Thursday, December 26, 2013

Peppermint Oreo Truffles

I hope that everyone had a very merry Christmas, and got to enjoy quality time with family and friends; the true meaning of the holiday.  For me, it was quite a relaxing day.  Jeff and I spent the Holiday at his parents house this year and we actually opened our presents on Christmas eve.  After 32 years, this was my first time ever doing so, which meant that on Christmas day we could just relax.  Now, if only there had been something on the television worth watching......oh yeah......24 hours of "A Christmas Story"!  I'm beginning to think that we like that movie a little bit too much, because it feels like it wouldn't be Christmas if we didn't have it running all day long.  The funny thing is, that even though we played it all day, I don't think I actually saw the whole movie. 

Onto today's recipe.....

I've tried numerous times now to make truffles, and other goodies, but personal don't feel that I've yet mastered the best approach on dipping things into chocolate.  I do think that I'm getting better though. With that in mind, these peppermint Oreo truffles may not look the most attractive, but they are definitely delicious!

Peppermint Oreo Truffles
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1 box of Oreos
2 cups Andes peppermint crunch pieces, divided
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1 bag (12 oz.) milk chocolate chips
1 ½ tsp. shortening

In a mixing bowl, combine the crushed Oreos and the cream cheese.  Beat together until a soft dough forms and then stir in 1 ¾ cup of the Andes peppermint pieces.  Roll the dough into bite size balls and place on a baking sheet.  Once all the dough has been rolled, place the prepared balls into the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, or until they harden enough to dip into the chocolate without falling apart.

To make the chocolate:
Melt the chocolate and the shortening together in a microwave container, or in a double oven, over the stove top.  Stir together until completely melted and creamy.  Dip the Oreo balls into the chocolate using tongs, tooth picks, or a fork.  Place the prepared balls onto a sheet of wax paper to cool and harden.  Top with the remaining Andes peppermint crunch pieces.

(You can place the balls into the refrigerator to help the chocolate set faster)
Source: Slightly adapted from Spoonful

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pumpkin Streusel French Toast Casserole

Pretty much everyone has holiday traditions and one of the Christmas traditions around our household is to make my grandma's egg casserole for breakfast.  We'll be having this tomorrow morning, and I'll make sure to share that recipe with you later.  However, at least for today, I wanted to quickly share a great tasting breakfast option that I recently made, and was a huge success!  This pumpkin streusel French toast is not only decadent, but it's also the perfect combination of holiday flavors.  It spans from that of a pumpkin pie, to the taste of a warm cinnamon roll straight from the oven.  Garnish the dish with a little maple syrup and you'll be in heaven!

The great part about this recipe is that you make it the night before.  That way, when you get up in the morning, all you have to do is toss it in the oven.  Merry Christmas!

Pumpkin Streusel French Toast
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1 loaf whole wheat French bread
6 large eggs
2 ½ cups vanilla almond milk (or regular milk)
1 cup pumpkin puree
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 TBSP. vanilla extract
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Streusel Topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ cup cold butter, cut into cubes

Coat a 9x13” baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray, then tear the whole wheat French bread into chunks and evenly place them in the bottom of the dish.

In a large bowl, combine and whisk together the eggs, milk, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice.  (Tip:  Put the eggs into the bowl first and whisk them together before adding the other ingredients)  Now, pour the mixture over the French bread chunks until the pieces are evenly coated.  If you need to, press down any pieces that did not get originally coated with the egg mixture.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator overnight.

To make the streusel topping:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Next, cut in the butter.  I always just wash my hands and use them, but you could use knives or a pastry cutter to do this.  The topping should resemble sand with pea-size chunks.  When ready, sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the prepared French toast.  (If you prefer, you can complete this step the night before, and just store in an airtight container overnight *do not sprinkle on the French toast*, otherwise you can make it in the morning, right before you put the French toast into the oven)

When it’s time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the prepared French toast from the refrigerator, sprinkle on the streusel topping, if needed, and place it in the oven for 45-55 minutes. 

Serve immediately with maple syrup, or as is.  Both ways are delicious!

Slightly adapted from: Fabulously Frugal

Christmas in a Bowl

As stated yesterday, I'm going to try to cut back on what I write and get straight to the wonderfully delicious recipe; especially seeing that tomorrow is Christmas!  I really hope that everyone's holiday season is going as well as mine is, because I know that it can be a stressful time.  We just need to remember that it should really be a time about family and friends, which is how I'm choosing to spend my holiday this year.  It's been eight years since I've been back home to Michigan for Christmas, and even though it might be cold, snowy, and icy, it's so beautiful up here and I'm having a great time!

