Monday, December 31, 2012

White Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake Bars

Happy New Years Eve, everyone!  It's crazy how fast this year has flown.  I guess it has for me because the whole year was centered around my journey being pregnant and then having my beautiful baby. 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, as well.  We were fortunate enough to be able to go to NC and be with our families for Christmas.  We had so much fun, and Emily got to meet lots of new family members.  These bars are a favorite of my great Aunt Gale's, among other family members.  I knew she would be at our Christmas Eve gathering so I decided to make them as a surprise.  These bars are not too sweet. They have more of a tangy flavor from the cranberries and the cheesecake layers. 

I hope you all have a great time bringing in the new year.  I will be at home with my husband and daughter, enjoying the beautiful snowfall and dancing my butt off to "Just Dance 4".   :)

White Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (14 ounce) can NESTLE® CARNATION® Sweetened Condensed Milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
Combine flour, oats and brown sugar in large bowl. Add butter; mix until crumbly. Stir in morsels. Reserve 2 1/2 cups morsel mixture for topping. With floured fingers, press remaining mixture into prepared pan.
Beat cream cheese in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and vanilla extract; mix until smooth. Pour over crust. Combine cranberry sauce and cornstarch in medium bowl. Spoon over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle reserved morsel mixture over cranberry mixture.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely in pan. Cover; refrigerate until serving time (up to 1 day). Cut into bars.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hot Chocolate Krispie Treats

Yesterday, we got the first professional pictures of Emily taken.  I CANNOT WAIT to see them!  I saw a few of the photos on the photographer's camera and I'm already in love.  She captured just what I wanted for Christmas pictures, which was having Christmas tree lights glowing behind Emily.  I know everyone thinks their baby is the cutest baby in the world, and I am certainly no different.  Emily was definitely the most adorable thing I've ever seen in her Christmas tutu dress!

As we changed her and went to her room to take pictures there, she started getting reallllly cranky.  Despite many measures taken, she cried through most of that part of the shoot.  I was sad because I really wanted her sweet smile captured (we may have gotten one from the side).  However, I couldn't get too upset, because I recalled my mom telling me a story of how I did the exact same thing when I was a baby.  Payback!! 

She fell asleep at the end of the shoot and took a long afternoon nap.  That was good for me, because I needed to make these Hot Chocolate Krispie treats for the Christmas dinner at our church.  These are a fun, delicious spin on the ol' classic rice krispie treat. 

I'm going to post this blog and then walk by the computer and check Facebook every 2 minutes like a crazy woman waiting for a sneak peek of one of our pictures to be posted.  :)

Hot Chocolate Krispie Treats
Source: adapted from Cookies & Cups

12 cups cocoa krispies
1/2 cup butter
8 cups of mini marshmallows, plus 4 cups for later
3/4 cup hot chocolate mix
cooking spray
sheet of parchment or wax paper- optional
Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.
Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat.  When butter is melted add the 8 cups of mini marshmallows.  Stir while continuing to cook over low heat until marshmallows are melted and then add hot chocolate powder.  Stir until it is all mixed in.  Remove from heat.
Add in your 12 cups Cocoa Krispies.  Stir until mixed well.
Now add in 4 cups mini marshmallows.  Stir until marshmallows are evenly distributed throughout the krispie mixture.  Pour into prepared pan.
Lightly spray a piece of parchment or wax paper with cooking spray for an easy way to press mixture into pan without it sticking.  If you don't have wax or parchment paper just press evenly into pan with the back of a spoon sprayed with cooking spray.
Let cool for 30 minutes and cut into squares.  Store air tight for up to 2 days.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Anniversary & No Bake Nutella Cheesecake

Today marks my 2nd anniversary with my handsome hubby. 

2 years ago right now, we were probably having our first dance:

We haven't stopped dancing since.  :)
This is how sweet he is - I got these this morning:

I love you Jordan! Thank you for the love you express to me every day and for the life you've built for our little family. You're a wonderful husband and father!
To celebrate, I made a special dinner for the two of us tonight.  Including this yummy dessert:

I hope you love it babe! Happy Anniversary!

