Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Winter Bucket List 2013

Not going to lie. I'm one of those annoying Canadians that LOVE winter. There is just something about it that is so beautiful and wondrous that every year, I look forward to the first snowfall.

Don't get me wrong, there are some aspects that drive me crazy. I have a pretty substantial commute to work, so snow usually means accidents, poor drivers and slow downs. I'm also not a huge fan of slush and gross snow and after awhile, I get pretty tired of the cold.

Aside from that, though, I HEART WINTER. I love that after a fresh blanketing of snow, everything just seems quiet and serene when you step outside. It's like the world is on pause.
Due to my love of winter, I've decided to put together a list of things I want to do this winter to enjoy it to the fullest! I'll be sure to come back and strike them out as they happen & add to the list if I think of anything!

Winter Bucket List 2013 
(in no particular order):

Before Christmas:
  • Listen to Christmas music and dance around my living room (preferably with my sister while listening to A Very Special Christmas Vol. 2, the best Christmas Album EVER)
  • Drink Eggnog with Rum
  • Make a big batch of cookies to be dipped in Eggnog
  • Go look at Christmas lights around the neighborhood
  • Make peppermint bark 12.01.13
  • Watch "Love Actually" "White Christmas" and "The Muppet Christmas Carol
  • Make LOTS of Christmas themed treats
  • Buy something sparkly to wear on NYE  
  • Annual Brunch & Shop with my Dad and Sister 
  • Go to a Christmas Party  
  • Drink hot chocolate and Bailey's 11.30.13
  • Play in the snow with my puppies and hubby
  • Spend an entire day in my PJ's watching movies with hubby 12.08.13
  • Make a snow angel
  • Have a snowball fight
  • Drink Coffee with Bailey's in it 12.07.13
  • Go sledding (on a Zipfy, cuz those things are rad)
  • Go skating - haven't done that in YEARS!
  • Make a big pot of soup - perfect for cold days
  • Make hot apple cider
  • Volunteer in a soup kitchen/"Out of the Cold" program
  • Wear thick, fluffy socks and slide around the floor
  • Dress up and go out to a romantic dinner or double date
  • Game night(s) with family/friends
  • Drink hot chocolate in front of a cozy fire 11.30.13
  • Go for a long, lazy run during a snow fall

Monday, 25 November 2013

Christmas Baking Series #2: Eggnog Truffles

I think I may be in love. Eggnog is one of my FAVOURITE parts of the holiday season. I think this is because when I was younger, it's appearance in the fridge meant that Christmas was near and that the festivities were about to get started!

I actually don't really buy it anymore, mostly because I prefer to eat my calories as opposed to drink them (...except when I'm drinking red wine...that's different, it has health benefits.)

Luckily, I found this recipe for Eggnog Truffles on Pinterest (is there really anywhere else to find recipe's nowadays?) which means I can basically EAT eggnog...which also means, that everything is now right in the world.

They are a bit finicky to make, but they were WELL worth it. Hubs was even impressed with how good they were. I was just happy that there was just the right amount of "Nog" (as my sister would say) in them and they satisfy my Eggnog cravings. I will be making these again for SURE!

Eggnog Truffles
original recipe from McCormick

2 1/2 cups white baking chocolate 
1/2 (4 oz) brick cream cheese
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp rum extract (add more if you want more "nog")
additional nutmeg for sprinkling

In a thick bottomed pot, melt 1 cup of the white chocolate on LOW heat. Stir frequently as you don't want the chocolate to burn. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese and icing sugar together with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and beat again until fully combined. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for about 4 hours.

Once your mixture is somewhat firm, roll into 24 balls (I ended up with 26 because some of my balls were smaller) and put on a tray lined with wax paper. Put in the freezer for about 1 hour so the get nice and firm!

