Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Oatmeal Cranberry-Orange Cookies for the FB Cookie Swap

This is my 3rd year participating in the Great Annual Food Blogger Cookie Swap! I love that the organizers make it super simple for people all over the country send cookies to each other, plus it's a surprise what cookies you end up getting! That makes it even better. I always love tasting other food bloggers treats after just reading about them all the time!

I wanted to make oatmeal cookies, but add some ZING to them. I remember buying these orange flavored dried cranberries from Trader Joe's a while back, so I was pumped when they were still selling them. I think cranberry orange is a flavor that people either like or don't like, but I really like!

Every time I make cookies for this cookie swap, the first batch doesn't look as pretty, so I'm glad that I have to make like 3 batches so I can give my best looking cookies to my 3 matches :) 

I also experimented with weighing flour for one batch and measuring by scooping flour for another batch. I think the scooping flour batch turned out better, which is the opposite of what people normally say! I just need to figure out how to convert recipes that only list cups as measurements.

I received some delicious and cutely packaged cookies from Susannah, Cherie, and Anne. Thanks ladies!! They were mighty tasty.

I am just so glad to be able to participate again this year. It was the only cookie exchange I did this year, so it was extra special.

Oatmeal Cranberry-Orange Cookies

2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
8 ounces butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbls honey
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup orange flavored cranberries, dried (I got mine at Trader Joes, or you could soak Craisins in orange juice as well)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped and toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast chopped pecans on a baking sheet for 5 minutes. Let cool.
In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients together: oats, flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream softened butter, sugar, and brown sugar, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Add honey and vanilla. Pour dry ingredients into wet and mix just until ingredients are incorporated. With a spatula, stir in dried cranberries and pecans. Use a cookie scoop to put onto lined baking sheet. Bake 9-11 minutes or until they no longer look wet. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

WIAW and BBQ Chicken Nachos

I'm still not doing too well on the WIAW posts. I forgot to take a picture of my lunch, doh! Plus today is Thursday instead of Wednesday, so it's really a WIAT post. But nobody would know what that means, so we'll pretend it's Wednesday!

I try to limit myself to Starbucks once a week. I know, some people would say that is a lot, but some people go there daily! I have the Starbucks app since you get a few rewards every now and then, so I had a $2 off a breakfast sandwich that I used to get this ham, egg and swiss croissant sandwich. It was pretty good, and I usually don't like to eat this heavy of a breakfast. Then I had the pike place roast coffee, which has a burnt taste/smell sometimes... but it's nice a strong which I like!

Lunch was just Deans cottage cheese with pineapple and mango, and vegetable soup from Trader Joe's. Here is my substitute picture.

Redesigned Dean Foods sour cream and cottage cheese packaging adds stackability, and scoopability.

For dinner, I made BBQ Chicken Nachos from The Floating Kitchen. I received delicious cookies from Liz last year in the Great Annual Blogger Cookie Swap, so I've been following her blog ever since, and her pictures are amazing! They make me want to try every single thing she posts.

My phone pictures are not the best, but you get the idea. This was really simple to make, especially if you buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it. I even got a 1/2 rotisserie chicken since it only calls for 2 cups of shredded chicken. It was the perfect amount.

BBQ Chicken Nachos

  • 2 cups shredded chicken
  • 3/4 cups barbecue sauce
  • 12 ounces tortilla chips
  • 3 cups shredded cheese (I used a mix of Cheddar, Mozzarella and Jack)
  • 1 avocado, smashed
  • pico di gallo
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a large rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the shredded chicken with the barbecue sauce until well coated.
  3. Spread about half of the tortilla chips out over your baking sheet. Top with half of the chicken and half of the cheese. Then add the remaining chips and repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients.
  4. Transfer to your pre-heated oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Remove. Top with pico di gallo and avocado, or serve on the side. Serve immediately.
 Recipe adapted from The Floating Kitchen

For dessert, I made Salted Carmel Bread Pudding from the frozen section at Trader Joe's. This isn't a picture of that (it's wasn't that pretty, trust me), but I had to share this because it's the most delicious French Toast Bread Pudding from a little coffee shop/deli I went to the other day. I loved that they put mint leaves in the whipped cream! It added a little punch to some of my bites. Mint should definitely be used in more dishes.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Chocolate Chip Carmel Peanut Butter Bars

Now that we are old and married (almost 2 months now) I've been trying to cook dinner more nights, and on top of that, keep up my love of baking, which is hard after I've already been in the kitchen for 3 hours every night prepping and cooking and washing dishes and cleaning up. It's hard to not fix the same thing over and over, so I started a recipe binder and once I make something we both like, I add it to the binder!

