Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices

cranberrycrumbbars

I’ve been waiting for months for fresh cranberries to be back in stores. As a few of you may remember, I used to contribute on Weddingbee (under the moniker, Mrs. Ballet Flat). Every year around this time, some of the bloggers exchange ornaments, making one of the giftee’s moniker. So, I have quite a few ballet flat ornaments on my tree that I truly cherish. :-) Last year, along with the ornament, I also got a few of these bars in the mail (an awesome surprise!). I was addicted….absolutely addicted.

After the holiday craziness, I went to the grocery stores to buy fresh cranberries to make these bars, since my exchange friend mentioned they were from Smitten Kitchen’s cookbook (which I had recently purchased). Well, all of the stores near me were sold out. Gone. No more cranberries. I promised myself that once they were back in the produce section, I was going to immediately make these bars. They’re just as good as I remembered…a subtle spiced crumb layer and cranberry filling with a hint of orange in it. It’s marvelous (as if I expected anything different from Deb of The Smitten Kitchen).

I brought these to my coworkers, thinking that cranberries are an iffy ingredient for some people…they probably wouldn’t go that fast. Um…these bars left faster than when I bring cupcakes to work! They were an absolute winner! If you’re looking for a festive holiday dessert that is a little different than the norm, give these a try. The recipe comes together fairly quickly, and any cranberry lover will probably go crazy over these. :-)

Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices
Source: Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients:

For the crumb base:

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled (saving the wrappers to grease the pan)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 large egg

For the filling:

  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. orange juice
  • 3 cups (12-ounce bag) fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a 9×13 inch baking pan by lining it with parchment paper and rubbing the butter remnants left on the inside of the butter wrappers on top of the parchment paper.
  2. In a large, wide bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices. Whisk the mixture well. Using a pastry blender or fork, work the chilled butter and egg into the dry flour mixture until the texture resembles a coarse meal. Pat half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of your prepared baking pan (note: the layer will be thin).
  3. In a food processor or blender, add the filling ingredients and pulse the mixture until the cranberries are coarsely chopped (but not pureed). Using a spatula or spoon, evenly spread the filling over the pressed crumb base. After the filling is evenly added, sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the berry mixture.
  4. Bake the bars for 30-35 minutes, or until just lightly brown on top. Allow the bars to cool completely before serving, cutting the bars into 36 small squares.

 

Peanut Butter Mississippi Mud Brownies

pbmissmudbrownies

It’s finally that time of the year. The weather finally got a clue and cooled down. I was super giddy about it all, until I remembered that my allergies usually hate weather changes. Let’s just say that I raided the grocery store today, and amongst the things in my cart were Mucinex, zinc drops, vitamin C, Benadryl & Reese’s cups. Priorities, people!

One of the great things about the weather cooling down is that I just want to bake up a storm. I naturally purchase more butter, flour, sugar and eggs. I already have a stockpile of chocolate chips & random candies to mix into baked goodies, so I don’t have to go to the store when the urge to bake strikes.  :-) I also really crave comfort foods, like pot roast, gumbo and chili.

Recently, I was asked if I wanted to review a copy of Southern Living’s new book “No Taste Like Home”, which was released yesterday.

cover

As a fan of Southern Living, I couldn’t say no, and with Southern Living being known for the typical Southern, comforting recipes, it was perfect timing with the weather cooling down. This book basically highlights recipes from different regions of the South, including:

  • The Heart of Dixie
  • Cajun Country
  • Big, Bold Texas
  • The Piedmont & the Mountains
  • The Bluegrass, Bourbon & Barbecue Trail
  • The Coastal South

Basically, if you’re from the South, there’s a good chance that you’ll see some familiar hometown recipes. If you’re not from the South, you’ll probably want to start cooking from this book immediately to introduce yourself to some amazing Southern fare.  :-)

When I got the book in my hands, I immediately had to skim through it with my sticky note pad handy to bookmark recipes that caught my eye. Let’s just say that the copy I have is full of sticky notes. So many wonderful recipes, and the photos are just lovely. I typically would have first made a recipe from the “Cajun Country” (Louisiana) chapter, but this recipe, from “The Heart of Dixie” (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi) chapter was just pulling me in. Rich chocolate brownies with peanut butter batter swirled in, topped with melted, gooey marshmallows, peanuts and a decadent chocolate frosting. I mean…c’mon. How could I not?

