Pairing Desserts with Coffee (+ GIVEAWAY)

Disclosure: I was sent a sampler of Community Coffee single serve cups, in exchange for a post that included their products. Community Coffee is also providing the giveaway item. All opinions are 100% my own.

Happy Christmas Eve, y’all! I’m so excited that Christmas is tomorrow. :-)

One of the biggest things about tomorrow (besides seeing family, of course) is the meal. While I know that the biggest tradition for Christmas is usually a beef roast, our family sticks to making turkey and ham. In fact this year (for the first time ever), I’m responsible for the ham. ::fingers crossed it doesn’t end up overcooked::

Along with dinner of course, are the desserts. My family is known for making desserts. Everything from pralines to ooey gooey bars to cheesecake to cobbler to macarons…it’s just a whole ‘nother feast. We have some amazing dessert makers in the family. :-) One thing that I hardly ever think about is pairing dessert with the perfect cup of coffee. Now, coffee is a MUST with desserts for me, but I usually just go with a darker roast coffee.

The folks at Community Coffee came out with a dessert pairing guide that will help you figure out what type of coffee goes best with the dessert you’re having.

[Read more…]

Apple Cinnamon Margaritas

Disclosure: I received a sample of Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, as well as a gift card for ingredients used in this recipe, in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Please drink responsibly.

Apple Cinnamon Margarita

I seriously cannot get enough of this weather, y’all. We sat outside this past weekend at a neighbor’s house to watch the game, and I was actually CHILLY outside. I was tempted to walk home and grab my blanket for REAL. I love me some chilly weather, but I have a feeling I’m going to be itching for warm Caribbean weather VERY soon (The vacation countdown has begun!).

When we went on our first cruise, we visited Cozumel, Mexico. I made it my mission to look around at all of the gift shops for the perfect Christmas ornament (it’s my little tradition for our vacation spots), and while I was shopping, I started to notice a lot of (what I now know as) sugar skulls. I found them to be beautiful, with all sorts of different color combinations, and confession time: I honestly had no idea what they were for. When I got home, I googled and found out all about The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).

Dia de los Muertos is a family-focused holiday from November 1-2, where family and friends gather together to pray for and remember those who passed away. In Mexico, families build private altars and include candy skulls, marigolds (which are known as flowers of the dead), chocolate coffins, as well as favorite food/drinks of the deceased family members to entice them to return.

To celebrate Dia de los Muertos, I am sharing this recipe for Apple Cinnamon Margaritas, using Casa Noble Crystal Tequila. Margaritas are one of my favorite cocktails, but my go-to is usually a strawberry, mango or lime margarita. For this tequila though, I wanted to make a fall version of this tasty beverage, and that’s how this apple cinnamon margarita happened. I kept some of the classic citrus flavors in there, but with the addition of an apple cider base, this drink is delicious! The Crystal Tequila is also very smooth and worked perfectly in this drink! This margarita would be perfect to enjoy on a cool, fall evening! This recipe makes one large or two small margaritas.

Apple Cinnamon Margarita
Source: an original

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Casa Noble Crystal Tequila
  • 1 oz. Triple Sec (or other orange liquor)
  • Juice of ½ of a large orange
  • Juice of ½ of a lime, reserving the other half of the lime for rimming
  • 4 oz. apple cider
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • crushed ice
  • Optional: festive colored sugar, additional 1/4 tsp. cinnamon & apple slices for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place the first 6 ingredients in a shaker with the crushed ice, and shake the mixture thoroughly until all ingredients are blended.
  2. Optional: Place some colored sugar & 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon on a flat plate and mix together. Using a slice from the remaining half of the lime, run the inside of the lime along the rim of your serving glass(es), and then dip the rim in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  3. Pour the margarita into your serving glass(es), being mindful not to pour any on the rim. Garnish with an apple slice and enjoy!

Strawberry Basil Mojito

Strawberry Basil Mojito
(Please drink responsibly.)

