Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

Christmas is upon us! Quick- what cookies are you leaving out for Santa?

Sugar? Bleh.

Chocolate Chip? As if.

Oatmeal Raisin? Evaluate what you're doing with your life.

What Santa (or the person who gets to host Christmas this year and has thus decided to dub herself Miss Santa 2015 - sorry, Miss Columbia) really wants this year is something chewy, crunchy, spiced and sweet.

Santa wants these yummies:


Look at that crackly top! The crunchy sugar crystals! The gooey soft center!

I won't lie- this recipe is a little time consuming. Not because there are a ton of steps, but because the dough has to - HAS TO - be thoroughly chilled in order to be workable. This step is crucial, otherwise you'll end up with a cookies sheet shaped mega-cookie.

Santa would still eat a mega-cookie. But not oatmeal raisin.

Okay- maybe oatmeal raisin if that was the last cookie on earth. But only then.


On a personal accomplishment note, this recipe achieved two things for yours truly:

1. I overcame my fear of cooking/baking with molasses- a fear that was brought on many years ago by a botched gingerbread cake recipe in which I used blackstrap molasses and had to throw the entire thing away. (Seriously guys- it was one of the worst things I've ever tasted.)

2. I completed the full 2015 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge - woo! 52 weeks of coming up with a recipe to incorporate the weekly theme/ingredient, no matter what was going on! Want to get in on the action for 2016? Click here!

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies
Recipe courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened to room temperature (I used 2 sticks salted, 1 unsalted)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses (I used mild flavor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4-1 tsp salt, depending on choice of salted/unsalted butter
  • Sugar, for rolling
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside. 

In a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar for about a minute on medium speed- until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl, then add in molasses and eggs. Beat until incorporated, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. 

Add the dry ingredients slowly- being sure to scrape down and check the bottom of the bowl as you go- the dough is sticky! 

Cover the dough and chill for several hours, until the dough is firm all the way through. 

Preheat the oven to 375.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls, roll in sugar and place on baking sheets. Chill dough balls for 10-15 minutes (20-30 if the dough was still soft in spots).

Bake for 8-10 minutes- remembering that the general rule for chewy/soft cookies is to bake for the lowest amount of time, allow to rest on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes, and then remove to a rack to cool. 

Enjoy- and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Moroccan Shaved Carrot Salad

The holidays aren't even over and I'm already suffering from that gross feeling of 'over-indulgence'. I've basically been on the glutton wagon since Halloween: my birthday, Thanksgiving, our wedding, comfort food season, and now I'm looking at two more weeks of the same with Christmas, New Years, and our honeymoon (!) all on the horizon.

Time for a bit of freshness.

The beautiful thing about this salad (aside from the gorgeous colors) is that it's so quick and easy to make there's really no excuse not to make it!

And once you're a good boy or girl and finish your salad, you can go back to eating cookies guilt-free.

Maybe.

Moroccan Shaved Carrot Salad


  • 3 to 4 carrots, shaved thin with a vegetable peeler
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 1 TB vinegar 
  • 1/2 TB dried mint
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Pomegranate seeds
Mix all ingredients (except pomegranate) together in a small bowl. Be sure to thoroughly coat carrots in liquid. 

Cover and 'marinate' in the fridge for at least 2 hours, until the carrots have begun to soften slightly. 

Garnish with pomegranate seeds (seriously- don't skip that!) and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Return of the Sprout

I know I've been away for a while, but gimme a break- I just got married!

And what do newlyweds do on a Tuesday night? They drink beer, play MarioKart, and eat Brussels Sprouts, of course.

But not just any sprouts.

Bacon.

Balsamic.

Brussels Sprouts.



I've shared a recipe for roasted sprouts before, and while I do still love the simplicity of that recipe, these sprouts are really a step up in flavor. The balsamic vinegar lends a touch of sweetness and acidity to counter the richness of the bacon- truly a winning combination!

Serve these alongside steak, roast, or chicken for a side dish that's sure to steal the show.

And if you wanted to have some crusty bread available to sop up some of the fabulous bacony/balsamic blend left behind? No judgement here.

Bacon Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • 1.5 - 2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 5 slices uncooked bacon, diced into 1/2 inch strips
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Salt, Pepper and garlic powder
Preheat oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (to avoid clean up)

Trim the ends off the sprouts, and split any particularly large sprouts in half to ensure even roasting time for the pan.

In a large bowl, combine the sprouts with the bacon, olive oil, and a good dash of salt and pepper. Sprinkle in garlic powder, if desired.

Pour sprouts out onto the baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, until the insides of the sprouts are soft and 'creamy'. Drizzle on the balsamic vinegar, stirring to coat evenly. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

DIY Vanilla Extract


Once Halloween wraps up and November 1 hits, I feel a distinct change in the air. It's the HOLIDAY SEASON!

I love this time of year. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, followed (literally and figuratively) by Christmas. And you know what my favorite part about all of this is? 2 months of gifting, giving and sharing. I definitely started my gifting list yesterday, and I most certainly started Christmas shopping two weeks ago.

