I finally got around to putting up my Christmas decorations yesterday and now it is really starting to feel like the holiday season has arrived! In spirit of the holidays, I partnered up with Nespresso® to give one of my readers a fabulous Christmas gift: the newest espresso machine from Nespresso®, the Nespresso U in Pure Black ($199 value). Continue reading →
December is just a few days away, which means winter is coming very fast! I am holding onto these last few weeks of fall before the craziness of finals, shopping, and traveling starts. Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays (especially the baking part of it!), but things are so calm and peaceful right now in these last days of November. Today I made these cranberry walnut muffins. I absolutely love the combination of the tart taste of the cranberries, crunchiness and nutty taste of the walnuts, and the sweet and spiced taste of the muffins. They always come out perfectly moist, and the best part is they are low fat since my recipe uses apple sauce (this also adds great flavor!). So why cranberries? No, they aren’t left over from Thanksgiving – my mom made an amazing cranberry sauce and we used them all up for that. My husband decided to join me when I was heading out to the grocery store the other day, and I love when this rare occasion happens because he always seems to find things at Trader Joe’s that I haven’t seen before, or at least never thought about buying. It is always nice to have a change in the usual shopping list! Anyways, he picked out these fresh cranberries, and although we have both tried cranberry juice and sauce, we have never eaten them plain. After biting into one back at home, we both decided they were too bitter to eat alone (duh!) and I thought about what to make with them. These cranberry walnut muffins came to mind, and so here they are! I must say, they taste SO much better in these muffins. We still have half of the bag left, so I will need to come up with another way to use them fast. Any ideas?
If you haven’t entered my giveaway for $25 grocery store gift card to get your holiday baking shopping started, you still have a few weeks to enter! All you have to do it leave me a comment here.
It’s almost the weekend! What are your plans this weekend? Will you be decorating for the holidays, or are you done? I haven’t started my decorating yet, but I plan on starting today!
UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered, the chosen winner was Sarah D.!
Yesterday marked the end of our Thanksgiving vacation and in a few hours we will be driving back up to San Francisco. I didn’t want the vacation to end, because December is coming faster than I want it to and I have finals, a 3rd year cumulative exam, research project, and of course the stress of the holidays coming up! One good thing to look forward to is holiday baking! We spent the evening having dessert with my grandparents last night, so I made this braided apple pastry. It was a huge hit, everyone said it looked store-bought (but tasted much better since it was homemade!). I thought it tasted great cold with some tea, but you could also warm it up when serving it. I think the presentation is really pretty, and it is much easier to make than it looks – I promise! One tip is to chill the dough for 10 minutes before braiding, because I am super slow at everything when it comes to baking and I found the dough started falling apart more easily when it became too warm. Truvia® was so generous to send me a sample of their baking blend, and I never substitute anything for sugar because I hate the taste so much of anything BUT sugar, but I thought I would give their product a try since it is more of a blend of real sugar and a natural sweetener. I honestly could not tell the difference, and nobody else could either when I told them I used a sugar substitute! I also liked that it had a true sugar-like texture, and actually looks like real sugar. It has 75% less calories and twice the amount of sweetness of pure sugar, which is good for me during the holidays because I have the biggest sweet tooth in the world and want to avoid gaining the almost unavoidable extra holiday pounds! I would definitely use it again in my holiday baking – I promise I’m not just telling you this because I got it for free, that is my honest opinion of their product.
Truvia® $25 Holiday Giveaway
Are you ready to get your holiday baking started?! Truvia® is giving one lucky reader a $25 gift card to any grocery store of his/her choice. All you have to do to enter the contest is leave a comment stating what Holiday cookie/dessert recipe you are most excited to try recreating using Truvia® Baking Blend. The winner will be chosen on 12/17. Click here to view the contest rules! Good luck & happy baking!
One of my favorite drinks during the Holiday season is my Mom’s hot apple cider. Nothing beats the taste of fresh apples mulled with flavorful spices such as cloves, all spice, cinnamon and orange peel. This year we made it together for Thanksgiving, and it came out just how I always remember it: perfectly delicious! I wish I made it more often, but I usually only have it during family dinner parties and during the holiday season. An easy way to make it is to add the apple cider to a large crockpot and then just add all of the seasoning spices and turn it on high for about 3 hours. Once it is ready, just strain out all of the loose seasonings before serving. It is best when really hot, but be careful not to burn yourself!
Today is our last day visiting my parents for our Thanksgiving vacation, so I took Mom & Dad to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants: Panera Bread! This is one of the few restaurants in town that I feel is actually healthy, and a great alternative to the many surrounding fast-food restaurants. Panera Bread was so generous to send me a gift card to try one of their soups, which is just perfect timing for this cold weather. We each got the “Pick 2″ deal, where you can choose from a soup, salad or half sandwich. For their Saturday soup menu, they had french onion, vegetarian creamy tomato, low-fat chicken noodle, broccoli cheddar, low-fat black bean, and cream of chicken & wild rice soups. My dad and I tried the vegetarian creamy tomato soup, and my mom tried the broccoli cheddar soup. Both soups were delicious, and tasted to fresh! The tomato soup was made with vine-ripened pear tomatoes, fresh cream and hints of red pepper & oregano, then topped with Asiago croutons. It is hard to find a tomato soup I like, but Panera’s tomato soup is definitely in my top 3. The soup came nice and hot (don’t you hate cold soup?!) and it was creamy, but still had a great texture from the tomato pieces. I also did not find it too salty, which is a frequent complaint of mine when trying new soups. Do you have a Panera Bread near you? Have you tried their soups yet?