The Best of 2012

This post is one of my favorites because it allows me to take a look through a year’s worth of memories!


Best Tropical Vacation

8 Day Caribbean Cruise





Most Exciting Celebration

Grandpa’s 100th Birthday





Best Memorial Day Theme






Best Active Vacation

Biking Door County with my Mom





Tastiest Banana Bread

Maple Banana Bread





Coolest Shopping Experience

Lululemon Warehouse Sale





Most Fun Race

Green Lake Triathlon





Most Addicting Snack

Fig and Date Energy Bars





Favorite NYC Pictures

Under the Bridge





Best Sunday Tradition

Crockpot Chili





Most Emotional Post

Remembering Emmy





Best New Tradition

Christmas Day





Sweetest New Desert

Slutty Brownies





Longest Meal

Brunch at the Wynn, Las Vegas





Biggest Adventure

Manistee Backpacking Trip





Best Tasting Vegetarian Recipe

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas





Most Inspirational Post

Healthy Habits





Your Favorite Post

Fun with Cake Mixes





It’s wonderful to see all of the beauty, friendships, love, and adventure that we fit into only 365 days!

Read last year’s ‘Best Of’ List!



Tell me what was BEST for you in 2012?

Holiday Barks

Along with these adorable Chocolate Pretzel Rings, I made a few holiday inspired barks this year.  This is a tradition that I started a few years back (these are last year’s barks), and I love how creative you can get with melted chocolate. 

Warning: this post has a lot of recipes and fun ideas!




First Up…

Peppermint Bark!




This recipe seems to be everyone’s favorite, especially this time of year.




It’s so simple that I can’t believe I haven’t made it before.




But I will definitely be adding it my yearly list!




This bark makes a beautiful holiday gift, so I recommend making 2 batches…one for yourself and one to share with your friends!





Moving On…

A new and innovative recipe from Crazy For Crust for Scotch Krispie Bark.




Starring butterscotch chips…yum!




Covered in Rice Krispies, chocolate, and then smothered with peanut butter!




It was hard to wait for this one to harden because I was eager to taste it!




I’m a huge fan of the sweet butterscotch and crunchy krispie combination!




And although I love peanut butter, it wasn’t my favorite for this bark, so next time I will probably just omit it.


Getting Back to Peppermint…




I was inspired by these Peppermint Pretzels to create an original bark.




I stirred the chopped pretzels into white chocolate and then covered it with Andes Peppermint Crunch Chips and crushed candy canes.




Super festive…right?




This mish mash actually turned out pretty awesome!


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Who doesn’t love S’mores?




This mixture of mallows and grahams creates a complex texture.




That I guarantee you will enjoy!





All of these barks make for easy, fun, and mouth watering gifts.  And because they store so easily in your freezer, there is always something for you to snack on.  I recommend storing them in freezer safe ziploc bags and remove as much air as possible.  Chocolate barks and candies are really forgiving, so you can use all of your leftover baking supplies to create your own sweet treats!  No measuring required!



Peppermint Bark

From Back to Her Roots



8 peppermint candy canes

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

12 ounces white chocolate chips



Cover a large cookie sheet in aluminum foil. Set aside.

Remove candy canes from wrapper and place in large plastic, ziptop bag. Using a mallet, bottom of a glass or rolling pin, mash the candy canes until they are in small chunks.

In a double boiler (or microwave) melt semisweet chocolate chips. When completely smooth, pour onto cookie sheet and spread into a thin later (about 1/8"). Don’t worry if chocolate doesn’t spread to edge of cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet in freezer.

Using a clean double boiler, melt white chocolate chips until smooth. Mix in all but 2/3 cup of the candy cane pieces.

Remove cookie sheet from freezer, carefully spread white chocolate over the dark chocolate in a thin layer. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of reserved candy cane pieces on top. Place cookie sheet in freezer.

Once bark is completely cooled and hard. Remove from cookie sheet and break into large pieces.



Scotch Krispie Bark

From Crazy For Crust



1 bag butterscotch chips

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 ½ cups Rice Krispies Cereal

½ cup peanut butter (I’d say this is optional)



Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Place butterscotch chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat on 50% power for 1 minute, stir, and then add increments of 30 seconds until chips are melted and smooth. Spread on cookie sheet.

Sprinkle Rice Krispies cereal on top of butterscotch layer. Press down with your hands.

Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips in microwave, again using 50% power, stirring after 1 minute and continuing to heat at 30 second intervals until chips are melted. (If chocolate doesn’t seem smooth, add about a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil and stir.) Spread over Rice Krispie layer.

