New Year’s Resolutions for the Kitchen

Eat Less Sugar

The holidays have made it easy to fall off the healthy train. Time to get back on track.

Make a Grocery Budget

In an effort to save some cash, I’m going to try sticking to a monthly grocery budget. As part of this goal, I am going to look for coupons, coupon apps, and other frugal tips.

Plan Week Night Meals

When I get home from work, I don’t need to worry about what I’m going to make and whether we have all the necessary ingredients. I’m going to be more prepared this year.

Less fries

When I do go out to eat, I want to start avoiding fries. Really, I need to avoid all fried foods. They’re delicious. But I can do with less.

Try new recipes

I’ve owned a few cookbooks for years and have barely cracked them open! It’s  time to change that. I’m also looking forward to new finds on Pinterest and of course from fellow bloggers.

More fish

Fish is a much leaner, healthier option for meat and I want to try to go for this option more often.

Meatless Mondays

I want to cut down the amount of meat I’m eating. Especially red meat. So in order to reach this goal, I will institute Meatless Mondays in my kitchen…maybe Meatless Wednesday too.

Throw Away Kitchen Junk

I have a lot of kitchen supplies from freshman year of college. Everything is rusted, broken, and unmatching– not classy. So this year, I resolve to give away or throw away crap and replace them when the budget allows.

Perfect Cupcake Decorating

What I mean to say is…I want to keep practicing, keep learning. My cupcake decorating skills are miles away from what they once were but I want to get even better in 2014.

Eat At Least 1 Serving of Veggies Per Meal

I pretty much do this anyway, but I want to be more strict about this when I eat out. I want to make sure I am getting enough vegetables in my diet.

Eat breakfast more often

I am not a morning person. I make it to work on time, but I usually don’t leave enough time for breakfast. I’m going to make homemade granola bars on the weekends and prepare sandwich bags with instant oatmeal to keep at my desk.

Replace candy with fruits

I do love my chocolate bars but it’s time to cut back a bit. Less processed sugar and more natural, healthy sugar.

No Soda

As a rule of thumb, I don’t drink soda. I don’t like drinking my sugar. But I do have a soda every once in a while. I think I want to cut that down to I almost never drink soda.

Organize cabinets

Over 2013, I’ve accumulated a bunch of new decorating supplies. I think it’s time that I get organized. Note to self: research organizing ideas.

What are your kitchen resolutions for 2014?

Advertisements

Snowflake and Squirrel Cookies

I have a confession to make. I tried to save time on my Christmas cookies by using premade sugar cookie dough. They tasted good but they didn’t hold their shape and the royal icing wasn’t the right consistency.

Mistakes happen, sure. But I should have stuck with the recipe from scratch that I knew would work. There’s no time for experimentation on Christmas Eve!

Besides, I went to the trouble of buying little jars to put them in. It was going to be such a cute gift.

20131230-095237.jpg

My sister’s gluten free chocolate chip cookies were also from a premade dough but those turned out great.

20131230-095419.jpg

Then I made the mistake of putting bread in the jar to keep the cookies moist. After all that effort not to contaminate! 😦 At least my brother in law ate them. I think.

It really ate at me that I couldn’t replicate the success I had with my Morrocan cookies. I needed to redeem myself. I needed to know that wasn’t some kind of fluke. Most importantly, I needed to know how to make them from now on.

I used the same rolled cookie recipe from the Morrocan cookie post (from Make Bake Celebrate). Then I used Wilton’s royal icing mix to make the frosting. I still had to adjust it to get the right consistency and dye it.

20131230-100345.jpg

Rolled Cookie Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 TSP baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 TSP vanilla extract

I don’t own a KitchenAid, so I just used a regular old hand mixer to make my batter. Detailed instructions and photos are here

 

Here’s some of the most important things I learned:

1. Let your egg and butter get to room temperature before making the batter. This really does matter.

2. Once the dough is made, put it in the fridge for 20 minutes before rolling it out.

3. Once you’ve cut out your shape, freeze your cookies for 2-5 minutes. This helps the cookie hold its shape. (Note: this doesn’t work with Pillsbury premade dough)

4. When using Wilton’s royal icing mix, add one tbsp of water at a time. It’s easy to add more water, hard to extract it. The consistency best for decorating with the condiment bottles is similar to Elmer’s glue. Thick but fluid.

5. Be patient. Cookie decorating is a multi-step process with lots of waiting in between.

20131230-101129.jpg

20131230-101154.jpg

20131230-101215.jpg

Christmas Hot Chocolate

There’s a hot chocolate above all hot chocolates out there and you can make it yourself tonight. All you need is a crockpot, the ingredients, and 2 hours of anticipation. Trust me, the 2 hour wait is soo worth it.

I discovered this recipe last year on Pinterest and it made for our family Christmas party. It was a huge success. I doubled the recipe and used two crockpots, but I easily could have made more. I made the hot chocolate again this year and mixed it with Bailey’s Irish Cream. Now we’re talking!

