Prosciutto Pear Cups

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Happy New Years Eve!

Are you hosting or attending a party tonight and still in need of something to bring? These tasty little bites would be the perfect appetizers since they barely take any time at all to whip up and can be served warm or at room temperature.



Prosciutto Pear Cups
Source: Martha Stewart - Everyday Food, December 2006
Servings: 24
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Ingredients:
    • 3-5 slices prosciutto 
    • 1 ripe pear, peeled and diced
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Tear the prosciutto into approximately 2 inch pieces. Place each piece of prosciutto into a mini muffin pan.
3. Use a teaspoon to spoon some of the pears into each mini muffin pan.
4. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the prosciutto is crispy. Let cool for 1 minute before removing from the pan with a spoon onto the desired serving dish.

It's that classic sweet and salty combo that I just can't pass up. The juiciness of the pear is just incredibly with the saltiness of the prosciutto. I could have easily ate all of these myself for a meal. 

Weekly Menu 12/30 - 1/3

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I can't believe its almost 2013! I know they say once you're an adult and out in the "real world" the years just fly by, but that really didn't begin to happen to me until the last couple of years. Since 2010, it just seems like time is going by at warp speed and I'm barely able to keep up. Hell, this June I'll have been out of high school for 10 years!

TEN YEARS! Where has the time gone?

Anyway, I hope you had a great holiday full of great food and fun times with friends and family. I definitely did. We're even planning on having a New Years Eve party. It'd definitely be much more helpful if I had any idea how many people were coming, but that's another issue. I'll share the menu for that after the one for the rest of the week. 

Which consists of:

Sunday - Garbure {French Ham and Vegetable Stew}

Monday - New Years Eve Party

Tuesday - Pork and Sauerkraut with Mashed Potatoes 

Wednesday - Lasagna 

Thursday - leftovers 

Do you have any New Years Eve plans yet? We rarely ever go out anymore. Its so much easier (and cheaper) to just have people come here. I think I'm becoming anti-social in my old age. :-p 

Also, do you have any New Years Day traditions? Aside from resolutions, that is? Tom grew up with having pork and sauerkraut on New Years Day so we've adopted that tradition. 

I don't think I'm making any real resolutions this year. Just the usual "lose weight" one. But since I have a pretty firm trip to Florida planned in April where Tom and I are not only going to visit my aunt, but visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (squee!!!) I have a deadline to shed these extra pounds I've picked up over the last year.

Tom's family does an annual "biggest loser" contest where the person who loses the highest percentage of body weight wins a prize amount. I'll never actually win, since my percentages are always super low, but I'm participating anyway. Along with a few other weight loss challenges with my internet peoples. I figure if I commit myself to quite a few different things to hold me accountable to lose weight, plus I have a trip looming in the future, there is a good chance I might actually lose weight this time. You wanna hold me accountable too? I'd appreciate it. 

And now onto our New Years Eve menu; which is mainly just appetizers. 

~ Spinach Dip with Buffalo Wing Pretzel Crisps, Carrots and Celery Sticks
~ Asian Beef & Scallion Bites
~ Mac and Cheese Cups 
~ Ham and Cheese Sliders
~ Taco Bar: chicken, beef, refried beans, lettuce, tomato, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, taco sauce, cheese 
~ Banana Split Cupcakes
~ Cherry Coke Cupcakes
~ Texas Trash Mix 
~ Pomegranate Bellinis
~ Pear Apple White Sangria 

I'm looking forward to the new year and new recipes! I hope you are too. 

Recipe Swap: Bacon Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese

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If you are joining the other million or so people who have plans on Tuesday to lose weight for real this year, you might want to make this sandwich first. And then maybe eat it every day leading up to Tuesday so by the time that awful tradition of making resolutions rolls around, you've had your fair share of bacon, cheese and gooey awesome-ness. Just an idea.

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record when I tell you that when I receive Jaida's blog for the blogger's choice recipe swap, I'm always excited. But really, how could I not be? She has awesome recipes.

Although, there was a first for me. I spent absolutely no time at all trying to decide on a recipe. I saw this one and immediately told Tom it's what we'd be having for dinner the next night. I couldn't help but make the little change of adding bacon though.



Bacon Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese
Source: Sweet Beginnings from Smells Like Home
Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
    • 4 slices bread, of your choice
    • 4 slices bacon, cooked 
    • 2 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
    • 2+ tbsp. jarred jalapeno slices
    • 4 slices melty cheese (I used a mild cheddar)
    • cooking spray
Directions:
1. Preheat a grill or a skillet over medium heat.
2. Spread the cream cheese over the slices of bread. Top with the melty cheese, then the bacon and desired amount of jalapenos. Place one slice of the bread on the other, creating a sandwich.
3. Spray the top of the bread with the cooking spray. Flip and place sprayed side down onto the grill or pan. Spray the top-up piece of bread and grill/cook until golden brown and the cheese has melted.

