Reflection of 2012

Last year started with a bang. In an effort to distribute the piles of cookies Dave’s family sent us home with at Christmas, we hosted a New Year’s Party and raised our glasses among our friends, declaring “This will be our year!”

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But like every year, it was studded with hills and valleys, the occasional mountain, and a lava-infested Mount Doom. Dave took a new job early on in the year, switching from a late-night baker to a (usually) 15 hour-a-day delivery assistant, traveling all over Wisconsin to bring supplies to bakeries, confectioneries, and grocery stores in need.

He has amazed me with his capability to survive on four to five hours a sleep at night and work himself to the bone in order to provide for our small family: the two of us and our two fur babies Athena and Artemis. Our cats continue to entertain us and comfort us, and in return we provide them with an open window to watch the birds and dozens of cat toys that they couldn’t care less about.

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I continued my job as a hospital registrar, still searching in vain for the perfect job (Anthony Bourdain, let me know when you want to retire….). I picked up a second job in November as a server at a cafe, which inspired a college professor to tell me a joke: “Do you know what they call English majors? Waitresses.”

My jobs at the hospital and café have done little to stimulate my creativity, and I am constantly evaluating the choices I made regarding my post-high school education. However, I continue to work with and for fabulous people who make me laugh and, most importantly, convince me to come to work when I’d rather sit in my car and cry. Because of my jobs, my experience with small talk has increased exponentially.

To keep the creative juices flowing, I started this blog in March to share my successes and failures in the kitchen and the living room (aka, my workout station).  Designs on Dinner not only encouraged me to keep writing and cooking, but also pushed me to keep up as I switched from a yoga to a cardio junkie, necessary for one of the most fun and difficult things I’ve done: a 5k run filled with obstacles called Warrior Dash.

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To go from never running to running a 5k while rolling under barbed wire, scaling a rope wall, swimming through water and mud, and jumping over fire was definitely a lesson in endurance, and I couldn’t have done it without my trusty comrades.  I signed up for next year.

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The valleys of the year included breaking my left arm (your gracefulness slipped on the ice), having all four wisdom teeth removed (without anesthesia), having a tire blow out on my car on the highway (much more terrifying than jumping over fire), taking nearly a week off from work with bronchitis (but I discovered Downton Abbey), dealing with incessant insomnia (yes, whatever you want to recommend, I’ve tried it), and seeing my husband even less than last year. I also dealt with a personal crisis (aka Mount Doom) that forced me to reevaluate my own self-worth and future. A high tolerance for pain certainly came in handy for me this year.

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Post Wisdom Tooth Removal

Besides Warrior Dash, another mountain included the birth of my niece Aurelia Moon, who has already filled my life with so much light and love. She has also stirred maternal feelings that I didn’t even know I had, and since my view towards children up until now has been apathetic at best, she has given me a wonderful gift.

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I can’t forget another highlight of my year, the wedding of two of my very best friends…to each other. I grow more and more sentimental with each year, and I am so lucky to have a close group of friends and family who continue to delight me with their wittiness, laughter, and fierce loyalty.

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Since planning for the future seems futile, I will continue to try to live in the present in 2013. Still, I refuse to give up on my dreams. In addition to battling Warrior Dash again and re-evaluating my career goals, I’m hoping to move into a bigger place and finally go on a honeymoon with my beloved Dave.

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It’s a hard-knock life. It’s a wonderful life. And, most importantly, it’s my life.

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Merry Friendsmas!

I am very fortunate to have an immediate family whom I consider to be some of my very best friends. We share similar interests, similar view points, and similar personalities (to an extent). I don’t have to work at a conversation with my siblings or parents; it comes naturally and easily.

I know not everyone shares my good fortune and, therefore, the holidays can be a difficult time. Perhaps on par with having no family is having a family with whom you don’t get along. That’s when friends come in handy.

If you want to be with those you love during the holidays, family isn’t the only answer. Luckily for me, I get both.