So, if you're a holiday season lover and looking for an easy-peasy gift that keeps on giving, look no further than Homemade Vanilla Extract! I'm posting this recipe now because if you want it to be ready to use by Christmas, you need to begin the process like....now.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

  • 1 cup vodka, dark rum, or bourbon 
  • 8-10 whole vanilla beans, split down the middle
  • Glass jar with tight sealing lid
  • Bottle jars
I chose vodka for my vanilla extract- you'll notice the color is much lighter than commercially produced vanilla since we're omitting any sort of food coloring or syrup. If you'd like a nice, rich color I'd recommend using rum or bourbon- the flavor of your vanilla will also have a bit more depth to it, so it's a win-win! Heck- you could make a trio of vanillas and be the vanilla queen. 

Anyway.

Add your split vanilla beans to the glass jar. Pour vodka over and be sure that all the beans are covered. Give your jar a good shake, then set aside.........for 8 weeks. 

Yeah- 8 weeks. You'll want to shake the jar once or twice every week. At the end of 8 weeks, you can separate the vanilla into smaller bottles, garnishing with a fresh vanilla bean in each. 

Enjoy!

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Art of the Thank You Note



It's no secret that I'm in the midst of wedding insanity. 40 day countdown is upon us, people!

I expected the stress. I expected the financial kick-to-the-groin. I even expected the dreaded "you'll invite this person you've never met because they expect to get an invitation, even though they won't come!".

Ugh.

One thing I didn't expect? This is going to sound totally awful, but I did not expect to be so overwhelmed by the love, support, and generosity of my family and my future-family. As such, I've felt the need to really examine thankfulness, chiefly in the form of the Thank You Note.

Having written a fair amount already- and with hundreds (yes- literally hundreds) more in my near future, I found it important to develop a sort of 'formula' to keep myself from getting overly-frazzled each time I put pen to paper.

Without further ado....

Minnesota Nicely's Thank You Note Guidelines
For weddings, graduations, showers and general generosity. 

Be Prepared

First and foremost- it is never a bad idea to have an arsenal of 'Thank You' cards on hand. You never know when you'll need one spur-of-the-moment, and the faster you can get a thank you note out, the better. Check out TJMaxx or Target for super cheap, yet beautiful/fun/artistic thank you cards.

Second- keep addresses up to date. Again, you never know when you'll need to send out a card, so putting together a file of friends and family addresses is a must. Bonus- you'll be ready to send out invitations, holiday photos and birthday cards whenever the mood strikes.

Take Advantage of the Guest List

If you are sending out invitations for a shower/graduations/party/etc, print the addresses on clear labels. Trust me- this is stupid easy to do and has a great pay-off. Once you've printed the address labels for the party, print a second sheet for your thank you cards.

Thankful for Presence vs. Presents

One of my favorite wedding mishaps comes from a cousin of mine. On her invitations, she printed the standard 'So-and-so request the honor of your presences at the marriage of...", but instead of 'presence' as in attendance, she put 'presents', as in "request the honor of your gifts at the marriage of...". Eek.

Not only is this an important grammatical distinction to make sure you pay attention to, but this is also a great reminder as to what we should be truly thankful for: Presence, not presents. Your card should always strive to make sure the recipient knows that you are thankful for their thoughtfulness and their physical presence at your gathering/event. In fact, I think that this is such an important focus that I recommend 'sandwiching' your thank you with this message. Open and close the note with some form of 'thank you for your thoughtfulness/thank you for coming' to really reinforce that you appreciate their presence.

Elaborate on the Gift

When you're thanking someone for a present, be sure to include a little tidbit as to how you're going to enjoy the gift. Aunt Sally gave you a nice set of mixing bowls? Great! Let her know you can't wait to use them to make Grandma Gertrude's famous fudge recipe. Cousin Betty brought a fresh new stack of kitchen towels? Wonderful! One can never have too many towels to clean up after a fun day of baking. BFF Eliza got you that new book you've been longing for? Excellent- let her know you can't wait to take some much needed 'me time' to relax and read.

In some way or another, people want to be sure that they got you something you'll enjoy, not just something you'll use. Let your gifter know why you're thankful for their present and you'll put a smile on their face.

Enemy, thy name is Generic

When you've got 30 thank you notes to write, it can sometimes be tempting to carry on with a generic message. DON'T. Each message doesn't have to be uniquely crafted (actually, I would encourage you to have a few repeat phrases to use for each note) but there should be some personal touch included for each individual. Get heartfelt for your mom, formal for your stuffy Great Aunt, and totally chill for your friends. The recipient should be able to hear your voice in the words, so if you're writing the same note over and over again, it's going to sound less like you're sincere and more like you're a robot. Include your personality!

Example

So let's put all of this together, eh?

Dear Hannah,

I just had to take a moment to thank you for coming to my bridal shower. I'm so happy you were able to make it! It truly would not have been the same without you there.