Do I even have to say that they were beyond delicious? Oh my gosh…insanely good! You will definitely want a glass of milk (or heck, a scoop of ice cream) handy for these, though. They’re definitely indulgent, and while there’s a few steps involved, they are just completely worth it. I promise!

Now, of course I wouldn’t gush about this book without sharing some of the love! The wonderful folks at Southern Living/YC Media are offering a lucky Nifty Foodie reader a copy of this book. To enter the giveaway, just check out the Rafflecopter widget below! [Read more...]

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars with Vanilla Frosting

chocolatechipbars

Life has been a little bit hectic lately. Between dealing with the whole lightning incident, work getting super busy and just trying to catch up on house work, I just needed to stop for a second and bake something. My husband and I have just been trying to find normal things to do to get our minds off everything. Baking and knitting are things that have been happening a lot for me. For a couple hours a day, I can just forget everything and have immediate results, whether it be a quick cowl or these bars.

This recipe was so quick to throw together. Cookie dough usually is quick, and the longest part is scooping cookies out and baking in batches. Well, with these bars, you just spread the whole thing in a jelly roll pan. Simple enough, right? This tastes just like a cookie cake, and the icing puts it over the top. I used a whipped vanilla buttercream that I blogged about before, and then went crazy on the sprinkles. (By the way, am I the only person who buys bulk sprinkles?) They were perfect–simple, classic and tasty.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars with Vanilla Frosting
Source: Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 batch whipped vanilla frosting
  • rainbow sprinkles

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, making sure that your oven rack is in the center. Line a 12×17 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside. Then, in the bowl of an electric mixer (using the paddle attachment), beat the butter and granulated/brown sugars on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula, and add the eggs and vanilla. Mix everything until well-combined. Add in the flour mixture, and beat everything on low speed until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  3. Dollop the dough on the baking sheet, and spread in an even layer with a spatula. If the dough gets sticky, have a bowl of hot water handy to dip/clean off the spatula.
  4. Bake the bars for about 20-30 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking, until the edges are brown and the top of the bars are golden. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire cooling rack, and allow it to cool completely in the baking sheet.
  5. Make the whipped vanilla frosting, and once the bars are fully cooled, liberally frost the bars. Add sprinkles on top of the frosting and serve.

 

Chewy Oatmeal Fudge Bars

fudgebars

I’m starting to really get tired of the summer. I know there are some people still clinging on to summer for dear life, but living in heat indexes of over 100 degrees for almost 3 months now? I’m just over it. OVER IT.

I feel like this summer has been full of bad news too. My latest round of it was breaking a tooth. Yeah, I know. I was just eating a cookie (a chewy one, at that), I felt a crack and there it was. A big chunk of tooth. I went to the dentist the other day, and she took one look in my mouth and told me I’m definitely grinding my teeth again. The question of new stresses popped up, and I had to laugh. The poor dental office became my therapist as I vented about the house, the tragedies in our family, the fact that I was sick and now, this broken tooth. I’m trying to look at the bright side of things…at least I wasn’t in any pain after my tooth broke? I still can’t believe that I broke a tooth…ugh. Ridiculous.

Lately, with all of this bad news, I’m all about comfort foods. I stink at calorie counting right now…I just can’t find my stride. I’m a pro at eating chocolate when more stress enters our lives. I’ve gained 15 lbs. since April. ::sigh:: Yep. 15 lbs. :(

Part of that is probably because I’ve been baking a good bit since we realized that the lightning didn’t fry our range oven (phew!). I forgot how comforting baking is…too bad I have no willpower against the end products lately. I’m gonna have to start taping saran wrap over the goodies to avoid eating 2-3 of everything I bake.

