Thursday, December 13, 2012

Whisked Away Christmas Gift Giving Guide 2012

I love giving people gifts.  I love peering into their souls and trying to come up with a way to make them happy.  Does that sound creepy?  Some people have a hard time coming up with what gifts to give people, but for me I have always loved the challenge!

The first rule of thumb I follow is think out side of the box - literally.  Maybe your gift can't be wrapped....sometimes, those things make the best gifts!
The second thing I do is I fall back on my trusty "The 5 love languages" rule.  I think I have talked about this book before, but in case I haven't here is the long and short version of it.  Harry Chapman came up with a philosophy called "The 5 love languages".  He says that everyone gives and receives love in 5 different ways.  Most people give in 2 ways, and receive in 2 ways.  Once you figure out what love language makes someone feel loved and what language they give love in - you really can understand them so much better!  So if someone doesn't feel loved by receiving gifts, but instead feels loved by words of affirmation - sitting down and writing them a letter would be better than buying them a gift.  This book changed my life...really it did.  I don't say that often, so believe me, it is true.  Once I read the book I sat down and looked at everyone in my life and wrote down how I thought they felt the most loved.  I highly recommend doing this when you are thinking abut what to give someone.  You should go borrow or buy the book, but until then here are the 5 love languages.

1.  Words of Affirmation - "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." - The Help
2.  Acts of Service - Doing the dishes, watching someones kids for them...etc.
3.  Gifts - Usually material things - don't think this need explaining.
4.  Physical Touch - Hugs, kisses, know the mushy stuff : )
5.  Quality Time - Talking on the phone with someone, spending an afternoon just listening to a friend, taking time out of your busy life to devout your attention 100% to someone.

Also - the other thing I do is think about the person's likes and dislikes.  Do they like gift cards?  Do they like only local gifts?  Are they a fan of a certain show or sports team?  Really think about what makes them happy!  Or I also like to stop and observe someone going about their day to day - maybe you notice that their car is wicked dirty - buy them a car washing gift certificates, or better yet - take the car to get cleaned.  Or maybe you see that they could really use a night away from home - offer to babysit or hire a babysitter for them.

My Papa used to love giving gifts to his family.  When he was in his 60's and 70's he would go out shopping for gifts for all of his 24 grand kids.  He had all of our names on a list and had so much fun picking out gifts for them all.  On more than one occasion we would be his shopping buddies and helped pick things out for our cousins - what fun we had!  As we and he got older he gave money.  Then the last Christmas gift he gave me was a hand written card just telling me how much he loved me.  Little did he know that would be my most treasured gift from him. : )  Just remember that the best gift is one that shows that you put thought and effort into it. : )

Also, here are some of the things on my Christmas giving list this year:

1.  Baking/Cooking Classes
-  check out your local community college, most of them offer some sort of cooking classes.  Or if you are near a Viking cooking school - they offer fun classes too!

2.  Netflix or blockbuster subscription

3.  Cookbook!  Joy the Baker or Smitten Kitchen

4.  Homemade Truffles are so amazing...

5.  Movie Night Basket - Favorite Movie, popcorn, PJ's

6.  Homemade Biscotti is delicious, and has a fairly long shelf life - so people can enjoy it throughout the Christmas season

7.  Hot Cocoa Mix with Marshmallows

8.  Breakfast Basket with Homemade pancake mix, maple syrup, farm fresh eggs, local bacon or sausage, coffee

9. Etsy!!!! Where you can buy things like this awesome bracelet

10.  Subscription to a magazine or publication...Clubhouse Jr, Martha Stewart, Verily, Radiant, Catholic Digest, Food Network Magazine etc...

As I finish this post I realize that my Christmas shopping is far from being done.  I have gifts for only 4 out of the 14 people on my list.  Oddly enough this doesn't stress me out - instead I am grateful that I have 14 people in my life to give presents to.  In the meantime...I should probably start gifting soon : )

Promise to post a recipe soon!  I have been swamped at work, sick with the evil cold, and just down right busy!  I have yet to bake a single Christmas cookie this year!!!  Holy Moley what have I become? : )

Happy Advent to you all!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sweet Potato Casserole with Homemade Marshmallows

Is it possible to still be full from Thanksgiving weeks later?  With the copious amounts of food we consume on Thanksgiving I dare say a man could go a whole year without eating another thing besides that Thanksgiving feast and still live on.  How many turkeys did you have at your meal?  Don't count the human ones : )  We had 3 turkeys!  So many turkeys!  And at the end of the meal we barely had leftovers to spare!  How the heck did that happen?  I don't want to know!