Now, let's get to the recipe!  A great holiday treat!

Christmas in a Bowl
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2 boxes of Dark Chocolate Ghirardelli Brownies
1 or 2 large boxes of cook and serve chocolate pudding (depending on how much filling you want)
1 small box (3.4 oz.) white chocolate pudding mix
1 cup skim milk
1 (16 oz.) container of cool whip
¼ cup crushed candy canes
2 Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark bars, broken into pieces

Cook the brownies according to package directions.  Once done, set aside to cool.

Prepare the cook and serve chocolate pudding according to package directions, then allow to cool completely.  (If you want to save time, you could use instant chocolate pudding)

Next, place the white chocolate pudding mixture into a bowl and whisk together with the skim milk until it begins to thicken.  Fold in the container of whip cream and the crushed candy canes.  Place in the fridge for 1-2 hours to help set.

To assemble:
In a trifle dish, or large bowl, place a layer of the white chocolate peppermint mixture.  Next, add on a layer of the dark chocolate brownies, then top with some of the chocolate pudding.  After that, add on a little of the peppermint bark pieces, and then repeat the process.


Inspired by: The Faux Martha

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pecan Pie Cheesecake Fudge

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!!

I know it's been over a week since my last post, but this holiday season's absolutely flying by! 

Jeff and I recently hosted an ugly sweater Christmas party, which was a lot of fun (hopefully I'll have time to blog some pictures), and when I wasn't planning and baking goodies for that, I spent the rest of my free time cleaning, baking, and packing for our holiday trip to Michigan.  The only downside to being so busy, was/is that I have so many great holiday recipes that I want to share with all of you.  I think for now, I might just have to cut back on my written thoughts a little and get straight to the holiday treats!  So here's the first in a long list......

Pecan Pie Cheesecake Fudge
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Saltine crackers (enough to cover the bottom of an 8x8” baking dish)
½ cup butter
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
Cheesecake Fudge:
3 cups white chocolate chips
1 ½ TBSP butter
Dash of salt
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ cups marshmallow cream
1 – 3.4 oz. instant cheesecake pudding mix
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line an 8x8” square baking dish with aluminum foil.  Spray the foil with a non-stick cooking spray.

Place the saltine crackers in an even layer across the bottom of the prepared baking dish (You may have to break a few crackers in half to fill in the edge of the pan).  Now, in a medium size saucepan, over a medium-high heat, bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil.  Make sure to stir the ingredients around and continue to boil for around another 5 minutes or so.  Cook until the mixture turns a nice caramel color.  It’s important to not under cook it, otherwise it won’t caramelize the way it should, be patient.

Once ready, remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the condensed milk.  Pour the sauce over the crackers and bake for 10 minutes.  When done, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Cheesecake Fudge:
In a medium saucepan, set over a medium heat, combine the white chocolate chips, butter, salt, and condensed milk.  While this is cooking, make sure to stir the ingredients around until they are completely melted and smooth.  Next, add in the instant pudding mix, and stir around until it’s dissolved.  After that, add the marshmallow, and once again stir the mixture around until it’s completely dissolved.

Once ready, pour the cheesecake fudge mixture over the prepared crust.  Smooth around with a spatula.  Now, sprinkle on the chopped pecan pieces and press down with your hands.  Place the prepared fudge in refrigerator and allow to set, this will take 3-4 hours or more.  Don’t rush it.

After the fudge has had time to cool completely, and harden, remove the pan from the fridge.  Take off the tin foil and cut the fudge into small cubes.  Enjoy!

Source: Lady Behind the Curtain

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Christmas Crack" A.K.A - Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark

Consider this your WARNING!!!!  Once this treat is made, and you find out exactly how easy it is, there's absolutely no turning back!

This salted caramel bark is so incredibly addictive, it actually took all my will power to say no to it this year, especially when I was photographing it.  I did such a good job too, avoiding it, but a late night craving came and sadly I caved.  I know that it's bound to happen every now and again, and I can't let one little slip up hold me down.  Especially seeing that I've been doing so well and am finally getting back into my old routine.  I actually went to the doctor for my follow-up appointment and the x-rays show that the cracked bone in my pelvis has healed, now it just needs to regain its' strength.  I'm excited because I've also been able to run a little and am back up to 1.25 miles, which isn't bad for my first week running since October. The process may still be a little slow going right now, but I'll get there and every day I am able to do more than the day before.  The human body is amazing!

