.

Soft and Chewy Snickerdoodles

Soft, chewy and full of cinnamon goodness, these cookies are perfect for Christmas!

Gingerbread

Gingerbread is one of those quintessential Christmas sweet treats. This one is flavorful and a cinch to bake up.

No-Fail Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

This recipe makes great cut-out sugar cookies, and the royal icing is perfect for decorating.

Eggnog Cookies

Soft and cakey cookies with the perfect amount of nutmeg and all the flavor of eggnog.

Nutella Hot Chocolate

This recipe is sinfully simple, full of the flavor of Nutella and can be prepared in the microwave (or on the stovetop) in minutes.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fun Free Stuff To Try - Crest 3D White Luxe Supreme FlexFit Whitestrips - #FindItAtTarget

So, it's been a while since I've blogged right? Well, I can explain...

It seems like life is either totally crazy and I have no time to blog or life is totally boring and I feel like I have nothing interesting to share with y'all. And, who wants to read a boring blog right? My spring resolution is to try to do better with the blog, among other things, like cleaning my house and not letting things get my anxiety and stress up. But those are all a completely different story.

I thought I'd share with y'all an awesome site that's given me some great experiences over the last year. That site is Influenster. Heard of it? No? Well, if you haven't then you are totally missing out. Every few months I get this awesome thing called a Vox Box and it's filled with some kind of goodies. I've gotten to try out tons of cool products, some of which I've never heard of before, and others that I am familiar with, but maybe don't use on a regular basis. I've even gotten a couple cool things that are totally out of my strict budget, which is an awesome bonus.

One of those things was my most recent Vox Box, where Influenster paired with Target to do a promotion called "The Target Spring Preview" where you received one product from a list of various products found at Target. My product is the Crest 3D White Luxe Supreme FlexFit Whitestrips. It happens to be one of those products that's totally outside of my strict budget.


These strips are great! They're easy to use and work like a charm. I definitely noticed a difference. So, overall I would give them 4 out of 5 stars. My reason for not giving them 5 stars? Because if you're on a strict budget like me, they definitely stretch the budget. However, compare the strips to having your teeth whitened at the dentist or buying the whitening trays from the dentist and you're spending much less money. My other reason for not giving them a full 5 stars is because if you have even slightly sensitive teeth you might have an issue with these. I tend to avoid whitening toothpastes because after about a week or so I'll start to notice that my teeth are sensitive and I would even go so far as to say that they ache. I find that to be the case with these strips as well if I use them as directed. So, when my teeth start to ache even slightly I'll take some time off until the sensitivity goes away and then I'll start using them again.

Please note, I received this product from Influenster and Target to try out in exchange for my honest feedback. All opinions are completely my own and have in no way been influenced by either company.
If you would like the opportunity to be a part of Influenster's great opportunities either leave me a comment with your email address included or send me an email and I'll be more than happy to send you an invitation from my personal account.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner!

Warning: this post contains no chicken. I am a winner though!

About a month ago a group of bloggers including Kristen Duke did a huge giveaway where each blogger purchased and gave away a bunch of their favorite things for summer. I was lucky enough to win Kristen's goodies, and boy was I excited! Luck is never something I've thought I had much of, but I've won a few things here and there lately. Truth be told, I've probably won more lately than I have in my combined 32 years. Nothing major, no cars or anything, but I'm still hopeful that I'll win the lottery one day, or at the very least a brand spanking new Corvette ZR1, well, a Z06 would work too!

Okay, I feel myself getting a bit off track. You're probably wondering about the goodies right? Kristen has some really cool summer favorites, let me tell ya. My favorite would probably be the set of colorful silicone spatulas because I'm a baking nerd like that. Seriously, I can't explain why but I love spatulas. Of course they're a handy tool for baking, but beyond that I just love them for some strange reason. If I see a display of kitchen tools and spatulas are included I make a beeline and am always tempted to buy one or two, no matter that I don't need them. And, I'm totally beach or pool ready thanks to the huge fluffy Nate Berkus beach towel, the cute hot pink sunglasses and the bright orange nail polish. That nail polish is great for a summer pedicure, and bright orange is one of my favorite colors for summer.