I'm so overwhelmed by your generosity- those wine glasses are gorgeous! I can't wait for us to break them in on the next girls night. Let's not wait too long!

Again- thank you so much for being there to celebrate with me. Your friendship means the world to me, and your support over these last few crazy months has been the only thing keeping me from becoming a Bridezilla! I can't wait to party with you at the wedding!

Lots of love, girl!

See- easy enough! And if you're still struggling, go ahead and start with the underlined text. Those phrases can be the base template for all of your thank you notes, while still allowing you to personalize the message and tailor the voice of the note to the recipient.

Now get out there and thank someone!

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Ultimate Sugar Coma Breakfast

Okay guys- I promise that after this recipe I'll take a break from the cinnamon. 

Maybe.

But....


Is there anything better than waking up to a batch of warm, gooey cinnamon rolls? Before this morning, I would have said "No! Of course not! Now shut up and let me eat in peace!"

But then...

I made a Cinnamon Roll Breakfast Bake.

And I topped it with bacon.

And cinnamon sugar pecans.

And I ate entirely too much of that sticky sweet deliciousness- especially for someone who has to fit into a wedding dress in a month.

Oops.

The beautiful thing about this bake is that you can make it as 'lazy' as you want by using store-bought cinnamon roll dough (think Pillsbury) or by making your own (my favorite recipe). If you do opt to use your own cinnamon roll recipe, make sure the rolls aren't too 'wet' (i.e. minimal butter in the filling and a little firmer dough if usually very soft). This will ensure that your bake doesn't get overly soggy, and that your dough still soaks up some of the egg batter.

I highly recommend the addition of the pecans and bacon- they both provide a wonderful textural contrast to the soft cinnamon roll bites.

Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Bake

  • 2 cans cinnamon rolls (or approximately 16 homemade rolls)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted + 2 TB butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon 
Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 3 quart baking dish with the extra 2 TB melted butter. Be sure to grease up the sides of the dish. 

Cut each roll into 4 pieces (if using homemade dough that produces especially large rolls, cut into 6 pieces) and add to baking dish. 

In a large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients. Pour over cinnamon roll pieces and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the center is no longer jiggly. 

Allow to cool for ten minutes, then top with syrup or glaze (use package glaze from store-bought rolls or make your own with heavy cream, powdered sugar, maple syrup and a touch of coffee to desired consistency/sweetness), bacon pieces and chopped cinnamon sugar pecans.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans

Another cinnamon recipe?

Yes- ANOTHER! 

While the rest of the internet is obsessed with pumpkin spice this and pumpkin spice that, I've been seduced by cinnamon. 

Cinnamon is just such a wonderful flavor, and it's a perfect spice to enjoy throughout the fall and winter: cinnamon rolls, spice cake, cinnamon dolce lattes, apple cinnamon whiskey sours, and now....

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans!


Seriously, start making these right now. They will make your house smell amazing while they bake, and once they come out the of oven you'll probably have to nibble on one, two, twelve, 1/2 the pan... If you try for a pan a week, then I predict that by time the holidays roll around, you might have enough stocked up to get through at least one office party potluck.

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans

  • 1 pound pecans (3-4 cups)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 250. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease with cooking spray. 

Place pecans in a large bowl.

In a medium bowl, mix together sugars, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk egg white and vanilla together until frothy. Pour over pecans and toss so that all nuts are evenly coated. Fold in the sugar mixture and continue to stir until most of the mixture adheres to the pecans. 

Pour pecans out on the baking sheet (along with any residual sugar mix) and smooth to an even layer. 

Bake for 1 hour total, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container. 


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

There's a chill in the air throughout the day...

The leaves are changing and falling in my face...

I can drink coffee without sweating like a mad woman...

It's FALL!

Which means fall cocktails are in high demand. My standby has always been red wine- but then again wine is always my standby, whether it's 100* or -15*.

So let's get a little more creative, eh? Something that celebrates the flavors of fall, gets the cheeks a little rosy, and makes me forget that winter is just around the corner.


Oh hello handsome.

This little guy is a phenomenal fall twist on the traditional whiskey sour. Sweet enough to be enjoyed by those of us a bit 'put off' by anything too strong, but flavorful enough to be a proper cocktail. The real star of the show is the homemade cinnamon simple syrup.

FYI- it's called 'simple syrup' because it's like....really frickin' simple to make- so no excuses!

Also, I won't tell you to go out and buy some fancy shmancy whiskey/bourbon for this cocktail since we're mixing it with several things- HOWEVER- a good quality apple cider is a must. Look for something local, fresh and with the smallest ingredient list possible. Protip: Apples should be the first and only ingredient.

Anyway- here's the recipe. Now whip one of these bad boys up and toast to fall!

