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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

15 "Would Be" Blog Posts of 2015

15 "Would Be" Blog Posts of 2015
While many people are looking back and sharing their favorite or most popular posts from the past year, I like to look back and scoop some of the things up from the cutting room floor instead. Sometimes they wound up on the cutting room floor because the recipe didn't work out like I wanted it too and I need to revisit it later. Sometimes I just got too busy to share it with you. Other times I just thought the photos weren't good enough.

I dusted off 15 ideas from the past 12 months that I thought would be worth looking back at. I hope you enjoy a little peek at these outtakes!
Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Ultimate Beginner's Photography Bundle Giveaway!

The Ultimate Beginner's Photography Bundle Giveaway!
I'm so excited to bring you this amazing giveaway today! Have you had an interest in getting into Photography? Or maybe you want to up your photography game to help your blog or small business grow.  Whichever way you look at it, this beginner photography giveaway is just the ticket for you!

Today I have teamed up with some awesome ladies to be able to offer it to you - this package has roughly a value of  $550 (or more, since we found some killer steals on what is included). You definitely do not want to miss it.
Monday, December 28, 2015

Banana Streusel Muffins

Banana Streusel Muffins
For the past couple of years, my oldest has requested that I bring muffins to a Christmas Eve breakfast for the swim team. The team swims 100/100's first thing in the morning and get out of the pool famished. Most of the parents bring something from casseroles to biscuits and gravy to fruit to chocolate milk. I've brought other things over the years, but apparently I make the best muffins. How can I refuse?

This year I brought a dozen each of three different kinds. My Brown Butter Blueberry Crumb Muffins (which I always promise you the recipe for and still haven't shared) and Cinnamon-Sugar Donut Muffins are "required", but I wanted to throw in another kind this year. My swimmer loves banana bread and muffins, so I decided that these Banana Streusel Muffins were the way to go.
Sunday, December 27, 2015

Orange Currant Scones inspired by The Jane Austen Book Club | #FoodnFlix

Orange Currant Scones inspired by The Jane Austen Book Club for #FoodnFlix
Our December Food 'n Flix pick happens to be a movie that I love (and own), but haven't watched in a while. It's not really a foodie movie, but upon watching it again, I actually noticed a ton of food—in the background. The Jane Austen Book Club is based on the novel by the same name. I haven't read it, but it's on my list...though I have heard that aside from the names of the main characters, they are dramatically different.

But, today we're talking about the movie. I suppose you could call it a chick-flick. But I love chick-flicks, so that's okay with me. It's about a group of women who form a book club as a way of helping another friend through a rough spot in her life. There are four of them, but they find another woman and a guy to join them, so that they have 6 members.
Friday, December 25, 2015

(Almost) Nigella's Mini Cranberry Mince Pies | #FridayPieDay

(Almost) Nigella's Mini Cranberry Mince Pies
We're having pie for Christmas—it's #FridayPieDay! Can I tell you something? I've never tried a traditional mincemeat pie. I don't know why. It wasn't something I grew up on, and apparently it's just another thing I've been "saving for later" for the twenty-plus years since I started making my own pie. I figured since it's a very traditional Christmas offering (um, in the UK), now would be the perfect time to give it a go.

Although I admit that I didn't go very traditional. I didn't use the really old-school variety that actually contained lamb or beef and I didn't make the traditional dark, currant-filled mince, either. Instead, I tried Nigella's cranberry mince—because cranberries!

But first, a little glimpse into the history of mincemeat. I mentioned that it was originally made with meat, but according to Why Christmas? it was also oval-shaped to represent the manger that Jesus slept in, the top crust representing his swaddling clothes.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Whole Roasted Duck

Whole Roasted Duck with Oranges and Herbs
Aside from my love of cooking, do you want to know two things that inspire me in the kitchen? Beautiful ingredients and beautiful cookware. Today I'm sharing a recipe that is special enough to grace any holiday table, yet simple enough to prepare on any given Sunday. Plus, when it's in the oven, it fills your house with scents of warmth and comfort. I had to run to the store while it was in the oven and opening the door to the scent of this and freshly cut pine was intoxicating.

