Friday, December 31, 2010

Toasted Coconut Saltine Candy

So funny story about this recipe, I almost burnt my oven down making it a couple years ago. I used to make this candy (minus the toasted coconut) allllll the time for gift baskets and at home snacking. At the time, I had the smallest baking sheet you can buy. So anytime I needed to make an abundance of this treat, I had to make four batches. So I had a flat pizza sheet that was like three times the size and decided "hey, why not use this?". I'll tell you why not use this past presence idiot self, the recipe has butter in it. So, on a flat sheet when the butter bubbles up, it bubbles over, over as in to the bottom of the oven. Luckily, when making this recipe my knight in shining armor, Jon, was outside working on his truck. I started screaming like a mad woman as I'm watching smoke pour from the rings of my stove top and flames engulfing my pizza sheet inside the oven. Jon snaps into action, grabs the fire extinguisher and saves the day. What the heck would I have done if he wasn't there? I really should take a fire safety course or something...

Morale of the story, make sure when you make this recipe, you use a baking sheet that has a lip on all four sides. I took pictures of the evolution of this recipe for you so you can see what I'm talking about there. You'll also notice in my pictures that only half of mine is covered with toasted coconut and almonds. My parents have had coconut flakes in the fridge forever and haven't used them for anything. I decided I wanted to make this recipe with them and asked Jon to go get them for me. He was pissed. He hates coconut and knew that I was going to be creating something that he wouldn't even get to it. So, out of the kindness of my heart, I went ahead and made half my way, and half his way. Aww, I'm so nice. The recipe however reflects the whole thing being covered with coconut flakes and almonds. If you have picky eaters in the house like I do, just go ahead and cut the almonds and coconut flakes in half.

On to the recipe...

Toasted Coconut Saltine Candy

42 saltines (this is going to vary on the size of your baking sheet)
2 sticks of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup almonds, finely chopped
1 cup toasted coconut flakes
2 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. *While the oven was preheating, I toasted up my coconut flakes in there on a foil covered baking sheet for 3-4 minutes until golden brown*Arrange saltines on foil covered baking sheet. Be sure they are all touching each other but not overlapping. Melt butter in microwave or on stove top. Once melted, whisk in brown sugar. Pour over top of saltines and use spatula to spread it evenly across saltines. Bake in oven for 3-4 minutes until bubbling. Take out of the oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over top. Allow the chocolate chips to melt and then use the back of spatula to spread evenly over entire surface. Sprinkle with toasted coconuts and finely chopped almonds. Refrigerate for one hour. Break into pieces and enjoy!

Just a quick note... When you take the saltines out of the oven, the butter mixture may make them move around a bit. I just take a spoon or spatula and rearrange them so they're not overlapping. I tend to yell at them "get back in line!" while I do it, purely for my own amusement. Hope you all enjoy this delicious chocolate concoction!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Aloha 2010, thanks for everything!

I know I say it all the time, but I'm excited for this post. I decided for this post I would share 12 favorite pictures/memories from my boring life and then 12 recipes that I've felt are the most worthy of your recipe boxes!

First, I just want to say thank you to the universe! Jon and I hit a rough patch emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, you name it-ly in 2008-2009. 2010 finally paid us back for our frustrating years. We had an amazing year and I'm just hoping and praying that 2011 will bring us the same blessings. I also keep hoping that my friends and family have an amazing 2011. 2010 also inspired me to start this blog and I get so excited when I get emails from people all over the United States. I am on twitter- @caithowland, so follow me and I can probably get to your questions even quicker! I love how much experimenting I've done this year with cooking. I've also taken a lot more pictures knowing I could post them up here to give you guys a little insight into my corner of the world in Hawaii. Thank you all for reading and I wish you a happy, healthy safe, and fun new year!

"Real World Hawaii" January 2010

This was actually taken in 2009 but I LOVE this pic of Savannah!

The tsunami scare in Hawaii, March 2010

Jon proposed at this beautiful spot!! May 25, 2010 <3

Best Buy Women's Leadership Conference- June 2010- Orange, CA

Lunch before our first Bridal Show- July 2010

Krissy's BFFL Liane came to visit, August 2010

Taken October 2010 during my "staycation"- Miss Lei Lei!

Disney themed Halloween- October 2010

Christmas Lights in Mililani, December 2010- Lei Lei & Savannah

"The Usuals" at my hale for Nalani's bday- December 2010

Our favorite spot- Dave and Busters! This pic represents ALL the good times there!
And my Top 12 Recipes for 2010....

Spinach & Artichoke Dip
This is my number 1 recipe to be shared, made, eaten, etc etc. Its amaaaazing, I promise!

Apple Crumbler
Oh boy, has to be one of the most delicious desserts on the planet!

Oreo Cheesecake
Or maybe THIS is the most delicious dessert on the planet!

Scalloped Potatoes
MY favorite meal of all time, straight from my mama's kitchen!

