Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hazelnut, Brown Sugar Baked Oatmeal with Mixed Berry Sauce (Regular and Low Sugar)

   Hazelnuts make the world go 'round! Amiright? Then, top this bowl of hugs with tart and sweet mixed berries and you have the stuff that love is made of. It is a grown up version of the oatmeal from my childhood, that came out of a packet, that had a little pack of "fruit" sauce to swirl in.That stuff was my jam! 

   Please forgive these not so lovely pictures. I swear, this was wayyyyyy better than it looks! I made this bowl of feels for our Christmas morning brunch and happened to snap a picture of my very last bowl of leftovers. I'll take proper pictures someday. Until then, trust me and make it.

   We get together with my husband's parents (both sets) and siblings every year on Christmas morning. Lots of food, laughs and spoiling of my kids and their cousins. It makes for good times.

   I always have a hard time deciding what to make. I may be the most indecisive person on the planet. Do not ask me where I want to eat, unless you're prepared for incessant rambling and me changing my mind 3 trillion times for an hour. It is even worse when I'm trying to decide what I should make to take somewhere. Last year I made french toast casserole, but I didn't want to make that again, besides my sis (in-law) wanted to maker her mother's recipe and it knocked my socks off! She can keep making that (and her banana pudding) forever and ever and I will be happy. Then, I considered sticky buns, but my Mom-in-law makes the monkey bread that dreams are made of, so that was out. It was my husband who suggested oatmeal. He originally suggested I make this one. He loves it and one of my father-in-laws does too. But, I wanted something that wouldn't be an issue to make a low sugar version, for everyone with sugar issues. Plus, my other father-in-law is not a chocolate eater, at all. I personally think he's crazy, then again he would probably agree. So, to please all palettes, I decided to dig through my pantry and dig out something wonderful. When I ran across the my jar of hazelnuts and remembered the bag of frozen berries in my freezer I know I was onto something. I made this baby and it was perfection. I also made a low sugar/sugar free version that I'll list below!


Inspired by this oatmeal,
which was inspired from Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Totally Love Food.
Hazelnut Brown Sugar Baked Oatmeal
serves for 4-6 
(I doubled it for a potluck brunch with 11 adults and 6 children, knowing there would be other food.)
1 cup hazelnuts , roughly chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup applesauce
2 eggs, beaten
1 vanilla bean, scraped or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Preheat your oven to 350 F and get out a casserole dish. Start by browning the butter and toasting nuts. In small skillet over a medium-low heat melt the butter, swirling often until, the butter has darkened in color slightly and has a nutty aroma. While butter is melting add nuts to a dry skillet, over a medium heat cook, stirring every once in a while to stop burning. Cook until you smell the nuts and they are slightly darker in color. In a large bowl stir together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk together almond milk, applesauce, butter, eggs and vanilla. Stir the wet into the dry until combined. Stir in nuts and pour into you casserole dish. Bake for about 25 minutes or until oatmeal is golden brown and set.


Mixed Berry Sauce
yields approximately 2 cups

2 cups frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat, allow to bubble until berries are cooked and soft. If you like it chunky, use a potato masher to mash the berries or if you prefer it smooth, like me, use a blender (stand up or immersion) and blend until smooth, return it to the pan, if you used a blender, and allow to bubble until thickened but still pourable.


Low Sugar Hazelnut Brown Sugar Baked Oatmeal
serves 4-6
(Click to print)

1 cup hazelnuts , roughly chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar, sucralose baking blend
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup sugar free applesauce
2 eggs, beaten
1 vanilla bean, scraped or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 F and get out a casserole dish. Start by browning the butter and toasting nuts. In small skillet over a medium-low heat melt the butter, swirling often until, the butter has darkened in color slightly and has a nutty aroma. While butter is melting add nuts to a dry skillet, over a medium heat cook, stirring every once in a while to stop burning. Cook until you smell the nuts and they are slightly darker in color. In a large bowl stir together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk together almond milk, applesauce, butter, eggs and vanilla. Stir the wet into the dry until combined. Stir in nuts and pour into you casserole dish. Bake for about 25 minutes or until oatmeal is golden brown and set.

