Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Look Back

I am finally getting over this cold that I have had for the past few weeks! It is about time since I was planning on having some fun tonight sick or healthy! Before I get my game face on though, I wanted to reflect back on the past year.  For me, 2011 was a very important year because I finally felt like I found my place in the world so to speak.  I began graduate school and was soon able to learn how to utilize my strengths and interests and put them into a career - study abroad.  I absolutely love working in a study abroad office and helping other students experience the things that I have seen and been through while abroad.  That is definitely a wonderful feeling!


As for blogging, I realized this past year how much I enjoy it! When I initially started this blog I did not think much about it and did not take it too seriously.  However, I have "met" so many wonderful people and have learned so many new cooking and baking techniques! I've even learned to improve my photography a little bit.  Unfortunately, I only had a point and shoot camera so there was only so much I could do.  Fortunately though, Santa (or my wonderful boyfriend, David) answered my letters and brought me a BRAND NEW CAMERA FOR CHRISTMAS!!! I finally have a real camera to use!! Now the trick is going to be learning how to use the thing! :)


Now, I have never really been one to make New Year's resolutions, but for 2012, I do hope to continue to blog even more, learn how to properly use my camera, and to do the things that are important to me, such as learning French! As a Christmas gift to myself I purchased Rosetta Stone so we'll see how that goes.... With that being said, I just wanted to share some of my personal favorite posts from the past year.  Although not all of them may have been fan favorites, I really enjoyed making and eating them!

January 2011 - Crème Brûlée


February 2011 - Traditional Irish Soda Bread


March 2011 - Coconut Madeleine's


April 2011 - Bahama Mama!


May 2011 - Blueberry Pie


June 2011 - Horchata


July 2011 - Butterbeer


August 2011 - Rhubarb Crumble with Creme Anglaise


September 2011 - Heath Bar Toffee Dip


October 2011 - Pumpkin Waffles


November 2011 - Pasta e Fagioli


December 2011 - Pizzelle


I hope you all enjoyed these posts as much as I did, and I wish you all a wonderful and happy New Year! I'll see you in 2012 and will hopefully be able to work my new camera by then!! :)

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pizzelle

I have been on vacation now for just over a week, and I have been sick for just over a week.  Great way to spend the holidays huh!? I had so many great recipes planned for this week, but since I have not really left my couch I will not be able to post them in time for Christmas.  However, I still wanted to make sure that I made something to share with everyone before the busy weekend - enter Pizzelle.


Pizzelle are a traditional Italian waffle cookie and are so simple to make! If you do not have a pizzelle maker you should definitely invest in one! One batch makes around 40 pizzelle and they make wonderful gifts too! Every year I always make a couple of batches and include them in gifts for friends and family.



Pizzelle

Ingredients:
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
-3/4 cup sugar
-3 eggs
-1 1/2 teaspoons anise extract
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 3/4 cups flour
-Pinch of salt
-Powdered sugar for dusting, optional
Note: If you want to make Chocolate Pizzelle, exclude the anise extract and substitute 1/4 cup of the flour for cocoa powder. 

Also, if you do not have a Pizzelle maker, you can buy one here: http://theculturaldish.blogspot.com/p/products.html

Directions:
Plug in Pizzelle maker and allow to preheat.  The light will click off once it is ready.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together.  Add in the eggs, anise, and vanilla extracts.  Then, sift in the flour and salt.

Once all of the ingredients are fully combined, drop about a teaspoon of batter in the center of the mold (after a couple of tries you can gage about how much batter to drop in because it really does not need much), close the pizzelle oven and allow to cook for about 1 minute.  The pizzelle maker I own has a light that clicks off when it is done.  If yours does not do this then check them after 45 seconds.

When the pizzelle are done they will be soft.  Remove from the pizzelle maker and place on a paper towel.  The pizzelle will firm up immediately.  Break off any edges from the batter spilling over if needed.


Dust with powdered sugar if you would like, and eat up and enjoy!

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Homemade Eggnog and Biscotti

For this months improv challenge, Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker assigned us eggnog and cranberries.  I tossed around the idea of making an upside down eggnog cake with cranberries, or eggnog cookies with cranberries, but then I thought, rather then making one item with both ingredients, I can make two! Hence, the homemade eggnog and biscotti with dried cranberries!



Believe it or not, I have never actually been a fan of eggnog itself.  For some reason I could never stomach the drink.  However, I decided that I would try to make it on my own this year and see if I could enjoy the drink for once! Thanks to Alton Brown's recipe from Food Network, I think I may actually love eggnog now.  That's right, not like, but love!

Homemade Eggnog with Biscotti 

Ingredients:
-4 egg yolks
-1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
-2 cups whole milk
-1 cup heavy cream
-2 to 3 ounces bourbon and/or brandy (optional)
-1 teaspoon nutmeg
-4 egg whites

Directions:
In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Add in the milk, cream, alcohol if using, and nutmeg.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they begin to form soft peaks.  Add in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks.

Gently fold the egg whites into the liquid mixture.  Chill in the refrigerator (or in the freezer for a few minutes) and serve cold.