Kristen is a pretty awesome photographer and included some little booklets with photography tips, which I surely need! I don't have a fancy camera, but I'm hoping those little books will give me some help too. If you've visited much you know my photos need some work. As you can see in the photo there are tons of other little goodies. Here is the full list of everything that was included, she has even provided prices for each item and a link so you can purchase them yourself. Oh, and I can't forget, another of my absolute favorites was a pack of purple gel pens. I'm something of a pen and marker hoarder anyway, and I love fun colored ink, but those gel pens are a must. I've used them for years, no matter the color.

Check back soon, and find out what Cabot filled my fridge full of! Lots of another item I love.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Perfectly Moist Streusel Topped Banana Muffins

I love muffins. I'll eat them for breakfast, lunch or even a snack anytime of the day. Maybe it's the fact that they are basically a less sweet cupcake without the frosting and usually with fruit added in. No matter the reason I love them. I could use the same recipe to make muffins and a loaf of sweet bread and I'd go for the muffins over a slice of the bread anytime. Please don't ask me to explain that one because there really is no good reason, it's all about the delivery I guess.

Recently I scored a bag of bananas at the grocery for some crazy cheap price like $1.25 for 3 lbs, how could I pass that up? I expected them all to be nearly rotten, which was fine since I wanted to freeze some and bake with the rest, but most were still in good shape, just no longer in bunches. I have a really great go-to banana bread recipe I've taken to calling Bodacious Banana Bread because it truly is. The plan was to make that recipe into muffin form and top it with streusel, but while searching for the recipe I came around a banana muffin recipe I printed from allrecipes.com a long time ago and never tried. It sounded super easy and I had made some notations of reviewers modifications so I was curious. So glad I went with the experiment recipe because these muffins are amazing! They have a great banana flavor, a perfectly moist crumb and the stresel is just the icing on the cake so to speak.

These muffins come together quickly and you don't have tons to clean up, so if you're a morning person unlike me these would be a cinch to whip up for a Saturday morning breakfast, or even during the week if you're not totally pressed for time. The original recipe called for softened butter, but the review I read was from a baker who flubbed and used vegetable oil once and thought they came out even better. Of course I think butter is a heavenly creation, but when baking I like to use shortening or oil where I can simply because the result is often a baked good that stays moist or softer longer. When it comes to the streusel, make sure that your butter is good and soft before you start. Since I was making just enough to top the muffins I started mixing up the ingredients in a small bowl which didn't leave much room for using a fork or pastry cutter to cut the butter into the other ingredients so I ended up just mixing and smushing with my fingers. It got a little messy, but worked fine. I tend to be messy in the kitchen anyway, so I hardly noticed. Ovens vary, mine is a gas convection oven that's only a few years old so it's pretty accurate and even, but keep in mind when baking that it's best to start checking your goodies a few minutes before the bake time provided in the recipe. And, unless your oven is convection it's best to bake on the middle rack and rotate your pans halfway through when possible.


Streusel Topped Banana Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup vegetable/canola oil*
  • streusel topping (see recipe below)

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat muffin tins with non-stick spray or use paper liners.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine mashed bananas, sugar, beaten egg and oil. Add flour mixture, and beat until smooth. Scoop into muffin tins. (A regular size ice cream scoop works perfect.)
  4. Top with streusel and bake in preheated oven. Bake mini muffins for 10 to 15 minutes, and standard size muffins for 25 to 30 minutes. (When muffins are done they will spring back when lightly touched.)
  5. Allow to cool 5 minutes in tins then remove to cooling rack.
  6. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Streusel Topping

