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Top 14 Posts of 2014

I can't believe it is almost 2015!  Really just crazy to think that 2014 has come and gone in what seems to be the blink of an eye.  I was reviewing my "Facebook year in review" compilation they put together for you and 2014 was really quite an amazing year.  My husband and I both started new jobs at the beginning of the year.  Several of my friends had or are about to have adorable little babies.  After years and years of talking about it, we finally went to Europe for vacation and it was amazing!  And my little sister got married.  

It has been a fun year of blogging too!  While I did take a bit of a hiatus while life was a bit busy, there have been a lot of great new recipes added to the "recipe book".  Also, some new kinds of posts this year including some fun lists about Columbus.  So, without further adieu, the top 14 posts of 2014...

broccoli chicken alfredo pizza

1. 40 Things to Do in Columbus When It's Cold or Rainy
2. Summer Bucket List - 20 things to do in the Cbus
3. Salted Caramel Mocha Brownies
4. Broccoli Chicken Alfredo Pizza
5. Creamy Salmon Pasta
6. Grilled Asparagus and Poached Egg
7. Creamy Springtime Pasta
8. Green Yakisoba
9. 26 Easy Vegetarian Recipe Roundup
10. Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Granola Bars
11. Seared Scallop Alfredo
12. Rosemary Chicken
13. Grilled Caesar Salad
14. Veggie Calzone

chocolate covered peanut butter granola bars salted caramel mocha brownies

Throughout the year, the Columbus related posts have remained the most read posts of the year.  So, while this is a recipe blog, there may be some more Columbus posts coming your way in 2015.  Stay tuned!



And of course the number one post of the year...

Thanks for reading and have a happy New Year!!!  *cheers*

Top 13 Recipes from 2013
Top 12 Recipes from 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and time with family over the holiday weekend!  Ours was pretty laid back considering we started the Christmas celebrations three weeks ago.  Of course, once Christmas is over, then comes the realization that the year is almost over as well.  Still can't believe it!  2015 is only a few days away, so I started thinking about what my New Year's resolution could be.

Now I know resolutions are hard to keep and it seems silly that there is so much focus on "becoming a better person" for one day out of the entire year, but I am a goal setter, so I like them.

picture from

Here is a list of the top ten New Year's resolutions made every year...

1. Lose Weight
2. Getting Organized
3. Spend Less, Save More
4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5. Staying Fit and Healthy
6. Learn Something Exciting
7. Quit Smoking
8. Help Others
9. Fall in Love
10. Spend More Time with Family

You know what resolution would cover over half of these?  Meal planning!  I've been planning meals at the beginning of each week for about five years now and can say that there are tons of benefits to getting organized and cooking at home.  

1. Save Money - Because you're not eating out and when you go to the grocery store, you know exactly what you need (saves time wandering around too).
2. It's Healthier - Chances are good that you don't have a deep fryer at home.  Also, since you know what is going into the food you're eating you will probably think a little more about it.
3. Spend Time with Family - Eating around the kitchen table is 100 times better than eating on the go.  Savor your food and the conversation!
4. Knowing the answer to "What's for dinner?" - Ugh, I used to hate that question!  My response was always "food" because I didn't know yet.  Now I just point to this week's meal plan.  :)
5. Learn New Things - When I started meal planning, I was a beginner level cook at best.  You learn as you go.  Your meals get better, fancier... soon people are wanting your recipes and asking you to cook at their house.

To make it easier, I'm working on some curated meal plans for you... with organized grocery lists!  There will be a couple categories to choose from... 30 minutes or less (all recipes are quick and easy), vegetarian, and seasonal.  Each meal plan will have six meals and a weekend breakfast recipe.  And the first three are ready for you!

Chocolate Cherry Bombs - total time 50 minutes

Chocolate Cherry Bomb

I looove cookies... but seriously, I need a break from them right now.  Too many Christmas cookies!  

So we were running through the produce section of our grocery store the other day (really just to grab some lettuce for tacos) and I noticed cherries.  I have always associate cherries with summer.  Cherries are the kind of fruit you can't have year-round in the produce department, so I looked into it, and it is currently the Southern hemisphere's cherry season (makes sense)!  I guess Australians associate cherries with Christmas, which made me think... Christmas is really different down under, wearing shorts in the height of summer season and celebrating Christmas... strange thought!