I don't really have words to describe this. Bacon + cheese + jalapenos = melty awesome gooeyness. Is that good enough? Just make this okay?

Thanks Jaida for such a delicious recipe! And thanks to our lovely blog hostess Sarah of Taste of Home Cooking for hosting yet another swap! :-)


Cinnamon S'Mores Bark

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Before the holidays, we received a large package of unhealthy goodies at work. It included three different types of really tasty cookies and two different types of bark. The one type of bark that intrigued me the most was a milk chocolate bark with cinnamon sprinkled on top. I had no idea how well those two ingredients went together until I tried that piece of bark.

It gave me the idea for this recipe.





Cinnamon S'Mores Bark
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 1 lb.
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Ingredients:
    • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
    • 1 graham cracker, crumbled
    • 1 tbsp. cinnamon 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Spread out the chocolate chips in an even layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the marshmallows on top. Bake for 2 minutes or until the chocolate chips are glossy.
3. Use a knife to spread around the chocolate chips and marshmallows until smoother and thinned out. Sprinkle the graham crackers and cinnamon on top.
4. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before breaking into pieces. Store, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

This tastes like a s'more would if you used the cinnamon graham crackers instead of honey ones. This wasn't safe to leave around the house, so I packaged it up and gave it out as gifts for the holidays.

Caramel Cookies

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I specifically sought out cookie recipes I hadn't made before to share with you this holiday season. Honestly though, with the amount of cookies and other baked good recipes I found, I really should have started making them in...July to have posted anywhere near as many as I want to make.

So New Years' resolutions be damned, I'm pretty sure I'll be posted calorie-laden sugar-filled goodies right on through January. You don't mind, right?

Which makes it only a little bit ironic that this cookie recipe comes from the Weight Watchers site. Hey, even people dieting need a cookie every once in a while, right?



Caramel Cookies
Source: Weight Watchers
Servings: 3 dozen
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Ingredients:
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp. salt 
    • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
Directions:
1. Combine flours, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.
2. Beat the brown sugar, butter, egg and vanilla together in the bowl of your stand mixer until smooth.
3. Slowly add in the flour mixture until combined.
4. Turn out the dough onto a piece of wax paper, parchment paper or plastic wrap. Form the dough into a log, wrap up, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but up to overnight.
5. Preheat the oven to 400.
6. Cut dough into thin slices and place 1 inch apart on non-greased baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden.
7. Let cool for 1 minute on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling.

These cookies looked too plain to me so I decided to jazz them up a little bit with the help of some sprinkles. I don't know if I'll get a chance to make regular sugar cookies this time, so I decided to use these instead.

There isn't a very strong caramel flavor, but for a simple, soft cookie, this does the trick. Also, if you're a weight watchers person, each cookie is 1 point from the PointsPlus system. 

Merry Christmas!

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15 hours in the kitchen in the last two days and I finally finished cleaning and preparing everything for today around 8 PM last night. I think I'm getting rusty in the kitchen or something. No way would it have taken me this long last year. Something weird is going on here...

I also realized that I never shared the menu with you, so even though its too late too make anything for today, maybe you have a party this weekend or coming up soon and need some ideas.

Appetizers:
deviled eggs
Hawaiian cheese ball
shrimp bruschetta
cranberry turkey meatballs

Main and Sides:
honey ham
mashed potatoes
bacon lover's mac and cheese
roasted green beans and mushrooms 
confetti corn
applesauce 
icebox butterhorns

Desserts:
cheesecake
peppermint brownies
cranberry pineapple minis
various cookies

Drinks:
sugar cookie martinis
pomegranate mimosas
red sangria

I hope you're having a great day spending it with family and friends! 

Gidget says Merry Christmas!

And Itty does as well. 

(No kitties were harmed in the taking of these pictures. Bonus: no humans were either!)

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!


Merry Christmas Eve

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Merry Christmas Eve!

Do you have cookies ready to put out for Santa? What about celery and carrots for the reindeer? Are your stocking all hung up in a row? Tons of pretty presents wrapped under the tree? 


If you're one of those people who enjoy a white Christmas, I hope you get your wish! Otherwise, don't forget to go to bed nice and early tonight so Santa can come visit! 


Old Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Cookies {#BloggersforSandyHook}

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Last Friday, December 14th, 2012, something so incredibly horrible and unnecessary happened that its hard for me to even type about it without tearing up.

In case you've been under a rock, on that day, a man in need of serious help decided to come into the elementary school where his mother was a teacher and take the lives of staff and innocent children before taking his own. Innocent elementary school aged children. Children who should know nothing of guns or mental illness. Children who should never have anything to fear. Children who should have had no worries at all in their lives but what type of cookies to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Children who will now never learn to drive, attend their prom, graduate high school or have the lives they were intended to have. Staff members who will never experience another holiday with their families. Staff members who will never get the joy of spending another day in the presence of children. Staff members who are now known as heroes. There aren't words for me to describe how this makes me feel and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Its hard to put something unimaginable into words.