The turkey fryer on fire!

I looked up the definition of Turkey to see what it said...just out of curiosity, and this is what it said:

1.  plural also turkey : a large North American gallinaceous bird (Meleagris gallopavo) that is domesticated in most parts of the world

2.  Failure, Flop; especially: a theatrical production that has failed

3.  Three successive strikes in bowling

4.  A  stupid, foolish, or inept person

I am going to start using the word "Turkey" at least once a day...guess I will either be bowling a lot, or hanging out with some real goofy people. : )

Our pretty table!

I was fortunate enough to spend many Thanksgivings with random families while I was in boarding school and then college away from home.  I always find it funny that people insist upon having certain dishes at their Thanksgiving meals...including myself in this as well.  They hold these foods near and dear to their hearts.  So...when you have many people from different families come together for Thanksgiving sometimes you end up with competing dishes...which is why we had 3 turkeys!  Each person was so insistent that their way to cook the turkey was the "only" way to do it!  So we had a fried one, a grilled one, and a smoked one.  Fried turkey won!  Sorry other contenders!

One dish that we insist upon having at our Thanksgiving meal is sweet potato casserole.  I am sure this is found on most tables for Thanksgiving, where it rightfully belongs.  I decided to play around with my traditional recipe a little bit.  I reduced the sugar, increased the streusal, and made homemade marshmallows to top it off.  I have to admit, I loved it.  The day after Thanksgiving it was the only thing I wanted to eat...well that, and this apple pie of course. : )  This will now be making an appearance at our Christmas feast as well!!

Marshmallows chilling out before being cut into chunks!

Sweet Potato Casserole

6 cups roasted sweet potatoes, mashed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla


2 cups chopped pecans
2 sticks melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
6 TBS Flour

Homemade Marshmallows I made, and then ones made without refined sugar 

I roast/bake my sweet potatoes because it helps them maintain their natural sugars.  You can cook them anyway you like, but I prefer roasting them.  I simply wash them, wrap them individually in tin foil.  Stick them in a 375 degree oven and bake until tender - this all depends upon how thick the potatoes are so just check them every 10-15 minutes.  Once baked - allow to cool for a few minutes, scoop out the flesh and mash.

Mix the cooked sweet potatoes, sugar, cream, eggs, and vanilla together until smooth.  Place in a 13x9 baking pan and spread smooth. 

In separate bowl mix together the topping ingredients until combined: pecans, melted butter, brown sugar, and flour.  Sprinkle over sweet potatoes.  Bake in 350 degree oven about 20-25 minutes.  Top with homemade marshmallows and bake until marshmallows are melty and toasted - about 5 minutes.

Look Ma - I made marshmallows!

Lovely Thanksgiving plate : )

Make this casserole, listen to this song, and don't forget to prepare your heart for Jesus this Advent!  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Top 5 ways to Spruce up your Thanksgiving

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 
Thessalonians 5:18

I know that everyone is talking about this crazy Black Friday stuff starting on Thanksgiving day this year...and I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents.  It is messed up.  I know Thanksgiving is not as awesome as Christmas, but really people...this is getting ridiculous.  Each year I feel like we keep pushing Thanksgiving farther and farther down the totem poll, and soon it may not even exist!  Maybe Thanksgiving is considered lame because most people think it is just about a turkey, just like they think Christmas is about Santa and presents...and let's face it...a whole day dedicated to a large bird or fat old man...yeah - that is lame.  Nobody wants to invest time and energy into something as non substantial as that.

Is it really asking too much of us to take some time and be thankful, grateful, and count your blessings?  In scripture there are so many quotes about giving thanks and praise to God for the things you do have, that it is obvious how much God wants us to have a spirit of Thanksgiving in our lives.  It is so easy to get overwhelmed by the chaos of the weeks leading up to Christmas, and we really take for granted how awesome this chill time of Thanksgiving is and what a gift it is to us all.  Take the time to sit with your loved ones, be grateful for what you do have, thank God for all the blessings in your life, take a deep breath and just appreciate all around you with a full heart of Thanksgiving.