Anyway......back to this scrumptious holiday treat!  It is definitely one that's guaranteed to be a hit, and the ingredients are all things that you may already have on hand!  Enjoy!

“Christmas Crack” – Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark
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½ bag of mini pretzels
1 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 bag of milk chocolate chips
1 cup Hersey’s cinnamon chips (you can leave out if you want)
Sea Salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Next, line a 4-sided baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread out an even layer of pretzels; set aside.

Now, in a sauce pan, over a medium heat, melt the butter and sugar together.  Make sure to stir the mixture around until all the sugar has been dissolved.  Allow the mixture to come to a boil, and continue to cook until it turns a nice caramel brown color and begins to thicken.  This will take about 5-8 minutes.  Be patient, because if the mixture doesn’t cook long enough it won’t have that caramel consistency you need.

Once the sauce is ready, pour it evenly over the pretzels.  (If it doesn’t completely coat all the pretzels, that’s fine, it will spread out in the oven)  Place the pan into the preheated oven and allow to cook for 5 minutes.  When ready, remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle on the chocolate and cinnamon chips.  Allow the chips to sit for 1-2 minutes and then take a spatula and evenly spread out the melted chips. 
Garnish with some sea salt and then place the pan in the freezer or the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process, in addition to making it easier to remove the aluminum foil. 

Christmas Crack holds up well when stored in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator.  Serve at your next holiday function and it will definitely be a hit!
Alternate Version:  Instead of using pretzels as a base layer, you could use saltine crackers.  Both ways are absolutely delicious!
Source: Adapted from Eat at Allies

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Peace on Earth" - Chocolate Covered Peppermint Graham Crackers

Today's recipe is definitely going to be continuing with the holiday theme.  I actually was briefly thinking that I'd begin to share some of the healthy recipes I've been making lately, but then I took a moment to laugh at myself and thought, nah, I'll save those for January, which is typically when people's diets begin. 

Instead, I decided that I'd dedicate this entire month completely to decadent holiday treats, which I know is what most people are looking for this time of year.  December always amazes me because it seems to fly by in a flash, especially between all the holiday shopping, Christmas parties, baking, traveling to be with friends and family, etc. and before we know it, the holiday season is over and the new year is here.  It's for these reasons that I'm choosing to share some tasty treats that are easy to prepare, and that you can take to different functions throughout the season.

These chocolate covered graham crackers are definitely a festive treat; especially with the candy cane pieces.  The most "difficult" (and notice I put that in quotes) part of this whole recipe is melting the chocolate.  And let's be serious......even that is not too hard.......To melt the chocolate just place it in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds.  Once the time is up, take out and stir.  If the chocolate's not completely melted, place the bowl back into the microwave and set the timer for 15 more seconds; stir again.  Keep doing this until all the chocolate is completely melted. 

A bonus about this recipe is that it's so easy anyone can help you.

Peace on Earth Chocolate Covered Peppermint Graham Crackers
Printer-Friendlyered Peppermint Graham Crackers Version

6 graham crackers broken in half
6 oz. milk chocolate, melted
6 oz. white chocolate, melted
1 candy cane, broken into pieces

Lay a piece of parchment paper on the counter top or another flat surface.  You will be using this to set the graham crackers on.
Now, take one of the graham cracker squares and dip half of it into the melted milk chocolate, then lay the graham cracker onto the parchment paper in order for the chocolate to harden (Helpful tip: I didn’t use a bowl that was too deep, so I had to use a knife to help smear the chocolate around).  Repeat the same process with the rest of the graham cracker squares.

After the milk chocolate has hardened completely, dip the other half of the graham cracker into the melted white chocolate, and then lay it on the parchment paper.  Immediately garnish the white chocolate side with the broken candy cane pieces.  Now, allow the chocolate time to cool and harden completely.  Enjoy!
Helpful Tip: Place the graham crackers in the fridge for the chocolate to harden quicker

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Winter Delights: White Chocolate and Candy Cane Cookies with Peppermint M & M's

It appears that lately, Target has become a part of my daily routine.  I tend to go there to just walk around and see what's new.  However, the only down side to this is that I ALWAYS seem to find something I didn't know that I always needed.  On my last trip into Target, I happened to come across bags of Peppermint M & M's, plus Peppermint Hersey Kisses.  They looked absolutely delicious!  I apparently like to torment myself, by walking through the aisles and looking at things I know I can't eat.  I think it goes without saying that I bought both types of candy, but mostly because I knew that I could find, or create, something delicious to include them in that others would enjoy!