Any way... there are a lot of birthdays around Christmas and I have been thinking about making cake pops, but instead of a pop, a cherry stem.  So I grabbed a bag of cherries and made these super rich and chocolaty cherry bombs!  And I mean they are really gooood.  This is coming from someone who doesn't typically like chocolate cake or cherries... but these are the bomb!  (Haha... pun intended!)

Just so you know, the stems are a little finicky.  I really wanted mine to look like little cherry bombs, so I tried my hardest to keep the stem on throughout the process (specifically when dipping them in the chocolate).  These would be just as delicious balled up without the stem or even put a pop stick in them.

So before your New Years resolutions are set, get in one last indulgence!

Triple Almond Cookies - total time 1 hour

Almond Cookies

Happy Winter Solstice!  It was actually sunny today, but it has already been dark for hours (it is making me so tired).  The darkest day of the year means the more sunshine in every day after!  :)

Hope you're wrapping up on your holiday related shopping, baking, and giving, we just celebrated Christmas with my husband's family over the weekend.  I was planning on making my mom's famous "melting moments" cookies made with almond extract.  It took so long for her to share her recipe with me since it is one of those family secrets you just can't share willy nilly.  I looked through my old recipe box that holds tried and true recipes I wrote down before I started this blog and before I had my recipe binder... I could not find the recipe!

At that point I had it in my head that I needed to make these cookies, I could almost taste them.  During our vacation in Europe, I realized I pretty much love any almond related pastry!  So I had to make some kind of almond cookie... came up with this recipe... and it was a hit at our early Christmas... and since it isn't a family secret recipe, I can share it with you!

These cookies have three different almond layers to make sure to satisfy that almond craving!  It starts with the crumbly, almondy, shortbread-like cookie.  Inside is a pocket of almond paste (new discovery!) that gives the cookie that soft, almost gooey center I love in cookies.  And to finish it off with an almond sugar glaze.  If you like almond, you'll love these cookies!  (Then try it with coffee!)

Weekly Menu

I didn't post a menu last week because we were basically out for dinner all week!  In between all of the dinners out, we managed to decorate our house.  Fully loaded Christmas trees have been taking up most of my newsfeed since Thanksgiving.  We don't have a ton of decorations (but perhaps using my mom's house as a comparison is unfair since she goes a little overboard) so it didn't take too long, but it really feels like Christmas officially.  

And, good thing it feels like Christmas... because we already had one!  Over two weeks early, I know.  After opening gifts, we headed to Ohio Village for Dickens of a Christmas, a tradition we started back in the early '90s.  Everything in Ohio Village is like it was in Ohio back in 1860.  My favorite part is the carolers singing in town hall all dressed up in period clothing singing carols from back in the day (with no mention of Santa Claus).  Then for some hot cocoa and chestnuts roasted over an open fire, we walk around the village seeing how thing were back in the day.  Dickens of a Christmas is only open two weekends in December, so check it out this weekend!

This week is going to be just as busy starting with going to the Lindsey Stirling concert with my parents in a few hours.  

Love all of the time with friends and family lately, but need some home cooked meals in my life again.  So I was busy yesterday prepping some food for lunches this week and making some homemade granola for breakfast.  We'll be home for dinner three nights this week, so here is our mini menu of quick meals...

chicken fajitas
shrimp po' boys
stuffed shells

And then trying to get some Christmas baking in this week too!

Chestnuts Roasting Over and Open Fire Ohio Village Carolers
Ohio Village Hand Pies

She is making little berry hand pies and baking with lard!

O Christmas Tree Christmas mantle

Snoop is confused why there is a fake pine tree inside the house (and then warming his butt by the fire).

Top 5 Cookies to Make for Christmas

Top 5 Christmas Cookie Recipes

I can't believe Christmas will be here next week!  The season has really flown by (as did much of the year) and now I'm rushing around to buy meaningful gifts for everyone on our list.  At least the tree is up and our house is modestly decorated (compared to my mom's house, where people take tours of the Christmas explosion).  And now it is time to bake...

Most people think of those hard press cookies or sugar cookies decorated like Christmas trees when they think of Christmas cookies.  I'm pretty selective about my desserts, might as well get the most enjoyment out of those sugary treats, and shortbread and sugar cookies don't make the cut for me.  Instead, I make the cookies I prefer, but a little holiday twist on them, and it turns out, other people like them too.  So here are five non-traditional Christmas cookies that you'll actually enjoy.

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip
There is no question these are holiday cookies when you add some green M&Ms to the dough.  Red and green... check... delicious and soft... check!

