friday links

Normally I do not believe in this stuff, but I gotta be honest it's so spot on. Now that I'm older and a tad bit wiser (we hope) I'm reading it more thoroughly.
About 10 years ago I got this book: The Secret Language of Birthdays. Sure I got it for the surprise, the wow factor, the 'let's see what celebrities have my birthday' (Jim Henson and F. Scott Fitzgerald). Neat right? The book breaks down your birthday into sections of: those born on this day have this and that element about them, they should excel at this, stay away from that, then goes into number & planets (which I still don't understand), then into tarot, then Health (which I love), then personal advice, and finally your own personal strengths & weaknesses. The book also is filled with charts galore on the 48 periods, the grand cycle, the four elements, the ten plants, etc...oh all those charts I still don't understand. But it's the individual birthday readings that I'm digging. It's a big book, a really big book.
Every time I have friends over and they see that book they delve into it to find out if what they are is true; sitting there for a couple hours reading away....

But I never really read the fine print stuff about your own health, wellness, diet, exercise, things/people/places to stay away from, ideas/dreams you should pursue...until now. What struck a huge cord with me was the food recommendations: it told me to stay far far away from processed foods. That these take a huge toll on my body and while this is certainly true for everyone, it really rang hard for me as over the course of halloween and thanskgiving I indulged in way too many bad foods and was on the borderline of depression. I finally took this advice to heart and just starting eating cleaner and have had much better results. Sure this can be said for everyone though. The book also explained my "creative side of food creation"; stating that those born on this day have a very imaginative brain without really trying or thinking about it. True! Here's an example of Dec 18., no not my bday, just a random example to show you (there is a lot more; hard to fit this all in one or two photos).

Picnik collage 4

I think you might like this book, it's not your average horriblescope reading; it's way better and will tell you stuff that just might shock, surprise and/or make you happy, but most of all make you go out there and achieve what it is you really want in life. :-)

Anyone else in love with kicked up leggings such as these? Oh I just love these leggings. So stinking cute.

Recent trip to Sephora I saw Josie Maran had some neat lip stain stuff. Kind of curious but fearful of lip stains because they are ALWAYS way too dark and sticky, chemical like. Well I had tried on her lip stain stuff and it was not sticky and read that it was free of chemicals. Didn't think much of it until hours later when I saw in the mirror that the stain was still on there. Wow. This stuff does work. I didn't get it, but had wished I did. The color I tried was the most neutral, the Mambo.

Anthropologie. What woman isn't obsessed with their stuff? I thought they were all about clothes but apparently they have a whole kitchen section too. Where I saw these cute little ceramic farmer's market baskets. Cute!

Who likes Uggs? What happened to these Uggs? I don't think sparkles are supposed to be on Uggs.

Did you see these peanut butter cupcakes? Sweet sarah.

My cooking bud Nick over at Macheesmo did a great post on tips & tricks for freezing. Perfect for this time of year really.

Do you have naughty people on your Christmas list?
Want to give them coal for Christmas?

Rum balls this time of year can be gross. Use this recipe for the perfect rum balls; these are done just right.

Mini gingerbread whoopie pies from King Arthur. I will be making these.

Speaking of mile high cupcakes. Did you see these over at Culinary Concoctions by Peabody? Hi Top Triple Chocolate Cupcakes. It has a layer of CHOCOLATE SWISS MERINQUE BUTTERCREAM in there! That is like my all time favorite--I could eat a bowl of it, no prob.

Any of my readers out there do the Primal Blueprint? Kind of like the Paleo lifestyle craze? A grain free diet? Curious to hear your thoughts on it. It's had quite a huge success rate and I firmly believe that sugar and carbs (bad carbs that is) are the enemy. It's supposed to help enormously with inflammation: that wonderful little ailment we get when we age. But what struck a chord with me most was this blog from a woman who did the primal lifestyle and blogged about it here at primal girl. I don't do a lot of carbs, except for taste testing when baking; almost off soda, really don't do a lot of pasta. But I really want to go to the next level and eat more/better choices of proteins as well as eat more veggies. To be honest I do not eat a lot of veggies and I should. I do eat a lot of fruit though.
Love to hear your thoughts.....

