St. Patrick’s Day Candy Bar

st_patrick's_day_candy_bar

St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow and while I rarely miss an opportunity to get a little festive around a holiday, this one seemed to sneak up on me. I didn’t have time to host a cocktail party with Irish libations or bake my Irish soda break scones with sea salt whisky butter, but I did have time to set out a small St. Patrick’s Day candy bar for a few friends that I had over this past weekend. I filled one bowl with gummy lip candy and a sign reading “kiss me, I’m Irish.” In another bowl, I placed a few chocolate coins with the label, “pot of gold” and I filled the third bowl with sour rainbow candy and a sign reading, “follow rainbows.” Here’s what you’ll need to make your own:

Supplies:
Gummy Lips 
Sour Rainbows
Chocolate coins
Construction Paper
Circle hole punch
Label Maker
Tooth picks
3 bowls

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Lucky Charms Marshmallow Treats

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St. Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching and while I may not be Irish, I love any excuse to be festive. Last year I made Irish soda bread scones with sea salt whisky butter and this year I thought I’d put a spin on a classic sweet treat for an easy and affordable, yet fun holiday dessert.  Check out my Lucky Charms Marshmallow Treats and Erin go Bragh!

Lucky_Charms_Marshmallow_Treats

Total Time: 15  minutes
Serves: 9


Ingredients:
6 tablespoons butter
8 cups miniature marshmallows
12 cups Lucky Charms

Lucky_Charms_Marshmallow_Treats

Steps:
1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add Lucky Charms cereal. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into an 8-inch square pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into thick squares. Best if served the same day.

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Brioche Pumpkin French Toast With Brown Sugar Bourbon Toasted Pecans

pumpkin_french_toast

Fall is here and it’s time for pumpkin laced everything! I’ve already made my pumpkin chocolate chip cookies a handful of times and was jonesing to try out a  new pumpkin recipe. French toast seemed like an easy recipe to try and incorporate the traditional fall flavor and the result was everything I was hoping for. Try my Brioche Pumpkin French Toast with Brown Sugar Bourbon Toasted Pecans and share the festive, cozy meal with the ones you love.

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Total Time: 25  minutes
Serves: 4 – 6


Ingredients (french toast):
1 loaf Brioche bread
4 large eggs
½ cup whole milk
½ cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Butter for pan


Ingredients (pecan topping):
1/3 cup pecans
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp bourbon

Steps (pecan topping):
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. On a baking sheet, toss together the pecans, butter, brown sugar, and bourbon.
3. Roast the pecans for 5-10 minutes, until lightly golden brown and toasted. Keep a close watch to avoid burning.
4. Let the pecans cool and chop them to your desired thickness.
5. Set aside for later.

Steps (french toast):
1. Slice the brioche loaf into thick, 1 – 1/2 inch slices.
2. In a shallow baking pan, whisk together eggs, milk, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and vanilla extract.

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3. Heat your pan on the stove and brush the surface with a bit of butter to prevent the french toast from sticking to the pan.
4. Once the butter has melted, place each slice of bread in the egg mixture, allowing both sides to absorb the liquid fully (about a minute on each side).
5. Quickly transfer the slice of soaked bread to the hot skillet and cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes until lightly golden brown.
6. Wipe down the skillet and repeat steps 3 – 5.
7. Sprinkle the French toast with the pecan topping and serve warm with maple syrup.

 

Homemade Chips and Guacamole

Chips and Guacamole

Happy Cinco de Mayo! If there is any time of year to load up on chips and guacamole (and maybe a few margaritas), it’s today. My mom makes the meanest guacamole in town but over the years I have taken her recipe and made a few additions (cilantro and jalapeño) and subtractions (tomatoes) to better suit my preferences. I recently tried making my own baked chips and was shocked at how simple and delicious they were. Try my guac tonight and let me know what ingredients you add to yours in the comments section below!