This means that I am once again contradicting my own personal goals with the recipe that I'm posting.  However, with it being the holiday season, I think that this is going to happen a lot.  I have a ton of holiday baking to do for people, and I always get asked how I do it.  How do I make such tasty looking desserts and not eat them?  The answer to the question is always the same......A lot of willpower and Extra's Mint Chocolate Chip gum, which is my life saver.

So, with all that being said, if you're looking for a festive holiday treat, with a lot of Christmas cheer, then this cookie is definitely worth trying out!  If you decide that it's not for you, don't fear, more sweet treats will be posted soon.  Enjoy!

Winter Delights: White Chocolate and Candy Cane Cookies with Peppermint M & M’s
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Makes about 3 dozen cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ - ½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter, room temperature (I always use Country Crock sticks whenever I say butter)
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 TBSP. vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
½ cup of crushed candy canes, divided
¾ cup White Chocolate Peppermint M & M’s

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Whisk the ingredients together and set aside for later use.

Now, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the butter and sugars on a high speed, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  This process should take about 2-3 minutes and the mixture should appear light and fluffy in consistency.  Next, add in the eggs and vanilla, and then beat until smooth.  Change the power setting on the electric mixer to low, and slowly pour in the flour mixture.  Let the ingredients mix until just combined.  Lastly, fold in the white chocolate chips, ¼ cup of the crushed candy canes, and of course, the M & M’s.

You are almost there…..Now you will want to place the prepared cookie dough in tablespoonful’s onto the baking sheet, making sure to space the cookies out about 2 inches apart.  Top each cookie with one or two more M & M’s and then sprinkle on a little more crushed candy cane pieces.  Place the cookies into the oven and allow them to bake for 10-12 minutes.  (Mine took exactly 10 minutes to bake; you don’t want them to turn brown)

Once ready, remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 3-5 minutes.  After that, remove the cookies from the baking sheet and place on the wire rack to cool completely.  These cookies make for the perfect holiday treat!

Source: Slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mint Chocolate Cookies

Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone!  I hope that your long holiday weekend was enjoyable and filled with family, friends, football, shopping, good times, and of course, delicious food!  Jeff and I actually took it easy for a change, and with family located in different states around the country, we decided to pack our bags and go on a relaxing mini-vacation to Atlanta.  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my family and we happily would have traveled further, but we were just out in Las Vegas in October, and we're going to be traveling up to Michigan for Christmas.

With all that being said, I can't believe that the Christmas season is "officially" upon us.  This is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year, and what better way to get in the mood of the holiday, than by sharing a scrumptious cookie recipe.  I know that this post is kind of ironic, at least for me, because I've been continuing to eat healthy.  Small confession though.....I may have splurged one day in Atlanta, but only because we went to a Johnny Rockets (I had never been before), and seeing that we were there, I felt the need to try a dark chocolate and peanut butter milkshake.  Oh...My....Word....was it ever absolutely DELICIOUS and everything I was hoping for!  It was definitely worth the splurge, however, going from pretty much no sugar intake whatsoever immediately to a milkshake, might not have been the best idea.  I say this mostly because I wasn't feeling so well later that evening. 

I'm proud to say that the milkshake though was my only splurge over the holiday weekend, and now I'm back on track.  I have a new workout routine all set to go for the month of December and I might even join a Dietbet.  As you know, I love challenges and the workout calendar that I created for this month starts off looking pretty easy, but as the month continues on, it becomes slightly more intense.  If you want to join me, but think it might get too intense, feel free to break the exercises up into smaller sets, and don't worry about completing them all at once, the only thing that matters is that they get done.  Helpful Suggestion: you could always complete some of the crunches and squats in the morning and then do the rest in the afternoon.  Looking back at my numbers and workout routine from November, I'd have to say that I had a pretty successful month.  Even though I couldn't workout with the intensity that I wanted, due to my stress fracture, I still managed to lose around 8 lbs.  So keep in mind that anything is possible if you set your mind to it!

So, for those of you up for the challenge, here's the new calendar....Feel free to keep me posted on how you're doing.