I love strawberries. Love them. I’m sort of sad that I’m staring at this mojito, and I can’t make them with fresh, local strawberries anymore. Our strawberry season is very early in the year, since it heats up early in the spring, and right now, it’s pretty much a sauna outside. Louisiana heat is no joke, and when things heat up around here, our basil plants pretty much grow like weeds. Of course, I’ll make tons of pesto to freeze this summer, but I’ve been looking for other ways to use it, and this recipe is just wonderful!

You might be a bit skeptical of a strawberry and basil combination, but it totally works. When I saw this on Pink Parsley a couple of years ago, I bookmarked it (and of course, forgot all about it). This drink would be perfect for a summer party, since you could make a ton of the strawberry syrup in advance and just quickly throw together a pitcher of this (you’d have to multiply this recipe a good bit to make a pitcher, but it’s very simple to do) before your guests arrive. It’s also such a pretty drink! I love the colors in it, and wouldn’t it be super fun with both purple and green basil leaves?

Strawberry Basil Mojito
Source: Pink Parsley

Ingredients:

For the strawberry syrup:

  • 1 heaping cup chopped strawberries
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp. cold water

For the mojito:

  • 2-3 fresh basil leaves
  • 5 tbsp. strawberry syrup
  • ice
  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum
  • sparkling water
  • Optional: strawberry slices and basil leaves for garnish

Directions:

  1. To make the strawberry syrup, place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend the mixture until smooth. (You can strain the seeds out if you’d prefer, but I didn’t do that.) Refrigerate the mixture until you’re ready to make the drinks!
  2. To make the mojito, place the basil leaves in your glass and use a muddler or the back of the spoon to bruise the basil in the bottom of the glass. Add in the strawberry syrup, ice, light rum, and stir. Top off the drink with some sparkling water. Garnish the drink with basil leaves or strawberry slices, and enjoy!

Frozen Strawberry Margaritas

Strawberry Margarita
Please drink responsibly. :-)

When I was in college, I fondly remember being a broke college student, and spending $7 on a chicken caesar pita & $4 on a frozen margarita (since they were 2 for 1 and my friends and I would pay half of $8 for the price of 1) when I went to Chili’s. They were crazy sweet, tasted like a popsicle and I’m fairly certain the calories were just absolutely bananas. However, those frozen margaritas introduced me to one of my favorite drinks. I just love a good, fruity margarita, and sadly, until last year, I only made margaritas out of a bottled mix (I know…calories..).

So, when my husband and I splurged on a new blender, I decided to try to make them from scratch. Completely from scratch, featuring frozen local strawberries. Oh my gosh…do you SEE how red that margarita is, y’all? There’s no dye in that…that’s just the berries. And the flavor? Y’all. Just put the bottled mix down, and try these. You will not regret it! It’s still sweet, but not tooth pain sweet. :-P

Even though this recipe is from Cooking Light, I have to admit that this is still a splurge to me. I prefer not to drink my calories (unless it’s in the a healthy smoothie), but if I do, knowing that I’ve reduced the sugar/calories a good bit makes me feel a little better about enjoying 1 or 2 of these. :-)

Frozen Strawberry Margaritas
Source: slightly adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed ice
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup Triple Sec (or other orange-flavored liqueur)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Optional: Coarse salt (or sugar, if you prefer)/sliced limes or strawberries for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients, except for the salt/sliced limes meant for the garnish, in a blender. Blend the mixture until the ice is crushed, and everything is thoroughly blended. To garnish, wipe lime juice from a lime slice around the rim of your serving glasses, and then dip the rims in coarse salt (or sugar). Garnish the rim with another sliced lime and/or a sliced strawberry as well. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Boozy Pineapple Shake

Disclosure: I received a sample of Smirnoff Reduced Calorie Sorbet Light vodka in exchange for a fair and honest review. Please drink responsibly. All opinions are 100% my own.

Pineapple Vodka Shake

Oh my goodness, y’all. I feel like we just had wintry weather last week. Ok, we actually did. I feel like summer is fast approaching, and all I want lately is fruit, fruit, fruit! I’ve been eating strawberries by the pint, and I’m back in smoothie making mode. Of course, I’ll miss the days of turkey and stuffing, but I have a feeling those days will be back before we know it!

