In the midst of moving and packing and renovating while trying to keep life as close to normal a possible, I caved and tried out sheet-pan dinners. And I am IN LOVE! Read More
Anyone who knows me know I am a Christmas junkie–I’ll listen to Christmas music or watch Christmas movies any month in of the year. Since we moved recently, resulting in a brand-new DVR, I recorded every Hallmark Channel Christmas movie they played last week (literally–every one. Hubby was thrilled.) 😂
So, I was super-excited to be invited to a Christmas in July party over the weekend. My aunt and her husband decorated the yard with blow-up decorations, they had Christmas treats, and Santa even stopped by for a visit–in his shorts and t-shirt, of course.
It was a fun party, and a great excuse to enjoy some Christmas music in the middle of summer. (It was even better to know I am not the only crazy Christmas fan in my family!) 😉
I took the party as an excuse to try out a new Christmas recipe–Peppermint Mocha mini-cupcakes. And, for anyone wondering where I got Candy Canes in July, I stocked up in late December just in case the need arose. 🎄
These were perfect little bites of heaven–rich chocolate, cool peppermint, and just a hint of coffee. I definitely will be making this one again!
Peppermint Mocha Mini-Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
- 1 Stick of Butter (1/2 Cup), softened
- 1 1/4 Cups Sugar
- 1 1/4 Cups Hot Coffee
- 1/2 Cup Unsweetened CocoaPowder
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1 1/4 Cups Flour
- 1 tsp. Baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. Vanilla Bean Paste (or Vanilla Extract)
- 1/3 Cup Sour Cream
- 2/3 Cup Mint Chocolate Chips, chopped
For the Icing:
- 8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
- 1 stick Butter (1/2 cup), softened
- 3 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
- 2 tsp. Vanilla Bean Paste (or Vanilla Extract)
- Grated Dark Chocolate and Candy Cane Pieces (for Garnish)
- Preheat oven to 350℉. Add liners to mini-cupcakes trays.
- Beat the butter and sugar using a mixer until smooth and fluffy (3-5 minutes).
- Add the eggs to the butter mixture, and beat another 1-2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add the cocoa to the hot coffee, and mix until there are no lumps.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add the flour mixture and coffee mixture to the butter mixture, alternating, and starting with the flour. After each addition, mix until just combined.
- Fold in the sour cream, vanilla, and mint chips. Stir until fully incorporated.
- Add approximately 1 tablespoon of batter (I use a small cookie scoop) to each cupcake liner.
- Bake at 330 for 10-15 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when touched and/or a tester comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and cool completely on a cooling rack.
- Once cool, cream the butter and cream cheese in a mixer on high until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until fully incorporated.
- Use piping bag to ice the cupcakes. Garnish with grated chocolate and a candy cane piece. Chill until icing is set.
I find mint to be refreshing in the summer, so this was a perfect fit for a hot, humid, July afternoon. I look forward to trying them again in December. Yum!
Are you a Christmas anytime person, or and only-after-December 15 person? Or do you fall somewhere in between? And, what is your favorite holiday treat?
For years, Hubby and I have tried to eat a primarily from-scratch diet with lots of fresh veggies and fruits. Over the last year or so, we have tried to cut back on sugar a bit too.
It’s not that we never have an all out sugary dessert–we do, though we have tried to cut back on portions. But, we have also looked for other, healthier options to satisfy my sweet tooth.
I have never been a ricotta cheese fan, but a few of my favorite traditional desserts (mmm, cannoli) are ricotta based, so when I heard about this one, I decided to give it a go.
This is super-simple, and can be made with any fresh or frozen fruit. I like to use whole milk ricotta, but part skim works, too. (With the full-fat ricotta and frozen cherries, this is approximately 170 calories, with 24 g carbs, 19 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 7 g fat (5 g saturated), and 6 g protein.)
Cinnamon Ricotta Cherries
- 1/2 cup Frozen Cherries
- 1/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
- 1 tsp. Honey
- Dash Cinnamon
- Slightly defrost the cherries, either by placing in the microwave for 30 seconds or allowing to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix cherries with a dash of cinnamon.
- Top with Ricotta.
- Drizzle with honey. If desired, sprinkle with more cinnamon.
I use a 2 Tbsp. cookie scoop to serve the ricotta–2 scoops equal 1/4 cup. This is also great with fresh strawberries or mixed berries, fresh or frozen blueberries, or (hubby’s favorite), fresh pineapple. A little treat without a ton of added sugar. 🙂
Do you have a favorite quick sweet treat that is a little on the healthier side? A go-to shortcut dessert? Let us know in the comments.
As much as I love to cook, there is one meal hubby and I have never quite gotten the hang of–breakfast. For years, we skipped breakfast more often than we ate it, but in recent years we try hard to start our day with a decent breakfast.
We walked in the grocery store on Saturday to a huge display of butternut squash from a local farm. Hubby and I looked at each other and both said, “risotto.”