Which is why I immediately decided to participate in Cookies & Crafts for Sandy Hook. The blogging community is an amazing one and while I hate the reason we're coming together, I am grateful to be part of a community that will never hesitate to do whatever they can to help.

So, I share these Old-Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Cookies with you. I ate cookies similar to these in elementary school and there are fond memories of sharing them with friends.

To the innocent victims, parents, family, friends, teachers and community of Newtown, Connecticut, my heart goes out to you. You experienced something incredibly horrible that no one should ever need to live through. I am truly, truly sorry for your loss and wish I could take away some of your pain. We're here for you and we'll never forget.



Old-Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Cookies
Source: The Novice Chef
Servings: 4 dozen
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tbsp. baking powder
    • 2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. nutmeg
    • 1 tsp. salt 
    • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
    • 2 eggs
    Icing:
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 5 tbsp. milk 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray two cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Combine the oats through salt together in a medium bowl.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the butter and sugars together until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then slowly add in the flour mixture until combined.
4. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets 1 inch apart. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until browned. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the icing by whisking the powdered sugar and milk together in a large bowl. Once the cookies have cooled, drizzle the glaze over them. Let harden completely before transferring to an airtight container.

If you weren't able to participate in this event and would like to help out financially, the Cookies & Crafts bloggers found that Newtown Youth and Family Services accepts donations and are going towards those affected during this terrible event.


Improv Challenge: Rocky Road Ice Cream

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Last month I had an idea for the Improv Challenge ingredients but silly me waited until the last minute and the recipe just did not turn out so I sadly didn't get to participate for a month. Which left me too much time to contemplate whether this was the best recipe to make or not.

When I think of chocolate and marshmallows I immediately think of hot chocolate followed by s'mores. I didn't want to do either of those for this challenge so I attempted to think outside of the box but got hung up on the idea of Rocky Road Ice Cream.

I was about 6 the first time I tried Rocky Road ice cream and I was immediately intrigued as to how they got the marshmallows in there to keep their chewiness. It seems as though its not an easy ice cream to find in most places (sometimes even here) but since so many people like it, I figured it was definitely the best choice to make for this challenge.



Rocky Road Ice Cream
Source: All Recipes
Servings: 1 quart
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Ingredients:
    • 7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
    • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 cups light cream
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream 
    • 1 tbsp. vanilla 
    • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
    • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
Directions:
1. Combine the sweetened condensed milk and cocoa powder together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk until smooth.
2. Then stir in the creams and vanilla until combined.
3. Transfer the mixture to your ice cream maker and follow manufacturers instructions. Add in the pecans and marshmallows before freezing.

I had a hard time getting the cream to mix into the condensed milk/cocoa powder mixture but I think it all worked out in the end. This tastes just like the Rocky Road ice cream you can pick up at the stores.

Eggnog Bread

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What does eggnog taste like? I've never been brave enough yet to try it. I think I've mentioned my word association issues with you before and this is just another example of something I can't eat/drink because of its name.

I can't help but picture eggnog tasting like scrambled eggs mixed in with sugary milk. Since so many people drink it, I'm sure that isn't the case, but I just can't bring myself to try it, even if I did need to specifically purchase it for this recipe.


Eggnog Bread
Source: Taste of Home, 2012
Servings: 1 loaf
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Ingredients:
    • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. salt 
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/4 cup butter, melted
    • 1 cup vanilla eggnog
    • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
    • 1/2 cup cherry flavored cranberries
Directions:
1.Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 8x4 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the sugar, eggs and butter together until smooth. Add the eggnog and flour mixture to the stand mixer until combined.
4. Add the pecans and cranberries and mix until just combined.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to continue cooling.

This bread is extremely dense. Its almost dense enough that you'd want to dip it into coffee or milk. I opted to use a vanilla flavored eggnog instead of plain which honestly didn't make a difference in this bread at all. You couldn't even taste any vanilla. 

Cranberry Apple Bread

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I've been on an apple kick lately. I rarely used to eat them unless they were part of another dish, but I've found the PA grown Gala apples to be incredibly tasty this year. I could easily eat one or more a day.

Since there is nothing special about sharing how to cut up an apple with you, I went in search of a recipe and came across this one.



Cranberry Apple Bread
Source: Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life
Servings: 1 loaf
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Ingredients:
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 2 tbsp. canola oil
    • 2 cups apples, peeled and chopped 
    • 1 cup fresh cranberries
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x4 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and canola oil. Stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until just mixed.
4. Fold the apples and cranberries until combined. Transfer into the prepared loaf pan.
5. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling.

The sweetness of the apple and the tartness of the cranberries really pair so nicely together in this bread. 

Chocolate Filled Lace Cookies

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When I saw these cookies on Melissa's blog, I thought they were too cute to pass up making. I've never made a lace cookie before and while they looked slightly intricate, the directions were completely straightforward so I figured I'd give it a shot.



