Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Faves: Cookbooks!

Christmas is 10 DAYS AWAY- WHAT!? My sisters and I have an afternoon of cookie baking planned and I can't wait for that sweet sugary aroma to fill my house. Salted Carmel Filled Chocolate Snickerdoodles? Check. Peppermint White Chocolate Sugar Cookies? Check. Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake Cookies? Check. My waist is widening as this list grows. Ha! 

If you have any cooks on your list that you need a little extra something for, I've rounded up a nice little list of cookbooks! I love cookbooks and think you can never have too many. Pinterest and blogs are such a great and easy resource these days, but I've been trying to open up my cookbooks more often these days. There's something about flipping through real pages and seeing the notes I've made by things that I have made. 

Cooking for Jeffrey- A new book I am dying to get my hands on! I just love these two and can't wait to own this book. Ina can't do anything wrong.

Danielle Walker's Against All Grain Celebrations- I have Danielle's first cookbook and she is one of my go tos for Paleo cooking. I have heard great things about this book!

Skinnytaste Fast and Slow- I've never made anything from Gina's blog that I didn't like! She is one of my favorites and I absolutely love her first cookbook. This one is a must!

Giada's Feel Good Food- It wouldn't be a cookbook list without a book from Queen G! This one is filled with her favorite healthy recipes.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook- Another blogger cookbook! This is one of the first food blogs I ever started reading and I know the cookbook will not disappoint. I love her photography, too! 

Jerusalem- I love love love Middle Eastern Food! It might be my very favorite. This book has been recommended to me by several friends and I have flipped through it. It looks AMAZING and the pictures are gorgeous. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas in Charlotte

We took a trip to our locally owned Hardware store yesterday. Blackhawk has the most magical tree display and is one of my favorite places in Charlotte to shop for Christmas ornaments. Will loved walking through the forest of decorated trees and looking at all of the ornaments on each one. It was a fun little outing that ended with a free bag of popcorn from the old fashioned popcorn machine at the store! I love that place at Christmastime and always look forward to taking Will, and now Kate, there to see the beautiful trees! 

Christmastime is is just the most magical. There is so much that our city has to offer at this time of year and with a little over a week to go before the big day, I'm rounding up some of my favorites!

Blackhawk Hardware- A beautiful display of trees and TONS of ornament shopping in here. It's been locally owned since 1977 and is just the neatest store! You'll find lots of odds and ends here and don't forget to grab a bag of complimentary popcorn on the way out! 

Leonard Bearstein's Singing Orchestra- The singing bears are a must! A little creepy though you can't help but love them. Shows start on the hour, from 10am-8pm. While you're uptown, walk around and check out the decorations! This is on our list for next week!

7323 Sherwood Forest Drive (off Colony Road)- This is my favorite Christmas lights display in all of Charlotte! We've been driving by here since I was a kid and I just love it. Santa is usually outside from 6-10pm handing out candy canes. Most of this street is decked out and this house is the star. 

Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens- Holidays at the Garden is the best! This is where Mark and I got engaged (at Christmastime) so it's extra special to us. Another thing I'm hoping to squeeze in next week with our little ones. It will be so much fun to take them back! 

McAdenville, Christmastown USA- Another Christmas lights spectacular! This is about a 30 minute drive outside of Charlotte but so festive and fun! Roll through the Starbucks drive thru on the way for a peppermint mocha to enjoy while you drive through the twinkling town. You can park your car and get out and walk now, too!

Holly Jolly fa la la! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Winter Detox Tea

Tis the season for runny noses and coughs! I was prepared for the preschool germs to come into our home once Will started school back in September but my poor little guy has had several rounds of the sniffles already and it's not even officially Winter yet! I've been pulling out all of my tips and tricks for keeping everyone healthy and happy. 

This recipe was discovered while scrolling my Instagram feed a few years ago. It comes from an old issue of Whole Living and is full of all the good stuff! Turmeric is the star here as it has so many health benefits- encouraging a balanced blood sugar and helping stiff joints- just to name a few. Lemon adds some zing and a good kick of vitamin C and honey for sweetness and to help coat the throat when it's a little sore. A pinch of cayenne is optional but is personally my favorite part. I love the heat! 

I love this tea in the winter months, and especially when I feel a cold coming on. 

Detox Tea

1 cup hot water
1/8 tsp. ground Turmeric
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp. honey
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
slice of lemon

Heat all ingredients up in a small pot until they come to a rolling boil. Drink up!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

I'm running a 21 Day Holiday Meltdown for our gym right now and it's been to motivating and encouraging as the holiday season is in full swing. We do daily check-ins, post our workouts and share recipes and healthy eating. This time of year is SO HARD for so many of us to stick to our health and fitness goals and this has been a great way to keep everyone accountable! What good is a bunch of hard work if you are going to let it go because you can't say no to ALL THE CHRISTMAS TREATS. 

This recipe has gotten the most response so far and it's become a favorite here over the past couple of months. I love the sugary sweetness of the baked sweet potatoes coupled with the tangy and spicy buffalo chicken. The cilantro and scallions on top are the perfect finishing touch. We love this meal! This chicken would also be delicious in a lettuce wrap for lunch or as protein on top of your favorite dinner salad!

Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup Frank's Red Hot (or other hot sauce)
3 Tbsp. liquid aminos or Tamari
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
sweet potatoes, baked (400 for one hour)
cilantro, chopped
scallions, chopped

In a small bowl, mix red hot, liquid aminos, olive oil and garlic powder. Place chicken breasts in a crock pot and pour sauce over. Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Shred chicken and toss in the remaining liquid from the crock pot.

Serve over baked sweet potatoes and top with chopped scallions and cilantro.

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