Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cranberry Sangria

This year I thought I was really on top of things, and then it happened.

Christmas totally snuck up on me!

I don't know if it was because Thanksgiving was so late, but I feel like it is way too soon for the holiday to be upon us.  How is it only 3 days away?

I'm thinking this whole working thing is really starting to get in the way of my personal life.  Too bad I only have, oh, about 40 more years to go.

Speaking of work, last weekend I hosted a brunch with my girlfriends from my first job out of college.  Hard to believe that was almost 9 years ago already!  We try to get together at least once a year around the holidays, and if possible once in the summer.

The weather was, shall we say festive... a pretty dusting of snow, that held off enough to allow for their safe travel from New York and North Jersey.  We enjoyed a nice spread of coffee cake, pumpkin muffins, quiche, maple-coated bacon, and chopped greek salad.  Not to mention cranberry sangria.

I'm not a big drinker but I am usually a sucker for  a good margarita, and a good glass of sangria.  I like that this one had cranberry for the holiday.  Not too sweet or heavy, but it will still put a little jingle in your bells.

I totally could have used a glass (or three) of this a few weeks ago, when I was trying to get a photo of Mini for our family Christmas card.

This child does not sit still - not for one second.  True definition of "Ants in the Pants."

I need one of those high-speed cameras just to have a prayer of getting a shot that is not a complete blur.

Somehow I managed to capture a few gems - but it certainly wasn't easy!

In any event, amidst all the craziness that often accompanies this season, I hope you can take some time to relax (preferably, with a glass of cranberry sangria.)  Whatever you do - please, please, please just enjoy your holidays!!

Cranberry Sangria

  • 1 bottle (750mL) dry red wine
  • 1 C. cranberry juice
  • 1 C. orange juice
  • 1/4 C. brandy
  • 1/3 C. Triple Sec
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 C. fresh cranberries, some crushed

Combine all liquid ingredients in a large glass pitcher.  Add fruit.  Chill 2-8 hours before serving.

Recipe Adapted from the Editors of Publications International, Ltd..  "Cranberry SangrĂ­a"  31 August 2006.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lamingtons (Chocolate Coconut-Covered Cakes)

Have you ever made Lamingtons before?

Have you ever even heard of Lamingtons before?

Me either.  But over the summer, my dad saw some show on television about a bakery in NYC that makes these.  He was going on and on about how amazing they looked, except he couldn't remember what they were called.

After some digging online, I discovered these magical chocolate & coconut-covered square cakes were called Lamingtons and originated in Australia.

Well, my dad was supposed to come over last weekend to celebrate his birthday, so I decided I would surprise him and make these for dessert.  I found what looked like an easy recipe on one of my go-to sites,, so I figured I'd be on my way to deliciousness in no time.

Or... not.

The cake part came out fine, but when it came to coating them in chocolate icing and rolling them in coconut, I was a complete disaster.  It took me way longer than it probably should have, and I made an absolute mess.  All the while, the blog's photo of Stephanie Jaworksi's beautifully covered cakes were taunting me, saying "This is totally possible - you just SUCK."

Well I think I managed to get about 6 of the 16 squares thoroughly covered (in addition to my dining room table and floor) before I threw in the towel.  For the remaining squares, I just ladled some chocolate icing over the tops, sprinkled them with coconut, and called it a day.

Our scheduled dinner ended up being cancelled anyway, because my dad got super sick (no, it was not the Sickness of Death from my last post, but it did leave him bed-ridden for 2 days!)  I still gave the Lamingtons to him, because I am never. making. these. again.

Not that it should stop YOU from trying, however - you can get the recipe here.  (Apologies, normally I would not do that to you, but for once I followed the recipe to the letter.  So per the rules of blogging etiquette, I cannot re-post it here on V&B!)

I will tell you that I had a bite of one, and saved a couple squares for Mr. Vittles, and we both agreed they tasted pretty amazing.

That is, as long as someone else makes them!

Lamingtons Recipe can be found at

Monday, November 11, 2013

Perfectly Pipable Cream Cheese Frosting

So no longer can we call Mini Smalls a baby ... she is officially a toddler now! (And in an attempt to live up to her new title, she just started toddling around this week... yowza.)