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." 
Colossians 3:15-17

Top 5 ways to Spruce up your Thanksgiving: 

1.  Don't be afraid to play around with your tried and true pie recipes.
One of my favorite pies is my apple cranberry pie - which came about when I was making apple pie and cranberry sauce at the same time and decided to throw some cranberries into my pie.  Boom - deliciousness!!!  Whatever your traditional apple pie is, throw in 1 cup of fresh cranberries (rinse and cut them in 1/2 first).  Adds a nice tang to your pie!

Also - instead of your traditional pumpkin pie - try shaking things up and making a gingersnap crust instead...I plan on making this one from Alton Brown this year!

2.  Get fancy with the crust designs.
Martha Stewart has a nice little slide show to give you some ideas

Also - get creative with this!  Look around your house and find something fun to stamp your crust with.  If you have crazy whisks lying around like a vinaigrette, twirl, ball, or dough whisk use those!  Have fun with it!

3.  Make homemade marshmallows for your sweet potato casserole recipe!  
Yeah, you heard me right!  I am trying this out myself - will let you know how it goes!  Going to use this smitten kitchen recipe - looks so yummy!

4.  Make your own Cranberry sauce - without refined sugar!
Not that the canned jellied stuff is gross - because honestly I love it...but making homemade cranberry sauce is just so divine!  This version doesn't even call for white sugar!!!!  Thanks to Pioneer Woman for this winner!

5.  Make a Leaf garland and have all your guests write something they are thankful for on each leaf.  Currently I am at work and my niece and I are working on this using random office supplies : )  OR you can make this really sweet "Give thanks" Banner....oh yeah, wicked awesome!

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!
Eat your heart out!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

People always say you can tell a lot about a person by their handshake.  Often I will shake someones hand and they will tell me I have a weak handshake, and that I need to be more firm in my grip.  Doesn't a firm handshake seem manly to you, and doesn't hand shaking in general seem to be such a masculine thing? Call me archaic, but whenever I meet someone new I have to resist the impulse to curtsy.  A curtsy just seems so much more lady like.  Of course I don't do this for 2 reasons: 1)  I am usually not wearing a skirt so I would would just be gripping the air which would be strange 2)  A curtsy now in days would just seem so out of place.  I am just waiting for the day when I slip up and curtsy to someone...of course I am sure it will be someone the Pope : )

Now Thanksgiving is upon us and my littlest brother is about to come home from boarding school for a week, and he loves all things cinnamon.   He called ahead to make sure this coffee cake was on the menu for breakfast everyday he was home, and if I could also send some back with him to school.  Yes, he loves it that much. : )  I posted a muffin version of this recipe a while back, but really it tastes so much better as a cake.  Also, the glaze really elevates the overall flavor of the cake.  If you have a brunch to go to, or a shower of some sort - this moist cake is always a crowd pleaser!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
adapted from Ina Garten

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/4 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In mixing bowl cream butter and sugar with blender until light and fluffy -4-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time until well blended. Scrape down bowl.  Then blend in the vanilla and sour cream. Scrape down bowl and mix again.  Add dry ingredients to wet ones and mix just until combined.  Be sure not to over mix...this will toughen up your batter!!!!

Pour 1/2 the batter into a greased 9x13 pan or a large bunt pan. Sprinkle 1/2 streusel recipe over batter, cover with rest of batter and then the rest of the streusel. Bake 45-50 minutes. Until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely and drizzle with glaze.


1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional...I usually don't add the nuts because people here don't like them : )

Mix all ingredients together until combined and crumbly.  I mix mine in a mixer, but you can also use your fingers if you want.

  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
Whisk together until smooth.  If mixture is too thick add a bit of milk to thin it out - just a little bit.

Make this cake, learn the art of proper curtsying from Shirley Temple, and Eat your heart out!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Doors, fear, and Peanut Butter Fudge Bars! Oh My!