Total Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 2-4


Ingredients (guacamole): 

3 avocados
1 red onion
1 jalapeño
1 – 2 limes
cilantro
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste

Ingredients (chips):

15 – 20 small corn tortillas
vegetable oil
sea salt to taste

Chips and Guacamole


Steps (guacamole):
1. Cut avocados in half. Remove pit. Scoop out avocado from the peel and place it in a mixing bowl.
2. Mash the avocado with a fork. Add the cilantro, lime juice, red onion, jalapeño, salt and pepper and continue to mix well.
3. Transfer to a clean bowl and serve immediately.

Chips and Guacamole

Chips and Guacamole

Steps (chips):
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Brush each tortilla lightly with vegetable oil.
3. Slice the tortillas into 4ths.
4. Using 2 baking sheets, distribute half the chips onto each sheet, making sure they are evenly spread out and not overlapping.
5. Bake until golden and crispy, about 10 to 12 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and season with salt.
7. Serve immediately.

Chips and Guacamole
Tips:
1. An easy way to get the pit out of the avocado (and look like a pro while doing it).
2. Lay the pits of the avocados in your guacamole until you are ready to serve. This will prevent the guacamole from browning.
3. If your eyes water while cutting onions, try holding an unlit match between your teeth.

Grown Up Grilled Cheese Two Ways

grown up grilled cheese

Sunday afternoons in the Stephens household growing up were synonymous with a comforting plate of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. As a child with a rather limited palate, this was my version of a happy meal and I couldn’t wait to get home from Sunday school so I could dig in. Despite being in my 30s (gulp!) and having developed a more sophisticated and adventurous palate, I still crave the classic American meal from time to time. Sunday was National Grilled Cheese Day and seemed the perfect opportunity to take my sandwich game to the next level. Check out my grown up grilled cheese two ways and let me know how you make your grilled cheese a little fancier in the comments section below!

Grilled Nectarine with Burrata, Prosciutto, Arugula, and Balsamic Reduction Grilled Cheese
Total Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients: 

2 slices of bread (I used sourdough)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 nectarine
2 medium sized burrata balls
4 thin slices of prosciutto
1 handful of arugula
1/2 tablespoon balsamic reduction

grown up grilled cheese

All the ingredients for a fresh and grown up grilled cheese: arugula, nectarine, prosciutto, burrata, and a balsamic reduction.

Steps:

1. Begin by making your balsamic reduction. Pour a cup of balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the heat to a boil without reducing the heat on the stove.
2. At this point, turn down the heat so that boil reduces to a simmer. Stir occasionally and allow to simmer until the vinegar has reduced by at least half.
3. Allow to cool and set aside.
4. Slice nectarines thinly and grill for 1 minute on each side. Remove from heat and set aside.
5. Spread burrata on one slice of bread. Layer on arugula, prosciutto, and grilled nectarines.
6. Drizzle balsamic reduction on top of layers and close sandwich with second slice of bread.
7. Spread thin layer of butter over outside slices of bread.
8. Heat pan for 2 minutes on medium heat before grilling sandwich.
9. Place sandwich on heated pan, reducing heat to medium/low.
10. Once the bread is a golden brown, flip and repeat.
11. Once the bead is a golden brown, remove from heat and enjoy.

grown up grilled cheese

Sweet and savory perfection!

 

Pear with Brie, Walnuts, Dried Cranberries, and Honey Grilled Cheese
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
2 slices of bread (I used sourdough)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pear
1/2 wedge of brie
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons honey

grown up grilled cheese

A sweet take on grown up grilled cheese: pear, walnuts, dried cranberries, brie and a drizzle of honey.

Steps:
1. Slice pears thinly and set aside.
2. Lay down thin slices of brie on one slice of bread. Layer on walnuts, dried cranberries, and pear slices.
3. Drizzle honey on top of layers and close sandwich with second slice of bread.
4. Spread thin layer of butter over outside slices of bread.
5. Heat pan for 2 minutes on medium heat before grilling sandwich.
6. Place sandwich on heated pan, reducing heat to medium/low.
7. Once the bread is a golden brown, flip and repeat.
8. Once the bead is a golden brown, remove from heat and enjoy.

grown up grilled cheese

All the yummy layers before hitting the grill.

