Archive | food

how to make the most delicious holiday drink at home

homemade-eggnog-latte

Eggnog.

You either love it or you hate it.

I happen to fall in the love it category. Like, really, really love it. Served cold, as punch, in french toast – I’ll take it any way because eggnog tastes like Christmas.

And my favorite way to drink eggnog is as a homemade latte.

homemade-eggnog-latte-finished

It’s easy as can be and tastes delicious. I actually don’t drink coffee in the morning, but most days I enjoy an afternoon decaf latte. Here’s what you need to make them at home:

homemade-eggnog-latte-ingredients

1. tassimo single serve coffee maker
2. gevalia decaf espresso disc
3. darigold eggnog (or your favorite brand)
4. whole milk
5. beville milk frother (best kitchen gadget ever!)
6. microplane grater
7. whole nutmeg
8. favorite monogram mug

how-to-make-an-eggnog-latte

Really, it’s quite easy. Just brew a cup of espresso, and add half eggnog, half milk to the frother and push the start button.

brew-espresso-froth-milk

When the coffee is brewed and milk hot, pour the eggnog over the espresso, then grate a little bit (or a lot) of nutmeg on top.

pour-and-nutmet Mmmmm.

eggnog-latte

I heard that some starbucks around the country are not serving eggnog lattes this holiday season (what?!!). But don’t worry … now you can make you own at home. Enjoy!

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my new (easy!) approach to meal planning

5-meals

You know what time is not typically the high-point of my day?

4 o’clock.

The kids are home from school, my work day is over (at least until bedtime), and the next big thing on my task list is dinner. Ugh.

It’s not the actual cooking that is problematic and not the eating or even the clean up. It’s the part where I have to figure out what to make that gets me every time.

Except when I’ve taken the time to meal plan. Continue Reading →

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perfect for your easter brunch: cranberry orange scones

In case you are looking for a last minute addition to your Easter brunch this weekend (or any time, for that matter), these scones are perfect.

cranberry-orange-scones

Some scones are dry and break into tiny crumbs when you bite into them and these are not like that at all. They are soft and flaky with a hint of orange and sweet cranberries. The recipe is from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook. Her cookbooks are amazing. Every recipe I’ve made of hers is an instant favorite (like her apple crisp and chicken noodle soup and coconut cupcakes). And the pictures are really pretty.

Okay, back to the scones. They are fairly easy to make. Just dump all the dry ingredients in the mixer, add the zest of one orange and cut in cold butter (just try not to think about how much butter you’re using).

ingredients-for-scones

Then you add heavy cream and eggs until just combined to form a sticky dough. Before adding cranberries (craisins, actually) she has you toss them in a little bit of flour. Genius idea, this flour-covered-craisin-thing, as they mix in to the dough rather than sinking to the bottom.

Gently roll out the dough on a floured board and cut with a pastry cutter. Or a cup if you don’t have one. #makeitwork

use-cup-to-cut

Bake for 20 minutes, drizzle on a light glaze and you have the most delicious homemade scones ever.

cranberry-orange-scones-brunch

I made these for my college girlfriends when they came into town last month and again yesterday afternoon just because. I may even make them again on Sunday. Enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Scones

recipe from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home

i n g r e d i e n t s

4 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 cup dried cranberries
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice

d i r e c t i o n s

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy! Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour, add to the dough, and mix on low speed until blended.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Keep moving the dough on the floured board so it doesn’t stick. Flour a 3-inch round plain or fluted cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles.

Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Allow the scones to cool for 15 minutes and then whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice, and drizzle over the scones.

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let’s make sea salt caramels

sea-salt-caramel-recipe

Growing up, we could always count on my grandpa to make two things for our family christmas: rich, chocolaty fudge and creamy, chewy caramels. Both were delicious and have become seasonal favorites in my family now. Yesterday I made both of these treats. Edie has an easy and oh so yummy fudge recipe {right here} and these sea salt caramels are my go-to recipe. I’ve shared it once before, but thought I’d show you step by step in photos because sometimes that takes the fear out of cooking.

sea-salt-caramels-up-close

These little caramels are irresistible, they make great gifts and can be refrigerated for up to three weeks {although there’s no way they would last that long in my household}.

