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Delicious biscotti filled with chunks of buttered pecans and dipped in white chocolate!

blogmas button 2014

When I was a kid I really didn’t understand biscotti. Why would someone want a cookie that’s as hard as a dog biscuit?! But since then I’ve gotten older and wiser and I drink lots of coffee. I now know the joy of biscotti, a delicious toasted cookie that is not actually supposed to be so hard that you chip a tooth on it. When they’re homemade with love they are amazing.

Delicious biscotti filled with chunks of buttered pecans and dipped in white chocolate!

Butter Pecan Biscotti
 
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Serves: 20 cookies
Ingredients
  • 1 c. coarsely chopped pecans
  • 2 T. butter
  • ½ t. salt
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • ¾ c. cornmeal
  • 1½ t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. white chocolate (you can use chips but I love the Ghiardelli melting wafers)
Instructions
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, toast the pecans in a dry pan for a couple minutes. Add in the butter and ½ t. salt and cook a few more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt
  4. In the bowl of a mixer beat together the eggs and sugar for a couple minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  5. Add in the vanilla and flour mixture and mix until it forms a smooth and sticky dough. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Fold the buttered pecans into the dough.
  7. Use a spatula to scoop the batter into two even mounds on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the dough starts to brown.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven (keep the oven on) and set it aside to cool for 5 minutes.
  10. When the mounds are cool enough for you to handle, cut slices from each with a sharp, serrated knife. Each mound should yield about 10 slices.
  11. Flip each slice so that they are cut-side down and return to the oven to toast for about 20 more minutes, or until they start to brown underneath.
  12. Remove from the oven to cool.
  13. When the cookies are cool to the touch, melt the white chocolate in the microwave in increments of 15 seconds, stirring between each increment until the chocolate is totally melted.
  14. Dip the top edge of each cookie in white chocolate (or you can dip half of the cookie in, or you can spread the melted chocolate on with a knife). Set them aside at room temperature until the chocolate hardens completely.
  15. Enjoy! Store at room temperature in an airtight container and these stay good for weeks.
Notes
adapted from a Food Network recipe

I actually got this recipe from my dear friend’s mom (HI ALICE!), who told me that she loved this biscotti recipe from Giada. I tried it and she was SO right, it’s delicious! Something about the cornmeal in the batter takes it over the top for me. So of course I had to put a little twist on it and thought buttered pecans would be so nice. It came out great! I’ve eaten about 10 of these already.

Delicious biscotti filled with chunks of buttered pecans and dipped in white chocolate!

In the time it took me to write this post I’ve eaten two more. Staring at these pics was making me hungry!

-Laurn

 

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Cucumber rounds topped with a savory greek yogurt vegetable dip, perfect for parties!

blogmas button 2014

The recipe I’m sharing today is simple and healthy! Even though I’m a sucker for cheese dips and chips and such, when it comes to a big holiday meal I feel like it’s always better to keep appetizers light and refreshing. You don’t want everyone in a food coma before they even have dinner! These little bites are the perfect thing to greet company with.

Cucumber rounds topped with a savory greek yogurt vegetable dip, perfect for parties!

Cucumber and Creamy Vegetable Bites
 
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Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 large english cucumber
  • ¼ c. carrots, diced
  • ¼ c. green onion, sliced
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. pepper
  • ½ t. garlic powder
  • 1 c. plain greek yogurt
  • ¼ c. roasted red pepper, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Cut off the ends of the cucumber and peel off strips, leaving some parts unpeeled to make a striped design on the outside.
  2. Slice thickly on a diagonal.
  3. Pulse the carrots, green onion, salt, pepper, and greek yogurt together until the vegetables are very small and everything is incorporated.
  4. Spoon about 1 T. of the creamy vegetable mixture over each cucumber round. Top with a piece of sliced red pepper.
  5. Enjoy!

Serve these with my pimento cheese puffs from the 3rd day of Blogmas and you’ve got yourself the beginning of a great party. :)

Cucumber rounds topped with a savory greek yogurt vegetable dip, perfect for parties!

