Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cranberry Spice Infused Vodka


Ok so how is it nearly Christmas already?

I know I always say how time is flying, but seriously... nothing makes the time go faster than taking care of a baby!

Which is kind of funny considering every day is like Groundhog Day.  Basically they sleep, eat, poop, repeat... and inevitably your day is centered around that.  Nothing new to the moms out there, but to anyone who doesn't have kids yet - yes, it's really true.  Of course there is some slight variation, but essentially every day is the same.

The first few weeks are SUPER rough (or at least they were for me) and you think "Oh I'm home from work, I should be doing so much stuff."  And then you do none of that stuff, because it's amazing how time consuming sleeping, eating, pooping & repeating can actually be!

However, life is starting to mellow out in the Vittles household and before I know it, I'll be back to work.  And probably crying that I won't see my little monkey all day... and that she's growing up & changing so fast. (Yes I know she's only 8 weeksold,  but when it's YOUR baby they really do change incredibly quickly).

Speaking of Miss Mara.... I do have to take a moment to brag about how stinkin' cute she is. Check out a few of her professional pictures I mentioned last post (by Sarah Fuller, of Purple Circle Photography):

2012 Sarah Fuller

2012 Sarah Fuller

2012 Sarah Fuller

FYI, my mother-in-law knit her that fabulous stocking (may as well brag about that, too, while I'm at it!)  And yes... it is actually big enough for her to fit in.  Santa will have his work cut out for him filling that bad boy!  Thanks Gigi :)

In any case... since things are calming down, I've had a chance to make some of my homemade gifts for friends & family.  My favorite this year is this Cranberry Spice Infused Vodka.


I'm not much of a drinker, but I'm still kind of a sucker for all those flavored liquors that seem to be cropping up at the store.  At Thanksgiving I saw a pumpkin spice liqueur that I wished I could drink (and now I could, but let's face it, Pumpkin Spice is spent til next year).

So when I saw an idea in Country Living magazine for infused vodka, I started searching for other interesting recipes.  I came across one for the Cranberry Spice on About.com, and changed it slightly to suit the containers I bought.  (If you're wondering, I bought 16 oz. swingtop glass 'flask' bottles, and made labels on my computer - the below recipe was enough to fill two bottles.)

Super fun for the holidays!


Cranberry Spice Infused Vodka

  • 32 oz. vodka
  • 1 1/2 C. fresh cranberries
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 whole nutmeg, cracked
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, cut in half
  • 1 1/2 sticks cinnamon, cracked
  • 9 whole allspice berries, cracked

Place cranberries & spices in the bottom of a large pitcher or container (I used a large, widemouth mason jar with a lid) and pour vodka over them. Cover & let steep 3 days, then strain & discard berries/spices.  Place liquor in decorative containers, if desired.

Recipe Adapted from About.com

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast 'Cheesecake'




At my shower, my mother-in-law gave me the fabulous gift of a newborn photo session for the baby.  The original photographer's studio was unfortunately ruined during Sandy, so she had to schedule with a new one & we had the shoot at my in-laws house yesterday.  (BTW- considering the fact that Mara is no longer a sleepy, pliable newborn it went surprisingly well.  I am SO excited to see the pictures!)

The photographer is a mother of two children (3 and 5 years old) and one of her first questions for me was, "How are you adjusting?"

My immediate answer was "Good!" with raised eyebrows & a happy little smile.

And I realized right after I said it... that's not true at all.  (And she probably knew it!)

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that having a baby is not the most incredible thing in the world.

Every day I look into the eyes of this adorable little person and think, "Holy crap.  We created her."

But I'm not gonna lie... this mom business is exhausting.  "Adjusting" to not sleeping and spending your days & nights tending to an extremely needy little critter is no easy task!

As a person who functions best with about 8 hours of sleep per night, six weeks of catnapping is really not cutting the mustard.  (Also I would just like to say for the record that the next person who tells me "Sleep when the baby sleeps!" is taking their life in their hands.)

It was also not helping matters that our munchkin was having terrible gas pains that were making her miserable.  Sleep, eat, cry, repeat - this was how it went for weeks.  We tried everything to help her, even the pediatrician was out of ideas.  Then my dad pointed out that as a wee Maggie, I too cried all the day long.  Eventually they discovered I had a sensitivity to lactose.  He said my mom had to stop breastfeeding & switch to a soy formula, and then I was "a very different baby."