The recipes in the book aren't that bad really. I mean they all look really good. And I can see why one would never miss the bread, the sweets, the carbs if you ate this way.
The primal lifestyle is almost like the paleo lifestyle, but the paleo is more restrictive. No grains, legumes or dairy. While the primal has no grains, limited legumes and dairy. It would be hard for me to give up dairy--that morning espresso with milk? Oh no!
Have a fabulous weekend kids.


pumpkin-nutella fudge puddles

pumpkin-nutella fudge puddles

I wonder if I should even write up a post for these. Will anyone read it? Or will they just go straight to the recipe to read the ingredients, look at the photos again and then print the recipe?
Do I even have to tell you how amazing these were? My stars. When they were fresh from the oven and just filled with that filling? Blisssss.
You. Must. Make. These.

Inspiration came from the ever infamous peanut butter fudge puddles I made years ago.
Tempted to call these muffins, they do look like it, but they taste like a cookie. I make these using a mini muffin tin because I want the filling to have a nice, perfect little cup to stay in. Haven't tried making them as just cookies for fear there wouldn't be enough of a 'cup' to hold the filling. How horrid would that be? :-)

pumpkin-nutella fudge puddles

pumpkin-nutella fudge puddles

pumpkin-nutella fudge puddles

pumpkin-nutella fudge puddles

pumpkin-nutella fudge puddles
print recipe

cookie base:
1/2 cup butter, softened
Not quite 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 dashes of pumpkin pie spice (more if you like pumpkin-y flavor; I do not)
1/2 ts vanilla extract
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 ts baking soda
1/2 ts salt

Cook notes:
You really want to slightly undercook this so it’s easy to add in the indentations and then the fudge. It will be hard to look for a “very light golden brown color” with the addition of pumpkin, so you can tell by touching the tops and if they give a little (not a lot) then it’s time to take them out. I mixed all by hand I don’t have a mixer, but feel free to use a mixer. I made the indentation in the centers using the other end of a spatula, re-wetting the end as I go along. If you don’t wet the end it will stick to the cookies. There might be extra filling left over. Store it in the fridge as it makes an excellent ice cream topping. To use later just reheat in microwave in short bursts.

In a large bowl, mix the butter, pumpkin, and both sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry to the wet mixtures.
Chill in the fridge for at least one hour. Remove from fridge and form into just over 1-inch balls.
Grease a mini-muffin pan and add 1 ball to each muffin cup. Using a wet spoon push the dough mixture down into the cups. (see photo)

Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until VERY lightly browned.

Remove from oven and make an indentation in the center of each ball (using the other end of a spatula), big enough to fill the middles with the fudge filling. (see photo)
Let them cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes and then move to a cooling rack.

1 cup nutella
1 cup milk chocolate chips
4-5 ounces sweetened condensed milk
chopped walnuts or pecans (I forgot this step but it would have been fabulous, so please do this)

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips. Once melted add in the all the ingredients except the nuts, and mix well; make sure it’s nice and heated though. Then pour the filling into a heat safe measuring cup and pour the filling into the cookies. I found using a measuring cup helps the pouring go a lot smoother.
Decorate with chopped nuts if desired. In about an hour or more the filling does start to harden.
Should make about 24 – 30 mini’s