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Last year, my friends and I decided to have our very own version of Thanksgiving: “Friendsgiving” with turkey, stuffing, pies…the whole works. I think a few beverages may have been consumed as well.

Due to everyone’s clashing work schedules this year, “Friendsgiving” turned to “Friendsmas,” to be celebrated the Saturday after Christmas. My friends Lindsay and Nicole agreed to take on the role of hosts for the 20+ people to be attending. My close-knit group of friends is…pretty large. Parents were also invited, provided that they be cool. 🙂

I agreed to work at the cafe today with hopes to finish my green bean casserole before the party. Because I need to balance out my friend John’s bacon pies, I decided to lighten up the green bean casserole like I did last year by making my own sauce instead of using cream of mushroom soup.

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(Healthier) Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and sliced into 1 ½-inch pieces.
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
  • 1/3 cup fresh whole-grain bread crumbs

Preparation:

Heat oil on low heat in large skillet. Gently cook onion slices for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are golden. Remove onions from skillet and transfer to a plate.

Meanwhile, steam or boil green beans in for 5-6 minutes, then plunge in a bowl of cold water to keep the vibrant green color and stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.

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Add finely chopped onion, garlic to skillet, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, until they release their juices. Sprinkle flour and thyme over vegetables. Gradually stir in nonfat milk. Increase heat to medium and stir constantly until sauce thickens. Season with a tsp of salt if desired and some freshly ground black pepper.

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Spread green beans in a 1 ½-2 quart casserole dish. Pour mushroom sauce over green beans. Top with onions and breadcrumbs.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden.

Serves 6

Off to the party!

Christmases Three and Four

I awoke on Christmas Day morning well before Dave, although my adventures with food and drink the night before had left me feeling less than ideal. Too much wine for this girl.

Dave and I had agreed not to exchange presents, just stockings, and I was bestowed with Moroccan couscous, two jars of stuffed green olives for my martinis and snack plates (feta-stuffed and sundried tomato-stuffed), Habanero ketchup, and some other goodies. I went a bit overboard and bought Dave loads of goodies that he insists I must share with him, including Gingerbread pop-tarts that I couldn’t pass up.

After we were showered and dressed, we headed out to spend Christmas morning at my parents. I was greeted with a Mimosa, of which I was careful and only drank half of.

004Our little Moonbeam slept on the couch through Mom’s baking and our chattering.

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Breakfast time! Mom made a pan of Brunch Style Portabella Mushrooms, courtesy of Taste of Home.

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As well as her famous French Toast, which I drizzled with real Maple syrup.

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‘Twas a delicious breakfast.

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After that, time for presents! We started exchanging names in the Leahy household, much to my parent’s chagrin, but I think it is much easier this way, and it really is unnecessary to have so many presents that we must clean out our closets (though I’m sure we’ll be doing that anyway).

It was almost too hot sitting next to the roasting fireplace.

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Our family is very foodie-minded, and most of us received some sort of special food items.

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Christopher some sea-related snacks: Goldfish and Pirate’s Booty.

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And Dad received a whole host of sardines, spicy mustards, beer, and hot sauce from Davy.

My dad even smoked two whole rainbow trout for my sister Moriah!

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My sister Emily seemed very happy with the gifts I gave her: a maternity photo of her on Parenting magazine, a necklace, an oversized couch blanket, and a ticket to see Shrek the Musical with her boyfriend (Ty bought a ticket for Christopher, too).

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Dave received a triple crock pot and a plaid robe that he has been wearing nearly non-stop from my mom.

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My sister Em was exceptionally kind to me as well.

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She had granola bars customized for me!

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I thought these were so cool, and they will be a very handy snack to keep me going at work. She also gave me a DIY cookbook, and…

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A homemade corset! I was so flippin’ excited about this. The girls in my family are all very fond of corsets, since we love to dress up so much. I switched my plaid shirt for my corset right away, though it took Emily nearly 20 minutes to get it on me.

The rest of the morning we watched The Grinch and started It’s a Wonderful Life while Mom prepped the food for our gathering later that day.

