Improv Cooking Challenge: Chocolate Candy Cane Blossoms


Christmas is almost here and I am completely unprepared. Okay, that's not entirely true. I'm like 92% unprepared.

Back in October I ordered three Christmas gifts. This week I ordered 2 gift cards. My house and tree are decorated. But I still have more gifts to get and my mixer is broken. Well, out of commission. If there is ever an absolute worst time for your Kitchenaid Mixer to go on the injury list, it's around the holidays.

My aunt lent me her mixer, but it's basically a dinosaur compared to a Kitchenaid. It's basically a hand mixer that attaches to a stand so it's called a stand mixer. Can I tell you how much I miss my beater blade?

Anyway. The last recipe that my Kitchenaid churned out before the locking mechanism failed was these chocolate candy cane blossom cookies.

It's time for the Improv Cooking Challenge again and our theme for December is Chocolate and Peppermint. As I may have mentioned every.single.holiday.season, I absolutely love peppermint. I probably looked at close to 100 recipes before finally deciding to make these cookies   (1) because I had all of the ingredients (2) because they're easy to make and (3) because I knew they'd be gone in a few hours once I took them to work.

Chocolate Candy Cane Blossoms
Servings: about 3 dozen cookies
Printer Friendly

    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • ½ cup sugar
    • ½ cup brown sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • ½ tsp mint extract
    • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
    • ⅔ cup cocoa powder
    • ½ tsp baking soda
    • ½ tsp baking powder
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • approximately 36 Hershey’s Candy Cane Kiss candies

1. Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter, sugar and brown sugar and beat on medium speed until fully combined.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.
4. Add the egg to the stand mixer, allowing it to become fully incorporated before adding the vanilla and mint extracts.
5. Slowly add the flour mixture into the mixer, mixing until a soft dough forms.
6. Refrigerate dough for 10 minutes. In the meantime, unwrap the Candy Cane Kiss candies.
7. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll into 1 inch balls, placing on the prepared baking sheet.
8. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until just set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 1 minute before placing the Candy Cane Kiss in the center of the cookie. Cool 2-3 minutes more before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.

I've never had the candy cane kisses melt quite as much as they did on these cookies. I tried letting the cookie cool longer before placing the kiss in the center, but then the cookies ended up cracking and I decided melted kisses looked better than cracked cookies. If you tinker with this recipe and get them to not melt, let me know your secret!

As expected, these were gone before lunch time when I took them into work.

Check out what the other Improv Cooking Challenge participants made:

Christmas Menu


Do you know what you're making for Christmas yet? Last week I was trying to figure out what to make. Ham tends to be our go-to choice, but I wanted to do something different this year and I thought maybe a beef roast or a pork loin would be a nice change.

And I read a fellow bloggers Polish themed menu and wanted to do that too. Since Christmas is only one day, I eventually decided to do a Christmas smorgasboard of options so everyone could have what they wanted for the holiday.

Since there will only be about 8 of us, I figured if we kept the portions for everything small, everyone could have a variety of foods and there would still be leftovers.

Here's what we're going to have:

cream cheese Christmas tree with crackers
veggie tray
roasted kielbasa bites
mac and cheese cups

Main Dishes:
garlic roasted pork loin
roast beef with gravy
ham with cranberry dijon glaze

Side Dishes:
mashed potatoes
roasted mushrooms
maple balsamic green beans
cucumber salad

Nutella Christmas Tree

#FoodieExtravaganza: Vegan Eggnog Pudding


When I decided to host December's #FoodieExtravaganza, I knew I wanted the theme to be eggnog.

Posting day for #FoodieExtravaganza is always the first Wednesday of each month. If you are a blogger and would like to join our group and blog along with us, come join our Facebook page Foodie Extravaganza. We would love to have you! If you're a spectator looking for delicious tid-bits check out our Foodie Extravaganza Pinterest Board! Looking for our previous parties? Check them out HERE.