Any occasion this momentous should be marked by something delicious.  Like a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting.

But I must confess that I am a bad mommy and food blogger - on her actual birthday, I bought her a cupcake from a local bakery!  I know, I know... don't judge.  Her birthday was on a Friday and I worked late the night before, so my intention of making her a chocolate zucchini cake was just never realized.

Not that she seemed to mind.

(BTW, do not give a toddler any food dyed bright red, unless you're prepared to throw out their clothes afterward.  Just sayin'.)

But wait, it gets worse.  For her birthday "party" this past weekend, I cheated and make red velvet cupcakes from a box.


However... I was not going to put that fake-tasting canned frosting on top, to boot.  So I did at least go to the trouble of making this cream cheese icing, which was perfect for piping.

I must admit, I was not able to eat any of these bad boys until days later - I caught some sort of evil bug that had me down and out not only for the party, but also the whole next day.  Mr. Vittles, my mother-in-law, and my brother-in-law's girlfriend all fell victim to it as well.

So, we may never be able to entice anyone back to our house for a party... but at least they got to enjoy some yummy cupcakes before their involuntary "cleanse."

And more importantly, somehow Mini avoided the Sickness of Death.  Might have been the best birthday gift of all... though it was tough to top some of the awesome presents she received, including a rockin' Elmo, a ball-spitting elephant, and a new wagon (in which she insisted on opening the remainder of her presents).

All in all it was a fabulous celebration.  Thank you to our friends and family for their generosity.  Happy Birthday, Mini Smalls!

Perfectly Pipable Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until creamy.  Mix in vanilla and salt, then gradually add the powdered sugar until frosting ingredients are completely combined. (Check the consistency at this point - if the icing seems too soft, add a little more powdered sugar.  If it seems too thick, mix in a teaspoon or so of milk.) Use immediately, and refrigerate cupcakes after frosting.  Frosts about 18 cupcakes (if you pipe it tall, like in my photos.)

Note: Click here for a great tip using plastic wrap for no-mess piping, at Our Best Bites blog.

Recipe slightly adapted from Recipe Girl

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pumpkin Bread

Ok, so I have been so MIA it's not even funny.

I'm sorry.  September was crazy.  In both good ways and bad ways, and I won't even get into either.

So let's just leave September behind and embrace October, which has always been one of my favorite months anyway.  Between the awesome weather, my favorite holiday (Halloween,) apple picking, and pumpkins, it will always hold a place in my heart.

And it just keeps getting better since October is now also the month of my wedding anniversary (4 years next week!) and my daughter's birthday (1 year in two weeks!)

How is it even possible that my Mini is going to be a year old?

I will never forget a comment that one of Mr. Vittles' old co-workers once made, that "you just have to keep 'em alive the first year and then it's easy after that."

"Easy" may be a relative term, I hear there are these things called the terrible twos (or as it may be, threes).... middle school... and teenage years?  But either way, I can't believe our "Keep Her Alive" period is almost up.  People always say that time flies when you have children, but it really is the truth.

And luckily, Miss Mini is now old enough to enjoy one of her daddy's favorite treats - pumpkin bread!

For my wedding shower, my mother mailed blank recipe cards in the invitation for guests to give me their favorite recipes.  My sister-in-law Melissa was kind enough to share her brother's favorite recipe for pumpkin bread, which she said was handed down from their grandmother to their mother.

As you probably know by now, Mr. Vittles doesn't get excited over much in the culinary world, so "favorite foods" are somewhat of an anomaly.  (It just so happens that this month also marks 6 years of enduring this tired, nightly script: "How is it, hon?" - "Pretty good."  Ah, the sacrifices we make for love!)

Melissa did also write that the recipe was 'super-secret,' but I think she made that up for dramatic effect.


The below is adapted slightly anyway, for a single loaf instead of two; although, in this household, two loaves would probably be a smarter bet.  This stuff does not last long!

