Holiday 2011: Super Simple Stocking Stuffers

Welcome to the first installment of my Holiday 2011 series.

I know, I’m a master at creating clever names. ;)

During the last 6 months, I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. I hope Santa you forgive me. I’ll get more into that in a later post, but for now just know I’m back!!

I love this time of year. Everything about it is magical. To celebrate this special time, I will be writing posts at least once a week about fun, holiday-related topics: recipes, traditions, healthy living – you name it!

In this post, I am sharing with you a cheap, customizable, and easy to make gift. These make great hand-outs at school, goodie bags for holiday parties, and stocking stuffers!

Super Simple Stocking Stuffers

Ingredients:

  • Paper Bags
  • Mini candies – e.g. Hershey Kisses, regular and peppermint
  • Gift tag stickers – optional
  • Markers

Method:

I decided that each of my gift bags would include 9 kisses (1-serving) of each flavor.

Toss the candy inside the paper bag without fully opening the bag and flattening the bottom.

Love the lighting through the paper in the photo below.

Wrap the top of the bag around the package/candies and tape the end.

Next, label it and you’re done! You can either go the easy route and use a store bought gift label, like the one below (from Walgreens).

I wasn’t too happy with the quality of the label, so I came up with a more personalized, cheaper method. Draw your own, like I did below. You can customize this however you like thanks to the blank slate of the brown paper. I love the look of it!

Voilà! It’s that simple. You now have a Super Simple (and yummy!) Stocking Stuffer – or whatever else you want to use it for.

Question #1: What’s your favorite gift-on-the-cheap?

Question #2: Any holiday related posts you’d like me to write? I need inspiration!

December 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm Leave a comment

{Healthy} Banana Oatmeal Bread

What do you do when you have multiple bananas that look like this?

How about call a friend with it?

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, bananaphone!

Ya, maybe not. It kept dropping my calls…

Okay, next idea… Make banana bread with those “ugly,” brown bananas!

And not just any banana bread. Make my healthified healthy banana bread. Yes, it’s two times the healthy! I healthified (yes, it’s a word…) a recipe for healthy Banana-Oatmeal Bread from Cooking Light.

I took the original recipe, cut the sugar in half (1 cup became 1/2 cup) and replaced the 7 tbsp of oil with a pureed apple. You could also use 7 tbsp apple sauce. The rest of the recipe and instructions stayed the same, except I did bake the bread for not as long as original recipe called for (55mins instead of 70min). It was sort of an experiment and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the bread came out great!

The result was a slightly sweet, moist bread that was dense but not oily and had a nice bite to it, thanks to the oatmeal. I’m not a fan of super sweet or oily sweet-breads, so this bread is great for me. It doesn’t taste overly healthy either. My family loved it, too!

Need serving suggestions? For breakfast, schmear it with peanut butter and top with banana slices. Stick it in the toaster (oven) for a crispy, gooey treat. Follow my lead, and top it with vanilla ice cream, peanut butter chips and chocolate chips for a simple but special dessert. Microwave it for maybe half a minute to up the amazingness… or just snag a piece straight out of the oven. I won’t tell.

I believe this recipe would make wonderful muffins.

The yellow banana below dreams of the day it’s mature and ripe enough to be made into banana bread.

But for now, that banana is “enjoying” its life as my bright yellow bananaphone…

I know, you’re jealous. ;-)

Question: What is your favorite type of bread?

My favorite sweet bread is banana with chocolate chips and peanut butter, either inside or on top. My favorite “regular” breads are grainy breads and wheat baguette with dried fruit and nuts in it.

……….

Sorry this is such last minute notice, but I wanted to let you know that due to summer plans, my posting will be very infrequent and irregular up through August. I am leaving today to work as a camp counselor at an overnight summer camp, where internet and phone service will be very limited. I’ll be sure to take lots of photos (especially of food, since food at camp rocks!) and I’ll try to post when I can. I’ll be back to my regular, weekly posts at the end of August. Thanks for baring (is that the correct spelling for the use? haha) with me, and I hope you’ll continue reading my blog!! I’ll miss stalking reading all of your lovely blogs, too.