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She made a very unusual, but tasty, salad of radicchio, celery root, and granny smith apples covered in a bleu cheese dressing. Sadly, my own contribution of feta-stuffed cucumbers did not turn out. The cheese refused to get hard after sitting in the refrigerator almost a day and a half, so I scraped out the cheese spread and stuck them on crackers instead.

Then we headed to my Aunt Colleen’s for Christmas number four!

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With eight uncles and aunts and their children and their children’s children, it was quite the party. It was nice to see little kids running around again.

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Grandma said “I’ll break your camera!” but I took the photo anyway.

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My cousin Jake made a phenomenal pulled pork and roasted turkey, and we certainly didn’t go hungry.

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I tried a little of everything: Mom’s Radicchio Salad, an Italian Salad, Rice Salad with Cashews, Baked Beans, Brussels Sprouts, Cheesy Potatoes, Stuffing, Cucumber Crackers, and a Potato Bun with Pulled Pork.

I stuck to Ginger Ale for drinking. 🙂

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Every Christmas, my own family cohabits the steps leading up to the second floor. My Aunt Diane said she’s going to have to engrave our names on it at some point.

After dinner and chit-chat, we got to the food exchange. My Aunt Diane read a holiday story with a heap of the words ‘right’ and ‘left’ in it. Whenever she said ‘right,’ we had to pass our gifts to the right and so forth.

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I received chocolate chip cookies at the Christmas Eve exchange and, today, I received Milk Dud cookies. I’m going to be cookied out pretty soon.

We left the party at seven, as Dave had to work early the next morning, and my stomach was still giving me problems. I spent the rest of the night on the couch with ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and the Christmas special of ‘Downton Abbey.’

Dave’s family used to own a photography studio and every year between Christmas and New Year’s, they would close down the studio and have a ‘veg week,’ After all the running around we did this year, I was desperately hoping for a veg week, but work called to both of us. We’ve decided to have a veg day this Sunday, and I can’t wait! But first we must finish out the week and attend one more holiday party: Friendsmas. It will be epic, I’m sure.

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Happy Holidays from Chel & Dave!

 

 

 

Christmas, Part Two

I spent most of yesterday morning baking while Elf, Muppet Christmas Carol, and Mrs. Santa Claus played in the background.

My homemade soft pretzels following AB’s recipe turned out beautifully.

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I made these for the food exchange, but I kind of wanted to keep them for myself…I shared a small ‘tester’ one with Dave, and they were incredibly doughy and chewy; just as good as Aunt Annie’s! I couldn’t find pretzel salt at any grocery store and was forced to use sea salt instead, which worked just as well.

I also whipped up a Tarragon Mustard for dipping using Dijon mustard, dried tarragon, white wine vinegar, olive oil, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Scrumptious.

While I was waiting for the pretzel dough to rise, I worked on my food contribution for dinner: Mini Bell Pepper Quiches. I found the recipe in this book I picked up last year during Family Holiday Shopping Day.

It’s a bit dated, but it has some great recipes in it. Because I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to make pie crust, I substituted puff pastry shells, which worked splendidly. The recipe was easy and delicious, and even though I’m a bit iffy on quiche, I thought these were very tasty.

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Bell Pepper Mini Quiches

  • 24 puff pastry shells
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped red and green bell pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 oz shredded Swiss Cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of cayenne
  • dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Press pastry shells evenly into each muffin cup (using 2 muffin pans) to line bottom and sides.

In a medium skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add pepper and garlic and cook until softened but not browned, about three minutes. Remove from heat, stir in thyme, and let cool.

Distribute bell pepper mixture and cheese evenly among pastry shells. In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, milk, salt, cayenne and nutmeg. Ladle into pastry shells.

Bake 20 minutes or until filling is puffed and golden and pastry is lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Dave and I arrived at my Grandma’s for Christmas Eve at around 5:00pm. I like to get there early so I can see everyone come in. But we were greeted by a few familiar faces…

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My niece Aurelia.