Chocolate Filled Lace Cookies
Source: Delicious Meliscious from Two Peas & Their Pod
Servings: ~ 1 1/2 dozen cookies
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Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
    • pinch of salt
    • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
    • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
    • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • melted chocolate, fudge sauce, Nutella, etc. 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine the flour through oats together in a medium bowl.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, heavy cream, corn syrup and vanilla. Then add in the flour mixture until combined.
4. Use a 1/2 teaspoon to round the dough and drop onto the prepared baking sheet. Place cookies at least 2 inches apart, not putting more than 12 cookies on a large baking sheet. These cookies flatten out and spread completely.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
6. Find two cookies of the same size. Turn one over and cover it with your chocolate filling choice. Place the other cookie on top, creating a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies.

I agree with Melissa, these cookies were too buttery/greasy for me, but they sure looked pretty all pressed together with chocolate in between them. I put Nutella between half of them and a chocolate sea salt spread between the others.

Additionally, bloggers - please join in and support this. Cookies & Crafts for Sandy Hook is an event created some amazing bloggers to show our support for the Sandy Hook tragedy. 

Magic Mint Chocolate Bark

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You've heard of the "Target Tax" right? You know, when you go into Target to pick up a pair of socks or refill a prescription and somehow you walk out of there spending $100 on stuff that you don't need, plus an overpriced $6 Starbucks coffee.

This was a Target Tax purchase. I went there to see if they had any Grinch decorations in the store and I ended up lingering too long around the candy section. These morsels were on an end-cap display filled with lots of other holiday stuff, just asking me to buy them. You know what that's like!

I'm not even a huge mint fan, but since these morsels said "Winter" on them, I figured they wouldn't be something I could easily find throughout the year, and like any good blogger who enjoys figuring out what to do with something after they purchase it, I picked up a bag.

I figured I would just make mint chocolate chip cookies with the package, but then a recipe for bark caught my eye. I'd never made bark before even though I know its incredibly easy to make. And since it took much less time than cookies would (well minus the chilling part) I made it right away.



Magic Mint Chocolate Bark
Source: Nestle
Servings: 3/4 pound
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Ingredients:
    • 1 10 oz. package Dark Chocolate and Mint Morsels
    • 1/3 cup roasted almonds, chopped
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Spread the morsels in an even layer on the paper, trying not to have too many of the same color next to each other.
3. Bake for 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a wire rack. Use a toothpick to swirl the morsels together. Sprinkle the almonds on top.
4. Bang the baking sheet on the counter a few times to settle the almonds into the melted morsels. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour.
5. Break the bark into pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Minty! I wish there were more of the mint morsels in the package since my bark is mostly brown and not green, but either way it sure it tasty!

This post is linked up at Sweet Sharing Monday!
Sweet Anne Designs - Sweet Sharing Monday

Weekly Menu 12/16 - 12/20

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After feeling as though I could fly right on past Thanksgiving and gear up for Christmas, now that its only a little over a week away, I'm finding myself less than prepared. I finally just two took items to the post office to be shipped...that I've had hanging around the apartment for over a month now. I've usually made quite a few dozen cookies by now and I'm no where near that. My holiday baking list resembles Santa's list of toys to deliver. I still have presents to wrap!

This is so unlike me. I'm going to blame it on the unseasonable temperatures. See, when we decorated and started getting into the Christmas spirit it was decently cold with the promise of colder weather to come. Then we got hit with a warm streak where temperatures neared the 70's for more than a few days. Granted there have been some cold days in between and I've needed to scrape the frost off my car more than once, it hasn't been consistent enough to return me to full-on Christmas. Which is probably why I've procrastinated so much. Not a good thing at all! 

Sunday - Pork Tenderloin with Gingered Cranberries, Wild Rice and Roasted Green Beans 

Monday - Shrimp Po' Boys

Tuesday - Chicken Fajitas

Wednesday - Vegetable Soup 

Thursday - Steak, Crab Cakes, Baked Potatoes and Salad 

Why so much on Thursday? Well, because its December 20th. You know, the day before the world is supposed to end according to the Mayans. Now while I really don't think we're all going to disappear or the earth is going to spontaneously combust, if there is even a 0.0000000001 chance that we're all going out on the 21st, I'm going out after eating a nice dinner. Or, I have some crab meat in the freezer that I need to use up soon. Whichever excuse you like better. 

Recipe Swap: Bleu Cheese and Roasted Apple Mashed Potatoes

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I was barely a teenager the first time I tried bleu cheese and I remember running to my drink and gulping down the contents wondering who in their right mind could eat a cheese so dry and pungent.

Since then, I've tried bleu cheese a few more times, over steak in an onion-bleu cheese sauce which I did enjoy, in a souffle when Tom and I visited Celebrity Kitchens which was incredible, and once again plain. It never became something I "liked" but if it was in a recipe I could at least eat it.

