Friday, January 31, 2014

Savory Superbowl Snack Suggestions

Alliteration.  Boom.  Nailed it.

In case you needed some ideas for some savory yummy bites to serve during the super is a list of my favorites from old posts.

If you plan on making them please invite me over so I can eat them with you! : )  
Happy Super Bowling People!

Sausage Cheddar Balls are always a request at our house when we throw a party.  
They are easy and delicious...and always the first thing to be eaten up!

This is a weird dip, it doesn't really have a name, but it is tasty!

These Spicy Garlic Potato Wedges are nice and crispy and if you plan on spending calories on carbs these blow potato chips out of the water!

Wow.  If you want to wow your friends make this Mediterranean Salsa.  It is fresh and delicious - serve it with Pita chips or pita bread.

I highly recommend making these Sea Salt Pretzel Bites.  I really want to make some right now!  
Don't all their little grooves covered in butter and slat look so appetizing?  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Oatmeal Raisin Scones

Hey now.

Your life is about to be altered.

These scones are the epitome of all things wonderful for your taste buds.

The recipe comes from this tiny well known bakery that I love - and mention often to my friends, my blog readers, my family, and even in my dreams...Levain Bakery, NYC.  I am going to be brutally honest with you, because what else would you expect from my tact filled self?  I don't actually like these scones when the bakery makes them.  It isn't their fault, I just usually get a cookie and a scone, and in comparison to the cookie the scone just never had a chance.  Now take this scone and set it far away from their chocolate walnut cookie and suddenly rays of sunshine start to point towards this simple and delicate scone.

I wonder if this comparison trick works for other things too.  I mean if you stand an average looking person next to a beautiful person that average person tends to look more average and be outshone by the beautiful person.  Now take that average looking person and stick them on a rock all by themselves and suddenly they don't look so average, and maybe they look even more beautiful?  Guess vice versa this might work as well if you stick the beautiful person all alone do they suddenly look not as beautiful?  This is totally based on appearance here and nothing else.  Am I pushing it here with this theory of comparison?  Hum.

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could all see each other as individual people and not as a person in comparison to another person?  I compare people all the time - so I am the most guilty of this.

Sometimes I get stuck in the comparison mode even for myself.  She is prettier than me, she is smarter than me, she is more talented than me, she is so much healthier than me, she is more loved than all know how to play the game.  This is not a good road to go down.  Personally I tend to go down that road when I am lonely, idle, or insecure about something.  I find it is so much better to keep busy with good things, and not dwell on my imperfections compared to a more "perfect" human being.  Clearly we all fall short of being "perfect" humans, and the only "perfect" being is God, and Lord knows we can't compete with him : )  But aren't we all made in His image and likeness?  Somehow I find comfort in that.  If I am made in the image and likeness of God how can I not be a good thing?  So when the self doubt creeps in try to think about that instead! : )

You know what another self esteem booster is?  Being able to make good scones!  This is a simple scone recipe, and trust me, you all can make it!  2 things to keep in mind when making scones - 1) DO NOT OVER MIX.  I know all you ocd people out there will want to incorporate every last grain of flour - don't do it!  2)  DO NOT OVER BAKE!  If you over bake the scones they will dry out.

And a quick demo video for how to cut butter for scones and pies...

I own a million cookie cutters, but you can use a glass if you don't have one...just don't break it, and if there is a chip on the glass-obviously don't use it!

Levain Bakery Oatmeal Raisin Scones
adapted by me 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In Medium bowl (or standing mixer bowl) mix the following:

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Then with mixer running add the cold diced butter a handful at a time...if you don't have a mixer you can cut the butter in using 2 knives or a pastry blender.  Mixer option is much faster.

12 ounces butter, cold and diced small - this is 3 sticks FYI :)

Mix until the butter is broken down into pea sized chunks.  Then add the raisins.

1 cup golden raisins or regular raisins, or any dried fruit you like

Mix until just combined.  Then add the half-and-half all at once.  Mix just until barely combined.

1 1/4 cups half-and-half, or 1/2 cream and 1/2 milk

If batter seems really dry add a little more milk.  You don't want the dough to be super wet, but it should hold its shape.
Divide dough roughly in half.  Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. If dough is very sticky, flour top of dough as well. Pat down into a layer 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Using a 2-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out scones.  Place each scone, as cut, onto a parchment-covered sheet pan leaving 2 to 3 inches between each scone. This should make around 20 round scones. Bake for about 18 minutes or until golden brown on both top and bottom.