Now, this next part was a first time for me. When I dip things in chocolate, I usually do so while it is on the stove. However, I usually burn the chocolate and get angry. This method prevented that from happening :)

Place about 3/4 cup of white chocolate into a microwaveable bowl and heat for about 1 min. Take out the bowl, stir and place back in for another 30 seconds. Really make sure you watch the chocolate. My microwave is very temperamental so I took it out and stirred about ever 30 seconds.While this is happening, line a baking sheet with parchment paper OR foil. Either works.

Next, dip 12 of the truffles in the chocolate using a fork. I mean, you don't REALLY dip, it's more like, drop the truffle in the bowl, roll it around using the fork and then lift the covered truffle out by scooping it out with the fork and letting the chocolate drain off for a couple of seconds. Place the truffle on your baking sheet by shoving it off the fork with your finger. Using the fork hand (the one NOT covered in chocolate) sprinkle some nutmeg on top. 

After the first 12 are done, add the rest (3/4 cup) of the chocolate and melt again. Repeat the above. 

If you have any chocolate left over (I did) simply throw in about 1 tsp of rum extract and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg into the chocolate, stir it all together, pour it on some foil and VOILA, eggnog bark! It won't be much, but I can't STAND to waste leftover chocolate. 

Put the truffles and the bark (if you have any) in your freezer for about 30 mins. Remove from baking sheet and store in an air tight container for up to 1 week.

- Lisa
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Monday, 18 November 2013

Christmas Baking Series #1: Candy Cane Chocolate Swirl Fudge

So, yea. I love Christmas. I know you've probably gathered that from previous posts, but I thought I'd just tell you again in case you were wondering :) However, since work has been so busy, I haven't really had a chance to get "in the mood" to decorate/shop/bake etc. I pretty much come home every night and sit, drooling, on the couch.

However, yesterday, hubs and I got in the mood (not THAT kind of mood, you perv) and got a whole bunch of shopping done, set up the tree and even did a little decorating!

On Saturday, I was invited to a Passion Party (totally hilarious/informative btw) and I told the hostess I would bring something, so I decided to use this as an opportunity to kick off my Christmas Baking Series and made this AMAZING fudge.

It was SO EASY to put together and it tasted delish. The neat thing is, you can start with the fudge base (condensed milk & white chocolate chips) and try different flavours/additions with it. This recipe however is something I'll be making A LOT of for Christmas Parties. Took me 10 minutes to whip up and seriously, it tastes like Christmas. In fact, I could go for some right now...but it's all gone.

Candy Cane Chocolate Swirl Fudge
original recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction

3 cups white chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp peppermint extract (feel free to add more/less depending on your taste)
8 crushed candy canes
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Here is another reason I love this recipe - I get to smash things with a hammer :) What I did was got a bunch of Candy Canes from the Bulk Barn, unwrapped them and folded them up in wax paper. Then, I just smashed them with a hammer. The get all crumbly with both small and larger pieces.

Next, line a 8 x 8 pan with parchement paper and spray with a little cooking oil (like Pam)
In a pot, combine the chocolate chips and the condensed milk and melt at low heat until they are completely blended. Don't put the heat on too high, or else the sugar will burn (which I MAY or may not have done).

Remove from heat when everything is all smoothy. Add the peppermint extract and candy canes and stir. I found 1/2 tsp of the extract wasn't enough for me, so I added more. 

How Festive!
Pour the mixture into your pan and smooth with a spoon. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and swirl them in with a knife. Finally, sprinkle the top with a few more crushed candy canes and press into the fudge. 

Put in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours! Cut up and serve. Save some for yourself too, because it will be gone in a flash!

- Lisa
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Friday, 15 November 2013

Re-Group & Re-Start

My word. I feel like for the past month or so I've been living in a tunnel and today I am facing the other side. When I look back on the past 4 weeks I go "So....what just happened?" I feel like I haven't blogged much (well, I haven't, actually) and I was absorbed into another weird depression period that I couldn't get out of, no matter what I did. It was a really challenging month for me because, throughout the depression, I (felt) I had to maintain a sunny outside and pretend all was ok. I didn't tell anyone what I was feeling (except for hubs, who just seems to know) because I didn't want to admit that something was wrong. Then, in a series of 2 evenings, it all became too much and I folded in on myself.

