Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I would just like to wish all of my blog, twitter, and instagram friends a very Merry Christmas! You all make me SO happy! I hope you enjoy celebrating the holiday with your family and friends! ♥
Take time to enjoy the little moments today, like drinking hot chocolate and starring at the tree. The rush is over.  I hope Santa is good to you all, and brings you everything you wished for.  Enjoy!!!! xo
I already got what I wanted! (this guy : )


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday Spiced Almonds and a Festive Centerpiece ♥

Its been an exciting week. We had snow! Our first big storm of the season.  Everything is now covered in white and looks really festive. With less than a week till Christmas the anticipation is building.  My son is officially on Christmas vacation and the countdown is on.  Which is a good thing because I am running out of places to put our "Elf on the Shelf".  This morning I was standing on a chair jamming him into a curtain valance.  I had to laugh out loud.  It's been fun : )  
How do you like my centerpiece?  Earlier in the week I took my clippers outside and snipped a few branches off our Holly bush.  I also clipped some sprigs off of the big Pine tree next to our house.  I added cranberries (that I had in the freezer : ) to the bottom of a vase, and arranged all my clippings.  I really like how it came out ♥ 


I tucked the extra Pine sprigs into my fake tree.  I am loving the smell of my living room right now!  

I enjoyed being out in the yard.  I miss it in the winter.  One of the things I love is being out in the yard, planting flowers and veggies and checking on them every day.  I am looking forward to my Spring garden.  That's something that I'm going to plan out this winter. It's on my list of resolutions!

Have you been doing a lot of holiday baking? Well, if you are tired of all the sweets and want to have something on the salty side I have just the thing for you.  My holiday spiced almonds are the perfect treat! They are toasted first, then coated with honey and spices.  Finally, they are sprinkled with Sea Salt.  So good!!!

These nuts can of course be packaged up and given as gifts.  Personally, I like to have them on hand for when company comes over.  Add a bowl of these to a nice cheese plate and you've got yourself a perfect appetizer. Open a bottle of wine, put the music on, and it's holiday party time! ♥
You probably already have the ingredients on hand (love it when that happens!).  Here's how to make them.  You will need....
2 cups raw almonds
1/4 cup honey
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sea Salt



Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the almonds on the cookie sheet.  Toast in the upper rack of the oven for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl mix together your spices.  


When the almonds are done toasting remove from the oven and drizzle with the honey.  Use a spatula to coat the almonds on both sides.  Sprinkle with the spice mixture and mix again to thoroughly coat.
Now top with a sprinkle (to taste) of Sea Salt. A few shakes should do the trick.

Return to the oven and toast for an additional  7 - 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes.  Store in an airtight container. 
These nuts are definitely more savory than sweet. I like it because everything I've been eating lately has been so overly sweet, this is a nice change.  Toasting the nuts first brings out a smokey flavor, and the Sea Salt give them that extra kick that leaves you wanting more.  I've heard that some people like to add a dash of cayenne pepper to the spices.  I didn't, but by all means if you want to kick it up a notch add it.  Customize the recipe to your liking! : )

You can't eat just one!
Well, time is running out.  It's almost the big day.  Just last minute preparations are left.  I went to my FINAL store last night (thank goodness!).  No more long lines! Yay! I have to decide on a Christmas Eve outfit and do my nails. No biggie!
What about you? Are you ready?????  Have a great weekend, friends! XO
" It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go....:" 
PS Did you know that a splash of eggnog in your coffee is delicious?!  It really is!!!! Try it!~

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chocolate Chunk Blondies ♥

"Home is where the sweets are" ♥
So true! I picked up this dish towel at a Santa's Workshop craft fair at my son's school today.  He picked out the reindeer face (which is really hot cocoa mix and marshmallows in a pastry bag!) Too cute, right? I guess we think alike.  We both went for chocolate! : )  
Speaking of sweets, I've had my fair share and more these past few weeks.  Truly, it's been a no-holds-barred-free-for-all-food-fest! Everywhere I turn there are goodies.  Candy, peppermint bark, chocolate covered something or other. I have no will power. Whether it be at home or at work, there is always something to snack on these days.  And if there isn't, I just make something myself. Even if it's ten o'clock at last night. Yes, I did that.
Enter Tracy Shutterbean's Chocolate Chunk Blondies.  They were even more delicious than I had hoped for!  Kind of like a brownie, but more like a cookie.  It's the best of both worlds.  Perfect with a cup of coffee or a big glass of milk!  So Yummy! Perfect for gift giving.  Tracy wrapped hers individually in cute brown paper and put a sticker on them.  I may do that with the next batch ♥

Here is the recipe from Tracy's website. It's so easy.  You probably already have everything you need...

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour an 8x12 in baking dish. (FYI- your kitchen will smell amazing while these are baking!)

With an electric mixer cream the butter, brown sugar, and sugar on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.  With the mixer on low, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time.  Mix well, remembering to scrap down the bowl.  In a small bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips. 

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 30 minutes. (Don't over bake - a toothpick may not come out clean)  Cool completely in the pan.  Cut into bars.  Enjoy!!!