Thick Mint Cookies
Ditch the dull candy canes and opt for these chocolate mint cookies instead.  Kind of inspired by the Thin Mint Girl Scout cookie, these pack even more flavor.

Buckeye Bark
Maybe it is an Ohio thing, but buckeye candies are expected every Christmas.  They aren't hard to make, but they are pretty tedious.  Try Buckeye Bark instead and save yourself time in the kitchen.

Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip
Mmm... Nutella!  Just think of biting into the perfect chocolate chip cookies with an ooey gooey chocolate center.  These really don't have much to do with Christmas.  It is the fact that they are the best cookies ever that gets them on this list.

Cake Batter
Hold the fruit cake, we're talking buttery yellow cake.  These cookies stay so soft for days and days!  Which makes it the perfect cookie to pack in a tin and take it from this party to that gathering.  Add the red and green chips to make them festive.  :)

Have fun baking!

5 Tips to Keep the Winter Weight Off (without depriving yourself)

Tis the season of cookies, candy canes, and over eating.  With all the temptations and not enough time to work up a sweat, it is easy to pack on the lbs during the holiday season. 

After day three of being sore from my workout at the Dance Factory, I realized I had not worked out in over three months!  Quite a long stretch!  The ironic thing is... I actually lost weight during those three months.  Now I am not advocating to stop all physical activity... and I'm also not a licensed nutritionist by any means... but I have a few tips on healthier eating that can help keep the winter weight off even if you don't have time to get to the gym with your busy holiday schedule.

1.  Don't deprive yourself.  I have the worst sweet tooth.  I can't help it, I need something sweet, like all of the the time!  My go to sweet tooth solution is gum since it stays sweet for a while.  If gum doesn't work, I like to go with fresh fruit.  I know, I know... fresh fruit will not fix most cravings, which is why I usually pair a banana with a spoonful of peanut butter and some dark chocolate chips.  Totally satisfying, filling, and not bad for you.  If that doesn't work for you, then try eating ONE cookie or ONE small scoop of ice cream.  If you give yourself a small serving and put it away, you're less likely to keep eating after your sweet tooth is satisfied.  But if you don't give yourself a little bit, eventually you'll cave, eat too much, and feel guilty.

2.  Eat only when you're hungry.  This can be a tricky one during the holidays... well... any time really.  When you're eating with family or going out to dinner with friends, you feel obligated to eat full entrees with them even when you're not hungry.  Opt for a side like a baked potato or side salad, then you can have a small meal at home when you are actually hungry.  Also, we tend to eat based on a specific schedule or when it is most convenient to eat.  Just because it is noon doesn't mean you have to eat lunch.  And have a healthy snack easily accessible, like an apple or carrot sticks, so you don't feel tempted to go to the nearest vending machine.

3.  Cook as much as you can at home.  My guess is that you don't own a deep fryer.  That cuts out some of the most unhealthy food out there!  Cooking at home doesn't mean you're a slave to the kitchen.  In fact, the healthiest food is usually the quickest to prepare!  Don't be scared of spices either... they add tons of flavor without adding calories.  Also, make more than you plan on eating, then set it aside for lunch the next day so you don't go back for seconds.

4.  Change your mindset.  This one is probably the hardest and will take time to work on, but think about what you are eating as fuel for your body, because that is exactly what it is!  Do you think you're body will perform better with a side of steamed broccoli or fried potatoes.  Think about the nutrition involved.  But also keep it balanced.  Don't deprive yourself.  Obviously a full plate of raw vegetables is great for you, but if that's what you eat everyday, you will either hate eating or eat an entire cake in one sitting.  If you have something like croque du riesling, keep it to a small portion size and balance it with a salad.

5.  Speaking of salads, make a healthy salad!  Too often we drown our salads in dressing and cheese, but consider it a healthy meal because it is a salad afterall.  Well, not all salads are healthy.  My favorite salad to make at the salad bar includes mostly spinach and mixed greens, then I top it with some sunflower seeds, feta cheese, bell pepper slices, bean sprouts, and just a little bit of crumbled bacon.  I gradually cut out using dressing.  I realized I didn't need it to enjoy my salad if I had the right mix.  Everyone's mix will be different, but there is always a way to make your healthy choices healthier.

Those are my top five tips to keep in mind this holiday eating season.  Enjoy the time with friends and family, but keep the pounds at bay.  Swim suit season is just around the corner (or at least that's what I keep telling myself every time I bundle up to go outside)!


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