These bars were something I’ve been meaning to make for a while now. I wanted something rich/indulgent, and the fudge filling on these bars were just that. In fact, I joked with myself that this would make a KILLER hot fudge sauce….I almost grabbed ice cream out of the freezer before I assembled the bars, but I resisted.

Chewy Oatmeal Fudge Bars
Source: Erin’s Food Files, originally on Baking Blonde

Ingredients:

For the bars:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups quick oats

For the filling:

  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 15 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and the 1 tsp. of salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 1 cup of butter and the brown sugar for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one egg at a time and mix until combined. Add the 2 tsp. of the vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  4. Add in the flour mixture to the wet mixture slowly and mix until just combined. Using a spoon or spatula, stir in the quick oats to the batter as well.
  5. Spread 2/3 of the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan, and save the last 1/3 for a topping.
  6. To make the filling, place the chocolate chips, condensed milk, 2 tbsp. butter and the 1 tsp. salt in a medium sauce pot. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, and stir until the mixture is smooth. Once the mixture is melted and smooth, remove the mixture from heat and stir in the 2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.
  7. Pour the filling onto the oatmeal bar crust, keeping the filling about 1/4 inch away from the sides of the pan to prevent sticking while baking. Evenly add the rest of the oatmeal batter in dollops on top of the filling. Then, bake the bars for 30-35 minutes, until the oat topping is light brown and the fudge layer is set, being mindful not to over bake these bars. Allow the bars to fully cool before cutting and serving.

Pumpkin Spice M&M Dulce De Leche Blondies

psdulceblondies

I can’t even begin to express how happy I am that August is almost gone. It has been a month full of bad news for us, so a fresh new month is definitely welcome. September marks the start of pumpkin things, cinnamon scents, fun decor, football and milder weather. I’m also hoping that September helps us close the whole lightning hit our house chapter in our lives. We’ve been spending our afternoons/evenings trying to get our house back in order (you’d be surprised how much clutter you accumulate when you just don’t care anymore) to make our house feel like a home again. I totally bought 4 fall scented candles, even though fall isn’t here yet. I promised myself I that wouldn’t light them until September 1st, but you better believe first thing that morning (well, OK…after church), the summer candles are being put away and our Bath and Body Works Leaves candle will be burning. :-)

I also told myself that I won’t touch the cans of pumpkin in our pantry until September 1st. I’m surprised that I haven’t broken that little promise, because trust me, I’ve been SO tempted to bake up some pumpkin bread. That’s totally happening Sunday morning, as well. Now, I did sort of stretch things a bit making these blondies a couple of nights ago. We went to Target over the weekend to start replacing the food that we lost in the fridge. By the way, I can’t tell you guys how amazing everyone was to us the night that fire happened. I’m SO SO thankful for our neighbors, especially, for loaning us their outside plug to keep the contents of the deep freezer from spoiling until we could get an electrician to replace all of the fried wires. Anyway, we were at Target, and I was walking past the check-out lines and saw an end-cap full of fall M&Ms. My weakness is actually the pumpkin spice kisses, but then I saw pumpkin spice M&Ms. OMG.

I just had to make something with them. After a bit of thought, I decided to add them to blondies. I found a base recipe on Smitten Kitchen’s site, and I added in some pumpkin spice to give it that fall flavor (without using pumpkin haha!). After mixing the batter, I spread half of it on the pan, added a whole can of dulce de leche on top of that, and then added the rest of the batter on top. Ooey gooey amazingness, basically. These bars are so rich, but that just gave me an excuse to top them with vanilla ice cream. :-) They were also super easy to throw together….one bowl to make the blondies and the dulce de leche is in a can. It’s sort of dangerous….in a you better wrap them up and bring them to coworkers the next day before you eat the whole pan, dangerous.

psdulceblondies1

Pumpkin Spice M&M Dulce De Leche Blondies
Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally from How to Cook Everything

Ingredients:

  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 9.9 oz. bag of pumpkin spice M&Ms
  • 1 small can dulce de leche

Directions:

  1. Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together, until smooth. Beat in the eggs, vanilla, spices and salt. Switch to using a wooden spoon or spatula, and stir in the flour, until just combined. Gently stir in the M&Ms, until they’re evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  3. Pour half of the batter into the prepared 9×13 pan, and spread it with a spoon/spatula to cover the surface. Scoop the dulce de leche into the pan, and spread that over the batter. Then, scoop the rest of the batter in small spoonfuls over the dulce de leche and gently spread it on top. It’s OK if a little bit mixes together, but you mainly want the top of the bars to be blondie batter.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the bars are set in the middle, being mindful not to over-bake the blondies. Allow the blondies to fully cool on a cooling rack before cutting/serving.