Pumpkin Bread
  • 1 C. canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C. oil
  • 3 T. water
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 C. flour
  • 1 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 9 x 5" loaf pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk pumpkin, eggs, oil, and water until smooth.

In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  Add pumpkin mixture, and mix with a spoon until no streaks of flour remain.

Pour into prepared pan, and bake about 60-70 minutes.*   Cool on wire rack, and remove from pan when completely cooled.  Store in a ziploc bag or airtight container.

*Keep in mind the bread will keep cooking after you remove it from the oven - so if the edges are getting a little too brown but the middle is still a bit soft, it's probably ok to pull it out. Or, if you're like Mr. Vittles, you may like it slightly undercooked anyway :))

Slightly Adapted from a Family Recipe; Origin Unknown

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fudgy S'mores Brownies

Marshmallow... chocolate.... graham cracker... what's not to love about s'mores?  They are the perfect combination for summer.

But sometimes you don't have a campfire, or other open flame to roast your mallows.

Or sometimes you do.... but then you accidentally drop a flaming marshmallow on your 15-year old niece's foot, and decide that maybe this whole s'more thing is a more dangerous business than you realized.

(Yes, that really happened - ask my father-in-law!)

Or.... maybe you just want something a little easier and less messy.  Who knows?

But if you fall into any of those categories, these brownies are for you.  I happen to be in the fudgy brownie camp (vs. the cakey brownie) and these definitely fit the bill.  The graham and marshmallow make them even more rich and delicious.

My father-in-law was here this weekend, helping Mr. Vittles hang drywall upstairs, so I wanted to make something nice.  I figured this way he could enjoy a s'more without the possibility of giving anyone a second-degree burn!

Fudgy S'mores Brownies

  • 10 T. (1 1/4 sticks) butter
  • 1 1/4 C. sugar
  • 3/4 C. plus 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C. marshmallows (use the mini ones, or cut large ones into smaller pieces with a clean pair of kitchen shears)
  • 1/2 C. graham crackers, broken into small pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and position rack to lower third of oven.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Lightly grease with cooking spray, and set aside.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for one minute, then remove and stir.  Microwave an additional minute and a half, in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until the butter is melted and no lumps remain.  (Mixture will be grainy).  Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, and set the mixture aside until it cools slightly.

Then add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.  When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well-blended, add the flour and stir until no streaks remain.  Then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.  Stir in graham crackers and marshmallows, and spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 22 to 27 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.  Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board.  Cut into squares and serve.

Brownie Recipe adapted from Mels Kitchen Cafe (who adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from Bittersweet)  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cilantro and Sesame Thai Chicken Marinade

So the Mini is officially on the move (as of the Saturday after the Fourth of July) and let me tell you - she is one curious little monkey.  No walking yet, but she's quite the speedy crawler.  We have finally been forced to adopt a more minimalist decor, and switch out our awesome driftwood coffee table for a soft storage ottoman.  

But I'm not complaining; in fact, I am loving this age.  The Mini has so much personality, and it's fun to see the world through the eyes of a 9-month-old.  

She is also a lot more portable.  In mid-July, we visited my mother & father-in-law's river cottage in Canada and the Mini really impressed us.  She went on her first boat ride, and her first float in the water.  

I won't lie, the 7 some-odd hour ride back home was a little rough, but otherwise it was a great trip.

On the home front, I have actually been cooking more on weeknights, though it is mostly my tried & true recipes that don't require as much concentration (it's a little tougher when you have to keep one eye on the food and the other on a mobile munchkin).  

These days I am also making more food for her, as she is transitioning from baby food to table food.  But since you probably don't need a recipe for steaming broccoli or boiling whole-wheat farfalle, I will instead share with you this chicken marinade.  

I had loads of cilantro left over from the quinoa salad, and our jalapeno plants are doing well, so this seemed like a smart use of ingredients.  I like it because the sesame oil and rice vinegar give it a nice flavor, and it has a little heat to it without being too spicy.