So I was a bit hesistant when Sarah sent me this recipe for the side dish swap. I instantly knew that Tom wouldn't like them as he's one of those strange people who thinks sweet and savory mixed together is gross. I decided to cut this recipe way down so in case we both didn't like it, I wouldn't need to throw any away.



Bleu Cheese and Roasted Apple Mashed Potatoes
Source: The Jey of Cooking, slightly adapted from Baked Bree
Servings: 2-3
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Ingredients:
    • 1 Gala apple, peeled and chopped
    • 1 lb. red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
    • olive oil
    • 2 tbsp. cream cheese
    • 2 tbsp. bleu cheese
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 1 tbsp. honey 
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 1 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
    • salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Place the apples in a piece of foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap up the foil, creating a packet. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until apples are soft.
3. Meanwhile, bring the red potatoes to a boil in a large pot of lightly salted water. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain.
4. Add the apples, cream cheese, bleu cheese, butter, honey, and milk. Mash until potatoes reach your desired consistency. Stir in half of the chives.
5. Transfer the potatoes to a baking dish and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the top is lightly golden. Top with remaining chives and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Now had I tried bleu cheese like this for the first time, maybe I would have been less hesitant to try it other ways. These mashed potatoes are absolutely decadent. I served them with steak, but they could easily pair with pork or chicken. Or hell, eat them alone as a meal. They are that good! Which is not something I expected to say. These would also be an incredible side dish for the holidays if you have an adventurous-eater family. Unfortunately I do not.

Spiced Pear Cake

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I feel like pears are a somewhat forgotten fruit. While you can find them year-round, I feel like they get overshadowed by apples and pomegranates in the fall and by all the different types of berries in the summer.

Sometime in November, a display of pears at the grocery store will catch my eye and I'll pick some up to be instantly reminded of just how much I really like pears. I love their scent more than anything, I even have pear-scented shampoo and body wash because the crisp clean smell is just intoxicating to me.

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about a spiced pear cake with icing, so I opted to leave off the icing in hopes of increasing the pear flavor. Let it be known that this is probably the ONLY time I'd ever say no to browned butter icing.



Spiced Pear Cake
Source: Recipe Girl
Servings: 1 loaf
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Ingredients:
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    • 2 medium pears, peeled, cored and chopped
    • 1 tbsp. sugar
    • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, milk and applesauce until combined. Pour the flour mixture into the bowl and whisk until just mixed.
4. In a small bowl, toss the pears with the sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg then gently fold into the batter.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the top. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before turning cake out onto a wire rack to continue cooling.

I couldn't believe how moist and flavorful this cake was. The pears weren't overcooked and provided just a nice amount of crunch. You could easily up that a bit by adding in some chopped walnuts or pecans, but I think it was great the way it was. 

Crinkled Grinch Cookies

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The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason. 

While the Grinch may be a bit obsessed with stealing Christmas, I'm a bit obsessed with The Grinch. It is hands-down my all-time favorite Christmas movie ever. The holiday season has not officially started until I can sit down and watch the Grinch. And unlike some people, I'm an equal-opportunity Grinch-ist. While I love the original cartoon version and it will always hold a special place in my heart, if only the Jim Carey remake is on, I'll still watch it. 

I could go on for days about my little Grinch...addiction, shall we call it, but we don't have time for that. Instead, I'll just tell you that when these cookies appeared in my reader my eyes lit up like that of a small child's and I printed out this recipe with such flourish, I accidentally printed three copies. 



Crinkled Grinch Cookies
Servings: ~2.5 dozen 

Ingredients:
    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
    • 15.25 oz. box vanilla cake mix
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup powered sugar
    • 1 tsp. cornstarch
    • green food coloring
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 
2. In a shallow dish (like a pie plate) stir together the powdered sugar and cornstarch. 
3. In a large bowl combine the melted butter, boxed cake mix and eggs. Stir until combined. (Mixture will be really thick)
4. Stir in the green food coloring. 
5. Use a spoon to drop a dollop of dough into the powdered sugar mixture. Spoon the powdered sugar over the dough until its completely coated then gently roll into a ball. Place on the prepared cookie sheet. 
6. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing the cookies at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 7-9 minutes. Let cool for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling. The cookies will deflate a bit as they cool. 

Yes, I realize this is just a vanilla cookie with green food coloring added in, but damn it, its almost the exact color of the Grinch! And think about how many adorable children you could feed these cookies to while reading them the story of the Grinch...

On second thought, you may not want to give any adorable children a sugar rush. They aren't quite as adorable during that time. 

Oh, and in case you are wondering, the majority of the Grinch items surrounding the cookies came from our trip to Valley View Farms.

Merry Grinchmas! 

12 Cookies of Christmas

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In addition to all of the cookies and other goodies that I've shared and plan to share for the rest of this month, I wanted to include 12 cookies I've previously made. You know, just in case you weren't amused by anything I've shared so far.

