WIAW: Pinterest Wins!

As anyone in a relationship or marriage knows planning holidays in order to spend time with all family and friends can be very…trying to say the least. Nick and I were spending Christmas with his family and in order to have a special celebration with my parents and sister, I planned a dinner at our house the weekend before Christmas.

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I think we need a train around our Christmas tree…

Menu planning can be a bit tricky though, my sister’s boyfriend has two allergies: all nuts and poultry. The poultry one means that your usual Christmas dinner ideas (chicken or turkey) or using any sort of chicken stock is out of the question. For me that was actually a good thing, I’ve never cooked a chicken or turkey by myself and I didn’t want to have to do it for the first time for 12 people or for a holiday.

I went with my family’s standard holiday favorite: Meatloaf. I used grass-fed beef and doubled this recipe. It is very east to make and the meat was still nice and juicy, I love the flavor that the glaze adds, but you could easily leave it off.

I ended up going with a couple of carb-filled sides. All of these ideas I had pinned to my pinterest boards for a while, and I needed to try them. This was the perfect place.

The first was a new-to-me risotto. I tried an asparagus and spring pea risotto last Easter. I decided to try one that was a bit more hearty for Christmas. I went with Kerstin’s French Onion Risotto. I doubled the recipe and I used swiss cheese instead fontina, mostly because the cost of the fontina was way more than I was willing to spend. This dish was a lot of the guests favorite side dish of the night. I liked it, but it was heavy for a risotto, and that coupled with a few other heavy dishes didn’t make it my favorite, but I would make it again!

The second was this lighter buffalo chicken mac & cheese. Obviously, I did not use chicken, I used ground pork, because the flavor profiles are most similar to chicken and because we already had plenty of ground beef with the meatloaf. I doubled this recipe and it turned out wonderfully, again it was a heavier dish, but I loved it and I wish I had some right now!

The third recipe is the creamy corn pudding with crispy onions and herbs. Ever since my date with Caitlin at Agave Grill I have been wanting to try my hand at making a type of corn pudding. This dish surpassed all of my expectations and I can’t wait to make it again. I left the herbs off the top, mostly because I forgot, but to me it didn’t make a difference. The pudding had that sweet and savory taste I was looking for without being overly heavy.

I also had a large salad and roasted brussel sprouts on the side… we needed some green up in here.

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For dessert we had the classic christmas cookie (at least in my house), the snickerdoodle, and I tried my hand at Baked by Rachel’s mini cookies & cream cheesecakes. The flavor was on point, but for some reason they didn’t bake up like Rachel’s did. All that matters is that they tasted good!

Make sure that you check out all the other great food recipes and ideas on Jenn’s blog for WIAW!


I apologize for the lack of pictures, it was my first time hosting & cooking 90% of the food (thanks mom for making sure the risotto made it from the recipe to the table) and I was a bit crazy and running late so pictures just didn’t happen. I hope you try some of these recipes, I fully endorse them all!

What are your favorite successful recipes from Pinterest?

Year of Baking: Flour’s Snickerdoodle Cookie

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I haven’t actually baked in a while, it was nice to get behind the mixer this week and whip up a few desserts for Greek Easter.

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When I saw the Snickerdoodle cookie recipe in the Flour cookbook I knew I had to try it. When I was younger all the families in our neighborhood would bake a plate full of treats for each of the other houses for Christmas. Our neighbor across the street (aka my second parents) always made snickerdoodles and to this day I can’t have one without thinking of that time.

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1.5 cups of granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup for coating
2 eggs, room temperature
2.5 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup ground cinnamon for coating

Instructions

1. Using the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed
2. Beat for 4-5 minutes, while occasionally scraping down the side of the bowl
3. When the mixture is fluffy, add the eggs, one at a time, beat the eggs for 2-3 minutes until fully combined
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt
5. Slowly blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture and then mix just until the flour is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed
6. Scrape the dough into an airtight container and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight (or at least 3-4 hours) before baking
7. When ready to bake, place the rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350 degrees
8. In a small bowl mix together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon
9. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons into the cinnamon-sugar mixture and roll to coat
10. Place the coated cookies onto a baking sheet, spaced about 3 inches apart
11. Flatten each cookie slightly with the palm of your hand
12. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the middle
13. Cool on a baking sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then transfer cookies to the rack to cool completely

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Notes

The recipe says that this makes 24 cookies, but the cookies were gigantic, I would actually make the cookies smaller and make at least 48 if not more. I n my mind snickerdoodles are 2-3 bite cookies.

