Thursday, December 8, 2016

In the Kitchen with Allie, April and Nina: Cocktails

Today, the final post in a collaboration between three girlfriends who are also bloggers: April from A. Liz Adventures, Allie from Key Ingredients, and Nina from Peace, Love, and Good Food.

This is a three-part series all centered around holiday cuisine! Today we will share a cocktail recipe with you. So, from us to you, cheers, happy holidays, and bottoms up!

I'm going to share a tried-and-true cocktail recipe favorite of mine today and then give you some ideas about how you can put your own holiday twist on it.

Don't let fancy-frou-frou sounding cocktail names scare you away. If you can mash things up and measure liquids, then you've seriously got this cocktail recipe figured out. It's child's play ... well, children 21 and over. :)

Muddled Blueberry Moscow Mule 
makes 2 

Blueberry vodka
One bottle ginger beer 
Small handful blueberries
One lime

 Slice your lime in half and use a citrus squeezer to add the juice to each copper mug. Toss the hull of the lime in each mug. Add in blueberries to each mug and use your muddler (I have this exact one) to muddle, muddle, muddle all of those great flavors together. Top each mug off with 2oz. blueberry vodka, half of the bottle of ginger beer (which is non-alcoholic), and enough ice to fill the mug.

Okay, and some simple swap-outs for the holidays:
Instead of blueberry vodka and muddled blueberries, use...

+ Cranberry vodka and muddled rosemary (so holidayish)

+ Regular vodka and muddled thyme and cucumber (perfectly herby)
+ Citrus vodka and muddled jalapeno and mint leaves (spicy and fresh)

Key Ingredients

The Christmas season is officially upon us and that means holiday parties are in full swing. This Cranberry Gin Fizz is perfect for the season. It's festive for a dinner party and easy enough for a cozy night in watching Netflix or wrapping Christmas gifts. The cranberry puree can be made ahead of time so that it's ready and waiting when the time allows.


  Cranberry Gin Fizz Ingredients:
  For the cranberry puree:
- 1 cup cranberries
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon honey, or other natural sweetener
** This cranberry puree makes enough for 4-5 drinks

For each cocktail:

- 2 tablespoons Gin
- 1/4 cup cranberry puree (recipe above)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (half a lemon)
- 1/2 cup soda water
- Ice cubes

1. Stir together the cranberries, water and honey in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often until the cranberries burst and the water begins to turn pink. (About 5 minutes) Allow to cool then store in the refrigerator in a pitcher or bowl.
 2. To make one cocktail: In a cocktail shaker combine Gin, cranberry puree, and lemon juice. Shake well. Pour over fresh ice cubes in a glass. Top with desired amount of soda water and garnish with lemon and additional cranberries (Optional).


Happy hour is the best hour and when the Christmas season rolls around, everyday deserves a festive drink! You are going to want to have these sweet little berries on hand for your holiday cocktails. They are sweet, slightly bitter and have a crispy coating of sugar and the perfect pop when you bite in! They are the perfect finishing touch to a Holiday Mule- my personal favorite this time of year! 

Sparkling Cranberries

recipe from Cooking Light, December 2003

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup superfine sugar

Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (do not bring to a boil or the cranberries may pop when added) Stir in cranberries and pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. 

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet and allow to dry for 1 hour. 

Holiday Mule

Fresh orange wedges
2 oz. vodka (Tito's is my fave right now)
4-6 ounces ginger beer
2 oz. cranberry juice
Sparkling cranberries, for garnish
rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Squeeze orange into copper mug or stemless wine glasses. Fill with ice and pour in vodka, ginger beer and cranberry juice. Stir and garnish with sparkling cranberries and rosemary sprigs. Enjoy!  

Thank you so much for joining us for this three-day blog series!
If you would like to see more of these themed posts, please let us know. :) 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

In the Kitchen with Allie, April and Nina: Desserts

Today, part two of a collaboration between three girlfriends who are also bloggers: April from A. Liz Adventures, Allie from Key Ingredients, and Nina from Peace, Love, and Good Food.

This is a three-part series all centered around holiday cuisine! Today we will share a dessert with you. Tomorrow, the final day, is all about cocktails!

It was 2005, I was a year out of college, and I was looking to satisfy my sweet tooth and treat my Supper Club girlies to an out-of-this-world dessert. But nothing too difficult. I printed off this recipe from Southern Living, and it's so delicious that it still maintains a spot in my recipe binder to this day.