Here’s what you need:

sea-salt-caramel-ingredients

1 3/4 cup sugar
1 can evaporated milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt
Oil or cooking spray

sea-salt-caramel-tools

medium heavy bottomed pan
wooden spoon {I like this flat wooden spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan}
candy thermometer

STEP ONE // prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish by lining it in parchment paper and lightly oiling

sea-salt-caramel-prepare-baking-dish

STEP TWO // In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring sugar, evaporated milk, and heavy cream to a boil over medium heat.

sea-salt-caramel-step-one

sea-salt-caramel-bring-to-boil

STEP THREE // Add corn syrup and continue cooking until mixture reaches 230°

sea-salt-caramel-add-corn-syrup

Stir continually and watch that thermometer {or two}. It takes several minutes and it’s important to get it to the exact temperature.

sea-salt-caramel-boil-to-230

STEP FOUR // Add butter and vanilla; continue cooking, stirring constantly, until caramel reaches 240°

sea-salt-caramel-add-butter-and-vanilla

The caramel starts to look more caramelly and thickens and it feels like it takes forever to get to the right temp. Just keep stirring and pull it off the heat right away when it hits 240°

sea-salt-caramel-boil-to-240

STEP FIVE // Remove from heat, stir in salt

sea-salt-caramel-add-salt

STEP SIX // Carefully pour into a lightly oiled 9″ x 13″ baking dish and sprinkle with additional sea salt

sea-salt-caramel-pour-in-prepared-dish

Let cool for an hour or so.

STEP SIX //  Remove from baking dish and cut the caramel into 1 inch pieces

cut-sea-salt-caramel

STEP SEVEN // To serve candy-store style, wrap individual pieces in parchment paper

sea-salt-caramel-on-parchment-paper

and secure the ends with a simple twist.

wrapped-up-sea-salt-caramel

Enjoy!

Servings: Makes about 125 one-inch pieces

Sea Salt Caramels
created by the ladies of Liddabit Sweets courtesy of O magazine.

1 3/4 cup sugar
1 can evaporated milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt
Oil or cooking spray

Directions

Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring sugar, evaporated milk, and heavy cream to a boil over medium heat. Add corn syrup and continue cooking until mixture reaches 230°.
Add butter and vanilla; continue cooking, stirring constantly, until caramel reaches 240°. Remove from heat, stir in salt, and carefully pour into a lightly oiled 9″ x 13″ baking dish (parchment paper in the bottom of the pan is helpful).
Let cool at least 1 hour. Invert onto a cutting board covered with waxed or parchment paper and cut into 1-inch pieces with a sharp, lightly oiled knife. Caramels can be wrapped in waxed or parchment paper or cellophane. (To serve candy-store style, wrap individual pieces in parchment paper and secure the ends with a simple twist.) Store airtight at cool room temperature (around 65°) or in the refrigerator; will keep up to 3 weeks.

 

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the perfect treat for your weekend

Years ago {like probably 25}, my mom worked with a woman who made these little pastries and they became instant favorites.  They are small, buttery, easy to make and have remained a favorite go-to breakfast treat. I made them for our back-to-school brunch last month and they disappeared quickly. Always a good sign.

Today, I share the beloved recipe with you. Just in time for your weekend.

granny-horns

GRANNY HORNS

Crescents:
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup butter
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

Cream together cottage cheese and butter. Add flour and salt. Collect dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Divide in 3 parts.  Lightly flour and roll each part into circle about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 12 wedges per circle and roll into crescents. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until lightly golden.

Frosting:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp vanilla

Mix together and generously drizzle over warm crescents.

granny-horns-crescent-roll-recipe

Is your mouth watering? So delicious. Not healthy, but they are small.  Definitely a fun treat to make this weekend.

 

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my new approach to meal planning

Meal planning.

It’s one of those dreaded tasks because 1. it takes forever and 2. how are you to know what you’ll feel like eating three weeks from now?

BUT … having a plan for dinner makes life so much easier. Every mom-friend I talk to agrees that when we do have meals planned out ahead of time, our days {and especially dinnertime} goes a million times smoother.