When I was a kid, I thought eggnog was completely gross. Actually, I thought most things involving eggs was gross. I clearly remember an episode of Doogie Howser where he made a smoothie and put a raw egg in it. I've cringed at the thought of drinking eggs ever since.

But as an adult, I found that I really, really like eggnog. Of course, this would be followed up by becoming lactose intolerant. At least there are alternatives to eggnog, one of which I decided to share with you today.

Vegan Eggnog Pudding
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 4 servings
Printer Friendly

    • 1 14 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
    • ¼ cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
    • 1 box instant vanilla pudding
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp nutmeg
    • optional: rum or whiskey


1. Pour the coconut milk into a medium bowl, scraping down the sides of the can to remove all of the solids.
2. Add the almond milk, vanilla pudding, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir until combined.
3. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Stir before serving and add optional rum or whiskey.

I initially started looking for dairy-free eggnog recipes and ended up finding something online that said you could create the thickness of eggnog by using instant pudding. I then realized I'd never heard of eggnog pudding and if there was ever a time to try it out, this was it!

As this uses canned coconut milk, the coconut flavor is still there, but you can adjust the spices as needed to create a more cinnamon-like version if that is what you prefer.

*Also, I know some vegan people who won't eat instant pudding because while there is not dairy in the ingredients, there's also very little that's pronounceable. So, I won't at all be offended if you're vegan and refuse to even consider this a vegan recipe. 😀

Eggnog Cookies by Caroline’s Cooking
Eggnog Cheesecake by Karen’s Kitchen Stories
Heavenly Almond Cookies by Faith, Hope, Love & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accompice Eggnog Tasting + A Classic Recipe by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Eggnog Loaf by Passion Kneaded
Alcohol Free Eggnog by Sneha’s Recipes
Frosted Eggnog Cookies by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Cinnamon Streusel Eggnog Coffeecake by Food Lust People Love
Vegan Eggnog by Cookaholic Wife

Turkey Cranberry Cracker Bites


I'm terrible at eating on the weekends. During the week, I tend not to have a lot going on, but my weekends are always super busy. Even if it's not running errands, there are recipes to make and blog, photographs to take and edit and now a house that never seems like it's going to stay clean for more than a few hours.

So I wake up on the weekend and within 30 minutes I'm in go-mode for at least the next couple of hours, which is great for getting a lot of things done, but absolutely terrible for my metabolism because I pretty much starve myself until my stomach is growling so loudly that I have no choice but to stop ignoring its pleas for food. 

Of course, when I get to this level of hungry, there is absolutely no interest in eating something that is going to take more than 5 minutes to prepare. I then have to rely on ingredients that can quickly come together, such as a sandwich, or resort to bags of microwave popcorn. Let's not talk about the number of bags of microwave popcorn I go through in a month though, okay?

This recipe came from one of those hungry afternoons where I needed to quickly put something together to eat. A few days before I had picked up some crackers from the grocery store. I prefer eating crackers to bread, but hardly ever remember to pick up a new box after I finish the last one. In addition to the crackers, there was deli turkey and sharp white cheddar cheese. While those three could have been enough on their own, it was the weekend where I had made the cranberry-apple jam and had a little bit leftover that wouldn't fit into a canning jar. 

Turkey and cranberry is a delicious combination for Thanksgiving, but I love it at any time of the year. You could make this using leftover turkey from Thanksgiving or using deli turkey at any time of the year. If you don't have a cranberry jam, you could use cranberry sauce or any other fruit-flavored jam. 

Turkey Cranberry Cracker Bites
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Printer Friendly

    • 12 crackers, such as Triscuits
    • 12 squares sharp white cheddar cheese
    • 3 slices deli turkey
    • ½ cup cranberry apple jam

1. Arrange 12 crackers on a plate. Place a square on cheese on top.
2. Divide each piece of deli turkey into quarters and place on top of the cheese.
3. Top with a small dollop of the cranberry apple jam. Serve immediately. 

These little cracker bites come together in a matter of minutes so they're perfect for those starving afternoons or a quick snack to whip up for kids after school. Or, you could always serve them to those unexpected guests that you had no idea were visiting. 