 If you want to bake them later, you can freeze them and bake them whenever you need in now. : )  I baked 1/2 and froze 1/2.  Just lay them on parchment in the freezer until frozen and then wrap in plastic wrap or put in a plastic bag.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Roasted Chickpeas

I have seen recipes for this around the blog world for a while now.  Finally decided to give it a try.  It is weird, but oddly good.  I found myself continuing to reach for more - curious about the taste that was happening in my mouth.  I ate them straight up as a snack, but I imagine they would also be pretty tasty on a salad too.

Today is the March for Life in Washington, D.C.  In past years I have attended multiple times.  It is always encouraging to see so many people standing up for life!  Of course the media doesn't tell you that for one day the nation's capitol is swarmed with pro-lifers and you can barely move on the metro...they are silent and don't report anything on the matter.  Hopefully one day the March for Life will be a March of Thanksgiving instead and we will live to see abortion abolished.  Until then, continue to pray for all the souls of the aborted babies and for their parents who feel like abortion is a valid choice for them.

May the souls of the faithfully departed 
through the mercy of God rest in peace.  

Roasted Chickpeas

1 can cooked chickpeas (drain and rinse)
1-2 teaspoons olive oil, or olive oil spray/mist
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Place chickpeas on a paper towel and pat completely dry. Remove any loose skins.
Place on a baking sheet and mist with olive oil or oil of choice. Roll around to coat. Sprinkle with seasonings of your choice and toss well to coat. Make sure chickpeas are in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes, toss well and flip, then bake for about 15 minute. Let cool and eat!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to Workout at home!

After college I moved to Pennsylvania for a few months to be a nanny.  When I got there the family I nannied for graciously got me a membership to the YMCA.  It was so expensive!  Even though I wasn't paying for it, I swore to myself that I would get the most out of that membership and go to the gym at least 3 times a week!  I surprised myself by sticking to that promise and have never looked back!

Before I starting dating Andrew (which is basically a full time job) : ) I had the time to go to the gym after work.  I kept that up for a while, but it was just too much crammed in at the end of the day.  I decided to start working out in the mornings instead, and workout at home instead of the gym.  I have been doing this for a few months now, and it works so much better with my crazy evening schedule.  I also squeeze in a gym class 2 times a week.

These are my favorite home workouts.  They are free.  Which is awesome.  They aren't super long.  Which is awesome.  And I can fit one in whenever I have the time to spare.  Another thing that keeps me working out is planning when I am going to workout the night before.  Each day is different, so before I fall asleep at night and set my alarm I always factor in when I can workout the next day.  If I don't do this the day quickly fills up and my workout gets pushed aside and forgotten.

All you need is some free weights (I have a 3lb set and a 5lb set), a computer, tablet, or phone - and you are good to go!

1.  Jillian Michaels 30 day shred

This is a good, quick, and manageable workout.  It is only about 25 minutes long, and I always break a sweat and feel like I got in a good workout.  There are 3 levels to this workout, and the first one is available for free on YouTube.  If you want all of the levels you can buy it on Amazon for $6.99.  If I get bored of her workout moves I just swap in my own that fit into her categories of strength, cardio, and abs.  I also like to mute out her talking and play my own music which isn't annoying after watching it a million times.

Jillian usually uses the circuit mentality in her workouts which I really like since it keeps me on my toes.  She also has a few other full workout on YouTube which are great...just longer.

Banish Fat and Boost Metabolism 55 minutes
6 weeks to a six pack 35 minutes
No more trouble zones 56 minutes
Shred it with weights - level 1 28 minutes

2.  Abs

I am sure most of you have heard of the brutal workout series P90X?  This is is quick and painful ab routine.  My little sister is really good at it - me - not so much.  The key is to stick with it and do what you can.  If you keep doing it soon you will be able to do it all!  Just search for ab ripper x on YouTube - there are some copy cat version that are good...looks like they removed the original one.

Rebecca Louise also has some good abs workouts too!