I found this recipe from The Pioneer Woman a few years ago, and it is so good, I barely make any changes to it, other than how I make the butternut squash. To save a little time, I roast it in a yummy spice rub while I make the risotto. (I wasn’t planning on posting this until I got a few requests for the recipe, so I don’t have a lot of pictures.)
The spice rub is easy–2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon each sage, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. I know it sounds weird, but it works–trust me.
Dice the butternut squash (I should add that I use a whole butternut squash, not just a half, since we like this for a meatless entrée), then spread it on a baking sheet. Drizzle it with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss to coat. Add the spice mix, and toss together until evenly coated.
Pop the baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until tender and golden brown.
While that roasts up, add a but of butter to the pan, sauté some onion, add the arborio rice. Make the risotto per the original recipe (found here). At the right time, add in the roasted butternut squash, then finish off the recipe. Yum!
For the record, I have tried the recipe without the cream (I actually use half and half). It is still good, but the cream definitely adds a texture and flavor that makes the extra calories so worth it. 🙂
Roasted Butternut Squash
|1 Medium||Butternut Squash|
|1 Tablespoon||Olive Oil|
|2 Teaspoons||Chili Powder|
|1 Teaspoon||Dried Sage|
|1 Teaspoon||Ground Cinnamon|
|1 Teaspoon||Kosher Salt|
|1 Teaspoon||Black Pepper|
|1 Teaspoon||Brown Sugar|
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
- Peel, remove seeds, and dice a whole butternut squash. Spread on a baking sheet.
- Drizzle with olive oil and toss together.
- in a small bowl, mix chili powder, cinnamon, sage, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Sprinkle entire mixture over the butternut squash. Use your hands to coat completely.
- Roast in the oven about 20 minutes until tender and golden brown.
- Add to your favorite recipe (such as this risotto) and enjoy!
This roasted squash is also great on its own as a simple side dish, or tossed with some store-bough ravioli, a little cream, and some parmesan cheese for a quick meatless meal.
Do you have a favorite butternut squash recipe? Any go-to ingredients when putting together a meatless meal? And are you as excited as I am to be seeing all of this lovely fall produce in the stores? #yum
I found myself with a touch of a sweet tooth after work last week, and editing my culinary cozy mystery was not helping the issue. When my main character whipped up a batch of biscotti, it seemed like the perfect time to try a new recipe.
This makes a lot of biscotti, but they freeze up very nicely. Just take them out for a half hour or so before you want to eat them. Home-baked treat whenever you want them. 🙂
Chocolate Chip Pecan Biscotti
|2 Cups||All Purpose Flour|
|1 tsp.||Ground Cinnamon|
|1 tsp.||Baking Powder|
|4 Tbsp.||Cold Butter, cut in chunks|
|1 Cup||Good-quality Dark Chocolate Chips or Coarsely Chopped Dark Chocolate|
|1 Cup||Chopped Pecans|
|1 tsp.||Vanilla Extract|
|1/2 tsp.||Almond Extract|
|Course Sugar (Optional)|
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, mix the Flour, Sugar, Cinnamon, Baking Powder, and Salt. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender or 2 butter knives until incorporated and crumbly.
- Add eggs, and stir until incorporated. Stir in remaining ingredients, then knead in bowl until fully combined.
- Place dough on a floured surface. Knead a few more times, then divide in half. Shape each half into a log about 2 inches wide and 1 inch tall.
- Place on baking sheet, and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice each log into 1/2 inch slices, cut on a diagonal. Lay each slice on its side on the baking sheet. They can be close, but not touching the other cookies. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes until golden brown and firm.
- Cool completely on cooling racks. The biscotti will continue to harden as they cool.
- Enjoy! 🙂
Off to work–with a tasty treat in my lunch bag. Hope you have a wonderful day! ❤️
Hubby and I have felt a little under the weather lately, thanks to a brutal allergy season. Nothing serious–just the usually stuffy head, sore throat, watery-eyed fun that comes with walking out the front door in the morning. 😉
I started out thinking I would make a standard hearty chicken noodle soup, but until I got all the veggies and chicken in, there was no room for noodles!
This was super-easy to throw together–I just roasted a bunch of vegetables, browned the chicken, added the roasted veggies and a bit of wine, cooked a few minutes, and added the stock. Just before serving, I added a splash of cream and a bit of fresh-grated parmesan cheese. Easy-peasy!
Easy Chicken and Vegetable Chowder
|1 lb||Creamer Potatoes, cleaned and quartered|
|3 Cups||Mushrooms, Cleaned and sliced|
|2||Leeks, halved and thinly sliced|
|2 Tbsp.||Olive Oil, divided|
|1.5 lbs.||Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 1-inch chunks|
|1.5 tsp.||Montreal Steak Seasoning|
|1 bag||Frozen Mixed Vegetables (12-16 oz)|
|1 cup||Dry White Wine|
|1 box||Chicken Stock (4 cups)|
|1/4 Cup||Half and Half|
|1/2 Cup||Shredded Parmesan Cheese|
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Prepare Potatoes, Mushrooms, Leeks, and Onion and add to a baking sheet. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil. Mix with your hands and spread the vegetables on the baking tray evenly. Roast until tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, season the chicken with the Montreal Steak Seasoning (or other seasoning blend of your choice). Let sit 10 minutes.