Let's first start off with the most delicious version of a Chocolate Chip Cookie I've ever had.

1. Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies



While it doesn't look pretty, the tastes are spot on.

2. S'mores Cookies



Because can you really turn down anything with "Nutella" in the title?

3. Nutella Cookies



Why would you only make cinnamon rolls for breakfast if you could also have them in cookie form?

4. Cinnamon Roll Cookies



Don't let the heart shape fool you into thinking they'd be better for Valentine's Day.

5. Peanut Butter & Jelly Heart Cookies



Cake batter should be enjoyed throughout the year. Plus you could use red and green sprinkles instead if you wanted to keep the with color-coordinated holiday thing.

6. Cake Batter Pudding Cookies


First, because they taste like a sugar marshmallow and second, because they appear to be difficult to make when they really aren't.

7. Meringue Cookies


I think they're better than the TastyKake version.

8. Shortbread Cookies



Because sometimes, you need to back away from the chocolate and enjoy some fruit.

9. Spiced Apple Cookies


And if apples aren't your thing, go for oranges.

10. Orange Drop Cookies


If you're like me and somehow always end up with a tiny bit of preserves or jelly left over.

11. Thumbprint Cookies 


And if you're either an oatmeal purist or you forgot to pick up raisins at the store.

12. Plain Oatmeal Cookies 



I hope I've inspired you to try out a new cookie. :)






Pumpkin-Mushroom Risotto with Prosciutto

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Luckily this is an adaptable recipe. As it's printed in Cooking Light magazine, its supposed to have shiitake mushrooms, pancetta and pine nuts. Although my closest grocery store usually carries those ingredients, they were oddly missing on the week I planned this recipe. I decided not to substitute the pine nuts with anything and just left them off. I think they'd probably provide a nice crunch to an otherwise soft dish if you're able to find them.



Pumpkin-Mushroom Risotto with Prosciutto
Source: Cooking Light, December 2012
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock 
    • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 cup onion, diced
    • 2 oz. prosciutto, sliced
    • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced 
    • 2 tsp. fresh sage, chopped
    • 1 cup arborio rice (or long-grain rice)
    • 1/2 cup white wine 
    • 1 cup pumpkin puree
    • 2 oz. mascarpone cheese
    • 1 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper 
Directions:
1. Add chicken stock to a saucepan and warm over low heat.
2. Spray some cooking spray in a large skillet and heat over medium. Add the mushrooms, onion, prosciutto and garlic. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the mushrooms have released their liquid.
3. Stir the sage and the arborio rice into the skillet. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently until the rice has absorbed the wine.
4. Stir in 1/2-3/4 cup of the chicken stock and continue stirring frequently until the rice has absorbed the stock. Repeat with remaining stock until you have 1/4 cup of stock left.
5. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the pumpkin, mascarpone, salt and crushed red pepper until combined, then stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken stock.
6. Divide risotto between 4 bowls and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

I wasn't sure what this was going to taste like, but it ended up being absolutely incredible. I wanted more than one serving! The pumpkin wasn't overwhelming and just paired really, really nicely with the prosciutto and mushrooms. 

weekly Menu 12/9 - 12/13

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I am just not feeling it today. Have you ever had one of those days where it seems to take all of the effort you have to do anything? That's me today.

Friday night I went out with some friends for karaoke. I didn't even sing, but that's besides the point. The steamed shrimp were super spicy, but good, and the mozzarella sticks which I haven't had in...I have no idea how long...were also quite tasty.

Saturday I woke up with a migraine and just feeling exhausted. Apparently its not a good thing for me to have 2 glasses of wine followed by 6 glasses of water. Yes, water. That thing that's supposed to make you feel better. Who knows what that was about. I dragged my butt out of the apartment to get a hair cut and go to the grocery store. Then we headed out to the viewing for my uncle. Which I guess was as a good as any viewing could go. I just watched tv when we got home last night.

And today I just feel blah again. I'm going to blame it on the weather. It's been gray and dreary since...Thursday, I think. I have a lot to do in the kitchen today so lets get right onto the menu:

Sunday - Steak with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Monday - Ham and Pineapple in the Crock Pot

Tuesday - Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza

Wednesday - Potato and Chorizo tacos 

Thursday - Minestrone

In addition to a ton of cookies that I need to make this weekend, I'm also planning on making some eggnog bread because well, it just sounded cool. :-p


Wild Rice, Mushroom and Celery Stuffing

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Stuffing or dressing? Which do you call it? I call it stuffing even though it wasn't put into any unpleasant places on a bird and then baked. Dressing just sounds funny to me. You aren't dressing the turkey with it. It's not clothing. Then again, unstuffed stuffing isn't that much better of a term either.

I need to create a new word for this. Any suggestions?