-Lauren

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Sweetly spiced, buttery tasting sugar cookies made with coconut oil instead of butter!

blogmas button 2014

It’s time to add a vegan recipe to the mix! I’ve seen lots of eggnog flavored cookies on the internet and in magazines lately and thought this would be a really fun recipe to veganize. This recipe uses coconut oil in place of butter, which works so well! This by no means makes these “healthy” cookies, coconut oil is still a fat, but it’s a great alternative to using dairy products. And they are SO tasty.

Sweetly spiced, buttery tasting sugar cookies made with coconut oil instead of butter!

Vegan Eggnog Sugar Cookies (Blogmas Day 4)
 
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Serves: 3 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1½ c. powdered sugar
  • ¼ t. salt
  • 1 c. room temperature coconut oil
  • ¼ c. nondairy nog (Silk makes a great soy one and So Delicious makes a coconut milk one)
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 1½ t. baking powder
  • ¼ t. baking soda
  • ¼ t. ground nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Mix the powdered sugar, salt, coconut oil, nog, and vanilla together in the bowl of a mixer until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  2. Add in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg all at once and mix everything together well until it forms a dough.
  3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 375.
  5. Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each piece out onto a floured surface to about ¼” thickness and cut with cookie cutter of choice.
  6. Bake on a lined baking sheet for 8-10 minutes, or until the bottom edges just start to brown.
  7. Remove and let cook for a couple minutes on the pan, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. If you want your cookies iced, whisk together some sifted powdered sugar and a little nog to make an icing.
  9. Enjoy!

Since these are sugar cookies the options for decorating are endless! You can ice them with a simple mixture of powdered sugar and nog, you can sprinkle them with colored sugar or sprinkles before baking, or you can leave them plain!

Sweetly spiced, buttery tasting sugar cookies made with coconut oil instead of butter!

Today I’m also thrilled to announce the FIRST giveaway of Blogmas! If you are vegan/dairy-free and enjoy baking, Enjoy Life chocolate chips are probably your best friend in the kitchen. For those of you who might not be familiar, Enjoy Life is the #1 brand of allergy-friendly baking chocolate in the US. Their chocolate chips are dairy-free, soy-free, and nut-free and work perfectly for any recipe that calls for chocolate! They’ve generously offered to give away a package of these awesome chips away to one lucky winner. The winner will also receive Enjoy Life’s Plentils, their all-natural crunchy lentil chips. I’ve heard that the Plentils are actually good when chocolate-covered too, so maybe the winner can try that out! Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

We’re already a third of the way through Blogmas–how did that happen so fast? See you tomorrow!
-Lauren

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These fluffy cheese balls make a perfect party appetizer or anytime snack!

blogmas button 2014

This is one of those posts when the recipe title and the food kind of speaks for itself. These are soft, fluffy, crispy-on-the-outside puffs baked with pimento cheese. Aka gourgères (French cheese puffs) turned Southern.

These fluffy cheese balls make a perfect party appetizer or anytime snack!

I don’t buy pre-made pimento cheese, it tastes much better to make it yourself and it’s very easy (I’ll save my pimento cheese recipe for another day). In this recipe I actually used just cheddar cheese and diced pimentos to give that delicious flavor without all the other ingredients that the spread usually has (mayo, cream cheese, etc) interfering with the dough. The result is quite delicious!

Pimento Cheese Puffs
 
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Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • ½ c. butter
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ c. finely diced pimento peppers (they come jarred, look in your olive aisle)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Bring the butter, water, and salt to a boil over medium heat in a large saucepan.
  3. Once the mixture is boiling, add the flour and stir together with a wooden spoon.
  4. Continue to stir vigorously until the mixture forms a dough. Keep stirring the dough over the heat for a couple minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and let the dough cool for a few minutes.
  6. When the dough has cooled to being just warm to the touch, vigorously stir in the eggs with the wooden spoon. The dough will become very smooth and creamy in consistency.
  7. Stir in the cheese and pimentos until well incorporated.
  8. Spoon the dough by the tablespoon onto a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet.
  9. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and cook for another 20 minutes, or until the puffs are golden brown.
  10. Enjoy!
Notes

 

These would make great appetizers for your holiday get togethers and are very easy to make even though they seem a bit fancy.

These fluffy cheese balls make a perfect party appetizer or anytime snack!They’re best right out of the oven–DELISH!

