Salted Almond Joy Bark

With Christmas and the New Year on the horizon, I have two goals for today:

1. Clean out my closet/dresser of unwanted garments

I have too much stuff.  I have clothing I don’t wear and even more that doesn’t fit.  One of the fantastic things about lifting weights is that my body shrank.  It’s great! But it means that I don’t own any pants that fit me.  So I want to clear out the stuff that doesn’t fit me any more, because there’s no room in my shoebox of an apartment for clothing that is too big or old.
2. Bake Christmas Cookies for gifts

I love baking and Christmas is the perfect time to bake treats and give them away.  So today and tomorrow will consist of Christmas baking.  I had my recipes all planned out, but then yesterday when I arrived to Crossfit, Allison told me she had something for me.  She handed me a lovely tin filled with homemade salted chocolate coconut almond bark.

At this point it was nearly 6am and not an appropriate time to eat chocolate.  So I put it in my car, got my butt kicked during the WOD and went to work.  I have this rule during the holidays (since there are so many treats floating around) that I’m allowed to have a sweet treat AFTER lunch.

This means waiting til I have a nutritious (or semi-nutritious because yesterday my boss took us to Umami Burger for lunch and that’s clearly NOT nutritious) before enjoying goodies and also cutting down on how much I eat.  I have a hard time stopping once I start, so I found it’s better for me to just start later.  But anyway…

So I waited until after lunch and had a piece of Allison’s delicious bark.

OMG

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OMG

It was awesome.  Let me just tell you, I gave some to co-workers and to Jesse, but the reality is I ate it mostly myself.  Today, as of 2pm… the bark is gone.  As in, I finished it all after lunch today.

Because this bark was so amazing I wanted to try to make it on my own and give it to my loved ones.  I’ve decided to rename it Salted Almond Joy Bark, because that’s sort of what it reminded me of.

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Salted Almond Joy Bark

from Sweet Potato Bites

10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips  (or chocolate chunks)
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
1/2 cup Roasted Coconut Chips*
Coarse Sea Salt

First, prepare your pan by lining a cookie sheet with parchment.  Set aside.

Next, pour chocolate into a microwave safe bowl.

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Microwave 30 seconds then stir.  Microwave another 30 seconds and stir, repeat until chocolate is melted and smooth. You can also do this in a pan or double boiler, but I’ll be honest, the microwave is a million times easier.  It’s also idiot-proof.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my chocolate seize when using a double boiler, because water in chocolate (steam included!) might cause it to seize.

Because of this, I take the easy route and use the microwave.  Once your chocolate is melted and smooth, pour about 3/4 of the chocolate into the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Using a spatula, smooth until it’s a tiny bit thick (if you like your bark thicker, leave it thicker, if you want it thinner, spread it more).  It doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re going to cover it with stuff anyway…

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Sprinkle chocolate with coconut and almonds.  Take the remaining chocolate and drizzle it overs the coconut and almonds.

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Sprinkle with sea salt (be generous! That’s seriously the best part!) and refrigerate or freeze until firm.

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Once the chocolate is completely hardened (it took about an hour for me, if not it’ll start to melt when you touch it), break the bark into pieces.

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Store in an air tight container in a cool spot for up to a week.

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*I used Trader Joe’s Roasted Coconut Chips, but if there’s no Trader Joe’s near you, you can just use toasted coconut.

This stuff was seriously amazing.  The salt really takes this from normal tasty chocolate bark to something out of this world.  Everyone that tried it loved it.  I’m really excited to share this with others along with Orange-Pistachio Biscotti, Molasses Cookies, Chocolate Mint Cookies and maybe another cookie or two.  Any suggestions?

Are you giving Christmas Cookies this season?  If so, what are your top cookies or treats to gift?

My Ideal Christmas Dinner

We’ve reached a critical time in the year.  Christmas is one week away and Christmas dinner needs to be planned.

For us Latinos, we’re in an even bigger pickle because we do Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) dinner.  So that means we have 6 days left to plan a feast.

This time of year is always particularly frustrating for me, because my family doesn’t like anything.  No really, they don’t. An hour ago, I was walking around Sprouts talking to my sister about how I wanted to give up on Christmas dinner.  She pumped me up a bit about it.