Chicken Parm
JON's favorite meal of all time

Bonnie's Barbecue Sauce
Must have barbecue sauce recipe

Mashed Potatoes
I just really love these

Olive Tapenade
SUPER simple dip or spread, or can be used like pesto for pasta!

Doggie Treats
Can't leave out our four legged friends!

Bonnie's Banana Bread
No one has ever been able to top mama's banana bread in my opinion!

Baked Brie with Apple Sauce
Family favorite!

Parmesan Garlic Bread
The most amazing bread to serve with your dinner

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou!

2010 has been an amaaaazing year for me, I'm not going to lie. I'm usually the type of person to always see the bright side of situations, but this year has brought nothing but good fortune for us anyways. We got to wake up all 365 days (minus the four days I was in California) on the beautiful island of Oahu, major bright side there for you. Jon and I finally got engaged on May 25th of this year. Shortly after that, Jon got promoted at work and I went back to Things Remembered as Assistant Manager. We have my parents and our doggies here. I have also made some amazing new friends. I strengthened friendships with some old friends, even with the distance we have between us.

Jon and I got majorly spoiled for Christmas. His family sent us a bunch of gift cards and goodies that we needed. My parents bought me a beautiful set of pearls so I can feel fancy and classy whenever I want. Jon got a beautiful new tee shirt, something that people who know him know is the way to his heart. His work gave out employee christmas gift cards, so he was able to buy his Turtle Beach headset. I'm so happy to not listen to his sales pitch anymore of why we NEEDED to spend cash on that, haha. My beautiful friend Nalani made me the most epic magnets I've ever seen. I am a magnet freak and I was amazed at her craftiness. My secret santa, KTom, got me a huge set of nail polishes. I have literally redone my nails everyday since getting it so I can try out all the colors, haha. Jon got me a beautiful Pandora charm to add to my epic collection. Speaking of epic, he also got me Epic Mickey for Wii, which I think was more a gift for him than me, but moving on... Haha. My co-workers also spoiled me. My newly promoted fellow assistant manager got me some delicious truffles and a gift card to my favorite place, Costco. My manager also got me some delicious truffles and A VICKY'S SLEEP SHIRT! Ah, I LOVE IT! I don't even know what else, we were just majorly blessed this year.

In 2011, I just wish for continued happiness and peace for us. I want my parents to have some of the blessings we had in 2010. They deserve it, they are the most amazing, kind, generous people you'd ever meet and they've had a hard few years. I feel in my heart and bones and guts and soul that 2011 is going to be their year. Everyone wish and pray that it comes true, okay?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all. I hope Santa brought you everything you wished for! If you were blessed and are able to give back please go to the websites at the bottom of the page... They are the two charities that are nearest and dearest to my heart. The true meaning of Christmas is all about giving. I hope you're able to give even just a dollar to make a difference. Thanks for reading <3

Oreo Cheesecake

So making a cheesecake from scratch has been an adventure I've been wanting to attempt for awhile now. It was a true adventure. I had a bajillion questions, so I turned to someone who makes cheesecakes all the time, my Mama. She makes the most delicious cheesecakes.

Some questions I had were "what temperature should the oven be at?" "Should I do the water bath method?" "If I do the water bath method can I put my metal pan in a glass baking dish?" "How the heck do I get a pan in my crockpot if I want to do a slow cooker cheesecake?" Any of the questions she couldn't answer, I googled. Boy, I heart Google.

 I finally found out that you need a 7 inch springform to fit in your crockpot, which I didn't have. So I ended up going with the water bath method. Then my 11x15 glass baking dish wasn't big enough to fit my 8 inch springform pan. So I used one of my baking sheets that has a lip on it.(see the pictures) This also eliminated my concern about putting a metal pan in a glass dish. However, all my googling didn't bring me to believe that metal + glass= oven explosion.

Anyway, I was amazed at how easily I got a great texture on the cheesecake. The hardest part was allowing it time to cool in the refrigerator without eating it. I did get a few small cracks and blemishes. My 17 year old niece recommended a chocolate drizzle and some oreo garnishes to make it look perfect, which I have to say made it look super professional. Thank you Ava for that!

Also I read online you can check that your cheesecake is done by making sure the temp is at 160 degrees. However, the thermometer leaves an ugly little hole in it! Gross. Nothing an oreo couldn't cover though. :)

The cheesecake was delicious, the most important part in my opinion. Jon said it was better than Cheesecake Factory, but I pay him to say stuff like that, so you'll just have to make it yourself.

If you run into questions, email me! I will do my absolute best to get you an answer!

2 lbs cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
5 eggs
12 oreo cookies, crushed

25 oreo cookies, finely crushed
4 tbsp salted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine crust ingredients. Press into greased springform pan. Set aside.

Boil about 2 cups of water in tea kettle.

Combine cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, vanilla extract, almond extract and salt with mixer until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Fold in crushed cookies with spatula. Pour over crust.