My aunt always makes a sweeter version and I prefer a more savory take as I like mine covered with gravy. I'd heard of wild rice and mushroom stuffings (or dressings) before but I decided to go against my usual of everything from scratch here and incorporated some quick cooking ingredients to speed this up a bit.



Wild Rice, Mushroom and Celery Stuffing
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 10
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Ingredients:
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter 
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 3 celery stalks, diced
    • 16 oz. mushrooms, chopped
    • 1 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1 tsp. black pepper
    • 1 package seasoned stuffing croutons
    • 1 package Uncle Ben's 90 second wild rice mix, cooked
    • 1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. thyme 
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth 
Directions:
1. In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
2. Combine the seasoned croutons and rice together in a large bowl. Add the mushroom mixture, sage, thyme and chicken broth. Stir until combined and the croutons are moistened.
3. Transfer to a large baking dish and bake for 40 minutes at 325.
*The stuffing can be prepared up to step 2, then covered and refrigerated overnight. If doing so, add 1/2 - 1 cup extra chicken broth before baking for 50 minutes.*

I thought this was pretty good but I would have preferred more mushrooms and for the rice and croutons to stick together more. I blame the croutons and think I'll go back to my original way of making stuffing which involves toasting and then dicing up a loaf of bread to mix into everything else.


Pear Honey Cranberry Sauce

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I know most people choose not to add cranberry sauce to their plates on Thanksgiving because they don't like the tart flavor so I went off in search of a recipe that was sweet enough I might be able to do some convincing to at least try it.

It  just so turned out that I had an extra pear in my basket of fruit so I immediately decided to choose this recipe.



Pear Honey Cranberry Sauce
Source: All Recipes
Servings: 5
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Ingredients:
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 pear, peeled cored and diced 
    • 6 oz. fresh cranberries
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
Directions:
1. Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Bring to a boil, then add pears, cranberries and honey. Reduce the heat to medium, stirring frequently for 3 minutes.
3. Continue cooking until the cranberries start to pop, about 5 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat, stirring in the lemon juice and zest. Lightly mash mixture with a potato masher.
5. Serve hot, or cool to room temperature then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Can be frozen for 1 month.

This definitely met my expectations of a sweeter cranberry sauce. The pears and honey mix wonderfully together. I think I may need to make up some more of this to use as a sandwich condiment. Or even just on some toasted bread. Its absolutely delicious! 

Caramelized Onion Dip

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When I was thinking about appetizers for Thanksgiving I knew I wanted to serve a dip that could be eaten at room temperature. On holidays, I like my appetizers to be as simple as possible since you typically need the oven and stove for the turkey and side dishes.

I found this recipe and thought it would be perfect since I could easily make it in advance.



Caramelized Onion Dip
Source: Whole Living
Yield: approximately 2 cups
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Ingredients:
    • 2 large vidalia onions, diced 
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
    • 6 oz. plain nonfat Greek yogurt, like Fage
    • 6 oz. reduced-fat sour cream
    • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
    • pinch of cayenne pepper
    • carrots, celery, crackers, for serving
Directions:
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and stir occasionally, letting them caramelized, about 40 minutes.
2. Transfer the onions to a bowl and let cool for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with salt.
3. Stir the Greek yogurt, sour cream and lemon juice into the onions until combined. Taste to see if you need to add more yogurt or sour cream.
4. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the top with cayenne pepper. Serve with vegetables, crackers, or chips.
* Dip can be refrigerated for 2 days before using.*

I couldn't believe how fast this dip went. Everyone was gathered around it, dipping in carrots, celery and crackers. I didn't think the caramelized onion flavor would really come through once it was cold, but I was surprised to find it did. The little sprinkle of cayenne added just a tiny kick of heat to really brighten this dip up. This will definitely be added to the make-again list! 

Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis

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As a child I was not a fan of meatloaf. We had it for dinner one night when I was around 6 years old and after taking a bite, I promptly declared to my mom that I "will never eat that again!" Clearly, I wasn't only a picky child but a dramatic one at that.

I just couldn't figure out why anyone in their right mind would form ground beef into a loaf shape, slather it with ketchup and bake it. To be completely honest, I still don't understand. I have a lot of word association issues that leads to my pickiness.

A loaf is reserved for bread. Nothing else should come in a loaf form, especially meat. It's just not okay. Scrapple is another issue. It has the word 'scrap' in it. How do people eat this stuff? I don't understand. And for as much as I love fruit, it took me years to eat fruit salad because I associate salad with lettuce and the thought of lettuce and fruit together is just nauseating to me. And there is your insight into the strangeness that is the Cookaholic Wife.

The first time I ever debated on trying meatloaf again was last year while watching an episode of The Next Food Network Star. Mary Beth made a meatloaf for some challenge and actually convinced me through the screen that it was worth trying. However, Food Network never published her recipe on their website so I gave up my interest in ever trying meatloaf again.

