Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Going Nuts for the Holidays

There's something about the holidays that makes me think of nuts. I hate nuts. They invoke a strong gag reflex whenever I accidentally ingest them. I think it verges on a nut phobia...but that's another topic for another day.

Anyway, nuts go with Christmas just like pumpkin and sweet potatoes go with Thanksgiving! So I tried out some new nut recipes this year and they've been a big hit so far!

Glazed Walnuts

1 egg white

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 pound walnut halves

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, beat egg white until foamy. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and vanilla. Add nuts; stir to coat. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

3. Bake 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until toasted and golden brown. Remove from pan and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Sweet Spiced Almonds

1 cup sliced almonds
1/3 packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large egg white, slightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Combine almonds and next 4 ingredients (though cumin) in a small bowl. Stir in egg white. Spread mixture evenly onto foil-lined baking sheet covered with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir mixture; bake an additional 15 minutes or until crisp. Cool completely and break into small pieces. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

And the favorite so far:
Chipotle Orange-Spiced Pecan Mix

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1 large egg white

2 cups pecan halves

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (I added both cranberries and cherries)

1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add pecans and stir to coat. Combine sugar, salt, and pepper; add to pecan mix. Toss well.

3. Spread mixture in a single layer in a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Cool completely; stir in cranberries. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

And, of course, peanut brittle is a staple during the holidays! This is just your basic peanut brittle recipe dipped into chocolate for a spectacular sweet-salty taste (so I've been told...I've never actually tried it).

Sweet-Salty Peanut Brittle

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. light corn syrup

1 T. butter

2 c. cocktail peanuts

1 t. baking soda

1 t. vanilla

4 squares Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate

1/4 c. creamy peanut butter

1. Pray large baking sheet or 15x10x1-inch baking pan with cooking spray; set aside. Mix sugar and corn syrup in large microwaveable bowl until moistened. Microwave on high 5 min. CAUTION: Candy mixture gets very hot! Stir in butter and peanuts. Microwave an additional 3-4 minutes or til pale golden brown. Add baking soda and vanilla (mixture will foam).

2. Immediately spread mixture as thinly as possible onto prepared baking sheet. Cool completely. Break into pieces.

3. Microwave chocolate in 1-cup glass measuring cup on high 1-2 min. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in peanut butter until melted. Dip peanut brittle pieces halfway into the chocolate mixture, scraping the back of the brittle against the edge of the cup to remove excess chocolate. Place on sheet of parchment paper. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 20 min.

Every year, my best friend Amy sends us homemade Peppermint Bark. We love it - especially Adam! Here's her recipe (thanks, Amy!):

Peppermint Bark

1 package semisweet chocolate chips
1 package Andes mint chips
1 package white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 candy canes, crushed

1. Melt semisweet chocolate and Andes mint chips together. Spread on a large cookie sheet covered with wax paper.
2. Melt the white chocolate and vegetable oil together. Drip the white chocolate mix all over the semisweet chocolate. Run a knife through the chocolate to swirl them together.
3. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top.
4. Refrigerate until hard. Break into small pieces and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Then, I decided to try my hand at cake balls, aka cake pops. People have been making them for years, but Bakerella is the one who made them famous. She makes it look so easy so I thought...I've got some free time...let's see what I can do!

Well, it wasn't quite as simple as I thought. Of the 20 cake balls I started out with, 3 turned out nice enough to photograph....THREE!

Maybe I'll try them again some day...

And I'll leave you with a photo of some of the gifts under our tree this year. For some reason, I went a little bow crazy. For those of you who are especially talented in the gift wrapping department, these gifts won't be very impressive...but they're super fabulous compared to what I usually do! These are some fancy schmancy gifts for the Judges!

Happy holidays everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Perfect All-Purpose Light Pie Crust

For Thanksgiving, I was in charge of desserts - aside from Taylor's adorable Pilgrim's Hat Cookies, of course. Pie is the traditional dessert for the holidays, but, like usual, I was short on time. I didn't want to resort to a store-bought pie crust - homemade ones are just so much more fun! So I was thrilled when I came across the recipe for the All-Purpose Light Piecrust on It's easy to make, lower in fat and calories than other pie crusts, and tastes delicious!

Just in time for Christmas, I'd like to share it with you!

5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup boiling water

1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.

2. Cut in shortening with a pastry knife or two knives until it resembles a coarse meal.

3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Combine butter and water. Pour butter mixture into the the center of the well.

4. Gently draw the flour mixture into the butter mixture until moist clumps form.

5. Press dough into a 4-inch circle. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

6. Slightly overlap 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Unwrap the chilled dough and place on the plastic wrap. Cover with 2 more sheets of overlapping plastic wrap. Roll dough into a 13-inch circle.

7. Remove the top 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Fit dough, plastic wrap-side-up into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Remove top sheets of plastic wrap.

8. Fold edges of dough inward to create a clean, even edge.

9. Flute the edges of the dough by gently pressing outward with your fingers.

10. Pierce the dough with a fork. (This helps prevent distortion of the pie crust as it bakes.)

11. Line the bottom of the pie dough with foil and top with pie weights or dried beans. The weights keep the center of the pie crust from getting bubbles or rising as the crust bakes.

12. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit or until browned. (Caution: Some pie recipes do not require pre-baking the crust so refer to your recipe here.)