Cover the bottom of springform pan with aluminum foil to avoid water leaking into cheesecake. Place springform pan in baking dish. Pour boiled water around pan, until half way up the baking dish.*I did this once the cheesecake was in the oven to avoid me spilling boiling water as I carried it to the oven* Bake cheesecake for about an hour and 20 minutes. Center will still be a little gooey. Allow to set overnight in refrigerator. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and garnish with halved oreo cookies. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bonnie's Banana Bread

Seriously guys, I'm sooo sorry I've been so absent. I have the day off today so I'll hopefully be experimenting some in the kitchen. In the meantime, I wanted to share an amazing family recipe. My mama's banana bread! Besides her famous Scalloped Potatoes, she is also known for her banana bread. It is just super delish!

I was going to call her later tonight to steal the recipe from her. Then, I was going through my archive of recipes in my email and I was surprised to find my dad had emailed me the recipe when they were in Hawaii and I was still in Massachusetts missing them and the banana bread! Hope you guys love it. <3

Bonnie's Banana Bread

1(8oz) pkg. cream cheese
1 c.  sugar
½ c. brown sugar
¼ c. butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. mashed bananas
2 eggs
1 c. flour
1 ¼ c. oatmeal
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 c. chopped nuts
½ c. peanut butter chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine cream cheese, sugars, butter (best at room temp.) and vanilla mixing well. Blend in bananas and eggs. Add remaining ingredients, mix well until moistened.  Pour in greased and floured 9x5 loaf pan.  Bake approximately 1hr. and 10 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cait's Cocktails...

I'm so sorry to everyone for being so absent. Work has been crazy. I also had some friends over the other night for my good friend Nalani's birthday. We made my spinach and artichoke dip, marinated grilled steak and some portuguese sausage. It was pretty delicious. We also made some cocktails :D I decided now would be a good time to share some recipes for cocktails since I haven't had much time for cooking recently.

Most of these pictures are captured by the beautiful and talented Nalani. One is with my cell phone and a couple are with my good old Canon Powershot lol.

(I titled this drink after having a few)
2 oz. Pineapple juice
2 oz. Peach schnapps
4 oz. Malibu Rum
Shake everything together and then strain into a martini glass.

Scally Wag
(Look up the definition on Urban Dictionary)
2 oz. Cola
2 oz. Amaretto
4 oz. Malibu Rum
Shake everything together and then strain into a martini glass.

Nuts n Berries
*This one was shared by my good friend Allie that works at 21 Degrees North at Turtle Bay. Go visit her, she makes a mean martini!*
1 part Hangar One Raspberry vodka
1 part Chambord
1 part Frangelico
1 part cream or milk.
Shake everything together and then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a white chocolate stick.

Here's some pictures from Nalani's birthday and our trip to Mililani to see the beautiful Christmas Lights! Mele Kalikimaka everyone!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Wish List

Jon, I hope you're reading this ;)

Our Ala Moana Victoria's Secret doesn't carry the Patriots Pink line :( If anyone in MA is reading this, I'm size L. :D

Ala Moana does carry the sleep tees though. Size L, kthxbai!

I just discovered Sephora the other day. Here are two of the things that I really wanted. The green primer thingamawhatsit reduces redness on your face. Have you guys met me? Perfect gift for me. The frangrace sampler gives you a coupon inside for an upgrade to a free full size perfume after! Amazing!

Also, Celtics or Pats gear of any form would be awesome since I can't find much out here and shipping is so damn expensive. :)

Gift cards?

Executive Chef
Charlotte Russe
Forever 21
Wet Seal
Victoria's Secret
Bath & Body Works (they're opening one here in March finally!!!)

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Every holiday, my parents usually serve up Twice Baked Potatoes. They are so delicious. I decided to try and make it a little different with some sweet potatoes.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

6 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and patted dry
1 stick butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on baking sheet and cook in oven for about an hour. Take out of oven and allow to cool until able to handle. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out middle of all potatoes. Reserve skins. Combine potatoes, butter, cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in mixing bowl. Fill potato skins with potato mixture. Place back on baking sheet and bake in oven for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Three Cheese Chicken Pasta

So last night I didn't feel like doing back flips to get dinner on the table. As I've mentioned, I'm in retail so this month is incredibly tiring for me. I found a recipe on the inside of a cream cheese package for spaghetti mixed with cream cheese. I made a few changes and whipped it together real quick.

I was so excited at how delicious it was. I really think its a new household favorite now. Hope you guys like it too!

Three Cheese Chicken Pasta

2 lbs pasta
1/2 stick butter
1 8 oz. container cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups pasta sauce
2 cups shredded chicken
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated romano cheese

Cook pasta as directed on package. Drain pasta and set to side. In pasta pot, melt 1/2 stick butter on medium heat. Add cream cheese and pasta sauce to pot and stir to combine. Add in chicken, parmesan and romano. Pour pasta back into pot and toss with sauce.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

Sorry I don't have a picture for this post. Hopefully it's yumminess makes up for the lack of picture. This was only my second attempt at a Turkey Pot Pie. The first attempt was meh. It was good, but nothing to write home about. This second one was incredibly easy to throw together. I used some leftovers from Thanksgiving and some canned veggies that I had in my pantry.