Then Cooking Light provided me with a recipe for a cheesy meatloaf in a mini form. The ketchup on top was still pretty unappealing, but it looked okay enough that I figured it was worth a shot to try it again.



Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis
Source: Cooking Light, November 2012
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 1 medium onion, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 cup bread crumbs, toasted
    • 1 1/2 lbs. very lean ground beef
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
    • 1/4 cup ketchup
    • 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
    • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
    • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
    • 1 tsp. dried oregano
    • 1 tsp. prepared horseradish
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. pepper 
    • 1/4 cup ketchup, for topping
Directions:
1. Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Heat over medium and add the onions and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft.
2. Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place a wire rack on top of the baking sheet and spray liberally with cooking spray. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients and mix until well combined.
4. Form into 6 loaves, about 4x2 each. Spread the remaining ketchup on top of the loaves.
5. Place the loaves on the prepared rack and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through.

Honestly, I was just "meh" about the meat loaf. It was edible but when I read the name "cheesy meat loaf minis" I expect there to be a significant amount of cheese. I would like to make these again and try stuffing them with cubes of cheddar or even a pepperjack cheese.

Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

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A couple of weeks ago this recipe was making the rounds through a message board of ladies I chat with frequently. I was immediately intrigued because I am a lover of all things cream cheese. I couldn't quite picture cream cheese in chili form especially made in a crock pot, but after hearing everyone else rave about it, I figured I needed to get it on the menu soon!



Cream Cheese Chicken Chili
Source: Plain Chicken adapted from Tried and Tasty
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 1 can corn, undrained
    • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 can Rotel 
    • 1 packet Ranch Dressing Mix
    • 1 tbsp. chili powder
    • 1 tsp. cumin
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • 8 oz. cream cheese
    • 2 chicken breasts, frozen or thawed
Directions:
1. Combine corn, beans, Rotel, Ranch, chili powder, cumin and onion powder together in a 4 quart crock pot. Add the chicken breasts to the crock pot and place the cream cheese on top.
2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
3. Stir cream cheese and shred chicken. Serve hot.

This was a lot better than I expected it to be. I'd prefer it with more corn and Rotel, but the flavors came through nicely and cream cheese in the crock pot is much better than I expected! 

Weekly Menu 12/2 - 12/6

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The beginning of December already. This year sure is flying by. Before you know it, it will be Christmas!

I maybe kinda went overboard in purchasing Christmas decor items this year. Our entertainment center looks like Christmas threw up on it. Both end tables have Christmas decor. The tree is fully decorated. The dining room table has some decorations. The hanging lights above the island in the kitchen are wrapped with ribbon. Above the kitchen cabinets there is a 10' strand of tree-like garland wrapped in ribbon and decorated with ornaments. We have a wreath on pretty much every available surface. Suction cups hold ornaments to the windows. Oh, and the entire apartment has white lights around the ceiling. I'm not even joking.

I'll have to take some pictures once its dark out again and share them with you. So, needless to say, aside from there being wrapped presents under the tree (which I plan to partly remedy today), we are more than ready for Christmas.

But that didn't stop us from visiting a Christmas wonderland yesterday when Tom's parents came to visit. If you're in my area, or even if you aren't, I highly suggest making a trip to Valley View Farms during the holiday season. They have every ornament you can possibly think of. And every type of light, garland, bow or star.

Since, of course, they had Grinch stuff and Tom and I are Grinch addicts, we maybe kinda added 4 more decorations to our already over-decorated apartment. But it was Grinch stuff! I also picked up ornaments that I think my mom and aunt will like.

After that adventure, we went across the street to grab some lunch at the Silver Spring Mining Company, which I also highly suggest visiting. Its kind of a no-brainer. You go and look at awesome Christmas decorations and then head across the street for a delicious lunch. I had strawberry sangria (yum!), some of a crab pretzel for an appetizer (delicious!) and a Crisfield burger sans ham with sweet potato fries for lunch. The burger is topped with cheese, crab, shrimp and some type of spicy sauce. Its incredible.

Then, because my mother-in-law is as much of a HomeGoods addict as I, we headed over there. I didn't intent to buy anything but that never works. A $15 snow globe, a $15 3-in-1 cupcake/mini cupcake/cake carrying pan, $3 set of Christmas dish towels, a $10 new bath rug and $5 worth of Toblerone candies later, I managed to make it out of the store.

Talk about an expensive Saturday! Here is the menu plan for this week. I'm pretty excited since its almost all new recipes to try out.

Sunday - Peppercorn Crusted Steak with Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes and Corn 

Monday - Pumpkin, Mushroom, Prosciutto Risotto 

Tuesday - Tomato-Basil Parmesan Soup 

Wednesday - Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Sauce, Roasted Red Potatoes and Green Beans 

Thursday - Spicy-Sweet Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry 

At some point today I need to make some cranberry apple bread that didn't happen last weekend and also some cookies that would be incredibly awesome for Christmas. I hope it all gets done! 
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