 

grown up grilled cheese

A sophisticated twist on my childhood favorite.

The Only Green Smoothie Recipe You’ll Ever Need

Best Green Smoothie

As you may know, one of my new years resolutions was to redirect my attention to my health! I vowed to get educated on nutrition and really devote myself to learning how to lead a healthier lifestyle. Almost three months later, I am proud to say I have read 3 health-related books, I have started cooking at home almost daily, and have committed myself to working out at least 3 days a week (baby steps, people)!

One of the biggest (and easiest) changes I have made to my every day routine is drinking this healthy and delicious green smoothie for breakfast. I only have to wake up 5 minutes earlier than I usually to do to be able to throw all the fresh, organic ingredients in the blender, and voila! I sip it while getting ready and sometimes I’ll even take it will me on my way to work. It is so easy and requires no time at all, so there is really no excuse not to make it!

Ever since I have started drinking these smoothies I have felt more energized during the day, more hydrated, and more sated throughout my busy mornings. I have noticed my skin has a new healthy glow and the smoothies have definitely improved my digestion! The recipe below is packed with fruits and veggies that are low in calories and high in nutritional value. And if you are like me and have trouble getting all of your daily requirements of fruits and vegetables, this is a perfect solution!

Given that I have tried a million different smoothie variations the last few months,  I am confident that this green smoothie recipe is the only one you will ever need! It is perfectly balanced (not too sweet) and the added avocado makes the texture so creamy. I hope you love it as much as I do! Do you have a favorite green smoothie recipe that you would like to share? We would love to hear from you!

Green Smoothie

 

Green Smoothie Recipe
Total Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 2

 

Ingredients
2 cups spinach (or 2 big handfuls)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or you can use coconut water)
1.5 cups frozen mango (or strawberries, berries, peaches, pineapple)
1/2 of an avocado
1 banana
1 tsp. spirulina (blue-green algae powder) *Optional
2 tbls. chia seeds *Optional
*More Optional Ingredients: almond butter, greek yogurt, ground flax, protein powder

 

Steps
1. Blend leafy greens and almond milk together first
2. Add in fruit and all other ingredients and blend until smooth
3. Add coconut water while blending to reach desired consistency
4. Once blended, pour into a glass and stir in the chia seeds
5. Enjoy immediately

 
Green Smoothie

Irish Soda Bread Scones with Sea Salt Whiskey Butter

Final 1

St. Patrick’s Day is only days away and while I may not be Irish, I do love a good holiday. Around this time each year I make a few loaves of Irish Soda Bread to gift to co-workers and friends, but this year I felt uninspired by the traditional recipe. Considering my deep affinity for breakfast food, I thought I’d try making Irish Soda Bread Scones this go around and to add an additional pop of festivity, I topped them off with sea salt whiskey butter. How will you be celebrating St. Patty’s Day this year?

Irish Soda Bread Scones with Sea Salt Whiskey Butter

Ingredients for Scones:
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup zante currants
1 cup buttermilk

Ingredients for Sea Salt Whiskey Butter:
3 tablespoons Irish whiskey
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Steps:
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Using a cheese grater, scrape the butter into the dry ingredients and whisk until the butter is broken up into pea-sized crumbs throughout. Next, add the currants to the flour mixture and toss gently until they are evenly distributed.

Step 1

3. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Using a wooden spoon, mix it together until the ingredients form a ball. Drop the soda bread dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead a few times. Do not over handle the dough.

4. Form the soda bread into a 2 inch thick disc. Using a knife, cut the dough disc into 6 equal triangles. Roll the dough in your palms to create round scones.

Step 2

5. Transfer the scones to the baking sheet and place in the freezer to chill for 5 minutes. Using a knife, score the tops, forming an X. Brush the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle each scone with a pinch of sea salt.

Step 3

6. Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 17 minutes, until the scones are golden brown. Serve warm with Sea Salt whisky butter.

