Is Christmas Really Over?

Hey friends! I hope you all had a WONDERFUL Christmas week! Although Christmas has again come and gone, I am really enjoying celebrating the season in any way that I can. In addition to celebrating with my family all week, my celebrations  included a Christmas get-together with several high school friends of mine. I may or may not have mentioned this before, but I attended an all-girl high school, and it was one of the best experiences of all my life. I’m still very close with almost all of my high school friends (several are in my wedding party!)  and a  couple of weeks ago, we all realized we would all be in town and available on the same night (a rare occasion). Obviously, we decided to have a little Christmas party and gift exchange! We all brought appetizers and drinks, gifts for a gift exchange, and hungry stomachs! photo 2 (16)

For the party, I prepared a couple of appetizers: one was a no-cook appetizer, featuring gorgonzola cheese and a fig jam Derek picked up for me at a farmer’s stand in Alabama a couple of weeks back. The easy no-cook appetizer came together like this:

Ingredients

24 pieces of crostini (I bought mine from Publix Bakery)

1/2 cup of fig jam

6 oz.  gorgonzola cheese

Directions

Spread fig jam on each crostino. Next, spread gorgonzola (or just top with gorgonzola if using crumbled cheese) on top of fig jam. Serve at room temperature.

Easy enough, right?

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Because the get-together was being held at Derek’s house, I wanted to make use of the oven and prepare something a little heartier than crackers and cheese for all of my friends. I found the following recipe on Food Network and prepared my flatbread with  the homemade dough we use for pizza, instead of store purchased.

Directions
On a floured surface, roll out 1 pound refrigerated pizza dough into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle; press into an oiled rimmed baking sheet. Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary and/or oregano, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and a big pinch of sea salt. Brush half of the herb oil over the dough, then set aside until puffy, about 1 hour. Make dimples in the dough with your fingers and top with thin onion slices and shaved parmesan. Bake at 400 until golden, about 20 minutes. Brush with the remaining herb oil.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/onion-herb-focaccia-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

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I couldn’t get enough of any of the dishes that the girls brought, including my fair share of cheese and jam, artichoke dip, stuffed mushrooms, and a delicious rosemary + fruit Sangria!
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After we ate at the house and exchanged gifts, the only appropriate thing to do next was go get the best dessert in town. We ended our night with chocolate and drinks at Harry Waugh Dessert Room at Bern’s Steakhouse. If you are ever in Tampa, you have to check this place out. The Dessert Room is on the 2nd floor of the steakhouse, and guests are seated at tables in massive redwood wine barrels. It sounds weird, but it’s perfect. photo 3 (16)

This holiday break has also given me plenty of time to attend some group fitness classes (ahem, Bodypump) go on long runs with Derek, and just veg around the house. Some of my favorite things to do!

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And I really hope to be able to spend some more time in the kitchen while life is a little more slow-paced than usual!

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Photo Share 12/18 and Chinese Chews by Spaniards

Hi friends! How are you all? Please bear with me because I promise this post will be all over the place! I know this is a little out of the ordinary that I am posting a photo share in the middle of the week, but I realized I never got around to one of my favorite weekly Monday posts, and better late than never, right?! Plus, part of my weekend included baking up a storm with my Abuela, and I wanted to share one of my favorite Christmas cookies with you guys. They are called Chinese Chews, and my Abuela has been making them since she learned the recipe in Home Ec. class she took in college almost 70 years ago. Yes, she has been making these cookies for SEVENTY YEARS – so you know they’re delish!

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Chinese Chews

Ingredients

1 c dates

1 c walnuts

2 eggs

1 c sugar

¾ c flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 stick of butter

Directions

In a large bowl, mix dates, walnuts, and a well-beaten egg. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, flour and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to first mixture. Melt butter and add to the combined mixture.

Pour the batter into a greased pan and bake at 350 degrees until brown (about 15-20 minutes for my oven). Remove from oven, let cool a bit (but not completely) for several minutes, and form into balls. Roll balls in sugar or powdered sugar.