May 30, 2011 at 9:00 am 4 comments

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake

One of the many reasons I love baking is being able to share my creations with those I love, my friends and family, and spread the love. So, when my bestie, Eliza (who is still in school – poor her!), invited me to celebrate her birthday with her at college, I jumped at the chance to bake her a cake.

Eliza and I have a lot in common. For one, we both love peanut butter and chocolate, especially in the form of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup! That’s why her cake of choice was a Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake.

Since I also made a second cheesecake (White Chocolate Raspberry – recipe to come!), I wanted an easy recipe that didn’t require too many ingredients. After some research, I compiled this recipe from a few difference sources (listed below). What I created was a rich, flavorful cheesecake filled with yummy peanut butter cream cheese filling and topped with chocolate ganache and peanut butter frosting. It’s like a Reese’s cup in cheesecake form!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, Confections of a Foodie Bride and Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life

Ingredients

Crust

  • Homemade or store-bought graham or Oreo crust (9 inch) – I used Ready Crust Reduced Fat Graham crust because I couldn’t find an Oreo crust and buying a crust saved me time.

Peanut Butter Filling

  • 12 oz cream cheese, at room temp – I used 4 oz Neufchatel (1/3 Less Fat Cream Cheese) and 8 oz nonfat cream cheese.
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

Chocolate Topping

  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped – I used chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 1/6 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 3/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cup milk (plus more to achieve desired consistency)

Any additional decorations – I used semisweet chocolate chips and a Reese’s cup

Method

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

For the peanut butter cheesecake filling

Beat the cream cheese and peanut butter together on medium speed until smooth.

Add the sugar and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly combined.

Reduce the speed to low and add eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each addition.

Pour filling over crust.

Bake until the sides of the cheesecake are set and the middle just slightly jiggles, about 35-40 minutes.

Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool to room temperature (at least 1 hour).

The edges of mine browned a bit because my oven doesn’t bake very evenly (and I forgot to turn the cake half-way through baking). Yours don’t need to be browned like mine.

While cooling, the raised, “puffy” cheesecake filling sunk in a bit. This is normal. After cooling, it looked like this:

For the chocolate topping

Put chocolate, butter and cream into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second bursts until hot, stirring (or whisking) in between each burst until smooth.

Pour the chocolate evenly over the tart. Do so slowly, so the chocolate doesn’t pour over the sides.

Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or overnight.


For the peanut butter frosting

Using the amounts outlined in the ingredients, follow the instructions for the frosting from my Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes w/Peanut Butter Frosting recipe.

Decorate as you wish. Be creative! I used the frosting, semisweet chocolate chips, and a Reese’s Cup.

I made this cake two days in advance, and it travels really well (especially thanks to the plastic crust “saver” that came with the store-bought crust).

This slice is 1/16 of the cake.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe. Please leave a comment. I love hearing from you! If you try this recipe, tell me how it goes.

Question: What is your favorite type and flavor of cake?

My favorite “traditional” cake is probably moist chocolate cake with raspberry filling and lots of chocolate frosting. I am also a huge believe in the power of sprinkles. Sprinkles make anything better! My favorite flavor of cheesecake is, you guessed it, peanut butter and chocolate!

May 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm 10 comments

Checking In + Faking Freshly Baked

Hello Everyone!

(Natalie Dee)

Story of my life.

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been pretty busy. Well, sorta. My last day of classes was Thursday. Finals officially start on Tuesday, but my three finals are this Friday and Saturday. So, I have a week off to study and pack. The good news? Plenty of time to study and pack. The bad news? I’m not home.

I seriously cannot wait to get home! The suspense/wait is killing me. There are so many things I’m looking forward to at home: friends, family, home-sweet-home, home-cooked meals, eating at restaurants, relaxing, baking (!), and so much more! Of course, I’m seriously looking forward to anything food related!

I having a bit of a blogger’s block right now. All I can think about what I will make and blog about when I’m home but not here, right now in Boston. I’m also pretty busy studying and packing and doing other end-of-stay activities. So, this is me checking in. Hello! I fly home Saturday night, and I’ll have some new recipe posts soon after!

