Thursday, December 18, 2014

7 Days to Christmas Countdown! - Holiday Baking with Krusteaz

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The weekend is almost here and I'm sure I'm not the only one that's going to be busy in the kitchen with holiday baking. Earlier this week I posted a recipe for my Dutch Apple & Raspberry Pie made with the help from Krusteaz. If you need more inspiration to bake this weekend, please check out what my fellow 'Bakers Dozen' friends have made for some delicious ideas!



Love From the Oven, Christi Johnstone


Bake or Break, Jennifer McHenry

DoughMessTic, Susan Whetzel


A Southern Grace, Grace Mannon

Made It. Ate It. Loved It., Scarlett Bendixen

Make Bake Celebrate, Toni Miller

A Nut in a Nutshell, Liz Mays
Lindsay Ann Bakes, Lindsay Ann

Jo Lynne Shane, Jo-Lynne Shane

Bicultural Mama, Maria Adcock
Hostess with the Mostess, Jennifer Sbranti

What’s Cookin’ Chicago?, Joelen Tan

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

8 Days to Christmas Countdown! - Holiday Appetizer Round Up

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It seems like since I've been counting down to Christmas, the days are just flying by! This year we are spending Christmas with Patrick's extended family and that usually means bringing an appetizer to share. If you're looking to bring something to an upcoming holiday party or even serving up something new for a party you're hosting, here are 10 Holiday Appetizer Ideas to consider!
















Tuesday, December 16, 2014

9 Days to Christmas Countdown! - Last Minute Gift Ideas

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We're 9 days away from Christmas... do you have any last minute gifts to purchase? Here are some last minute gift ideas for stocking stuffers, grab bags, secret holiday gift exchanges, or just to have on hand for unexpected gift givers so you don't look like a humbug...

For the cook/baker - This is probably more a gift to give yourself or your favorite baker/cook. No kitchen should be without a really good, sturdy cooling rack. Often thought of using for baked goods, this is equally great for cooling pots of soup, appetizers, making bacon in the oven and other savory items. This rack is perfect in that you can cool and set things on the rack. I don't have to worry about it bending because it's so strong it will hold up to your pots - even my dutch oven. I've also used it quite a bit during the holidays just as a place to set pots and pans to cool when I needed stove space. It helps its a large size too, 12x17. Regardless, anyone who loves being in the kitchen can surely appreciate this cooling rack!

For the spicy foodie - If you are looking to add more style to your dining table and more flavor to your food, the Kuisiware Salt and Pepper Grinder Set is exactly what you need. Built for more flavor and fewer turns, the Kuisiware Salt & Pepper Mill features a ceramic mechanism for smooth operation, finesse and quality. It has a modern, stylish design with stainless steel accents and high-quality clear acrylic body that lets you know when to refill; it's very easy to refill and clean and I love how smooth it operates with many grades of grinding thanks to high-performing ceramic grinding mechanism.  The grinder comes with caps to prevent round circles of pepper or salt, leaving your countertops nice and clean. It holds plenty of salt and pepper to last you for a long time (1.2oz of each) and it's easy to adjust grinding, from very fine to nice and coarse
For the coffee lover -  I love coffee so this is my recommendation for a great coffee to try or give to your favorite coffee lover. This is Guatemalan Gourmet Medium Roast, Whole Bean Coffee is an exclusive and rare single-origin coffee from San Marcos, Guatemala. It's not too bold or too light, so it's a nice coffee to either start the day or even pick you up in the afternoon. These coffee beans are cultivated at the higher grounds of the mountains located at the base of two of Guatemala's most important volcanoes: Tajana and Tajumulco. Volcanic soil provides a more fertile ground for coffee beans to grow which contribute to better quality beans with exclusive flavors found ONLY in this part of the world. This coffee belongs to a region called Barrancas, San Marcos which is specifically known for producing one of the best coffees in Guatemala with a deep full body flavor, no bitterness and delicious delicate floral notes.


For the aspiring bread baker - This is the secret weapon that expert bakers use to produce perfect dough each time. The Danish Dough Whisk is exactly what you need for making pizza, pastry, bread, and pasta dough.  Once you’ve used this dough whisk, you’ll count it as one of your essential baking tools. It’s perfect for mixing heavy dough prior to kneading.  Its rounded shape makes it easy to scrape the sides of the bowl so everything is incorporated, and so little sticks to it that it’s really easy to clean. Sturdy and well made of a beechwood handle and stiff stainless steel wire head. Flow-through wire whisk design blends ingredients thoroughly and gently. Overall length: 15 1/4″


For the one with a sweet tooth - These treats are perfect to have on hand for the holiday to enjoy for yourself or as a delicious gift! I love how colorful and festive they are and great as a hostess gift, secret santa gift, or as an after dinner treat. Edible Gifts offers a lot of various items aside from these chocolate dipped Oreo cookies so be sure to check out what other goodies you can order!