salty caramel-apple pie

salty apple-caramel pie

Well it's Thanksgiving week. That was fast. Are you ready? Are you stressed? Last year I did the HUGE mistake of going to Whole Foods on Thanksgiving eve. There wasn't a parking spot to be had for miles. It was INSANE there. As much as I love Whole Foods I will never ever do that again. I swear everyone was there buying turkeys and side foods as well as pies. I mean I know people do last minute Christmas shopping, but last minute turkey dinners? Amazing. I just went there to stock up on my water and probiotics--which could/should have waited.
Are you cooking this year? What are you making? Are you doing the whole meal? Doing the whole meal scares me unless I have a big ass kitchen and an even bigger fridge. Because seriously where are you going to store everything? One of my culinary dreams is to have a Sub Zero fridge or no, that fridge that is in the background of that food show Cooking for real with Sunny Anderson. It's a SEE THROUGH fridge people. How cool is that?
If you need any ideas for kicked up pies here is one: salty caramel apple pie. It's has the salty, sweet and buttery all happening. Perfect combo in a pie really. Just make sure you top each slice with vanilla ice cream! It's fairly easy to make. You can make the caramel sauce a couple days ahead and save the pie for the day of--easy peasy.
Have a wonderful holiday kids. Be safe and eat well!

salty caramel apple pie

salty caramel apple pie

I love the person that thought those chunks were cheese. Ha Ha! But actually that's a really good idea--for real. (I had posted this pic to the Vanilla Sugar Blog Facebook page as a teaser of what's to come).

salty caramel apple pie 5

salty caramel-apple pie
print recipe

2 pie crusts, homemade or premade
(I always use Martha Stewart's pie crust recipe; it never fails me)
7-8 cups apples, peeled and sliced into medium 1 ½ x 1 ½ inch slices (I use any apple really not granny smith)
The juice of one large lemon
2 TB flour
1 TB cinnamon
3 TB butter
3 good pinches of sea salt
¾ cup of caramel sauce
1 egg (for the pie wash on top)

homemade caramel sauce
from my baking addiction

1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/4 liquid cup water
1/2 liquid cup heavy cream, room temp NOT cold
2 TB unsalted butter, room temp
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cook notes: I only used ¾ of the caramel sauce and saved the rest in a covered glass jar for other goodies. I’ve made this pie with premade crusts and with homemade crusts—both work fine.
I used about 3 good size pinches of sea salt for the top of the filling—this maybe too much for some of you and just right for some of you. Use what you think is best. I tend to like my caramel pie a touch salty. I used a deep dish apple pie pan for this, as it hold more apples. I do NOT like to pile apples into a mile high pie—that’s’ just me, I feel the caramel taste gets lost with too many apples. I like about a 4 inch apple thick pie.
You must, I repeat must serve this with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. I stored my pie, covered, at room temp. I could not fathom putting it in the fridge; apple pies do not taste good cold. It kept nicely at room temp for about 2 days.

For the caramel sauce:
In a heavy saucepan place a candy thermometer on the side of pan. Stir together the sugar, syrup, and water. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until all sugar is dissolved AND its bubbling. When it hits 380 F remove from heat and CAREFULLY pour in the heavy cream. It will bubble and boil a lot so stand back and let it do its thing. Once it’s calmed down, mix with a rubber spatula, stirring and scraping up the bottom of pan. You might want to return it to the heat (a medium heat) if you see that not everything is dissolving. Once that is heated thru and stir in the butter and salt. Take off the heat and keep stirring till everything has come together. Let this cool a bit, about 4 minutes, then add in the vanilla extract.

For the pie filling:
In a large bowl place the chopped apples in and sprinkle with the lemon juice. In a small bowl combine the flour and cinnamon mix. The toss the flour mixture onto the apples and using a spatula combine well.
Let sit for a bit.

For the pie:
Preheat oven to 420 degrees. Spray your deep dish pie plate with non-stick spray; lay one of the pie crusts down into pie plate.
Take your apples and pour about ¾ cup of the caramel sauce over them, then mix with spatula. Take apples and place into pie. Sprinkle on the sea salt over the top, then take your 3 TB of butter, cut into small pieces and drop over the pie filling.
Take the other pie crust, and place over the top, crimping the edges closed. Take your egg and beat it a small cup with a fork. Generously wash the top of the pie with egg using a pastry brush.
Using a sharp knife, poke about 5 slits in the top of the pie for steam escape.
Place pie on a parchment lined baking sheet.
I baked my pie at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes. Yours might take less or more to bake, depending on oven. But check at the 45 minute mark to see where it stands.
Please let this pie cool at least 30 minutes before slicing into it to let the caramel set up.
Serve with vanilla ice cream