No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake
Source:  My Baking Addiction


12 Oreo Cookies, crushed into crumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup Nutella
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (8 ounce) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed


whipped topping, optional
chocolate shavings, optional
toasted, chopped hazelnuts, optional

In a medium bowl, stir together the Oreo cookie crumbs and melted butter. Evenly divide the crumbs between your individual serving dishes and press into the bottoms of the dishes to form a crust layer.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and Nutella until smooth. Add vanilla and mix to combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped topping until well blended and no streaks remain.
Evenly pipe or spoon the filling into individual serving dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
If desired, garnish with additional whipped topping, chocolate shavings, and/or toasted, chopped hazelnuts.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Snickerdoodle Bread

I have a very fond memory of snickerdoodles.  In elementary school, my after-school babysitter, who was also our close family friend, would bake snickerdoodle cookies every report card day.  Her kids, my brother and I, as well as another friend would pile into the car after receiving our report cards at school, just knowing that we would walk into a house that smelled of warm, ready-to-eat snickerdoodles.  It was the best!

As an adult, I continue to love snickerdoodles, along with most anything that has a prominent cinnamon flavor.  Jordan has picked on me before about it.  It was one time when he was helping me unpack groceries from my trip to the commissary, and he noticed that I bought 2 cinnamon flavored cereals, cinnamon roll pop tarts, and cinnamon bread.  Ooops!  :)  Not to mention our cinnamon roll coffee and cinnamon roll toaster strudels that we already had.  What can I say?  I love cinnamon.

This bread is absolutely delicious and filled with cinnamon flavor.  It is very moist and addictive if you love this flavor as much as I do!  When it first came out of the oven, the sides and bottom were pretty hard.  However, the 2nd day, after the bread had spent the night in a large sealed container, they had softened and the bread was super moist.  I didn't end up sending this one with Jordan to work.  I kept it allll for us.  :)

Snickerdoodle Bread
Source: Lil Luna
*I halved this recipe to make only 1 regular-sized loaf
2 1/2 cups  flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1cup sour cream
1 pkg. Hershey's cinnamon chips
3 TB sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
Cream butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon until fluffy. Add eggs and mix well.
Add vanilla and sour cream and mix well.
Mix flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Add to wet ingredients and mix until all combined.
Add cinnamon chips and stir into batter. Set aside.
Spoon batter into 2 regular loaf pans or 4 mini loaf pans until about 2/3 full.
Mix 3 T. sugar and 3 t. cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle over the batter in each loaf pan.
Bake at 350 for 50 mins if using regular loaf pans or 35-38 minutes for mini loaf pans. Let cool before removing from pan.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Emily - 2 Months

Emily Grace, you are 2 months old now!  Wow!  You are really changing so much lately.

This month you:

Went to Daddy's basketball games
Visited at Mommy's work
Had your first Thanksgiving
Loved sleeping in your swing...and nowhere else
Saw your first Christmas lights and loved staring at them
Liked hearing us sing "Jingle Bells" and the love song from the movie "Tangled"
Smiled at us every time you woke up from a nap
Started drooling
Hung out with Mommy at the gym while she worked out
Smiled at Grandma on Skype
Caused Mommy and Daddy to leave a restaurant before we even ate our meal
FINALLY started sleeping in your crib!

Sometimes a feeling still comes over me of "Wow, I'm a mom..." when I look at you.  You are such a blessing to us and you are a beautiful, precious baby girl. 

The next month will bring even more changes and good times, I'm sure!  Can't wait!