I am definitely usually the type to use fresh vegetables. However, I made this the day after Thanksgiving and I was not in the mood to do over the top cooking the next day. I wanted to throw something together that was delicious and quick and get on my way to my closing shift on Black Friday at work. You guys can feel free to swap in the fresh veggies if you'd like. A 15 oz can is a little shy of two cups of fresh, chopped vegetables.

I also used the Bisquick biscuit mix for the topping to cut some more corners. You could also use a ready made pastry sheet, usually in the freezer section of the grocery store. Funny story about Bisquick. As you guys already know, I watch Paula Deen religiously. She is always using a dry biscuit mix for her recipes. I searched my grocery store high and low looking for a biscuit mix and couldn't find it. I finally voiced my frustration to my mom. She then informed me that I can just use Bisquick. I've always known Bisquick as a pancake mix, had no clue you could use it to make biscuits. It is dangerous that I now have a fast and easy way to make delicious biscuits. :O

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

1 cup gravy
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 15 oz can of diced potatoes
1 15 oz can of corn kernels
1 15 oz can of peas & carrots
2 1/2 - 3 cups shredded turkey (or rotisserie chicken)
1/2 stick salted butter, diced

Biscuit topping:
1 cup bisquick mix
1 cup milk
1 stick of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking dish with butter. In mixing bowl, combine gravy, cream, chicken stock, poultry seasoning, salt, cream of chicken soup, potatoes, corn, peas & carrots and shredded turkey. Pour into prepared baking dish. Place pieces of butter throughout the filling. Combine biscuit mix, milk and butter together and pour over top of filling. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Cookie Story

So I'm about to bring you guys in on a family story of mine. This story to this day, when told, gets all family members in fits of laughter with tears in our eyes. It may not be that funny to outsiders, but we told Jon the story and he was laughing just as hard as we were.

Little Cait!

I was your typical child, took dance lessons, got good grades in schools, built tree forts on the weekends in the woods behind my house. I also would have my occasional meltdowns. One night, my mom gave me and my sister 2 cookies. I wanted 4 cookies. I was even a member of the fat kid club back then. I started having a typical meltdown and screaming on the top of my lungs "I WANT FOUR COOKIES!! I WANT FOUR COOKIES!! I'M GOING TO TELL THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD WHAT AWFUL PARENTS YOU ARE! I'M GOING TO RUN AWAY!". This meltdown lasted forever with my parents and younger sister in the other room just laughing at me as I tore through the house freaking out. I'm sure at this point I could've just walked into the kitchen, gotten the other two cookies and be done with it. I kept going until bedtime, shut up, and went to bed with only the two cookies.

That's pretty much the cookie story. So, why am I sharing? Well, Jon now has his own cookie story. No tantrums or anything, just a disastrous cookie situation.

First off, every time I type cookie I feel like it should be cooky because the plural is cookies. Not sure what that's about. Anyways, Jon had been craving chocolate chip cookies. I was exhausted so I told him he could handle it, he just needed to follow the recipe on the back of the bag. In all truth, I've been trying to use him as my guinea pig to see if I can teach people how to act right in the kitchen. Not so much on mission #1.

He comes into the bedroom where I'm watching my DVR which is filled with old CSI episodes. [In case you're wondering, I watch the original mostly and occasionally NY. I NEVER watch Miami.] So, Jon comes in and with a very concerned voice states "Um, the recipe calls for two TSP (he actually says T-S-P, not teaspoon, by the way) of milk and we don't have ANY." So I'm like "Okay, we have egg nog, just use that." He looks relieved and walks away. Then I think back to all the times I made those cookies and realize its probably supposed to be tbsp of milk, not tsp. I pause Gil Grissom and walk to the kitchen.

I come in and first off, its a hot mess. He looks slightly overwhelmed. So I calmly ask him to check if he was supposed to do tbsp not tsp of milk. He like "awww, yeah I was!", picks up the tbsp measuring spoon and goes so "If this is the T-S-P spoon which is the T-B-S-P spoon?" I'm like "no, Jon that's the tablespoon.. Have you been using it as teaspoon?" He looks at it, then at the recipe and then back to me and goes "Uhhhh, yeah. Was that wrong?". What does this mean? Well, the baking powder and baking soda which was already incorporated with the flour had about 4x the amount it should. So, we had to quadruple the rest of the ingredients. I can't remember exactly but I think we had to use like 8 sticks of butter and 8 eggs to get the recipe exact. Thankfully, I had gone to Costco for Thanksgiving and bought what I thought was enough butter and eggs to last us until Easter. After quadrupling the ingredients, it tasted really good (the batter that is). We now had enough batter to open our own bakery with a batch of approximately 6,738 cookies.