At Mara's one-month checkup, the pediatrician noticed the gas situation right off the bat, and actually told me to avoid dairy... (and vegetables... and anything else that might potentially be gas-producing.  Which is, like, everything under the sun.)

Like a good little mommy I tried to avoid it but a) it's in sooo many things you don't even realize, and b) telling me I can't have dairy is like telling me I can't breathe air.  I pretty much live for cheese and Greek yogurt.

So after a week of us BOTH being absolutely miserable, I called the pediatrician back and said nothing I had tried was helping.  She was fresh out of ideas, so I started doing some poking around on the internet about lactose sensitivity.  As a last resort, I decided to try two days of strictly hypoallergenic formula - and lo and behold we had a much calmer and more pleasant Mara.

So, long story longer... I'm not sure she'll be enjoying any 'breakfast cheesecake' anytime soon?  Especially not of the peanut butter variety.


But at least I can again.

 :) :) :)

Please note:  This is a breakfast, not dessert.  So don't expect the ingredients below to magically morph into a 1,000-calorie slice of heaven from The Cheesecake Factory, ok?  It still beats a a bland bowl of oatmeal any day!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast "Cheesecake"

  • 1 6-oz. container plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 3 T. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 t. honey
  • 1 1.76-oz package chocolate BelVita breakfast biscuits (4 biscuits), crushed

Mix yogurt with peanut butter and honey in a small bowl.

Reserve a bit of the crushed biscuits for topping, then divide remaining crushed biscuits between 2 separate, small serving bowls/cups.  Top each with half of yogurt mixture, then reserved biscuit crumbs.  Serves 2.

Original Recipe

Monday, December 3, 2012

Red & Green Striped Sugar Cookies (and a Giveaway!)


Is it seriously December already?

Time is flying, I can't believe my little munchkin is almost 6 weeks old & I feel like she has already changed so much!


Living up to her nickname of Mini Smalls, so far she takes after her mommy in a few regards.  For one, she likes her sleep.  (Sadly, she enjoys sleeping in the day a little more than the night, but hey it's a work in progress).  

Two, she loves to eat!  She was a peanut at birth but now (as my brother-in-law would say) she's getting her 'man weight.'  At her 4-week checkup, she was up to 9 pounds and 21 inches.  The pediatrician actually told us we can't let her eat so much at each feeding- ha!  When she's awake, all she wants to do is eat and even when she's asleep you can tell by her mouth movements she's dreaming about eating.

Ugh, truly a girl after my own heart.

Now if only she could have solid foods, I bet she would LOVE these sugar cookies with her milk.  (Santa would probably love them too.  Just sayin'.) 

Which brings me to my next point - I am excited to introduce my second promised guest, Amy of Yummi Yogi   We have actually never met in person, but she is a friend of a friend of a friend (!) who contacted me a couple months ago about doing a giveaway on V&B.

Yummi Yogi is company that makes cookie cutters in the shape of yoga poses - so cute, right?


Call me a nerd, but to me this is one of the coolest things about blogging.  You get to 'meet' so many amazing & interesting people that you might not have otherwise come in contact with!

Anyway, not only was Amy kind enough to giveaway of one of her designs to a lucky V&B reader, she also shared her recipe for these super fun striped sugar cookies AND a peek into her life via the interview below.  

Please check out her online shop for any yoga (and baking!) lovers on your Christmas gift list.  Or maybe for yourself... don't be shy now ;)

To enter the cookie cutter giveaway-- now through December 16, 2012, just leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite holiday recipe or tradition.  I will randomly choose a winning comment, and that person will receive one of Amy's adorable cookie cutters!  Easy peasy! (Please  just make sure there's a way for me to contact you in your comment in the event you are the winner.)

Interview with Amy from Yummi Yogi

Please tell us a little bit about your family and the area where you live.
I have a beautiful new 10 month old baby girl, Elle Ruby and I married my soul mate, Dennis but I call him Dube (Doobie) which is our last name. (long time nick name for him) We reside along the coast of NJ. I love our area and to be able to see the water everyday if we choose to is so refreshing. Especially in the summer for beach yoga :)

How did you get started doing yoga, and how long have you been practicing?
I started yoga over 5 years ago searching for more activities to do after the company I was working for closed down. I was familiar with yoga from my childhood friends growing up but never practiced when I was younger. I thought I would try different classes at my club/gym and after I walked into my first yoga class I never stopped! 