Mixed Berry Sauce
yields approximately 2 cups

2 cups frozen mixed berries
1/4 cup brown sugar, sucralose blend
1/2 cup water


Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat, allow to bubble until berries are cooked and soft. If you like it chunky, use a potato masher to mash the berries or if you prefer it smooth, like me, use a blender (stand up or immersion) and blend until smooth, return it to the pan, if you used a blender, and allow to bubble until thickened but still pourable. 


Something this good shouldn't be so easy!

xoxo
Ashley

Monday, December 29, 2014

Snapshots (Christmas Edition)

Looking in the windows down town. 


We went to something called the Christmas Nights of Lights with my in-laws. You drive through the lights and tune your radio to a certain station and the lights flask in time with the music. It was so much fun. Afterwards, there is Santa, bouncy houses and food. I wish I had carried my camera in, but I left it in the car. I think we have a new family tradition!


We went to Rock City with my parents. On it's own, during the day, Rock City is lovely, but covered in lights at night, it is breathtaking. I have so many more pictures that I still need to go through from that night.

Family picture in a sleigh/ Our gorgeous view/ The view looking down the waterfall/ My gingerbread men

So much good food this year!

Crockpot Coconut Hot Chocolate (make it!) / cookies at the mall before Santa pictures (it is a tradition) / eggnog, white chocolate deliciousness / toasting hazelnuts (I made a play on this oatmeal)


Christmas Morning
 I cannot handle the cuteness here! 

We wore coordinated pjs again this year. Instead of a color theme, I decided to pick something all my boys could love and went with a DC comic super hero theme. Caleb and Liam wore Batman, Lee wore the Flash and I wore Wonder Woman.  

Santa has his own plate and glass this year! Thanks Aunt Karen!  (She always finds the best stuff!)
Santa is so polite, he took the time to leave the boys a thank you note.

Waiting for Santa. We left him Browned Butter Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Admiring our new tree
 I think this may be my favorite year for wrapping paper yet. Do you coordinate your wrapping paper too?
I  have always wanted a white tree!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Break

I have tons of things I want to share but I am taking this week off from blogging. I might even take next week too. Who knows, I might party through the new year! I'm in a serious rush to finish wrapping, packing, baking and planning today and tomorrow.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!
xoxo,
Ashley

Friday, December 19, 2014

Currently


  1. That's just a random picture from our trip to Rock City. It is a weird shot but, I kind of like it. It's what happens when you shoot and walk at the same time.
  2.  That was the second Christmas light themed outing with a set of grandparents. We did the Christmas Night of Lights last week. Both were so much fun! I really recommend both to anyone in the Chattanooga area. 
  3. Because it's the freakin weekend, Adam Levine singing Sunday Morning followed my Ignition (Remix) made my day. Loved that song. (FYI language warning!)
  4. Jimmy Fallon  +  Justin Timberlake ALWAYS!
  5. I think I'm going to have to make this fish chowder. 
  6. Roasted Cashew Sesame Brittle. The candy of my dreams!
  7. So love this.
  8. Ummm, so any of you watch Arrow? The mid-season finale killed me! Like real tears came out of my eyes for fictional characters. 
  9. Obsessed with these wreaths!
  10. Uptown Funk has been stuck in my head for weeks now. I'm perfectly fine with that. According to my husband it's like James Brown and Morris Day and The Time made a music baby. Ha!
  11. So, what do you do when at 10:15 pm, you realize you've lost the screws for your Christmas tree stand and you just promised your 5 year old (who snuck out of bed and gave you the eyes that make you give in 97.37% of the time) that you really will get over your Grinch funk and stop trying to do other things and finally put you your Christmas tree. You beg your loving husband to run by the only place still open and grab screws, right? Wrong! You give him the same eyes you got from, the previously mentioned 5 year old con artist, and find a pre-lit white tree of your dreams! Ok, so it is a foot and a half shorter that I wanted but it was literally $200.00 cheaper than the 8 footer I was drooling over. I'll take it! And, got to give a shout out to Mr. man who went out after working a quadrillion hour day to get it so that I didn't have to change out of my pj pants and so that he could see our little guys excitement tomorrow when they get up expecting no tree. He really is the best!
  12. Who doesn't want an Ombre Birthday Smoothie?
  13. All the cookies!!
  14. Marshmallows are my love language!
  15. I'm working out a Eggnog Pie recipe. It is the same idea as my Truffle Pie, but I'm having trouble getting the eggnog to whipping cream ratio to work out. Too much eggnog and it won't set up and not enough and you lose the flavor. I will say that my half frozen, sloppy version was a hit at my work Christmas party and if they hated it there would be no lying to save my feelings. haha! Love them for it though. Hopefully I can work it out and I can share it with you by next Christmas. I can't rush perfection. :)
Happy Weekending!!!
xoxo,
Ashley