Apple Cinnamon Whiskey Sour

  • 4 ounces apple cider
  • 4 ounces bourbon/whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 4 dashes bitters
  • 1 ounce cinnamon simple syrup 
To make cinnamon simple syrup: combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat, then add 1-2 cinnamon sticks (1 is a light cinnamon flavor, 2 is pretty strong but delicious!). Allow mixture to cool, transfer to a mason jar and store in the fridge until needed.

To make the cocktail: in a large cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients and a small handful of ice. Shake vigorously for 20 seconds, then strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and sliced apples. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pork Posole

It's stew season, baby! 

When the weather really begins to turn and there's a constant chill in the air, I love nothing more than coming home to a stew that has been simmering in the slow-cooker all day. The house just smells like a stick-to-your-ribs hearty dinner...what could be more comforting?

While I usually usher in fall with a traditional beef stew, I felt like doing something a little more interesting this time around. 

Addendum: the fiance is out of town for the next two weeks, and while I miss him, I find his work trips are a great time to try new recipes and either A.) have no one know about a failure, or B.) greedily devour the entire thing myself.  

This stew was definitely outcome B.


Man- this recipe was a slam dunk. I literally cannot stop eating this stew. I portion some out, heat it up, inhale the whole bowl and repeat until I'm so full I fear I'll begin to melt into my couch.

Posole- it's a dangerous game.

Pork and Hominy Stew (Pork Posole)
Adapted from Food Network Magazine 

  • 3-4 pound pork butt, bone-in
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 16 oz jar salsa verde
  • 1 30 oz can hominy, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt, pepper
  • 2 small yellow corn tortillas 
  • Garnishes: chopped romaine hearts, 1 avocado (diced), lime wedges, sour cream
Chop pork into one inch pieces. As you approach the bone, do your best to cut around. Place pork pieces and bone/remaining meat into slow-cooker. Add in peppers, salsa verde, hominy, cilantro, chicken stock, seasoning. Crumble the corn tortillas into small pieces and add to the slow-cooker. (This will amp up the corn flavor and thicken your stew!)

Cook on low for 7 hours. Remove pork bone. Serve with a squeeze of lime, romaine lettuce, avocado and sour cream. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Coffee Meringues

If you're looking for a textural treat, look no further than a meringue. One bite and you'll understand the beauty that is a lightly crunchy and pleasantly chewy exterior crumbling into a pillowy center. 

Plus- how lovely are these things?


  In order to make meringues socially acceptable to eat at any time of the day, I decided to step up the plain ol' recipe and make Coffee Meringues- what could be better with a morning cup of joe?

Coffee Meringues 

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 to 1 1/2 TB instant coffee powder (depending on how strong a coffee flavor you'd like)
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 200.

In a stand mixer (or using a large bowl and hand mixer) whip egg whites and cream of tartar together until thick and foamy. On high speed, begin adding sugar to the egg whites, a few tablespoons at a time. This should take about a minute. 

Continue to whisk on high until egg whites have achieved stiff, glossy peaks. Whisk in vanilla and instant coffee. 

Add mixture to a piping bag (or ziploc bag with corner snipped) and pipe onto the parchment lined baking sheet- leaving approximately 1 inch between meringues. If desired, garnish each meringue with a coffee bean. 

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, turning pan halfway through baking. When time is up, turn off the oven but do not open or remove meringues. Leave in the oven for at least 1 hour. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just Fondue It- Classic Swiss Fondue

This week, I decided to get down with my Swiss heritage and indulge in something I've always waned to try: eating a 1/2 pound of cheese in one meal.

A.k.a.- fondue.

Ooey, gooey- Good God it's Fonduey!
That's right, Melinda- I've never had fondue. But that all changed last night, and now? Now I will be on the hunt for a proper fondue pot so that my cheese will be forever melty.

Fondue is easy- I'm not sure why it took me so long to try making it. Plus- talk about a casual meal. Look in your fridge/pantry- what would go well with cheese? (FYI- the answer is pretty much everything and anything.)

Since it was just the two of us, we kept it simple with some crusty sourdough, pears, smoked ham and pickles. You could also do bits of steak, apples, or any fresh or blanched vegetable of your liking!



Classic Swiss Fondue


  • 1/2 pound Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 pound Emmental cheese (could substitute Swiss cheese if necessary)
  • 2 TB cornstarch
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TB kirsch (optional, or a dash of port or brandy could be substituted)
  • Nutmeg, salt, pepper and dry mustard- to taste
Dippables: bread, meats, vegetables, pickles, apples, pears

Grate the cheeses and gently toss with 2 TB of cornstarch. Set aside.

Rub a split garlic clove around the inside of a heavy bottom sauce pan or fondue pot. Discard garlic.

Add in wine and lemon juice over medium/high heat and bring to a strong simmer. Slowly begin to add cheeses, whisking steadily until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth. If using, add in the kirsch.

Season with nutmeg and dry mustard, adding in salt/pepper to taste. The cheese should provide a decent amount of salt, so taste often and add salt slowly!

Serve immediately. 




Friday, September 18, 2015

A Little Breakfast Indulgence

I walk a fine line when it comes to the sweet/savory breakfast blend.