(Natalie Dee)

However, I don’t want to leave you now without anything food related. So here is a quick story and tip:

One food I’ve been missing with all my heart is freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. That fresh-out-of-the-oven flavor and texture (for one thing, because of the melted chocolate) seriously can’t be beat! Since I have no access to an oven here, I can’t get them here – except for the occasional Deep Dish Sundae from Uno Chicago Grill: vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream atop a giant chocolate chip cookie freshly baked in a deep dish pan. All I can say is foodgasm x 100!!

Any who, I recently found a way to not only get that freshly-baked flavor in the comfort of my own dorm but also in a healthy way! All you need is a Larabar and a microwave. My favorite Larabar flavors for this are  Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Peanut Butter Chocolate. Chip.

(Source)

First, remove the wrapper from the Larabar and microwave the bar on a napkin or plate for about 15-20 seconds. Then, enjoy!

It’s as simple as that, but it makes an amazing treat! The bar gets warm and doughy, the chocolate chips get melty, and the Larabar goes from good to amazing! Tastes very much like a freshly baked cookie! I sometimes only microwave a small chunk at a time, so each bite is ‘freshly-baked.’

Question: What’s your favorite type of cookie? What’s your favorite type of Larabar?

May 8, 2011 at 8:24 pm 12 comments

Friday Favorites: April 29

Happy Friday!

Do you know what that means? Yes, the weekend, but also another installment of my Friday Favorites! I’m running short on time because I have special plans after school, so this will be a short post. Thank you for understanding!

1. foodgawker.com

If you love food porn, you’ll love this website. Foodgawker is a photo gallery that allows you to visually search and discover new recipes submitted by food bloggers. The editors at Foodgawker select the best of the best of the hundred of submissions they get a day. And do you know what that means? Glorious photos of deliciously amazing, drool-worthy food! In other words, food porn at it’s best. I can literally spend hours on their site looking through photos. I’ve found amazing recipes and blogs through it. :)

2. Clif Bars

I love all the products and lines that Clif Bar offers, but lately I’ve been all about the traditional Clif Bars. I love the Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch and Crunchy Peanut Butter. I eat them for lunch sometimes with a big side salad. Yum!

3. Sunny Weather in Boston

<– That’s the temperature right now here in Boston! Love it! I can’t believe it’s warm here. It feels like it was only a few weeks ago that it was snowy and freezing here in Boston. Oh yah, that’s because it was only a few weeks ago. I love how people in Boston can adjust to the weather so quickly. They go from wearing jeans and winter jackets one day and then flip-flops and short shorts the next day. :)

But you know what’s even better than this? The fact that, in two weeks, I’ll be enjoying California’s beautiful weather!

*****

Question: What are your Friday Favorites?

I just wanted to give a shout out to all my new readers out there! Thanks for meandering over to my corner of the blog-o-sphere. I’ve been getting a lot of great comments, and I really appreciate it. I love my readers. :) If you have any questions, post requests for me, or anything else, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

April 29, 2011 at 2:35 pm 12 comments

California Dreaming: Avocados

T minus 17 days until I am back home in California!

Don’t get me wrong. I love Boston, college, my friends here,etc. However, I’m so excited to be finished with school and back home with my family, friends, and kitchen and to start my summer fun!

Although I’m German, I grew up in Northern California and have enjoyed all that California has to offer: the beautiful weather, glorious nature, and amazing, fresh food among so many other great things! California, especially the Bay Area (near San Francisco), is privileged with so much fresh produce. One of my favorite California-grown items are Avocados!

(Source)

Nutritionally, avocados get a (falsely given) bad rep because they are high in fat. However, the fat in avocados are actually really good fat. Here is some info from the The California Avocado Commission about the nutritional benefits of avocados: Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit. In addition, avocados can help you meet the American Heart Association dietary guidelines because avocados have both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat (aka the good fat!) and contain potassium.

Click here for more about why the nutrients found in avocados are important. For nutritional information of avocados, click here.

As you can see, avocados are nutritional powerhouses that you should consider implementing in your diet (in moderation, of course, like all foods). In addition to being super tasty and healthy, avocados are surprisingly very versatile. While you may think avocados are always destined to become guacamole, you’re quite wrong. Creamy avocados are fabulous in both sweet and savory dishes. Inspired by Fitsugar‘s 10 Vegan Avocado Recipes article, I bring you (from the web) a few healthy recipes where avocados are the star of the show!

