Saturday, December 31, 2011

Door County Day 4

Today is the 4th day here in Door County and it is New Year's Eve!

Before this trip, I made a TON of puppy chow (or muddy buddies) so that we would have a delicious snack.  This giant batch has lasted us the entire trip and we plan on taking it to my brother's friend's house for New Year's.  It is the perfect snack/dessert and everyone loves it.  Plus, this batch turned out even better than any other batch I have ever made.  I made some adjustments to the recipe on the Chex box and I am very pleased with the results.

Puppy Chow/Muddy Buddies

15 cups Chex Cereal (divided in half into two bowls)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
8 tbsp margarine (or butter)
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

1. place about 7.5 cups of Chex in a large bowl
2. Melt 1 cup chocolate chips, 1/2 cup peanut butter, and 4 tbsp butter in a microwavable safe bowl for about 1 and a half minutes.  Stir in 1 tsp vanilla and then microwave for another 30 seconds or until mixture is smooth.
3. Pour over the Chex and mix until cereal is covered thoroughly.  Place mixture in a large ziplock bag and pour in 1 cup powdered sugar.  Shake until cereal is coated.  You may need to add some sugar.
4.  Repeat 1-3 with the other half of the ingredients.
5. Keep in freezer (Muddy Buddies are amazing when they are cold and crunchy!)
Enjoy :)

New Year's Eve started off with a nice mommy-and-me work out. After that, we all got ourselves together and returned to the Village Cafe for lunch.  I got an omelet and I swear it came with the best breakfast potatoes that I have ever had! Lunch was really nice and I think it's fair to say that the Village Cafe became our favorite place.

After lunch, we decided that it would be nice to bring a dessert over to my brother's friend's for later.  We went to this place called Sweetie Pies, but unfortunately it was closed for New Year's Weekend.  This was  bit of a bummer and the grocery store didn't have any good pies either! My parents dropped me, Brian, and my brother off at the hotel and they went off to do some shopping and search for a pie.  They found one! White Gull Inn had whole Door County Cherry Pies for sale.  Finally, we were all ready for our New Year's Eve get-together.

So many snacks!

We went over to our host's house, which was beautiful, and we brought a ton of snacks and the cherry pie.  We snacked, made our own pizzas, and played Scattegories as we waited for the New Year to approach.  The pizzas were amazing and they were made even better with home-made pesto and tomato sauce.  Everything was delicious!

Zack and his friends made a balloon drop and they had purchased a ton of fireworks and poppers earlier that day.  I love how fireworks are legal in this fabulous state.  As midnight came, we set off the balloon drop and ate dessert.  The Cherry Pie was a tad too sweet for me, but it was gorgeous and Brian loved it!  This is saying something since he is a huge cherry fan.

Then, we headed outside for a bonfire and to set off the fireworks.  This ended up being even more epic than we expected as Zack's friend's dad lit the wrong side of the firework and it started shooting towards us and the house.  We all went screaming and running inside.  After that, we read the instructions more carefully and had a great time watching the fireworks go off.

Happy New Year's!
Picture: Sparkling Cherry Juice 
Brian and I shared our third New Year's together and it was made even more special by being surrounded by family and new friends.  This was an amazing New Year's and, now that I have not been burned by fireworks, one that I will always look upon fondly.  I can't wait for all the new year has in store for me.  Any New Year's resolutions? What will I cook? Where will I go? What will I do? I am excited for it all! I hope that everyone had a great New Year's and I wish you all the best in 2012.  Enjoy :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Door County Day 3