I am not by nature a great planner. I like flexibility and am very in the moment. Yet I have a household that requires daily nourishment and that job falls on my shoulders. So I figure I better get my act together and find a system that works because I have quite a few years ahead of me of feeding my family {three of whom are growing boys and from what I hear, they are going to eat us out of house and home}.

meal-planning-calendar

I’ve developed a plan. A meal planning plan. One that I think might work {it has for the past two weeks, at least}. Here’s how I’m doing it:

1. Collect dinner ideas on my pinterest dinner board. We have a few favorites from cookbooks that are included as well.

2. Schedule dinners for monday – thursday on the jdc | monthly dinner menu calendar {more info below}. Mondays are our busiest days, so each of those meals are either soups or slowcooker meals to make things easier. We like to eat out or get together with friends on weekends, so no meals are set in stone for those days and sunday nights are usually spent eating masterfully made suppers at Ryan’s parents’ house.

3. Shop for one week’s meals each monday, using the pinned recipes to compile a shopping list.

4. On the meal day, I’ll pull up the recipe on the ipad and cook away.

5. The ultimate goal would be to repeat the same meals once per month for each season, so we’ll probably do this same schedule into november and december, and then switch things up a bit once the new year comes around.

meal-planning-october-dinnertime-calendar

The fact that my October meals are scheduled is a very proud moment. I find that cooking is not my issue or even the shopping … it’s the pre-planning and deciding what to eat and so now having it done gives so much freedom.

If you’d like to give our meals a try, feel free to download the filled-in calendar below.

october-meal-plan

{click on the calendar to download and print}

A few notes if you do follow this menu plan:

1. find most of the recipes here.

2. we eat a lot of chicken.

3. Most of these dinners are one dish meals, but sometimes I’ll add crusty bread or a salad or sauteed green beans.

4. burrito bowls are our favorite meal – we copy Chipotle’s recipe with cilantro-lime rice, black beans, refried beans, grilled chicken, grilled peppers & onions, pico, lettuce, guacamole and sour cream. Yum. It’s on the menu twice.

5. Ryan found a whole grain rice + quinoa mix at costco and it is delish. That is what we eat on the chicken & rice days.

Hope this is helpful for my fellow struggling-meal-planners

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Want more organization tools to help make your days a bit easier {and prettier}? I’m pleased to introduce the new JDC | monthly october collection.

october-collection-antlers

This is our monthly printable papergoods service where you get an original set of practical and stylish calendars, lists, note cards and more. Here’s what’s included this month:

jdc-october-collage

 

Upon joining, you will be sent a link to access all of the pdf files. Download and print, or save them to your computer for a rainy day.

JDC | monthly members will also receive 50% off all printables in the shop.

the details:

You will receive the link to the monthly collection immediately after signing up. On the 22nd of each month, you will receive an email with the link to download the newest collection of printable files. If you decide JDC | monthly is not for you, you are free to cancel at any time.

Click the button below to receive JDC | monthly via email for $9.99 {try it for 7 days free!}.

get-organized New this month … if you are not ready to commit to a monthly membership, you can purchase just this month’s collection. The price is $12.99 and you’ll have access to the files forever.

just-this-collection

We’d love to see how you use your monthly goods. Tag a photo on any social media using #jdcmonthly so we can take a peek.

AND … please share your thoughts on meal panning. Is it a struggle in your household, too? Do you have a system that works? Any great tips?

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the next big thing in desserts

I was informed yesterday by my father-in-law that the trendy cupcake is so out and the next big thing in the dessert world is … wait for it … the mug cake.

cake in a mug

Maybe it’s not that new … but it’s new to me. You bake a cake in a mug. In the microwave. And it takes about 5 minutes. Why was this not invented sooner?!!

The whole bake-a-cake-in-a-mug thing is new to me, but I’ve been eying these pretty desserts in jars for a while. I suppose it’s the same thing, but just presented differently.

lemon coconut cupcake in a jar

The girls at oh so very pretty {a new favorite blog} share this recipe for lemon coconut cupcakes as well as one for carrot cake {below}. I want to make both immediately.

carrot cake in a jar

Another favorite blogger, Kasey Buick, makes these fancy cheesecakes {with chevre and coconut milk, no less!} in petite jars.

cheesecake in a jar

If you are looking for a cute dessert to make for a party or shower or dinner with friends, perhaps what you need is a mug cake.

Thanks, Bob, for keeping me in the know.