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Pack them up and pass them out to your favorite friends and family 😉

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Rewinding a little further back from our afternoon in Abuela’s kitchen.. I spent the entire weekend with my parents and it was awesome! Derek was out of town for the weekend to attend his sister Davis’ graduation in Auburn (yay DAVIS!!!), so it gave me several days to catch up with my family.

The picture below basically sums up my weekend. Shopping with Mom and Dad – I begged them to bring Lou since we were shopping in Hyde Park (a very dog friendly environment!!!)
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Dad got stuck with the awesome job of holding Louie while Mom and I shopped. At least Pottery Barn was considerate enough to provide him with a place to sit back and relax!

photo 4 (9)Some delicious (if I do say so myself) butternut squash and black bean enchiladas. BOY OH BOY did these HIT. THE. SPOT. as enjoyed them while we watched our man, Jameis Winston, win the Heisman on Saturday night! I can’t wait to share this recipe with you later this week!

photo 1 (5)A Christmas Mani. Because how else do you expect me to look at my fingers at work every day before Christmas unless said fingers are festive?!

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A treat I have been enjoying recently out of Santa’s head is almond milk dark hot chocolate! I have a hot mug of this almost every night – and it’s even (somewhat) healthy!

And one of my FAVORITE pictures from the last week….photo 1 (13)Derek and I have a Christmas tradition of an ornament exchange every year. We typically have the exchange 1-2 weeks before Christmas, sitting by the tree, with a mug of hot chocolate.. This year was a special year, as we got our first house and I got Louie! Derek and I both surprised each other with custom made ornaments – I got him one modeled after our first home, and Derek got me Louie’s face painted on an acorn 🙂 This year’s ornaments are definitely my favorite!!!

I hope you all have a wonderful rest of the week  – only 7 days left until Christmas, let’s enjoy this joyous season while it’s right in front of us!

Spotlight on: Junior League of Tampa + Bunco Jumble Recipe

Hi everyone, I hope you all are doing well! My oh my I am getting so excited for Christmas next week and all the festivities that go along with the joyous holiday. I love all the gatherings of friends and family that occur during the holiday season, and I’m looking forward to several get-togethers with friends, both after work this week and this coming weekend!

As you may have read on the blog before, I’m a provisional member of the Tampa chapter of The Junior League. Joining The Junior League this year has given me so many opportunities to volunteer in the community in ways that I didn’t know were available to me, as well as meet some wonderful young women. The Junior League of Tampa’s mission is to “promote volunteerism, develop the potential of women, and improve communities through effective action and leadership of trained volunteers”.

One way in which the Junior League mission is funded is through sales of our award-winning cookbooks. In addition to the classics, The Gasparilla Cookbook and Tampa Treasures, JLT released a Culinary Collection featuring 4 unique volumes. I found the following recipe in Volume 1 – Life of the Party, and absolutely LOVED this mostly sweet, and a little bit salty, party treat! I prepared it for a Junior League holiday party that took place last week, and plan to make it again this holiday season.

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Ingredients

1 box of mini Ritz peanut butter sandwiches

1 cup dry roasted peanuts

1 bag mini pretzel sticks (12 oz.)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1 bag mini or regular M&M’s

Mix the sandwich crackers, peanuts and pretzels in a large roasting pan. heat the sugar, butter and corn syrup in a pan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in vanilla and baking soda. Pour over cracker mixture, stirring to coat well. Bake at 250 for 45 minutes, stirring mixture every 15 minutes. Remove to waxed paper to let cool completely. Add the chocolate candies. Break up the mixture into small pieces as needed.

Makes handfuls of fun”

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A Hungry Girl’s Favorite Week + Photo Share 11/25

Hi strangers! I have missed you all so much the past few days! How has everyone been? I am SO excited that Thanksgiving is almost here – I can barely control myself! Does it get any better than an entire day filled with food, family, and a little bit of football? The special traditions every family has during the holidays is probably my favorite part of it all. My dad and I always run a Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning, and then go home and watch the Macy’s Day Parade with my mom. It’s one of my favorite mornings of the year, and I’m excited Derek will be spending it with us this year!