Let's start with the ingredients. I've been in the mood for duck lately. I used some duck sausage to make sausage rolls a few days ago, but I had a Maple Leaf Farms All-Natural duck raised without antibiotics just calling to me from the fridge. The duck, some sunny orange clementines and some fresh green herbs were just the ingredients that I needed to inspire me.
Monday, December 21, 2015

Gluten-Free Chia Seed Peanut Butter Oat Cookies

Gluten-Free Chia Seed Peanut Butter Oat Cookies
I don't know much about gluten-free baking. It's one of those "one day I should figure this out" kind of things...I just haven't figured out which day yet. So, when Carrington Farms asked me if I'd be interested in sharing their delicious and healthy cookie recipe that also happens to be gluten-free, I thought it was something I should try out for myself first (and then share the results with you if I liked it).

Guess what? I liked it. I liked it alot, actually. I stayed pretty true to their recipe, which can be found on the back of the current packaging for their chia seeds, I did add a little salt to the recipe (as I do 99% of the time in sweet baked goods) because it enhances the flavors. Their recipe calls for optional chocolate chips, which I considered leaving out entirely since I'm not usually one to add chocolate to my peanut butter cookies...but I figured I was already adding oats and chia seeds, so why not give it a go. But I also wanted to try them without, so I added mini chocolate chips to half of the batch.
Sunday, December 20, 2015

Rosemary Yuzu Gin Fizz

Rosemary Yuzu Gin Fizz
Two things that inevitably speak to me of winter are citrus and evergreens. I know that winter is still a couple of days away, but when you wake up daily to find everything outside of your front door covered in soft white frost, it kind of puts you in the mindset a little bit early. Therefore, it just feels timely to sip this this winter-inspired fizzy gin cocktail featuring the flavors of yuzu (a citrus fruit) and rosemary (an evergreen).

I recently tried a bottle of Yuzu Liqueur (made by iichiko Bar Liqueur) for the first time, and thought that the lightly sweetened citrus liqueur would be perfect in cocktails of all sorts for the holiday season. The fresh, piney scent of rosemary seemed like a natural accompaniment to the base yuzu citrus flavor, and combined, they just beckoned for the addition of a botanical gin.
Friday, December 18, 2015

DIY Star Wars T-Shirt Tote Bag

DIY Star Wars T-Shirt Tote Bag
It's that time of month again when the Blockbuster Bloggers get together to make food and crafts inspired by the release of a new movie to theaters. This month's choice was easy since today marks the release of one of the most anticipated movies ever, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I grew up with the original trilogy and now my kids have grown up with all six episodes, so the whole family is pretty psyched to get to theaters (though we'll be waiting a week or two...because no matter how big a fan I am, I despise packed theaters - I lied, we totally went and saw it today!! Loved it.).

Originally I intended to make some really fun Star Wars Mod Podge shoes, but the fabric I ordered online didn't make it to me in time (it's also holiday postal madness out there), so I switched course. A while ago I saw a really simple tutorial for making a t-shirt tote bag in a really cool book called DIY T-Shirt Crafts by Adrianne Surian, and thought it would be the perfect project to take the place of the shoes.
Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mixed Seafood Risotto and a #FeastoftheSevenFishes Menu

Mixed Seafood Risotto
I don't remember exactly when I first read about the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but this Christmas Eve tradition with roots in Southern Italy has been on my mind for a few years now. Served in Italian households on Christmas Eve (or La Vigilia), the meal typically consists of seven seafood dishes. Although nothing I've read has given the exact reason for there being seven dishes, it is said to stem from the seven being the most repeated number in the Bible, appearing over 700 times.

