Christmas Countdown Is On

I’m a little concerned it’s already December 18.  This time of year goes the fastest and some people probably like that but I like to savor it all.  But who’s to say I can’t keep celebrating past Christmas?  Maybe it’s not readily available but I can buy peppermint candies all year round and make my own mochas.

I watched a bunch of Christmas movies while wrapping my presents over the weekend.  I can honestly say it took me about 6 hours…not really complaining!

The past week involved tons of great food.  I tried a bunch of new recipes and with a few tiny tweaks, I’d say they were mostly all keepers.

I broke out my Gwyneth cookbook.  Cherry tomatoes and arugula were in my fridge and they needed to be used. It’s full of good, Whole food and love the variety of recipes.)img_6752.jpgI could have ate the entire bowl of them.  I’ve roasted tomatoes before but the ratio of EVOO was just perfect.  I only used the below recipe for them, not the rest that’s mentioned.

IMG_6750Seriously.  Look at them!  Perfectly blistered and browned.IMG_6748I had some smoked salmon so I really wanted to incorporate that as the protein.  For a dressing I used this one just with balsamic vinegar instead of red wine, only because that’s what I had in the house.  It made a lot so I’ve had extra dressing all week!img_6763.jpg

My favorite part might have been the sour cream corn bread.  I used Ina’s recipe from Make it Ahead and fell I love with it.  I substituted coconut palm sugar instead and gluten free flour!img_6772.jpg Forget what you think about dry, crumbly cornbread.  This is not that at all.  It’s moist and soft and did not need any topping to be delicious.  Ina recommends butter and strawberry jam!  She also said you could could toast it but mine fell apart a little.  However, warmed up was amazing.

It was a nice carb addition to the salad.  We all need it.  IMG_6780

A few days later I still had sour cream leftover and needed a reason to use it.  My brilliant idea was to use it in scones.  It’s been awhile.  I was on a huge scone kick awhile back and love the way sour cream or buttermilk change the texture.  This was my one recipe semi-failure… let’s say #Pinterestfail.

I laid out all my ingredients but somehow forgot to add the brown sugar.  Now, if you know scones, they’re not meant to be very sweet so these are still edible but I had planned on giving them as a thank you present.  Yeah, that wasn’t happening.  I have standards.  I did eat one for breakfast with coffee anyway!  I added chopped dates and pecans and will try these again one day.  After Christmas!

After that debacle, I was out of butter so I found an interesting cookie using olive oil.  Now, I really liked these.  I’m not sure what everyone else thinks since they are definitely different.  The fleur del sel and olive oil added a gourmet depth that most cookies don’t have. I think I’d leave about 1/4 cup of sugar out next time.  They were pretty darn sweet.  or maybe use bittersweet chocolate chips!  fimg_6875.jpgMy last little culinary experience involved a greattttt cappuccino and a gluten-free peanut butter chocolate free cake.  As much as I love coffee, I’m a little boring sometimes and stick with black.  This cappuccino was down right wonderful.  The cake was good too, but I totally could have just eaten the peanut butter mousse layer in the middle and I would have been sold! (The capp was much prettier before I took a sip!)IMG_6869

7 Days until Christmas!

~Whitney Victoria

Chocolate Chunk Blondies and

Excerpt from my cappie horoscope, courtesy of and the AstroTwins.  “For a mystical twist, play a game of bibliomancy. Pick a book, open to a “random” page and read the passage as if it was a tarot card. It may contain an important message for your day.”

I’m totally doing that soon!  Books give us wisdom and let us inside someone else’s mind. Even nonfiction stories get us thinking like we normally wouldn’t.

Ready for some blondie action?  I made these last week.




I had two huge epiphanies because of these little babies.

1. Ina Garten is a Hamptons baking goddess.  (Sugar-free be damned!)

2. Blondies beat brownies. Every single time.

My cookbook stand I got as a Christmas present from my aunt a few years ago is used literally every day.  I actually keep it up on my counter with a favorite cookbook out.  Currently, it’s open to the same Barefoot contessa volume, but to the Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting recipe.  You act like I’m into Fall or something!?  I like to celebrate anything I can.  img_5104.jpg

This recipe is super easy.  Most of Ina’s are straightforward but I was still a little surprised at just how simple and tasty these bars were.  I guess I should have been tipped off by it being in Ina’s “Foolproof” cookbookIMG_5105Some white sugar and brown sugar were creamed with butter.  Mixing two types of sugar brings a depth to the sweet taste of the blondies.  All brown sugar, and the molasses would overwhelm the other flavors.  Just white sugar leaves it a little one-note.  IMG_5107

I usually use Enjoy Life chocolate chips or Nestle semi-sweet morsels.  I really wanted to find “chunks” not chips.  There’s something more decadent to the bigger pieces than the dainty little chips.  However, no chunks were to be found.  I ended up trying Ghiradelli baking chips.  They were good, melting just how I wanted them to, but I still prefer my other two brands.  These were a little too sweet for me, at least when I’m going for “semi-sweet.”  Have you seen that size bag, though??  It was like lugging around a newborn baby.  IMG_5130

I deserve a prize for not eating one lick of batter!  I did eat a chocolate chip or two…fullsizeoutput_1db6

The recipe had a crazy weird shaped pan and I didn’t have one even close to that.  Er’er go, two round cake pans.  I eyeballed it and split the batter in half, then smoothed the tops.  My Donna Reed vibe was unintentional but I went with it.IMG_5133

Because of my strange pan choice, I had to cut the edges for purely aesthetic reasons but don’t worry!  They did not go to waste.  I polished off the baggie full of cookie crusts in two days.

Mmm, straight out of the oven.  Golden, butter-crackled, crust. Walnuts and chocolate peeking out.fullsizeoutput_1db5You really can’t skip the step of letting it cool completely if you want any chance at cutting the blondies into pretty bars.

I think we’ve discussed my need for individual foods.  You can very well leave your blondies in the pan and cut as you go.  I just love the grab and go option with cupcake liners.

Up close and personal, they look even better.  img_5149.jpgDon’t judge my cutting skills.  I know they’re all over the size map. Someday I’m taking a knife skills class to learn how to get beautifully uniform mirepoix.   img_5145.jpg

That’s the last one that made it home with me!  It was thoroughly enjoyed as part of my Saturday morning breakfast.  Duh, of course I eat baked goods for meal one.  Just not every day.  I highly recommend warming them up for a maybe 15 seconds and putting some ice cream on top.  I did not do this at breakfast but that wold have happened if I thought of it before they were gone!img_5372.jpg

Tell me if you try the recipe!  What are your favorite chocolates to use in baking?

~Whitney Victoria