Monday, December 15, 2014

Truffle Pie with Cookies & Cream Whipped Cream

Crunchy chocolate cookies, rich and luscious filling, topped with fluffy, cookie studded whipped cream. It is the perfect pie to feed your inner chocoholic. This particular pie looks unassuming, but it is far from you basic chocolate cream pie! 



     I have a confession to make... I am a procrastinator. Not because I'm lazy, I am just so easily distracted. I'll find myself lingering too long on a project, reading an article instead of bookmarking it for later, folding laundry, building one too many lego robot/dinosaur combos with the boys, so many distracting possibilities and the time just slips through my fingers. This pie is what I make when I realize "holy cow its whenever o'clock and we have to leave in an hour and the four of us still need a shower, I need to paint my face, pack a bag, harness the power of the sun..." You know, the usual. So, I dash in the kitchen, hope and pray that I have enough heavy cream, throw this thing together and toss it in the freezer, all while husband-man dangles the boys by their ankles and runs them through the shower, that, or hoses them off in the yard... if it's summer time. As we are dashing out the door, I grab the pie and voila, I look like I'm a prepared, pulled together, responsible adult, when in reality I'm a scatter brained wreck. But, I'm a scatter brained wreck that can cook!



   Or, if I am in a particularly good brain space the day before, I make it ahead toss it in the refrigerator and have it ready to go, so that I can enjoy a leisurely day before I need to be anywhere. I'd like to say that is what happens most of the time, but that, my friend, would be a big, fat, stinking lie! I prefer it half frozen anyway. 



   It couldn't be simpler. Crust first. While it bakes and cools, you melt chocolate and some cream, fill the bottom of the base. Send it off to the freezer. Put the remainder aside to cool. Take out your frustrations on the rest of the cookies. Whip some cream with the now room temperature chocolate ganache, pour on top of the pie, then, you guessed it, back to the freezer. Next whip the remaining cream with the remaining sugar, then fold with half the remaining cookies and top the pie. Last step, add the remaining cookie crumbs and chill. 



Truffle Pie with Cookies and Cream Whipped Cream
serves 8-12

1 14 oz package chocolate cream sandwich cookies (Oreos)
1/4 cup butter
12 oz semi-chocolate or butter sweet chocolate
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar, divided

   Preheat oven to 350 F. In a sauce pan melt over low heat, melt the butter, watching carefully not to burn. In a gallon size freezer bag, pour in 2/3 of the cookies, seal and smash to crumbs with a rolling pin. Once the butter ins melted, pour in the butter. Shake until all the crumbs are coated with butter, pour into the pie pan and press firmly into a layer, going up the side of the pan. Bake for 8 minutes or until set. Place crust in the freezer to chill while you make the ganache.
   For the ganache, in a sauce pan over medium low heat, heat chocolate and 1 cup of cream stirring constantly, until melted and combined. Pour 1/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the pie shell and return to the freezer. Place the remaining chocolate ganache in the refrigerator to cool. Only cool until it it no longer warm. It should not be thickened or set up, it should take no longer than 5 minutes in the refrigerator.
   While that is chilling add the remaining cookies to a gallon size freezer bag and smash, but still leaving some large pieces. Set aside.
   In a stand mixer or using a hand mixer whip 1/2 cup cream, 1/4 cup confections sugar and now cooled ganache. Whip until form soft peaks. Pour into the crust and return back to the freezer.
   Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, whip the remaining 1/2 cup cream and remaining 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar until soft peaks form, then fold in about half of the cookie crumbs. Pour into the middle of the pie and scatter on the top of the pie. Chill in the refrigerator for two hours or freeze for 30 minutes.

