Resolutions Schmezolutions.

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Whew.

Now that the Christmas gatherings are over and the cookies are all (mostly) eaten, I now have time to sit down and take a breather.  So what do I do?  Share more delectable desserty recipes with you all.

That's right, I am feeding you more sugar folks.  No worries, it isn't the new year yet.  Just endulge a bit longer, why don't ya? 

I knew you'd agree.  Or maybe you don't.  Ah well, I'm sharing anyway.

I am about to divulge three of my time-tested, oft-made, no-fail, unanimously-loved sweet treats to you.  Be ready.  Are you?  Okay then.

First up: Salted Nut Roll Bars.



These sweet n' salty bars are actually a family recipe, passed down through my father's side.  My Aunt Phoebe makes these bad boys far better than I do.  Somehow mine never look as good, or hold up as superbly, but they always taste just as fabulous.  And I do believe that's all that matters.  I also think she's holding some little prep secret that she refuses to share.  I will get it out of her someday.

But alas, my friends, no worries!  You CAN make these- it's super easy and like I said, they taste spectacular every time.  And they taste much better than these drab things:


Yes.  Please just refrain from buying the above product.  SO not even worth it when compared to these bad boys.

Ingredients:

-1 package yellow cake mix
-1/3 cup butter, melted
-1 egg
-3 cups mini-marshmallows
-2/3 cup white corn syrup
-1/4 cup butter
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-One 10 oz package peanut butter chips (look like choc. chips only peanut butter)
-2 to 3 cups dry roasted peanuts

Instructions:

-Mix first three ingredients and pat into a greased 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. 
-Remove pan from oven and immediately cover with marshmallows.  Place pan back in oven for 2-3 minutes or until marshmallow puffup.  Remove and cool COMPLETELY.

-In a saucepan put the following: white corn syrup and 1/4 cup butter.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and add vanilla and peanut butter chips.  Stir until smooth.  Pour over cooled marshmallows.  Immediately cover with peanuts- press nuts slightly into peanut butter chip layer. 

-Let sit at least 2 hours before cutting.

-Take a bite and savor the salty-sweet combo.  Share them (or don't).  Your choice.  These also freeze well in an airtight container for up to one month.


Next up: Mock Peanut Buster Parfait

This is actually a dessert I sort of made up because I had a craving but didn't feel like driving to DQ.  Yeah, I'm lazy sometimes.  However not lazy enough to sit around and pine away.  I made my own version of the original masterpiece and...well, I've now come to prefer my own!  Take that, Dairy Queen.  I can make a whole pan of the stuff for far less than it would cost me to drive there and purchase it...and have more for later.  Shabam.  Forget about this:


When instead you can create this:


It's really quite simple, and can be moulded to your own preferred tastes.  I made this one with an Oreo crust but I think next time I will try pretzel for another salty layer.  Don't let this recipe be the be-all, end-all for you.  Feel free to tweak and change, add and subtract whatever you like.  I love recipes like these because they have endless possibilities.

Ingredients:

-26 (one package) regular Oreos (or knock-off brand, I actually use Newman-O's).
-1/2 cup butter, melted
-half gallon (or more if you like it towering high, like myself) vanilla ice cream- I like Breyer's
-2.5 cups unsalted dry roasted peanuts
-two small jars, or one large, fudge ice cream topping (or make your own)
-one 9 oz container whipped topping (or make your own)

Instructions:

-Crush Oreos in a food processor or place in large ziploc bag and crush with a meat mallet until pulverized.  Mix crushed cookies with melted butter, press into a 9x13 baking glass baking dish (I like glass because you can see the layers, feel free to use metal or ceramic!).  Freeze 20 minutes.  Take out ice cream and let soften on the counter.

-After pan has been in freezer 20 minutes, take it out and spread softened ice cream over top of the cookie layer.  Place back in freezer for another 20 minutes.

-Spoon fudge sauce liberally over top of ice cream layer, reserving 1/3 cup.  Top with 1.5 cups peanuts (press them into the fudge layer a bit).  Place back in freezer for 20 minutes.

-Take pan out (yet again) and top with whipped topping.  Sprinkle remaining nuts over top and drizzle remaining fudge sauce over top.  Freeze again, tightly covered with tin foil or plastic wrap, until ready to serve (at least one hour). 

- Enjoy the money you just saved NOT driving to DQ- and having plenty of leftovers to boot.


The two above treats are easy knock-offs of the originals.  And- to be quite honest, they taste a heck of a lot better than the prepackaged, pre-made, pre-blah versions.  Just take my word for it.

The final recipe is not my own (gasp).  It is my close personal friend, Ina Garten's (Ha.  I wish.).



Don't let the first two words fool you.  Though this sounds "light" and "healthy"- it's extremely decadent and not overly good for you (which should be a stipulation for all desserts, I mean really- who wants to eat a "healthy" dessert?!  Not me, no thanks).  However this one will make you feel slightly better about indulging because it's made with a fair amount of yogurt, citrusy lemon zest, and canola oil- which is heart healthy.  So there you go- justify it all you want!  Just don't look at the sugar content.  That will send you crashing back to earth.