"He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you." Psalm 91:4-8

You know when you are stuck at a crossroads in your life and people say don't worry - God will open doors for you?  Well what if there are no doors?  Just windows.  Or maybe there are no doors - and then all of a sudden there are 3 doors.  Or maybe there are 2 doors but the one you want to walk through is locked and you don't have a key?  Darn!  How do you know which door is the best door for your life?  Also, once you walk through one door you can never go back and choose the other door.  Or maybe the doors are invisible and you just keep running into them, but can't find the door handle?  Stupid doors.  Do you ever find yourselves paralyzed with fear of walking through either door so you just stand still - stuck in indecision?

Have you ever seen the movie "Strictly Ballroom"?  It is this quirky Australian movie about Ballroom dancing by Baz Luhrmann.  It really is a funny movie and I recommend seeing it!  Anywho -  the main character is this nerdy lady who dreams of being a ballroom dancer.  By a twist of fate she ends up being partnered with a professional dancer and becomes a really good dancer!  One of the lines from the movie is "A life lived in fear... is a life half lived."  Every time I am afraid of facing something I think about this girl who was a quiet, shy, nerdy chick who decided to suck it up and face her fears.  In the end she didn't regret it.  Even if she had failed miserably at least she could say she gave it her all.  Sometimes I forget this, and hesitate with making decisions.  Sometimes my fear of being laughed at, judged, or rejected holds me back and instead I do nothing.  How wonderful it would be if we could all accept ourselves where we are on our journeys and just dance without fear!

If I have learned anything over the many years I have walked upon this earth it is this.  It is always better to be moving in some direction rather than to not be moving at all.  Nothing will change if you stand still and don't do anything about it!  Now, this is not to discredit the importance of standing still every once in a while, taking a step back, and re analyzing the doors you are walking through.  This too is important - just don't get stuck standing in the same spot too long!  When this happens I feel like maybe you just need to turn around and consider a new door.

Personally I make the boldest moves and decisions when I know that there are people standing behind me and supporting me in these drastic moves.  Having someone who will help point you in the right direction and is in your corner is always encouraging!  Maybe you have those people in your life, and maybe you don't - but be reassured that God is always in your corner and he is always routing for your happiness and success!

Here is my second attempt at a video...please note - making cooking videos is so much more complicated to do than you think!  It is wicked long - so feel free to fast forward. : )  As always, I love hearing feedback - positive and negative!   Thanks Guys!

Peanut Butter Fudge Bar Recipe
from the recipe box in my head

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups Peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 cups chocolate chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 TBSP butter
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 13x9 baking pan with parchment paper.
In large bowl cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugars and cream until smooth about 2 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl.  Add the peanut butter, and mix to combine.  Scrape down bowl.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Scrap bowl.  Add the flour and baking soda.  Mix until just combined.

Pour 1/2 of the batter into lined pan and spread smooth.  Place in oven and bake 10 minutes until golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Meanwhile make the fudge filling.  Place chocolate chips, condensed milk, butter, and vanilla in large pan and mix over medium heat until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.  Be sure to keep a close watch as the mixture is thick and will burn easily.  Pour filling over partially baked dough.  Spread smooth and top with chunks of remaining batter.  Place in oven and bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  Cool completely before cutting into bars.

*These bars freeze well, and also ship well.  They also taste really good. : )

"This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 

Be bold, don't live a half life, listen to this song, watch this video and make these scrumptious Peanut Butter Fudge Bars.

Eat your heart out,


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My favorite Cheeses!!!!

I figured it was a good time to talk about cheese as today marks the one year anniversary of my Papa leaving this earth.  During the last year of his life my Mom got him addicted to sharp cheeses as an after dinner snack.  So whenever we would visit him he would say, "Dagny doll, can you be an angel and slice me some thick chunks of that good cheese and bring them to me with some of those really crunchy crackers your Momma buys? And be sure they are nice big slices of cheese, not those thin ones."  I can't believe it has been a year already!  We all miss him more than words can say, but I know he is sitting in his lounge chair up in heaven asking a real angel to bring him some cheese!

Now, I don't eat cheese that much because it makes me feel sick - but every once in a while if I have a bad day I whip out a block of cheese and a chick flick and go to town!  Oh how I adore a good cheese!  You can be sure a party will be good when the cheese is divine.  If you are invited to our home for a dinner or a party you can pretty much count on us always have a cheese plate present...lucky you. : )

In my humble opinion a good cheese plate consists of the following things: something sweet, salty, sharp, crunchy, soft, and fruity.  Some cheese, some nuts, some jam (I recommend anything from my Friend's Jam Shop - Jam by Mags) some crackers or bread, and some fruit.  You won't find many smelly, super soft, or pungent cheeses in our fridge.  We like our cheeses clean, simple, and classic.