chocolate-peanut butter and shortbread chunk cookies

choco pb and shortbread chunk cookies

On my fridge sits many a recipe paper cut outs attached to various magnets. These are recipes that I need to try and also kick up. Some recipes have been there for years, some even longer. And with each new place we move to they come with only to get placed back up on the fridge to sit there.....forever. Well the other day I finally was able to take one down. One that came from a cut out from King Arthur catalog. A peanut butter-chocolate chunk cookie. King Arthur has fabulous recipes, and I'm so glad that they add them into their website and catalogs. Just like Barefoot Contessa, King Arthur has recipes you can trust and count on; tested, tried and true. So I didn't do that much to their original recipe, I only added on extra butter, some baking powder, used a double dutch cocoa powder (for more chocolately flavor) and of course added in the shortbread chunks. Why? I just knew that these cookies would be nice and soft and I just had to add in a subtle layer of 'crunch'. OK and more butter flavor too.
If you make these make sure to read all my cook notes. OK?

choco pb and shortbread chunk cookies

choco pb and shortbread chunk cookies

Do you want a money shot? Yeah of course you do.

choco pb and shortbread chunk cookies

chocolate-peanut butter and shortbread chunk cookies
sort of adapted from king arthur
print recipe

1½ cups and 3 TB all-purpose flour
6 TB Dutch-process cocoa (I used double dutch, either is fine)
½ ts baking powder
¾ ts baking soda
¾ ts coarse salt
1 stick (8 TB) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup and 3 TB creamy peanut butter (do not use all natural)
½ cup white sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 ts pure vanilla extract
2 TB whole milk or half & half
1 & ½ cups mini PB cups OR regular PB cups, chopped
1 cup of shortbread chunks, rough chop

Cook Notes: I used Trader Joe’s mini pb cups in this, but next time I will use Reese’s PB cups. The trader joe ones were not that peanut buttery for my taste. I just wanted a bit more peanut butter taste and I know that Reese’s will do it just right.
As for the shortbread chunks, use a good quality shortbread; one that is nice, buttery, crispy and thick like Lorna Doone.
As for the dutch process cocoa, I used a double dutch for that extra chocolate richness, but regular dutch process is just as fine too.
I made these cookies large using a regular size ice cream scoop. You can make them smaller, but whatever size you use I highly recommended using an ice cream scoop (any size) to scoop them onto baking sheet as the dough is very sticky.
Do the cookies freeze well? No.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, dutch cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, peanut butter, and both sugars.
Beat till light and fluffy. Then add in the egg, vanilla extract, and milk. Mix until smooth.
Next add in the dry ingredients and mix till just incorporated.
Then by hand, add in the peanut butter cups and shortbread chunks using a spatula.
Place in fridge and chill at least half hour, longer if it’s humid and/or hot outside.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out even sizes of dough onto baking sheet, making sure to place doughballs at least 2 inches apart from each other. Cookies don’t spread that much.
Bake 13-14 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.
The cookies will be soft to the touch. But as they cool they do firm up a bit. I know you might be tempted to overbake them, please don’t.


devils food cake pops w/ mint chocolate

devils food cake pops with mint chocolate

Cake balls, cake pops, cake thingees-- I am now ok with them. Before I hated them. Remember when I made these midori cape pops? Yeah, those were hard to make! Hard to make the first time around, and even the second time around. Patience grasshopper; that was what my mind was telling me--have patience. First time around I did not have any patience and maybe got 4 to 6 good cake balls for a photo. Whew! Yes, out of like 50 cake balls I got 4 to 6 good ones--bad, very bad. Don't get me wrong they tasted wonderful, but were fugly. Instead of being cake pops they were cake nuggets! Hubby didn't care, they popped in his mouth like popcorn. And I swear each time I saw him eat one I would cringe thinking 'do you know how long it took me to dip that one? No, that one was even worse to dip! I can't watch!'
Since I was so disappointed in myself I gave them a second go without realizing why I had failed in the first place. So naturally the second time around failed--again. Retracing my steps like a detective from Law & Order: Special Cake Pops edition I realized that I did not let the cake pops set up in the freezer long enough; I was letting them set up in the fridge. They need to be a bit firm, not frozen, before you dip them in the chocolate bath that makes everything fall off the stick. LOL! I also found that using milk chocolate as opposed to candy melts makes a much nicer dipping process. AND the taste of pure chocolate tastes way better than candy melts. But that's just me. If you do decide to use milk chocolate instead of candy melts remember the milk chocolate will have a thicker shell than the candy melts.