Other theories are that it represents the seventh day (when God rested), that the number represents the seven hills of Rome, or the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic church. But then, there are also families who tend to serve upwards of twelve or thirteen dishes or courses, which could represent the twelve apostles (or the twelve apostles plus Jesus).
Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Roasted Maple Vanilla Cranberry Sauce

Roasted Maple Vanilla Cranberry Sauce
Although my family has their preferred cranberry sauce for the Thanksgiving table every year, I like slipping in a new one every now and again just to see how it's received. I always hear people raving about homemade and then following that sentiment saying that they wish they could make it. I immediately tell them that they can and that homemade cranberry sauce is actually THE EASIEST dish on the whole holiday table to make.

Seriously, it doesn't get easier than 5 to 8 minutes on the stovetop. But this batch takes it one step further and roasts the cranberries. The time commitment isn't much more, you just need to wait for the oven to preheat. And the coolest thing about it is that roasting actually concentrates the flavor of the tart cranberries by removing some of their natural water via the process of evaporation.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Garlicky Duck Sausage Rolls

Garlicky Duck Sausage Rolls
I often hear people dismiss British food as boring, but I've always been fascinated by it. Of course, I'm fascinated by the food of all cultures, so maybe that's not very surprising. But with names like Toad in the Hole, Bubble and Squeak, Spotted Dick, Cullen Skink, and Welsh Rarebit, how could one not be intrigued? And it's not just the names, I've tried all but spotted dick...and each is tasty.

One thing that I hadn't tried making myself until yesterday was a simple sausage roll. The name may not be exciting, but I don't know why I waited so long to actually try them. How could sausage baked inside a pastry crust be anything but delicious? And while it's anything but boring, I did shake things up a bit and use duck sausage in place of pork sausage.
Monday, December 14, 2015

Enchiladas de Camote (Sweet Potato Enchiladas) Book Tour

Enchiladas de Camote (Sweet Potato Enchiladas)
While I love cookbooks in general, there are two types that I consider my favorites—the "personal" kind, aka the kind that tell stories behind the food, share memories, personal photographs and history and the "technical" kind, aka the kind that go deeper into the what, how and why of the ingredients, methods, and recipes techniques. Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex by Cappy Lawton and Chris Waters Dunn is one of the latter.

I'm happy to be hosting today's blog tour stop for this beautiful cookbook. Large and filled with tons of recipes and ideas for authentic enchiladas, this book is a welcome addition to the Mexican food afficionado and the home cook who likes to delve a little deeper and familiarize themselves with authentic ingredients and techniques from another culture.
Saturday, December 12, 2015

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp Fra Diavolo
Recently I was planning a Halloween party for the first time in as many years as I can remember. I like attending parties this time of year—dressing up and getting into the spirit—but the last time I actually planned something was when my oldest child was still in elementary school (he's a senior now)...and that was a kid's party. I wanted something for the adults this time.

It all started with a couple of bottles of Casillero del Diablo wine; the name translating to "the devil's cellar" in honor of the legend behind the wine. I thought creating a Devilishly Fun Halloween Party would be a blast! Plus, adults are easy. A little ambiance, a fun playlist, a few beverages, and some tasty food is all we need.
Friday, December 11, 2015

Double Chocolate Peppermint Granola

Double Chocolate Peppermint Granola
This granola (and what goes into it) is something that I've been wanting to share with you since October! With its double-dose of chocolatey goodness laced with fragrant peppermint, it is perfect for the holiday season. I mean, chocolate and mint is a great year-round combination, but there's just something about it that screams winter to me.

Normally I'm a granola for breakfast kind of girl, but this version tastes so sinful that you'll totally want to eat it for dessert—which is the first reason I'm sharing it with you during Christmas Week (which is all about the sweets). The second reason is that it makes a perfect homemade gift when stored in a pretty jar or container wrapped with a ribbon. Best of's pretty much the easiest thing in the world to make.
Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mashed Butternut Squash and Potatoes w/ Roasted Garlic, Smoked Gouda & Bacon

Mashed Butternut Squash and Potatoes w/ Roasted Garlic, Smoked Gouda & Bacon
There was a time when I did all of my potato-mashing by hand...and then I discovered the hand mixer method. At first I was resistant, perhaps even a little indignant. I gave my friend the cautious side-eye as she plunged the beaters into a pot of drained potatoes. I'd been mashing potatoes with the pure power of my arm for 22 years (okay, I didn't mash potatoes straight out of the womb, but it was close), why did I need a machine to do it for me?