Turkey Cranberry Monte Cristo Sandwiches


If you can't decide between french toast or a sandwich, this is the perfect recipe for you. A Monte Cristo sandwich is traditionally a ham and cheese sandwich where the bread is coated in a milk and egg batter before being pan fried. Then it's topped with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Sometimes a Monte Cristo sandwich will also have a sweet preserves spread on the inside of the bread to really play up the sweet and savory pairing within the sandwich. My favorite thing about this sandwich is you can easily it make it with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce after Thanksgiving, but you can also use deli turkey and canned cranberry sauce if you're craving this super tasty sandwich at any other time of the year.

Turkey Cranberry Monte Cristo Sandwich
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 2 sandwiches
Printer Friendly

    • 4 thick slices French bread
    • 3 tbsp cranberry sauce
    • 1 cup cooked, sliced turkey
    • 2 slices white cheddar cheese
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • ¾ cup milk or cream
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • powdered sugar, for sprinkling

1. Add the butter to a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Spread the cranberry sauce on each slice of the bread. Place a slice of the cheese on two pieces of the bread. Divide the turkey between both sandwiches and top with the remaining cranberry sauce slathered piece of bread.
3. Add the milk and eggs to a shallow dish and whisk until combined. Dip both sides of the sandwich in the batter and place in the skillet.
4. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy.
5. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of sandwiches and cut in half. Serve immediately. 

This is one decadent sandwich. It's rich, sweet, savory and super filling. To cut through the heaviness of this sandwich, I like to eat it with fresh fruit (like strawberries) or raw veggies like carrots. And you can never go wrong with a cripsy dill pickle spear.

Thanksgiving Leftover Shepherd's Pie


Thanksgiving leftovers. Either you have tons of them and your fridge is just as full as it was on the holiday or you have none at all and are kind of sad that you can't at least make yourself a sandwich with the leftover turkey.

I ended up with a fridge-full of leftovers this year and I spent the weekend making recipes using them up. By now you've probably tossed whatever was left in your fridge, but these will all be here for you next year.

This recipe is one of my favorites because it uses up the most amount of leftovers that could be hanging around waiting to either be eaten or tossed. You can easily add in other leftovers you might have (corn, lima beans, sweet potatoes, green beans) or if you don't have any leftovers at all, you could still make this using with pretty minimal prep.

Thanksgiving Leftover Shepherd’s Pie
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 6-8
Printer Friendly

    • 2 ½ cups prepared stuffing/dressing
    • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
    • 1 cup peas
    • 1 cup carrots, diced
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 1 tsp garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp ground sage
    • ½ tsp rosemary
    • ½ tsp thyme
    • ½ tsp each, salt and pepper
    • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
    • 1 ½ cups chicken/turkey/vegetable stock
    • 1 ¼ cup cooked turkey, shredded
    • 2 ½ cups prepared mashed potatoes

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick spray.
2. Press the stuffing mixture into the bottom of the dish, covering it entirely.
3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the peas, carrots and onions and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
4. Stir in the sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir until the vegetables are coated.
5. Pour in the stock and stir frequently, until the mixture has thickened. Stir in the turkey until combined.
6. Pour the mixture over the stuffing and then top with mashed potatoes.
7. Bake for 45 minutes or until heated through. 

Substitutions:1 bag of frozen peas and carrots, 1 package prepared mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. 

Note: Recipe ingredients can be doubled to fit in a 9x13 baking dish. 
*If you don't have leftover stock, but have leftover gravy, thin with water until vegetable mixture can be stirred in. Do not add flour and adjust seasonings accordingly.

It's like one big bite of all things Thanksgiving in one dish. How could you ever go wrong with that?

Hot Chocolate Drink Station


Tis' the season for family, friends, parties and hot drinks to keep you warm during the cold weather. I usually have a holiday party between Thanksgiving and Christmas for my friends but the calendar just wasn't in my favor. There wasn't a weekend where enough people were free to have a party, so I'll just have to host something early next year.