*I like to make this in the disposable cake tins you can see in the picture, because once it sets, you can pop this right out and place it on a pretty platter. Of course, a spring form pan would do the same, except that mine is ginormous, but if you have an 8 inch, it would be perfect. Of course, a regular pie pan if just fine too.



xoxo,
Ashley

Friday, December 12, 2014

Currently


  1. Yes to so many of these things!
  2. Kettle Chips? Yes! Caramel? Yes! Fudge? Yes! Someone make this for me. Pronto!
  3. Crockpot Ranchero Chicken
  4. Breakfast Salad? Yes, please!
  5. Chocolate and Coconut are my favorite flavor combination. 
  6. If you live in the Cleveland area, heck if you live within an hour of here, you neeeed to check this place out! We've eaten there a few times and each time it is better than the last. I had the pork belly last night and it was life changing good. Seriously! 
  7. Molten Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes! OMG!
  8. Holy Meatballs Batman! And these too!
  9. Holy cow! I still have no tree in my living room. I have failed
  10. I'll be baking my brains out this weekend then filling my guts up at parties. Life is good.
Happy Weekending!

xoxo,
Ashley

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hot Bacon and Balsamic Brussels Sprout Salad

Talk about quick and easy! 
Oh and because it's a salad made of brussels sprouts, it nullifies the bacon, making it totally healthy!


      I have the tendency to plan two week menus for all three meals and only wind up following them about half the time. I'm easily distracted and hate following plans, even if I wrote the plan. Especially, if I wrote the plan! This salad was born out of one of my fits of rebellion. Rebellion can taste so gooood! I won't lie, when my husband set his eyes on this bowl of a goodness, he was less than impressed. He wasn't sure how this was going to fill him up for the evening or if this even classified as a meal. Once he ate it, he was a believer. 


      I had a heavy labor intensive dinner planned, the kids had eaten a huge late afternoon snack, and I just didn't have the time or energy of dealing with the the cooking and blah, blah, So I made this dude up and shoved it in my face! It makes a great light dinner or a side dish. Toss a fried egg on top and call it brunch! Whenever you have it, it's delicious and for little effort! Seriously this is the meal I can get behind!


 Hot Bacon Brussels Sprouts Salad
serves 2

4 cups shredded brussels sprouts
4 strips of bacon
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons balsamic dressing*
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Start by shredding your brussels sprouts. I used the slicing blade on my food processor, but you could easily use a mandolin or a box grater. Then, heat a large skillet to medium high heat. While it heats up, cut your bacon into medium sized pieces. Once the pan is hot, start cooking your bacon, stirring often. While bacon is cooking, whisk together garlic, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard and honey.  Slowly stream in olive oil, while whisking constantly. It should take about 4- minutes for the bacon to cook. Once the bacon is cooked through, scoop it out onto a plate and set aside. Over  medium heat stir in the vinaigrette. Add in sprouts, tossing to coat, cook until just softened, but still has a bite. Toss with bacon and serve.

*I actually used raspberry balsamic this time, but I've make it regular balsamic usually. Both are delicious! I think red wine vinegar would be amazing too.


It's the perfect lunch or dinner on the fly!

xoxo,
Ashley

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Coconut Carrot Mango Smoothie

Hiiiii-eeeeeeee! Want something nice a frozen and fruity here in the middle of winter? Good me too! 


   I've got some Christmasyness up my sleeve headed your way buuuuuttt.... it's not quite ready. I'm having one of those days, you know the kind, I mean, I feel like I have 2.7439 million things going through my head. So, I made a smoothie instead of cookies. I needed brain food. Brain beverage, I suppose, is more accurate. Now, I'm going to sip on this and contemplate whether I'll be doing laundry, dishes, picking up, making apple butter and jelly or DIYing a few photo ornaments. Maybe, I'll just pretend all of that is done and binge watch some Netflix. 


     Full disclosure, I may have used photos I took of this smoothie earlier this year, I swear it is the same smoothie recipe and looks identical.  Some serious slacking on my part! But, trust me, make it, put on some reggae and pretend it's not freezing outside! It will take you to the beach.