So Jon was up for about 3 hours that night baking multiple cookies. We ended up just saving some of the cookie dough in the fridge to give our oven a break. I have been going to the gym religiously again, and now we have a bajillion cookies in our fridge taunting me every day I come home. Thank you, universe.

I hope you guys enjoyed our cookie stories. I've been really busy at work and actually had to type this post on my phone and email it to myself in the car to get this post even started. I have a couple days off soon, so I will hopefully be doing some experimenting to share with you guys. I do have a turkey pot pie recipe that is simple and tasty, so I will be posting that soon, I promise. Thanks for reading. I've been loving getting your emails with questions! Keep them coming-

xoxo Cait

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Doggie Treats!

So in case you guys didn't know I have the world's most adorable dogs. You may be sitting there feeling like my opinion is biased, but they are seriously the most adorable. Anyways, I was planning up all the recipes for our delicious Thanksgiving and I realized the poor angels are used to being spoiled on a daily basis, and I wasn't factoring them in to my recipes. I decided it would be as good a time as any to build a recipe just for them. Since they each have their own favorite foods, I made two recipes. Lei Lei looooves Peanut Butter so I made her a Peanut Butter dog biscuit. Savannah looooves cheese. Let me just explain how much this dog loves cheese and how spoiled she is. We have to add grated parmesan cheese to their dog food every night just to get Savannah to eat the dog food. So, I made Savannah a cheesy dog biscuit.

I have a collection of really cute cookie cutters. I have a snowman, some flowers, and butterflies (my favorite). I also handmade a couple hearts for them (awwww). Anyways, they literally almost knocked Jon over to get a second cookie so I'd say the recipe was successful.

The ingredients are all edible. Judgement free zone here if you wanted to make them for yourself ;).

Lei Lei's PB Treat

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup Wheat Germ
1 egg
1/2 cup Peanut Butter (all natural-creamy)
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour (for rolling out the cookies)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients with mixer. Tip dough out onto floured surface. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to make unique shapes. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Savannah's Cheesy Carrot Cookie

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup Wheat Germ
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 carrot, peeled and hand grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients with mixer. Tip dough out onto floured surface. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to make unique shapes. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Giving Thanks

"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." Melody Beattie
I'm really excited for this post because I love giving credit where credit is due. I feel its so important to tell those you love how much you love them day in and day out. Sometimes in this crazy life, its really easy to leave people out. I really hope I don't leave anyone out with this post. I have some amazing friends. Even if you are just my friend on twitter or facebook and we just like a status or throw an "lol" at each other, I thank you for being in my life. That being said, I want to take some time to thank those who have really paved the way to bring me where I am today.

First and foremost, I want to thank God. I'm not a particularly religious person. At least I wasn't before I moved to Hawaii. I spent 4 years at a Catholic high school that felt more like cult training. Now, being in Hawaii, I feel more spiritual and able to honor God in my own way. I am so blessed to be where I am today. I know all the struggles and shortcomings have had their purpose. I feel the strongest I have ever felt and I am sooo thankful.

To my amazing parents, Mama and Papa. You two are seriously the most amazing parents a kid could ever ask for. You are so inspiring. I see you guys making the best of every day and being true partners to one another. You make me strive to be half the people you both are, and I wish all parents acted like that. It is truly amazing how much strength you both have. Even when you're at rock bottom, you're constantly looking for ways to help others. I love you both so much.

Jonathan, you are seriously the best friend I could ever ask for. We have been through six years of ups and downs, and I'm thankful for every minute with you. You are so wonderful for putting up with my uber-sensitive and over-emotional self, haha. I know we have many years ahead of us, so get comfortable. Thank you for saving me from myself six years ago and helping me become the person I am today. I love you bubs!

Lei Lei & Savannah- well, you two can't read but I don't care. Jonny can read it to you. Thank you girls for being the cutest darn dogs ever. Thanks for the cuddles when I had a bad day and forcing me to walk you both miles and miles to tone my legs, haha. On a more serious note, I am so thankful you both found your way home after getting out of the house. Savannah, you were only gone a week but I was terrified every second. When you finally came home, I was so excited. Lei Lei, you left us for NINE months. I truly had begun to lose hope you'd ever come home to us. I'm so thankful that nice man found you and called us. Love you both <3

Krissy- my darling younger sister. We have probably the most insane relationship any sisters have. We want to kill each other one minute, and then are planning what movie to go see the next. I am thankful I had you growing up so we can pick on Mom and Dad's quirky cute ways together. I love you lots.

Shannon- my big sis! We have had some really rough times (to say the least). I'm glad we've been able to put the past behind us and stay in touch even with thousand of miles in between us. I love you very much!