When you have guests over, you don't want to be running back and forth into the kitchen to prepare drinks for your friends while pulling dishes out of the oven and getting them plated. You'd much rather talk to your guests and get everything out for them to enjoy while it's still the correct temperature, right?

One of the easiest things you can do to avoid this, is to create a drink station or bar where your guests can create their own drinks. There are probably a gazillion varieties you could use. There's your standard alcohol bar where guests can simply pour their favorite spirit over some ice or where they can add in fruits, syrups, sodas, etc. There's also a coffee and tea bar where you can offer your guests anything from regular and decaf to chai or peppermint tea.

Then there's my favorite, the hot chocolate bar. I love hot chocolate. And I love the things you can mix into hot chocolate nearly as much as the drink itself. Then there's the set up. Your hot chocolate bar can be as simple or indulgent as you'd like. It all depends on what you'd like to purchase for your guests and your design style. While my house is decorated in what I call coastal contemporary and I simply cannot pick two holiday colors to stick with, I went with what I call holiday whimsical for my hot chocolate bar.

Speaking of design, check out Havenly to see which interior designer's style is most similar to your own.

To create your own hot chocolate bar, here's a list of what I used. Feel free to change it up to be more of your style. Or of course, to make your own hot chocolate. For a party, I would have made a batch of hot chocolate in the crock pot, but since it's just Tom and I, I decided to go with individual servings for this bar.

Hot Chocolate Drink Station Ingredients
A Cookaholic Wife Creation

Hot Chocolate:

  • powdered hot chocolate packets
  • hot chocolate k-cups
  • flavored hot chocolate packets
  • homemade hot chocolate 

  • peppermint, cinnamon, toasted marshmallow, caramel, white chocolate, etc
  • liquors such as vodka, whiskey, bourbon, etc

Stir Ins:
  • candy canes
  • peppermint lollipops
  • marshmallows
  • mint candies
  • whipped cream
  • cinnamon
  • cookie sticks
  • truffles 
  • chocolate chips

The possibilities are endless! My favorite combinations from the above ingredients are:
  • toasted marshmallow, syrup, marshmallows and chocolate chips for a s'mores-like flavor 
  • peppermint vodka and a candy cane for a minty adult version 
  • marshmallows, cinnamon and cookie sticks for a lightly spiced cookie flavor
You can also have a lot of fun with the mugs that you serve your hot chocolate in. There's nothing wrong with your classic, white mug but you can also have a little fun with the Irish Whiskey Style Glass mugs, a regular glass mug or even some extra deep ones printed with holiday cheer.

If you're struggling with how you set up your drink station or even a room in your house, you should check out Havenly, a site that helps you design your home. You can look through their client designs, by room or by style to get an idea of what you'd like, or you can take a style quiz that matches you up with one of their interior designers. They work with large and small budgets and have tons of great images to look at on their blog for decor inspiration. 

I'd like to know what you'd include on your hot chocolate drink station. Leave me a comment or tag me in a pic on IG @cookaholicwife. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


I honestly cannot believe that it is Thanksgiving already. It doesn't feel like it at all. I still can't figure out how fall happened and have been avoiding pulling out my winter jacket in hopes that the cold season will just pass us by. 

The appetizers have been assembled and are ready to be put out. The mashed potatoes are warming up in the crock pot. The turkey and the other sides are patiently waiting to be warmed up in the oven and family should be arriving in a few hours. 

Every year I wonder what in the world I'm getting myself into, but I'd never change it. The circumstances, the size of the house and the available seating, I'd change in a heartbeat, but getting to feed a bunch of family members at once? Never. 

I live for this one a year case of organized chaos and insanity. Next week I'll be equally starting on Thanksgiving recipes for next year as well as putting together Christmas ones to share with you for this year. 

I hope you have a great time together, whether with family or friends, and enjoy everything you eat.

From my kitchen to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

#FabulousFallBounty: Butternut Squash Noodles with Sage and Pancetta


I've switched out pasta for zucchini noodles and spaghetti squash tons of times, but I never thought that you could do it with a butternut squash until I saw a recipe for noodled squash on Pinterest. I had just received a butternut squash from Melissa's Produce a few days before.