Pistachio Cranberry Energy Bars

Larabars

While I enjoy eating cookies, cupcakes and ice cream, I could eat fruit all-day, every day. Thank goodness..or this calorie counting thing wouldn’t be working out so well for me. Me and my sweet tooth! :-)

When I started calorie counting, I went to Whole Foods and went on an energy bar shopping spree. I wanted a bar that would carry me through my work-outs, but not feel too heavy after eating them. Most of the bars tasted really good, but the ones that stood out to me the most were Larabars. I won’t lie to y’all. I thought they would taste terrible, being that they only had a few ingredients in them, but I was surprised in how much I liked them. They’re so basic…usually a base of dates, mixed with other dried fruits and nuts. With my favorite combination in cookies (of course, it always goes back to cookies haha!) being pistachio and cranberry, I tried to throw some energy bars together on my own. I was shocked at how easy these were to make. There’s no baking, and your food processor does all the work (which for me, is just a mini chopper, so I did this in small batches).

Pistachio Cranberry Energy Bars
Source: inspired by Use Real Butter

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. pouch of pitted dates
  • 5 oz. pouch of dried cranberries
  • 6 oz. pouch of shelled pistachios (roasted and salted)
  • honey, if needed (depending on how wet the mixture is)

Directions:

  1. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper (making sure some is sticking out above the sides to pull the bars out easily) and set aside.
  2. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor, except for the honey, and puree the mixture. If you have a mini-chopper food processor like me, do this in small batches.
  3. Check the mixture to see if any honey is needed to help bind the ingredients together better. You want the mixture to be easy to roll into a ball without falling apart.
  4. Once you have your bars at the desired consistency, spread the energy bars out evenly onto the 8×8 pan. Then, cut them into bars and individually wrap.

 

 

Strawberry Crumb Bars

Strawberry Crumb Bars

You know it’s Spring in Louisiana when….

….everyone and their momma is at Home Depot in the gardening section on the weekend.
….we all go crazy over a sack full of crawfish.
….the wardrobe goes from sweaters and boots one week to tank tops and flip flops the next.
….strawberries are everywhere and are DIRT CHEAP.

Lately, I can’t get enough of strawberries. When they’re $1.50/clamshell, something in my brain sets off and before I know it, there are at least 4 of them in my cart. Mind you, it’s just me and my husband (ok, ok…and the dog) in this house. So, I do go a bit overboard. However, at least they freeze well, and it’s good to know that I can enjoy these strawberries year round in that case.

Last week, I decided to go for my first warm weather run for the first time since…well…October? I’ve gotten used to running in cooler conditions, and my pace has vastly improved over the winter. However, when I went to run that day, the warm weather + humidity got the best of me, and I found myself sitting on someone’s curb in the middle of the neighborhood. Every time I’d get up, I’d see those black spots. You know those black spots if you’ve passed out before…I call those the point of no return. I was so scared that I was gonna pass out, but luckily, my neighbor was walking with her two little boys. She quickly went back to her house & got me water, and made sure I made it home OK. I was so thankful for her in that moment…I honestly never had this problem before, so I took it as a sign that I really need to slow things down again. Phew…

When I got home, I thought about it, and I figured the best way to say “thanks” is through baked goods. (Am I right??!) Since I had strawberries in the fridge, I figured I’d make something using those and came across these strawberry crumb bars. Perfect. After we made them, my husband and I couldn’t wait for them to cool…we totally took a spoonful and gave it a try. Let’s just say my husband and I agreed that these had to get out of our house ASAP. These bars are just wonderful!