What do you enjoy most about the hobby?
I feel very connected to yoga and love how it encompasses your mind and body off the mat as well. It is challenging which I like and it helps me stay focused. There’s always something new to learn that is why it is called a practice, it will never be perfect and I love that. You can express yourself on the matt and let your mind go which is not easy for a lot of people to do. I wish everyone can experience it. And I’ve met some really amazing people through yoga.

What were some of the things that were most important to you to include in your business model? 
I not only want to reach yoga studios with this product but to be able to grow the business into health food markets as I really enjoy the life style of healthy eating/living and also to children. Both through kids yoga schools/groups etc., and also with kids eating healthy, very important to me!
I am also interested in helping my retailers grow their business. So I provide a free marketing service to them. I try to provide merchandising ideas for selling the cutters and also help promote their business events etc., through my platform of social media. I am a small business and hope to help other small business grow too. 

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting their own business?
That it is possible! I believe organization is a key factor to being successful. Take your time, think everything through and go for it! If you have a true passion for something you won’t mind putting the time and energy into your business because it is so rewarding.

What are some of the biggest challenges of being a business owner?  Most rewarding aspects?
For me at this stage in my career, it is the time management now that I am also a mom and have my own business. I have a strong support system with my family that I am grateful for but it is very challenging! I love what I do and I also love being a mom :)

The reward from a business aspect is that I am proud of myself that I have come this far and that I am positive about what the future holds for Yummi Yogi. Each day I grow and learn more and more. I love that the customers & followers really respond positively to what I am doing which makes me happy as well. I also love that I can be creative with the cookies and also from the marketing perspective too. I do every part of my business from designing the cutters, assembling the cutters, to slapping on the shipping labels and also marketing my business and creating the website.

How did you become interested in cooking/baking, and which do you prefer?
I love to cook and explore all types of styles. My favorite is Indian. I don’t eat meat but do eat fish on occasion. Baking is something that I have grown up with especially during the holidays, it is tradition to make a plethora of cookies and give them away as gifts. I like to bake because I can be creative in a visual way with decorating etc., however cooking is being creative with your ingredients which is fun too!

Where do you like to go to find inspiration on recipes and different ways to use your products?
I love to see what others are coming up with in the kitchen. For cooking I usually take bits and pieces of different recipes and mold them into my own. For baking, I don’t always look at baking recipes but just seasonal inspirations and then try to incorporate it into using the cookie cutters, like the corn bread and chilli for example. I love pinterest and food blogs for ideas too.

What are some of your family’s favorite holiday traditions & foods?
I grew up with both my parents having polish parents so there was a lot of pierogies and cabbage! At Easter we always would dye eggs and before our Easter Brunch everyone at the table would take a decorated egg out of the basket and usually one of the kids starts by turning to their neighbor and “bang” eggs. Who’s ever egg got cracked loses that round. And it continues around until there is a winner or crackless egg :) We still do this today. 

Christmas was all about the cookies! From Kruscyki’s to anise cookies to name a few.

I hope to carry on my family traditions and also create a few new ones of our own too. I think it’s important for the kids to have that and now as an adult I really appreciate it. 

Thank you to Amy for sharing her story & talent with us!  Now... get to commenting so you can win one of these cuties for yourself!

Striped Sugar Cookies
  • 1 lb butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 C. sugar
  • 5 C. sifted flour
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • red & green food coloring
Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla & mix well.  On low speed, add one cup of flour at a time & mix until incorporated.

Divide dough in half and place into 2 bowls.  Mix green food coloring into one bowl to desired shade.  Mix  red food coloring into other bowl to desired shade.  Wrap each ball of dough in plastic and flatten with a rolling pin.  Refrigerate for 2 hours, then preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place a new piece of saran wrap on a flat surface.Cut a 1”x 6” strip of red dough and place on the new piece of saran wrap. Repeat with green dough and place green strip next to red strip. Continue this process until there is enough dough to fit a Yummi Yogi™ cookie cutter. (Approx. 5” x 5”).  Gently roll dough again to join strips, then place dough in freezer 5 minutes.

Cut dough with cookie cutter and transfer to a greased cookie sheet or a non-stick baking mat. Gently press dough out of cookie cutter onto sheet and bake in preheated oven 10-14 minutes.  Cool briefly on sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.   

Family Recipe & Cookie Photos Courtesy of Amy Dube, Yummi Yogi™

*Note:  I did not receive any compensation for this post, only one product to give away.  All opinions are my own.
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