Now, to contradict my workout routine, here's today's recipe.  I feel that these mint chocolate cookies would be a great addition to any cookie swap, or holiday party.  The mint flavoring found within each tasty morsel is perfect for the Christmas season, and who can say that they're not a fan of Andes Mints?  Plus, the mint green coloring that's added to these cookies is definitely pleasing to the eyes.  They will be gone before you know it!

Mint Chocolate Cookies
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2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 ½ cup sugar
1 egg
1 ½ tsp. mint extract
15 drops or more, green food coloring
1 1/2 boxes of Andes Mints, broken into pieces (It helps if they are refrigerated)
Optional: ½ cup of Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine, and whisk together, the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Now, in the bowl of an electric mixer, set on high and fit with a whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and mint extract, making sure to scrape down the side of the bowl as needed.  Now, set the mixer to a lower speed and add in the dry ingredients.  Once the dough begins to form, add in the green food coloring and continue to mix until you are happy with the coloring.  Saving the best for last….translation…. it’s now time to fold in the Andes mints.  However, make sure that you save some of the mint pieces to place on top of the cookies before placing them in the oven. 

Roll a small amount of dough, about a tablespoon or so, in your hands and place onto the prepared baking sheet.  Flatten the dough a little by pressing down with your palm and then add a few Andes Mint pieces on top. 

Place the baking sheet in the oven and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes.  (FYI: The cookies will look puffy and might not look done, but they will drop down when cooling.)

When ready, remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Once the cookies have cooled slightly, remove them from the pan and allow them to cool completely.  These cookies are definitely delicious with a glass of milk!  What a great holiday treat!

Source: Slightly Adapted from Crafty Corner

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Yesterday I shared a delicious recipe for a whole wheat pizza dough, and said that I'd be telling you what I used it for.  So, as promised, here it is......

Very rarely, if ever, do we order a pizza in this household.  I honestly can't even tell you the last time that I ate pizza, which is funny, because it used to be my favorite food.  Usually it's something special that Jeff will get when/if I'm out of town, but even then, he doesn't seem to order it too much anymore.  That's why, every so often, I like to do something special, and make him a homemade pizza, or Italian type meal.

This time around, I decided to make Stromboli instead of a traditional pizza.  For those of you who don't know, Stromboli is pretty much the same thing, but the toppings are encased in the crust.  To me, this is way tastier than a regular pizza because the crust just so happens to be my favorite part anyway.  I can remember, while growing up, my parents would order themselves a pizza every Sunday night (it was their tradition) and I would always ask my mom if she would please cut off her crust and give it to me, which she did.  Thanks mom!  Sadly though, times have changed, and this particular meal was not for me to enjoy.

There's one more thing I'd like to say before I get to the recipe and that is, the great thing about pizza and Stromboli is you can incorporate whatever ingredients you'd like.  This time around, I chose to make a meatlovers Stromboli for Jeff, but you could always add in vegetables or anything else that sounds delicious to you!

Printer-Friendly Version

Pizza dough
Genoa Salami
Mozzarella cheese
Provolone cheese
Olive oil
Egg yolk
Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a flat, well-floured surface, roll out the pizza dough into the shape of a rectangle.  Make sure that it is large enough so that you may add in your meats and cheeses.  Once the dough is ready, place on the meat layers, in whatever order you’d like, just make sure to leave about 2 inches on each side.  After the meat has been added, layer on the cheeses.  (I have the tendency to stuff mine too full and it makes it difficult to roll up, but is so yummy looking)
Now, add a little bit of water to your egg yolk and whisk together.  Brush the egg mixture along the edges of the dough.  This will help the dough stick together when you roll it. 

It’s now time…..

Starting on one of the long sides of the dough, begin to slowly roll, making sure to tuck in the ingredients as needed.  Once the dough is rolled up, pinch it together to seal the ingredients in and tuck/fold under the edges.
Place the now prepared Stromboli, seam side down, onto a baking sheet.  Cover the dough with a thin layer of olive oil and sprinkle on some garlic powder.  You could also sprinkle one some parsley or oregano for a little extra flavor.  Place the prepared Stromboli into the oven for 20-25 minutes.

When done baking, remove the pan from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes.  Cut the Stromboli and serve with a side of marinara sauce.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Even if I'm not planning to prepare a meal for myself, I'm still always looking for the healthiest alternative possible.  That's why, instead of preparing my usual pizza dough, I opted to try out this healthier version instead.  I've been wanting to make a whole wheat pizza dough for quite some time now, but every recipe that I'd come across seemed to take a lot of preparation; that is, until now.