While spreading chocolate layer, melt peanut butter in microwave. Drizzle over spread chocolate and swirl with the back of a spoon.

Chill to harden bark, then break into pieces and serve.



White Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel Bark



1 bag of TJ’s Peppermint Pretzel Thins, crushed

8 ounces White Chocolate

Candy canes, crushed

1 cup Andes Peppermint Crunch Chips



Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper.

Melt white chocolate in microwave in 30 second intervals until smooth.  Do not over heat!

Stir in pretzel thins and Andes Peppermint Chips.

Spread over cookie sheet and sprinkle the top with candy canes.  Use a spatula or your hands to push the candy canes into the chocolate.

Freeze or refrigerate for 2-3 hours until set.

Then break into pieces.



S’mores Bark



1 cup graham cracker crumbs

8 ounces candy melts or chocolate




Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper.

Melt chocolate and mix in your graham cracker crumb and half of the marshmallows.

Pour and spread across a parchment paper lined cookie sheet

Sprinkle on the remaining marshmallows and press them into the chocolate.

Freeze or refrigerate for 2-3 hours until set.

Then break into pieces.



What is your favorite chocolate bark? 

I’m always looking for new ideas recipes!

End of Year Cookies

I am on the road….to recovery AND to Costco!


I haven’t run in over a week and it seems like forever since I’ve posted about exercise, so I am taking one last day to rest up, and then I am exchanging sick posts for active ones. Much more exciting : )




Speaking of exciting…you HAVE to make this Gingerbread recipe and then the next day you HAVE to turn into Gingerbread French Toast.




It was the perfect combination of spicy bread and ooey gooey breakfast.  I’m not sure that there is any other way to start the day!




I don’t know how you make your French toast, but this morning I quickly scrambled together 2 eggs, 1/4 cup almond milk, tons of cinnamon, and a dash of vanilla. Then dunked in each slice and fried them up on the skillet.




Topped with some syrup and a few blackberries.  The BOY and I ate our breakfast standing in the kitchen we liked it so much!


These past few days, I have had some extra down time, so I have been catching up on all of my favorite blogs.  It seems that this has been the year of the cookie!  Okay, maybe not officially, but as I read through everyone’s End of Year Recipe Wrap Up, there seem to be a lot, and I mean A LOT, of mouth watering cookie recipes and pictures out there.




These posts are dangerous because they make you want to drop everything you are doing to go preheat your oven.  That’s exactly what happened when I was reading through Sally’s Post.




Luckily, I have tons of leftover baking ingredients scattered throughout my house including the driedcranberries and white chocolate chunks I used in these cookies.




A few things I learned while baking these cookies…




Number 1- Adding cornstarch to all purpose flour creates cake flour, and cake flour makes for fluffy cookies!




Number 2-Chilling the dough is important!




Number 3-There is a difference between light and dark brown sugar when baking cookies.  Sally recommends using dark brown sugar in these cookies!




These were great lessons to learn!  Not only because I made these soft, beautiful, and delicious cookies, but because they will help with many cookie successes in the new year.




Packed full of bright cranberries and white chocolate chunks, these cookies make a great hostess gift for your New Year’s party!


I have definitely baked up my fair share of cookies this year, here are a few of my favorites:

Ginger Molasses Cookies

Double Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

Oatmeal Scotchies

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Chocolate Mint-Thins



White Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookies

From Sally’s Baking Addiction


3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

3/4 cup dried cranberries



Line an ungreased cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat. Set aside.

In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed until fluffy and light in color. Mix in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed. On low speed, mix in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir in white chocolate chips & dried cranberries. Chill dough (covered) for 30 minutes or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Drop balls of dough (1.5 tablespoons each) onto cookie sheet OR used a standard-sized cookie scoop. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. Do NOT cook them longer than 9 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes on the cookie sheet. Transfer to cooling rack.



What are you baking this weekend?


Despite being sick, I was eager to try out my new beater blade and most likely, because I am sick, I have been craving carbohydrates!




I had just the recipe in mind when I hauled out my KitchenAid mixer and propped it in it’s rightful place on the countertop.  One day, I tell you, I will have enough counter space for you to live here!




For some crazy reason, I have NEVER made Gingerbread before, and this recipe on Cassie’s Blog Bake Your Day definitely caught my eye.  I had all of the ingredients in the house, even Greek yogurt, so after a long, hot shower to scrub off all the germs, I got to work in the kitchen.




