Light ‘n’ Easy Almond Eggnog (Dairy Free!)

I know, I know. I’m pretty much the worst blogger ever now. But hey, blame it on my job or the sequel that I’m still pumping out or the fact that right now it’s holiday everything or… well, whatever you want to blame it on, really. And then rest assured that I am indeed alive, just not quite the blogging fiend that I was at this time last year, for the moment. I always bounce back to you wonderful folks though, and I’m sure that eventually I’ll be back in full blogging swing — just not right now, le sigh.

Which honestly is kind of a shame, because blogging about the holidays always just served to contribute additional warm fuzzies. I mean, you guys already know how much I EFFING LOVE CHRISTMAS, and getting to share that through pics of decorations and sweater-clad schnauzers and whatnot was always a lot of fun. Buuuut, as all of you well know, life priorities are constantly shifting, and blogging has never been, nor likely will it ever be, a full-time job for me, and thus is probably never going to be at the tippity top of my priority list. But that doesn’t mean I can’t miss it!

Aaanyway, back to the matter at hand. Though I may not be taking unrelenting photos of it all, I am indeed still whiling away in the kitchen every now and again. And since the holidays are one of my favorite times to try my hand at lightening up old recipes so that I can indulge in all the fun (with half the guilt), I’ve been doing a lot of holiday recipe experimentation lately! So thanks to my friends at Almond Breeze, who are constantly pushing me to be creative with my, er, creation of recipes, I now bring you a light and creamy (not to mention incredibly easy!) homemade eggnog recipe that won’t set my tummy a-rumblin’ because it is dairy-free! Huzzah!

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Light ‘n’ Easy Almond Eggnog
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (I used Almond Breeze Vanilla)
4 egg yolks (separate out the whites and keep them to make an egg white scramble or use in your royal icing or something!)
1 dash ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp sugar (or sweetener of choice)

Instructions:

1. Combine almond milk, egg yolks, and sugar in a saucepan. Heat on medium-low heat, constantly stirring, until mixture begins steaming, about 5 minutes.
2. Add spices and extracts, combining gently and continuing to stir for an additional 2 – 3 minutes. Mixture should begin thickening slightly.
3. If you like a thicker ‘nog, allow to cool before consuming. You can do this quickly by immersing the pot in cold water, or by simply allowing it to come to room temperature naturally. Garnish with additional nutmeg and a cinnamon stick, if desired!

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Yup, easy as that! And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet, which is that the grand total of calories for this decadent treat comes to… 100 calories! Ta-daaaaa! Plus the fact that it’s cream-free definitely helps those of us who are lactose-challenged (something for which my digestive track is eternally thankful!)

I hope you’re all having the most wonderful of holidays, and I certainly am going to try my best to get back into the swing of regular blogging (how many times have I said that now? Ha…!) in the New Year. After all, I’m certainly not immune to those New Year’s resolutions… and I’m sure I’ll need all the help I can get!

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

Christmas 2012 in Pictures

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Hello there! Well, it’s official. 97.1 FM has stopped playing Christmas music, Christmas cookies are being sold for 75% off at the grocery store… the glorious December holiday is over. But luckily for me (not so much for you guys, haha), I took approximately 18932863 pictures and am now going to post them all here so you can relive the magic with me.

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This was the last Christmas we had as present-generationers. My sister’s baby is due at the end of Marhc, so next year, there will be my little bouncing niece to shower with gifts! (As if I didn’t already give Jenny and Dan enough baby gifts for Xmas this year, hahaha.)

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So it was definitely important that we employed all the family Christmas traditions. My siblings and I all slept at our parents’ house on Christmas Eve, things started off with me waking up early, unleashing the dogs on my brother and sister to wake THEM up, and then all of us heading to grab our stockings. Our rule since we were little kids has always been that we can open up our stockings before our parents wake up, but we have to leave anything that’s wrapped until everyone is all together.

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Of course, as we’ve gotten older, the difference in time between when we “kids” wake up and when my parents wake up has slimmed from a few hours down to maybe like 15 minutes, hahaha.

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Then we all take turns going around and opening up our various presents! I really love getting to see what everyone else gets, so this is much more satisfying for me than just going in and ripping open my pile of presents all at once.

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Sean came over a little later on in the morning, and he gets full credit for surviving a Powell Family Christmas. Admittedly, the entire experience can be a little… intense. Heh.

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My family was very generous with me this year (as they always are), and in addition to the sweet Le Creuset kitchen additions pictured up top, I also got an ice cream maker (which I’ve wanted for a long time!), a panini press, Modernist Cuisine at Home (the most amazing cookbook food encyclopia ever — Sean has the full version!), and the new Volt Brothers’ cookbook. Amongst other things. ๐Ÿ™‚

We all hung around, played with our new toys, and had Christmas brunch (which is always a combo of pancakes, bacon, eggs, and whatnot) and before I knew it, it was time to buckle down and start prepping dinner!

