Valentine’s Day Baking

As I’m sure you guys have figured out from my fast few posts…I am a huge romantic who absolutely LOVES Valentine’s Day—the decorations, colors, gifts, and the whole idea behind Valentine’s Day is simply wonderful to me. Even without a Valentine, February 14th is still a day to recognize and appreciate the people in your life, like your friends and family, who you love.

One thing that really gets me into the Valentine’s Day spirit is baking. There are thousands of “love” themed recipes out there, and today I’ve assembled a few Valentine’s Day treats that I think you will really enjoy baking!

 

1. Cupcakes and Cookies

Cookies and cupcakes are two very “go-to” choices when it comes down to figuring out what to bake. However, what people don’t always realize is that cookies and cupcakes that need to be decorated open the door to endless possibilities! Use sprinkles, dyed frosting, and Valentine’s Day candy to spruce up sugar cookies and cupcakes. If you’re making the classic chocolate chip cookie, why not add Valentine’s Day red, pink, and white M&Ms to the mix? If you are looking to get really fancy, try something different like the Red Velvet Crinkle Cookie (these are sooo good!) Get the how to here!

 

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TPC v day 2 Pictures courtesy of DropDeadGorgeousDaily, TheDecoratedCookie, StopLookinGetCookin, Wedding-Dress, FrugalTexasDiva, CupcakesGarden, and Unsophisticook.

 

2. Fruity Treats

Don’t forget about fruit! Valentine’s Day treats do not always need to be baked; Heart Shaped Fruit Kabobs and Chocolate Covered Strawberries are refreshing and just as festive, sweet and tasty as any cookies or cupcakes!

TPC VDay 3

 

Images courtesy of RecipeByPhoto, and WorkmanFamily.

 

3. Miscellaneous Treats

These I just had to throw in here. The Pretzel Kiss Candies and Marshmallow Pops look so delicious, and so easy to make.  Don’t be afraid to get creative, and non traditional with your baking!

TPC v day 4

 

Pictures courtesy of SavvyMom, and GriffithsRated.

What are you baking this Valentine’s Day?!

XO, Christine

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City Spotlight: New York City!

New York City is the best place to visit during the holiday season! The entire city is decked out in lights, ornaments, trees, menorahs, bows, and festive colors. It is truly magical experiencing Christmas in New York, and it should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list. While I am from outside the city, I love being a tourist this time of year and taking the train in to see some of the famous sights and sounds! New York City is easy to reach throughout all of New England, NJ, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC by train, so it makes for a perfect day or overnight trip, and it totally worth it! Here are some of my favorite things to do in New York City during the most magical time of year!

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Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center needs to be at the top of everyone’s to do list when they come to NYC, especially around the holidays! This is the world’s largest Christmas tree that they light each year in a televised special complete with famous musicians and bands. It is truly a sight to see with all its colors and blinking lights and ice skating on the Rockefeller Center rink in the shadow of the tree, complete with Christmas music, is so quintissential New York City! Rockefeller Center is also filled with fun stores including J.Crew, Anthropologie, Nine West, Banana Republic, H&M, Magnolia Bakery and Dean and Deluca to finish that holiday shopping or grab a fun treat. This is by far my favorite section of the city, especially during this time of year!

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Enjoy a Holiday Show

NYC is of course famous for its Broadway shows! This year, they have a multitude of holiday themed Broadway and Off-Broadway productions to offer! Two years ago, I saw Elf on Broadway and it was just as funny, if not more, than its movie counterpart! Plus, its always such a blast to get dressed up and attend a Broadway show, especially at this festive time of year. The Theater at Madison Square Garden is also showcasing How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and seeing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes is a holiday tradition!

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Take in a (free) Late Night Show!

Just yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon! This was always a dream of mine, since I think Jimmy Fallon is the funniest man in the world, and what made it all the more better was a favorite band of mine, Florida Georgia Line, was the musical guest! Getting the tickets was extremely easy: I simply entered my name online and a day later, was contacted by the show saying I had 2 tickets to the date I requested! Most late night and/or talk shows filmed in NYC have this same process, including Saturday Night Live, which was also such a fun thing to attend. So why not give it a shot! You will definitely be in for a ton of laughs and an eye-opening experience in the television world!

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The Christmas Shopping and Windows!