I guess I should use the word ‘work’ rather lightly, as it seems my beater blade did all of the heavy lifting.




I even pulled out my fancy Cinnamon for the occasion.


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This was definitely the lightest and fluffiest bread batter that I have ever made, so I just crossed my fingers that was how it was supposed to look as I placed my 4 mini loaf pans in the oven.




Originally, I had planned on making just one loaf, but knowing that the odds of me then proceeding to eat the entire loaf in one sitting were high, I switched to mini loaves. 


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Easy for sharing or freezing…thank you portion control!




While my bread baked, I kept busy in the kitchen moving form one cabinet to another for an intense mission of cleaning, organizing, and donating.  A much overdue mission!




Since they were mini loaves, I baked them for 45 minutes instead of the full hour.  So not my most beautiful looking loaves due to some flakey edges.




But a light textured and tasty bread, none the less!




This bread has an enjoyable gingerbread flavor with a tang from the Greek yogurt.




I recommend smothering it with whatever seasonable jams and jellies you have lying around and taking a sweet bite of the holiday season!




Or whipping up a batch for breakfast to enjoy with a hot mug of coffee or tea.  Mmmm!

You can find Cassie’s recipe on Gimme Some Oven. 

Note: I didn’t see where it said what to do with the spices so I stirred them into my flour mixture.

Follow Me Around with Clorox

I spent yesterday watching Law&Order reruns and rubbing Vasoline onto my raw, red nose (Rudolf?) instead of making this Gingerbread recipe using my new mixer blade like I would have preferred.  Total Bummer…right?  Similarly, I had some big plans for my Saturday that I cancelled .  I REALLY wanted to go to yoga this morning, but the thought of downward dog got my head pounding, and I wasn’t sure it was fair to the other yogi’s if I walked in with a box of Kleenex as the heat would totally get my nose running.  The BOY and I had talked about some Saturday errands, but we can revisit the idea of leaving the house after some of my meds kick in!




On the positive front, I have some serious housework to get done.  Every single cabinet in my kitchen is completely disheveled and in need of some organization.  Plus, I haven’t swiped out my tanks for sweaters in my closet.  So as I suffer with a swollen nose…I’m at that point where I wonder if I will ever breath through my nose again…my house will (possibly) benefit from me being stuck in it!




Lunch today is leftover Crockpot Chili from last night.  When I’ve finished with lunch, does that mean I need to remove myself from my comfy sick haven on the couch and get to work?  Maybe!  I’ll let you know how I do on my chores after this episode of L&O.




Most likely I will continue trolling the Athleta Website (all sale items are 20% off)…Dangerous!

And I have big plans to revamp my Recipe Page.  I did take a little time to update my 2013 Race and Ride Calendar.  I haven’t signed up for all of these races yet, but I am looking forward to an active year.  February 19th…I’ll be signing up for the Chicago Marathon!  Want to join me???  That definitely gets me excited during lazy weekends like this one.




Thanks for all of your warm get well wishes!  I appreciate all of your positive thoughts!


Have a Wonderful Weekend!

A Sick Staycation

I guess it was inevitable…




Between working the kids, 2 airplane rides, and that temperature drop from Florida to Chicago that I would end up with a cold.  And now, my cold has escalated into a lovely sinus infection.




I spent Wednesday night getting cozy with the Kleenex boy, sipping my green tea, and dressed in my favorite flannel jamies.  ‘Flannel…’, the BOY said.  ‘You must not be feeling well.’  He knows me so well.  The saddest part about this illness, besides the fact that I get cranky when I don’t feel well, is that I have less than a week before I go back to work and big things planned.  For example, Date Night at Joe’s downtown.




The BOY and I have been looking forward to this night for 2 months since I made the reservation.  Since I wasn’t feeling great, we made a few modifications, heading into the city a little later yesterday so that I could rest.  We took the train downtown and checked into our hotel room.




I love this city!




The streets were wet from a light snowfall, so my pictures picked up the glare.








But, I wanted to share the beautiful city lights and decorations.  The weather was mild, so I convinced the BOY that we should walk.  Our first stop was POP’S for Champagne.


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We were so excited for dinner that we arrived at Joe’s early.  Neither of us has ever eaten at Joe’s and it has been on our bucket list for awhile.  We were not disappointed.  Our meal was incredible!  We had sea scallops for an appetizer and shared a mushroom mac n cheese with the main dish, some many-day-aged steak for the BOY and sea bass for me!  I packed a pocket full of tissues and made it through the dinner despite my stuffed up sinuses.  We had some plans to meet friends for a drink after dinner, but by 10:30pm, my head was heavy and I was ready for bed.  It was another fantastic night in the city, and I gladly collapsed into the soft, fluffy bed! 