It's tough. I was maintaining my meds, was off of junk food (which, oddly enough, is when this whole thing started) but this sadness just kept creeping into my day. Part of it, I know, was because I have gained back the 15 or so lbs I lost back in the spring. Not a huge deal, I know, but there is still this thing inside me that says "you are a failure" whenever I gain weight. Problem is, I still turn to food for comfort after I realized I've gained weight. Totally logical, right?

Next, I felt like I was having a 1/4 life crisis. At 26, I have a good job, married to my amazing hubby, not quite ready to buy a house, not anywhere NEAR ready to have kids, so life is just kind of at a stand still. There are things I'd love to do, but are just not an option for us, financially (travel, for one). what?

Another thing I felt really off about was friendships. Growing up, I didn't date a whole lot, and I was kind of a nerd, so one of my saving graces was my friends. They shaped me into who I am today (for better or for worse) but now, it's different. Everyone is at a different point in their lives and friendships that I've held near and dear to me feel like they are slipping away. It's also a matter of fact that I don't have time like I used to, to hang out with friends, call them, text them etc. I make plans that I know I can't keep, just in hopes that it will help me maintain that friendship. Not a good plan, but it's my knee jerk reaction. Money, money, money. Just when we're catching up, something brings us down again. Don't get me wrong, Jon and I are not down and out financially, but I do feel like we're not where we should be (for a variety of reasons) and I resent that. I let it fester inside me and stew until I snap. Then, I let it go until I start to resent it again. It's a horrid cycle. 

So, after that last evening where I just let it all eat me alive, I woke up and though "OK, enough" Enough crying, enough pretending, enough sadness. In my heart of hearts, I knew what steps I needed to take to help make me better, but it just took some time to get there.

First - More exercise. Not to loose weight but to help me keep my head clear. Every day, I need to do something, even if it's just a walk. I need that release of tension and stress otherwise the anxiety I carry with me becomes too much.

Second - start loving myself again no matter what. I love so many people unconditionally, but unfortunately, I don't feel that way towards myself. I was SO close to this back in the spring, but I realize it was superficial. I was loving myself because I was losing weight. This one, I'm not really sure how to solve, but I know it's something I have to do. I guess having more "Lisa" time would help (Thanks to J & B for really speaking to me about this to me last Saturday)

Third - come to terms with my friendships. This one is really hard for me. I want to be everyone's best friend and everyone's confidant. For a time, it was possible, but it is no longer. For the past year or so, I've been trying to be everything for everyone and as a result I've ended up becoming more distant from them. Instead of being a good friend, I've been an "OK" friend. Luckily (very luckily) I have people in my life who love me no matter what and have stuck by me through this. So thank know who you are. I know I have to focus on those friendships and show those amazing people how special they are to me.

Fourth & finally - money. This is a more personal thing, obviously, but I do want to say, that I made a GIANT leap and spoke up about this to someone who I needed to talk to. It was terrifying and while I was doing it I actually had a mini panic attack on the inside, but I did it. The issues that I was having won't be solved right away, but the things I was letting fester inside me are there no longer.

So here I am, folks. This has been a tough year for me so far, but also an amazing one. I have a lot of work to do still, but I know I can get through it. Again, I'm going to take a page from my friends in AA and take things "One Day at a Time"

Before I go, I also want to say Thank You, to YOU (yes you!) who has read this post and continues to be apart of my life and this blog. You are special to me whether I know you in life or online (or I don't know you at all!) I also want you to know that MORE AMAZING RECIPES WILL BE COMING SOON! I AM SO EXCITED FOR CHRISTMAS BAKING. WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

- Lisa