Famous department stores such as Macys, Bloomingdales, Lord and Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys are renowned for their Christmas windows! Definitely take the time to walk Fifth Avenue and explore the deparment stores and their windows to see what this is really all about. Each one tells a story and since the stores are so big, the windows are tremendous and go on for an entire block or two. They usually have a different theme every year so they are always individual and unique. Macy’s Herald Square, the largest department store in the world, is a spectacle in itself around the holidays! Its 8 stories are filled with tourists and locals alike, speaking in a buzz of thousands of different languages, each trying to find Santa Claus or the perfect gift or simply to experience NYC at Christmas time!

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Hannukah in NYC!

Central Park, near the Plaza Hotel, features the world’s largest Menorah! They light it each and every night of Hannukah and begin the 8 nights with a huge ceremony! NYC is home to a very large Jewish population so this occasion is taken very seriously and is celebrated widely! Each night, this area of Manhattan is a buzz with activity as it is right in the center of all the Holiday shopping and activities, so check it out if you are around!

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Ice Skating in Bryant Park

While there is ice skating at Rockefeller Center and Central Park, the huge and beautiful ice rink at Bryant Park behind the NY Public Library is FREE! All you have to do is pay a cheap skate rental and you are set to go! Here, they play Christmas music as you skate around in the shadow of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. The skyline around the park is magnificent and beautiful. There is also a beautifully lit Christmas tree here, as well as so many holiday pop up shops which offer gifts to give for the holidays from handbags to ornaments to pet clothes to chocolate! Also, definitely check out the terrace restaurant here, where you can enjoy a hot cocoa or a full blown meal while overlooking the skaters and the skyline!

NYC is definitely the place to be around the holidays and everyone should experience it once! Check it out if you can! I am so happy I get to call this place home!

XOXO,

Caroline

EASY Desserts For Your Thanksgiving Feast!

I cannot wait to get home for Thanksgiving break! For me, Thanksgiving means spending time at home with my family, a little vacation from classes, and some really spectacular food…. especially desserts.

To celebrate the holiday, my family usually hosts a Thanksgiving dinner at my house. Our meal is potluck style, so everyone who comes to eat brings something to add to the table. I like to contribute by making some sort of dessert. For my Thanksgiving themed post, I’d like to share with you some big hit recipes that I have used in the past–

 

1. LIBBY’S® Famous Pumpkin Pie 

‘Pumpkin’ is my favorite seasonal flavor..so as you can guess—Pumpkin Pie is my absolute favorite type of pie to have during the holidays…The LIBBY’S® recipe is fabulous because it is SO EASY to make, yet tastes SO GOOD to eat!!!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  •  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  •  1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  •  2 large eggs
  •  1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
  •  1 can (12 fl. oz.) Evaporated Milk
  •  1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
  • Whipped cream (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
  2. Pour into pie shell.
  3. Bake in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

 

2. Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

With so many possibilities and combinations, Trifles are perfect deserts to serve at any holiday meal. Sometimes for Thanksgiving I’ll make this pumpkin and gingerbread flavored one. The pairing of the gingerbread and pumpkin make this dessert not only so yummy, but so festive too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 (14-ounce) packages gingerbread mix
  • 1 (5.1-ounce) box cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 (30-ounce) can pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon
  • 1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping
  • 1/2 cup gingersnaps, optional

Directions:

  1. Bake the gingerbread according to the package directions; cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool.
  3. Stir the pumpkin pie filling, sugar, and cardamom into the pudding.
  4. Crumble 1 batch of gingerbread into the bottom of a large, pretty bowl.
  5. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping.
  6. Sprinkle of the top with crushed gingersnaps, if desired. Refrigerate overnight. (Trifle can be layered in a punch bowl).

 

3. Caramel Apple Crisp

Between the months of November and January, someone in my family can pretty much always be found in the kitchen baking apple crisp—this recipe is a favorite in my household. I love the caramel mixed in as an added bonus!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  1 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 8 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples
  • 1 package (14 ounces) caramels, halved
  •  1 cup apple cider, divided

Directions: 

  1. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly.
  2. Press half of the mixture into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish.
  3. Layer with half of the apples, caramels and 1 cup oat mixture.
  4. Repeat layers. Pour 1/2 cup cider over top.
  5. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30 minutes.
  6. Drizzle with remaining cider
  7. Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until apples are tender. 