I'll never be one of those people that piles their eggs, bacon and pancakes onto the same plate and then covers everything with hot sauce and maple syrup. Bleh.

But a little bit of bacon crumbled into pancakes? Oh my.

Maple biscuits covered in sausage gravy? Yes.

Chocolate, maple AND bacon? Perfect.


This Maple Bacon Crack Bread is such a fabulous blend of gooey maple syrup and brown sugar, coupled with everyone's favorite salty breakfast meat. Add a few mini chocolate chips and a bit of red pepper flakes to cut through all the sugar and you've got the perfect balance of sweet and savory going on, my friend!

One note- I was a fool and didn't grease my aluminum foil. Ideally, parchment paper with about 1/2 a can of cooking spray (okay, maybe not that much) will keep the sticky syrup from gluing your bread to the pan!

Maple Bacon Crack Bread

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tube crescent roll dough
  • 1 pound bacon- slightly undercooked and chopped
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Sprinkle of red pepper flakes
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray liberally with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 325.

Roll out crescent dough and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle on half of the brown sugar and maple syrup. Add bacon pieces, then top with remaining syrup/sugar. Sprinkle on chocolate chips and red pepper flakes (if desired). Bake for 25 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

**I'd really like to try this with a homemade shortbread crust instead of the crescent dough. If anyone wants to give it a go before I get around to it- let me know how it goes!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Toasted Coconut Flan

Custard-based desserts are one of my favorite treats that I often forget about.

Creme brulee, pots de creme, custard pie- all deliciously creamy, subtly sweet, and an incredible way to end a meal. Plus, custard is like....stupid-easy to make, dawg. 

...sorry. That last bit was weird. I haven't had my coffee yet. 

Anywho.

My favorite custard-based dessert is flan. I go weak in the knees for that creamy, caramel-soaked bite of goodness. 

But despite my love of this easy-to-make and even easier-to-eat sweet, I've never actually made flan. 

Crazy, right? 

Never fear- this situation was remedied in full last night. 



This Toasted Coconut flan is a luscious blend of coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, freshly toasted coconut, and the most amazing ingredient I've added to my cupboards in a long time: Cajeta.

See all that thick, gooey gorgeous caramel sauce on my humble flan? That's cajeta- a Mexican caramel sauce made from goat's milk. Imagine if caramel sauce hit the gym. 

This sauce is intense in all the right ways. I may or may not be saving some to drizzle on ice cream later. 

Cajeta- it's worth the search. (Or be lazy and get it just a click away.)

Now- back to the flan!


Toasted Coconut Flan
Flan can be made in individual ramekins or in a standard 10 cup bundt pan. 
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cans Sweetened Condensed Milk 
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 TB vanilla
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup cajeta (you can definitely substitute caramel sauce, but I'll definitely judge you just a little)
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
Preheat the oven to 350. 

In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine all ingredients (except the cajeta and shredded coconut). Whisk together until all ingredients are thoroughly combined- you don't want globs of cooked egg in your flan!

Spray (and I mean SPRAY) the bundt pan, then drizzle in the cajeta. Gently pour the flan mixture into the bundt pan. Cover top with foil. Plan bundt into a large roasting dish, then fill the roasting dish with water until it reaches halfway up the side of the bundt pan. 

Bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes. The center should still jiggle slightly. Place bundt on a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes. Chill, covered, for at least 3 hours. 

In the meantime, heat a small pan over medium-high heat. Add shredded coconut and stir constantly until most of the coconut has begun to turn golden. Remove pan from heat, but keep coconut in the pan until it has cooled (this will allow it to continue toasted without burning). 

Once flan is chilled, flip onto a serving plate and top with toasted coconut. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fabulous Football Dips!

Last Christmas, my soon-to-be in-laws gifted me something wonderful....


"Triple Slow Cooker" - how could I NOT love that?! Three times the slow cooking fun, all in one little package.

Yesterday, I realized I really hadn't taken this baby out for a whirl since I got it. Not cool.

I also realized that it was Sunday, which meant football, which meant football-y watching foods were in order.

Ya' know..there's nothing like a trio of hot dips to break in a slow cooker and celebrate the start of football season!


Buffalo Chicken.

Jalapeno Popper.

Crazy Queso.

Any one of these dips would be a great addition to Game Day, and if you happen to have incredible in-laws that gift you awesome triple slow cookers, I would highly encourage you to make all three!

Buffalo Chicken Dip
I think the secret to great buffalo dip is to use Blue Cheese instead of Ranch. The buffalo sauce is strong enough that the dip doesn't taste overly 'blue cheesy', so even if you've been a die-hard Ranch fan your whole buffalo wing life, I'd say give it a try!

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped chicken (go ahead and use a rotisserie chicken!)
  • 1 8 ounce block cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese (please grate your own!)
  • 1/2 cup Blue Cheese dressing
  • 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce
Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker (or on the stove in a saucepan) and heat on low, stirring occasionally until all ingredients are hot and melty! Serve with chips and celery sticks. 