Door County 

Today is our third day in Door County.  We discovered this fantastic place called Hands on Art and spent most of our day at this place.  Hands on Art is a fantastic idea.  They have a bunch of different buildings and in each building there is a specific art project that you can work on.  You do an art project, they finish it, and then you pick it up the next day.  They can also ship, but that costs extra.  We spent a ton of time there and we all made different projects.  I made a coffee mug, wine glass, and ornament.  I am not the most artistically inclined and I have to say I'm fairly impressed with myself.  My projects turned out pretty good and I'm excited to see what they look like when I pick them up tomorrow.  Brian made an adorable mug and the rest of my family participated in ceramics, glass work, and wine glass painting.  The center also had a metal working building, jewelry making, mosaics, and spin-art.  Everything was fairly inexpensive and there were plenty of employees around to help you out.  I can't wait to go pick up my stuff tomorrow and see how it all turned out!
Mom working on a platter

Coffee Mug and Snowman Mug

After our hands on art experience we went back to the hotel for a bit and then it was off for dinner at Mojo Rosa's.  This place was super cute and we got to have a really nice Mexican dinner.  After dinner, the plan was to go bowling at Sister Bay Bowl with my brother's friend and her family.  This didn't work out yesterday and so we were hoping it would today.  I guess it was just not meant to be because when we got to the place it was packed and we were going to have to wait hours before a lane would open up! We drove back to the hotel and while my family played games, Brian and I finally finished a movie that we had been watching before this trip.  Overall, it as a really good day and tomorrow should be fun as well since it is New Year's Eve!  Now it is off to bed...goodnight!

Door County Day 2

Door County

On our second day in Door County we continued to do a lot of shopping...and I'm serious when I say a lot! We went shopping everywhere!  We went to the Liberty Square Shops (all of them) and the Patricia shop. After all of that shopping, we were starving and so we went to the White Gull Inn for lunch.
White Gull Inn
Cherry Stuffed French Toast
The White Gull in is known for its delicious Cherry Stuffed French Toast, which won an award for the best breakfast on Good Morning America! We, of course, all split a half-order (which was still HUGE) along with the rest of our lunch.  It was all really good.  After we cured our hunger, we went (you guessed it) shopping! Seriously.  But this time, we were shopping in Fish Creek instead of Egg Harbor.  The boys found some good clothes at one shop where everything was half off.  There were also some great stores with all sorts of clothing and shoes as well as a confectionary!  The best part of shopping near the end of the year: all the great sales!

Once we actually finished shopping, we drove to Sister Bay Bowl to meet up with Zack's friend Melanie and her family.  We were in for a night of dinner and bowling.  The only problem: anyone can bowl at Sister Bay Bowl except for on Thursday nights when they have bowling leagues.  Of course it was Thursday! We hung out by the lanes and played pool for a bit, but then we left to try out an Italian restaurant called Villagios back in Fish Creek.

This place was really good and we had a great time! Brian and I split a pizza and pasta dish and got to have the best of both worlds! We all ended up very full and very happy.  We then headed back to the hotel.  It was another fun day in Door County!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Door County Day 1

Door County

Today was our first full day in Door County.  Me, my mom and dad, brother, Zack, and Brian are all here for a little relaxation before the New Year.  We are staying at the Newport Resort in Egg Harbor and it is lovely.  The only problem we have encountered is that a lot of places are closed for the winter season.  However, we have found a ton of stuff to do and it has been really nice.

Last night, we bought groceries at the local store and then went out for dinner at this place called Shipwrecked.  Then, we came back to the hotel (around 6) and read books in front of our fireplace and watched movies.  I felt about 80 years old, but it was so nice! I am reading Cold Mountain and it's my goal to finish it by the end of this trip!

Today my mom, Brian, and I went downstairs to the fitness center and worked out for a bit.  Then, after a nice skype call with my friend Caryn from school, we all got ready and headed out for the day.  Oh, and by the way, getting ready also meant calling housekeeping to come take care of the flood started by Zack clogging the toilet and then Brian trying to fix it.  Yep, wouldn't be a family vacation without that sort of thing happening.  Anyways, after the flood was cleaned up, we all headed out to check out what Egg Harbor has to offer.