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I think we really outdid ourselves on the food front this year.

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We started off with a spinach salad that had apples, cherry craisins, spiced walnuts, red onion, and goat cheese, with a homemade lemon vinaigrette that I made.

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My brother-in-law Dan made his mom’s awesome homemade crescent rolls recipe, and my mom also made yorkshire pudding, which I didn’t get a picture of. But it was awesome. Mmm, carbs.

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The other sides were my roasted garlic whipped potatoes (I added chives this time — yum!), roasted maple brussels sprouts, cranberry quinoa salad, and arancini (risotto balls) that Sean made from scratch. Mmmmmm.

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Of course, that was just all accompaniment to the main event:

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My mom’s always perfect, always amazing rib roast!

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There was dessert too — Dan made his awesome tart cherry pie, and I contributed a pecan pie, but we honestly didn’t dig into the desserts too much that night, we were all too full of dinner awesomeness.

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There was also an incredibly misguided attempt to make ice cream with my shiny new ice cream maker. I say it was misguided, because I was too impatient to wait the full 16 hours for the freezer bowl to actually freeze, and thought that I would be able to make ice cream after only, um, 5 hours.

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I was wrong. Milkshake, anyone? Hahahaha. Oh well, something to try for next time. ๐Ÿ™‚

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So. Cleeeearly not too shabby on the food front this holiday season, eh? I guess I should report (and you should all be very proud) that I actually have not gained a single extra pound since before Thanksgiving. Which is actually kind of amazing, considering, well, all the above. Of course, I haven’t lost anything either, but who really needs to be actively LOSING weight during the holidays, eh? I mean, c’mon. Cookies… and stuff… you know?

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What’s the best thing you ate on Christmas?

Holiday Fashion

So you guys know how I’m a little crazy about Christmas, right?

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Okay, good. I won’t need to go into an explanation about how I bought an entire outfit solely for the purpose of wearing it to the 10 PM Christmas Eve service. Which basically meant I wore it for these pictures, and then an hour of sitting in a pew singing carols. After which, I promptly shed it and put on my Christmas jammies. Hahahahahahaaaa.

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Yes, yes, I know how silly it is to buy a brand new dress (and shoes) for something like that, but it just seemed so lame not to have something new and pretty to wear as I rang in Christmas! And hey, at least I get a fashion post out of it, eh? Also, it should be known that I bargained-shopped for these beauties. The dress is from the Anne Taylor LOFT outlet and was over 50% off, and the shoes were on sale at DSW. Bangarang.

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So, there you have it: my Christmas Eve outfit 2012. Santa, perhaps you should have brought me a few more holiday events instead of my beautiful new ice cream maker, seeing as how I really need some more reasons to wear this gorgeous dress before the year is through. Red can totally be a New Year’s color too, right? Right???

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See? Crazy person. *bows*

I hope you all had an absolutely wonderful holiday! Full Christmas recap to come soon.

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Peace, love, and schnauzers,
Gretchen

C is for Cookie

OMG CHRISTMAS IS ALMOST HERE IT’S SO CLOSE I CAN TASTE ITTTTTTT!!

Ahem.

So, hey guys! I know it’s a little unusual for me to post on a Saturday, but since my schedule is all messed up due to the impending holidays and whatnot anyway, I figured what the heck. Besides, I needed to document my culinary achievements from yesterday before too much time has passed anyway. Because, yes, yesterday, I made something MAGICAL. Spoiler alert, the end of the story looks like this:

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A little backstory. My Aunt Joanie makes the best sugar cookies in the entire universe. Not just the entire world. The universe. Like, The Doctor himself would agree that these are the best sugar cookies ever. And each year, she mails a tin of said cookies to my parents, and I greedily consume over half of them myself (and we all wonder why I have issues maintaining my weight over the holidays, hahahaha). My family has long tried to recreate what I *thought* was her epic cookie recipe, and year after year… we failed. So, last year after Christmas I finally, FINALLY wrote my Aunt Joanie asking her for the recipe, STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE. And a week or so later, what to my wondering eyes should appear?

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That’s right — the handwritten source of all deliciousness. So I’ve been delicately sitting on this treasure map to sugary goodness for the past year (and may or may not have had a sliiiiight freakout when I thought I lost it…) and yesterday, I headed over to my parents’ place and got down to work!

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As you can see from the photos above, these are REAL sugar cookies. These aren’t dumbed-down, healthified-up, or any other such nonsense. These are I-hope-you-have-a-lot-of-people-coming-for-the-holidays-cause-otherwise-you’re-gonna-get-really-fat cookies.