Jalapeno Popper Dip
The great thing about this dip is that you can really adjust your heat level using more canned jalapenos, freshly chopped jalapeno peppers, or any other kind of pepper that floats your boat!
  • 1 8 ounce block cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (colby jack or Mexican blend)
  • 1 4 ounce can chopped green chilis
  • 1 4 ounce can chopped jalapenos
Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker (or on the stove in a saucepan) and heat on low, stirring occasionally until all ingredients are hot and melty! Serve with a sturdy chip (fritos work well).

Crazy Queso Dip
I'll admit, I was skeptical of this recipe...cream of mushroom soup and Rotel? But for some reason, all the flavors work together. The addition of some crumbled sausage would make this dip even better!
  • 1 small block Velveeta cheese
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker (or on the stove in a saucepan) and heat on low, stirring occasionally until all ingredients are hot and melty! Serve with tortilla chips, pita bread or corn chips.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Divine Wine Mushrooms


I'm a little overwhelmed by these mushrooms. I contemplated calling them "Holy Sh*t Mushrooms" because that's what I said after my first bite. They are seriously amazing.

I would expect nothing less from something that takes 9 hours.

Yeah- 9 hours. 9 hours of smelling these delicious morsels simmering away. 9 hours of my mouth watering uncontrollably. 9 hours of hovering over the pot, hypnotized by the burgundy broth.


The original recipe called for 4 pounds of mushrooms. I was only feeding 4 people, so that seemed a bit excessive. I went with 2 pounds. Now I'm kicking myself for not making the full amount because there were NO LEFTOVERS. Heck- I wish I would have triple the original recipe.

If you want a dish to really amp up a dinner or impress as a appetizer, these mushrooms are a must. The flavor is outrageous- meaty, buttery, garlicky, and just a touch sweet from the reduced wine. I will be bringing these to holiday parties and company potlucks for years to come!


Divine Wine Mushrooms

  • 4 pounds white button mushrooms, whipped clean
  • 2 sticks salted butter + 4 TB butter
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 cups (1 quart) full bodied red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon works nicely)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 Chicken Bouillon cubes
  • 4 Beef Bouillon cubes
  • 1 tsp dried dill (in a pinch, a splash of pickle juice will do the job.)
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Fresh ground black pepper (a few turns of the pepper mill should do the trick)
  • Parsley, minced
Place all ingredients (except for 4 TB butter and the parsley) into a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 6 hours.

Remove the lid and cook the mushrooms for another 3 hours, adding in the 4 TB butter during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Garnish with parsley and enjoy!

Note: if you're short on time, you can condense the cooking time to only 6 hours! Cook the mushrooms for 4 hours on a slightly vigorous simmer, then uncovered and simmer at a medium/low heat for another 2 hours- until the liquid is almost completely evaporated. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Laziest Recipes Ever: Breakfast Pizza


Pizza has a delicious place in my heart.

Sleepover fuel, after-the-bar munchies, 'I burned dinner' fall-back, or just plain "I don't feel like cooking tonight" meal replacement....pizza is such an easy thing to love.

Now, if you'd ask my fiance what culinary category he holds near and dear, pizza wouldn't even have an honorable mention. No sir, for him it's breakfast all the way. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, hashbrowns- the man doesn't discriminate when it comes to breakfast.

So, seeing as we're getting married in a few short months, I decided to practice that relationship skill so vital to a happy union: compromise.

Compromise in the form of Breakfast Pizza. The best of both worlds, really.

Before you get all overwhelmed with the thought of making pizza dough from scratch and homemade country gravy, just remember!- I promised this was one of my 'laziest recipes ever', and I very much intend to deliver on that.

The Laziest Recipes Ever: Breakfast Pizza

  • 1 pizza crust (homemade or store bought dough. No judgement here)
  • 1-2 cups country gravy (make your own from the sausage fat, or use a store bought package of white gravy)
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage (ground meat, not patties or links)
  • 6 slices bacon,diced 
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I'd recommend 1 cup motz and 1 cup cheddar)
  • 6 eggs
  • Hot sauce, maple syrup and green onions for garnish
Heat oven according to pizza dough requirements. If making your own dough, I'd strongly suggest adding a splash of maple flavoring. Roll out dough and place on a greased sheet pan.

Brown sausage in a large skillet until mostly cooked through. Remove from skillet and add in diced bacon, browning until just slightly undercooked. (You don't want the meat to overcook/burn in the oven). 

Make gravy according to package directions. If making your own gravy, remove fat from pan and add back in 2 TB, along with 2 TB of flour. Whisk together and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add in 2 cups of whole milk, whisking. Cook until mixture is thickened and be sure to season liberally with salt and pepper. 

Add gravy to the pizza dough, followed by sausage, peppers and cheese. Sprinkle bacon over the top, then crack 6 eggs over the pizza. Bake according to dough directions, or at 425 for 20-25 minutes, until egg whites are set. 