Today I'm going to share with you how to go about preparing a recipe for whole wheat pizza dough that's quick and super easy to make.  Then, tomorrow, I'll share with you a delicious recipe that you can use the dough for.

So, here we go......

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
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1 ¼ cup white flour
2 ¼ tsp. active dry yeast
½ tsp. salt
2 TBSP. olive oil
1 cup warm water (not boiling)
1 1/3 – 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour (add a little more, if needed)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a dough hook, combine the white flour, yeast, and salt.  Add in the olive oil and water, and knead on high for about 5-7 minutes (If the dough doesn’t form completely, its ok, it will form when more flour is added).  Next, add in the whole wheat flour and continue to knead, on high, until the dough forms and is somewhat tacky to the touch.  Feel free to add in a little more whole wheat flour as needed.

Once the dough is ready, remove the bowl from the electric mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm area for 10-15 minutes.

Now that the dough has had a little bit of time to rise, place it onto a well floured surface and roll it out into whatever shape and thickness you desire.
Source: Pinch of Yum

Friday, November 22, 2013

Project Time: Our Jigsaw Wall

Today's blog entry is going to be a little bit different than most of my other posts, because it's not about food.  Since I left my job teaching, I've been trying to fill my days with a combination of different activities.  Typically I'd spend most of my time exercising, but, as most of you know, that's still limited for me.  Update though:  Over the past couple of weeks I've noticed that I'm getting better and stronger.  Every day that passes, I'm able to increase my workout intensity a little bit more than what it was the day before.

So.....on to today's post!

Jeff and I have been living in our house for just about a year and half now, and one thing that's bothered me, is the fact that I have this amazing kitchen, with a great big island, but my purse and other items just seem to get tossed onto the counter.  I find this annoying because I'm all about keeping spaces clean and organized, yet I'm the one guilty of putting my purse and keys there.  This is why I finally decided that enough was enough and something had to be done. 

I've been looking at ideas for quite some time now, and thought that maybe we could build some type of locker looking shelves out in the garage.  The only problem with that is I know Jeff has some wonderful ideas for his garage space and I don't want my purse and keys to be kept in the garage overnight, or ever.  And for those of you who caught it, yes, I called the garage "his"; just like I call the kitchen "mine".  It's a mutual, unspoken understanding between the two of us.  Due to those facts, I decided to keep looking.

And sure enough, about two weeks ago, my friend Megan pinned this amazing looking wall off of shanty 2 chic's blog.  I immediately fell in love with it, and started walking around my house to see where I could build it.  When Jeff came home from work that day, I showed him the picture of what I wanted to do, and where I thought we could put it.  One great thing about my husband, other than the fact that he's absolutely amazing, is that he's crafty too and loves to build things.  Plus he loves to use his power tools, so he was definitely down for the challenge!

This past weekend we set to work.  In order to gather all the materials that we would need, to build the wall, we headed out to Home Depot and Lowe's.  Here's a list of what we purchased:

For the wall
Oak Plywood, comes in a 4' X 8' sheet (Cut into 8", 6", and 4" strips.  The man at Home Depot cut it for us)
4 different Stains (You can choose your colors.  We used dark walnut, cherry, red mahogany, and weathered grey)
For the Mantle
4" piece of oak board
8" piece of oak board
Crown Molding
Molding strip
Decorative molding block
Decorative Hooks
White paint

After we had all our materials unloaded, we got to work.

Here's what the wall looked like before:

After measuring the wall one last time, the first thing Jeff and I did was laid the wooden pieces onto the garage floor, in order to determine a width pattern.  Next, I drew lines on the wood to ensure that all the pieces were different lengths and wouldn't line up.  After that, Jeff cut the pieces, using his electric saw, and then we laid them back into place, eventually spacing them out with pennies.

Next, I used a pencil and wrote on the pieces of wood.  I labeled them with their row, placement, and stain color (row 1, #1, cherry, row 3, #2, weathered grey, etc.) This guaranteed that we wouldn't accidentally put colors together and that the pieces of wood wouldn't be placed onto the wall incorrectly.  Plus, the stain was going on the other side of the wood anyway, so the writing didn't make a difference, it was only there as a helpful tool for us.

After we had that done, I stained all the wooden pieces, let them dry, and then applied a second coat of stain. 