I didn't say anything then, I just tucked that novel idea into my back pocket for another day. You know, a day when I actually owned a hand mixer. Fast forward a few years to dinner preparation in my own kitchen, steam rising up from a giant pot of potatoes that were ready to be mashed with warm butter and milk.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Salted Cashew Caramels

Salted Cashew Caramels
Christmas Week sweetness continues with these soft, chewy caramels that are studded generously with cashews and sprinkled with sea salt. Looking at my first two contributions to holiday baking, you can probably sense a theme - simplicity. Both sweet treats have ingredient lists that you don't need more than the fingers on a single hand to count.

Soft caramels have always been a weakness of mine. There's just something comforting about sinking your teeth into a rich, burnished chunk of transformed sugar. I'm also the girl that can polish off a tin of cashews all myself without coming up for breath, so the two of them colliding may be more of a danger than anything else.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Anise-scented Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Anise-scented Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies
Although I'd like to celebrate every day like it's National Brownie Day, today is the "official" date. In the spirit of truth and brownies, I have an admission to make. I make brownies from a boxed mix 85% of the time. It's not because I'm lazy (okay, it's not usually because I'm lazy), I just like them. I grew up on brownies made from a boxed mix and I've always kept a box in my pantry for emergencies.

Sometimes I make brownies from scratch, but I like the fact that if I have 5 minutes, some vegetable oil and a couple of eggs, we're having warm gooey brownies an hour later. So, don't judge and I promise I won't judge you if you want to make your brownies from scratch every single time.

Ecocentric Mom Subscription Box Review

October 2015 Ecocentric Mom Subscription Box Review
Just over a month ago, I featured the Ecocentric Mom Subscription box and told you to be on the lookout for an upcoming review. Well, guess what today is? You guessed it (you're so smart) — review day! I wanted to wait until a couple of boxes into my subscription to share my thoughts.

I'll start out by saying that I think subscription boxes are a fun way to get acquainted with a company or product by allowing you a taste of what "could be" were you go all-in. I like trying before buying, so I get a little giddy when I open up my mailbox to find a box of goodies waiting for me.

For each of the two boxes that I'm about to show you, I'll list the products that they contained, a brief description of those products, and my thoughts and/or experiences with them. Oh, in in case you don't remember (or didn't see) my other post, I should tell you that there are 3 types of subscription boxes available through Ecocentric Mom: Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, and Mom—because mama deserves a little pampering at any stage. Pampering!
Monday, December 7, 2015

Chocolate Fruit 'n Nut Bites

Chocolate Fruit 'n Nut Bites - Mendiants
Here's the thing, I love holiday baking. The planning, the process, the wrapping, the handing out to teachers, bus drivers, neighbors, and loved ones...or at least, I used to. I'd still love it if I could only find the time to do it. For the past 5 or 6 years, it seems like I go to sleep after a satisfying Thanksgiving meal and wake up a few days before Christmas in a panic. The holidays are stressful, yo.

But I do my best to wake up in the middle of it all and actually get something done. Therefore, easy holiday baking and treat recipes are a life saver. And really, these chocolate fruit 'n nut bites couldn't be any simpler. There's not really even a recipe, but I did write down approximate amounts of what I used so that you could have a bit of a guideline to go off of.
Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sweet 'n Spicy Dr Pepper Glazed Pretzels inspired by Mermaids

Sweet 'n Spicy Dr Pepper Glazed Pretzels inspired by Mermaids
If this isn't your first time here, you probably know that I've been making food inspired by movies once a month for more than five years now. So yeah, I've featured food or drink inspired by over 60 movies now! And even though that is a lot, I always find myself thinking I'd like to do more in a month. Unfortunately, the months just do not have enough days for me to do that. Or do they?