My three nieces- Ava, Tiffany & Devan, you are the best and most beautiful nieces an Auntie could ask for. I love seeing pictures of you guys. I just wish I could be closer to watch you all grow up. Love you all <3

Grandma L- I love you so much! I know you won't be reading this, but I wanted to include you because you mean a lot to me. I wish you were out here in paradise with us for this holiday. Love you so much <3

Grandma & Grandpa H- I hope you both are watching down on me and I hope I'm making you proud. RIP <3

Grandpa L- I only knew you for a very short time but the memories of you that are shared with me make you live on. I'm so thankful you helped make my Mom who she is today because she is the most amazing mother ever. Love you, RIP. <3

My aunts/uncles/cousins- there are so many of you spread across the globe but I love every single one of you. You are all kind, funny and awesome to be around. I cherish all our memories.

Jon's family (my future in-laws)- you are all an amazing group of people. I'm so thankful to you for helping Jon be who he is today. He's an amazing guy and we both have you all to thank for that. Love you all <3

The Perry Family- I love all you guys. You have been like a second family to me. You've been there when I needed to laugh, dance, party or vent about my day. You are such an amazing support system for me, even with the thousand of miles between us.

My Best Buy family- I had an amazing 3 year run wearing a blue shirt. I met so many wonderful people at 1461, 1140 and 852. I also met lots of people from a bunch of stores between trainings, conferences and job fairs. I made friends that I know I'll have for the rest of my life. Thank you all for making me laugh and become a better leader throughout the years.

My Things Remembered family- I've worked with so many great people at the kajillion TR stores I've worked at. You guys are so awesome. Thank you for being there for me and putting up with my craziness :)

Danielle, Me, Case, Tricia & ChristianaMy Stang Bangas- especially you, Casey :) we all grew apart after highschool which is typical but thanks to facebook, twitter and blogger we've been able to reconnect. Its awesome being able to keep updated on all your lives. I love knowing I can still turn to you all for everything. <3

My teams- Patriots & Celtics, thanks for being so epic and making it easy on me to talk shit.

Just a few people I want to say a special thanks to... Rebecca, Solange, Steph, Kristin, Nalani and Reyne, thanks for letting me vent, making me laugh and keeping me sane. You girls are amazing and I love you forever. KTom and Nalani- an extra thanks for keeping me in the gym. I strive to be as sexy as the two of you someday ;).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Hey there,

So since Thanksgiving is approaching us rather quickly, I wanted to get as many recipes up for you guys as fast as possible. Most of the time, I research and taste test recipes online and then adapt it to make it my own. This next recipe is perfect just as it is. Soooo delicious. Apparently Gooey Butter Cakes come from St. Louis, but I was introduced to them by a sweet little lady from Georgia. You guys may have heard of her before.. Paula Deen? It was one of the very first dessert recipes I tried of hers and it is to die for. It is like birthday cake meets cheesecake in Heaven. So good! Anyways, here's the link to the recipe on Food Network's website.

Love ya!


Ho Ho Ho Christmas 5x7 folded card
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Here's a preview of my Christmas cards! Hope these 3-7 business cards go by quickly!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Glazed Carrots

This is Jon's favorite recipe of my dad's. You all know by now that Jon hates veggies so for this to be his favorite it saying something. It could be the butter and brown sugar, but hey, they're still veggies right?

7-8 carrots - do not peel, just slice into 1/4 inch slices
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of water

Place water and butter in saucepan and cook over medium heat. Add carrots. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and add brown sugar. Cook for 40 minutes stirring occasionally.

Caramelized Onions

Another super easy recipe courtesy of my mom and dad! Only 3 ingredients, don't you guys love them? They do Thanksgiving the smart AND delicious way!

2-3 sweet onions - chopped and sliced
1 stick of butter
1 cup of brown sugar

Place one stick of butter and sliced onions on burner over medium heat. Cook until butter is melted and bubbling. Reduce to simmer and add brown sugar. simmer for at least 30 minutes stirring occasionally

Scalloped Potatoes

This recipe is one I've been having since I can ever remember, and it is hands down my favorite. My mom is literally notorious for these scalloped potatoes. We live at the Estates at Turtle Bay and have a lot of really great neighbors. We have also become so close with the people who work on the property, at the restaurants and bars. As soon as people find out she's making these potatoes, she will be harassed for days to get some! I always end up missing out because by the time I make it there to get some, she's already given it out to all her other "kids" at the hotel! Haha. Anyways, we love this recipe in the family and I think it's going to make an awesome addition to your recipe collection.

10-12 red potatoes, peeled and slice thinly
2 16 oz packages of American Cheese
1/4 stick of butter, plus 2 tbsp for baking dish
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt

Prepare baking dish by greasing with butter. In a medium sauce pan melt butter, then add flour and stir with a whisk until blended. Add milk and heat slowly-then add American Cheese, let melt. Stir with whisk and let stand for a few minutes. Put potatoes in a the baking dish and pour the cheese sauce over the potatoes. Cook in a 350 degree oven for an hour and fifteen minutes.

Tips from Mom's Kitchen:
Don't let the sliced potatoes sit very long without the cheese sauce, the potatoes will turn grey...
You could cook this a few days ahead of your Thanksgiving feast and warmed in the stove the day of, they even will taste better and less work on Thanksgiving, more time to enjoy your family...