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And my seeesters!

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My Uncle Jeff, ever the jokester, wore a Santa t-shirt saying “Does this suit make me look fat?”

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My cousin Jake moved back to Wisconsin from Oregon this year, and I swear, I still see him the same amount…hardly ever! It was good to be in his company again.

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And so good to see the Bains again, even though our Christmases get smaller and smaller.

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Dinner was a ham sandwich, cheesy potatoes, butter beans, seven layer salad, and a stuffed mushroom. And a quiche that I snatched off the plate and consumed before photographing.

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My Dad could win any eating competition he entered in; I so wish I would have inherited his metabolism (although he does work incredibly hard every day, too!).

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Decembeard brings people together! Well, just men I guess. I’ve been working on my beard for awhile, and it’s just not coming in.

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Christmas Eve is exhausting.

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Onto Christmas part three at my parents! Then off to Christmas part four at my Aunt Colleen’s. Wish me luck!

Christmas, Part 1

The more families grow and change, the harder it is to celebrate holidays on their actual date. Fortunately, Dave’s family was kind enough to change the calendar for our particular gathering this December.

003We’ll decide when Christmas is, thankyouverymuch.

After working on Friday, packing, and food prepping, we left Green Bay around 9:00pm and headed down to Illinois for Christmas Part One with Dave’s immediate family.

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After the two and a half hour drive, we were greeted with a familiar house and a lovely holiday tree bedecked with three times the amount of lights we have.

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Illinois didn’t receive nearly the amount of snow Wisconsin did, but the light dusting was perfect for a white Christmas.

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Christmas Eve morning breakfast was perfect, homemade toasted sourdough bread and butter.

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And then it was time to get down to business, following the Dowe Christmas Rules.

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We started at the top of the list: each couple must provide three finger foods/appetizers for group consumption.

Dave and I started with our Spinach and Feta Puffs, courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine.

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  • 1 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp chopped dill
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed, rolled out to a 12 inch square and kept chilled

To prepare:

  • Squeeze spinach until dry, forcing out as much water as possible (too much water will make for a soggy filling; you should have about 2/3 cup well-drained spinach). Mix spinach and next 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg to blend; fold into spinach mixture.
  • Cut puff pastry into 3 equal strips. Reserve 1 strip for another use. Cut each remaining strip into 3 squares for a total of 6. Place a square in each muffin cup, pressing into bottom and up sides and leaving corners pointing up. Divide filling among cups. Fold pastry over filling, pressing corners together to meet in center. DO AHEAD Spinach puffs can be assembled 3 hours ahead. Cover puffs and chill.
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Beat remaining egg to blend in a small bowl. Brush pastry with egg wash (this will give the pastry a nice sheen). Bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let puffs cool in pan for 10 minutes. Run a sharp paring knife around pan edges to loosen; turn out puffs onto rack to cool slightly before serving

012My brother made these for our Halloween dinner, and they were just as good this time. Spinach and feta is definitely a winning combination.

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We remade our Catfish Cakes with a Lemon Caper Dill Sauce and our third appetizer was bacon-wrapped, almond-stuffed dates.

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Bacon + anything is also a winning combination. We used Smokehouse almonds, and the combination of sweet, salty, and smokey was fantastic.

While we worked on our three finger foods, Dave’s dad Barry started by painstakingly creating phyllo cups for a spicy beef salad.

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When Dave’s mom Kathy got home from work, she set to task on off-the-menu items like a cheese and antipasto plate with crackers and vegetables and dip.

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Dave’s sister Ali and her wife Jaimee arrived with most of their food already prepared.

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The Torta, in particular, was wonderful: a trifecta of layered sundried tomatoes, pesto, and cream cheese studded with pine nuts and served with baguette slices.

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When all was said and done, it was a feast for kings.

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Before we dove into the food, Ali & Jaimee deviated from their Black Velvet drink to instead make Flaming Butterbeers.

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They could only get one of the butterscotch and rum shots to light up, but it was so cool.