I was recently approached by the folks at Smirnoff, and they mentioned that they have a line of reduced calorie Sorbet Light vodkas. I love a good fruity drink, and flavored booze seems to be all the rage lately. What really caught my attention was when they mentioned that their newest flavor is pineapple coconut. It just so happens that my drink of choice is Malibu and Pineapple Juice. Anytime we go to a bar, and I don’t feel like perusing the menu, my go-to is this drink. So, when I received this sample of pineapple coconut vodka, I knew I had to do a fun twist on my favorite drink.

When we went on our Caribbean cruise, we noticed a place on the cruise ship that made boozy milkshakes. Oh, twist my arm….I had to try one! They had a pineapple shake version, and I thought I’d try to recreate it in a lighter version at home. This shake couldn’t be simpler to make, and it tasted so much like the one I enjoyed on our cruise! It’s not exactly the lowest in calories, but it’s a lot lighter than a strawberry margarita. I used light vanilla ice cream, as well as frozen pineapple chunks to keep it nice and thick, and of course, there’s pineapple juice and the Sorbet Light Pineapple Coconut vodka. I’m seriously going to multiply this recipe and make a pitcher of it for our next party! If you love pineapple/coconut drinks, give this a try, and if you don’t like too much alcohol in your drink, reduce the vodka to half. :-P This recipe makes one large shake!

Boozy Pineapple Shake
Source: an original

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz. Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pineapple Coconut vodka
  • 4 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup light vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks

Directions:

  1. Throw all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend until the mixture is smooth.
  2. Serve the drink in a fun glass and garnish with a pineapple slice. Enjoy!

 

 

Blood Orange Sangria & 6 Years of Blogging

bloodorangesangria

This is the time of the year where I eat a ridiculous amount of citrus fruits. Mother Nature was very smart to allow citrus to grow during the cold season, because I eat about 2-3 satsumas or oranges every day to avoid catching whatever tends to go around. At about 30-50 calories each, it’s also a wonderful snack option for me in my calorie counting.

I’ve always been curious about blood oranges, because they are such a gorgeous ruby red color on the inside. The lovely folks at Frieda’s Produce, who I met at PMA back in August, sent me a bag of these oranges to try since the holidays were approaching. Since it was the holiday season, I knew I had to make something boozy. A sangria sounded perfect since I could prepare it the night before, and just bring it over for my family’s party. Super simple!

I ended up adding some blood orange juice to this simple red sangria recipe, as well as a few sliced oranges in the pitcher. It really made for a nice presentation, and I have to admit that the orange slices leftover after the sangria was gone was pretty darn delicious.

bloodorangesangria2

This is just a great drink to bring over for a celebration. Like I mentioned before, it’s easy to throw together and it’s so cute to fill a glass with sangria and add in a few fruit slices. It just makes for a nice presentation, and it’s super fun.

Blood Orange Sangria
Source: adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of fruity red wine (I used Chianti)
  • 4 oz. brandy
  • juice of 2 blood oranges
  • 3 oz. simple syrup
  • 3 blood oranges, sliced

Directions:

  1. In a pitcher, combine the red wine, brandy, blood orange juice & simple syrup. Stir until well-combined. Add in the orange slices, and place the sangria in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours, or overnight to chill it well.
  2. Serve the sangria chilled. Enjoy!

Since this drink puts me in a celebrating mood, I figured it would be perfect to share with y’all today. Today is my 6 year blogiversary! I can’t believe that it’s been 6 years since I blogged about turkey meatballs, diet coke chicken & biscotti (forgive the pictures). From the bottom of my heart, thank you for every comment, email and tweet. I love getting to know y’all, and I completely appreciate your support, especially lately with my weight loss journey and my upcoming half marathon!

As a thank you, I want to offer you guys a giveaway! One lucky reader will have a choice between a gift card to Target or Amazon.com (e-gift card sent via email)!

blogiversaryprize

To enter the giveaway, please use the Rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: This giveaway is is open to readers in the continental US only. Entries will be accepted until January 23rd at 12:00am (central standard time). Winner will be emailed (make sure you leave an email address in the form), and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. The winner will be sent an e-gift card for either Target or Amazon (winner’s choice).