For the sushi lover - One of my most popular culinary classes I teach is a sushi class. I'm always excited to learn about new and fun gadgets to make sushi maki more interesting. This one caught my eye and looks like a neat way to give sushi maki a try. It comes with 5 pieces - a flexible mat, guided nori frame, cutting guide, and 2 end caps to use for condiments. If your favorite sushi lover is looking for some fun making sushi at home, this kit is a great option!

For the super hydrated - Forget the plastic water bottles, go for glass! I've fallen in love with these Glasstic water bottles and can't have enough. These are wide mouth glass water bottles, which make it easy to drink from and clean. If you like adding flavored powders to your water, the wide mouth makes it easy to do so. The bottle also has a leak proof flip cal with a handle and lock. I also appreciate that these bottles are BPA free,lead free, cadmium free and toxin free. They are easy to wash by hand or in the dishwasher. And although it's glass, they are durable and shatterproof so you can comfortably take them anywhere! As a special treat, you can receive a 10% discount using code DONYQMA9 through Amazon. For more information and to view a Demonstration Video of the Glasstic Shatterproof Glass Water Bottle please visit  www.glassticwaterbottle.com  or http://youtu.be/jJ3cHTsJVmY

*** I'm hosting a special 4 pack giveaway where 1 reader will receive all four of the above Glasstic Water Bottles! For a giveaway do the first three items, while the remaining 2 are optional. A winner will be chosen on December 26th!
 
1. Tweet mentioning @GlassticBottle on twitter
2. Follow GlassticBottle on Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/glassticbottle/
3. Share GlassticBottle on Pinterest
4. Subscribe to Glasstic Bottle's newsletter http://www.glassticwaterbottle.com/ 
5. Follow Glasstic Bottle on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/company/glasstic-bottle

 


For the toddler parents - If your kiddie is anything like mine, he loves to kick and put his feet up on the seat in front of him (whether its the drivers seat or passenger seat.) Regardless, the back of these seats always look a hot mess full of footprints, mud, dirt, etc. To help make it a bit neater, grab one of these car seat protectors to attach to either the driver or passenger seat or wherever you'd like to salvage the seat you do have from toddler prints!

For the Instagram Addict#Cube™ speaks to the enormous popularity of photo-sharing sites such as Instagram by enabling the socially connected to enlarge their viewing experience of photos and videos, from the smaller confines of a smart device. It is an extremely innovative, attractive, & easy-to-use wireless living photo canvas which showcases your favorite social photo & video streams. The #CUBE is a large 8” square LCD touch screen display, giving the retro-inspired #Cube™ a modern touch. Real-time and instant continuous delivery of a stream of photos and video clips, enabling users to enjoy and display real-time social network images from friends, family, and favorite celebrities.  Rechargeability and built-in Wi-Fi as well as free wireless software updates that enable new features & application support.
For the tea loverBoiling water for your tea, coffee or instant soup is now more convenient and safer than ever. With the Bellemain Cordless Kettle, there's less waiting around, and no worries about a dangling cord, overheating, boiling dry or accidental spills. It's faster than a stovetop kettle or the microwave, the Bellemain heats water in just 2 minutes! Putting water in and pouring it out are so much easier when there's no cord to get in your way, or get wet and possibly give you an electrical shock.The automatic shut off built-in safety feature ensures that the Bellemain will never overheat or boil over, which could damage the kettle or create a fire hazard. The Bellemain will also shut off automatically when the water level gets too low, to prevent boiling dry.
With many kettles, you can't tell if they're hot except by touching them (ouch!). When the Bellemain's power light is on, you'll know just by looking. The locking lid is another great safety feature: it prevents accidental spills while you're pouring. A clear plastic panel in the handle tells you when there's danger of overflowing or boiling dry. For safe, convenient storage, the cord wraps inside the base. When you're ready to plug it in, pull out just the length you need. The Bellemain is made of durable, brushed stainless steel for dependable quality and service. It is backed by a 1-year limited warranty.
For the artsy and craftsyVinyl Wall Decals from www.vinyldisorder.com are a great way to bring any room to life! They look awesome, last forever, and are easy to apply and remove. Wall Decals come in any shape and size and can be made from any image! Your favorite arts and crafts person can have fun selecting from the variety of vinyl wall decals available. I picked up this one, a 36" Always Kiss Me goodnight Wall Decal. Always Kiss me goodnight wall decals are a great way to bring love and affection to any room and it's great in the bedroom or even in a nursery. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

10 Days to Christmas Countdown! - Dutch Apple & Raspberry Pie

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After having more than my fill of cookies this holiday, I'm switching gears and moving onto pie. I recently visited a restaurant which had a delicious apple and raspberry pie that was amazing. Inspired from the great meat I had, I wanted to try my hand at making a similar pie. That's when this Dutch Apple & Raspberry Pie found it's way into my oven. I used some help from my friends at Krusteaz and they are featuring my recipe on their site here so check it out along with some of the other tasty treats they have online too!

