Peppermint Oreo Truffles

>> Monday, December 26, 2011

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

We sure did around here. It was a relaxing day that was filled with a lot of blessings... and eating!

We weren't able to be with our family this year, but Skype and FaceTime has really made a difference in technology - and I was able to have conversations with family and friends from all over the world (Washington, South Carolina, and even China) via FaceTime and it was almost like being together - almost. My dad called on FaceTime from the terminal of the Atlanta airport on his way to visit family out of the country. He turned the phone around to show me the airport, and it was completely dead! I guess not many people fly internationally on Christmas day. Made it nice for him, he was getting on a 14 hour flight and there were lots of extra seats - Leg room, baby! ha

How was your Christmas? What did you do? I hope it was filled with blessings and love from your family, and hopefully your were able to set aside a time to quiet yourself and reflect on this season.

We spent some time with a great group of friends yesterday, enjoying the day together - and had a lot of fun. We decided to forego the large Christmas dinner idea so that nobody was spending the entire day in the kitchen, and went for a large pot of white chicken chili, salad, and yummy appetizers. Everybody pitched in and brought appetizers, dips, desserts, etc and we pretty much ate all day. It was divine! :)

One of the things I brought were these yummy peppermint Oreo truffles. They are so so good. They stay moist in the middle from the cream cheese, and they have just the slightest hint of peppermint flavor - not too overwhelming like a lot of peppermint flavored goodies. You could always increase or decrease the amount of peppermint candy used if you wanted to change it - or even omit it all together if you don't like peppermint. These are a great way to use up those candy cane Christmas tree decorations, and would make a really great New Year's Eve goody to bring for your parties. Hope you enjoy!

Peppermint Oreo Truffles (Adapted From: Kraft Recipes)

~ 12 peppermint candies, divided
1 package Oreo cookies
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
12 ounces dark (bittersweet) chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Here's your lineup of what you'll need

1. Place cookies and 8 peppermint candies in a food processor, pulsing until completely crushed.
2. Place cream cheese in food processor with crushed cookie mixture. Pulse until it makes a batter, and all cookie crumbs are combined. Place mixture in fridge for 20-30 minutes or until chilled.

3. While chilling, place remaining peppermint candies in a ziploc bag and crush into smaller pieces with a meat mallet or rolling pin (you'll want bigger pieces, not fine dust)

4. Place chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a microwave-safe bowl, and melt in 30 second increments until completely smooth and melted.
5. Roll chilled cookie mixture into 1" balls and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

6. Dip rolled cookie mixture into chocolate using a small fork, covering entire ball with chocolate. Take out and tap fork on edge of bowl a few times to tap off excess chocolate. Top with remaining peppermint candy pieces immediately after dipping before the chocolate dries.
7. Continue dipping process with all of the balls. Place in refrigerator to harden approximately 30 minutes.


Eggnog French Toast with Brown Butter Maple Syrup

>> Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I hope you have the most wonderful day with your family, friends, and loved ones.

I'm planning on doing the same. And while I'm at it, I'll be enjoying a lot of good food.

I won't be with family this year for the holidays, but we'll be with our California family - laying around in our pajamas, all pitching in with good food, talking, playing games, eating, watching movies, and oh yeah... eating! :)

I made this eggnog french toast for breakfast for Archie and I and it was fantastic. The eggnog flavor is not strong at all, but the brown butter maple syrup will SERIOUSLY change your life! NOT kidding.... at.... all! Seriously people, go make the brown butter syrup right now. Then make this really easy and yummy french toast sticks recipe and serve it together for your family.

This recipe is a great way to use up all your leftover eggnog so it doesn't get wasted! If you don't like eggnog, you can definitely substitute the whole liquid amount for milk - but I don't recommend it! :)


10 slices of thick break (I used buttermilk bread)
4 whole eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup eggnog, room temperature
2 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

For Syrup:
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 stick butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Slice bread into 4 slices each. In a shallow pan whisk together eggs, eggnog, milk, cooled butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. Dip the bread pieces into the egg mixture and place on a cookie cooling rack to drip off extra batter.
4. Place dipped pieces evenly on a cookie sheet, leaving a small amount of space between so they don't stick. Place the sheets in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn over after 15 minutes and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden brown.
5. For syrup: Place the butter into a small skillet pan and melt - allowing to cook until butter turns golden, foam disappears, and it emits a nutty smell.
6. Combine the syrup and browned butter in a bowl and whisk to mix together. Serve with baked french toast.

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Pretzel Bark

>> Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's been a really rough week!

You know the theory that bad things come in threes... well they came in four's and fives this week.

Life at work was insane! It wasn't just your typical, "Oh that was a really stressful week". No, it was pretty much terrible! Lots of things going on there, one of which include the word "restructuring", and it was really hard!

Then my husband got in a car accident this week. But the problem is, that he drives a '67 Ford Mustang. So, it's not like any other car, and we can just go ahead and have it fixed. It has to be taken to a specific car specialist, and we'll never be able to match the specific color it was painted, so it will just have to have black primer on it until we can afford to get the whole car repainted.
On top of the craziness, it was our 8 year anniversary this week - and I was way to stressed out to even remotely enjoy it. My poor hubby was busy trying to take care of me (this was before he wrecked his car! :) ), and we tried to enjoy dinner and our date as much as possible.