Disclosure: The blood oranges were sent at no cost to me by Frieda’s Produce. The gift card giveaway is provided by The Nifty Foodie.

 

Berry-Nana-Cado Smoothie

berrynanacado

I started running again this week, and I was SO shocked that I was able to do 10 minutes of running at a time. It has been way too long since I last hit the pavement, and it felt wonderful to get back to it. With working out, though, comes a mean appetite. I come home starving, even if I have something before my run. My favorite snack post-workout is a smoothie. Just throw the ingredients in, and let the blender do all the work. When you feel like collapsing on the sofa and staying there for hours after a hard workout, this is my kind of recipe.

I usually just go with a banana/protein powder combination, because it seriously tastes like a milkshake. I prefer to buy bananas super cheap at our local grocery store, when they’re overripe. 3 bunches of bananas for 99 cents? SCORE! I’ve been known to purchase 5-6 packs of bananas, and I just take a few minutes to quarter the bananas and place them in one layer in a freezer bag. Easy peasy. For this smoothie, I went protein powder-less, and tried something different: avocado.

Now, before you cringe, avocado is a fairly mild food. It’s not like I threw guacamole in the blender…avocado alone lends a creamy consistency to the smoothie. This recipe couldn’t be easier either…throw all of your ingredients in and blend away! You’d be surprised…seriously. It’s great, and it’s surprisingly filling, since there’s no protein powder in this recipe. :-)

Note: This post is my entry for the “Wake Up Breakfast with California Avocados” link-up/contest, being hosted by Dine and Dish & Cookin’ Canuck.

Berry-Nana-Cado Smoothie
Source: heavily adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of a medium California avocado (pitted and flesh removed)
  • 1 1/2 cups low calorie orange juice (I used Trop50)
  • 1/2 of a frozen banana
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries (no sugar added)
  • 1/4 cup frozen strawberries (no sugar added)
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 6-8 ice cubes

Directions:

  1. Throw all ingredients in the blender, and blend until all ingredients are blended well. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein Shake

Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein Shake

This past week, I’ve been spending my afternoons prepping the gardens/weeding/planting annuals. Wasn’t it just Christmas? Man…can’t believe it’s almost April, y’all! With the weather starting to warm up over here, the colder the beverages, the better. I started making iced coffees a couple of weeks ago, and now, I just can’t get enough of smoothies/shakes.

As far as this shake goes, peanut butter and jelly is a favorite of mine. Move over ham sandwiches…if you offer me a PB&J, I’m going for it! I wanted to try these flavors in a shake, and while I used frozen fruit instead of jelly, the flavors (strawberry/peanut butter) work beautifully together. This was so refreshing, and filling (thanks to the protein powder). It’s definitely a goodie!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein Shake
Source: an original

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend on high until everything is smooth (about 2 minutes).

Banana Biscoff Protein Shake

Banana Biscoff Protein Shake

My husband is a protein shake nut. He makes them for breakfast every day, and this stubborn gal thought…there’s no way a shake would make me feel full. No way. I need food…the chewing kind,  you know? Well, one day, my husband introduced me to a protein based smoothie at a local smoothie place. The medium was apparently only 270 calories, according to their nutrition facts, so I wasn’t expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised that the texture wasn’t gritty, it tasted great and I got full halfway through drinking the thing. Whoa…that was the first time a smoothie from there made me feel full. The difference between my normal muscle punch and this? The protein powder.

I was hooked on those smoothies for a while, until I they changed their menu. The smoothie I quickly fell in love with was calculated wrong (calorie wise). Instead of being 270 calories, the menu suddenly said 300-680 calories (depending on fruit you chose). WHAT???! So, I emailed the company, and asked what my smoothie REALLY was (telling them the fruit that I usually choose).

510 calories.

What.the.heck??!

I mean, I knew there was SOME variation from one fruit to another, but what I didn’t know is that some of their fruits sit in sugar juice. No WONDER it was so tasty. I was drinking 1/3 of my daily calories! Needless to say, I quit going to that smoothie place and decided it was time to make my own. I could save money and have complete control over the calories & ingredients.