This weekend was a wonderful kick-off to the holidays, and I’m grateful to have spent so much time with family and friends the past few days. 

As usual, I’m going to share my weekend with you guys in my favorite fashion – through pictures, of course!

Friday evening after work, Derek and I kicked off the weekend with a short 3 mile run. Derek has been crazy busy working the past few weeks, and our runs have been a great time for us to catch up and have some time to do nothing but talk to each other. One of my favorite parts of running is the time I get to spend with the people I’m running with – whether it is Derek, my dad, or a friend, it’s always great to share that special time with someone!

After our run, when we were having the typical “I don’t care – you pick where we go to dinner” conversations, our indecisive struggle was put to an end when we got a call from Derek’s mom inviting us over for Mexican Soup! I know I’ve said it a million times before, but I love her cooking and could never turn it down. We quickly cleaned up and headed over to spend the evening over there.

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Dinner was DEEELISH as usual, and I spent the rest of the night cuddling on Sam…
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And enjoying way too much Yogurtology. Is that even a thing? Too much Yogurtology? Probably not. aaaa

We also had fun watching Ben watch the Season 2 finale of Homeland (the best show in the history of television). If you’ve never watched Homeland, I cannot recommend that show enough. Please, do yourself a favor, get Showtime, and go watch it!! aaaaaa

After a 30 minute elliptical sesh (I really don’t love that thing), and a CXWorx class, I spent the day with my parents and Louie on Saturday! I helped them decorate the house for Christmas, and they returned the favor by helping me at Derek’s house! I’m feeling super thankful for my parents this week (and every week, for that matter)!
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We spent Saturday evening with Derek’s parents and neighborhood friends at a neighborhood shrimp boil! This was only my second shrimp boil (remember my first?) and it really made me wonder why we don’t do shrimp boils more often. We had such a fun night eating too much shrimp + cornbread muffins and drinking way too much wine.
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Speaking of wine.. I was pretty worried that I shouldn’t have had those few glasses of wine the night before the longest run of my life so far. But, surprisingly, our 12 mile training run on Sunday was my most enjoyable long run yet. I’m amazed at what a real training plan can do for you. Each week my body feels more and more comfortable with longer distances – I never thought I would be someone to run 12 miles and enjoy it, but I’m really glad it’s developed that way! Our half marathon is in 12 days, and I’m so excited for the day to finally get here.
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Don’t worry, Louie only came with me the last 1/2 mile – which probably was the most distracting half mile of my life.

I was so excited on Sunday when I got an invite to come to a “Friendsgiving” at our friends’ Gabby and Maggie’s house. The party was a hit, and it was such a lovely way to get in the mood for Thanksgiving. We all love spending the holidays with family, but I’m so happy the “Friendsgiving” tradition has started, because I love that I get to celebrate being thankful for all my awesome friends!bb

The food. was. so. good. I’m going to need a couple of recovery days for my stomach to shrink back to normal size from all the delicious appetizers, turkey, stuffing, potatoes, mac n cheese, delicious salad and corn casserole we ate. Oh and then came dessert. It was really a hungry girl’s dream come true.food food2

I brought a new-to-me dish to the party – pimento cheese balls rolled in toasted pecans. I can’t wait to share the recipe with you guys! bbbbbbbbb

And one of my favorite parts of the party was the “what I’m thankful for” props to take pictures with. Please note: Will Ferrell, Natty Lite, Jameis Winston, Chick Fil A… Not pictured: DVR, Publix BOGO (THE GREATEST). These girls hit the nail on the head with what I’m grateful for!bbb

Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone! I hope you all have a blessed week with your families, eat plenty of food, and take some time to consider all the wonderful things we can all be thankful for this year and every year!freeendz