Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Dinner 2014

This year was special. It was the first year that my sister and I cooked the entire Christmas meal, from the turkey to all of the trimmings. After hours of being on our feet, chopping, sautéing, mixing, kneading, basting, and roasting, it was incredibly rewarding to sit down and enjoy a meal that we labored over and to see our family enjoy it as well. But let me tell you, it was hard work! Wow. At some point, we both looked at each other and said mom does this every year?! Because we like to be ambitious, we decided to put new spins on the classic holiday meal sides. Check out our menu below.

Oh and everything was made from scratch!

Sweet potato cornbread stuffing
Jalapeño and bacon macaroni and cheese
Cheddar bay biscuits
Garlic mashed potatoes with spinach and bacon
Roasted vegetables
Cilantro and curry jasmine rice

Banana cream pies (one with a ginger molasses crust and one with peanut butter)
Sweet potato pie
Blueberry hand pies

After dinner we went to see the Christmas lights they put up every year.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sugar and Spice and Sweet Potatoes!

I'm not even going to attempt to mask my deep love for the sweet potato. It's one of my favorite things to eat.  When I go out to restaurants it's the first item I scan the menu for. If I were stranded on an island, and could only eat one thing, it's the one thing I'd choose. So when I came across a sweet potato bread recipe here I knew that I had to make it. This recipe is bananas (technically it's sweet potatoes, but you know what I mean).

This bread will have your home smelling amazing. I mean the smell literally beckons. Beyond the smell, it tasted incredible. My sister, who I consider the resident baking expert in our family tried it and loved it. I got the recipe here. I initially baked the bread to take to a potluck dinner with friends. It was so good that two days later, I baked it again, only this time as muffins, to take to my school's Thanksgiving pot luck luncheon, and I have every intention of baking it again for Christmas 2014.

Make this bread!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Culinary Pursuits: Baked Gingerbread Oatmeal Cups

When I think of the holidays, one of the first things I think about is all of the amazing seasonal food that I start seeing on restaurant menus and grocery store shelves. And since they'll only be around for a limited amount of time, I try to convince myself that it's okay to indulge. Well I'm all for indulging every so often, but at some point it can get to be too much. Between the cookies, muffins, cakes, and pies, I can start to feel a little guilty. The truth is that you can enjoy those holiday seasonal treats without all of the guilt attached to it. Enter these baked gingerbread oatmeal cups. They deliver on that comforting and familiar gingerbread Christmasy taste while skipping the tons of sugar and icing that usually comes along with it. Check out the easy recipe below:


2 cups of old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of light brown sugar
1 teaspoon of ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
a pinch of sea salt
2 cups of almond milk
1 beaten egg
3 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of honey


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners.

Combine oats, baking powder, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and sea salt.

Add almond milk to dry ingredients, then beaten egg, then melted coconut oil, then vanilla extract, and then honey.

Add 1/4 cup of batter to each cupcake liner.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.


One of the great things about these cups is that they're so customizable. Similar to my frittata muffins that I've made before (see here), I can switch up the ingredients to satisfy whatever craving I may be having. I'm already planning to do a maple sweet potato version, a banana chocolate chip version, a white chocolate chip and cranberry version, and a mango pineapple version!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Culinary Pursuits: Pumpkin Chocolate and Cinnamon Chip Bars

In case you have yet to get your pumpkin fill I have a pumpkin recipe especially for you. Last month I made some pumpkin bars to take to class mainly because I had leftover pumpkin that I needed to use up. I wanted to make them health*ier* so I used white whole wheat flour and coconut oil in place of any butter. Well, they came out amazing. And don't just take my word for it - my classmates agreed too. So of course I had to share the recipe. Check it out below!


2 cups of white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2/3 cup of coconut oil (melted)
1 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of cinnamon + 1 teaspoon of nutmeg + fill the rest of a 1/4 cup with brown sugar
1 cup of canned pumpkin (I used Libby's found at Walmart)
3 tsp of sweetened almond milk (you can also use water)
1.5 cups of dark chocolate chunks, cinnamon chips, and white chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup of each)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9x13 inch pan with PAM (or a coconut oil spray if you have it - it's not necessary though)

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. 

In a separate large bowl, combine the pumpkin, oil, sugar, vanilla, and milk, until smooth. 

Gradually mix in the dry ingredients until smooth. 

Fold in the chocolate and cinnamon chips and then spread the batter out on the pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving


Saturday, December 13, 2014

2014 Budget Friendly Christmas Gift Ideas

One down! I just finished the first semester of my program, and I must say that it went really well. I definitely feel like I learned a lot this past semester which is exciting. Ask me about symbolic interactionism or media dependency and I'll prove it to you! Now that I have a chance to catch my breath, I can't believe how quickly it went by. It didn't feel that way during the semester, but now it seems like orientation was just yesterday. I have big plans for my break including the three R's (rest, relaxation, and reading).

Anywho, I imagine everyone is knee deep in Christmas shopping. Maybe now you're beginning to contemplate cutting off some friends before your wallet becomes weightless. Well, I come bearing ideas for a way to save some money and keep your friends too.

On some random weekend night, I was in Target with my sister. As soon as we walked in, we saw their section with cute little one dollar Christmas-themed gifts and knick-knacks. They had thank you cards, pens and pencils, notepads, stickers, and all kinds of other things. What instantly caught my eye were some aluminum tin buckets. They were so cute and for only one dollar I had to get some (read: ten). I just couldn't help myself. Then I thought it would be cute to fill them with chocolate and other Christmasy things and give them as gifts to my cohort. Just call me Mrs. Clause!

Now this may sound weird but I actually had fun putting each person's little bucket together. I tried to personalize them so that all nine people wouldn't be getting the exact same thing.

I bought some gingerbread twix that I found at Target, some hot chocolate and red velvet truffles from World Market, some vanilla roasted almonds, some red and green Starburst candy canes, some starburst and m&m filled plastic candy canes, and some hand-sanitizer wipes because, let's be honest, this isn't just the season to be jolly, it's also the season to be sickly:-(

As a separate idea, I also bought some mini champagne bottles, a bag of Hershey's kisses, and put the kisses in the tin buckets to do "champagne on ice." My classmates loved them!

It's just a matter of being a little creative. These gifts didn't break the bank, but they look nice and people really appreciate all of the different elements that go into them. The last time I went into Target (which was a couple of hours ago lol), they still had the buckets, and the other little knick knacks that I originally found. You can also put in socks or gloves, some jewelry, like a nice necklace or pair of earrings, or you could even do baked goods. The possibilities are literally endless. I hope this gives you some gift-giving inspiration.

Enjoy your weekend!