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

 

IMG_7092

 

 

Most Exciting Celebration

Grandpa’s 100th Birthday

 

IMG_3514

 

 

Best Memorial Day Theme

Fiesta!

 

IMG_4343

 

 

Best Active Vacation

Biking Door County with my Mom

 

IMAG0761

 

 

Tastiest Banana Bread

Maple Banana Bread

 

IMG_9520

 

 

Coolest Shopping Experience

Lululemon Warehouse Sale

 

IMAG0329

 

 

Most Fun Race

Green Lake Triathlon

 

IMG_6176

 

 

Most Addicting Snack

Fig and Date Energy Bars

 

IMG_5788

 

 

Favorite NYC Pictures

Under the Bridge

 

IMG_4649

 

 

Best Sunday Tradition

Crockpot Chili

 

IMAG1034

 

 

Most Emotional Post

Remembering Emmy

 

IMG_4806

 

 

Best New Tradition

Christmas Day

 

IMG_0368

 

 

Sweetest New Desert

Slutty Brownies

 

IMG_2983

 

 

Longest Meal

Brunch at the Wynn, Las Vegas

 

IMG_2475

 

 

Biggest Adventure

Manistee Backpacking Trip

 

IMG_7621

 

 

Best Tasting Vegetarian Recipe

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

 

IMG_1390

 

 

Most Inspirational Post

Healthy Habits

 

IMG_6746

 

 

Your Favorite Post

Fun with Cake Mixes

 

IMG_2275

 

 

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?

Advertisements

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!

 

IMG_0207

 

First Up…

Peppermint Bark!

 

IMG_9871

 

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

 

IMG_9870

 

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

 

IMG_9878

 

But I will definitely be adding it my yearly list!

 

IMG_9880

 

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

 

IMG_9881

 

 

Moving On…

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

 

IMG_0117

 

Starring butterscotch chips…yum!

 

IMG_0118

 

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

 

IMG_0121

 

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

 

IMG_0167

 

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

 

IMG_0171

 

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…

 

IMG_0141

 

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

 

IMG_0145

 

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

 

IMG_0146

 

Super festive…right?

 

IMG_0191

 

This mish mash actually turned out pretty awesome!

 

IMG_0193 IMG_0194

IMG_0196 IMG_0192

 

 

Lastly…

Who doesn’t love S’mores?

 

IMG_0150

 

This mixture of mallows and grahams creates a complex texture.

 

IMG_0181

 

That I guarantee you will enjoy!

 

IMG_0182

 

 

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

 

Ingredients:

8 peppermint candy canes

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

12 ounces white chocolate chips

 

Directions

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

 

Ingredients:

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)

 

Directions:

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

 

Ingredients

1 bag of TJ’s Peppermint Pretzel Thins, crushed

8 ounces White Chocolate

Candy canes, crushed

1 cup Andes Peppermint Crunch Chips

 

Directions

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

 

Ingredients

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

8 ounces candy melts or chocolate

Marshmallows

 

Instructions

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 : )

 

IMG_0481

 

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

 

IMG_0482

 

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!

 

IMG_0483

 

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.

 

IMG_0484

 

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.

 

IMG_0442

 

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.

 

IMG_0463

 

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

 

IMG_0465

 

A few things I learned while baking these cookies…

 

IMG_0471

 

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

 

IMG_0474

 

Number 2-Chilling the dough is important!

 

IMG_0477

 

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

 

IMG_0479

 

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.

 

IMG_0478

 

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

Ingredients

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

 

Directions

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?

Gingerbread

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!

 

IMG_0424

 

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!

 

IMG_0425

 

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.

 

IMG_0426

 

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

 

IMG_0431

 

I even pulled out my fancy Cinnamon for the occasion.

 

IMG_0427 IMG_0428

 

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.

 

IMG_0435

 

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. 

 

IMG_0436 IMG_0437

 

Easy for sharing or freezing…thank you portion control!

 

IMG_0438

 

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!

 

IMG_0443

 

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.

 

IMG_0445

 

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

 

IMG_0455

 

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

 

IMG_0457

 

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

 

IMG_0459

 

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!

 

IMG_0408

 

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!

 

IMG_0412

 

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.

 

IMG_0415

 

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.

 

IMG_0421

 

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…

 

IMG_0386

 

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.

 

IMG_0389

 

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.

 

IMG_0394

 

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.

 

IMAG1267

 

I love this city!

 

IMAG1268

 

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

 

IMAG1281

 

IMAG1282

 

IMAG1284

 

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.

 

IMAG1273 IMAG1274

 

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! 

 

IMG_0400

 

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.

 

IMAG1289

 

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.

 

IMG_0405

 

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. 

 

IMG_0402

 

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!

 

IMG_0378

 

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…

 

clip_image002

 

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!