Lipton Onion Dip

We always use this recipe in my family. I first had it at my Grandma's house and now everytime I make it for a party, it reminds me of her. So simple and deicious!

1 envelope Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Onion Soup Mix1 container (16 oz.) sour cream

Mix together and serve with veggies, crackers and chips. I especially love it with Ruffles!

Shrimp Dip

Super simple to make, only 2 ingredients!

1 4oz can of Sau Sea Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
1 8oz package of cream cheese, room temperature

Blend two ingredients until smooth consistency. Serve with crackers, veggies and olives!

Olive Tapenade

I can't even begin to express my love for this Olive Tapenade. My parents came up with this recipe from having this spread at a restaurant up in Bar Harbor, ME. They tested out some recipes and finally came up with this combination of flavors. Such a great, easy dip to have next to some crackers and veggies.

1 can of pitted black olives
1/2 can of green olives with pimentos
1/2 cup of walnuts
3 tbsp of parmesan cheese
3 tbsp of olive oil

Blend ingredients in food processor to desired consistency.

And that's all she wrote!

Grilled Salmon with Dill Sauce

1/2 lb Atlantic Salmon
Olive Oil, enough to coat Salmon

Dill Sauce
3 tbsp dill
1 cup sour cream
3 tbsp horseradish

Brush Salmon all over with Olive Oil. Place Salmon skin side down on grill. Cook five minutes on each side TWICE. (10 minutes per side all together).

While Salmon is cooking, prepare dill sauce. Mix together dill, sour cream and horseradish. Serve and enjoy! How easy was that?

Mashed Potatoes

Cheesy, creamy and delicious. Perfect for your Shepherd's Pie or served with gravy.

3 pounds potatoes

½ cup parmesan
½ cup Romano
½ cream cheese              
½ cup milk
1  stick butter    
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cube potatoes and get them in a pot and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil and season water with salt. *see tip at bottom* Cook for 20-25 minutes until fork tender.

Drain potatoes. Using an electric mixer, beat potatoes with Parmesan, Romano, cream cheese, milk, butter and garlic until smooth or to desired "with lumps" consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tip from the cook: Anytime I make potatoes, pasta or rice, I always season my boiling water with salt AND chicken bouillon. I think its much more inexpensive than cooking in Chicken Stock in a box and gets you the same flavor. It also adds a really nice gourmet color to it. That little jar of bouillon lasts quite a while too, even with the amount of cooking I do!

Friday, November 19, 2010


So, I'm super pumped for Christmas this year! Growing up, our house was always filled with loads of Christmas cards tacked to the walls. I would love to have that again this year. So, I've been harassing my friends and family to send me some with promises to send our own this year. I wasn't going to give updates like people usually do in Christmas cards but I decided it may be a good idea since we got engaged this year and everything, haha.

Anyways, one of my BFFLs from highschool, Casey, posted on her blog a deal Shutterfly was having for bloggers to get 50 free card prints! I was planning on doing a photo card this year and Shutterfly has never let me down. I do photo calendars all the time for birthday gifts. I'm of course going to include pictures of the cutest dogs alive, Lei Lei and Savannah. Check out these links to get your gifts and holiday cards done for this season!

·         Christmas photo cards to
·         birthday invitations to
·         calendars to  
·         personalized mugs to
·         Choose your favorite product from our Cards & Stationery page

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gobble Gobble!

Hey Kids!

Okay so my mom called me last week to alert me of the deals Foodland (our grocery store) was having in preparation for Turkey Day. They were selling turkeys up to 16 lbs for $3.97! And not $3.97 per pound either, that's for the whole friggin bird! I was PSYCHED to say the least, I ended up with three birds around 15 pounds.

The first time I ever made my own Thanksgiving turkey was back when my skills in the kitchen were limited to Hamburger Helper and reheating take-out. Surprisingly, it turned out great. There are four things I care about on Thanksgiving, cranberry sauce (IN THE CAN), egg nog, mashed potatoes and gravy. If I didn't have turkey, I seriously would be okay. So the spread that year was Turkey (even if I could live without it, Jon couldn't), cranberry sauce, egg nog, mashed potatoes, gravy and dinner rolls. It was just Jon, me and the dogs. It was kind of nice not doing the hustle and bustle with family and everything.

This good experience of making my own turkey was a few years back and those who know me know my memory isn't always the best. (There Jon, I admitted it! I have a bad memory :P). So, I turned to my favorite- for some turkey recipes. The first one that jumped at me was "The Perfect Turkey". The second was "Rosemary Roasted Turkey". I decided to somewhat follow the both of them, and then add in my own spin.

Gobble Gobble Turkey!