These fluffy cheese balls make a perfect party appetizer or anytime snack!

See you tomorrow with the first COOKIE recipe of Blogmas!

-Lauren

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This hot, sweet spiced drink is a delicious treat on a cold night!

blogmas button 2014

You know this song, right? All together now!

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand’ring
So fair to be seen.

I like to think this drink is so good that it has a hundreds year old Christmas carol written about it, but that’s not exactly the story. The word wassail actually means to wish others good health or good cheer, and it’s derived from the Old English greeting “wes þu hal” which means “Be of good health!” (my concentration in college was medieval English literature, can ya tell? oh…). It evolved into being a toast for festivities and eventually into the name for a hot spiced drink that is enjoyed at Christmas time. Bottom line: you must honor history by making this delicious drink.

This hot, sweet spiced drink is a delicious treat on a cold night!

5.0 from 1 reviews

Hot Cranberry Wassail
 
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Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 qt. cranberry juice
  • 1 qt. apple cider (apple juice will work too)
  • 1 c. pineapple juice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 t. whole cloves
  • ½ T. chunk of fresh ginger root
  • ½ t. ground nutmeg
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced (optional for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Bring all the ingredients (except the orange) to a boil together in a large pot, covered.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. (Alternatively, put the ingredients in a crockpot and heat on high for 4 hours.)
  4. Serve hot with orange slices in each mug for garnish! Add a splash of rum to your serving if you please.
Notes
Use the good stuff for this recipe, 100% juices with no sugar added!

 

This hot, sweet spiced drink is a delicious treat on a cold night!

We’ve actually been making wassail in my family for quite a few years, it’s become another holiday tradition. It’s really good for company or holiday parties or any time when you want to fill your house with an incredible smell and warm up lots of cold people! A little rum inside makes it extra warming, but of course feel free to omit it for a family friendly drink. Either way it’s absolutely delicious!

This hot, sweet spiced drink is a delicious treat on a cold night!

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.

See you tomorrow!

-Lauren

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Foolproof and delicious marbled chocolate bark for the holidays! Makes a fantastic gift!

WELCOME to the first day of Blogmas, friends!

blogmas button 2014If you’re new to the blog, I’ve been doing this series called Blogmas for the last couple years. Essentially it’s a holiday extravaganza where I share a NEW, awesome holiday recipe EVERY SINGLE DAY for the 12 days leading up to Christmas Eve. Not only will I be sharing new recipes every day, I’ll also be doing fun giveaways from some of my favorite brands and extra goodies like videos as surprises along the way! So without further ado, I present to you the first recipe of Blogmas!

Foolproof and delicious marbled chocolate bark for the holidays! Makes a fantastic gift!

Chocolate bark wins two prizes in my opinion. 1)It’s one of the easiest things you can possibly make. 2)It’s beautiful and makes awesome holiday gifts for friends, teachers, or co-workers. All you need is 5 minutes, good quality melting chocolate, and some toppings of your choice! I like to use nuts and dried fruit instead of candy as toppings because it keeps the sugar down and the artificial colors and things away. But by all means, use whatever you like!

Foolproof and delicious marbled chocolate bark for the holidays! Makes a fantastic gift!

I love doing pistachios with cranberries because they’re festive Christmas colors! But also the flavors really work with the mixture of chocolates. This recipe is seriously foolproof!

5.0 from 1 reviews

Marbled Christmas Bark (Blogmas Day 1)
 
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Serves: 24 pieces
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. good white melting chocolate*
  • 8 oz. good dark melting chocolate*
  • ⅓ c. pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ c. dried cranberries
Instructions
  1. Melt each of the chocolates in separate containers in the microwave (microwave for 20 seconds at a time, stir, and then return to microwave until the chocolate is completely melted).
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Pour half of the dark chocolate onto the parchment paper, roughly in the shape of a rectangle.
  4. Pour the white chocolate on top of that dark chocolate, then pour the remaining dark chocolate over that to finish.
  5. Use a toothpick or a knife to swirl the chocolates together until you are happy with the swirl pattern.
  6. Sprinkle nuts and cranberries over the chocolate.
  7. Set aside to cool for 2 hours at room temperature.
  8. Break apart into chunks and enjoy! Will keep at room temperature.
Notes
*I highly recommend Ghiardelli’s melting wafers, they have the best flavor and texture of any grocery store chocolate I’ve found.

