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29 Oct

Hello lovelies – you have no idea how much I’ve missed you!
Thank you to everyone for all of your support and kind words after the mini-tri; it’s meant everything to me!
Tons has happened since my last post –

I tried my first macaron – amazing!

Also found my BFF from back home – say hi, Tim!

It’s still a little awkward for us to meet up 900 miles from home, so we don’t see each other much.

E and I had a garden, after all. We ended up with a mass of herbs, some jalapenos, and a few tomatoes. We also had raspberries, but we let the bees keep most of them.

We got to get a guard ‘dog’ to keep our veggies safe. Meet Porter.


The big 2-6 and the big sangria.

Final game of the Stanley Cup at Pittsburgh’s finest

giving in to my deepest, darkest secret – being a housewife!

Trying out some goodies…

and some not-so-goodies….excuse the awkwardness that apparently is my hand…

plus, who could forget hanging out with E’s dream gal and a few of her co-workers?

A lot’s changed, guys – some for better, some…not so much.

Finally got my permanent residency, which means that I’m now employed and in school. I’ve enrolled in a local community college to up my GPA to get into the program of my choice in a year or so at the university level, which may or may not be dietetics. I’ve also figured out the bus system, which means that my car’s still staring at me from outside the house, wondering why I can’t man up and drive already. Me too, car, me too…

I went home in September for the first time in over a year. It was awesome to see my peeps, but I’m bummed that I couldn’t see everyone. Unfortunately, I came back home less than a month later – my best friend lost her dad. It was one of the most tragic losses I’ve ever experienced, and being there was a really tough thing to do. I also learned that one of my cousins is in the last stages of cancer. Not a happy month over here, but I’m hoping that from now on, every time I go home, it’ll be for a happy occasion.

So, what have I been eating? Everything! Between the stresses of a so-called new life, traveling, family issues and more, I’ve done the opposite of “eat less, do more”. Thankfully, I haven’t gained a pound (weird, right?), but I can definitely feel the difference. I’m grouchy, lethargic, and feel downright pudgy! I just plain feel unhealthy, no matter what I eat. It’s been a wake-up call, my ah-ha moment. I always thought when I was really obese that I might’ve been fat, but that I was healthy. Well, guys, I wasn’t healthy at 294 lbs. last December, and I’m not healthy at 245 lbs. now. Am I a size 18 instead of a size 24? Yeah. Is that healthy? For me, not so much. Sometimes, life is just about what feels good, and being this big just doesn’t feel right. I’ve started to journal again, and just make better choices. I’m also starting to get back in the gym, slowly but surely, and it’s making a big difference. I just plain feel better – about myself, e, the world. It’s funny, a year ago, I would’ve been thrilled to feel this good, and now, it’s not good enough. I couldn’t miss something I didn’t have, but now that I’ve had a taste of this kind of life, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What’s been your ah-ha! moment in life?


WB Goodie Exchange, Part 2

28 Dec

Now onto what I sent to Julie!

I decided to send her an assortment of goodies that were each quite different from the others. Since her only request was No Fruitcake, I figured she and her husband were quite easy to please. I decided I’d send three of our family favourites that get gobbled up really quickly: Spice Cake Truffles, Banana Bread Biscotti and Walnut Wafers. Simple and easy to prepare (although a little time consuming), they all keep really well and would hold up in shipping. I also included some of our favourite Hickory Farms’ Melt-Away-Mints and a winter themed stationary set, which I hope she enjoys.

I got these goodie containers from Oriental Trading
they also come with covers for Halloween for dual usage.

spice cake truffles and Hickory Farms’ Melt-Away-Mints –
I love how festive they look together!