If you had pecan pie for Thanksgiving but would like to serve it again for Christmas with a TWIST, why not add caramel to it?

Caramel Pecan Pie
From: Southern Living, Nov 2005

1 refrigerated pie crust
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

Fit pie crust into a 9" pie plate (I have this simple one) and crimp edges. Poke holes with a fork in the bottom of crust. Bake at 400 degrees 6-8 minutes.

Combine caramels, butter, and 1/4 cup water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, 5-7 minutes or until caramels and butter are melted. Remove from heat.

Stir together sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Stir into caramel mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in pecans and pour this mixture into crust. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce to 350 degrees and bake 20 minutes more. You may want to use a crust shield to keep the edges from browning too much. Remove, place on a wire rack, and cool.

Key Ingredients

Today we're talking desserts and that makes my sweet tooth very happy indeed. This festive Gingerbread Trifle could not be a more perfect ending to your holiday meal. It's beautifully presented with layers of gingerbread, creamy pumpkin filling and whipped cream. Due to the versatility of trifles and the fact that they are easy to assemble, I find myself making them year around and switching up the flavors and ingredients based on the season. Nothing makes me happier than finding simple yet elegant recipes to serve to friends and loved ones. If you don't currently own a trifle dish I highly recommend adding one to your kitchen so you can wow your guest with this impressive dessert and others like it.


  Gingerbread Trifle Ingredients: 
2 (14oz.) packages gingerbread cake mix 
– 1 (5oz.) box sugar-free, vanilla pudding 
– 2 (15oz.) cans pumpkin 
– 1/2 cup brown sugar 
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
– 1 container lite whipped topping 
– 1/2 cup gingersnap cookies, crushed 
– 3/4 cup Heath Toffee Bits 

– Bake gingerbread cake according to the package directions. Allow to cool completely. (I ended up only using about 3/4 of the two cake boxes. Portion may vary depending on the dish size). 
– Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool. 
– Add pumpkin, sugar and cinnamon into the pudding. 
– In a decorative trifle bowl, crumble in about a 1/4 to 1/2 of the gingerbread cake, filling to the bottom. 
– Pour half the pudding mixture on top of the gingerbread, sprinkle with 1/2 cup toffee bits, then add a layer of whipped topping (half of the container). 
– Repeat layers crumbling in more (if not all)of the gingerbread, add pudding mixture and top with the rest of the whipped cream. 
– On top of the trifle add crushed gingersnap cookies and the rest of the toffee bits (1/4 cup). 
– Refrigerate overnight or 8 hours.


Cookies are a Christmas MUST! A fresh batch of cookies on the counter always reminds me of Christmas time. With all of the parties, unexpected guests and HELLO, the visit from the big guy in red, it's so fun to have a plate of treats on the counter! We have a cookie exchange coming up and I'm totally bringing these! Dark chocolate has my heart and the olive oil and sea salt add an unexpected twist. If you are local to Charlotte, pop into Pour Olive for the best olive oil in Charlotte! (and tell them that I sent you!)

Olive Oil + Sea Salt Brownie Cookies

recipe from Butterlust

1/2 cup good olive oil

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. hot water
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1.5 cups 60% cocoa dark chocolate chips (Ghiradelli is my favorite)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking silpat or baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the olive and sugar and mix on medium until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to mix well between each one. Add the cocoa powder, flour and salt and mix until a dough forms. 

In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda into the hot water. Add the dissolved baking soda and water mixture as well as the vanilla to the batter, and beat until just combined. Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes or overnight. 

Using a tablespoon, scoop out heaping tablespoons of dough onto your cookie sheets. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are set. 11 minutes was the perfect amount of time in my oven. 

Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

We will see you back here tomorrow for the final day ... COCKTAILS!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

In the Kitchen with Allie, April and Nina: Appetizers

Today, a little special treat -- a collaboration between three girlfriends who are also bloggers: April from A. Liz Adventures, Allie from Key Ingredients, and Nina from Peace, Love, and Good Food.

This is a three-part series all centered around holiday cuisine! Today we will share an appetizer with you. Tomorrow will be a dessert or sweet treat. Thursday is all about cocktails!