Cilantro and Sesame Thai Chicken Marinade
  • 1/2 C. fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • 1 T. rice wine vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, ribs & seeds removed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 T. + 1 t. soy sauce
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 lbs. thin-sliced or pounded chicken breasts

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, pulse all marinade ingredients until pureed.  
Place chicken in a shallow dish and coat evenly with cilantro puree.  Let sit one hour, then grill or broil chicken until cooked through.

Recipe Adapted from Food and Wine

Monday, July 22, 2013

Zesty Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

This past weekend was very special, as we had a party to celebrate the engagement of my sister-in-law, Melissa and her fiancee, Rick.

Here are the top 5 reasons I'm excited about this union (in no particular order)

  1. Rick's last name begins with the same letter as Melissa's maiden name - so no matter which she chooses to use, she will still have the glorious initials MMF (Mini and I also happen to share the same monogram :))
  2. Rick is a super smart lawyer who is also a world traveler that enjoys cooking... and has read some posts on Vittles and Bits (what what??)
  3. Technically that last one was like 4 reasons so I will take a breather here
  4. Melissa is no longer late to every family event (which is huge, compared to the days she missed the train from NYC, that came after the train she originally missed)
  5. In the almost 6 years I've known her, I don't believe I've ever seen Melissa this happy; see example below:

Umm... is that not one of the most adorable couple pictures you've ever seen?

Anyway, everyone seemed to have a great time celebrating, which included lots of delicious food & drinks, excellent company, and a beautiful setting.

Mr. Vittles' aunt, Betty and uncle, Carl were kind enough to host the party at their house (their daughter, Devon, is the Maid of Honor!)  Betty is an incredible gardener and their back yard is absolutely beautiful.  Maybe I've been watching too much HGTV, but I can't think of any other way to explain it than, "it's the perfect outdoor space for entertaining."

And despite the fact that it felt about as hot as the surface of the sun last week, the weather was much better Saturday night than I was expecting.  It was slightly cooler, and the predicted thunderstorms held off for the entire duration of the party. Looking at the radar, we later realized it was raining literally everywhere else in the area.

(FYI it also happened to be my mother-in-law's birthday - guess that rain had more sense than to come anywhere near us.)

Anyway, since Betty is also probably the most organized home party planner in the entire world, she not only assigned people dishes to bring, but also gave out recipes for them.  I think she may have pulled them out of her "party files" .... oh yes, she has party files!

But I'm glad that she did, because it prompted me to make something totally new.  Though I've eaten quinoa before, I'm a little embarrassed to admit I've never made it until now.

I was happy to find out it's much easier and quicker to prepare than rice (of which I am a habitual ruiner).  And although we had this salad as a side at the party, Betty said she's made it as a main before.  It's a pretty hearty salad, so I can see how it could go either way.

It also seems pretty healthy, so perhaps I need to start eating this as a main myself to drop a few L-B's before I have to put on my bridesmaid dress.  September will be here before we know it!

Zesty Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
  • 1 C. quinoa
  • 2 C. water
  • 1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 1/2 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 C. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 pint halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

Combine quinoa and water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).  Allow to cool.

In the meantime, whisk olive oil, lime juice, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and cilantro together in a bowl or  measuring cup.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine quinoa, tomatoes, black beans, and scallions.  Pour dressing over quinoa mixture, and mix to coat evenly.  Add ground pepper, and adjust seasoning to taste.  Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator.  Serves 6-8.

Recipe Adapted Slightly from Allrecipes

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Soft Lemon Cookies

I hope you guys enjoyed your Fourth of July holiday!

Mr. Vittles and I had a great day off, and we were busy bees with the Mini.  She actually had a few "firsts," such as...

...first time in her baby pool;

...first time seeing fireworks;

...and first time not having a complete melt down at a social outing.

(Mommy was probably most excited about the last one, not sure about her though.)

We stopped by my grandmother's house, where my aunt, uncle and cousins were visiting in addition to my grandmother's friends from Florida.  We then went to a barbecue at our friends' house nearby.  The Mini barely napped in the afternoon, but she was so well-behaved I could hardly believe it.

Our friend's mother was holding her for almost half the party, and Mr. Vittles and I kept looking at each other like, "Has our child been abducted by aliens?"