Spice Cake Truffles
adapted from a Bakerella recipe
makes between 35 and 50, depending on size of truffles rolled

  • 1 box of spice cake mix, prepared and baked as directed in a 9×13 pan and completely cooled
  • 1 can of cream cheese frosting (I use between 1/2 and 3/4 of the can)
  • 2 packages of white chocolate bark (about 12 oz. worth)
  • wax or parchment paper
  1. Crumble cake in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix thoroughly with frosting, starting with 1/2 the can and adding more as necessary – you want the mixture to easily form into a ball, but not be overly moist, mushy or sticky.
  3. Roll into quarter-sized balls and lay on a cookie sheet (I like to line mine with parchment paper). Chill for several hours in the fridge, or for 30 minutes in the freezer.
  4. When cake balls are thoroughly chilled, remove from fridge/freezer, and melt bark as per package directions.
  5. Rolls balls in chocolate (use a spoon to dip and roll, tapping off the excess), and place on another sheet of parchment paper until firm (I firm mine up in the fridge).

left: banana bread biscotti
right: walnut wafers

Walnut Wafers
adapted from What Did You Eat?

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, shelled and chopped
  1. Line one regular loaf pan or 2 mini loaf pans with plastic wrap (a regular loaf pan will give you quite large and fewer cookies, whereas a mini will give you more and small cookies).
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Beat the sugar and butter together with a mixer for about 4 minutes.
  3. Reduce speed, and add in the eggs and beat until creamy. Add in the flour in 3 additions.
  4. Press dough into the pan(s), and wrap well with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 2 hours, or as long as a month.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from the pan, and allow to soften slightly. Cut as many 1/8 inch slices as you can fit in your pan (about 8). Cover the remaining dough, and put back in the freezer until you’re ready to slice and bake more cookies.
  6. Place slices on a non-stick baking sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Sprinkle each slice with walnuts, and bake until dark brown (about 8-10 minutes). Once finished, allow to fully cool on a wire rack.

Banana Bread Biscotti
adapted from Picky Palate

makes about 25 biscotti

  • 3/4 cup mashed overripe banana (about 2)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar Splenda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Splenda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place bananas, egg, brown Splenda and vanilla in a large bowl; mix until combined.
  3. Place flour, white Splenda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and cinnamon chips into a large bowl; mix to combine.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until combined.
  5. Divide dough into two even parts and place onto a lined baking sheet, 4 inches apart. Dust your hands with flour, and form each into 7 inch logs, about 2 inches wide.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, and remove from the oven. Reduce heat to 250 and let cool for 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice biscotti into 1/2 inch slices on the diagonal.
  7. Bake slices for an additional 25-35 minutes, or until crisped .

And just for fun…

the other half batch of the Spice Cake Truffles, ready to hit my stepmother-in-law’s birthday party – don’t you just love the sprinkles?

I’m sending the biscotti and wafers over to Joelen for this month’s Tasty Tools: Baking Sheet Pans!

WB Goodie Exchange, Part 1

27 Dec

Even though I’ve been married for almost 5 months now, I still ‘hang out’ on the wedding forum I signed onto when we first got engaged almost 4 years ago. It’s amazing how many brides stay on once they become wives, and I’m no different – it’s like we really know each other. This year, I decided to sign up for the annual goodie exchange and I’m glad I did! The rules were simple; bake a dozen each of three different items, and send them to your buddy before Christmas, along with anything else you wish to send. Thankfully, since it’s a Canadian site, another American signed up, so it seemed evident that we’d be matched up together.

I received Julie’s package from Wisconsin not long after the names were assigned, and E and I were both very excited to open it up. When we opened my package, we were greeted by this:

Inside, we found a very festive card,

A cute fingertip towel and a pretty snowflake ornament for our very first tree,

And in a snowflake container, under the wrapping, we found:

Saltine cookies, Peanut Butter balls and White Bark balls!

So, the final verdict?

Julie was nice enough to send me the recipes, and allow me to share them with you (with her permission, of course!) Tomorrow, I’ll be posting what I sent!

Saltine Toffee Cookies

  • 1 16 0z. box saltine crackers (you won’t need the whole box)
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with foil.
  2. Arrange crackers snugly in a single layer, filling the sheet completely (about 40 crackers).
  3. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once melted, add in the brown sugar and mix well.
  4. Pour the butter mixture over the crackers, spreading as necessary.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the butter mixture is bubbly.
  6. Remove the sheet from the oven and sprinkle the crackers with chocolate chips. When the chips have softened, spread them over the crackers with a knife, decorating with sprinkles of coloured sugar if desired.
  7. Let the cookies cool 5-10 minutes before cutting between the individual cookies with a spatula.
  8. Remove them to a plate, keeping them in a single layer.