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Cooking Directions

  1. Using a fork, pastry cutter or your fingers (which I find works best for me) combine all ingredients.
  2. When completely incorporated and mixture resembles crumbs, sprinkle over top of muffins before baking.
  3. (If using this streusel for a different muffin or quickbread recipe, use caution that you don't add too much, which could cause the muffins/loaves to collapse.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Celebrating With Chocolate Pound Cake

Friday was Mr. Picky's birthday. My Daddy turned 60 years old, and that sounds just crazy to me. Not that 60 is old, but looking back at my grandparents when they were that age, they just seemed so much older than my Daddy does. I come from good genes and a family that ages amazingly well, I can only hope that I age half as well as my Daddy and the rest of my family members have.

I suppose part of what made my grandparents seem so much older at 60 than my Daddy seems is that although graying my dad still has much of his natural hair color. But, beyond that, generation has a lot to do with it. My Daddy comes from the era of the hippie, so naturally his generation, for the most part, is a more relaxed and liberal generation than that of his parents. Maybe I'm way off base, but that's where I feel much of that comes from. Regardless of any of that, my Daddy is an amazing father and mother and truly the one person in my life who has always been there and supported me through the good and bad. He's the one person that without question will always be there and sacrifice for me. Sure, I've got other family that supports me and is there for me, and I've got a few close friends I know have my back and truly care about me, but he's my person, my real, true, always and forever best friend. We're a team. Even when I was a little girl, when it came to big life decisions for our little family of two my thoughts and opinions always mattered.


I know, I know, enough with the sappy stuff right? For the most part Friday was just another day, one Mr. Picky didn't even realize was any different from the last until he went to write the date out, then he realized he was another year older. It was no leisurely day of relaxation or fun filled activities for him. Nope, my poor Daddy was off building stuff, and although that sounds fun to lots of people out there, when it's your living it often feels more like, well, work. So, while he was off swinging a hammer and wielding a nail gun I was home marinating steaks and baking a birthday cake.

Mr. Picky is a man of simple tastes, and as much as it baffles my mind, he doesn't have much of a sweet tooth. I know, crazy right? Me, who can eat frosting by the spoonful, and will pick sweet over savory 99% of the time, I just can't imagine not wanting a cake filled with gobs of frosting for your birthday. I am so my father's child with many, many things, like for instance, I've got my daddy's tongue and temper. The sweet tooth though, I'm not sure where that came from, definitely not him. He would be fine without a birthday cake, but since that's completely unacceptable to me his cake of choice is a chocolate pound cake. I've been making the same cake for his birthday for about 8 years now. Sometimes I top it with chocolate ganache, which is how I love it. Mr. Picky prefers it plain. Not only does he find this cake to be acceptable, if he was going to love a cake, this would be the one. I remember once he tasted someone else's chocolate pound cake and told me it was good, but mine was better. That sounds like a minor thing, but trust me when I say that coming from him that's pretty much the equivalent of "Your pound cake is the best ever."

This isn't one of those super rich and fudgy cakes, but if you like chocolate and are a fan of pound cakes like we are then you should definitely give this cake a try. I've found that every time I bake this cake it spills over the sides of the pan a bit as it's baking, so this time I put a bit of the batter into a 6 inch layer cake pan, and it worked out perfectly. If you don't have a layer pan that small 4-6 standard size cupcakes should work also. My bundt pan is pretty vintage, so it's a standard-ish size, but if yours is a bit larger than normal you might not have any overflow, just keep an eye out while it bakes. And make sure that you grease and flour your pan very well, don't shortcut it and use cooking spray. One thing I always do when baking any kind of chocolate cake is to "flour" my pans with cocoa instead of flour. If you're frosting a cake it's no biggie, but I hate having little spots of flour show up on the outside of my chocolate cake.


The Bag Lady's Favorite Chocolate Pound Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 cup buttermilk*
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.
2. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa and set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter, shortening, and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla, then eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Add flour and buttermilk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 1 3/4 hours, or until cake is done. Remove from oven and allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto cake plate and serve.