I decided that this month would defintely have enough days. One of the cool things about running a "movie and food" club online is meeting people with similar interests that I probably wouldn't have met otherwise. I met Kimberly from Coffee and Casseroles when she emailed me a little over a year ago now about joining in the Food 'n Flix fun, and we've become friends since then.

We often talk about books, tv, and movies and this month we decided to watch and cook from another one together. She mentioned the 1990 flick Mermaids and since I hadn't seen it in a couple of decades (yikes!) I asked her if she wanted to use that as our inspiration for our post. The rest is history.
Friday, December 4, 2015

The Santa Claus Man: an Excerpt and Book Tour Stop

Read an Excerpt from The Santa Claus Man by Alex Palmer, a book tour stop
The Santa Claus Man - an excerpt
Today I'm thrilled to bring you an excerpt from the book, The Santa Claus Man by Alex Palmer as part of a tlc Book Tour. I haven't read this yet, but it's been added to my reading list since I love the sound of the teaser. Read it for yourself, then scroll down to read the excerpt (featuring a little of the Christmas classic, plum pudding). Plus, if you order a copy of the book, the author will send you a free signed bookplate (more info on that at the bottom of this post).

teaser (via the tlc book tours site): Miracle on 34th Street meets The Wolf of Wall Street in this true crime adventure, set in New York City in the Roaring Twenties.

Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office Department. Gluck saw an opportunity and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa’s mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era’s movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan — until Gotham’s crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa’s workshop.
Thursday, December 3, 2015

Foodies Read 2016: My Challenge Log

Foodies Read 2016: My Challenge Log
With the new year quickly approaching, I've decided that I need a new challenge. While I do share books and cookbooks on a fairly regular basis already, I came across the Foodies Read Challenge hosted by Heather at Based On A True Story recently and decided to hold myself a little more accountable. I do have several shelves, piles, and boxes of books that I've been "meaning to" devote some time to anyway.

I hope you'll enjoy following along with this challenge. I will post the titles I've read on this page, as well as links to the monthly link-ups at Based On A True Story so that you have some great resources for titles to add to your own shelf or as gift ideas for the foodie bookworms in your life.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Apple Bacon Stuffing

Apple Bacon Stuffing
This past October, I once again had the chance to take part in a fun and informative blogger event hosted by Michigan Apples. This time we met in the fabulous Grand Rapids Downtown Market and cooked up an apple-lovers storm in one of their kitchens. I partnered up with the fabulous Lori of Foxes Love Lemons, and together we made a Michigan Apple and Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Pork Jowl Garnish and Cider-Glazed Chicken with an Apple Raisin Stuffing.

Eggnog Gooey Butter Cookies - An Old-Fashioned Christmas book tour

Eggnog Gooey Butter Cookies
Welcome to today's stop on the Old-Fashioned Christmas book tour! I'm happy to be sharing this heartwarming book-slash-cookbook with you today, as it's a perfect representation of the holiday spirit. I'm the first to admit that my holiday spirit has dwindled a bit with age. I blame it on consumerism which leads to stress...if you let it. I try not to let it, but it took a toll on me for a while. I think now that my kids are getting a bit older, it's gotten easier, slowly returning that spark to my attitude once the day after Thanksgiving arrives.

I adore lights twinkling against the snow and through warm, cozy windows. I love holiday baking to a soundtrack of Christmas tunes. I'm a sucker for Christmas movies of any sort. Plus, is there anything better than having the entire extended family trapped in the house with a crackling fire and a buffet of food on Christmas eve? Okay, that's a loaded question - but you get my point. I also love to see the spirit of giving at the forefront of everybody's thoughts.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Erin Condren Life Planner #Giveaway!

Erin Condren Life Planner Giveaway
Today I've teamed up with Simply Ashley Nicole, some of her sponsors, and other bloggers to bring you a fantastic giveaway! I don't know about you, but I'd be lost without my planner, and now is the perfect time to get yours for 2016. We are giving away one Erin Condren Life Planner that the winner can customize from all of the cool options and accessories offered (up to a value of $102).