Now I know cheese cases at the grocery store can be overwhelming and intimidating, but really just dive in and sample everything!  Figure out what you like and start building a cheese repertoire.  Really, nothing makes you sound more sophisticated then if you know a lot about fancy cheeses.  Most grocery stores will let you sample as many of the cheeses as you want - so don't be afraid to ask!

7 Things you might not know about Cheese:

1)  There was a study recently done on whether or not eating cheese before you went to sleep caused nightmares.  Contrary to popular belief cheese does not cause nightmares, but instead helps promote restful sleep.

2)  The three countries that consume the most cheese are...wait for it...Greece, France, and Iceland.

3)  Lactose intolerance is most prominent in Asian cultures, since cheese is not present in most traditional Asian diets. 

4)  Did you know there is such a thing as "Moose cheese"?  Not too sure how I feel about that.

5)  Good cheese tastes the best when consumed at room temperature

 6)  Some ancient Roman houses had a special kitchen, called a careale, just for making insanely awesome is that?  My dream home will have a careale...and we will also eat cereal in it so it has two functions.

7)  Cheese dates way back to ancient Egypt.  Turns out when King Tut was walking like an Egyptian it was a signal to bring more cheese

Now that you know a little bit more about cheese, I will let you in on my secret list of favorite cheeses

1. Midnight Moon - this nutty cheese is a rich, creamy, semi-hard goat's milk cheese that is a rare treat to indulge in.  Ranging from $25-$35 / pound it makes for a special occasion treat. (FYI - most of my cheese knowledge comes from my older sister and her husband who have impeccable taste when it comes to good food.)

2.  Piave Stravecchio - this cheese is similar to Parmesan in texture but with a stronger sharpness to it.  This is a semi-affordable cheese, and tastes great on any cheese platter.

3.  Sharp Cheddar - plain cheddar doesn't stand a chance standing next to a sharp cheddar.  So good, you just have to keep eating it!  My favorite kind of cheddar is Cabot's Vermont Sharp Cheddar.  Make a grilled cheese with this baby and some nice crusty bread alongside a hot soup and a glimpse of heaven you will see.

4.  Brie- My Dad is old school and always comes back from the grocery store with brie.  I personally enjoy a good brie, but only when paired with a nice jam or fruit.  My absolute favorite way to eat brie is baked and topped with cranberry sauce...check out this recipe for a super easy appetizer.

5.  Gouda - This is a semi-hard cheese with a light flavor.  A good cheese to snack on in between eating the stronger flavored ones.  This cheese is also featured in one of my family's favorite movies, She's the Man, as a pick up line..."Do you like cheese?" "Why yes I do, my favorites gouda."

Also - If you do prefer the stronger flavored cheeses and your taste buds are a little overwhelmed - be sure to snack on some frozen grapes in between cheeses to cleanse your pallet.

Eat some cheese, pray for the soul of my Papa, and hug or call your grandparents if they are still around!

Eat your heart out!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The thing I hate about contests is that I want everyone to win. : (  
I want to send all my wonderful readers cookies!  Truly - I do!  
I am going to have to go with 2 winners on this one.

1.  Angela Miceli- I like the challenge of coming up with a gluten free pie crust recipe - just in time for the Holidays!


2.  Carl - yes, a facebook page and youtube channel are a good idea!  

So - congrats to you both!  Be sure to email me your addresses or where you want the cookies sent!

Thanks for all of the great ideas!  I wrote them down and am going to try and implement many of them!

Have a great Monday!

eat your heart out,

Dagny : )

p.s. stayed tuned for a new cooking video to be released some time this week!

So I have some news.  I got braces...and yes - this means I have reentered nerd be honest, I am not quite sure I ever left it.  This means I can't eat a lot of the things I usually eat.  Recently I have been craving these Chocolate Chewy cookies, and since I can't eat them myself I figured I would give them to you to enjoy for me!  How does that sound to you?

I just realized this blog is almost 4 years old! Holy purple cows!!!  Can you believe I have posted almost 300 posts?  I am in shock!  Sounds like a good time to give away some cookies!