Hot Cheesy Mushroom Dip

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour - 1 hour 20 minutes

• 1 tablespoon oil
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 medium onion (sliced)
• 1 pound mushrooms (cleaned and sliced)
• 1 clove garlic (chopped)
• 1 teaspoon thyme (chopped)
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1/4 cup white wine
• 4 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 1/4 cup mayonnaise
• 1/4 cup mozzarella (grated)
• 1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

1. Heat the oil and melt the butter in a skillet.
2. Add the onion and cook until it starts to caramelize, about 20 minutes.
3. Add the mushrooms and saute until they start to caramelize, about 20 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
5. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Add the wine, deglaze the skillet and cook until it has evaporated.
7. Puree 1/2 of the mushrooms in a food processor.
8. Mix all mushrooms, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano and place in a baking dish.
9. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until bubbling and golden brown on top, about 20-40 minutes.

Key Ingredients

This simple yet elegant crowd pleasing appetizer will make a beautiful addition to your holiday spread. It's full of flavor from the tender squash, creamy goat cheese, sweet dried cranberries and earthy sage. A little bit of sweet, a little bit of savory and a whole lot of deliciousness is packed on to this bite-sized crostini.



Butternut Squash, and Goat Cheese Crostini
Author: Allie
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8-10

  • Crostini
    • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 baguette, thinly sliced into 1/4" round pieces
    • Salt and Pepper
  • Topping
    • 4 ounces goat cheese, softened
    • 1 1/2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 1/2 medium onion
    • 10-12 fresh sage leaves
    • Salt and pepper
    • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Brush each side of the sliced baguette pieces with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add to a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Flip each crostini and continue to bake for an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Turn the oven up to 400 degrees. Cut butternut squash into 1/4" cubes (if not using pre-chopped squash). Dice the onion toss onto a baking sheet with the butternut squash. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil and roast until tender. (About 25 minutes).
  4. Meanwhile in a skillet, heat an additional 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add in the sage leaves and fry until crispy. Remove sage from pan and set aside.
  5. Once the butternut squash has roasted, remove from oven.
  6. To assemble: Spread a small amount of goat cheese onto each crostini and add desired amount of squash mixture over top. Finish off with a small spoonful of cranberries and a single sage leaf cut in half.
This colorful appetizer looks so pretty on a simple white serving platter!

Ohhhhh this baked brie. It's become a staple for my family and a Thanksgiving and Christmas favorite. It's never a bad idea and now I'm wondering why we only wait until this time of year to make it. I guess it wouldn't be as special but still. Cranberries, cinnamon and brown sugar with melty brie!? So much goodness in one bite. Serve it with baked crostini and Honeycrisp apple slices. 

Cranberry + Cinnamon Brie en Croute

1 wedge of brie
1 sheet puff pastry
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten

Defrost puff pastry for 15-20 minutes and unfold. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On a baking sheet, lay puff pastry flat. Place brie on top of puff pastry. 

In a small bowl, mix cranberries, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Spoon cranberry mixture on top of brie. Fold puff pastry over the wedge, making sure there are no holes or air pockets. Brush with egg wash. For a little extra pizazz, cut out a piece of puff pastry with a cookie cutter and arrange on top for a decorative detail, like I did with the Christmas tree above.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until pastry is browned, puffed and brie is nicely melted.

I like to plate this on a giant cutting board (like this one) Add in these appetizer plates and mini spreading knives for a gorgeous and festive holiday cocktail spread! 

Nice and tidy.

We will see you back here tomorrow for desserts and sweet treats!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Faves: Christmas Books for Kids!

December is here and we are ready! I've been making things merry and bright around here all week long and we are headed to get a tree tomorrow. I can't wait! I picked up some fresh garland on a whim for our mantle and I'm IN LOVE with how it looks. It's so fresh and elegant and smells AMAZING. I stuck in some eucalyptus leaves and placed gold and silver ornaments for a little sparkle and it all turned out even better that I envisioned. This time of year is just the best.

One of the first things I take out at the beginning of the Christmas season are our Christmas books!  Will and Kate LOVE books and I don't think we could ever have enough. Christmas books are no exception and Will was especially excited when I pulled out all of our favorites this week to add to our nightly reading rotation. Here are some of our very favorites! 