 

Foolproof and delicious marbled chocolate bark for the holidays! Makes a fantastic gift!

This bark stays good at room temperature, which is one reason why it’s so perfect to wrap up and give away! And even though it’s so simple it’s seriously SO GOOD. I’ve eaten like almost half of the bark on my own…no regrets.

Foolproof and delicious marbled chocolate bark for the holidays! Makes a fantastic gift!

See you tomorrow with a festive beverage!

-Lauren

 

 

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You won't believe the secret ingredient that gives this smoothie protein! Celebrating a week of smoothies with Williams-Sonoma

Today I’ve got a little bit of a strange recipe for you! I got a little creative in the kitchen to celebrate a week of smoothies with Williams-Sonoma. I love the idea of getting something healthy in before we get into holiday indulgences!

You won't believe the secret ingredient that gives this smoothie protein! Celebrating a week of smoothies with Williams-Sonoma

That looks pretty normal, right? Delicious strawberries, nice frozen banana, and…wait what are those on top? Those are BEANS my friends. Yes.

You won't believe the secret ingredient that gives this smoothie protein! Celebrating a week of smoothies with Williams-Sonoma

Hear me out! Just like you can add spinach and broccoli and kale into smoothies for extra nutrition with little to no difference in taste, you can add BEANS for protein and fiber without tasting them at all. This was my first time trying it, and although I was quite skeptical…it really works! I couldn’t taste the beans at all!

Secret Strawberry-Banana Protein Smoothie
 
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Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1½ c. strawberries
  • ¼ c. frozen passionfruit (optional, but if you can find it it’s AWESOME in smoothies!)
  • ¼ c. white beans, very well rinsed
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ¾ c. almond milk (or milk of your choice)
  • ½ T. honey (also optional, but I think it helps to conceal any bean flavor!)
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients together in a high speed blender until the ingredients are very smooth.
  2. Add in a couple ice cubes and blend for another 10 seconds.
  3. Enjoy your delicious smoothie!

Most of you know that I’m a vegetarian, so I love having a super easy and cheap way to add protein to my smoothies now! I can’t wait to experiment with this more!

You won't believe the secret ingredient that gives this smoothie protein! Celebrating a week of smoothies with Williams-Sonoma

Thanks to Williams-Sonoma for inviting me to celebrate Smoothie Week with them!

-Lauren

*This isn’t a sponsored post! Just me enjoying a smoothie. :)

P.S.-My holiday series begins TOMORROW! See you then!

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Under the Weather

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked to you all! Thanksgiving was quite the whirlwind (an awesome whirlwind), and in the middle of it Jason got hit with some nasty virus. Unfortunately I now have the virus too and am just taking my time to rest, hydrate, and use every natural remedy I can think of. I really like to stay away from prescription medications when I can (and even over-the-counter ones), so I hope that vitamin C, herbs, and lots of fruits and vegetables will be enough to help me kick this.

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As soon as I’m back to myself I’ll be be here with a post!

-Lauren

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C’mon! You know you’re still thinking about adding some things to your menu or deciding on just the right mac n’ cheese recipe to use for Thursday. I got you! These are my 20 best recipes to share with your friends and family this year. I’ve included reader reviews on my most favorite recipes to help convince you. ;)

Greek Yogurt Macaroni and Cheese

“This recipe is so perfect. Such an indulgent treat for half the calories… Not to mention the greek yogurt makes it so rich and creamy.” -reader Katie

Creamy and delicious macaroni and cheese made with greek yogurt!