I want your feedback.  Your HONEST to God feedback!  What would you like me to post a recipe for on my blog?  What do you think I could work on improving on my blog?  Pictures are a given - I took the first steps to improving that - and bought a DSLR camera - now all I have to do is get around to learning how to use the darn thing. : )  One day soon!!!  Do you have any formatting suggestions?  How could I increase the number of readers?  I value your opinion!!!

photo courtesy of Kirsten O'Leary

Now I don't expect you to do all this work for free.  This is America - nothing is free...oh wait...never mind don't get me started on that can of worms!  I am fully prepared to bribe you with these cookies.  I know how the system works : )  So you all have 3 days to submit your advice or suggestions to me.  The advice or comment I like best will win a 10 count Chocolate Chewy Cookie gift box.  You can choose to have it sent to yourself or to a friend.

So here are the rules!

1) Comment on this post with some advice or feedback for me on how to improve my blog, or a dish you would like to see a recipe for.

2) This Friday I will choose a winner and send them a cookie gift box!

3)  Check back to see if you won so you can send me your address!

May the odds be ever in your favor!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Camping in the Great outdoors and Pumpkin Waffles

Stop the presses folks...I went camping!  I hadn't been camping in over 12 years!  The last time I went camping was in the middle of the summer in Texas - it was so miserable, hot, and terrible I swore I would never do it again.  Not too sure how or why I agreed to go on this trip - but it was fun!

Now, don't get me wrong - I am not a sissy diva girl.  I hate the color pink, I never wear heels, I laughed when Rose let go of Jack's hand in the Titanic, and when I break a nail I cry out in pain over the pain of it not because I am sad my nail is broken.  I also love nature...but in a controlled way.  If there is a chance that I will encounter a creepy crawly or a snake I will freak out and run away.  Sleeping on the ground in a tent...hum, sounded uncomfortable...but it wasn't!

Another thing I was worried about was my terrible foodie snob side becoming very obvious to the people I went camping with.  I don't eat pre-packaged foods.  I have to have vegetables at least once a day or I die.  I cry if there is no fruit, and I don't drink milk.  After writing this I take it back, maybe I am a Diva - just not in your typical way. : )  In the end it all worked out - I ate lots of grapefruit oranges, vegetables, and some delicious breakfasts with burnt bacon on the side.  Yum.

The trip was awesome.  We canoed through some pretty swamps- and almost died due to a crazy member of our canoe - no names needed - you know who you are!  We ate lots of camp food - including something new to me called "Hobo pack" - a bunch of meat and vegetables cut up wrapped in foil and cooked over hot coals.  Very delicious after a day out in the sun.  Of course we had smores - how could we not?  We played Mafia around the campfire for a few hours - such a different game when you can't see people's faces blushing.  Overall we had a great time and became one with nature!  Looking forward to camping again sometime this Fall!

Now this recipe has nothing to do with camping - instead it has everything to do with Fall.  You will never guess what special ingredient it calls for...PUMPKIN!  No way - bet you didn't see that one coming : )  Just kidding - I do believe the last few posts all had to do with pumpkin recipes.  What can I say - I love pumpkin!

In other news - this weekend I am throwing a mystery dinner party called "Once Upon a murder" - it is a fairy tale themed party.  I have so much fun planning parties - and can't wait to dress up like Rap-unzel.  Promise to do a post about the party soon!  Stay tuned!  Do you have any fun Halloween plans?

Oh...and a recipe would be helpful too now that I think about it. : )  These are some wicked easy pumpkin waffles to whip up in a flash!  Of course as always I recommend them being served with hot REAL maple syrup and some whipped mascarpone cheese, ricotta, or heavy cream.  I usually make a bunch of extra waffles on the weekend and then keep them in the fridge and toast them throughout the week for breakfast.  Makes a lame Monday so much more bearable! : )  

Deliciously Spiced Pumpkin Waffles
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 2/3 cups milk (almond, coconut, rice, or buttermilk also works here)
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in large bowl. In a second bowl, add eggs, sugar, pumpkin, milk, and butter; beat well. Gently fold in the flour mixture. Spoon in about 3/4 cup of batter into the waffle iron. Cook each waffle for 4-5 minutes. This recipe makes approximately 5 waffles on my waffle iron.