devils food cake pops w/ mint chocolate

If you're new to making cake pops or cake balls make sure to visit bakerella.com. She is the queen supreme of all things cake pop. She has a whole section of just cake pops, and if memory serves correct her first cake pop post was in 2008? She's certainly come a long way since then. Now she even has muppet pops (check out the Beaker pops!), kidney pops, and tea pop party! Glad to also hear that her health is on the mend and life is good for her. Congrats to you. How she gets her cake pops so perfectly round is still a mystery to me, but for now I love my lumpy cake pops.

For the recipe head over to Nescafe Dolce Gusto Facebook page, under the recipes tab!


pumpkin-cream cheese cinnamon rolls


It's amazing the amount of emails I receive, thanking me for the Trader Joe creations. To be honest, I wasn't sure if they might go over well, but glad to hear most of you enjoy them. I know most of them are semi-homemade, but in this tough economy saving money when making meals is a top priority of mine; you can imagine the amount of money I spend on food for creating recipes. Thank goodness Trader Joe's products are so versatile, user-friendly, what else (besides cheap?). Oh you know where I'm going with this......
I do get a lot of inspiration when Trader Joe's has the product sampling. Does yours do sampling? I imagine they all do. Last time I was at Trader Joe's, four days ago, they had samples of the rice balls with marinara, they were good. But what really caught my attention was the girl behind the counter serving the samples was quieting working on these cake ball like things. So being the chatty person that I am I asked her what she was making. She took the TJ's pumpkin bread mix, made them into cake balls with some agave, let them chill/firm up in the fridge and then was dipping them in white chocolate. She had made a small batch for the employees to try before launching onto them to the public. Interesting for sure. Pumpkin bread cake balls; might give that a try....would you?


Remember the peanut butter cream cheese cinnamon rolls topped with bacon that I did a while back? Well that is where I got the inspiration for these pumpkin ones. The instant cinnamon rolls from trader Joe's are so good, so easy and always beg to be kicked up somehow.


pumpkin-cream cheese cinnamon rolls
print recipe

1 pack of Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Rolls (in the can)
2-3 TB plain pumpkin puree
4-5 ounces of cream cheese, room temp
A few dashes of pumpkin pie spice
A few dashes of cinnamon
¼ cup of crushed pecans or walnuts, optional

Note: I thought I was going to need a bit of confectioners' sugar, but I did not. The icing pack that came with the cinnamon rolls was plenty sweet.

Bake cinnamon rolls according to package directions.

Take the icing pack that came with the cinnamon rolls and place in a bowl along with the pumpkin puree, cream cheese, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. Stir until well mixed. Set aside.
When rolls are done baking, immediately put the pumpkin-cream cheese mix over the rolls. Top with extra spices if desired and crushed nuts.
Serve immediately.
(they don’t keep well for the next day)


apple-pecan blondies

apple-pecan blondies

I do love a good kicked up blondie. A blondie is the perfect vessel for housing different flavor combo's. The blondie base is the perfect ratio of butter, sugar, flour and eggs, leaving you to fill in the flavor gaps. And I did just that with sauteed apples and pecans. And the best part? It's easy peasy to throw together. What add in's would you use?

Head over to Nescafe Dolce Gusto Facebook Page for the recipe. This Blondie recipe can be found under "recipes" on their FB page. See you there!



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