Roasted Brussels Sprout Salad

“Thanks Lauren… what a great recipe! The addition of dried fruit and cheese (I used goat)… you are brilliant! I love brussels sprouts and this recipe just takes them to another level…” -reader Tena

Southern Candied Yams

“I just made the candied sweet potatoes, girl these things are to die for. I steamed them put the sauce over them (with molasses) and you know I just had to taste a bit…and a bit more…” -reader Helen

Southern Candied Yam recipe

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

“Just made these this morning for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. They’re SO good!!! Probably the best mashed potato dish I’ve ever eaten. And that’s saying something because I’m really not a huge fan of mashed potatoes. Thanks for the recipe!!” -reader Miranda from Biting Life

Simple and delicious buttermilk mashed potatoes

Mom’s Sweet Potato Pie

“I did try the pie! I made it in preparation for Thanksgiving tomorrow! But I also made two mini pies on the side so I can taste it – it was soo good! I can already foresee myself wanting to have another slice!” -reader Nala

Easy Apple Turnovers

“Made these last night – they were soooo good!! its so funny bc back when i was a kid, my family went through a similar pepperidge farm turnover phase-your post and these turnovers brought me right back to that time!! :) thank you for sharing!!” -reader Amanda

Simple and delicious apple turnover recipe

Awesome new recipes:

Cheesy Broccoli and Brown Rice Casserole

This creamy, dreamy, cheesy broccoli rice casserole definitely belongs on your holiday table!

Cranberry Roasted Winter Vegetables

A beautiful holiday vegetable dish from Southern Living's Christmas All Through the South.

Loaded Greek Yogurt Mashed Potatoes

Creamy mashed potatoes loaded with melty cheddar, grilled onions, tomatoes, and chives!

Honey Glazed Baby Carrots

Sweet and tender glazed carrots topped with crunchy roasted pecans

Healthy Candied Yams (no refined sugar!)

A healthy version of traditional candied yams--no refined sugar!

Sweet Potato Casserole with Streusel Topping

Warm, rich sweet potato filling topped with sweet, buttery streusel topping. Made with only real food ingredients!

Healthy Maple Oat Pecan Bars

These scrumptious bars have no dairy or refined sugar and make a great treat for dessert OR breakfast!

If you’re looking for even MORE ideas (everything from crescent rolls to collard greens), check out my Thanksgiving recipe roundups from last year, the year before, and the year before that!

I wish all of you a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Have safe travels to those of you going out of town. And to those of you hosting the feast this year, happy cooking!

-Lauren

 

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Warm, rich sweet potato filling topped with sweet, buttery streusel topping. Made with only real food ingredients!

I’ve got one last perfect Thanksgiving recipe for you! I know it’s pretty close to the holiday, but if you’re anything like me you’re still browsing the internet for delicious ideas. With this recipe I wanted to capture all the delicious flavors of a sweet potato casserole but without so many unhealthy ingredients. I ended up with a casserole that I would gladly eat instead of the marshmallow-covered one any day!

Warm, rich sweet potato filling topped with sweet, buttery streusel topping. Made with only real food ingredients!

Sweet Potato Casserole with Streusel Topping
 
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Author:
Serves: 10
Ingredients
Filling
  • 6 roasted and peeled sweet potatoes
  • ½ c. milk (nondairy or dairy, either works)
  • ¼ c. pure maple syrup
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • ½ t. nutmeg
  • ½ t. salt
Topping
  • 1½ c. oats
  • ¼ c. flour
  • ¼ c. brown sugar
  • ½ c. pecans or walnuts
  • 4 T. vegan butter substitute (that’s what I prefer but you can use butter)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment on, beat together all the filling ingredients until very smooth and well incorporated. You probably need to scrape down the bowl a few times to get the potatoes totally mashed.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor (or with a pastry cutter, chop the nuts and add them at the end if using a pastry cutter), combine the topping ingredients until large crumbs begin to form.
  4. Spread the sweet potato filling evenly into a casserole dish (I used a 3 quart pyrex). Sprinkle the topping over the filling evenly.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the topping turns golden brown.

Warm, rich sweet potato filling topped with sweet, buttery streusel topping. Made with only real food ingredients!

I shared this with my little sister Ashley this afternoon and she kept stealing pieces of my streusel topping. It’s that yummy! I also took a pan of it to a Tone It Up Friendsgiving yesterday and the girls really liked it too! In other words its been tested and approved, so put it on your menu!

Warm, rich sweet potato filling topped with sweet, buttery streusel topping. Made with only real food ingredients!

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed these Thanksgiving recipes and that some of you will enjoy them with your families this year!

-Lauren

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