Now fill with your favorite pie recipe! At Thanksgiving, I made the Spiced Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, which people raved was the best pumpkin pie they'd ever had. I think that's because it's a very light, fluffy pumpkin pie - not the dense stuff we grew up on. Another recipe I recommend is the Gingery Cranberry-Pear Pie with Oatmeal Streusel. When I made this one, I substituted 2 Granny Smith apples, 2 Pink Lady apples, and 2 Fuji apples for the pears. Thanks to for such great recipes!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Time for a Wreath Change!

If you recall back in October, I decorated some Fall wreaths to match the season. In case you missed it, I started with a plain brown wreath and stuck various flowers and leaves into it. The wreath held all the decorations without any glue so I could easily pull them back out and stick new ones in for winter!

First, I wanted a really traditional wreath with lots of greenery. The pine cones and berries were ON SALE at both Michael's and JoAnn's this month so they ended up being about 30 cents a piece. That's cheap!

I'm also really into blue decorations this year. To make this next wreath, I wrapped a silvery, glittery ribbon loosely around the wreath. Then I added the super cheap pine cones, berries, and glittery snowflakes. The blues are subtle and give my Florida front door a real winter feel!

And here's a wreath I made a few years ago (I apologize for the poor photo quality):

I saw Martha Stewart do it and thought, "That's easy enough! I can do that!" It's just loops of ribbon threaded onto a floral pin and stuck into a Styrofoam wreath. Yea, it was easy...but it was also very time consuming...and expensive! Spools and spools of ribbon later, the wreath was finally done. I love the finished product though!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Foodphyte Apron Winner!

Thank you to everyone who entered this week's apron giveaway! The winner, chosen by, was Ali:
Ali said:
Subscribed to Foodphyte's RSS feed.
December 6, 2009 10:22 PM

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pumpkin-Cinnamon Streusel Buns

One of my favorite things to make with pumpkin during the holidays is Pumpkin-Cinnamon Streusel Buns from Cooking Light Magazine. They have just the right amount of pumpkin so you can taste it, but it's not overpowering. My husband is not a big fan of pumpkin, but he devours these rolls! And they're sweet...but not as fattening as the cinnamon rolls you can buy in the grocery store. They're just great!

  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
To prepare the buns, dissolve the yeast in warm water in a large bowl. Let it stand for 5 minutes. Add 3 cups flour, pumpkin, and next 5 ingredients (pumpkin through nutmeg); beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Turn dough out onto a floured surface.

Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Press two fingers into the dough. If an indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.

Meanwhile, combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Punch dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle on a floured surface.

Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture.

Roll up the rectangle tightly, starting with a long edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal.

At this point, I like to wrap the log in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator overnight. I get cranky in the morning if I don't eat right away - it's best to avoid this crankiness at all costs, trust me. If I do all the prep work the night before, all I have to do in the morning is bake and EAT!

Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap because the roll will try to expand in the refrigerator. It will also get juicy so be sure it's airtight. Believe me when I saw that cleaning a sticky, syrupy mess in your refrigerator is not fun to do in the morning.

The next morning, remove the roll from the refrigerator and cut into 1-inch slices.

Place slices in a baking pan coated with cooking spray. (Here, the recipe calls for a 9-inch square baking pan...I just used a 9x13-inch glass dish because it's what I had on hand.) Cover and let rise 25 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bake the rolls at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes in pan on a wire rack.


  • 3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

To prepare the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon water, and vanilla extract in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle glaze over buns. Serve warm.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Freebie Alert: Apron Giveaway!

I was browsing on Etsy the other day and came across Foodphyte's shop. She makes super adorable aprons, and has agreed to give one of them away to one of you!

Don't you just love it?!

For a chance to win, visit Foodphyte's shop. Then come back here and leave a comment about your favorite item.

Extra entries:
1 entry - Be a Cake Walk follower.
1 entry - Subscribe to Cake Walk's RSS feed.
1 entry - Add the Cake Walk button to your blog.
1 entry - Subscribe to Foodphyte's RSS feed.
1 entry - Leave a comment about your favorite item in the sister store Pillowphyte.
1 entry - Subscribe to Pillowphyte's RSS feed.
3 entries - Make a post about this giveaway on your own blog.
5 entries - Make a purchase from either Foodphyte or Pillowphyte. (Leave 5 comments here to get credit.)

Leave one comment per entry please. The giveaway will end December 11th at midnight eastern time. Good luck!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cupcake Earrings Winner!

Congratulations to Amanda (comment #7) for winning the adorable cupcake earrings from egyptionruin! The winner was chosen using
Amanda said:

The Smore Keychain looks absolutely delicious and very fun! :)

December 1, 2009 5:38 PM
Sneak peak for next week's giveaway: Something cute, functional, and fashionable from Foodphyte!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Girly Surprise Cake

This week, I made a fun girly cake for a coworker's wife's surprise birthday party!

It was yellow cake with strawberry buttercream filling and chocolate fudge frosting on the outside.

Brett wanted bright colors...

...and a handbag on top. I made a lipstick tube, 20 dollar bills, and credit cards out of gum paste so they were spilling out of the cake.

I like to let my girly side take over sometimes, and I love bright colors so this cake felt natural for me!

Happy Birthday, Angela! I hope you were surprised and had a great day!