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Now, I should preface this whole thing by saying that this was an incredibly harrowing cookie-baking experience for me. I was so dead-set on getting the cookies EXACTLY right, what with the amazing taste of Aunt Joanie’s cookies eternally emblazoned in my brain and tastebuds, that I kind of went a little crazy after the first couple of trays came out of the oven less than perfect. The taste was there but they were far too crisp and crunchy. Sugar cookie fail! Sure, it was all smiles at first…

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But seeing as how this was my helper:

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It wasn’t long before the entire process started to get to me.

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Luckily, I eventually worked out the tweaks and adjustments needed to accommodate for my mother’s super-hot oven and the fact that I was simply rolling the cookies too thin. And soon, I was pulling tray after tray of cookie perfection out of the oven!

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Huzzah! This means I was done, right? It was over?

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WRONG.

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After an intermission where we were able to, like, eat dinner and stuff, it was time for Act II: decorating. My sister and father had already baked up the necessary pieces for our family’s traditional gingerbread house earlier that day, and those PLUS the plethora of naked sugar cookies I’d just created meant we definitely had our work cut out for us.

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Luckily, I had more than a few willing helpers for this part.

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I was actually pretty amazed at my family’s ability to get through decorating the scores and scores of cookies we had. Sean was an AMAZING sport (and a surprisingly awesome cookie decorator. I was actually getting a little jealous of his skills, hahaha) and we ended up with tins full of delicious cookies, many of which rival the deliciousness of my Aunt Joanie’s (though, of course, I’ve simply come to realize that they really will never be quite as good.) And we all definitely made sure to continue the tradition of creating tiny cookie versions of ourselves (Jenny even made hers a pregnant profile version of herself, hahaha). For us to eat. Hmm. There may be something psychologically telling somewhere in there.

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It’ll probably take another round of cookie-making at some point before I deem this recipe (and the subsequent tweaks I needed to make) suitable for sharing, since only the latter half of the cookies turned out really good. And, of course, some more taste-testing. Heheheheheheheh. Baking and decorating cookies and our family’s gingerbread house is absolutely my favorite family Christmas tradition. (Well, outside of the actual Christmas morning stuff. Cause, I mean, c’mon. Presents.)

I hope you are all having an absolutely amazing pre-Christmas weekend! Try not to get blown away — the wind has been CRAZY around here today!!

Holiday Mental Check

I love holiday season. I love the festivities, I love the food (duh), and I love the general feelings of goodwill towards man that flow through the air from November through January. Everyone seems just a little friendlier, a little more willing to say hi or lend a hand. Also, presents.

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But the holidays are also a time plagued with other issues for me. The constant, continual offerings of food and feasting, drinks and dessert, have been very conflicting for me in the past. I’m sure it’s far too generalizing to say that it’s an issue that anyone who has struggled with eating issues has had, but I’d venture to guess that it is. It’s very wearying to have a running battle inside your mind, pitting your wants and desires against each other.

Yes, I want to eat and be merry and have fun with my family. No, I don’t want to overeat and feel guilty and stuffed, or look like a pig. Yes, I want to be able to indulge in food that I usually only get to eat once a year. No, I don’t want to gain that holiday weight. Yes, I want to eat pumpkin pie. No, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop at just one slice.

Pumpkins Pies

It’s exhausting. So this year, I’ve put some pretty serious thought to mentally checking myself for the holidays. It might sound kind of silly, maybe a little bit like an overreaction, to have to mentally prepare for a meal. But c’mon, food is a pretty pervasive thing during the holidays. And I do have known and admitted, past and present, issues with food, my body, eating, and the feelings that that are wrapped up in those things. I try to embrace both parts of me when it comes to holiday meals now: the part that still loves the food, the smells, the spirit AND the part that wants to strive for balance and health in her life. It’s what led me to create some of my awesome healthier-but-still-awesomely-indulgent holiday recipes.

Stuffing Ingredients

I am SO looking forward to Thanksgiving tomorrow. I can’t wait to start prepping tonight, to get together with my family in the kitchen tomorrow, and have my only job for the day be to cook, and then eat. But I am going into the entire day with thought and purpose. And in that spirit, here is my Thanksgiving credo: I will eat what I choose. I will enjoy every bite, and not eat for the sake of eating. I will listen to the cues of my body, and strive not to stuff myself to the point of belly-rubbin’, jeans-poppin’, about-to-burst fullness, BUT if I do, I will not beat myself up about it. I will not obsess over what the scale will say afterward.
I mean, c’mon. It’s freaking Thanksgiving, you know?

Daxters

I sincerely hope you have an awesome holiday, filled with friends, family, food — or however you choose to spend it!