- Add the remaining Olive Oil to a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the frozen vegetables and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the roasted vegetables to the Dutch Oven. Add the wine and stir. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes, stirring.
- Add the chicken stock. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover the pot and cook 20 minutes.
- Stir in the Parmesan and Half and Half. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.
- Serve and enjoy!
I used salted chicken stock (I prefer Kitchen Basics brand), and the Montreal Steak Seasoning has a lot of salt, so I went light on the salt on the veggies and didn’t add any more salt to the chicken or mixed vegetables. I did add extra pepper. Hubby thought it was perfect, though I did salt it a bit at the table.
Do you ever get a soup craving in summer? Have a go-to dish when you are feeling blah? Please share! 🙂
I have worked hard to be a little healthier lately–more workouts, more veggies, more fruit, less junk food. I started this little experiment because I was told it could help me out with the pain I have dealt with from arthritis–and it worked! As an added bonus, I have dropped 20 pounds in the last three months–not a bad side effect! 😉
One of the things I love about the way Hubby and I are approaching this is that we didn’t cut any food out completely; we are simply more cognizant about how we make them. Nothing processed–we make it from scratch (though we did that most of the time before). If we want a sweet treat, we have it–but we have 2 small cookies, not 6. 😉
That being said, I have a bag of whole-wheat flour here, and I was determined to make something fun with it. I researched a bunch of scone recipes, made a couple attempts at my own, and this is what I came up with.
These Blueberry Lemon Scones are super-tasty, with a crumbly crust on the outside and a soft, moist center. Perfect for a midmorning snack with a piping-hot cup of coffee or tea!
Lemon Blueberry Scones
|2 Cups||Whole Wheat or All Purpose Flour*|
|2 tsp.||Cream of Tartar|
|1 tsp.||Baking Soda|
|1 Stick||Butter (8 Tablespoons)|
|2||Eggs (Fork Beaten)|
|1/3 Cup||Heavy Cream|
|2 Tbsp.||Lemon Juice|
|Zest of 1 Lemon|
|1 Cup||Fresh Blueberries|
|1-2 tsp.||Cane Sugar (optional)|
*Please Note: Using Whole Wheat Flour will change the texture of the final product.
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with Parchment Paper and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine Flour, Cream of Tartar, Baking Soda, and Salt.
- Cut the stick of Butter into 8-10 pieces, and add to the flour mixture. Use a pastry blender to mix the butter into the flour, mixing only until the butter is slightly smaller than pea-sized.
- Add the Eggs, Cream, Lemon Juice and Zest. Stir until it just comes together.
- Add the Blueberries and gently combine by hand, trying to keep as many blueberries whole as possible.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and roll into a large circle, about 3/4 – 1 inch thick. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 12 wedges. (Alternatively, break into 12 pieces and shape each piece into a triangle shape. This will prevent blueberries from being cut in half).
- Put 12 triangle pieces on parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with Cane Sugar (I used 1 pack of Sugar in the Raw for the entire batch).
- Bake for 15-18 minutes until brown.
- Serve with a little butter and your favorite beverage. Enjoy!
Do you have any favorite treats that are healthier than they taste? Favorite fruit or veggie recipes? Feel free to share! 🙂
Hubby and I have been focused on eating a bit healthier lately, along with adding in a lot more exercise. We both have more energy, and are feeling happier overall–which makes it so much easier to stick to our healthier lifestyle.
I am a salad girl, so making sure to get a side salad in with dinner every day–with homemade dressing, of course–was easy. Not sautéing my veggies in boatloads of oil and/or butter should have been harder, but I have learned that grilling or roasting them gives just as much flavor with less added fat.
|2 lbs.||Fresh Asparagus|
|2 Tbsp.||Olive Oil|
|Kosher or Sea Salt|
- Preheat grill on high or oven to 425.
- Clean the asparagus and snap the ends off each stalk. (Hold the top and bottom and bend until it snaps. This will break off the woody part at the bottom of each stalk.)
- Place in a large bowl, and toss with Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper until well coated.
- Lay asparagus side-by-side on the grill across the grates, so it doesn’t fall through. Drop heat to medium and close cover.
- Grill for 3-4 minutes, until charred. Flip, and grill an additional 3-4 minutes.
- Alternatively, lay asparagus on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes, flipping once.
- Serve and enjoy!
Simple, healthy, and super-tasty, this has been a family favorite for years! I hope you enjoy it, too!
Are you excited for grilling season? Do you have a favorite trick for eating more vegetables? Any great healthy recipes you can’t live without? Please share!