Make these waffles, listen to this song, go camping with your friends, and eat your heart out!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins and the Changing Seasons

About a year ago I started working at my Dad's office.  I spent the year leading up to that unemployed, dealing with some health issues, trying to decide if I wanted to open my dream bakery, and experiencing the loss of two people in my family that were near and dear to my heart.  Needless to say it was a difficult year.  I started working at my Dad's office with the idea that it would be temporary and just help pay the bills while I figured out my next step.  As the year progressed my plan changed.

As the Fall season begins and the earth around us transforms I find myself thinking about how we all go through different seasons in our own lives.  For me - that year of struggle and loss was my winter. This past year has been my Fall - a lot of things changed.

I never felt a peace about moving forward with a bakery with my health issues and financial insecurities, and as a result I decided to set aside that dream for a while and move forward with my life with a new plan.  I also decided to get my finances in order and focus on demolishing my student loans I had acquired from 6 years of school, and 2 degrees.  I am proud to say I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and am almost rid of those blasted loans.  I also decided to change my mind about my adamant refusal to live in Texas and live with the Parents.  I let that go, and accepted the fact that as of now God wanted me at home.  Next I choose to stop complaining about the lack of Catholic community in our area, and finally kicked myself into motion and started a Young Adult Group for a few churches in the area.

I feel like the next season of my life will be my Springtime.  The job is good - the people I work with are wonderful, gracious, and kind.  I have a community again, and God has blessed our Church group with continued growth.  Most days living with the parents isn't so bad : ).  I am making plans for lots of upcoming trips and adventures.  I bought a camera and am learning how to use it.  I have an awesome dog...can't believe I am saying that - since I am not a dog person.  I have a family who loves me, and I have friends who are without a doubt the most amazing people I ever could have met.

I guess the point of this post is just me realizing that life isn't always easy, and it isn't always hard.  All people struggle, all people experience loss and heart break - but they also have love, peace, and joy.  Some days are good, some are bad, but the awesome thing is that life is always changing and our seasons are always switching over.  So maybe today you have a dark cloud over your heart, but have hope that tomorrow the sun will come out and sky will be clear and blue.  God has a plan for you, and he is holding you in His hands.  Trust that He will see you through whatever season you are going through.

Some of you might see this recipe and think that I have gone the way of the Paleo.  It is not so.  I like trying recipes that are food allergy friendly since I know so many people who eat this way, and since I get requests for recipes like this.

Now if you are looking for a pumpkin muffin recipe that tastes like a real pumpkin muffin with flour - keep looking.  A lot of people say it is possible to make gluten free/dairy free food that tastes the same as gluten filled/dairy filled food - but really, it isn't.  I am not saying you can't make something that tastes good, I am just saying that it will never taste the same.  So quit trying to convince yourself it will.

These muffins are good.  They are weird, but still tasty.  When you bake with alternative flours the texture is always altered.  These muffins have a slight spongy texture to them.  They look pretty, and were actually really good when I toasted them and ate them with blueberry jam.  I froze half the batch since I knew I wouldn't be able to eat them all that quickly.  They make a nice filling breakfast - and with all that almond flour and pumpkin in them - they are high in protein and fiber.  I didn't have that much almond flour on hand so I cut the recipe in half - and it turned out great!

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins

3 cups almond flour
1 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 TBS Molasses (optional - If you add this it makes them non Paleo)
6 eggs
2 TBS Tapioca starch
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In large bowl mix together almond flour, pumpkin, oil, syrup, molasses -if using- and eggs until there are no more clumps.
Mix in the starch, spice, salt, and baking soda until smooth and combined.
Pour into lined muffin tins 3/4 full.
Bake for 25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Turn the oven off and let the muffins cool in there with the door slightly ajar.
Store at room temp for 2-3 days or freeze.  

Listen to this song, make these muffins, be grateful for what you have and Eat your heart out!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Top 5 Baking Gadgets

Now that I have my new camera I have all these ideas in my head of fun posts to do.  I also want to start doing some more video posts...of course that will mean I have to look half way decent when I cook...that might be a problem for me.  Or I could just wear a mask while I cook...pretty sure we have a Ronald Reagan mask lying around somewhere.  Come on, who wouldn't want to cook with Reagan?