I don't know about you, but that kind of sounds to me like I was supposed to turn a butternut squash into noodles. Which, I'll be honest with you is not the easiest thing I've ever done and I should probably get back to a gym.

To turn a butternut squash into noodles, first purchase one with a long neck as that is the only part you can use. The bottom half can be saved for another recipe, such as soup. I found it easiest to slice off the thick outer skin, the slice the piece into 4 wedges and put those onto my spiralizer.

If that sounds like way more than you are interested in dealing with (which I get!) most stores are now carrying butternut squash already cut into noodles. It's right next to the sweet potato noodles in the both of the stores I go to and I've seen it since July so I'm thinking it might end up being a year round thing that they offer. (Which would be great!)

Butternut Squash Noodles with Sage and Pancetta
Inspired by: various recipes
Servings: 3-4 servings
Printer Friendly

    • 1 large butternut squash with a skinny neck
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    • 4 oz. pancetta, diced
    • 2 shallots, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tbsp cream cheese
    • ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
    • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
    • fresh sage, chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
2. Cut a butternut squash at the neck, saving the end for another use. Peel off the skin and place the squash on a spiralizer, set to make large ribbon noodles.
3. Arrange the butternut squash noodles on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until al dente.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add the pancetta and cook until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta to a paper towel lined plate.
5. Lower the heat to medium and cook the shallot and the garlic in the remaining grease from the pancetta (1 tsp olive oil if there is not enough) for 3 minutes.
6. Transfer the shallot and garlic to the plate with the pancetta. Add a splash of vegetable stock to the skillet and the cream cheese. Stir until the cream cheese has melted and then whisk in the remaining vegetable stock.
7. Add the pancetta mixture back to the skillet, along with the al dente noodles.
8. Toss to combine and serve, garnished with fresh sage.

If you've never baked on a Silpat before, I really recommend getting one. Silpat was generous enough to ship all of us one for this event. Baking on Silpat just makes things so much easier. The noodles slid right off the mat perfectly. 

#FabulousFallBounty: Prosciutto Wrapped Blue Cheese Pears


Disclaimer: I received complimentary products from the above mentioned sponsors in exchange for participating in this event. 

I've learned to stop making really involved and filling appetizers for Thanksgiving because no one eats breakfast but comes over early and fills up on those and then doesn't eat dinner. Since the dinner takes twice as long to make and is already the one meal I serve that takes a day of preparation and only ten minutes to eat, I've finally gotten it into my head that less is more when it comes to Thanksgiving appetizers.

Now I think I may have mentioned my complete obsession with prosciutto. I've been known to purchase the 4 oz. packages and then eat one as a snack. (Blood pressure be damned)

But wrapping prosciutto around a pear with a wedge of blue cheese inside? That's amazing! Sweet, salty, earthy....these little bites are so amazing.

Prosciutto Wrapped Blue Cheese Pears
Source: various Pinterest recipes
Servings: 12 pieces
Printer Friendly

    • 2 medium ripe pears, sliced into 12 wedges
    • 2-3 oz. blue cheese, cut into thin slices
    • 4 oz. prosciutto, thinly sliced


1. Cut slices of prosciutto into three strips, lengthwise.
2. Place a slice of the blue cheese against the pear wedge. Wrap with the prosciutto and secure with a toothpick.

Huge thanks to Melissa's Produce for making this event possible by sending us bloggers so many amazing goodies. Aren't those the most adorable little pears in the background? They were almost too cute for me to use! 

And another sponsor thanks, to Le Creuset for a great serving platter. Unfortunately the package handlers were a little too rough with my first one and it arrived broken, but Le Creuset got me another one out right away but I had already made this recipe and didn't get to photograph these perfect bites on it, I am 100% using it when I serve these for Thanksgiving.

  An InLinkz Link-up
AdChoice Icon, to be placed in the footer:

Total Pageviews

Back to Top