Happy reading to your little ones!! xo

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Spiced Coffee

How come the very first sip of coffee in the morning always tastes better than the rest!? I have yet to figure it out but when I do, I will let you all know. Some people say coffee is an addiction, but I like to refer to it as a habit. I enjoy my morning cups and look forward to them before my head hits the pillow each night. I'm probably addicted to the caffeine but I truly love the taste, smell and routine of drinking it when I wake up. It tastes even better when I wake up before everyone else and have a few moments of quiet to myself. 

This is hardly a recipe, but it's too good of a coffee tip not to share. Mark and I have been enjoying our morning cup(s) like this for a long time now and we LOVE it. We like our coffee strong around here and rarely, if ever, buy flavored beans. BUT, we have found that sprinkling a little pumpkin pie spice, or even cinnamon, gives the coffee just enough flavor without being overbearing.Just a few shakes and your morning just got a little more festive. A little goes a long way, but if you want it stronger, just keep shaking that spice jar! I keep an extra jar of pumpkin pie spice on the shelf with our coffee mugs for easy access. 

Additionally, our very favorite coffee is still Cafe Bustelo. We have tried everything on the coffee shelf from expensive to super cheap, and Bustelo still wins, time after time. It's bold, smooth and not bitter at all. AND is right at $5 for a can! You cannot beat it. Our other top grocery store brands are Lavazza and Peets! 

Enjoy your morning with a little extra spice! 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

As far as I'm concerned, pumpkin spice doesn't end at Thanksgiving. It carries well into the holiday season and as far as I'm concerned, pumpkin treats aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

I'm completely obsessed with these cookies. Snickerdoodles are my very favorite and this is a fun and festive twist for this time of year. I can't get enough and this recipe never disappoints. They are fluffy but chewy and spicy in all of the best ways. Pumpkin seems to add an extra softness to anything it touches and these cookies are pillows of perfection. 

There are so many holiday get togethers and cookie exchanges coming up- these cookies are a must add to your list! This recipe makes a ton- double up and you'll be set for a slew of Christmas events! 

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
recipe adapted from Cooking Classy

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3.5 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 + 1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree 
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract

for rolling:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1.5 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, cream of tartar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice). 

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar, occasionally scraping down the bowl. mix in the egg yolk, then mix in the pumpkin and vanilla extract. With the mixer set on low speed, slowly mix in the dry ingredients until combined, scraping down the bowl occasionally. divide the dough in half and place the dough in bowls in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap, for at least 45 minutes, up to overnight. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and cinnamon. Scoop the dough out into even 2 Tablespoons. Roll into a ball and coat with cinnamon sugar mixture. Transfer to a nonstick baking sheet, about two inches apart. (I did 6 cookies per baking sheet). Bake for 12-14 minutes. I found that 13 minutes is the perfect amount for a soft and chewy center! Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Faves: Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is less than one week away. What!? It doesn't seem possible, but here we are. Will and Kate have been SO MUCH FUN lately. I can't help but think back to this time last year when I was seriously sleep deprived and just barely hanging on. Last year's holiday season, while special as a new family of four, was a total blur. I'm thankful to be able to spend my favorite time of year much more fresh and rested! 

The weekend before Thanksgiving always seems to kick off the holiday season for me- I just love it! I have my holiday magazines in front of me and am flipping through all of the recipes. SO MUCH FOOD. In case you're still in need of some inspiration, I rounded up some of my favorites and some things that I want to try! 

Give me ALL THE BAKED BRIE. This recipe is a favorite and a staple for the holidays with my family.

This cleaned up version of green bean casserole is SO GOOD. A little more time consuming, but totally worth it. The caramelized shallots on top are everything.

If mashed potatoes aren't your thing, these hasselback potatoes look delicious.

I like pumpkin pie but I LOVE pumpkin roll. I would choose it 100 times over pie. This original recipe from Libby's is the very best!

Apple Cider Margaritas. Another tried and true favorite here and because every holiday needs a festive signature drink.

Frisee salad with walnut, cranberries and blue cheese. A perfect bite to start with.

I could get excited about these biscuits

Here's a great Thanksgiving roundup on Cooking Light! Tons of recipes! My favorite go-to. 

And the mothership, Southern Living. There are literally hundreds of recipes for the holidays archived on their site! 

And, not food related, but here are some fun ways to decorate with pumpkins! I love the gold dipped mini pumpkins as place settings. It would be especially pretty with a white pumpkin! 

Enjoy the pre-holiday weekend! It's one of my favorites of the year!