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Not to mention delicious! I had a Harry Potter themed 24th birthday with a butterbeer competition, and this may have stolen the show. Just in case I decide to do another…

I stuffed myself with a little bit of everything.

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I love spicy food, but I had to pick some of the peppers off these spicy beef phyllo cups so I wouldn’t start crying and ruin the evening. 🙂

And no Christmas is complete without cookies!

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We had peanut butter blossoms, chocolate cookies with dried cherries, coconut macaroons, and my own Grinch cookies.

After eating, we played Taboo and Scattergories (I sucked at both), and then watched Home Alone. After a bit of clean-up, I was exhausted and so overjoyed to be able to fall asleep in front of the fireplace.

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A must for my dream house.

Christmas morning breakfast was traditional Dowe spread of coffee, tea, orange juice, and cinnamon rolls.

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Ali requested they be presented in tree form, which was very festive indeed. The rest of the morning was a traditional mess of wrapping paper, presents, and thank yous galore.

Dave’s family is always incredibly generous, and I was bestowed with some new coasters, a stepping stool (no more climbing on the counter!), candles, a subscription to Food Network Magazine and Cooking Light, the movie Julie & Julia, and a new board game, Wits and Wagers that I’m very anxious to play.

And then it was time to say goodbye. Dave and I made the trip back home to our kitties so he could get ready for work on Christmas Eve day. Today I’ll be making my food gifts as well as my offerings for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts…three more Christmases to go (including Christmas morning at my parents)!

 

Homemade Mint Chocolate Bomb Chiller

Every year, around this time, I allow myself a seasonal calorie-laden indulgence in liquid form.

Gloria Jean’s Mint Chocolate Bomb: a combination of iced coffee, sugar, milk, and peppermint whipped into a frosty drink and topped with whipped cream and sprinkles. Because if you’re going to order the drink, you may as well top it with whipped cream.

I wasn’t able to make it this year. On the way to the mall, my car started to shake and a burned-rubber smell filled my nostrils. I sadly had to turn away and came home to make my own version instead.

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I win.

Homemade (Healthier) Mint Chocolate Bomb Chiller

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 8 oz brewed coffee
  • 4 oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • spoonful of cocoa powder
  • spoonful of Stevia
  • dash of vanilla
  • one mint chocolate candy cane
  • 3-4 ice cubes

Process all ingredients in a blender and top with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.

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My hard work the last month and a half has paid off, and I finally have four days straight off with no work! For the next four days, my only ‘work’ will involve cooking, eating, drinking, and being merry.

With the help of my Mint Chocolate Bomb Chiller, I think I can handle that. I’m pretty damn good at those things.

How the Grinch Ate Christmas….Cookies

On the heels of a blizzard at half past eight,
the Grinch burst into his lair, hours late.

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He threw open the door and made such a clatter,
the slam of the door caused an ornament to shatter.

Tired and cold from a sixteen hour day,
the brightness of the holiday season was little more than grey.

Fortunately, the Grinch’s wife knew just what to do,
she kept quiet and fed the Grinch a cookie (or two).

After a hot shower, cookies, and a small glass of gin,
the Grinch’s heart finally grew three sizes again.

Grinch Cookies

  • 8 oz butter, melted
  • 12 oz flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 oz granulated sugar
  • 8 oz light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 oz milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a few drops of green food coloring
  • 1 4.6oz box of Andes Mints, chopped
  • 7 oz milk chocolate chips

Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat or in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda onto a paper plate. Pour the butter into your stand mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the whole egg, the egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract in a measuring cup. Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add the egg mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.

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Using the paper plate as a slide, gradually integrate the dry ingredients, stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the green food coloring. Once the flour is worked in, drop the speed to “stir” and add the chocolate chips. Chill the dough for 1 hour.

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven.

Scoop the dough into 1 1/2-ounce portions onto parchment-lined half sheet pans, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake 2 sheets at a time for 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Remove from the oven, slide the parchment with the cookies onto a cooling rack and wait at least 5 minutes before devouring.

