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I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions and I find myself nauseated by the onslaught of what seem to be overly dramatic New Year’s related posts as I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed. I don’t always enjoy all the “Best of 2012” articles or “My Year in Review” summaries, but maybe I’m just grumpy. However, on this first day of another year ahead, I can’t help but sit and reflect on where I am in my life, the things accomplished, and the dreams for the future. I can’t say that I know what to expect in this coming year but I do know that I am hopeful, optimistic, and excited about where my adventures are headed. This past year hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, things didn’t always turn out as I had hoped, I have had some real lows and a few painful disappointments, but in the words of my father-in-law, “It’s life.” You get the good with the bad, it’s a package deal, and I don’t expect anything less in this coming year.

One thing I know for sure is that I am blessed. And I actually mean it. I’m not trying to be cliché or trite or grossly sentimental. I am a very lucky girl! I have so many things to be thankful for and so many things to rejoice about. My life is not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but perfectly imperfect in so many ways and I am grateful. I do not wish to recap my whole year with you today nor do I want to give you a list of my accomplishments. I’m also not all that interested in sharing with you a bunch of resolutions I intend to keep in the new year. Instead, I want to share with you a few moments from the past few weeks that I am looking back on with a grateful heart…

Hard at work

Hard at work!

I spent an entire day in the kitchen, baking Christmas cookies with my mom. I love Christmastime, always have, always will, and nothing else marks the start of Christmas for me like holiday baking. My mom and I have always made Christmas goodies together, as far back as I can remember, and it’s one of my favorite traditions. We don’t always make the same recipes, it’s not always just the two of us, and sometimes scheduling can seem daunting but we always seem to work it out. This year especially, I cherished the quiet calm of just mom and me, baking dozens of cookies, trying to remember old recipes and looking up new ones (sampling as we went along), chatting about all the happenings of our lives, and sharing a moment in time together…then, watching my dad gobble up some of our bounty when he made it home from work!

Sweet Ashlyn Grace

Sweet Ashlyn Grace

I got to crawl around the floor, play in the snow, and chase my beautiful niece, Ashlyn, around my parents’ living room on Christmas day and for two days after! I don’t get to spend as much time with this sweet girl as I would like to and sometimes I get sad to think she doesn’t know her Auntie as well as she should. But for a few days, during my favorite time of year, we played together. She laughed and squealed and giggled, ran around in circles, had moments of total seriousness, played catch with my sweet puppy Nina, let me hug and kiss her, and I was in heaven.  She loved the little wagon we got her for Christmas and I watched her push it around with delight… it doesn’t get much cooler than that!

For New Year’s Eve this year, I spent the day doing some of my favorite things. I went up to Runyon Canyon with Eddie and Nina in the morning for some fresh air, exercise, and quality puppy time. Then, Eddie and I went to the movies and watched “This is 40” which made me literally laugh out loud (embarrassingly) more times than I can count. And instead of going out to some club or party for NYE festivities, we went to my in-laws’ house where we ate a home-cooked Mexican feast and then enjoyed our food coma, snuggled up by the fireplace. We “camped” with our nephews, sang at the top of our lungs, played the “quiet game” and “Simon says”, and laughed until we cried. At midnight, we shared big hugs and sent all the kids running to wish their parents a Happy New Year! Best. New Years. Ever!

NYE

These are the things I am remembering today, with a smile and a heart full or joy, and these are the things that will help me get through some of the harder moments. Like I said, I am a VERY lucky girl.

It’s National Cookie Day! No, I’m serious, it’s a real thing…I’m not just making it up. I Googled it! I don’t think it is the kind of holiday that people get to stay home from work in order to observe (although it should be) but it’s still pretty cool. I mean, I think the cookie deserves it, don’t you? So, in honor of National Cookie Day, I am going to talk about………drum roll………COOKIES! Whoo-ray!!!

I may have mentioned it once or twice (slight understatement…), but just to remind you, my faithful readers, I work a few odd jobs here and there to supplement my acting career. Well, one of the companies I work for is Califia Farms, a beverage company that makes Cuties Juice (yes, that’s juices and smoothies made with Cuties Tangerines) and Almondmilk, among other things. Check out their websites! I mostly do in-store demos (otherwise known as free samples) and special events, but recently I have been asked about incorporating the products in some of my recipes. This is what happens when your boss is also your friend…they invade your whole LIFE! (Just kidding, Sam. Love you!)

Anyway, a few weeks ago I went on a mission to find a cookie recipe that would use our Almondmilk and/or Cuties Juice. Once I found a few recipes that sounded yummy, I went shopping (for ingredients, not clothes or shoes) and then set to work baking. I made 3 recipes, which amounted to what felt like hundreds of cookies, over the course of about a week. Of course I HAD to sample the cookies to make sure they tasted good, but in order to save me from myself, I sent most of the cookies away! Left in my kitchen, I would have eaten them ALL, which wouldn’t have been good for anyone.