Final 4

7. Sea Salt Whiskey Butter: To make the butter, add whisky to a small saucepan heat until it begins to simmer and decreases to about 2 tablespoons of liquid. Allow the whisky to cool. In a small bowl, add the softened butter, powdered sugar, cooled Irish whiskey and sea salt. Using a hand mixer, beat until fluffy.

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5 Healthy Granola Recipes

Clean Granola

Image Credit: Goop.com

I was shocked to discover that despite its healthy image, granola  can be one of the least healthy ways to start your day. The truth is, most store-bought granola brands have a ton of sugar and are loaded with fat and calories – making it the exact opposite of what you should be eating for breakfast! Given how much I love granola, I set out to make my own healthy granola without all the sugar and added fat. Homemade granola is loaded with fiber, antioxidant-rich fruit, protein and calcium, and can be an extremely healthy breakfast when paired with low-fat Greek yogurt! Here are some of my favorite recipes that are not only delicious, but extremely easy to make!

1. Clean Granola

2. Easy Healthy Granola

3. Crunchy Quinoa Granola

4. Homemade Granola

5. Vanilla Almond Granola

Homemade Sriracha

DIY Sriracha Recipe Hot Sauce Home Made Videndae-24

When the temps drop, I look for ways to bring the heat.  Here is my version of everyone’s favorite hot sauce that you can whip up on a dime!  I’ve adapted this recipe from several others, experimenting and tweaking the proportions each time. Since I’m on my 4th batch with glowing reviews from serious hot sauce aficionados, I know I have it nailed down.  This recipe is chemical and preservative free (aside from what exists in the ingredients you choose), but it will still keep in the fridge for up to 5 months. Although I don’t think it’ll last you that long… it’s too delicious and versatile.  I bet you’ll be putting our sriracha on everything from eggs to sandwiches to soups (pho!) and roasted veggies.  You can even marinade fish & poultry in this sauce.  What’s more, it is ideal for this cold season when everyone is congested to the max and fighting a bug – yours truly included. Clear out your sinuses and add a bit of kick to your detox recipes with this clean, healthy, homemade hot sauce.

Recipe: Homemade Sriracha

Active Time: 30 min
Total Time: 2 hours
Yield: about 20 oz

Ingredients:
cloves from 1 head of organic garlic, peeled
450 grams organic red hot chili peppers (preferably jalapeño), stems removed and sliced into small rings
500 milliliters rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons brown sugar (turbinado, or sub your favorite natural sweetener)
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon ground arrow root (a thickener)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablespoon Bragg’s liquid aminos (or soy sauce)

Steps:
1.  Blanch the garlic.  Place the cloves into a small saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to boil, then strain and cool the garlic under running cold water.  Repeat.
2.  Slice the garlic into coins.  Place the garlic, chilies, and vinegar into a large pot and bring ingredients to a boil.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.
3.  Decant the mixture into a large lidded glass bowl.  Add the brown sugar and sea salt, stir to combine, then allow to marinate at room temperature for a minimum of 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
4.  Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth (seeds are ok).  Pour the mixture back into the pan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce starts to reduce and bulk.  Skim the foam if you wish.
5.  Combine the arrow root with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl, dissolving the powder into a thin paste using a whisk.   Whisk into the sauce and cook for a few more minutes until the sauce has thickened to your desired consistency.   Remove the sauce from the heat and let cool.  Finally, add the fish sauce and liquid aminos and stir to combine.
6.  Decant hot sauce into containers using a funnel and spatula. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 months.  Enjoy!

DIY Sriracha Recipe Hot Sauce Home Made Videndae-6

The main ingredient, red hot chili peppers.

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Peeled cloves from one head of garlic.

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Rice wine vinegar, sea salt, brown sugar.

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Prep the chilis, and consider wearing gloves.

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Chilis for the win.

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Blanching garlic.

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Combining ingredients and bringing to a quick 3 min boil.

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Marinate.

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I prefer handheld immersion blenders, which usually include tools to chop, whip, mash, puree, process and blend food.

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After pureeing ingredients, simmer.