Then, the fireworks were more than 2 hours past her bedtime, but we decided to wake her up and give it a go.  We weren't sure how she'd react to the loud noise, so we watched from a marina one town over - she really liked looking at them, however did not enjoy the boat horns of an over-zealous yachter nearby.  For that reason, we left before the finale but I would still consider it a success!

I would also consider these lemon cookies to be a success.

If anyone has ever had my ricotta cookies, these have a similar consistency (very soft and cake-like).  But the lemon adds a freshness that is perfect for summer.

Soft Lemon Cookies
  • 1/3 C. milk
  • 2 t. lemon juice
  • 1 3/4 C. flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. lemon zest
  • 3/4 C. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C. (1 stick) butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3/4 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. + 2 t. water or milk

Combine milk with lemon juice, and set aside.  Let sit 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda to combine.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine lemon zest with sugar.  Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until very fragrant and evenly-distributed.  Add butter, and beat on medium speed with a mixer until butter is pale and fluffy (about 2 minutes).

Add milk mixture, egg, and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed until combined.

Add half flour mixture, and mix on low until incorporated.  Add remaining flour mixture, and mix on low.  Increase speed to medium, and mix until well-combined, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  Let dough chill for a few hours in refrigerator or overnight.

When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a cookie pan, or line with non-stick foil or parchment.

Using a small cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop dough by rounded spoonful onto prepared sheet about 2 inches apart (I put 8 cookies on my sheet, staggered - these will expand).  Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are starting to brown.

Remove from oven, and let cool on sheet 1-2 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.  When cooled completely, make glaze by mixing powdered sugar with water or milk until runny.  Dip cookies in glaze, and return to wire rack to dry.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home's Community Forum 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Grapefruit & Basil Soda

Happy Father's Day to all the papa bears out there! I got to have breakfast with mine and Mr. Vittles (who just celebrated his first, yay!)

Soon we will be leaving for a barbecue to celebrate with my father-in-law.  Didn't get to see my stepdad today but hopefully I'll see him this week.

Hope you all got (or have plans) to celebrate with your favorite dads in your life!

Mr. V and I usually don't get too crazy with the presents, especially now that we're married.  But his first dad's day is a special one, so I thought he deserved something really neat.

It's tough to find gifts for him that do not involve tools (something I know nothing about) or fishing/hockey equipment (something I might know even less than nothing about).  But I do know that he loves Adirondack chairs, and loves rocking chairs, and has been talking about both of them for our deck.

I didn't even know they made this, but I was actually able to find him a rocking, adirondack chair.  How cool is that?

Perfect place to sip a nice, refreshing Grapefruit & Basil Soda this summer!

Grapefruit & Basil Soda
  • 1 oz. basil simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • 5 oz. plain seltzer
  • 3 oz. grapefruit juice (I used the refrigerated, 100% juice but freshly squeezed would be great)
Mix ingredients in a tall glass.  Add ice to fill, and garnish with additional basil leaves if desired.  Serve immediately.  Makes one drink.  **Feel free to experiment with the ratio of ingredients here- I happen to like my soda a bit less sweet than others may enjoy.  You can adjust to your liking.  (Can also add a little vodka or other liquor to make this a tasty "adult" beverage!)

Basil Simple Syrup

  • 1 C. water
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 6 large basil leaves, torn in half horizontally

Place ingredients in small saucepan over high heat.  Bring to a boil, and stir until all sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, let basil steep until syrup has cooled.  Strain out leaves.  Refrigerate leftovers.

Original Recipe, inspired by Club Monaco's Culture Club Blog

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Honey Garlic Chicken Kabob Marinade

Hello, Rabbit!

(You can thank me later... according to my grandma, that phrase brings good luck on the first of the month.)

I seriously cannot believe it's June 1st already.  I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend - I know we did!

After Superstorm Sandy, it's awesome to see that so many places along the shore here in Jersey are open for business.  There's still a lot of rebuilding to be done, but we've come a long way in a short period of time.  Gives a whole new meaning to Jersey Strong - I am so proud of my home state!