These bars are from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, which I have been getting most of my dinners from because they have all been so delicious! So I had a feeling her desserts would be pretty tasty as well. And yup, I was right. This one is going in the binder for sure.

Chocolate chip cookies are so good, and with peanut butter..... oh man even better.... and with CARMEL!?!?! That puts these in the best flavor combo ever ranking. My crappy phone pictures don't do them justice. But hopefully they tempt you just enough to go and make them right now!

Chocolate Chip Carmel Peanut Butter Bars
Yields 9X13 pan

Chocolate Chip cookie bottom:
  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups (13.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups chocolate chips 
Peanut Butter Caramel:
  • 10 ounces soft caramels, unwrapped
  • 1/3 cup cream or milk
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with foil and spray liberally with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the melted butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar together in a large bowl until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Spread or press about half (or just slightly more than half) of the batter in the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 8-9 minutes.
  4. While the cookie dough base is baking, add the caramels and cream to a saucepan, heat on low on the stovetop, stirring constantly with heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, until the caramel is melted and smooth. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla extract.
  5. Drizzle the caramel mixture over the top of the baked cookie dough and spread evenly.
  6. Pinch the remaining cookie dough between your fingers and crumble over the top of the caramel.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the bars are puffed and the edges are slightly golden.
  8. Let the bars cool completely before cutting into squares.

Recipe Source: slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe 

And now, I will leave you with my usual cute Wyatt pics. Here he is looking like a person with his head on the pillow. And his Halloween costume didn't quite fit this year.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Croissant French Toast Bake and my 1st WIAW

I love when bloggers post WIAW posts, or What I Ate Wednesday for those who don't know, cause I didn't at first! But really, any day of the week works, and it's interesting when people post what they ate, cause I am always so curious! And love to snoop in people's lives.....ha.... but really I love to see what people are eating along with the picture of course. It's weird and strange, but obviously other people love it too or else people would stop posting about it!

For breakfast, I stopped at Starbucks and got my favorite fancy drink, Peppermint Mocha. I get these year round, not just when they have them at Christmas time! I also had blueberry Belvita biscuits.
Of course, I forgot to take a picture of my lunch!! ARG! My first attempt at WIAW is already a failure. But whatever. I'm still doing it! So for lunch I had leftover Mustard Chicken and potatoes. It didn't look very pretty anyway. But it tasted pretty good for my first time making it the night before. 

For dinner, I made this Croissant French Toast Bake from Pinch of Yum's blog. I made it once before, and it was liked by the hubs, but not really by me. It was too squishy and unbaked in the middle. So this time, I baked it for longer, and it was better! It had a crunchy top and outside, and really soft inside, and with a little maple syrup it was so sweet and buttery.

I think next time, I would make this for brunch with some sausage links or fruit. It was a little too sweet for dinner by itself!

 Here is the recipe! Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Baked Cinnamon Croissant French Toast

  • 3 large croissants, a few days stale
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • cinnamon to taste (I used almost a full teaspoon)
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  1. Grease a small baking pan with butter (I just used a small loaf pan). Tear the croissants into small pieces and place in the dish.
  2. Whisk the eggs, milk, yogurt, sugar, and vanilla. Pour evenly over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight in the fridge (or for a few hours if you are short on time).
  3. For the topping, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cut the cold butter in with a food processor or just using your fingers until your mixture looks like small crumbs.
  4. When you're ready to eat, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle crumb mixture over the top of the croissant/egg mixture in the pan. Bake for 30-45 minutes depending on how soft/crispy you want it to be. Make sure the french toast is fully cooked before you remove it from the oven - usually the top looks done before the inside is really done.
  5. Top with butter and drizzle with maple syrup.