Note: If you do not remove them while they are still warm, they will stick to the foil and be difficult to remove once cooled.

Peanut Butter Balls
makes about 43

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 1 cup nuts, chopped
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  1. Mix together the sugar, butters, dates and nuts and form into walnut-sized balls. Refrigerate until firm.
  2. Melt the chips together in a saucepan or a double boiler (adding a bit of oil if necessary to reach desired consistency).
  3. Coat balls, removing with tongs, and place on wax paper. Refrigerate until coating has hardened.

White Bark Balls

  • 2 cups crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 1/2 lbs. white chocolate bark
  1. Mix the butters, sugar and cereal together in a large bowl. Form into walnut-sized balls and chill until firm.
  2. Melt the bark in the microwave or in a double boiler, as per package instructions. Dip the chilled balls in the melted bark and remove with a pair of tongs.
  3. Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and allow to rest until set.

Eggnog Cookies

23 Dec

Ever since the success of the famous pumpkin cookie, I’ve been on the hunt for a seasonal cookie for Christmas which is just as good, if not better. When I found the Eggnog cookie, I thought I’d hit the mark – even Nog haters love these things!

Apparently, I was wrong; in fact, I may actually be the first person to dislike these, which makes me wonder if I did something wrong. They didn’t spread or puff like I thought they would, so the first batch were perfectly shaped like little scoops of ice cream, and to me, tasted like flour and flour alone. E seemed to like them, and brought them to work the next day for their Christmas potluck (against my better judgment, by the way). Either I need to get my taste buds checked or they got remarkably better the next day, because apparently they were quite the hit! I’ll probably try making these again in a week or so when Eggnog goes further down in price to see if they’re better the second time around.

Eggnog Cookies
adapted from a Mrs. Fields recipe found on Picky Palate
makes 18 cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups Splenda (or sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup eggnog
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg; mix well with a wire whisk and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer. Add eggnog, vanilla and egg yolks and beat at medium speed until smooth. Add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  4. Chill dough for 20-30 minutes. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookies turn a light brown.
  5. Transfer to a cool, flat surface immediately and sprinkle with remaining nutmeg.

I Have A Confession To Make…

6 Nov

I’m married to a freak.

A pumpkin freak.

Not just a fan, E’s an actual fanatic.

Between the end of September and the beginning of December, he gobbles up anything pumpkin, and loves every minute of it! Before we met, I hadn’t even so much as tasted a pumpkin pie, but now? He’s converted me. I’m not head over heels like he is, but I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve tried, both savory and sweet.

We went to Cincinnati for Halloween to attend my friend Laurie’s party. She’s a fabulous cook herself, and made tons of food, mostly vegetarian, all of which delish. My mother taught me to never go to someone’s home for the first time empty-handed, so I offered to bake some cookies. Seeing as Halloween is pumpkin-tastic, these seemed perfect.

OMG – these are fabulous. The cookies are great on their own, cake-like and with a great pumpkin flavour, but add the frosting, and they’re divine. I could easily eat these every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner! They were a huge hit at the party – we were eight, and I brought 32. There was one left by the end of the night.

I didn’t make any changes other than substituting the cinnamon for pumpkin pie spice, omitting (forgetting!) the salt and subbing the butter for Smart Balance. However, should you choose to use Splenda and/or whole wheat flour, I think they’d still come out great.

Pumpkin Cookies
from The Good Apple
makes 32 cookies

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup of canned pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together.
  3. Add in the pumpkin, egg and vanilla, and mix until combined
  4. Add remaining ingredients, and mix until smooth and fluffy.
  5. Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, and transfer cookies to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely.

Brown Butter Frosting
makes enough to ice about 50 cookies

  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Over medium heat, boil the butter and sugar together until thickened and smooth (about 2 minutes).
  2. Allow mixture to cool completely, and whisk in the milk.
  3. Transfer to a small mixing bowl, and add in the sugar, beating with a hand mixer to your desired consistency.
  4. Spread onto cookies, and enjoy!

Since these are so easy to put together, with ingredients that seem to always be hanging around in my kitchen, I’m sharing them with Jenn of Frugal Upstate for her Frugal Thanksgiving Mini Series.