This week, President Obama met with our governor, Chris Christie, to see the recovery efforts at the Shore.  He visited my hometown of Point Pleasant Beach, and also Asbury Park (where Mr. Vittles and I lived before we bought our house last year!)

I really never thought I'd see photos of the President of the United States on the boardwalk I've been going to since I was a little kid.

Yup, in this one they were right in front of the Aquarium Gift Shop, where I worked my first summer job at the age of 14.  Surreal!

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Now as I've told you before, despite what the calendar may say, Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer around these parts.  And with summer comes not only visits from The Prez but also GRILLING!

On Sunday, we attended a wonderful barbecue at our friends' house nearby.  (Remember Pauline, who so generously shared her recipe for Pumpkin Tiramisu with us at Thanksgiving?)

She and her husband Bryan made a fabulous meal of pulled pork, potato salad, grilled pineapple, and a corn salad which I will hopefully share with you soon (a-mazing!).

Then on Monday, we took the Mini for her first day at the beach...

... and marinated some kabobs for the grill!

Yup, summer's back and so is Jersey.  Take that, Sandy!

Honey Garlic Marinade for Chicken Kabobs

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in a large Ziploc bag (or large glass bowl/dish with cover) and mix well.  Add 1 1/2 to 2 lbs of cubed boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and marinate at least 3 hours or overnight.

Thread chicken on skewers and grill (or broil) until cooked through and no pink remains.

Recipe Adapted from Thriving Home

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cookies & Cream Marshmallow Crispy Treats

A while back I made a comment that no idea I ever have seems to be original.

(Maybe with the exception of Coconut Kona Ice Cream... there are still barely any recipes for coconut coffee ice cream on the internet, and mine predates the ones that exist.  So HA!)

That being said - I'm sure someone has already thought of mixing Oreos into Rice Krispie treats.  But... I refuse to 'Google' it and rain on my own parade.  I made this without looking up anything (including the basic crispy treat recipe) so I'm calling it original.  So there.

Anyway, last night our friends Kristen & Keith were nice enough to babysit the Mini while we went into the city to celebrate my sister-in-law Melissa's ENGAGEMENT! (Ahh!)

It was a bit of a last-minute surprise and our usual babysitting hopefuls were all either at the same dinner, unavailable, or too far in the wrong direction of NYC.  But Kristen came through like a champ, and I wanted to leave her and Keith a treat.

Keith and I have worked together for over 5 years.  He was one of the first people to teach me my job, and also my first friend there.  I don't get to hang out with his wife, Kristen, as much as I would like but I know her better than you'd think just from talking to Keith every day at work.

So I got two boxes of her favorite candy, and made these crispy treats for Keith.

 He has an Oreo obsession that knows no bounds.

When we got home last night, I was surprised that Kristen was actually the first one to comment on how good these were.  I'm just glad they both enjoyed them.

Now... let the pre-wedding festivities commence!  Congratulations to Melissa and Rick!!

Cookies & Cream Marshmallow Crispy Treats
  • 4 1/2 C. crispy rice cereal
  • 15 Oreo cookies, crushed (about 1 1/2 C.)
  • 1 10.5 oz. bag mini marshmallows
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

Grease a 9x13 baking pan and set aside.

Combine rice cereal and crushed cookies in a large bowl, and mix until evenly distributed.

In a 5 qt. saucepan, heat marshmallows and butter over medium-low heat, and stir until melted and smooth.  Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla until combined.

Add rice cereal & cookie mixture, and mix to coat.  Spread evenly in prepared pan, using either a greased spatula or piece of waxed paper.  Allow to cool then cut into squares.

Original Recipe

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Coconut Patty Brownies

I feel like there are not many people out there who like coconut as much as I do, but Mr. Vittles is an exception.

As I told you last year, he loves coconut patties in particular.  I was reminded of this at Easter last month when his mom gave him one of his childhood favorites, a giant coconut egg, and he refused to share with me.  He claimed that she gave it to HIM not "us."