Some fun things that I've been loving recently are:

These EVOL cups from Target. I like them, and they have a lot of different veggies and flavors, but I'm not sure I LOVE them. But they are easy to take to work as a side instead of chips or something unhealthy!

I LOOOOOOOOOVE THESE Sea Salt Butterscotch caramels!! They are like the candies my grandma used to buy, but so much better. I was skeptical at first since they look so ordinary. They have a good salty flavor, so I think that's why they are so good.

Homemade milkshakes! We got a milkshake somewhere the other day and it was just not good! It was so thick and not chocolatey enough. So I made one at home that I think was a million times better. I also added whipped cream on top, but forgot to take a pic!

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Well guys, it's been the craziest and busiest 5 months of my life since I last  posted, so I have a good excuse! A few things happened like: we moved out of our tiny 550 sq ft 1 bedroom apartment in Chicago to a huge (not really but feels like it to us) 2 bedroom 2 bathroom 10 million closet apartment in Indianapolis, we started new jobs, bought a new car, did wedding festivities, I turned 31, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand we got married!! And went on a creepy/scary short honeymoon. So lots of big changes in a short amount of time! Plus little things I didn't even mention cause my brain is just now getting back to normal.

Before we moved, I tried to go to all my favorite restaurants or places that I REALLY had been wanting to go to in Chicago. This is the famous burger from Au Cheval that people say is the best burger everrrrr. It was pretty good, but I don't think I would go that crazy over it like some people did.

This bone marrow was more interesting, because I'd never tried it and it was so freakin expensive for what little amount you get! However, it's really really really rich, so you don't need much before you get kind of grossed out. I'd still try it again though!

My matron of honor threw me a bridal shower, even though she is not the party planning type and hated doing it, ha! But she did an awesome job. It was simple and cute and not over the top, which is my style. I loved her cucumber tea sandwiches! All homemade and each crust cut off with love.

My maid of honor threw my bachlorette party in Chicago, and it was after we already moved to Indy. So we drove up for the weekend and I had so much fun! We went to the beach that afternoon and then went back to her house for a pasta making class from TipsyCooks. They come to your house, bring all the ingredients, cook the pasta for you and clean up everything, all while you sip on your cocktails or beer :)

She also decorated with old pictures of me everywhere! Eeek! It was so cute that she had everyone send her pictures they had of me, cause some I had never even seen! And then of course there were 7th and 8th grade yearbook pictures that weren't as cute. My dark lipstick and tshirt under a tank top phase was greaaaaat.

The pasta that we made and they cooked for us was pretty good, but it needed some veggies or something else to add flavor or crunch. Homemade pasta is so different than box pasta! I wish I could make it all the time, but I never have time!!

The best part of all was finally getting to marry my bestest friend. We've been together 7 1/2 years and it was almost like we were married already! But now it's for real, and it feels awesome. 

I made my 2 girls get their hair done with me, haha! None of us are girly girls and I wasn't going to have my make up done, but then decided I would probably never have an excuse to do it again. It was really nice to just chill with them that morning and not just be waiting around!

 I'll post some real wedding pics next time :)

For our honeymoon, I only had 2 vacation days from work, so it was a short and sweet stay in Nashville, Indiana. We hiked at Brown County State Park and stayed in a very secluded log cabin with a lake in the backyard. It was a little tooooo secluded though, and there was a creepy abandoned house down the trail from the cabin with old mattresses in it, and a bunch of weird stuff happened that made us not enjoy it as much! I think we might have psyched ourselves out a bit.

So now we're just getting back to normal in our apartment. Wyatt is loving being around more grass and trees and riding in the car more often. 

He loves to chill on the back porch by himself sometimes, which is still not quite a fenced in yard, but it's a step up!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Favorites for Spring

None of my favorites for spring are healthy or spring-like, but I just thought it's time to tell you a few new things I loved anyway!