*If you don't have buttermilk you can make your own by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a measuring cup, fill cup to 1 cup mark with milk (whole, 2% or skim all work fine).


Chocolate Ganache

4 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 oz semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Break chocolate into small pieces and put in a medium sized bowl, set aside.
2. In small saucepan, heat heavy cream over medium-high heat, bringing just to a boil.
3. Remove cream from heat, and pour over chocolate. Allow to sit until chocolate has melted completely.
4. Add vanilla extract and stir using a whisk until completely combined. Pour over cake.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Birthday Pupcakes For Millie

So..it's been a while right? Yeah, I know. Feel free to call me a slacker because part of my absence has definitely been because I was unmotivated, or in less desirable terms, lazy. Mostly though, my absence started off because I had a lot on my mind. I was pretty stressed over a few family matters, but am happy to report that all is fine. Many prayers were said, and much thanks was given when those prayers were answered, you have my word on that. But, I'll spare you my saga and say that I will try much harder to share my projects, my recipes and my not so exciting life with y'all regularly.

Today is a pretty special day in our house. We celebrate my baby girl's birthday today. Millie is three years old today, and time has really flown by. Of course, since she is a dog and not a human child, and we don't have her birth parents she hasn't been with us since birth, so she hasn't been a part of the family for a full three years yet. I remember her entry into the family like it was yesterday.


After much searching online we found a liter of English Labs in the Asheville area of the North Carolina mountains that came from gorgeous parents and champion bloodlines, exactly what we were looking for. We knew we wanted a black girl, so we packed up the car with a new crate and plenty of toys and headed to the mountains in hopes of getting our girl. It was total love from day one. I won't like, she was H-E-Double Hockeysticks on four paws from the moment she got home and hasn't slowed up yet. She is absolutely the alpha to her two older brothers and the complete opposite of Duncan her yellow Lab brother, but she has a great temperament and the most amusing personality. I love watching her with Mr. Picky Eater. They have so much fun together and the most amazing bond. That little girl definitely has his heart.

She can be headstrong and frustrating when she wants to, but fuss at her and she turns into the most pitiful little girl ever. I've never met another dog like Millie and I wouldn't trade her for all the money in the biggest bank in the world. Along with her two brothers she's got my whole heart. I wanted so badly to bake my girl a birthday cake today, but her poor brother Duncan has so many allergies that I never get to bake goodies for them. His allergies are so bad that he's currently on a food trial, but that's a story for another time. When Duncan was a puppy, before we learned of his many allergies I did bake cupcakes for his first birthday, so I thought I would share that recipe with y'all in honor of my girl. These pupcakes and frosting are totally dog friendly, unless of course your dog has allergies to any of the ingredients. If your dog has a sensitive stomach or doesn't eat a variety of different foods I would start them out with a small amount, depending on the size of the dog, but since these are mild and not incredibly fatty you shouldn't have an issue.



Pupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
dog-friendly recipe

Yield: 20 pupcakes or 1 bundt cake

cake/cupcakes:
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (quick-cooking works fine)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix mashed bananas and applesauce together, then beat in eggs.
Toss in all dry ingredients and beat until completely combined.
Bake at 350 degrees in lightly greased muffin tins or bundt pan. (Approximately 25 minutes for cupcakes and 30-40 minutes for bundt cake)

frosting:
1/2 brick (4 oz) light cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 bananas, mashed
small dog biscuits, candles or slices of banana for decorating

Beat all ingredients together until smooth.
Frost completely cooled cake/cupcakes and adorn with desired decorations

Friday, March 15, 2013

Donut Heaven - Apple Pie Donuts

Recently one of my favorite ladies came over for a little girl time. You know us girls, we have to get together, gossip and catch up from time to time, and this catch up was long overdue. Me being me, I had to make something sweet to snack on. When us girls get together there is always food involved, and usually alcohol. There was no alcohol this time, but definitely some delicious food. Jessica brought over this delicious Artichoke Bread she found on Pinterest and if I hadn't eaten dinner shortly before hand I think we might have been fussing over who got the last piece it was that good. I haven't made it myself yet, but I did repin it, so if you want to check it out click here.