Yesterday, I was really down in the dumps! I was having myself a good ole' pity party about what a stressful and rough week it was, and it was Christmas time - my favorite time of the year, and now it felt ruined... and then I stopped dead in my tracks! Boy was I going down a really bad path, and I felt that oh so "GENTLE" nudge that I was so so wrong.
Christmas was not ruined because I was having a bad day - in fact, I think it was made better, because only when I am at the very bottom of myself can God be glorified, and then the true meaning of Christmas can really be portrayed. God is the God of peace, He is the God of comfort, He holds us in the midst of our sorrow, and in the middle of everything... He is on the throne.

I heard this song on the radio yesterday, it's one of my favorites we sing at SouthBay Church, and it has been my saving grace. Thought I would share with you.

This week, when I was at my craziest, I decided to make some comfort food in the form of chocolate. Don't worry, I only had one piece and took the rest to work! :) This pretzel bark is so good. It's kind of a twist on some of the bark that is out there at Christmas time. I love the mix of the flavors, and I love homemade caramel. It's really a very very tasty treat - and perfect for giving away to neighbors and friends in your Christmas goodie bags!

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark (Adapted from Legume Loyalist via Pinterest):

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
bag of pretzel sticks (you won't need the whole bag)
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 oz. milk chocolate chips (recommend Guittard)
Fleur de Sel sea salt

1. Line a baking tray with foil and lightly brush on butter from one of the sticks - just barely cover. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat (if you have gas heat, really watch it, because it will get hot very fast). As the butter is melting, lightly break pretzel sticks up with hands and place evenly covering surface of foil-lined cookie sheet.
3. Once butter is melted, add the brown sugar and whisk until incorporated (this may take a few minutes - the butter once to stay separated). Allow the sugar and butter to simmer, but avoid letting the whole thing boil. It will be a big huge mess, and you'll have to do the whole thing again - take my word for it! :) Stir occasionally, about 3-4 minutes until it takes on a caramel consistency.

4. Pour the caramel mixture evenly over the pretzels, drizzling back and forth, using a spatula to even it out if you missed any spots. Bake in the oven 5-7 minutes.
5. While caramel is in oven, over a double boiler (saucepan filled with simmering water with a larger bowl on top. Remember not to let the bowl touch the water or you end up with burnt chocolate), place the chocolate. Continue to stir until its melted and smooth.
6. Pour the melted chocolate over the cooked caramel/pretzel mixture, again drizzling back and forth and using a spatula to spread to any missed spots. Sprinkle with the fleur de sel and place in refrigerator for approximately one hour to harden. Place on a cutting board upside down, pulling the foil off. Cut or break the sheet into smaller/bark like pieces.


Eggnog Sugar Cookies

>> Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I know I've said this before... but California has to be the best state ever. It's not even my home state - where I was born and raised. But it sure does feel like "home" now. Archie and I LOVE to explore, and one of our favorite ways is hiking. There are so many places to go hiking here. This past weekend we went hiking with our hiking buddies, Jeremiah and Jenny. Here are a few pictures of our adventure at Big Sur.
How can you go hiking without an Iphone/GPS?

Can you say Christmas card?

We made a lunch stop at Big Sur Bakery. I've heard a lot about this place on other blogs, and loved being able to try it. It was a lunch menu, which was a bit smaller, but it was still delicious. I had a local ham sandwich with fresh baked bread and a chocolate chip macadamia nut cookie. Archie got a chai latte which was topped with honey and was delicious! If you're in the area, you should definitely try.

Now let's talk about cookies - because I know that's really why you're reading. It's Christmas time - and what better way to add thickness to the waste line but eggnog! Eggnog has such a varied fan base - some people love it and some people hate it. I'm surprised to see how many people haven't even tried it! My dad introduced me to eggnog, and I've been a fan ever since. I'm a traditionalist though - you can't enjoy it, not even one little sip, until after Thanksgiving! These cookies have just a hint of eggnog with more of a nutmeg flavor. Still delicious.

If you need a little help working off the eggnog, Pinterest has some great quick at home bootcamp workouts you can do in 30 minutes or less with little to no equipment - here and here.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies (From: BHG)


For Cookies -
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/4 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon eggnog
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

For Icing
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4-5 tablespoons eggnog

1. Cut vanilla bean in half and scrape out seeds, setting them aside.
2. Using an electric mixer, mix softened butter on medium for 30 seconds or until fluffy. Add the sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt, and beat until combined, scraping the bowl as needed.
3. Beat in the egg, eggnog, and vanilla beans until combined. Mix in the flour - mixing as much as possible by the electric mixer, and switching to a wooden spoon to stir in remaining flour.

4. Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap, chilling for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 and lightly flour a work surface. Roll out the dough to approximately 1/4" thick.

5. Using a fluted round cookie cutter, cut out dough and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack, and let cool.

For Icing:
Mix together all ingredients until spreadable consistency. Spread onto cooled cookies.