Friday, December 7, 2012

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

I knew long before I ever had children that when I did, I would choose to breastfeed them.  Now that I am a mom, I am even more aware of how beneficial it is.  When Emily starts crying for milk, I don't have to wait for a bottle to be prepared and heated up; I just pick her up and feed her.  And, of course the biggest reason I chose to breastfeed is for the nutritional value.  I have a friend who is in nursing school, and she was shown microscopic views of breast milk and formula.  She told me that under the scope, there is a HUGE difference between the two, with breast milk looking rich with nutrients, and formula looking similar to plain water in comparison. 
Fortunately, Emily does well with breastfeeding.  She has known "what to do" since the first time we tried 1 hour after she was born.  She is gaining weight and getting longer each time we go to the doctor.  There is only 1 major downfall though - I have to still watch what I eat.  When I was pregnant, my doctor told me several things I had to stay away from: sushi, shellfish, caffeine, certain cheeses, cold lunch meat, and of course alcohol.  I had hoped that these rules would be over after my baby was born.  No such luck, unless you want a screaming baby.  Not only was I told (by a different doctor) to continue to stay away from the foods listed above, but to also refrain from eating things that would make Emily gassy, like spicy foods, broccoli, etc.  I have learned from personal experience that she doesn't feel well after I eat a significant amount of chocolate, either.  Dang it!!!  I haven't had 2 of my loves, crab legs and feta cheese, since I got pregnant, and now my beloved chocolate is a problem???!  Give a girl a break!
With that being said, I made this jambalaya "non-spicy", so that I could still eat it without Emily getting a tummy ache.  Jordan said he still loved it, even without the spice.  But if you try it you could certainly make it spicy!  I have directions for that under the recipe.     

Slow Cooker Jambalaya
Source: Adapted from Plain Chicken

1 package skinless, boneless chicken thighs- cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound smoked turkey sausage, sliced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 tsp minced garlic
white rice or instant rice (I used 2 packs of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice - Roasted Chicken flavor)

In a slow cooker, mix the chicken, sausage, tomatoes with juice, garlic, and broth. Season with oregano and parsley.

Cover, and cook 7 to 8 hours on Low, or 3 to 4 hours on High. Mix in cooked rice cook for about 15 minutes to warm through.

*If you prefer spicy jambalaya, add 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper to taste.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Caramel Apple Cider Cookies

It was a "love at first sight" moment when I saw these cookies.  I mean, look at them.  Gooey caramel coming out of the middle?  Yes please.  Not to mention the fact that I love caramel apples (nowadays, they are usually sold covered in all sorts of other goodies too!). 

I have been wanting to try this recipe for a long time now, and Thanksgiving seemed like the perfect opportunity.  They ended up being a hit with our friends!  They are best when the caramel is warm/gooey, so try to eat them when they have slightly cooled but are still warm from the oven.  Otherwise, you can reheat the cookies for about 10 seconds in the microwave to get that texture back.

Caramel Apple Cider Cookies
Source: The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (7.4 oz) box Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Instant Original Drink Mix (10 packets – found next to hot chocolate mix)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (14 ounce) bag of Kraft chewy caramels

Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (you need this so that the caramel doesn’t stick to the bottom of your cookie sheet).
In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
With an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar, salt and all 10 packages of apple cider drink mix powder, until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Add vanilla and mix well.
Gradually add flour mixture to butter/egg mixture. Mix until just combined.
Scoop out a cookie dough ball about the size of a walnut (about 2 tablespoons).
Flatten the ball of dough slightly in the palm of your hand. Press the unwrapped caramel (I flattened the caramels slightly so they melt evenly in the cookie) into the center of your dough and seal the dough around it, covering it completely.
Shape the dough into a ball, and place on parchment covered cookie sheets about 3 inches apart.
Bake 11-14 minutes, or until very lightly browned around the edges. They may not look quite done in the center but that is OK.
Once the cookies are done, carefully slide the parchment off of the baking sheet right out onto the counter.
Allow cookies to partially cool on the parchment. When cookies are cool enough to be firm but still slightly warm, carefully twist off of parchment and allow to finish cooling upside down on the parchment or on a cookie rack. If they are not upside down while they cool they may drizzle caramel out the bottom.

Makes around 2-3 dozen cookies. Best when eaten warm from the oven or warmed in the microwave.