Sip, slurp, and enjoy!

For the homemade biscotti recipe, click here.



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Monday, December 12, 2011

FB Cookie Swap: Raspberry Ribbons!

The holiday season is such a wonderful time of year.  There is Christmas music playing everywhere (no matter how sick of it you get, you know you love it!), chilly weather, warm holiday drinks, crazy shopping lines, family parties, and best of all, cookies!! There is no doubt that this time of year is the ultimate time for all sorts of cookies to be made...and I always love seeing the overhead bill after holiday baking! :)


This year, aside from baking for my friends and family, I was lucky enough to participate in the first Food Blogger Cookie Swap thanks to Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen! This was such a wonderful experience and I am so thankful that these two wonderful women put together this event.  Each food blogger who signed up was given three different people to send a dozen cookies to so that each blogger sent out cookies as well as received 3-dozen cookies (the three I received are down below).


When I signed up to participate in the cookie swap, I was torn as to what cookie to make.  I went back and forth between a few different recipes, but decided to go with my raspberry ribbons! They are always a hit at parties and disappear quite quickly, so I hoped that the food bloggers I sent them to would feel the same way!


Raspberry Ribbons


For the Dough:
-2 sticks (1 cup) butter, unsalted
-1/2 cup confectionary sugar
-1 large egg yolk
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-2 1/2 cups flour

Filling:
-About a 1/2 cup raspberry preserves

Topping:
-1/2 cup confectionary sugar
-2 teaspoons lemon juice
-2 teaspoons milk or heavy cream


Directions:
Prepare the dough by beating the butter and confectioners sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg yolk and vanilla extract.  Then add in flour until just blended.  Mold the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

After the dough has chilled, remove from the fridge and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut the dough into four equal pieces.  I usually take a little bit of dough off of each piece to form a fifth chunk of dough.


Roll each piece of dough into a rope about a foot long.  Place ropes on a baking pan and using your thumb or finger, press down on the rope to form a crease all the way down the center of each rope.



Bake the dough for 10 minutes and remove from the oven.  The cavity that you created will have puffed up a bit, but use it as a guide to fill in with the raspberry preserves.  Return to the oven and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the edges just start to turn a light brown.  In my oven they usually take 7 minutes.

Once ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Meanwhile, prepare the topping.  In a bowl, mix together the confectionary sugar, lemon juice, and milk (or cream) until combined.  Drizzle over the top of the cookies and allow to set for a few minutes.  Once the topping has set, cut about 1-inch cookies at a 45-degree angle.

I'm warning you, these babies melt in your mouth and are so easy to consume! Enjoy!

And for the cookies I devoured...

The cookies I received were from Becky of The Cereal Baker, Sylvia of Frolic Through Life, and Callye of Sweet Sugar Belle!


Becky baked a delicious eggnog cookie with bits of candied bacon! So satisfying and comforting!


Sylvia baked a delicious batch of peanut butter blossoms and the kisses were the ones with caramel in them! Delicious surprise! :)


Finally, Callye baked these amazingly beautiful spice cookies.  I still cannot get over her detail in the decorations!



Thanks again for the wonderful cookies! 
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Chili

First I want to apologize for not being as consistent these past couple of weeks, but it has been finals week and I am almost halfway through my Masters program! An alcoholic drink recipe will definitely be coming soon in order to celebrate! Until then though, I wanted to share this easy sweet and spicy chili recipe that makes a delicious and filling meal! I love making this chili because it is not super spicy (even though I know some people prefer more spice) and it is so simple to make, which is definitely great for me when I am trying to bang out last minute papers and projects!





Sweet and Spicy Chili
Ingredients:
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 green bell pepper, chopped
-2 teaspoons minced garlic
-2 pounds ground beef
-2 19 ounce cans of dark red kidney beans, strained and rinsed
-1 cup beef broth
-1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
-1 12 ounce bottle Heinz chili sauce
-1 tablespoon cumin
-1 teaspoon chili powder (add more for more spice)
-Extra virgin olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Sour cream and shredded cheese (optional for topping)

Directions:
In a medium saucepan heat a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoons worth) and saute the onions and green peppers.  Add in the ground beef and shake just a little salt and pepper.  Cook the beef for a few minutes until it is mostly browned.  Then, add all the rest of the ingredients including the cumin and chili powder.  Make sure before you add the beans though that you strain and rinse them.

Bring the chili to a boil and then reduce hit and allow to cook for at least another 45 minutes to an hour. Serve warm in a bowl and add a dollop of sour cream or even some shredded cheese! Enjoy!


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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Hazelnuts

This week, Jenny from Savour the Senses was kind enough to have me guest post on her blog! I always get a little nervous when guest posting because I know that it is an honor to do so, and I just don't want to disappoint! Hopefully you all enjoy my post on Jenny's blog and be sure to check out her site! Below is a little sneak peak....

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Hazelnuts




Remember to check out Jenny's blog and get the recipe to this tart here! Thanks again Jenny! 
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