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Final additions include arrow root paste, fish sauce and liquid aminos (soy sauce).

DIY Sriracha Recipe Hot Sauce Home Made Videndae-21

Voila.

Container ideas: Weck jars here and here, Condiment Sauce Bottle, Drizzler with cap, Bell jars here, or classic hot sauce dashers

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Holiday Sugar Cookies

Merry Christmas Eve everyone! Making my mothers famous sugar cookies on the eve of Christmas eve is a long-standing tradition in the Bunnell household. We pour some wine, turn on some holiday music and settle in to attempt some Martha Stewart-style cookie decorating. In years past, we have used every frosting color under the sun, but this year we went with a monochromatic white theme and the result was lovely (and delicious!). Making these cookies is a serious time commitment, but I promise it is totally worth it! I recommend making the dough and baking the cookies the night before you decorate them to make the process more manageable. I look forward to our baking tradition every year, and I guarantee that after trying this recipe you will want to start a cookie-making tradition of your own!

Sugar Cookie Dough

Yields: 2 Dozen Cookies

2/3 c. shortening
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 egg
4 t. milk
2 c. sifted flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

1. Cream shortening, sugar, vanilla. Add egg, beat until fluffy. Stir in milk. Blend in dry ingredients.
2. Divide dough in half and chill for 1 hour.
3. Roll dough out onto lightly floured surface and cut into shapes.
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes.
5. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and cool completely before decorating.

Baked Sugar Cookies

Freshly baked sugar cookies.

Sugar Cookies Baked

We use our favorite holiday cookie cutters: stars, angels, ornaments, trees, mittens, and snowmen!

Easy Dipping Icing

3 tblsp. granulated sugar
2 tblsp. milk
2 tblsp. margarine
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract or almond extract

1. In a microwave safe bowl, heat the sugar and the margarine for 2 minutes.
2. With a wire wisk, add the flavoring and powdered sugar (if you would like to color the icing, add the food coloring here). *You will work with this icing warm, so use immediately.
3. Dip the tops of the cookies in the icing, letting some of the icing drip off, then place on wax paper to dry.

Tips: The icing should stick to the cookies and not completely run off the top, so you can adjust the amount of sugar or milk as needed. Before you dip the cookies you may have to stir the icing to break the skin atop the icing, allowing it to stick to the cookies. If the icing gets too cool, you may have to microwave it for a few seconds or add a few drops of milk. 

Sugar Cookie Easy Dip Icing

Stir the icing while warm before dipping cookies.

Sugar Cookie Easy Dip Icing

Dip the tops of the cookies in the icing – letting some of the icing drip off.

Sugar Cookie Easy Dip Icing

Icing will dry to create a smooth, glazed surface – perfect for decorating!

Sugar Cookie Easy Dip Icing

Place the cookies on wax paper to dry completely before decorating.

Meringue Powder Buttercream (Piping Frosting)

1/3 cup water
3 tblsp. meringue powder
1/2 cup shortening
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (use a clear version for pure white icing)
1/4 tsp. almond extract

1. Beat water and meringue powder in a mixer until stiff peaks form.
2. Add shortening, sugar and extracts and whip for 3 minutes.
3. Store well covered, or use immediately.

Sugar Cookie Piping Frosting

Prepare the piping bags, then fill each with the meringue buttercream frosting using a spatula.

Cookie Decorating Tools

Pastry/Piping Bags
Piping/Decorating Tips
Pastry Bag Couplers
Food Coloring (for piping icing)
Sanding Sugars
Sprinkles
Dragees
Edible Pearls

Sugar Cookie Decorating Tools

We use an assortment of decorating sugars, sprinkles, edible pearls, glitters and dragees for our cookies.

Sugar Cookie Decorating

Pipe each cookie, then add sprinkles as desired!

Sugar Cookie Decorating

Be sure to add dragees when frosting is not completely dry so they don’t fall off!

Sugar Cookie Decorating

Et Voila! You have sugar cookies that are beautiful and delicious – just in time for Christmas Eve!