This idea came to me after I saw this recipe. Banana and Biscoff? Sounded awesome, so I decided to try it in a smoothie. OMG…it was like dessert and it was the perfect treat after a work-out.

Just a note: When it comes to protein powder, I use this. I chose this protein powder based on recommendations from friends and a few of y’all. It has a pretty mellow flavor (perfect for blending in other fruits and flavors), and it’s not gritty at all.

Banana Biscoff Protein Shake
an original

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium frozen banana (cut in slices before freezing)
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tbsp. biscoff cookie spread
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup ice

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in the blender, and blend together until all of the ingredients are well-blended.

Top 10 Recipes of 2012

Man, what a year it has been! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season with their friends and family. :-)

Most years, I feel like time has flown by, but for some reason, it feels like last January was truly a year ago. So many great things have happened to us this year (as well as some really crappy events).  

Some highlights and not so highlights:

  • It was our first full year in our new house, which has been such a blessing. It’s just awesome to finally have friendly neighbors, who don’t throw their trash in our backyard or play loud music at 2am (side-eye to the neighbors at the old house).
  • My husband and I have both decided to live healthier. Between us, we’ve lost over 150 lbs. this year. (I’m sure my husband is rolling his eyes at me sharing this, but seriously..I’m gonna brag here!) That’s just amazing to me. I’m so proud of us.
  • Another weight loss highlight. I fit into a clothes size that I haven’t been able to wear since 10th grade. That was 12 years ago. OMG!
  • A not so highlight. Hurricane Isaac…don’t want to go into too much detail with that one, but yeah, hurricanes suck. Oh, and for the record, labradors don’t care if the winds are 50 mph outside. If there’s rain/water, it’s playtime! (ugh)
  • I think I’m making some good progress on my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list.

And of course, it’s been another fun year blogging. I really appreciate all of y’all taking the time to read my tiny corner of the Internet. Thank you for your sweet comments, emails and tweets. In January, it’s gonna be this blog’s 5th anniversary, and I’m just amazed by all of the friends I’ve made and people I’ve “met”  through this blog. You guys are the best!

Just to round up the year, I wanted to share with y’all your top 10 most read posts from 2012.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies w/ Salted Caramel Buttercream

10. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Buttercream – These whoopie pies were made for a work fundraiser, and they were a huge success. Great pumpkin/spicy flavor, and the salted caramel buttercream just makes them super indulgent. Pumpkin + caramel is a wonderful combination!

Red Velvet Bundt Cake

9. Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting – I love anything red velvet. This bundt cake is a fun change from a regular cake, and it was pretty easy to throw together and bake!

Baked Oatmeal

8. Baked Oatmeal – My breakfast has been forever changed by this. This oatmeal is not soggy at all (which I hate about cooked oats), and it’s very sweet with the addition of bananas.

Peanut Butter Cookies

7. Peanut Butter Cookies – Just simple, classic peanut butter cookies. :-) Very good!

Candy Corn Oreo Truffles

6. Candy Corn Oreo Truffles – Oreo truffles are insanely good, and it was fun to make these with seasonal flavors. Always a favorite when I bring these truffles to work!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

5. Fresh Strawberry Pie – I’m SO glad strawberry season is back. I need to make this pie again…it’s not rich at all, and since it involves no cooking (except for the crust), it tastes so fresh!

Snickers Cupcakes

4. Snickers Cupcakes – Oh, I totally need to make these again. If you love Snickers, you will LOVE these!

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade

3. Homemade Strawberry Lemonade – Meyer lemon season + strawberry season? Um…guess I need to make this too and ASAP!

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies

2. Red Velvet Swirl Brownies – These were just delicious, and so pretty too! Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Feta

1. Spinach, Strawberry, Pecan and Feta Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette – This is a huge favorite of y’alls. I think Pinterest made this a popular one, and it is VERY easy to throw together! This is a salad you want to make for your next party…it’s an awesome combination!

Thanks so much for reading this blog, and I hope everyone has a Happy New Year! Time to get used to writing/typing “2013”. :-)