ribbon.  NespressoNespresso also sent me these Grand Crus which each have different aromatic profiles. There are also a few flavored espressos and so far my favorite is the Vanilio (vanilla flavored).  Nespresso Nespresso NespressoI love this holiday download, from Lindsay Letters. I display it on my mantle, but for the party I added it to the espresso table.

So about the cookie chaos...Deanna made sugar cookies with a peppermint Hershey Kisses and Libby accidentally sent every single cookie flying onto the floor when she knocked over the cooling rack they were on. Oops. Deanna brushed it off saying the cookies didn't turn out that great anyway. Well, we'll never know if they were or not!

Then Libby's cake pops were a huge disaster. First of all, the cake pop pan she purchased produced weirdly shaped cake pops and then none of the pops would stay on the stick. Then the white chocolate frosting was all clumpy and weird. Those ended up in the garbage, unfortunately. They still tasted great but Libby was not pleased and wanted all evidence of the failed attempt gone. I've tried making cake pops once and they didn't turn out at all. Tasted fine but were super ugly. It really makes you appreciate those beautifully made cake pops that you see on Bakerella.

That left my cookies, which actually turned out alright but I wasn't happy with how dark the bottoms of my gingersnaps got. Overall though, they were pretty good. Summer made chocolate chip cookies beforehand and those were delicious.

So not the best results cookie-wise but still so much fun. We laughed and laughed and had a wonderful time. Now that, to me, are what the holidays are all about.

Be sure to enter this AMAZING giveaway! The giveaway will end at midnight on December 22 and the winner will be announced on December 23rd. Eligible to US residents only. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: this post was made possible by Nespresso. I was provided with Pixie Alumium and Aeroccino machines for my own use and also to giveaway. All opinions are my own.