When my little sister got married 2 years ago she asked me what she should register for things in the kitchen. After thinking about it for a while I came up with this list of kitchen must haves.  I use these gadgets many times a week and thought you might like to hear about them too! : )

Whisked Away 2's
Top 5 Baking Gadgets

1.  Kitchen Aid Standing Mixer

I don't remember life before my mixer.  This gift was the best and most useful gift I have ever been given.  It allows you to make cookies in under 5 minutes!  It is awesome!  You can let it mix while you walk away and get other ingredients prepped, or do the dishes.  It is AMAZING!  Growing up we never had a stand mixer, just numerous hand held ones that quickly burnt out from my over zealous mixing habits.  I didn't get my first stand mixer until 2 years after college.  This appliance really helped light the fire for my passion for baking.  My first mixer lasted about a year then it sparked and fizzled and wouldn't start back up.  I called kitchenaid crying and they promptly sent me a new one and a tissue box.  AMAZING customer service!  My current mixer is now 5 years old, and I love it.  Sometimes I have nightmares about it breaking down...I finally decided to start an emergency mixer fund just in case that nightmare comes true.  Dave Ramsey would be proud.  For a while my Mom was determined to keep it stored in the cabinets  but since I use it so much I finally convinced her it deserved a place of honor on the counter top.
My mixer was $200 on sale at Kohls.  I also highly recommend the tilt head version and not the bowl lift one.  I originally bought the bowl lift one, but after 2 days with it I returned it and got the tilt head one.  The bowl lift one was clunky and awkward to work with, of course that is my personal preference.

If you don't bake all that much, but would like to start - I would recommend this appliance.  On the other hand, if you don't bake all that much and don't want to start learning then don't get this mixer.

2.  Parchment Paper

This isn't really a gadget or an appliance, but it really is vital for good baking results.  I never used parchment paper before Pastry school, and when I did start using it I was shocked I had never used it before.  Parchment paper is great for 2 main reasons.  1)  It helps your product not stick to the pan - which means it stays nice and pretty and easily peels off the paper.  2) It helps your product not stick to the pan - which means you spend less time cleaning all those darn baked on crusty parts that are usually stuck on the pan.  Seriously cuts back on clean up time like you wouldn't believe.

Parchment paper is also great for making piping bags

The cheapest and best way to buy parchment paper is to go to your local Restaurant Supply store and buy the paper in bulk.  It will cost from $40-$60, but it will last you forever!  I have had my latest box for 2 years now, and am just now finishing it off.  If you buy the stuff on the roll from the grocery store it costs a ton - and won't last very long.

3.  Rolling Pin

If you plan on making iced cookies or a lot of pies you need a good rolling pin.  I have 2 rolling pins.  A super heavy marble one, and a thin tapered wooden one.
I use the marble one for making iced cookies.  I really like how heavy it is, and when you use the spacer bands it works well to make a uniform cookie.  I use the tapered one for pies and tarts.  In case you missed my post about how to make iced cookies - be sure to check it out.

Rolling pins are also very useful for pounding case you can't find your hammer.  They also make you look like a professional baker when you hold one in your hand and pose for a picture.

4.  Mixing Bowls

I am a firm believer that one can never have too many mixing bowls.  The more bowls you have the less often you have to wash bowls while in the process of an endless day of baking.  Of course in the end you have to wash them all, but during the process you can get away with washing less. : )  This is also another reason why it is so nice to have so many brothers and sisters - they make excellent dish washers. 
I love this set of mixing bowls and always use them!

5.  Good Spatula
A good spatula with a long handle is essential to good bowl scraping.  If you think about how many cookies are lost every year due to poor bowl scraping you would be shocked.  I recently heard about a government funded program to stop these injustices called "No cookie left behind."  Word on the street is that the President is going to make sure that every American household has a good spatula in their kitchen.  
After all, everyone is entitled to one.

By the way, are you watching round one of the Presidential debates tonight?



Not the ones that you stick under your armpit, but the ones that you stick into pots full of boiling sugar.  I make a lot of heaven bars, and that means I make a lot of caramel sauce.  My nifty thermometer helps me make perfect caramel sauce every time!  It is also very helpful when cooking meat and making any kind of candy where the sugar needs to be cooked to certain temperatures.