Note: A sugar cookie dough will yield a much greener cookie; I just chose to stick with the classic chocolate chip cookie dough recipe.

Recipe adapted from: Food Network and The Hungry Dudes

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Christmas cheer will always be,
just as long as we have we.

But if your spirit starts to dim,
brighten it up with cookies again!

Tuesday Things

1. I have a new thing for diet Ginger Ale out of the can. I forgot how awesome it tastes; it’s crisp, clean and so incredibly fizzy. Unfortunately, the markup is about 50% higher than soda out of a liter bottle. Fortunately, that means I must pace myself, and my bloodstream won’t be saturated with aspartame by January.

2. Dave and I have finally decided on our three appetizers and drink for Christmas with his family: Spinach Puffs, Catfish Cakes, and Bacon-Wrapped Almond-Stuffed Dates to eat and Snakebites (half Guinness, half Strongbow) to drink. Let the food coma begin.

3. When I Googled “Snakebites”, I found they’re illegal to serve in Britain because they are too effective at making people drunk. Who lives in England? Is this true? I need to know.

4. I love reading the weird search terms people use to find my blog. Some of my favorites:

-Shut your pie hole recipe (I don’t remember posting that)
-Jobless and in need of a Christmas present for my daughter (Um…how sad is this?)
-Best yoga pants pictures (Yeah, that sounds about right)
-“Head feels so much lighter” (I like the addition of quotes)
-5 easy ways to gain weight (I hate the seven people that searched that)
-Sweat soaked girl sock (Um…ew?)
-I hate my legs (Why? They hold you up!)
-Slow cats Athena (Hey, my cat isn’t slow!)
-Hair cut for peanut shaped face (I would be mad if I could stop laughing)

5. I wish I had a legitimate day off before holiday festivities begin. I know I said I don’t feel overworked, but I reeeally want a day to myself.

6. I decided to make soft pretzels for my food gift exchanges following AB’s recipe. I watched the Good Eats episode last week and shouted at the TV screen when he tried to use lye to boil the pretzels. AB was just trying to prove a point; I should have known better.

7. Every December, due to excitement and whatnot, I lose weight. I guess the truffles haven’t caught up with me; I’ve lost seven pounds so far this month. Finally going back to normal! Sheesh.

8. I have decided to try not to be too excited for Christmas, so I don’t get the post-holiday blues. But I’m so looking forward to seeing Dave’s family again, seeing both the Bains and the Leahys, and celebrating Aurelia’s first Christmas with her. What a lovely season.

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9. Looking for a gift for the hipster on your list? Look no further.

10. There’s supposed to be a ginormous snowstorm coming Thursday to dump 10.6″ of snow on Green Bay. I do want a white Christmas, but I’ve already imagined sliding off the road multiple times. I need a paper bag to breathe into, because it’s seriously stressing me out.

Dave Cooked Again!

I love to cook, but I think I like to eat more. Therefore, it’s awesome when Dave has the time and energy to make dinner for us.

After I got home from working at the cafe yesterday, I felt like putting on yoga pants and doing nothing for the rest of the night. Instead, I put on Home Alone 2 from the part I fell asleep and wrapped all of our Christmas presents. The tree looks so much nicer with wrapped presents under it than boxes and plastic bags.

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While I wrapped, Dave thawed a whole chicken and put together a Thanksgiving-like feast for us to enjoy.

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Who doesn’t love cooking in their pajamas? Especially when this is the result.

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Roasted chicken with gravy, seasoned mashed potatoes (I did help with this part), and sauteed veggies with balsamic. I think sauteed balsamic veggies are my second favorite cooked veggies, next to roasted. I can even eat those chopped peas, carrots, and corn vegetable mixes that I usually hate when they’re prepared with balsamic.

We ate dinner while watching Love Actually. I wanted to choke the skinny-necked girl again, and Dave almost cried at the end again. I also fell asleep when we put a new movie on. Again. December is my month for sleeping!