Remove from oven and drizzle on maple syrup, hot sauce of choice (Cholula is delicious), and green onions. 

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What More Brides Need to Know About Wedding Dress Shopping


I wrote this post for an online wedding planning forum, and it got such a great response that I decided to share it here as well.

I started working in a bridal shop this past January, and while I absolutely love it most days, there are some things I wish more brides knew before they started wedding dress shopping. As a bride myself, I'm so glad that I started this job before I went dress shopping- it really put a lot of things in perspective for me!
Anyway- here's my advice...

-Ignore your tunnel vision. You're beautiful. Stop worrying about your arms, your back, your hips or your stomach. While you're focusing in on your 'flaws', everyone else is seeing the whole picture and realizing just how gorgeous you really are. I can sincerely say that all of my brides have been beautiful, whether they were in a size 0 or a size 28.
-Size for now. " I'm in the process of losing weight, so I want to order a size or two down."- that's almost canon in the bridal gown industry. The size of your dress doesn't determine your worth or beauty. If that number bothers you so much, cut the stupid tag off and go on with your day. With all the stress of planning a wedding, why would you add on the possibility of not fitting into your wedding dress? You can always take a dress in, but letting it out can get tricky. I want you to air on the side of caution because I want to make sure you have a wedding dress- not because I want to help the alterations department make money. Plus, weight-loss and dress-sizing do not go hand-in-hand. It all depends where your body loses weight from, and what that translates to in inches. Fyi- all of this is especially true for your bridesmaids- they're the biggest 'process of losing weight' culprits and it makes me incredibly nervous for you- the bride - every time they insist on ordering down. (One horror story involved a girl that ordered a dress 3 sizes down from her current size because she was convinced she could lose the weight. She didn't, and with only a week to go before the wedding there was nothing that could be done to let out the dress or get a new dress ordered.)
-Everyone 'knows' it's the dress in a different way. So you didn't cry? That doesn't mean it's not your gown. If you feel comfortable, confident, and like a bride you're probably in 'the dress'. Can you imagine wearing this on your wedding day? Are you envisioning the wedding pictures of you in this dress? Does it put a little smile on your face when you see yourself in the mirror? Don't get obsessed about having the 'right' reaction to a dress. Trust yourself. And if you need time to think about it- TAKE TIME! The worst thing isn't taking time to think, it's getting pushed into buying a dress (by mom, by a sales consultant, by spur-of-the-moment panic) that you'll later regret. It always makes me a little sad when I have a bride come in to the store that has already bought a dress but later realized it wasn't 'her gown'.
-Bigger isn't always better. So your mom, aunt, fmil, cousins, bridal party, sisters, 10 closest friends and grandma all decided to come wedding dress shopping with you? I can't tell you the number of times a bride has wanted to hide in the dressing room or call it quits because she is too overwhelmed by all of the opinions waiting for her on the other side of the door. You don't need to please everyone. They'll all love the dress that YOU love, and if they don't, then too bad for them. I suggest going with a small group of people you really trust to make you feel confident in your choices. Once you find your dress, you can invite anyone else to the fitting, or just have them wait until the wedding!
-Quality, not quantity. I'm here to listen to what you want in a dress (shape, design, budget, etc) and then go find that dress for you. If we're communicating well, I can usually do that in under 10 dresses....but when your mom/sisters/friends/etc start to wander off and then come back with arm-loads of dresses, things can get complicated fast. They pull the wrong size, go over your budget, or pull something that is absolutely not what you want. And 30 dresses later, you're overwhelmed, exhausted, and can't remember what any of the dresses looked like. Pump the brakes, and if you do want to try on 30 dresses, just don't do it all in one appointment.
-Be nice to 'the help' and remember that we're only human. Believe me- I don't want to waste your time. I want to be respectful of your budget, your vision, and ensure you have the best possible experience dress shopping. One of the reasons I love my job is because you're trusting me to be a part of one of your biggest life events- how cool is that? So, I absolutely don't want to screw that up for you. I'm trying my best, but sometimes things are out of my control...the options in your price range, the dress sizes we have in store, the order time on a dress, the seating available in the store that day, etc... The appointment isn't fun for anyone when you or your party comes in with a 'it's totally fine to be a bridezilla' mentality. That being said, there are some consultants that you might not click with, so instead of enduring a frustrating appointment, go ahead and request to work with someone else. This appointment is all about YOU!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Homemade Corn Dogs!

It's State Fair season, and in Minnesota that's a pretty big deal.

So it's with much shame that I must admit something to you.....

I've never been to the Minnesota State Fair. 

I know! I know! It's the shame of my life. But hey- if I can't get to the state fair, I'll bring the state fair to me!

I highly suggest that you ditch whatever frozen box of corn dogs you have hanging around in the back of your deep freeze and give these pups a whirl.

Crunchy, corny, and just a titch spicy- these corn dogs are nothing short of awesome. My sailor even asked me to mass produce them for many lunches to come.