Cookie Butter is taking over the world, and these sandwich cookies were of course, awesome! But don't eat too many at once... lots. of. butter. And I actually just bought cookie butter cheesecake bites, so they definitely know how to market this stuff to people like me who want to try EVERYTHING!

Coffee AND donuts?!?! I  had to buy this ice cream to try, and it was pretty good. I would still rather have a real donut and real coffee I think.
Okay don't make fun of me, but I LOVE the cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster. I always am trying to go there for dinner, but nobody wants to go since the rest of their food kind of sucks! So this is a nice substitute, even thought it's still not the same...but I think the main part that makes it taste the same is the garlic and herb packet that you mix in the melted butter and spread all over the biscuits. You really have to slather them with butter, too, if you want them to taste like the restaurant version!

I went to the Oberweis store for the first time last year with Emily and Emily, and have been obsessed with their chocolate ice cream since then! I might have even written about it already in another post... but whatever. It's still one of my favorite ice creams because the chocolate is not too rich and it's so creamy. I'm sad I might not be able to eat it once we move out of Chicago!

I really love dill, but it's not a very common herb. I'm so glad they made these triscuits, because it helps cure my dill craving! I usually eat it with tuna or chicken salad scooped on, or with chunks of cheese on top.

One of my favorite brunch places in Chicago is Over Easy in Lincoln Square. There is always a 30+ minute wait, though. So I took a random Tuesday off work to go dress shopping with my friend Amy, and I figured it would be the perfect day to go there so there isn't a wait! I wish I could do that every week! This Bananas Foster french toast is my favorite thing to get, plus some of their amazing Julius Meinl coffee.
Not a favorite, but I did Silks class with my friend Sharyn, and it was really fun, but also really hard! I could not climb up very high, and my upper body was so sore the next day. I actually pulled a muscle/hamstring in my upper back thigh, and they made me report it as an injury! I'm not as young and flexible as I used to be I guess.

Of course my favorite puppy of all time has so show up in this post.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Winter and Wyatt

 Man, time flies! I always tell myself to update the good ol' blog, but never get around to it until a whole month later. Currently it's a blizzard outside, so today is the perfect opportunity to catch up. I haven't been doing a ton of baking since we traveled to Indiana for the holidays, and it's hard to bake something and bring it in the car with all our other crap, plus a dog! But on Christmas, I did make a breakfast casserole for the fam in my mom's kitchen, and it was so nice to have a huge kitchen with lots of counter space to use! I am really looking forward to the day I have a bigger kitchen. It will honestly make me less stressed when I cook and bake! 

I was able to sit and read while enjoying a french toast bagel with maple cream cheese and coffee while we were in Indiana at The Caffeinery. It was so nice to not have anywhere to be and relax.

This veal and beef ragu was delicious from Cafe Spiaggia, which is where former top chef Sarah Grueneberg worked for a while, and plus it's Obama's favorite restaurant, so that's cool. I've been wanting to go here for a while, so I'm glad I can cross it off the list! 

My friend Sharyn and I took a cake decorating class before Christmas, so we could maybe decorate something for the holidays (which didn't happen). I thought it was actually really informative! I'm not sure when the next time I will be decorating a cake, but when I do it will hopefully look semi-professional!

Here is another breakfast that I LOVED, and it's only a few blocks from our apartment at Cafe Selmarie. Cheddar Zucchini pancakes. It sounded risky, but tasted amazing. I want to go back for more, but they probably don't have it on the menu now since they always rotate things in and out.

One thing that I've been wanting to do for a while is see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and someone from work offered me a ticket for one of their Friday night concerts. Of course I accepted, and loved every minute of it! The theater is so pretty inside, and makes you feel like you've gone back in time. The orchestra is SO good, and it seems so effortless when they play.

We've been keeping busy with Wyatt, and he is such a baby sometimes but we love him anyway. He goes crazy in the snow! We took him outside today and he ran around and around and ate a bunch of snow.


We tried to see if he wanted to wear boxer shorts, but they didn't fit so well.


Wyatt and his best buddy Ruger loved playing together over the holidays, and he was so sad when we had to come back to Chicago.