I decided on Apple Pie Donuts as our sweet treat for a few reasons: I absolutely adore my little Donut Maker, which is a different brand than this, but very similar (mine is a Sunbeam, this one is a Babycakes), which hasn't gotten nearly as much use as I'd like as of late, baked donuts are an easy treat and I was pressed for time, and I had some apple pie filling left from a previous recipe that I needed to use up. Me being me, I couldn't just follow a recipe to the letter, I had to adapt it, so I took a recipe that I of course found on Pinterest and changed it up slightly. The result was delicious, and I would definitely make Apple Pie Donuts again. However, for the donut itself next time I would do a cake mix donut because the texture of these was a little crumbly. I imagine using spice cake would be really good, or I would use yellow cake mix and add to it for a spiced up donut. Most of my donut recipes use cake mix as the base. The resulting donut has a good flavor and the texture is pretty much spot on with a Sweet Sixteen Donut.

I didn't make major changes to the recipe, I simply replaced the melted butter with vegetable oil, skipped the apple pie spice and upped the cinnamon. And, for the glaze I used maple syrup in place of the milk. Plus, I always find that the donuts need a few minutes longer to bake than the recipes call for.

If you love a donut with chocolate glaze check back soon because I found a chocolate glaze that I absolutely love and will share with you soon. And, want more donut flavor ideas? Like, maybe maple bacon? Caramel apple? Or what about Carrot Cake? Well, those plus a ton of other mouth watering baked donut recipes are on my Pinterest Donut board, so go check em out!


Apple Pie Donuts
adapted from: Jam Hands

Makes 12-14 donuts
1½ cups plain flour
½ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
9 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
½ cup canned pie apple, mashed
½ cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten

Optional:
Powdered sugar glaze (Use about 1 to 2 cups of powdered sugar and a few teaspoons of maple syrup to thin it)

1. Preheat Donut machine. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Whisk in the butter, apple, milk and egg until mixture forms a smooth batter.
2. Spray machine with non-stick cooking spray. Fill bases of preheated donut rings with batter. Close lid and cook for 6 minutes or until donuts are golden and cooked. Use a non-stick spatula (wooden/bamboo tongs work well too) to transfer donuts to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter to make 12-14 donuts in total. Garnish with extra apple pie filling and a simple powdered sugar glaze.

Original recipe from Sunbeam

Monday, March 4, 2013

Martha Stewart Living Excitement - Free Subscription Deal

I love magazines. Seriously, I love, love, love them. I'm the girl who gets excited when a new issue comes each month. I am also the girl who only gets magazines if they are given to me as a gift or I am able to find some awesome deal on a subscription. And, by awesome I mean free or something crazy cheap like $2 for a years subscription. I currently subscribe to Better Homes & Gardens, Everyday with Rachel Ray, Cosmo and Family Fun, which by the way is super cute, especially if you have young kids. There are always really cute craft and food ideas that any kid would love.

Being that I love a bargain and have been referred to as the Crazy Coupon Lady I get my fair share of those daily deal emails. Today I found a super exciting deal I thought was worth sharing. This deal is via Coupon Cabin, and I'm not sure how long it will last, my guess is not too much longer. But if you go here and fill out a short survey (while supplies are still available) you will get a free subscription (11 issues) of Martha Stewart Living Magazine. I signed up and got mine. The survey took literally two minutes, and I didn't even have to provide credit card information to get the free subscription. So, if you love magazines as much as I do or are a huge Martha Stewart fan hurry on over and keep your fingers crossed that there are still some subscriptions left.

I am not affiliated with Martha Stewart Living Magazine or Coupon Cabin in anyway. Just a magazine loving girl wanting to pass along a good deal to my beloved readers.


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