I made the cinnamon & sugar coating and had a lot left over, I think I would make less next time.

The cookies were made on Thursday and were eaten on Saturday and Sunday, while they weren’t as soft as they should’ve been in the center (like they were the day I made them), they were a soft chewy and not hard so I will take that as a win.

I only let the dough rest about 3 hours, so next time I will definitely let it rest overnight.

Have you ever made or eaten snicker doodles?

What cookie has special memories for you?

Christmas Traditions

I know everyone is saying this but I honestly can’t believe it’s almost Christmas. With all the house purchase craziness that we were dealing with, then dealing with vendors and builders and issue inside the house, it is all the sudden Christmas Eve. (Thank goodness I took a few shopping trips here and there otherwise I’d be screwed in terms of Christmas presents)

We didn’t get a tree this year, and we have a few decorations, and because we couldn’t get anything prior to mid-December we had no stocking holders for our mantle, so they went back on the China cabinet like last year.


recycled photo, I also had no time to take pictures of our new set-up!

Now that B is getting older, I am trying to start to realize what I hope our yearly traditions will be. I will admit it is hard with all the traveling we do to have great at home traditions, so I am trying to be creative.

In the past with my family we have always opened up one gift on Christmas eve and we usually get new pajama’s and a Christmas ornament, that is one of my favorite memories. Also, my sister Caty & I would always make breakfast together, well she made most of it. I think it’s wonderful to take that extra time to have breakfast together and not a hurried meal of toast & coffee.

For presents, we always would give one gift to everyone in the room, one for each of my sisters and parent(s) and we would all open at the same time. As we got older and more children became part of the process it was hard as a child to find enough presents under the tree for the adults, but I know realize they didn’t care. As a mom, I can only hope that my children find joy in what they unwrap and realize that each gift was thoughtfully picked for them.

Santa – this is a big one. I put it out as a question to a group of mom friends. How do you handle Santa? The idea of Santa was ruined for me at a very young age, by someone very bitter. However, my parents still labeled the majority of my gifts from Santa, and even my paternal grandmother used to tell us that Santa left gifts for us at her house. I thought it was sweet. Nick’s parents however told their kids that Santa left the stockings.

I am more inclined to follow in the footsteps of my in-laws. I want my children to know that I picked out dome gifts that I knew they would love. Someone also mentioned that the big, expensive or toy of the year gifts come from Santa. I like that idea as well! Santa can afford the expensive stuff right?

I’d love to start doing the pj & ornament tradition and Christmas morning breakfast, but with all our traveling they might be hard. For now, I am blessed to be spending all this time with wonderful people and I am enjoying the traditions as they come.

What are your traditions? How do you handle Santa?

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I went to my in-laws the weekend before Christmas because my husband had an obligation. My sister-in-law came over one of the nights and we had a baking party. We made a couple things, but the one I want to highlight today was pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

I still had cans of pure pumpkin from Thanksgiving because we didn’t use all of ours for Thanksgiving. I followed a recipe I found on pinterest.

This is the recipe.

We followed it to a T. The cookies did come out very muffin like.

They didn’t even make it a week, they were gone a few days before Christmas. If you make any cookie, make this one, it is phenomenal.

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What’s the best dessert you’ve eaten lately?

Vacation Photo Dump

I didn’t take a ton of photo’s while on vacation, but I thought I’d share some of the few I did take.

Just hanging with dad
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Stop it, you’re embarrassing me
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Christmas Morning with Mommy & Nouna
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Presents…
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I’ll take the paper instead
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With Nouna (B’s godmother & my sister-in-law)
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With Uncle Chris! (brother-in-law)
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Finally, a toy I can play with, now that all that paper is gone
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He looks like such a big boy here
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AND SO EXCITED
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Show Me Your Traditions

I am learning how to make my own traditions with my little family, but I will share our past traditions.