Please note: none of these recipes or photos are mine. They belong to the linked recipes and owners. :)

Easy Guacamole by Cooking Light:

Light and Fresh Avocado Cream Verrine by Angela from Oh She Glows: If you love guacamole, you’ll love this dish by Angela from Oh She Glows.

Great Avocado Smoothie Recipes by Be Well Buzz: The avocados make this super rich, creamy, and tasty!

15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta by Angela from Oh She Glows: Vegan yet oh-so-creamy! This is on the top of my savory dish to-make list when I get home!

Vegan Avocado Frozen Yogurt by One Hungry Mess: Perfect for the upcoming summer!

Choco-Cado Pudding by Gina from The Fitnessista: I’ve said it a few times, so I think you get the idea: avocados add amazing creaminess to dishes, especially this chocolate pudding! It’s one of the healthiest, tastiest chocolate puddings you’ll ever try.

Chilled Double Chocolate Cake by Angela of Oh She Glows: Um, drool!! This would be a great recipe to bring to a party, but don’t tell people right away about the ingredients. Then, when people rave about it and ask what’s your secret, you can say, Avocado!

Shrimp Tostadas with Avocado Salsa by Eclectic Recipes: A wonderful dish for a meal outside on a warm summer’s night! Sub with tostada with a corn or flour tortilla to increase the healthiness (less fat) and freshness.

Double Chocolate Avocado Muffins by Muffin Tin Mania: Thanks to these healthy muffins, you can get away with eating chocolate for breakfast!

Roasted Tomato and Avocado Toast (with Goat Cheese) by Running with Tweezers

Question: What’s your favorite avocado recipe?

One of my all time favorite dishes is freshly made guacamole. Whenever my family eats at Chevys (or another restaurant with a similar option), we often get table-side-made guacamole with chips. At home, I prefer making it myself then eating store-bought guacamole. There’s seriously nothing like freshly made guac!

April 27, 2011 at 9:22 pm 16 comments

Five Friday Favorites: April 22

Happy Friday!!

Welcome to my first Friday Favorites! If you read other blogs, you may be familiar with this. Basically, Friday Favorites is where I talk about anything and everything I love that week (or Friday).

Let’s get started. :)

1. Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter

Seriously, you have to try this! If you’ve ever had Nutella, it’s like that but 100 times better! Seriously, since the first ingredient is hazelnut (and not sugar or oil, like Nutella), the hazelnut flavor is rich and amazing! The hazelnut is complimented wonderful by the rich (organic!) cocoa powder! The nutritional stats are great, so bonus there! Although Nutella and Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (CHB) have similar calories per serving, CHB has more protein and less sugar per serving (and the fat in CHB is healthy fat). Chocolate + hazelnut = so, so great!

2. Vanilla Iced Coffee

I prefer my coffee iced, and lately I’ve been loving Bruegger’s French Vanilla Iced Coffee. It’s not sweetened (except I add Splenda after), so it has a great vanilla taste without being overly sweet.

I always drink mine too fast, so it’s gone before I remember to take a photo of it. So here is the above’s photo source.

3. Running

I started running again this week after a hiatus. I took a break because I was having some knee problems, and I’ve been incline walking on the treadmill in the mean time. But now, I’m back and running. I forgot (I know, how could I?) how much I love it!

Another thing I loved this week? This Youtube video, “Marathon Thoughts” by ImprovAsylum! If you’ve ever run a race before, you can probably relate to the film. I’ve run two half marathons, and I find this film hilarious. :D

If the video above doesn’t load for you, you can watch it here.

4. Link Love

Here are some interesting articles/links I’ve found over the past few days.

5. My Mom!

Of course, she’s always one of my favorites! However, it was her birthday yesterday, so she is my favorite-favorite this week. :) She has always been there for me when I need her, she had taught me a lot, and she has always shown me unconditional love! I miss her like crazy when I’m in college (as I am now), but it makes me appreciate her that much more! Happy (late) Birthday, mom! I love you!

Question: What’s one of your Friday Favorites?

April 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm 17 comments

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