Although all 3 recipes were, honestly, delicious, there was one clear winner. The Chocolate Oatmeal Chews. Their chocolaty decadence was made even more perfect when I had the brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) of topping them off with a tangerine infused buttercream frosting. Voila! A yummy cookie recipe that incorporates both our Almondmilk and Cuties 100% Tangerine Juice. Success! I found the recipe in a Betty Crocker cookie book that I checked out of the library (because who needs to buy cookbooks anymore!) but I substituted the Almondmilk for regular milk and I just kind of made up the recipe for the tangerine buttercream. I also added chocolate chips, which wasn’t in the original recipe but it just felt right!

Before frosting...I forgot to get a picture of the final product.

Before frosting…I forgot to get a picture of the final product.

So to celebrate National Cookie Day, be adventurous and make some cookies to share with your friends or just keep to yourself, I won’t judge. At the very least buy a cookie somewhere and EAT IT! It’s a national holiday for cryin’ out loud!

 

Chocolaty Tangerine Oatmeal Cali Chews (Unofficial name)

*Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookie Book

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup Califia Farms Creamy Almondmilk

1 egg

2 2/3 cups quick-cooking oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 package of semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Tangerine Buttercream Frosting

 

Preheat oven to 350. Mix sugar, butter, Almondmilk, and egg in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Drop dough in tablespoon sized mounds onto cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until centers are slightly firm to the touch. Allow to cool 1 to 2 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Once the cookies are completely cooled, frost them with the Tangerine Buttercream.

Tangerine Buttercream

½  cup butter (softened)

2 cups powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon Califia Farms Creamy Almondmilk

1 tablespoon Cuties 100% Tangerine Juice

 

Blend all ingredients until smooth. You may need to adjust ingredients to taste and consistency.

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When I started planning my girlfriend Nicole’s baby shower with 3 of her other lady friends, I tried to act as nonchalant as possible when asking about the cake situation. See, I wanted to volunteer my help without squashing anyone else’s possible plans and without revealing how much I REALLY wanted to do the baking myself. I couldn’t let them know that I would have been CRUSHED if I hadn’t been allowed to make cupcakes! And when it was finally decided that I would take charge of this important aspect of the shower, I casually agreed while somewhere deep in my heart I was doing summersaults and screaming for joy!

I spent lots of time scouring my foodgawker page and searching for the perfect recipe, something fun and different but still super delicious. Finally, it came to me! Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes! I knew Nicole would love them and there were lots of inspiring recipes to be found. In the end, it was the recipe from Tidy Mom that won me over.

I have a suspicious feeling that I will have a new favorite cupcake recipe every time that I try something new because THIS IS THE BEST CUPCAKE RECIPE EVER! I know, I said that after I made my Irish Car Bomb cupcakes but, man! These Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes are out of this world and I was blown away by how much they actually tasted like cookie dough!

The process

I followed the recipe almost exactly as written, with only one exception. I added a little extra vanilla extract to the frosting (to taste) in order to cut the flavor of the condensed milk. It worked perfectly! I ended up with about half of the frosting and filling left over but I don’t think that I would use any more than I did, it was just the perfect amount of sweet as it turned out. Looks like I’m going to have to make another batch of cupcakes for someone this week!

My makeshift display at the shower

I was really happy with the way they turned out and they were a big hit at the shower! I won’t admit to the number of cupcakes I ate myself this weekend but let’s just say I’m afraid of what this baking hobby of mine is going to turn me into! But hey! I work out, right?

I think it is time for another food blog. And when I say food blog, I mean dessert blog because this weekend I made some of THE most amazing cupcakes I have ever tasted (if I do say so myself)! Though I can’t take credit for the recipe (because I found it through foodgawker), I will take credit for following the recipe and making one pretty and super delicious dessert. They just might be my best EVER! I’m not joking, this is serious.

My yummy creations!

I had been looking forward to making these grown-up cupcakes for about a month. I came across the recipe for Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes during one of my regular “foodgawking” sessions and was instantly excited. Not because I am the type of person to get super excited about St. Patrick’s Day but because last year two of my very dear friends were MARRIED on March 17th!! This event turned the whole day into a celebration and turned me into a fan of this bizarre green holiday.

Last year, Eddie and I joined our friends Luke and Sam at the Norwalk courthouse on a cool and foggy morning to witness their exchange of vows and commitment to love each other always. This was followed by a Champagne brunch with friends and later a fabulous dinner with MORE friends before we took to Hollywood Blvd for some St. Patrick’s Day festivities! We ended up in a crowded little bar, with an Improv show in the other room that none of us watched, and toasted to Luke and Sam over a couple (and maybe a few too many) Irish Car Bombs. In case you are not familiar, this is a yummy cocktail that consists of a shot of Irish whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream dropped into a half pint of Guinness. In know, right?!

So, what better way to honor their first year of marriage than with a batch of commemorative Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes!?! A chocolately Guinness infused cake with a bittersweet whiskey ganache filling and Bailey’s buttercream frosting… my mouth is still watering!I hope that they enjoyed the treats as much as I enjoyed making (and “tasting”) them. Who knows, maybe this will be the start of a new tradition! I certainly wouldn’t mind enjoying these decadent little cakes every year!

I’m not copying the whole recipe but click here to check it out (and the blog it came from).  I literally followed it step by step, iPhone in hand, with only one exception…

I used twice the amount of Bailey’s Irish Cream in the frosting!

Me

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August 2017
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