3.  My circuit

I started my home workout routine with the Jillian Michaels 30 day shred videos.  I really liked that they were only 20-30 minutes long, but I quickly got bored of them.  I decided to keep her idea of circuit training going, but play my own music, set a timer, and have a list of exercises to choose from for each category.  So I pick one from each category - cardio, arms, legs, and abs - do them for one minute each and then do 6 circuits of different exercises from the list.  I also downloaded a Tabatha timer on my phone and on my laptop that can do 1 minute increments, 5-10 second breaks, and includes a buzzer and countdown as well.

Check out my list of exercises for this circuit here.

4.  Seven minute workout

This is a nifty little app I have on my phone.  It is a circuit of exercises for 7 minutes.  So on days when I just can't get a solid workout in - I do this workout 2-3 times through.  Just search for 7 minute workout on your phone and it should come up.  My niece likes this workout, and she can get through it just fine!

5.  Ballet/ Barre Workouts

Recently I have been doing these Ballet/Barre inspired workouts.  I did ballet for 7 years as a kid, and love the graceful beauty of ballet.  The workouts are a combination of yoga, pilates, cardio, and strength.  Really feels good after completing these ones.  Some of them are more chill then others, so on your off days they are a relaxing workout option.

6.  Be Fit

Be fit has a lot of great workout videos online.  They pretty much have a workout for every body part, and desired workout time.  These are some of my favorite ones:

7.  Cardio Workouts

Billy Blanks is old school Kick boxing extraordinaire - he actually has lots of videos on YouTube for free...check him out if you are looking for a fun cardio workout!

Quirky but fun!  30 minutes
Jessica Smith again!  26 minutes
Tony Horton from P90X 34 minutes

Jessica Smith is one of my new favorite exercise video maker...I like how she uses not so typical moves, and how they all flow so nicely.

Hope you liked my collection of workouts!  The most important thing is to just start moving!  Also, get outside when you can.  Go for a walk or bring your lap top outside and do these workouts in the sun.  Better yet, find a workout buddy - either a friend, family member, or even your kids - it will make the workout even better!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Toasted German Chocolate Brownies

German chocolate cake is my favorite kind of cake - of course it has to be made right and also be made with unsweetened coconut and not that fake coconut flavor infused kind.  I also always like to toast my coconut or nuts if using them in a recipe - it just really elevates the flavor!

Did you know the German Chocolate cake is actually an American cake?  It got its name from a chocolate maker named Sam German, and was originally called "German's Chocolate cake" cool is that!  

I am usually always craving a brownie...I mean really - what better thing is there in the world?  I am addicted to these brownies - I made them 4 times during the Christmas season - changing it a little each time.  The first time I used a different brownie base, but found it too sweet and too cake like.  The second time I made the filling and layered it - so brownie base - filling - brownie top.  This was insanely good, but it was messy and didn't hold together all too well.  So the third time I made the brownies and just topped them hot with the frosting.  This was the best version yet!  I love how they are perfectly sweet, crunchy, tons of texture, and chocolate!

I know lots of you are on diets and such, and I truly am sorry for posting this recipe...but the good news is I am hoping to do my next post on home work out videos I hopefully that helps balance it all out!

Toasted German Chocolate Brownies
my original recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line a 9x13" cake pan with parchment. In a medium/large pot melt the following over medium heat:

2 sticks butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate or dark chocolate chips, or semi sweet chocolate chips

Once melted remove from heat and add the following and whisk until combined:

2 cups lightly packed brown sugar 
1 tsp vanilla extract

Then carefully and quickly beat in 4 lightly beaten eggs. Be sure to whisk continuously otherwise you will end up with scrambled eggs. Once smooth and combined add 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour and mix just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 20 minutes until they start to pull away from the edges.

While brownies are baking make the coconut/pecan German chocolate frosting.

1 Cup evaporated milk
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted*
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted*

Combine milk, sugar, and butter in medium saucepan - over medium heat whisk until butter is melted.  Add egg yolks and continuously whisk -  otherwise you will get scrambled eggs.  Stir and cook over medium/high heat whisking constantly for 3-5 minutes until mixture is thickened.  You don't want it to be sticking to the pan!  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, coconut, and pecans.  Cool for 5 minutes.

Once brownies are cooked remove from oven and spread frosting evenly over brownies - be sure to slightly press the frosting down into the pans.  Allow to cool completely before slicing into squares.  

* To toast pecans and coconut - place them on separate trays into the preheated oven for - 3 minutes, stir, put back into oven until slightly toasted...coconut toasts pretty quickly - pecans will take a few more minutes.