 

Whether your Thanksgiving dinner  is at your house or not, I think its always a nice gesture to contribute to the meal! Why not bring along a nice dessert!

What are your favorite desserts to have on Thanksgiving? Leave it in the comments!

XOXO, Christine

Southern food

As y’all may or may not know, I’m a Southern studies major (but you’ve probably already heard this because I’m obsessed with it).  I spend a lot of time thinking about Southern culture, of which food is a huge part of it.  More time than I really want to admit to is spent thinking about food, researching food, eating food, writing about food and then wishing I was eating more food.  I’ve read probably every list of “Best Southern foods” on the Internet and I’ve taken copious notes on the history of shrimp and grits and barbecue.  If you didn’t start out reading this thinking Southern studies is the coolest major ever, I hope I’ve changed your mind.  If not, I’m not sure what can top having food every other class.

When people think “Southern food” or “soul food,” images of fried food almost always come to mind, whether it’s in the form of fried chicken or a fried candy bar.  And while those are almost always present in Southern cuisine, residents of the South know that Southern food is so much more than just fried food.  We know that we have some of the most delicious dishes in the country.  So, I give to you some delicious Southern food dishes that I think are spring-appropriate – devoid of any fried foods, and perhaps not quite what you typically think of when it comes to Southern foods.

Hoppin John is a dish traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day – the black-eyed peas are supposed to bring you good luck!  Though the New Year has come and gone, Hoppin’ John is a staple of Southern food.  Depending on what you read, the ingredients will vary, but the dish usually includes black eyed peas, rice, pork, onions and Cajun spices.

To me, banana pudding is the quintessential Southern dessert.  I associate banana pudding with fellowship dinners at church when I was little.  Banana pudding is also ridiculously easy to make and perfect to eat once it gets hot, since you eat it chilled!

Confession: grits are my favorite food ever.  I’ve been eating grits for breakfast for almost 20 years now.  Grits are my ultimate comfort food.  For breakfast, all I do is put a bit of butter in them, but shrimp and grits is also a classic Southern entree.  The addition of shrimp and cheese makes grits more substantial for a larger meal.

Healthier comfort foods

This time of year, everyone’s trying to eat healthier to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions.  I’m not one to make goals about losing weight, so for me, the beginning of the year is all about comfort food for the cold months.  But, in the wealth of things you can find on Pinterest, I’ve found some awesome healthy, recipes to make!  Click on the pictures to go to the websites with the original recipes.

Fruit roll ups were basically the best snack ever in kindergarten.  This homemade version is made out of strawberries (or whatever fruit you choose) and cinnamon and is a whole lot better for you than the store-bought version.  The only downside to this recipe is that they take awhile to prepare, but you could make a lot of them at once & stock up!

This Avgolemno soup, or Greek lemon egg soup, looks absolutely delicious and is something I’d love to make this winter.  It has roast chicken in it, and anyone who knows me knows the only meat I like to eat is chicken, but you can leave the chicken out as well!

I think this turkey wrap with cucumber cream cheese is a perfect lunch for days when you have class.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can add whatever other vegetables & toppings you want onto the wrap.   I really like the idea of mixing the cucumbers with cream cheese!

And for good measure, the ultimate comfort food & because I am from the South, Paula Deen’s recipe for chicken noodle soup.  I actually hate canned chicken noodle soup, like Campbell’s, but I quite enjoy homemade chicken noodle soup.  Maybe my mom (who’s known to always read my blogs) will make me this the next time I come home???…hint, hint.

A little Pre-Thanksgiving fun!

Before all of my friends and I all head back home for turkey, family, and football, I like to celebrate Thanksgiving’s lesser-known cousin, Friendsgiving. It’s a great evening filled with friends, food, laughter, and full stomachs. I love Friendsgiving because it’s a fun way to let your friends at school know how much they mean to you and to celebrate the bonds you’ve made. Also, it’s a great way to extend my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.

This year, my roommate and I had dinner with a bunch of our guy friends. We made turkey pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and my roommate’s boyfriend even made raviolis! It was all so delicious, and the guys were so excited to start their Thanksgiving break off with a home-cooked meal before they even left.