Homemade Corn Dogs (adapted from Alton Brown)

  • 1 gallon peanut oil
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
  • 1 can cream-style corn
  • 1/3 cup grated onion
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 TB cornstarch
  • 8 beef hot dogs
  • 8 wooden skewers or chopsticks
Heat oil in a deep fryer or large pot to 375 degrees. 

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (except cornstarch). In a separate bowl, combine jalapeno, cream corn, onion and buttermilk. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir quickly, just until combined. There will be lumps- that's okay! Just leave it alone, man.

Allow batter to rest 10 minutes. In the meantime, place the cornstarch in a shallow dish and roll each hot dog in the cornstarch, shaking off any excess. 

Pour the batter into a tall, narrow vessel (drinking glass, water carafe). Skewer each hot dog and dip into the batter quickly a few times. Immediately add to oil and cook until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes). Remove to a cooling rack.

Enjoy with spicy mustard, ketchup, or whatever your favorite corn dog condiment is!



Stormy Morning Cocktail


As the summer starts to wane, I thought it only appropriate to drink a toast in honor of the hot sunrises, the sunburns, and the countless sunglasses that gave their all in order for me not to be blinded by the brightness.

Cheers!



Seriously- how beautiful is this cocktail?! It's the perfect way to say goodbye to summer. Light enough to enjoy for a weekend brunch, and refreshing enough to sip for happy hour, I highly recommend you try this little beauty out!

I'll admit- I was a little salty about buying a $30 bottle of Creme de Violette, but trust me- that stuff is strangely delicious. You can always use it to jazz up champagne or sparkling water, so just bite the bullet and stock the bar.

Stormy Morning Cocktail

  • 1.5 ounces Creme de Violette
  • 1.5 ounces elderflower liquor (I recommend St. Germain)
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 4 ounces champagne
Pour first three ingredients into a shaker with a few cubes of ice. Shake 10 seconds, then pour over ice into a tall glass and top with champagne. Enjoy!


Monday, February 23, 2015

Bacon Jam

Listen up. people.

We're about to delve into the addictive realm of sweet and savory. Furthermore- we're in breakfast mode.

Bacon jam is.....strange. Heavenly. Sinful. Everything you could ever want in a bite of breakfast and more.

But bacon jam can be a cruel mistress. The first time I made it, I wasted 2 pounds of fabulously farm fresh bacon by burning it. I was scared off from bacon jam for quite some time after that. Bacon is an expensive breakfast commodity, after all.

One day I decided that a single failed attempt couldn't be the end of bacon jam's culinary chapter. I needed to try, try again. And oh boy am I glad that I did.


Bacon Jam

  • 1 1/2 pounds of bacon, cut into 1 inch strips
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (up to a 1/3 if you like that much sweetness)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup strong coffee
  • Pepper and red pepper flakes 
In a large dutch oven (or similar heavy bottom pot) cook bacon pieces over medium-high heat until most of the fat has rendered. This should take about 30 minutes. Monitor the bacon and adjust the heat if you feel your bacon is browning too quickly. 

Remove bacon from pot and place on a paper towel lined tray. Remove all but one TB of bacon grease from the pot and reduce heat to medium. Cook onions and garlic in the bacon grease 25-30 minutes, or until lightly carmelized. Add in vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup and coffee. Cook on high for 2 minutes, then add bacon pieces back to pot. Drop heat and simmer the mixture for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until liquid is syrupy. 

Working in batches, place mix in a food processor and pulse 3-5 times or until coarsely chopped. Add back into pot and season with pepper/red pepper flakes. Continue to simmer on low for 25 minutes. Allow mixture to cool before refrigerating. Bacon jam will keep for 4 weeks.

Splendid on a toasted English muffin with cheese and an over easy egg! 


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Lightened Up Chipotle Chicken Salad

I won't bore you with my complaints of winter in Minnesota.

We all know that snow and sub-zero temperatures are an expected part of life in the land of 10,000 lakes. We also all know that winter is the perfect season for soup, stew, pot roast, chili, mashed potatoes, and a whole lot of other rich, warming comfort foods. 

Despite these truths, I think we also all know that at some point during the winter, we crave something bright and fresh. 

Enter Chipotle Chicken Salad.


It's spicy.

It's citrusy. 

It's crunchy and succulent and bursting with enough flavor to shake your taste buds out of hibernation!

Chipotle Chicken Salad (Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen)

  • 1/3 cup light mayo
  • 3 TB fresh lime juice (2 small limes or one large)
  • 2 tsp minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups poached chicken breast (cubed or shredded)
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper (stemmed, seeded and chopped fine)
  • 1/3 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 TB minced fresh cilantro
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Whisk mayo, lime juice, chipotles, oil, 1/4 tsp salt and pepper together in a bowl until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients, as well as additional salt and pepper to taste Let sit 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. 

This is great on sandwich rolls, lettuce wraps, or tortillas! You can even mix in some black beans and cheese for a standout salad.