However because I'm lazy...and because my fingers are tired of typing, I'm going to let you find the recipe for this one on your own via the link above.  Sorry- but it's easier that way!  Enjoy it though- it's a crowd pleaser.  The density of each bite is to-die-for.  The pop of lemony goodness refreshing and vibrant.  The finger-licking frosting will leave you slurping at your digits for hours after.  Ina knows her stuff.



Now go in peace, my friends.  And don't let the year-end holidays leave you full and dissatisfied.  Go ahead and have a few more treats on me and ring in the new year with flavor and pizzazz!

Here's to a succulent, flavorful, juicy, delightful 2011!

Happy New Year.

All I Want for Christmas....

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As I've grown older, my tastes have blossomed regarding Christmas gifts.  No longer are the days where all I want is my two front teeth (that was second grade- and I did comically lose both right before Christmas).  No, now I have refined my endeavors to include much more dignified, practical, inexpensive gifts.

Ha.  If there is anything I am not- it is overly practical.  That's my husband, and he does it well.  One of us needs to bring the spice and pizzazz.  I happily took over that role!

But I must say that Mr. K is loving, gracious, kind, and thoughful.  Each gift fom him is carefully considered and planned.  He isn't one to do things on a whim or get me something he know I wont use (that's the practicality coming in)- nor do I want something I wont use. 

Now I am not entirely impractical.  I will never buy a large, sprawling house (even if I had the money someday) because I don't want to furnish, clean, or heat/cool it.  I am not big into fashion- I buy timeless items that will work as trends ebb and flow (and my absolute favorite go-to store is Target).  I steer clear of wasteful spending (buying name-brand, going out to eat often, buying my son toys/candy/games that he will like for a second then forget about, etc).

That said, I am a gift-giver, I adore blessing others with little-somethings.  And I love receiving personal, thoughtful gifts.  You can always tell how much time/effort/thought someone put into your gift.  Homemade are the best kind, second are those gifts that you know the other person will just adore.  And you don't have to spend a ton of money. 

But I am getting off-subject.  Sort of.  I've been known to do that.

The gifts below are on my list this year.  And I must say- though I would use each of them, they are not entirely cheap or fully homemade.  But they are ones that would fit me to-a-T.  They are for the food-lover/baker/chef.  Or the non-chef.  Your pick.

Item #1:  Ina Garten's new cookbook.  Of course- I mean, is there anything else that would top my list? 


Because, really- who wouldn't want to make these delectable delights?

Like her herbed ricotta bruschetta:


Or spicy turkey meatballs.


Or her cran-apple gingerbread cake?
I am not even a fruitcake person and this looks goooood.
It makes me want to change my ways.


And since I already know I am getting this...
(My husband was no-so-secretive in his shopping persuits)
A Cuisinart ice cream/frozen yogurt maker (in white, not red),

  
I must then partake in making Ina's espresso ice cream


Yes, I must.
Or this intriguing flavor:


Vanilla-white-pepper ice cream.  It sounds interesting.

Thus, I will need these vanilla bean pods in my stocking:

And perhaps this, just for kicks:


Mmmm, that should be a sufficient start to my ice-cream making
persuits.  Now, for my addictions.

I actually bought myself one of these for my stocking but have since used it multiple times oops.  I am saving the environment.  Reusable cups are quite handy:


And this is always a stand-by, not-to-disappoint gift:
Cafe Verona, mmm.  Smooth, non-acidic.  Chocolatey.
Transports me to Italy, even for a second.


This another perfect stocking stuffer for this girl:


Anything Kashi brand.  I love it.  Fiber and protein.
And tasty.  And satisfying. 
When I don't have time to make this, I eat the above for breakfast. 
It's an almost-perfect substitute.

Some more practical, cost-effective, "give-back" gifts include:

Buy one pair, donate a pair.  Proceeds go towards helping children in developing nations have footwear of their own, all the while you get to wear these sweet duds as a remembrance of your support.




Snack Taxi snack bags. 
My sis-in-law clued me in  to these neat little things.  Reusable, chic snack bags that are handmade and washable.

This books is fabulous for creating a home that is entirely homemade, full of traditions and rituals, a home that doesn't need added "things" to make it full of life and love.  A great read!



Make your own Advent calendar.  I'll feature mine soon, but this one is just as cute!  You can put whatever you want on the backside of your cards.  Fun family activities to do together, scripture to read, anything you like!


Buy this sweet water bottle and every penny of the purchase goes to buying one person clean water for life in Africa and elsewhere.  It's a HUGE need in the world that most of us here in the U.S. have no concept of.  Matt Damon heads up http://www.water.org/- check it out!


Or you can purchase various goods & necessities for people who have none.  Things like sheep, goats, chickens, a water pump, clothing, medical supplies.  All of varying prices.  It's the perfect way to bless others while giving a bit of yourself.


What is on your list this year? 
It can be practical or impractical, cheap or over the moon, homemade or store-bought.  If I had everything on my dream list it would have included a trip to Italy to learn how to make pasta.  Or to India to see where Mother Teresa served.  Or France to perfect the art of baguette-making and eat artisan cheese.  Or to South America to pick my own fair trade coffee beans with the locals and learn how to roast them.  Or back to Africa to see all the friends we made and have a chapati-making party with them.

We can't have it all. 
But we are allowed to dream...
Or bring dreams to others.