Before we all ate, I made everyone go around the table and say what they were thankful for. It’s something that we do in my family every year, and it’s my favorite Thanksgiving tradition.

Here’s some pictures from our feast!

SO MUCH good food!

My roomie and me 🙂

The boys, digging in.

Allison's boyfriend came all the way from South Carolina to celebrate!

Group picture!

Our family picture! 🙂

One cool thing about having our own version of Thanksgiving here at school is that our school is in Plymouth County in Massachusetts. And, as you all know, Plymouth is where the Pilgrims and Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621! I love that I get to celebrate in the place where it all began.

Do you celebrate any form of Friendsgiving? Share in the comments!

Battle that Halloween Candy Belly.

Halloween is in a few days and with Halloween comes endless supplies of candy. Most of us will probably be trying to rock costumes that may be a little more skimpy that our usual day to day wear. The LAST thing that you want on Halloween is a bloated belly full of candy. In order to battle the candy filled belly look in all of your Halloween pictures, check out a few of these healthy but still yummy Halloween recipes. Trust me, I love candy as much as the next person so I guarantee that my solution will not include eating an apple or just eating some pumpkin seeds. No thanks, these are festive and healthy! Enjoy!

First off, a healthy caramel apple recipe. This recipe is definitely interesting because it combines a smaller amount of caramel, almond milk, and protein powder. Perfect to eat before a long night out!

Ingredients:
1 medium apple (variety of your choice)
2 soft caramel squares
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 scoop chocolate protein powder (a blend works best vs. pure whey)
1/4 cup water (if needed)
1 TB chopped peanuts
1 wooden stick
1 piece wax paper

How to Prepare
1. Wash and thoroughly dry apple. Insert wooden stick into the center of the top of the apple, approximately 1 in deep. Set aside.
2. Heat almond milk and caramel squares in small sauce pan. Once caramel is completely melted, remove from heat and let sit for 2 minutes.
3. Add chocolate protein powder and mix until smooth and thick.
4. Note: if coating is watery, let sit for a few more minutes until spreadable. If coating is too thick, add the ¼ cup water 1 TB at a time, until smooth and spreadable. Discard unused water.
5. Hold apple by wooden stick and roll into melted coating while at the same time smoothing over apple with a spatula until mixture is completely used and apple is fully coated.
6. Immediately roll the apple into the chopped nuts while still sticky so the nuts adhere well to the coating
7. Place the apple, top down, onto the wax paper and place in the fridge for approximately 1 hour to completely set. 8. Remove from the fridge, slice it up and …as always…enjoy! You’ve been Slim Pickinized!! YUM!

http://www.muscleandfitnesshers.com/recipes/candy-apple-goes-guilt-free

Next, a recipe for a somewhat healthier pumpkin cupcake. I can’t make magic happen and tell you that these are fat and calorie free but I mean it’s better than it could be and it seriously could not be an easier recipe. Even someone like me who only has a toaster oven and very limited resources could manage this one!

All you need is a box of spice cake mix (or yellow if you prefer) and a can of pumpkin. If you want, chocolate chips could definitely be good as well. How easy is that?

This is an easy adaptation for a super common Halloween recipe.

Get your hands on pretzel rods. All you need to do is melt dark chocolate chips and dip away and if you’re feeling festive, add some Halloween sprinkles. Make sure you have wax paper ready because these will be sticky!

Last recipe for a tried and true Halloween staple. Popcorn Balls seem to be an absolute Halloween and Fall staple. What most people don’t know is that popcorn is a very healthy snack! Marshmallows are fat free as well. This recipe could not look yummier and I might have to try it out myself!

Pumpkin Cranberry Popcorn Balls

Pop 6 cups of popcorn and put in a large bowl. Set aside. In a saucepan, place 3/4 cup marshmallows and 2 tbsp. of honey. Over low heat, stir the mixture until melted. Add 2 tbsp. of canned pumpkin and 3 tbsp. of dried cranberries. Stir until well mixed. Pour over popcorn and allow to cool for 3 or 4 minutes. Grease your hands and form the mixture into several large balls. You will be able to make six popcorn balls with this recipe.
http://www.livestrong.com/article/413816-healthy-popcorn-balls/#ixzz1bx0nezuH

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