Coconut Carrot Mango Smoothie
serves 2-3 people
(Click to print)

2 tablespoons flaxseed
1 large or two medium carrots
1 1/2 cups coconut water
2 cups frozen mango
1 cup orange juice 
1 tablespoon honey

In a blender pulse the flax seeds until pulverized. Add carrots and pulse until broken into smaller chunks. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Taste for sweetness and make adjustments as needed. Enjoy!



Cheers!

xoxo,
Ashley

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Currently

  1. A man wrote is own obituary and it was, heartbreaking, beautiful and hilarious all at once. 
  2. Daniel and Sam the best part of the movie. Lee and I watch Love Actually every year, around Christmas. We send the kids to their grandparents, make dinner and hot chocolate, watch the movie with all the lights off in the house, except the lights of the tree. It is one of my favorite nights of the year.
  3. It's sad how excited I am for Pitch Perfect 2.
  4. I love The Bloggess for some many reasons, but this particular post is perfection.
  5. Vanilla Doughnuts, Chocolate Fudge Pistachio Doughtuts, and Apple Buttermilk Beignets. I neeeeeed all of these in my life!
  6. I might need a Ginger Stomach Soother after all of those doughnuts!
  7. I cannot wait for this book! I love the idea and the outlook of it.
  8. Who wants to buy this for me?
  9. Um... HELLO!! Dark Chocolate Macaroon Thumbprint Cookies. 
  10. Loving this Harry Potter themed Christmas tree. 
  11. I haven't even put up my tree yet, I usually have at least one up before Thanksgiving. I normally out up three but I think this year I'll just do the one in the living room. I know Liam is going to impossible to keep his hands off the tree and having kittens this year, I'm just praying we can keep it standing! I hope to get it up tonight and tomorrow. 
  12. Double Chocolate Party Cake. I need this in my life, very soon!
  13. Winter Green Salad with Orange Honey Mustard Vinaigrette. I good idea when thinking about alllll the extra calories we are all about to ingest this season. 
  14. Cute ornaments.
  15. I want this shirt.  

Happy weekending!
xoxo,
Ashley

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gift Guide the foodie in your life

   I decided to make you a list of all the fun things that I love in my kitchen. Many of them are basic staples that anyone who loves to cook would love to get, even if they already have one. You can never have to many tongs or whisks. Others are directed at a certain type of person, like the vanilla beans or matcha powder, but are the perfect gift for bakers and someone with adventurous taste. Of course, being the cookbook hoarder I am, I couldn't leave off a few cookbooks that I adore or want myself. Links are listed below and will take you straight to Amazon
Let's start with the gadgets:

Everyone needs a couple of good whisks. These three are my favorites.
OXO Good Grips Flat Whisk
OXO Good Grips 11-Inch Balloon Whisk

You can never have too many kitchen tongs!

I love love love my emersion blender! Soups, sauces, curries, whipped cream, there are so many things this little baby can do.

Anyone who make the habit of baking cakes or cupcakes needs a set of offset spatulas.
Set of 3 - Baker Icing Spatulas, Cake Decorating Baking Spatulas, 2 Stainless Steel Offset & 1 Straight Blade

A microplane, grates cheese and spices and zests citrus. I don't know how I went so long without one! 

A steamer set is a perfect gift for the cook who likes to experiment in the kitchen or likes to learn techniques from other parts of the world. 

A good dutch oven is a hot commodity in my kitchen, it can go from stove top to oven and back. 

Next up, fun ingredients:

Americolor Gel Paste is my favorite icing and cake batter coloring.

Matcha Powder is my go to smoothie additive, but I also love it in chia pudding, cakes, panna cotta and I even drink it like it's intended from time to time.

I have a hard time finding vanilla beans in my local stores so I order them in bulk. This would make a great unexpected gift for your favorite baker.

Another avid baker turned me onto vanilla paste a while ago and I haven't looked back. While a love fresh vanilla beans, the shelf life on this is longer, the price is lower and there is much less hassle. I still use extract in some things but this is my go to for full powerful vanilla lusciousness when fresh beans just won't work or aren't on hand.
Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Paste 4 oz

On to, the cookbooks:
Many of these cookbooks are on my want list or I already have them. I really recommend the five titles this year for the special baker/wannabe chef/foodie in your life:


Have fun shopping!
xoxo,
Ashley