We woke up this morning to find big snow flakes swirling right outside our window.  We braved the cold and made our way to Michigan Avenue for breakfast (and a quick trip to the GAP) before heading home to the suburbs.




Where I have changed back into my flannel and permanently attached myself to the couch.  I am on Day 2 of an antibiotic and hoping that this feeling worse is what needs to happen before I am feeling better.




I had some homemade Mushroom Barley Soup for lunch.  The BOY and I watched Rock of Ages (he was just as happy to lay low today as I was), and now I am moving on to a Law&Order marathon before the Indiana Basketball game tonight. 




Law&Order always makes me feel better : )

So does looking at these adorable little cake balls (you may have seen them on my Christmas post) made by my close friend A!  She is so amazing, talented, and creative, and these taste just as good as they look.  Next time she is in town, I definitely want a decorating lesson!




Hopefully tomorrow I won’t be blogging but will instead be out and about, detached from my Kleenex box, enjoying the last weekend of the year!  Optimism should work as medicine, right?

And the Winner is…

Thank you all for taking the time to answer my questions and share your stories!  It was such a JOY to read all of your comments.  Without further ado, the winner for the first ever Luv What You Do Amazon Giveaway is…



Drum Roll Please…




Number 12!

Rebecca Says:


“Happy blogger-versary! I love that you are always so positive in your posts…you never complain and you always seem like you are cooking things that make other people’s days brighter! I started blogging because I wanted to write and connect with other people- it’s been so fun “meeting” blogger friends, like you :) enjoy your last day in FL”



Rebecca, I will email you to get all of your information and send out your gift card ASAP. 

Happy Shopping!

Candy Cane Puppy Chow


I can’t express how exciting it is to read your thoughtful comments on yesterday’s Blogger-Versary post.  Ya’ll are incredible!




I left sunny Florida (and my family) behind this morning, but plan to share warm, bright photos to melt winter’s chill until April : )  The BOY picked me up at the airport and after almost a week, it was great to see him!  We had a quiet day planned leaving me time to get prepped for Christmas Day and a take 2 hour nap!!! 




The BOY and I head separate directions on Christmas Day each with our own traditions.  In the morning, I will be celebrating Christmas with my brother, his girlfriend, and her wonderful family.  In the afternoon, we move on to Jewish Christmas with a movie and Chinese food.  Surprise, surprise, I was put in charge of dessert.  Thankfully, he left me more than enough treats in the freezer to snack on and put together for tomorrow’s holiday.  However, I also wanted to make something for some of our friends who are gluten intolerant.




Puppy Chow is always a fan favorite and can be made gluten free by using Chex Cereal.  I was inspired by our Halloween success with the pumpkin spices kisses, to try Hershey’s kisses puppy chow again…this time with my favorite candy cane kisses!


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What I didn’t expect was the bright pink color, but I loved it!  I was only sad that I didn’t have any green decorations to sprinkle throughout.  I did have some Andes Peppermint Crunch chips, so I sprinkled those in for an extra peppermint kick!




Then doused everything in powder sugar while the BOY stood by watching, waiting for his taste test.




What can I say…you just can’t go wrong with puppy chow?!




This recipe just melts in your mouth leaving a fresh peppermint aftertaste!




I was quite pleased with my creation and know it will taste even better once it is frozen.  I think I should make a tshirt that says ‘I heart frozen puppy chow!’  I quickly made a batch of these flourless peanut butter cookies.  Along with some bubbly, I am all set for tomorrow’s celebration!  Tonight we are headed out for our annual Christmas Eve dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Coopers Hawk!


Wishing everyone a happy and safe evening with family and friends!



Candy Cane Puppy Chow

Adapted from Pumpkin Spice Puppy Chow



1 10 oz bag of Candy Cane Hershey kisses, unwrapped

6 cups Chex cereal

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Andes Peppermint Chips( optional)



Pour Chex mix and ~1/2 cup Andes Peppermint Chips into a large bowl.  Set aside. 

Melt kisses in the microwave ~1 minute. Pour melted kisses over Chex cereal, stirring to coat (I find a spatula works best).

Fold in powdered sugar and more Andes mints if desired.

Store in air tight container or freeze.