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4 steps to the perfect {make at home} latte

For our anniversary, Ryan gave me the milk frother I had been wanting. Romantic? Maybe not. But I was thrilled. Each afternoon, I long for a sweet coffee treat and our new set up has not only indulged that craving but has also saved us lots of trips and money spent at our local starbucks.

Here’s my latte-making routine:

4-steps supplies-to-make-latte

step-1-&-2 step-3-&-4

enjoy-the-coffee

1. I use the bosch tassimo single serve machine {a hand-me-down from Ryan’s parents!} with decaf espresso pods.  It takes seconds for a freshly brewed cup of espresso.

2. All I need is just a splash of vanilla syrup and a heaping teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder for that subtly sweet afternoon pick-me-up.

3. Pour milk into the frother and set to desired temperature. Press the button and it whirls the milk around heating it up and making it the most delicious creamy/airy milk

4. Add milk to espresso/flavoring. If you’re fancy you can make little swirls and leaf shapes and hearts with your foam. I haven’t perfected this yet.

Enjoy!

SOURCES

Tassimo single-serve coffee brewer
{there are many different single serve coffee makers on the market – or you can just use strongly brewed coffee}

Gevalia decaffeinated espresso pods
{be sure to use the pods specifically made for your machine}

Breville milk frother
{there are many different frothers on the market. I chose this based on reviews and am very happy with it. My one request would be for an even hotter setting. I like my lattes very, very hot}

Vanilla syrup

Cocoa powder
{the only link I could find is for a pack of 10 – you probably won’t want that many – a little goes a long way. I love getting the flavor of chocolate without all the sweetness}

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the perfect in-between meal for holiday guests

Between a fancy brunch spread one day and a traditional Christmas dinner the next, sometimes you just need a light {but tasty} go-to recipe for those in-between meals.

This one is my very favorite.

We make this all year long for both lunch and dinner and it is always a crowd pleaser.

What’s not to love about grilled bread, fresh mozzarella, toasted pine nuts and kalamata olives?!

This recipe is from Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen and served at one of his famous Seattle restaurants, Dahlia Lounge.

Tuscan Bread Salad {serves 6}

for the mustard vinaigrette:
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 t. Dijon mustard
1 t. minced shallots
1/2 t. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 t. minced garlic
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

for the salad:
1 loaf rustic bread, sliced 1 inch thick
extra virgin olive oil
24 oil-cured black olives, pits removed
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced or cubed
4 cups loosely packed flavorful salad greens, such as mache, radicchio, arugula, spinach, romaine, endive, washed and dried, torn into bite size pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Freshly ground black pepper

optional: shredded rotisserie chicken

Make the vinaigrette {I use a mason jar and shake to combine}. It will store in the fridge up to a week.

Liberally oil the slices of bread then grill on the grill or under the broiler until golden. Use a serrated knife to cut the bread into bite size cubes.

In a large serving bowl, put the bread in with the olives, tomatoes, mozzarella, parmesan, pine nuts, chicken, basil and greens.  Pour vinaigrette over the salad and mix well.

Enjoy!

 

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raspberry jam + printable labels {oldie but goodie}

{originally posted 07.11.11 but a good one to revisit}

I’ve been wanting to make homemade jam for a few years, but was intimidated by the intense process of preparing the jars, boiling the liquid, timing everything just right.

But last weekend my Aunt Laura eased my fears and clued me in to the quick and easy way to make berry jam : freezer jam. Since raspberries are perfectly in season, I decided to give it a try. If you have never made jam before, let me encourage you : it is super easy.

freezer jam

Here’s what you’ll need:

freezer jam ingredients

:: 6 cups of fresh raspberries {about 5 6oz baskets}

:: 5 1/4 cups sugar

:: 3/4 cup water

:: 1 box of Sure Jell Fruit Pectin

::8 half pint mason jars

The actual recipe I used is right here, but I’ll walk you though the steps below.

STEP ONE: rinse jars in boiling water and dry thoroughly

rinse jars

STEP TWO: measure 6 cups of ripe raspberries and mash

mash raspberries

raspberries are mushed

STEP THREE: strain seeds

strain the seeds

I didn’t have much patience for the straining process, so I gave up after a few sieve-fulls, but you can remove as many seeds as you wish.