We decided on some random menu:

-Chicken with Lemon-Caper sauce
-Ham
-Spinach Salad

-Yucca
-Mashed Potatoes
-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

We’ll see how that goes.  I always have grand plans for Christmas dinner, but it never happens because the things I like are 1. too expensive to make for a crowd or 2. generally disliked by my family. Last year, I got close.  I made awesome short ribs braised in red wine (they were a hit) served with mashed potatoes, as well as coq au vin.  Guys, I got fancy.  This year… it’s not looking that way…

So today, in the spirit of dreaming, I’m going to plan my ideal Christmas Dinner.  I’ll probably never make it but let’s just pretend.

Of course, in my ideal world, I would have a beautiful, hipster-chic table setting

Photo Source: Style-Files

Because of course, I’ll have enough logs for everyone to sit on!

We’d start the evening with appetizers and drinks.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Persimmons

Photo Source: Food and Wine

Along with Cheese, Crackers, Nuts and Dried Fruit.  To drink, wine, beer and a fun Prosecco cocktail for those who are so inclined:

Photo Source: Rue Mag

Then for dinner:

Roast Leg of Lamb on a Bed of Potatoes and Wilted Greens

Photo Source: Epicurious

Served with Roasted Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Photo Source: Henry Happened

and Mashed Potatoes

Photo Source: Foodista

And for dessert… My favorite Bourbon Banana Pie

BourbonBananaPie3(which I’m actually planning to make for Christmas!)

and because you can never have enough dessert…

Photo Source: Smitten Kitchen

Gingerbread Apple Upside-down Cake

That’s it.  Pretty much my perfect Christmas dinner.  Mine won’t be that perfect, but it’ll still be great.

I’m being totally dramatic about Christmas Dinner.  I’ll be honest, I really don’t care what we eat.   I’m more excited to spend time with my family than anything else.  We could eat KFC or Chinese Takeout, and I’d be happy.  That said, day dreaming about fancy dinners is what foodies do.

What’s on your Christmas menu?  Share your menus so I can get more inspiration!

Gingerbread Cookies

Let’s let the cookie obsession continue with Gingerbread Cookies!

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As a kid, Christmas cookies weren’t really a tradition during the holidays for us. I think I remember my sister setting out cookies for Santa with me once, but I might be making that up in my head. I know Christmas cookie decorating is a normal thing in most households, but it didn’t really happen in mine. That’s what happens when you have immigrant parents, I guess?

But this year, since cookies are all the rage in my world, I decided to go all out and make Gingerbread cookies.

Allison from Sweet Potato Bites had a cookie party at her house, so I thought that would be the perfect opportunity to make them for.

I baked them in advance and made royal icing at her house for decorating.

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I spent a long time researching Gingerbread recipes, but I found this one from All Recipes to be best.  As usual, I made a few changes to the recipe, so here’s my version:

Gingerbread Cookies

adapted from All Recipes

3 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup almond milk (or water)

In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, baking soda and salt.  In a large bowl (or in a stand mixer bowl), cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Beat in some of the dry ingredients and then some molasses, maple syrup and almond milk, alternating wet and dry ingredients until all combined.   Chill the dough for a few hours (I made this a day in advance and chilled the dough over night).

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Once you’re ready to make cookies, pre-heat oven to 350F.  On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Using your cookie butters of choice, cut out desired shape and place on a parchment paper lined baking dish.  Place a few inches apart on the sheet as they cookies expand a tiny bit when they bake.

Bake 8-10 minutes (this will vary depending on the type of cookie cutter you use and the size.)  Once they’re golden on the edges, they’re ready.  Don’t overbake them or they’ll be hard.  Allow to cool completely, then decorate with royal icing.

Gingerbreadmen1I had never decorated cookies with Royal Icing before.  I’m going to try it a few more times, really perfect it then do a blog post on it.

That means I’ll be making these cookies again.  I really liked these cookies because they weren’t hard.  The ones in an air tight container stayed soft for over 5 days.  However, if you like crunch gingerbread cookies, just leave these out a little longer to harden and you’ll get crunch cookies!

I have some ideas for the next Christmas cookies to make, but if you have a great recipe to share, please share it in the comments!