While I highly doubt this (and he did eventually offer me a slice regardless),  I can understand his desire to covet the coconut egg.  Coconut drenched in chocolate - especially of the dark variety - is a magical experience.  Not much can beat it.  Except maybe coconut drenched chocolate... on top of a fudgy brownie.


Mini Smalls better get ready to love coconut or she's going to have a tough childhood.

But alas, since we don't even have teeth yet, we're still working on things like watered-down peas and bananas.  Though I am happy to report that she has gotten over her aversion to most "1st foods" (except oatmeal - still brings tears to the Mini's eyes) since my last post.

In fact... she turned 6 months this week!

"Who, me?"

Time flies when you're eating coconut patty brownies.  (Which, let's face it, is one & the same as "having fun.")

Coconut Patty Brownies

  • an 8"x8" pan of your favorite brownies (I like this recipe; you could also use a mix)
  • 3 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 C. confectioners sugar
  • 1 1/2 C. loosely packed sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 C. chocolate chips 
  • 1 T. coconut oil (optional)

Combine sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and confectioners sugar in a medium bowl.  Add coconut and mix until evenly distributed.  Using a rubber spatula, spread thinly over surface of cooled brownies.  (If the mixture is too sticky, spray the spatula with a little nonstick spray before spreading).

In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted.  (The coconut oil is optional, but imparts a slight coconut flavor & also makes the mixture more runny & therefore easier to pour/spread).  Spread melted mixture over coconut layer.  Allow to set (you may place the brownies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to speed this up) and cut into small squares.  Makes 16 brownies.

Original Recipe

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Carrot Cake Cookies

I wanted to make something festive for Easter, and now (almost 2 weeks later!) I am finally getting around to posting it.  Luckily it's not something in the shape of bunnies - these are good anytime.

Mr. Vittles thought these should have some cream cheese frosting to make them more like carrot cake - actually, the original recipe was for a frosted cookie, but I was looking for a plain one.  If you agree with him, you can always whip some frosting after they cool.   I happen to think they are tasty un-frosted, but that's just me!

We had a nice holiday at my in-laws' house, although of course the Mini decided she was not going to nap and was a bit of a disaster.  But she did have some good moments, particularly toward the end of the day, where she just hung out on her Aunt Melissa's lap or with my father-in-law.  She also looked incredibly adorable in her polka dot dress!

In other news, Miss Mini is intent on bringing me back to the Vampire World of last fall.  She has been waking up multiple times in the night since she caught a cold a month ago.  In the midst of all this, we stopped feeding her before our bedtime (around 10:30 PM) however I do not think the cause is hunger.  While the cold itself is gone, the congestion is not - so I suspect that is what's waking her up.  We just give her a pacifier and go back to sleep, but that still requires getting out of bed.

And can be anywhere from 3-7 times per night.

This is a very mean April Fools joke to play on your tired parents, Mini Smalls!  Months ago you showed us you had the ability to sleep all night without making a peep... and now you've yanked the proverbial rug out from under us.  Not nice.

Which basically sums up the majority of her behavior, actually.  Mr. Vittles told her, "You have to start being nicer to people."  Of course she doesn't know what that means... or that she's not being "nice" in the first place.  But it's the truth!  He and I have seen her smiling, laughing, & happy more than most, just because of the sheer amount of time we spend with her.  But people like my dad & stepmom, who only get to see her for an hour or so per week, have seen mostly grumpiness and crying.

Thankfully, now that it's getting warmer, we're figuring out that she really likes the outdoors.  It doesn't always work, but her demeanor seems to be better when we're either outside or "on-the-go."  I guess there's more to look at and keep her busy little brain occupied.

<Sigh.>  Someday I'll be able to just bribe ol' Grumpelstilskin with carrot cake cookies.  That is, assuming she ever decides to eat solid foods.  So far we've tried oatmeal and sweet potatoes, and both have essentially been a bust.

Oatmeal was a complete failure.  Her immediate reaction was wailing, 3 days in a row.

Our journey into the land of the sweet potato seemed much more promising...

...but still ended in despair.

My dad suggested we try carrots next, he said those were my favorite when I was her age.  (Apparently... some things never change!)