STEP FOUR: add sugar to berries

add sugar

stir in sugar

It is a lot of sugar, but from what I read, the sugar acts as a preservative for the berries so you can’t skimp. If you’d like a sugar free version, Sure Jell sells a no-sugar-needed pectin.

While the sugar is dissolving in the berries :

STEP FIVE: add the fruit pectin to water and bring to a boil

sure jell

Stir constantly and allow to boil for one minute.

boil

STEP SIX: Add pectin to berry mixture and stir for three minutes

add pectin to raspberries

STEP SEVEN: pour jam into prepared jars and seal tightly

pour into jars

Allow the jam to sit out for 24 hours, then it is ready to eat. You can store an opened container in the refrigerator for up to three weeks and in the freezer for one year.

jars of raspberry jam

I had a fun time decorating my jars of jam using scraps of fabric, bakers twine {from here}, flax colored yarn, houndstooth & dotted papers from my printable paper collection, and a faux raspberry from the craft store.

What special gifts these will make {maybe with some fisher scone mix? Yum}.

jam collage

I created two different labels that you are welcome to download and print {join the archive below}.

raspberry jam full label raspberry-jam-round

And just in case you are making strawberry jam, here are labels for that:

strawberry jam full label strawberry jam round

archive-free-access

Just to show you behind the scenes while I’m doing craft projects, here is what my office looked like while I was embellishing my jam jars. What a mess!

what a mess

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we’re making crepes

Saturday morning breakfasts are a tradition in our household and our most favorite of all breakfast treats are crepes {or swedish pancakes}. Thin, buttery and easy to make.

FYI: I just looked up the difference between crepes and swedish pancakes and it turns out there is a difference.  Crepes are thinner and can be sweet or savory; swedish pancakes are only sweet. So apparently, what we’re actually making are:

Start by melting the butter in a large pyrex measuring cup and whisk in the milk, eggs and vanilla.

Next, slowly add the dry ingredients, whisking to combine and smoothing any lumps. You may notice flecks of melted butter – that’s okay.

While mixing the batter, melt butter in saute pan over medium heat {I use two pans to make the pancake making faster}.

Pour a small amount of batter into hot pan

and swirl to thin and spread around the pan.

After a minute or so, gently flip and cook another 30 seconds.

Stack them up and keep heated in a warmed oven. Or just eat them as you cook them.

Top them with maple syrup, jam, fresh fruit, whipped cream, lemon juice & powdered sugar, or a combination of all.

Guess what day we ate these?

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the tastes of maui

You know you are getting old when the food you ate is one of the highlights of your trip.  Oh, but it was.

It was all so delicious … fresh, local, great flavor … and we indulged.

One of my friends commented that it was nice to see everyone eating again after months of getting our bodies Maui-ready! Eat, we did. A lot of it.

Here are some highlights of our meals, with a few recipes at the end.

Hula Grill, Kaanapali

We dined in the barefoot bar – a sandy floor with tables under grass hut roofs. Great atmosphere with live music and very friendly staff. The dinner was amazing, but so was the dessert.

{coconut creme brulee, tropical sorbet, macadamia nut brownie ice cream sandwich}

Definitely a must-try if you are on Maui.

Mama’s Fish House, Maui North Shore

We had heard many things about Mama’s Fish House – from “best meal of my life” to “not worth the hype” – but my best friend and her husband were up to it, so we spent one evening indulging in the Polynesian experience.

{my grilled fish with rice and bok choy}

Although it was expensive, I will say this was the best collective meal I have ever enjoyed.  The appetizers were amazing {my first time trying tuna sashimi}, our entrees were perfect and the best part was dessert. We tried a variety and each one was the best thing I had ever tasted.

This is a great restaurant for an indulgent date night.

Haliimaile General Store, upcountry

If you find yourself in Maui, be sure to take a drive through the upcountry {Paia, especially}. If/when we return, we’d love to find a bed & breakfast and stay here.  Sugarcane plantations, local farms and ranches surround the area with amazing views of the ocean – it is so tropical and beautiful. My aunt’s favorite restaurant on the island is the Haliimaile General Store located in this upcountry area so we just had to try it. The food was excellent and my coconut & lime blended drink was the best. They used toasted coconut to rim the glass – I’m stealing that idea someday.