We started at the Main Street Shoppes and did some retail-therapy.  I purchased a beautiful bag that will be perfect for carrying all of my school stuff.  We also went into this store that sold items made in Britain.  Zack got a candy bar and Brian got a beer.  It was called Banana Bread Beer and it did indeed taste like banana bread with beer.  Then, we checked out the gelato shoppe and the cheese shoppe.  (I'm really liking the use of the word's for a shop, but cuter).  Zack and I bought a cute cat mug for our mom and we also bought two kinds of cheese that tasted amazing and are meant for the wine and cheese night we are planning on having.

Lunch was next.  We went to the Village Cafe, which was highly recommended, and it did not disappoint.  Not only was the food yummy, but the place also had great art pieces available for sale.  Therefore, the decor was cute as well!  Zack and I both got hot chocolates and they were HUGE.  We ended the meal with a  Door County Cherry Pie.

hot cocoa!
Cherry Pie

After lunch we headed out to check out some of the local wineries.  We had no idea that Door County had so many! We ended up going to the Simon Creek Winery and the Door Peninsula Winery.  We also purchased no fewer than 18 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of beer. we are definitely prepared for that wine and cheese night.

We came back to the hotel after all of this (it was only 4:30) and we snacked on appetizers and watched Les Miserables in Concert.  Brian and I had rented it from the library thinking it was the actual play.  My family loves that play and so we thought it was appropriate.  The "in Concert" version does not have any acting though and it made it much harder to follow the story.  I also finished my book! It was great and I highly recommend it.  It was very beautiful and a bit depressing.  Now, I am going to start A Small Hotel which my mom took out from the library.

Side note: If you don't know this about me, I LOVE to read.  Whenever I am not in school, I basically drink in books.  Over the summer I read about 9.  That included both the Hunger Games Series and the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.  I also recently saw the movie of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and it was great! I am a strong supporter of reading a book before seeing the movie so if you intend to see this movie please read the book first.  It makes it better.

Anyways, after a night of snacking, musicals, reading, and finally, Apples to Apples, it was time for bed.  See you tomorrow for Day 2 of our Door County experience :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Grilled Cheese 4 Ways

I'm not sure why I'm so into trying out four different recipes at once, but this was the best idea I've ever had.  For a while, I have wanted to make a million grilled cheese sandwiches and try them out.  Brian is pretty into any recipe that involves bread, cheese, and tomatoes so grilled cheese is basically what he eats in various forms.  I found three great recipes from Closet Cooking and Oscar's Sandwiches.  My mom also just made a pot roast and we have a ton of leftovers.  So, I got creative and made 4 amazing grilled cheeses. And then, Brian and I ate them once...

1. Spinach Pesto Grilled Cheese.  It is important to look at this one first, because the spinach pesto I made inspired by Closet Cooking is what I used for every recipe that calls for pesto.  This pesto is AMAZING, make it.

4 slices of bread
5 oz gruyere cheese
4 tbsp spinach pesto (see recipe below)

1. Butter two slices of bread.  On the non-buttered side of one slice, spread the pesto and then top with half the gruyere.  Spread pesto on the other non-buttered side of the other slice and place on top.  Heat a skillet to medium heat and place sandwich on skillet.  Flip after 4 minutes or so and grill other side, or until you have a beautiful grilled cheese. Makes 2 sandwiches.

Spinach Pesto

1 cup packed baby spinach
1/4 cup chopped mix herbs (mint, baby dill, and basil)
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp toasted chopped pecans
1/4 cup feta cheese
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until well-mixed.

2. Cheddar, Apple, and Spinach Grilled Cheese.  This one is great because Brian refuses to eat spinach and I think spinach is wonderful.  This sandwich actually made him eat spinach! If it works for my boyfriend it probably works for all children :)

4 slices bread
1 medium apple thinly sliced
1/2 cup baby spinach
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 cup light cheddar cheese

Butter two slices of bread.  On non-buttered sides, spread dijon mustard.  Then assemble sandwich: cheese, then apples, then spinach, then more cheese.  Place sandwich on medium heat on the skillet and grill until perfection about 4 minutes each side. Makes 2 sandwiches.