Carrot Cake Cookies
  • 1/2 C. (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/3 C. white sugar
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 2 T. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 C. flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1/3 C. sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1/3 C. old fashioned oatmeal (not quick-cook)
  • 3/4 C. finely grated carrots
Line baking sheets with parchment, or grease with non-stick spray, and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt until evenly distributed.  Set aside.

In large bowl of stand mixer, cream butter & sugars until light & fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Beat in cream cheese, egg, and vanilla until well-combined.

Add flour mixture and stir until no streaks of flour remain.  Add coconut, oatmeal, and carrots.  Stir to combine.

Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto prepared cookie sheets.  Bake 11-14 minutes in preheated oven until edges are lightly browned.  Cool 2 minutes on sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Makes about 20 cookies.

Recipe Adapted from Land O'Lakes

Thursday, March 21, 2013

White Chipotle Chicken Chili

Did everyone enjoy their St. Patrick's Day?

Last year, Mr. Vittles and I took the train into New York City for a party, and even though we left NJ early in the morning, the train was already filled with crazy drunks.

This year.... was a little more low-key for us.  The highlight was probably dressing up Mini Smalls in her St. Patty's Day outfit from my dad & stepmom, which later included some ridiculous green sunglasses.

And while most people were probably making corned beef & cabbage, I was making white chipotle chicken chili.  I do have some Irish in me, but not enough I guess!

The Mini and I have been recovering from a cold so chicken soup probably would've been a better choice for me, but Mr. Vittles and I are really not soup people.  So I figured chicken chili was the next best thing.

Not much other news to report.  As my friend from work (who has a son 2 months older than the Mini) pointed out - every day is like Groundhog Day, and we are probably living parallel lives in separate households.  Get up, take care of the baby, rush to work, rush home, take care of the baby, wash bottles, try to figure out what to eat for dinner, hang out for an hour or so, feed the baby again, and go to bed.

Not exactly setting the world on fire over here!  But I do have some good news.  For one, I did well on my promotional exam at work (that I mentioned I was "preparing" for a few weeks ago).  It turns out I got the highest score of the 70+ people that took it, so I should hopefully be in a good position whenever they announce the openings for my title.

And two - the Mini rolled over from her back to her tummy today!  Mr. V and I were your stereotypical kooky parents on Monday night - we actually sat watching her with the video camera for about 15 minutes because we were sure she would do it then.  (My mother-in-law told us she had been incredibly close at her house, numerous times that day).  But... nothing.  Then today I put the Mini down on a rug in our bedroom, while I made the bed.  I looked away for maybe 10 seconds, looked back and there she was on her tummy!  Go figure.  So no one witnessed it, but it seems she reached a milestone nonetheless.

She will be 5 months old on Monday, I can't believe how times flies.  Everyone said it would, but it still surprises me.  In the meantime, I'm wondering if I should have doubled this chili.  Then we could have eaten it four nights this week, and it would really feel like Groundhog Day :)

White Chipotle Chicken Chili

  • 2 C. reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 15-oz. cans canellini beans, drained, rinsed & divided
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/4 t. chipotle chili powder
  • 1 1/2 t. cumin
  • 1/4 t. salt (or to taste)
  • 1 4.5-oz can green chiles
  • 1 lb. chicken breast, cooked & shredded
  • 1/4 C. half & half
  • 1/4 C. fresh cilantro, minced

In a food processor or blender, puree 1/2 C. of chicken broth with 1 can of drained & rinsed canellini beans until mixture is smooth.  Set aside.

In large dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions & cook, stirring until softened (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.

Add remaining 1 1/2 C. chicken broth & can of canellini beans along with chili powder, cumin, salt, green chiles, and chicken.  Bring mixture to a boil (increasing heat slightly if needed) and simmer 10 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Add reserved bean puree and half & half.  Reduce heat to medium low & cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is heated through.  Stir in cilantro & adjust seasonings to taste.  Serve topped with sour cream and/or cheese, if desired.  Serves 4.

Recipe Adapted from Organic Gardening


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