We had a snow storm on Sunday and more snow is expected tomorrow.  The ground is icy and crunchy and it's so cold we are all bundled up like the little boy from A Christmas Story.  Which we watched the other night! Such a great movie! {Except now my son thinks he wants a BB Gun which is totally out of the question!} All of the classics have been on rotation on our TV - So far we've watched Rudolph, The Santa Clause, Elf, Home Alone, & Jack Frost.  I also watched Fred Clause for the first time ever.  It was so funny! I have added it to my list of holiday favorites : )

Only one more week to go.  Are you ready? I still have some wrapping to do.  I save the wrapping for the end because it's my favorite part. All the hard work is done and Mrs. Clause is happy! (no more crowed stores!!!)

Plus I can wrap while watching my favorite shows and drink hot chocolate.  I always end up staying up very late at night and I don't mind at all. Last year I had the flu on Christmas, so I'm feeling like this year has been a breeze so far! I'm happy to be healthy : )

I've also been thinking about the New Year. Aside from losing a few "holiday pounds" I've started listing some goals.  I love starting the year fresh, with a clean slate.  My list is long this year, and I will be sharing it with all of you soon. This is the year I will turn 40!!! eeeek!  I plan to do a lot more blogging in the new year.  I have lots of things in store for you. I hope you will join me! xo


Monday, December 9, 2013

Overnight Pumpkin French Toast ♥

We went to see Santa last week....I don't know what they were laughing about, but this picture is priceless! ♥

These last few weeks since Thanksgiving have been so busy! It's a shame that the happiest time of year always goes by so quickly, when all I really want to do is slow things down and enjoy it.  I am trying.  We got our tree up two weekends ago.  A few years back (much to my dismay...) we got a fake tree.  Every year I try to convince myself that I like it.  I'm getting there, even though I still don't think it compares to a big, fat, real tree.  I try to disguise it with all of my grandmother's glass ornaments, my mom's homemade treasures, and now little do-dads that my son brings home from school.  It's the ornaments that make our tree special.  I have to admit that I do like the fact that I don't have water stains on my floors and pine needles all over the place any more.  I still have tinsel tracked all over the house though.  That will never change!

I just love waking up to a Christmas tree in the house.  It reminds me of when I was a kid. The best part is the excitement on my son's face.  There is nothing like seeing Christmas through the eyes of a six year old.  Everything is magical. 

I've been shopping like crazy and I'm just about done. The stores are hectic but a part of me kind of likes it.  There is an excitement in the air, like no other time of year.  I enjoy checking things off my list and feeling  happy when I find a perfect "something" for someone I love. 

We had a little dusting of snow today.  It quickly turned to rain, but I hear there is more coming tomorrow.  Even though I hate driving in it, it definitely adds to the feeling of the season.  I've been trying to do my shopping during the week, so on the weekends I can stay home and cozy. Especially when the weather is bad, there is no place like home on the weekends.  We stay in our jammies, watch movies, and play games.  Lot's of hot chocolate is consumed ♥

This past Sunday morning I made us special Sunday breakfast.  I also broke out the special Christmas dishes! : )

I got this overnight pumpkin French toast recipe from The Meal Makeover Moms website. I am an avid listener to their podcast and have made several of their recipes in the past.  All have been fantastic!
I especially love "overnight" recipes because you get everything done the night before so in morning you just have to pop it in the oven. This only took me a few minutes to prepare on Saturday night. Sunday morning I enjoyed coffee while my breakfast baked away in the oven ♥
This would be a perfect Christmas morning breakfast!

 My son ate his whole plate and asked for more.  I had a second helping myself!

This French toast was moist, delicious, not overly sweet, with just a hint of pumpkin flavor.  I used chopped walnuts instead of pecans (what the recipe called for) and it was perfect! Just out of the oven I drizzled with a little maple syrup before serving....Mmmmmm!

So did he love it?

YES he did!

Here is the recipe.  It's easy-peasy!

You will need:

1 large French baguette, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
4 large eggs
3/4 cup low-fat milk
3/4 cup pumpkin (make sure it's 100% pure pumpkin)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1/3 cup chopped pecans (I used walnuts)

Lightly coat an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick spray.  Arrange the bread slices evenly in the pan.  It's okay if some overlap a bit.

Whisk the eggs, milk, pumpkin, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl until well combined.  Pour egg mixture over the bread slices.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight. 

In the morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Top the bread with the chopped nuts (if desired) and the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.  Bake, uncovered, about 30 minutes.  Drizzle with maple syrup, slice, and serve. 

Reheated leftovers the next morning are yummy too! I'm just sayin'..... : )

Here are a few other Meal Makeover Moms recipes that I've tried:

Banana chocolate chip muffins (my favorite!)

Chocolate cherry almond granola bars (adapted from MMOM's Grab & Go Granola Bars)

Pumpkin spice bundt cake

Strawberry french toast

Ok then - I'm off to do more shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking, errand running, Christmas card making, Elf on the Shelf moving, plus working at my job, and maybe some sleeping....hopefully! Christmas is two weeks away!!!  Tis the Season!!!! ♥ 

Hope you all are well! xo