3. Caprese Grilled Cheese.  Can't make a bunch of grilled cheeses and not have any tomatoes!

4 slices of bread
2 thick tomato slices
4 slices of fresh mozzarella (1/2 inch thick)
Spinach Pesto

1. Butter two slices of bread and then spread spinach pesto on the other sides.  Assemble sandwich: 1 slice mozzarella, 1 tomato slice, another slice mozzarella.  Grill over medium heat about 4 minutes each side or until mozzarella is nice and melted.  Makes 2 sandwiches.
Note: I would totally add some balsamic vinegar to this one when I make it again.

4. Pot Roast Grilled Cheese.  What to do with leftover pot roast?  Here's a solution:

2 slices of bread
1/4 cup shredded pot roast (already cooked and warm)
1/2 cup light cheddar cheese
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup caramelized onions (saute some onion slices (I used white) in olive oil for 10 minutes or so over medium heat)

1.  Butter 2 slices of bread.  On non-buttered side spread some dijon mustard.  Then assemble sandwich: half the cheese, shredded pot roast, onions, and other half of cheese.  Top with other slice of bread and grill over medium heat about 4 minutes each side.

Note: On all of these I added some garlic's just so good! I also used whole wheat bread for all of these sandwiches.  Also, I didn't really measure stuff...make it how you want it!

Enjoy :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

4 Christmas Cookies

My cousin Chris is hosting Christmas on Christmas Eve.  She is a fantastic cook and baker and this year she asked me to make the cookies.  I thought long and hard about what I would make to impress her.  And then, I decided to bake 4 cookies that are perfect for the holidays and simply delicious.  The best part of holiday baking is bringing people together.  Therefore, I am spending the day with my mom and bestie Katie and we are going to make some amazing cookies!

1. Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies.  I've made them before and they are great! The hint of nutmeg and red and white colors make them a fabulous holiday cookie.

2. Inception Cookies.  These have sort of become my signature item, but my family has never had them! I decided to make this oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookie, but instead of the usual oreo, I'm using the holiday ones!

3. Now that I have re-made some of my favorites, I am going to introduce a few new cookies on the scene. The first is a Red Velvet Cookie.  I love red velvet in any form.  So, when I found a recipe for a healthier version of a red velvet cookie, I just had to make them!  I got the recipe from AmyBites and I was really excited to try it out!

Red Velvet Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp red food coloring
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
4 tbsp reduced fat cream cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Cream butter and sugars together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs and vanilla and mix well. Then, add food coloring and beat all together.
3. In a medium bowl, mix flours, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.  Add to the wet ingredients in the large bowl and mix with an electric mixer until just combined.
4. Add cream cheese to the bowl and mix until you have a nice swirl.
5. Scoop out tbsp sized balls onto a greased or lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

4. To be honest, I was only supposed to make 3 different types of cookies for Christmas, but I have never been good at making decisions and when it comes to cookies they all look so yummy and it makes it hard to decide! Also, my mom really wanted me to make something with mint.  So, I found these: Peppermint Patty Cookie Bars.  The original recipe is from Picky Palate and then I put a little twist on it.  I also love how easy they sounded!

Peppermint Patty Cookie Bars

2 sticks, or 1 cup, unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
12 oz bag dark chocolate chips
24 oz bag York Peppermint Patties

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 9x13 inch pan with foil.  Spray foil with baking spray.
2. Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined.
3. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt together.  Slowly add to the wet ingredients until just combined. Then, stir in chocolate chips.
4. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan and press down to make even.  Place unwrapped peppermint patties across the batter.  Then pour the rest of the batter and smooth over the top to cover all the patties.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes.  Let cool for at least and hour, then cut and serve!

**Serving Idea: Sprinkle chopped Candy Canes over the top for an extra minty flavor and for a cute holiday theme!

I hope that you have enjoyed my Christmas Cookies and have found some yummy ideas for the holidays!

Enjoy :)