Jingle Bubbles

How is everyone doing this day-after Thanksgiving? Are you still totally stuffed?

We had a lovely day filled with family, way too much food, games, and entertainment provided by our 13-month old little girl. It’s funny how just watching her toddle around the room from toy to toy can keep us mesmerized and melting our hearts with the simplest little things. This wasn’t her first Thanksgiving technically, but last year she was only a few weeks old so this was the first year she was able to partake in the day. I love knowing how we’re shaping traditions for her that she’ll look forward to every year. I wonder what dish will be her favorite that she’ll ask me to make? I hope she’ll be eager to be my little helper in the kitchen…checking the turkey with me, setting the table, making she my wine glass is full. Ok, maybe not that last one, I can handle that…but I can picture her in a little apron placing chef for the day.

I remember when I was younger I used to help my grandma cleanup after family dinner. Want to know what my favorite part was?

Washing the dishes. (I can hear my husband’s shocked reaction.) Yes, for a very brief moment in time I enjoyed washing dishes in the sink. Looking back, I can see why my grandma was so willing to let me handle that job and I never had to fight back any of the adults to be dishwasher for the day.

Now that everyone is recuperating from the planning and cooking and dish washing of Thanksgiving dinner, it’s time to gear up for Christmas and the Holiday Season! I love holiday parties that have cocktails that fit the season. There’s something extra festive about it. This year I wanted to come up with something light and fresh and not overly sweet. This champagne cocktail is refreshing and easy to drink, not too strong, and just enough limeade to balance out the champagne and vodka. These would be great at a brunch gathering or evening cocktail party. Enjoy!

-Sweet Champagne or Prosecco
Simply Limeade
-Limes for garnish

1. Fill a flute glass 3/4 full with champagne. Add 1/2 oz vodka (this is about half of a shot glass), top with limeade. Garnish with lime slice.

2. Drink responsibly.

Happy Holidays!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

No, I’m not talking about winter, or Christmas, or even Thanksgiving. I’m talking about football season! It turns Sundays into a day to knosh on snacks, drink beer, and stay in my comfy clothes on the couch. Now, the down side of football season is when your team is terrible. That’s right…I’m a Giants fan and this season is downright painful. On the plus side, I’m actually not doing terrible with my Fantasy team this year! Admittedly, I’ve gotten some helpful tips from my brother as I learned to navigate through swapping out players on their Bye weeks, using the waivers, and structuring my team to get the maximum amount of points. It’s turning out much better than my March Madness brackets usually do.

Buffalo Chicken Dip is probably one of the most crowd pleasing dips you can make. This recipe is so savory, so cheesy, and just enough heat. I swear every time I make these the bowl is practically licked clean. As you read the recipe, don’t be turned off by the fact that it uses canned chicken. I typically never buy this stuff but it does give a particular flavor that you won’t quite get from chicken breast. That isn’t to say you can’t cook up a chicken breast, shred it up and use that instead. You totally can, and I’ve done that before too. But when I compared the canned chicken to chicken breast recipes I felt that the latter was just missing “something”. So whip up this super easy dip for football Sunday, go Giants!

-2 12.5oz cans chicken breast, drained
-8 oz softened cream cheese
-1/2 cup ranch dressing
-1/3 cup Texas Pete hot sauce
-1 8oz bag shredded mozzarella cheese
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese 
1. Heat your oven to 375 degrees. 
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, canned chicken breast, ranch dressing, hot cause, mozzarella cheese, and garlic powder. Smooth into your baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. To finish it off I like to throw it under the broiler for about 5 minutes to make the top brown and bubbly.
3. To serve, garnish with the crumbled blue cheese.

Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Chip Espresso Bread

This is my favorite time of year. These glorious few weeks when it’s not too cold yet, you don’t need the A/C or heat, and at night you there’s the soothing scent of burning fireplaces. If I could pick the perfect climate to live in the rest of my life it would be exactly like these first weeks of Fall. During the day it gets just warm enough that you can feel comfortable wearing a long sleeve shirt, and at night a warm sweatshirt sitting around a fire pit. But of course, New Jersey is definitely not like this all year. Soon we’ll enter the 7th circle of hell, or as some call it…”winter”. I swear it lasts for half the year. We’ll have snowstorm after snowstorm, mountains of plowed snow taking up the prime street-parking spots, and what was once pristine white powdered snow is dark, muddy, and slushy. So before that happens I’m going to enjoy this season and curl up with some pumpkin bread.

It does make me laugh a little that this type of food is referred to as “bread”. Let’s be honest with ourselves, this is basically cake without any frosting. But if we call it bread it makes it breakfast food, right? Right. I love this with my first cup of coffee in the morning after opening the window to let some fresh cool air circulate through the house. If you’ve never had the incredible combination of pumpkin and dark chocolate you need to put this on your “must make” list NOW. This bread tastes like a delicious bite of Fall with your favorite warm spices then the smooth and melty dark chocolate. This is also so fast and easy to whip up, minimal mess and in less than an hour you can be enjoying this spiced treat!

-1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
-1 tablespoon espresso powder (I used Cafe Bustelo)
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 large eggs
-1 cup pumpkin puree
-1/2 vegetable oil
-1/2 cup white sugar
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup milk
-3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1. Heat the oven to  350 degrees and grease your baking pan. You can use a loaf pan or I used by 8×8 pan. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, espresso powder, and salt. Then mix in the pumpkin, oil, eggs, and sugars. Stir until smooth, then lastly stir in the chocolate chips.
2. Pour into your baking dish. If using a loaf pan bake for 50-60 minutes, if using an 8×8 bake for 35 minutes, until a knife comes out clean.

Source: Closet Cooking