Traditions from the past:

- Midnight Mass with my family
– Opening one gift on Christmas Eve with all the lights off except for Christmas lists
– Watching A Christmas Story
– Playing Trivial Pursuit

Traditions I want to add:

- Making a special breakfast for my family
– Putting up a tree/decorations as a family

Food Traditions:

- A few traditional greek dishes for dinner
– For dessert, I have always baked something. This year I am thinking Red Velvet Cheesecake & Apple Pie…

So what is our actual plan for this year?

Going to stay with my in-laws.
Baking with my Mother-in-law and Sister-in-law
Church on Christmas Eve, no midnight mass with a 5 month old though!
Opening up extra early with baby B!
Hopefully some mom/dad/baby time while everyone is sleeping
Helping B open his gifts.
Dinner with my in-laws and my SIL’s family!
Relaxing at night!

I can’t wait, I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas!

What are your family traditions?

Cookie Swap

So I put together a cookie swap for a bunch of friends. I had never done one before, but I have always wanted to. However I don’t really have the space, nor am I centrally located to most of my friends.

My friends Erin & Colleen offered to host at their place. I forgot my camera that day, so all I have is pictures of my cookie.

Erin & Col had set-up a table with drinks, I brought pretzels and tortilla chi[s with salsa. I also had Spanakopita (Phyllo Dough with Spinach and Cheese) and Tyropita (Phyllo Dough with cheese). I figured we would need to have some salt to cut the sweetness.

December is hard to get people together but we had a great turnout and many different types of cookies. Every single one was delicious. We had:
Chocolate Chip
Peanut Butter Kisses
Jam Thumbprint with 3 different types of jam
Chocolate Chip/ Chocolate Chocolate Chip Half-Moons
Frosted Sugar Cookies
Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies
Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookie
Italian Tri-Color Cookies
Koulouria

I brought the Koulouria, a Greek cookie, and I can’t even share the recipe since it’s a family recipe my mother-in-law shared with me!

It was a great day of catching up with my girlfriends! I am so glad I was able to do this and Erin & Col were able to host.

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What’s your favorite cookie to make & eat around the holidays?

Show Me Your Decorations

We live in a city-sized condo, so there isn’t much room for a lot of decorations. Plus we are back and forth a lot between Thanksgiving and New Year so it doesn’t seem worth it to decorate like crazy until we are close to our parents and have a bigger place.

Here are a few pictures of our stockings.

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They are actually hanging on our china cabinet since that’s the best place to be seen. We used to have a fake tree but it got gross when our garage flooded.

How do you decorate your place?

Show Me Your Christmas List

I am super late to this, obviously, but I wanted to link in my list anyway. I think this type of stuff is fun.

We all know that Christmas isn’t about getting presents, but it’s a little fun seeing what others want, and showing what you want too.

My favorite part of Christmas morning is opening my stocking, and seeing everyone else open their gifts, especially if it wasn’t something they were expecting.

With that said, here are a few things I am wanting this year!

Kindle

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I read so much, but my book collection is taking up way to much space in our condo. Plus a kindle would be way easier to throw in my bag, then to remember where I put that book down…

Birchbox Subscription

Birchbox

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I love trying new makeup/lotion products. This is the perfect way to do that.

Birthstone Cuff

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Or any jewelry really. I love this idea of a bracelet with B’s birthstone, which is Nick’s as well.

New Bakeware

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Everyone knows I love to cook,and my pans have seen better days, I would love new pans.

Items that hold me accountable

I asked for gift cards but I really want Kettle bells and work out equipment & gear that is more luxurious and comfortable. For example, lulu lemon gear.

I need to get my body in shape. I have been keeping up with my running, but having this gear and adding strength training to my workouts will make a huge difference.

The standards

The things I always ask for, gift cards. To stores like: Sephora, Gap, Macy’s, Amazon, etc…

What do you hope to see under the tree this year?

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 15

I have seen this song challenge on many other blogs or facebook and twitter. The idea is to share a tiny bit of yourself by choosing a song. The idea is to choose a song every day, but for the purpose of the blog I am going to choose once a week.

The fifteenth day is a song that describes you.

I’m not sure I can think of a song, that really describes me…

if you’ve got one let me know.

Instead, I’ll share one of my favorite holiday songs.

What song describes you?