Strawberry Crumb Bars
Source: Can You Stay For Dinner?, originally adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 5 cups chopped, fresh strawberries
  • 1 tbsp. + 2 tsp. cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing for extra foil to hang over the sides of the pan so the bars are easy to remove. Coat the foil with baking spray and set aside.
  2. To make the crumb mixture, in a large bowl whisk the 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar, the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest together. Use a pastry blender (or fork) to blend in the cold butter and egg. The dough will be a crumbly consistency. Pat half of the dough evenly into the 9×13 inch baking pan.
  3. In another large bowl, stir the remaining sugar, lemon juice, strawberries and cornstarch together. Then, evenly spread the strawberry mixture over the crust. Then, crumble the remaining crumb dough over the berries. Bake the bars for 45 minutes, or until the top of the bars are just turning golden brown. Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan before serving. Cut into small squares and enjoy!

 

M&M Cookie Bars

M&MBars

This week has been pretty difficult on me (spoiler: first world problem). I gave up chocolate (and took on trying to be more patient on the road, which is REALLY hard around here), and I’m having terrible cravings for chocolate. I miss having the occasional fun size candy after lunch or grabbing a couple of kisses out of the freezer. I am an addict, and I have no intention of fixing said addiction. ;-) I’ll be happily eating a Cadbury Caramel egg on Easter Sunday, y’all.

I saw this recipe a while back, and thought it would be perfect with M&Ms thrown in. When I was told about a Valentine’s Day bake sale at work, I immediately ran to Target and grabbed a bag of festive M&Ms. It was so hard not to sneak a taste of these right out of the oven, but I did try some of the dough before adding in M&Ms haha! I honestly have no idea how these bars taste (baked), but based on coworker reviews, they were pretty awesome. I will say that recipe like this is perfect for a bake sale (or a party) since it makes a TON, and it’s very simple to throw together.

M&M Cookie Bars
Source: adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large bag plain M&Ms

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, moving an oven rack to the center. Line a 12×17 rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, for about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, and add the eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until well incorporated. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined. Using a spatula, gently mix in the M&Ms.
  4. Place the dough in the baking sheet, and spread the cookie dough evenly across the pan (it’s easier to do this with your hands). Bake the bars, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the edges are browning and the top is a golden color, about 20-25 minutes. Cool the pan on a wire rack, and allow the bars to cool completely before slicing.

One Bowl Brownies

onebowlbrownies

Ok ladies. You know how you have a craving and no matter how many times you try to shake it, you just can’t until you actually eat what you’re craving? Yeah, that was me this WHOLE week.

It was a burrito salad at this place called Izzo’s. I’ve been thinking about it all week, and while the salad that I enjoy is well within my calorie count for the day, for some reason the food there makes me bloat like crazy. Oh, TMI…whatever. You ladies who are reading this get it.

And with my latest DietBet ending today, I was able to go to that restaurant today (right after the gym, mind you) and I savored every last bite of that darn salad. I will never have the mentality of “eat to live”…but at least it wasn’t an order of nachos or something, right? I could have done worse…way worse. :-P

After Christmas, I had a similar craving for brownies. I just couldn’t shake it, and one night, I figured if the recipe was easy enough, the darn brownies were meant to be. And then I came upon this recipe. One bowl brownies.

Meant to be, I guess. :-) I only had one out of the pan (coworkers had the rest), and oh man, these brownies were so rich and fudgy. I was pleasantly surprised since the recipe was so simple! I ended up throwing some leftover Christmas Hershey kisses in there as well, just to get rid of the candy. The brownies are a great, basic recipe…they would probably be amazing with peanut butter or caramel sauce mixed in as well.

One Bowl Brownies
Source: Kraft

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 13×9 inch cake pan by lining it with foil and spraying the inside with cooking spray.
  2. Microwave the chocolate and butter in a large bowl for two minutes, or until the butter is melted. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted, and stir in the sugar. Wait for the mixture to be cool to the touch, and whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add in the flour and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the brownies for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few fudgy crumbs (making sure not to overbake). Allow the brownies to fully cool in the pan before serving.

 

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″. :-)