1 15 lb turkey
1 cup salt
1 stick butter, melted
Herb mix:
     1 tbsp salt
     1/2 tbsp rosemary
     1/2 tbsp poultry seasoning
     1/2 tbsp oregano
     1/2 tbsp sage
     1/2 tbsp thyme
     1/2 tbsp black pepper
     1/2 tbsp granulated garlic
1 large onion, chopped into large chunks
5-6 carrots, chopped into large chunks
2 stalks of celery, chopped into large chunks
1 lemon, cut into slices
7-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine

Before I get into the instructions, a couple things I feel is important to know. First off, a "stalk" of celery refers to the whole bunch of celery (comprised of individual ribs). I had to google that a few months back, so I figured I'd share. Also, for easier peeling of garlic, smash it with the side of your knife so it cracks the outside layer of the garlic. I learned that from Rachael Ray. The Perfect Turkey recipe on instructs you to brine the turkey for 12 hours the day before. Not going to lie, I didn't do that. I get too excited to actually make these recipes. It may be something you want to do, but I thought the turkey was delicious without! That is all, continue on...

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove giblets. Wash and dry the turkey inside and out. Using your fingers, loosen the skin from the meat of the turkey. Just slide your fingers in between the skin and meat. Take the cup of salt and rub it all over the turkey, including inside the cavity, between the meat and skin and outside of skin. Brush melted butter over all of turkey. Sprinkle both sides of turkey with Herb Mix. Place in roasting pan, breast side down.

Stuff turkey with half the amount of onion, carrots, celery, lemon, garlic and 1 bay leaf. Scatter remaining along bottom of roasting pan. Pour chicken stock and white wine over turkey.

Before turning it breast side up...
Cook in oven, uncovered, for 2 hours. After 2 hours, take out turkey and turn it over, breast side up. Cook for 1 1/2 more hours, until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees. Transfer to serving dish and allow it to stand for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Important note: Make sure you "baste" the turkey every 1/2 hour to hour to promote even browning.

If you guys have any questions, email me at

Almost forgot! Save those veggies from the roasting pan to make some turkey stock once you've ripped that bird apart!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Taylor Swift- Speak Now

So, I have absolutely no qualifications to be doing an album review. Then again, I don't have qualifications to have a cooking blog, hah! I am so in love with this album, I really wanted to share some of my favorite songs with you all. <3 Overall Favorite Song:

Runner-Up for Favorite:

Makes me LOL:

Favorite Melody:

Favorite Lyrics:

Baked Mac N Cheese Vs. Creamy Mac N Cheese

Let me start by saying that I am a serious fan of Macaroni and Cheese in any form. I will take the Costco brand boxed version, Velveeta, Kraft, homemade, KFC, you get the picture- I LOVE MAC N CHEESE! Jon and I were playing 20 questions the other day. The question was what three foods would you choose to have for the rest of your life and nothing else? The answer was macaroni and cheese, popcorn and tiramisu. The second two I really had to think about... The first one was a no brainer.

So, for this blog I decided to do some experimenting in the kitchen and take on Baked Mac N Cheese vs. Creamy Mac N Cheese. Hands down the winner, as far as I'm concerned, was the Creamy Mac N Cheese. I decided to make the creamy version  tangy with some gorgonzola cheese and plain yogurt. For the baked mac, I combined a few recipes and tips I found online and then added some of my own flair for the crunch topping. I felt the Baked Mac N Cheese was wayyyy too boring! I'd love to hear what you all think-

Baked Mac N Cheese
Adapted from this recipe
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 stick butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz shredded mild cheddar cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
10 oz sausage, casing removed & diced (I used Portuguese sausage)

Crunchy Cheesy Topping:
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup romano cheese
1/4 cup Cheeze-its
1/4 cup Ritz cracker

Cook macaroni as directed on package. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 11x15 baking dish. Brown sausage for 5-6 minutes in large skillet. In large pot, heat stick of butter until melted. Whisk in flour. Add cream and milk and stir until combined. Heat on medium for 2 to 3 minutes. Add in cheese and whisk until melted and combined with milk.Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss macaroni and sausage in cheese sauce and spread into baking sheet. Using a food processor, pulse parmesan cheese, romano cheese, Cheeze-its and Ritz crackers until they are a crumb texture. Sprinkle crumbs over top of macaroni and sausage. Bake for 15-20 until it is golden brown and bubbly.

Tangy Creamy Mac N Cheese

1 lb elbow macaroni
1 stick butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 12 oz can of evaporated milk
1 6 oz container of plain yogurt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup romano cheese
2 tbsp gorgonzola cheese
1 8 oz package of shredded mild cheddar cheese
1/2 tbsp yellow mustard

Cook macaroni as directed on package. In large pot, heat stick of butter until melted. Whisk in flour. Add chicken broth, evaporated milk, yogurt, heavy cream and cream cheese and stir until combined. Heat on medium for 2 to 3 minutes. Add in parmesan, romano, gorgonzola and cheddar cheeses and whisk until melted and combined. Whisk in mustard and salt and pepper to taste.

Toss macaroni with cheese sauce and serve.


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