Five Palms Restaurant, Kihei

{crab cake eggs benedict}

On our last full day, Ryan and I took a long walk along the beach then stopped for a late breakfast at the Five Palms Restaurant.  I have a thing for crab cakes and eggs benedict and when I saw the two combined on the menu, I knew I was in heaven. So over-the-top but amazingly delicious. Best breakfast of my life.

Because we were in the island spirit, on the night we hosted our friends for a bbq, we decided to take ques from the food we had already tried.

Ryan grilled flank steak and pineapple {so delicious grilled}, a friend made a traditional pico but added finely chopped pineapple and I put together my new favorite salad.

Tropical Salad

mixed spring greens
red onion, finely diced
avocado, chopped
navel orange, segmented
sliced almonds
toasted coconut

Just throw it all together in a big salad bowl and serve. You don’t even need dressing, but a light citrus vinaigrette would be delicious on it.  You could grill chicken and add that on top for a full meal.

 

At breakfast one morning there was coconut syrup. I love anything coconut, so I poured a little on my fresh fruit and sprinkled on toasted coconut. What a treat! This would also be great on pancakes.

Coconut Syrup {from allrecipes.com}

1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Whisk together the coconut milk and cornstarch in a saucepan until the cornstarch is dissolved. Pour in the corn syrup, sugar, and coconut; bring to a boil, stirring continually. As soon as the mixture comes to a rolling boil, remove from heat. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Mine, too.
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on a cold winter’s day

The perfect antidote to a chilly, trying-to-snow, wintery day …

homemade chicken noodle soup.

It’s a favorite around here and so simple to make.

I use Ina Garten’s recipe {found here} but add in extra noodles and use a store-bought rotisserie chicken instead of roasting my own.

And for dessert …

My favorite tea and not-too-sweet ginger cookies made by my mom {using another Ina recipe found here}.

Delish.  The perfect thing to keep you cozy on a cold winter’s day.

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I’m having my cake

Today is my birthday. And according to Wikipedia, it is the birthday of 698,999 other Americans too. October 5th {the most common birthdate} happens to fall 40 weeks after New Years Eve, so I guess it makes sense that all that lovin’ on New Years turns into babes 10 months later. 

I don’t really like to make a big deal about my own birthday, but I do like carrot cake and so I decided to make myself one.  I’m going to try not to eat the whole thing {it really is that good}.

The recipe is below {from Ina Garten – my fave}, and the ingredients made for a cute photo.

carrot-cake-ingredients

frosting-ingredients

But the very best part is the finished product.

carrot cake whole

carrot cake slice

carrot cake

My auntie made this recipe last week for my cousin’s bridal shower and it is truly the most delicious carrot cake I have ever had.  My version turned out pretty well too.  If you are a carrot cake lover, add this one to you must-try-list.

Carrot and Pineapple Cake {Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved}

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 pound carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple
For the frosting:
  • 3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

For the cake:

Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light yellow. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the raisins and walnuts with 1 tablespoon flour. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Add to the batter and mix well.

Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack.

For the frosting:

Mix the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.

Place 1 layer, flat-side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

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school lunches

The first day of school is in just a few days, which means earlier mornings, the school bus and packing lunches.

I don’t know what it is, but by week two, I run out of creative ideas for the lunchbox. #1 ate pb&j, baby carrots, apple slices and a fruit leather pretty much every single day last year and I refuse to do that to him again.

I did a little searching for some good alternatives to the default lunch and I hit the jackpot.

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Laptop Lunches is a company that sells bento boxes {I should probably order a few for my kids}, but the best part is the menu tab with 365 lunch ideas. Here are just a few:imageimageimageimageimageimage

Don’t those look yummy? And pretty easy to make too. You can see all of the ideas here. I should just print these pictures and tape them to my pantry door.

One thing I do like about packing lunches is being able to slip in a note to my little darlings.

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I created an assortment of lunch box note cards a few years ago which work great for a quick lunch box note.

cupcake lunch box note card

lunch box note card

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In honor of back to school, I am offering these note cards as a free download.

Log in (or join for free!) our library of our best printables, fonts, templates and more to download and print the lunch box note card set.

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Enjoy!

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