Once the wood was stained, and spent a night drying, it was finally time to assemble the wall.  Before we started assembling though, I sanded down the wooden pieces, in order to give them more of a worn appearance.  After that, it was amazing at how easy it was to piece together the wall.  All Jeff and I had to do was align and space out the boards and then use a nail gun (Jeff's favorite toy) to secure them into place. 

Once the wall was fully assembled, it was time to add the mantle.  We first assembled the mantle out in the garage and then brought it inside.   Next, we lined the mantle up, and just like before, we used the nail gun to secure it into place. 

Lastly, we added on the hooks, and this is the final result. 

I absolutely love it!  The plan for this weekend is to build a little bench that will go on the floor in front of the wall.  I'll keep you updated!

Inspired by Shanty 2 Chic

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cheddar Onion and Beer Bread

One of my all time favorite smells is that of freshly baking bread.  The warm, delectable aroma somehow just seems to escape from the oven and finds a way to seductively creep around from room to room.  And even though I'm not allowed to eat bread, at least for now, that doesn't stop me from baking a loaf for others.  I'm always up for trying new recipes too, but I definitely have my personal favorite; which happens to be apple bread.  However, knowing that I need to stay away from the empty carbs, I've been trying to experiment by incorporating ingredients that I'm not necessarily a big fan of, like beer.

This particular cheddar onion and beer bread is so simple to make, and honestly only takes about 2 minutes to throw together.  The hardest part of the whole process is being patient and waiting for the bread to bake; especially once that wonderful scent  of baking bread fills up your home.

Cheddar Onion Beer Bread
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3 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBSP. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 green onions, thinly sliced
12 oz. beer (use your favorite)
Dash of cayenne pepper
¼ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and spray a loaf pan with a non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cheese, onions, and cayenne pepper.  Whisk together until combined.  Now, slowly pour the beer into the flour mixture, and with as few stirs as possible, mix until the flour is moistened.  (The dough will be lumpy in appearance)

Pour the dough into the prepared loaf pan and evenly distribute the melted butter on top.  Once ready, place the pan into the oven and let bake for 50 minutes.

When the bread is done baking, remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes.  Now, extract the bread from the pan and let cool completely.  Enjoy!

Source: Slightly adapted from Shugary Sweets

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Southwest Chicken Tortilla Soup

Thanks to my beyond obsession with Pinterest, it was another productive weekend around our household.  Jeff and I spent the majority of the afternoon, on Saturday, going back and forth between Home Depot and Lowe's.  We were on a mission to buy things that we needed, in order to make a plank wall for our entryway by the garage.  Overall, I'd have to say that our project was a big success!  The wall actually turned out better than I had imagined.  I'll be posting pictures later this week, including the link with step by step instructions.

Needless to say, that due to our busy weekend, I didn't have much time to cook.  Therefore, I needed to think of some dinners that would not be very time consuming.  Even though the temperatures were warm around these parts, I felt that soup would be a perfect choice.  I've always loved a good chicken tortilla soup, and know that I've posted a recipe for one before.   However, the recipe that I made this weekend is slightly different, has more of a kick, and includes more ingredients.  This soup was absolutely delicious, and one that I'll definitely be making again.     

Southwest Chicken Tortilla Soup
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1 cup whole wheat elbow pasta, cooked
2 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ yellow onion, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (14.5 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 can (4 oz.) green chiles, hot
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. oregano
Dash of cayenne red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast
1 cup corn kernels
2 TBSP. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced

Garnish Ideas:
Tortilla strips (I used Texas toast, chili lime flavor)
Avocado, diced
Shredded Cheese

Set a Dutch oven, or a large stock pot, over a medium heat and add the olive oil.  After allowing the oil to heat for about a minute or so, add in the garlic and onion.  Sauté together until the onions become translucent in appearance.  Add in the chicken stock, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, green chiles, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper.  Stir everything together and season with a dash of salt and pepper.  Now, place the cover on the pot and reduce the heat to a gently simmer.  Allow the soup to cook and thicken for around 15-20 minutes.

Once the soup is ready, turn the heat back up and add in the pasta, chicken, corn, cilantro, and lime juice.  Stir all the ingredients together and allow to cook for another 5 minutes or until the soup is warmed to your liking!

Place the soup into soup bowls and garnish with some fresh, diced avocados, a little cheese, and some tortilla strips.  Enjoy!

Source: Slightly adapted from Damn Delicious