Molasses Cranberry Cookies

Christmas season is in full swing!  Normally, I’m not that into holidays. But I’m not sure what’s wrong with me this year, all I want is a living room with a Christmas tree.   If you remember back when I told you about where Foodologie happens, you’ll remember that I live in a studio that is teeny-tiny.  That means I have zero room for a Christmas tree.   So because I can’t be festive in my living space, I have to find other ways to make the most of the holiday season.

First, I bought a Christmas dress. A new dress for Christmas is a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember.     Anyone else do that?

I’m thoroughly excited about it.  I also bought myself another dress, because… well…

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Christmas present to myself?  (P.S. When will I get over sending my friends pics of outfits I’m thinking of buying?)

In addition to my Christmas dress, I’ve also been thoroughly excited about cookies.  So cookie making has been happening, starting with these:

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I don’t know about you, but I love chewy molasses cookies with lots of ginger.  They’re pretty much the best, as are these cookies.

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Molasses Cranberry Cookies

adapted from Blue Ribbon Cookies

1 stick of butter + 2 tbsp (10 tbsp total)1 cup sugar (plus extra for rolling)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace
1 cup dried cranberries

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in molasses and egg until fluffy.  In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Just before ingredients are combine, fold in cranberries.

Chill dough for a few hours.

Once you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350F.

Form dough into 1 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool  and serve!  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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I took these to work, shared with friends and a boyfriend. They were gone pretty quickly.  I’ll definitely be including these in my Christmas Cookie Gift Tins.   I have a few other awesome cookie recipes coming up, because seriously… I’m obsessed with cookies right now.

What about you?  How are you preparing for Christmas?  Do you have a Christmas dress yet?

Guide: Holiday Season 2012

‘Tis the season of ugly sweater parties, white elephant gift exchanges and other ridiculous holiday traditions.  It can be a little bit overwhelming.  I don’t know about you but sometimes I’m racking my brain to prepare for all these gatherings.

I’ve been to 4 parties in the last week.  So let me share a thing or two with you before the holiday season is over.

1.  How to Conquer the Ugly Sweater Party.

I heard on the news that there’s a guy who sells ugly sweaters online for $50 bucks a pop.  That’s just plain nuts (but super smart of him).  In real life, you shouldn’t spend more than $2 on an ugly sweater.  After all, it’s an ugly sweater.  If I’m going to spend $50 on a sweater it better be amazing (in a good way). So don’t do that.  Instead… The first idea is to go to a thrift store (Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc).

That’s one option:

Can yield a good sweater, especially if you live in Central NY.  If you live in Southern California, life’s more complicated…

So your other option is to make your own.  That’s what I went with this year.

Find a sweater you have at home (why yes my mother likes to give me sparkly sweaters.  Perfect. ).  Go to Michael’s and spend $2 on Christmas foam stickers and put them all over your sweater.

It works.

You’ll also want to take an ugly dessert to your ugly sweater party.  That’s where Avocado Pie comes in.

Done deal, and you’ll probably only spend about $5 total.

2.  How to Conquer the White Elephant Gift Exchange

1 route is to find something old laying around the house.  A fine option.  If you want to have a more coveted gift, go with food.

Yesterday, I received a box of 48 moon pies.  Amazing.

My contribution was Pies in Jars

Decorated with the same foam stickers from the ugly sweater party (…recycle, reduce, reuse?)

Throw them in a bag with some tissue paper and ta-da! I put some chopsticks from China in the bag, just for good measure.

I (and I think most people in the world) hate getting pieces of crap at white elephant gift exchanges.  I figure with this gift at least they can eat it and when they’re done they have a great receptacle for salad dressing.

Just saying.

3.  How to Conquer the Daunting Task of Choosing What to Wear

Make it simple.  Pick two outfits.  1 casual and 1 fancy.   Rinse and repeat 🙂  (or in my case, steam and repeat… is that gross?)

Obviously be sure to take crappy pictures of yourself in front of the mirror and get them approved by your friends via text message.

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Casual Outfit

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Fancy Outfit

After all, these will be the outfits of Holiday Season 2012.

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You can’t mess around with that.

With these tips, you should be able to make it through the new year.

Happy Holidays from Foodologie!!