Crockpot Hot Chocolate:

1.5 cups Whipping cream
1 14oz can of sweetened evaporated milk
6 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Put all ingredients in a crockpot on low heat for two hours.

I set up a little hot chocolate station with cups of mini candy canes, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and M&Ms.

20131221-143437.jpg

Be sure to stir the hot chocolate occassionally throughout the cook time. Since you’re melting chocolate chips, you’ll notice that it doesn’t ever blend perfectly smooth. From reading the comments from the original recipe, I guess chocolate chips have stabilizers in them to help hold their form when you bake them. If the little remnants of chocolate bother you, try chocolate chunks, apparently they don’t have stabilizers.

It’s the best hot chocolate ever. A creamy chocolately delight. A once a year treat. 🙂

Joy to the World – Christmas Cupcakes

The annual family Christmas party is hours away. It’s a tradition I always look forward to. A mixture of family and friends of all ages come to together to eat, drink, and celebrate. It’s a good time.

Last year the party was on a Saturday with plenty of time to prepare all the glorious food. This year the party is on a Friday night, so the food is being catered. But even if it meant losing sleep I had to make something! So I made cupcakes. Chocolate with vanilla buttercream frosting.

Pretty happy with the final results:

20131220-010928.jpg

20131220-010952.jpg

20131220-011010.jpg

Veggie Night

Vegetables galore! That’s right, this is a meatless, carbless post. Almost.

Tonight’s Menu:

-Bacon-cream cheese stuffed mushrooms
-Sauteed bell peppers
-Boiled baby potatoes
-Roasted broccoli

So Pinterest came to the rescue again with this stuffed mushroom recipe although I altered it quite a bit. You can read the original recipe here.

Here is my altered version:

Ingredients:
10 white mushrooms
4 oz cream cheese
4 strips of cooked bacon, finely chopped
1/2 of a small shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup Parmasen cheese
Salt and pepper

Instructions:
1. Wash mushrooms, gently remove stems, finely chop, and put to the side.
2. Cook bacon using my amazing cooking technique.
3. Saute shallot, garlic, and mushroom stems in the drained bacon fat and a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Mix cheeses, bacon, sauteed vegetables on a pan just long enough to melt together.
5. Brush mushrooms cap with olive oil and bake at 400 degrees F for 4-5 minutes with the gills down.
5. Flip the mushrooms over, stuff each with a little cheese mixture and cook at 400 degrees F for another 5-10 minutes.
6. Optional: add a French’s fried onion or two onto each mushroom 2 minutes before taking out of the oven. 🙂

The aroma of the shallots and garlic was incredible. The taste was rich and devine. I will absolutely make these again!

20131217-220123.jpg

20131217-220228.jpg

20131217-220302.jpg

20131217-220342.jpg

Sauteed Bell Peppers

Instructions

1. Saute finely chopped onions, thinly sliced bell peppers
2. Season with cumin, salt pepper, garlic powder, a few squeezes of fresh lemon

20131217-220727.jpg

Boiled baby potatoes

Instructions:

1. Boil until soft
2. Serve with lemon cream sauce

20131217-220856.jpg

Roasted Broccoli

So I wouldn’t call the broccoli a fail because it was edible, but I wasn’t impressed with the recipe. So no recipe here.

20131217-221037.jpg

I love veggies nights!

Appetizers – Harry Potter Baby Shower

In about 6 weeks, I will become an aunt for the very first time. So exciting! My sister’s friends threw her a Harry Potter themed baby shower today. It was quite magical.

Look at the amazing dessert table one of her friends made!

20131214-182848.jpg

I was in charge of a few appetizers. Since my sister has Celiac disease, everything needed to be gluten free.

So I decided to make stuffed mini peppers and stuffed mushrooms.

To make mini stuffed peppers, wash the peppers, cut off the tops and clean out the insides.

20131214-183635.jpg

Then mix feta cheese and Italian seasonings. Then stuff a little cheese mixture in each pepper. Roll in olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.

20131214-183944.jpg

20131214-184012.jpg

20131214-184025.jpg

For the mushrooms, I used this recipe from Pinterest: http://lisasdinnertimedish.com/?p=7045

They were delicious!

20131214-184202.jpg

We played a lot of fun games like Pin the Socks on Dobby, and What’s in the bag? There were over 100 owl decorations! And even more owl baby gifts. Can’t wait to meet my niece!

Etli Biber Dolması – Meat Stuffed Peppers

I’ve been looking forward to making this dish all week. It was my first time ever making biber dolmasi, so I needed a recipe to reference. Google came back with this. I didn’t have any reassurance that this recipe would turn out well and a Turkish man to please. The odds were against me. But I am proud to report that I was successful.

I had to adjust the recipe slightly: I used 4 bell peppers, 3/4 of a pound, and a 1/2 cup of Jasmine rice. I omitted all of the seasonings except for salt and pepper. Then I added some cumin, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder (only had a tiny clove of fresh garlic). Other than that, I followed the recipe as is.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

The peppers came out nice and soft, but not too soft. And the stuffing was delicious.

And now I am stuffed! 🙂

And tired. Glad tomorrow is Friday.