Now if you love talking food like I do, here's a special invitation to join me and my friends at Krusteaz today, Monday, December 15th from 4pm - 5pm EST for a Twitter Party! We'll be chatting about holiday baking and would love to have you join in the conversation.

If you free tomorrow, Tuesday, December 16th at 4pm EST/1pm PST, you can also check out the live holiday baking chat hosted by Krusteaz culinary specialist, Malia Hasegawa. Check out the Krusteaz Facebook page for more holiday baking chat where Malia will answer participants' holiday baking questions and share ideas for festive foodie gifts!

Dutch Apple & Raspberry Pie with Cream Cheese Crust
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Effort: Medium
Servings: 8
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Ingredients:
Crust:
2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cold water

Filling:
3 cups chopped fresh apples
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter, cut into 4 pieces

Dutch Topping:
1/4 cup silvered almonds
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened


Instructions:

Heat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, combine pie crust mix, cream cheese, sugar and cold water, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix with a fork until moistened and dough forms.

Form the dough into a ball. Flatten into a round on a well-floured surface. Roll the dough into a circle, 2 inches in diameter larger than your inverted pie pan.

Fold the dough in half; then into quarters. Carefully transfer the folded dough to an ungreased pie pan; carefully unfold. Style the edge to your preference and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the apples, raspberries, sugar and flour. Transfer the fruit mixture into prepared pie pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the crisp topping mix, almonds, and butter. Combine with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle crisp topping mixture over fruit in prepared pie pan. 

Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

11 Days to Christmas Countdown! - Caramel Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I love chocolate chip cookies, as they are my absolute favorite cookie anytime of the year... including the holidays. Often times I will take a trusty chocolate chip cookie recipe and change it ever so slightly by using a different kind of chocolate chip or throwing some kind of chopped nuts or another ingredient. For the recent cookie swap I hosted, I opted to throw in some caramel bits and chopped pecans into the base recipe for a new favorite version. These Caramel Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies will please those who love the buttery caramel and toasty pecan flavor along with chocolate. It kind of sounds like a turtle candy... but definitely not as decadent. If you like all those flavors, this is a cookie recipe you'll need to try!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

12 Days to Christmas Countdown! - Day 12: Holiday Cookie Swaps!

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Check check. 1, 2, 3, 4. Check check. [tap tap tap] Is this thing on? Wow, I feel like it's been awhile since I've babbled food talk here. Actually, it has, as I've been overseas in the Philippines for 3 weeks - which should have been for only 2 - but more on that later. And then this past week I've been dealing with this weird illness, virus, infection thing that has thankfully gotten under control thanks to numerous doctor visits and a handful of steroids. Gah! But now that I can actually eat real food again and not feel nauseous.... and my jetlag has also subsided, it's all in perfect timing for the 12 days to Christmas Countdown! Don't worry, I'll catch you up to date on all the crazy adventures of life abroad on the islands and everything but let's finally talk some holiday food! In the next 12 days, I'll be sharing a nice mix of holiday foodstuff from recipes, events, gift ideas, giveaways, etc... so be sure to visit often as you may never know what or when I'll be spreading some extra special holiday cheer!

To kick things off, I recently hosted a holiday cookie swap here in Chicago with fellow food bloggers. We had a great turnout of friends and treats, making for one delicious time. Everyone was asked to bring 24 (2 dozen) cookies to share in which some were to sample and the rest were to package up to take home. And as expected, food bloggers went above and beyond and made more than enough to go around!

For the swap, I purchased cute treat trays with lining paper and a bow. This made it easy for guests to pack up cookies and have them ready to take to a party, give as a gift or just have nicely wrapped for themselves to enjoy at home. [I found these treat trays at Walmart!]

At our culinary teaching space, I put together a hot cocoa bar with a variety of different flavored cocoas, a few kinds of marshmallows (french vanilla, peppermint, chocolate and toasted coconut), some white chocolate and caramel syrup, candy canes and whipped cream too. It was the perfect drink offering for all the cookies in store.

After enjoying hot cocoa with friends, we all dug in! Each of us shared a bit about the cookie/treats we made and why we chose it... and before long, we all were filling up our treat trays and nibbling on our stash. It was a great time and I've always enjoyed hosting holiday cookie swaps.

Have you ever hosted or attended a cookie swap? Share a comment below with what your favorite cookie swap cookie is and you may just win my special cookie baking gift set that includes:

A chosen reader will be announced on this post & on our Facebook Page on Monday, Dec.15th!

Denise H [Comment #6] is the winner of my cookie baking gift set!
Please email us at whatscookinchicago@gmail.com for details!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sous Vide Sesame Ginger Pork Belly

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One of my favorite cuts of pork is pork belly. The richness of the fat layer above and lean meat underneath lends itself to a most succulent meat of meat. So to give this cut of meat the spotlight, I used it to make a Sous Vide Sesame Ginger Pork Belly which was served sandwiched into a fluffy dough and dressed with a touch of hoisin sauce and a sprinkling of green onions...
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