Friday, December 21, 2012

Homemade Sugar Body Scrub

Here is another gift idea for this holiday season. You can find most of these ingredients in your pantry without having to run to the store. I used a combination of roasted almond oil, sugar and almond extract. I have listed a few other combinations as well. Rub this sugar scrub on your body in the shower and rinse away the dry skin. The oil will leave your skin feeling extra smooth. Enjoy!!!

Homemade Sugar Body Scrub 

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4- 1/2 cup oil (olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil)
1 tsp almond extract (you can also use vanilla extract or any essential oil's you prefer)

1. Mix together white sugar and brown sugar in a bowl. Place sugar into jar (that can hold 2 cups).

2. Pour oil over top of sugar one tablespoon at a time. Let the sugar absorb the oil slowly. Let each tablespoon seep into sugar before adding more oil.

3. Once you added all the oil and it seeps halfway down the jar, add in extract.

4. Pour all contents of the jar into a large bowl and mix together until fully combined and moistened.

5. Repack the jar with the sugar mixture and seal tightly with a lid. Decorate with fabric, ribbon and homemade label.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Homemade Maraschino Cherries

Here is a great quick gift idea for this holiday season. I saw this recipe on the show Best Thing I Ever Made. Ted Allen was sharing his recipe for "Real Maraschino Cherries" and I immediately knew I wanted to give this a try.

Fresh sour cherries are only available for a limited time in the summer but you can use canned or jarred sour or tart cherries any time of year. If they come in a heavy syrup, make sure to rinse them off before starting the recipe.

These cherries aren't going to look or taste like the fluorescent red cherries you buy in the jar. These are soaked in Maraschino Liquor, (a sweet cherry liquor) and go perfect with any cocktail that calls for a cherry.

You can find similar packaging at Michael's Craft Store in the Martha Stewart packaging section. I also decided to hand write and paint the labels but you can print them online as well.

Homemade Maraschino Cherries
Makes 3


  • 1 cup maraschino liqueur
  • 1 pint sour cherries, stemmed and pitted  (you can buy a jar of sour cherries in light syrup, and drain the syrup)
  • **I used 2 cups of liquor for two 15oz cans of pitted sour cherries. That amount made 3 small jars (around 8oz jars)
1. Bring the liqueur to a simmer, and then turn off the heat. Add the cherries, stir, let cool, and then pour into jars. Refrigerate. Cherries will be tasty for months.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Almond Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache Filling

Now that the horrible case of Pneumonia is leaving my system, I am ready to start posting some more great recipes. It's cookie season and most home bakers will be very busy this week. I am sharing this recipe that I tried during Thanksgiving for Almond Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache filling. I really loved the taste and texture of these cookies and will definitely be making them for my family and friends this Christmas.

This recipe comes from cookbook Flour: spectacular recipes from Bostons Flour Bakery and Cafe by Joanne Chang. Everything I have tried so far in this book has come out amazing. The recipes are easy enough to do at home, but come out very professional.

These cookies gave me a tiny bit of trouble but with an easy solution. I found the cookies to spread a little thin. What I decided to do was to take them out of the oven closer to 20 minutes and cut them with a round biscuit or cookie cutter to make perfect circles. An important step with these cookies is to let them cool COMPLETELY on the cookie sheet before transferring them. I am ALWAYS impatient at this point and have ruined many cookies by not waiting. This time I will force myself to wait until they are cooled before I move them.
 ***These cookies are naturally gluten free.

Almond Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache Filling
Makes about 20 sandwiches
Almond Macaroons shown in 2nd and 4th row

3 1/4 cups blanched whole almonds (I couldn't find whole, so I used slivered)
2 2/3 cups sugar
6 egg whites
2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate-chopped
1 cup heavy cream

1. Position rack in center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or sil-mat.

2. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until ground into fine powder. (Stop grinding once they reach a powder to prevent making paste) Remove 1 cup and set aside. Add in sugar to the almonds left in the food processor and pulse for 10-15 seconds. Add in egg whites and continue to process for 30 seconds or until well combined.

3. Transfer almond paste in a medium bowl and fold in reserved ground almonds. Fold in extract and salt.

4. Using your hands (dampen with cold water) or using a small spoon, make walnut sized rounds of batter and place them 2" apart on baking sheet. You should have about 40.

5. Bake cookies 20-25 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown around the edges. Let cool completely on baking sheet on a wire rack.

6. To make the ganache: While the cookies are cooling place the chocolate in a medium-heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan, scald the cream (bubbles start to form around the edges of pan but do not boil). Pour hot cream over chocolate and let sit 30 seconds. Slowly whisk together until the chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Let cool to room temperature (or cooler in the refrigerator) at least 1 hour until ganache is thick and spreadable. (This can be made ahead of time and stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks)

7. Remove the cookies from parchment paper. Spread about 1 tbsp of chocolate ganache on flat side of cookie. Top with second cookie and repeat until all cookies are sandwiched together.

Cookies can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Baby Accessories-Sophia Grace Designs

I most likely will not be posting many recipes this week. I have a bad flu and honestly cannot look at, think about or write about food right now.

In the meantime, please check out a friends new website for handmade baby accessories for special occasions, photo shoots or everyday wear. These make great gifts for the holidays. Check out her new website and don't forget to "like" the Sophia Grace Designs facebook page

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Butternut Squash and Spinach Casserole

At the moment I have an abundance of spinach in my refrigerator and I was looking for different ways to use it for dinner. I came across this side dish while googling recipes for butternut squash and spinach. This recipe looked like it had all the components of a delicious dish, so I gave it a try. It came out really great and this is a recipe worth holding onto. One reason I love this dish is because you can prepare it anytime throughout the day (even the day before) and bake it right before dinner.

It was only the three of us eating dinner that night, so I decided to half the recipe. Half of this recipe is a perfect serving for 4 people. As I write this I am eating some of the leftovers, still delicious!

Butternut Squash and Spinach Casserole (adapted from recipe on
Serves 4

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch-thick slices 
8 oz fresh spinach, washed and stemmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced 
1/2 cup whole milk or buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp fresh thyme,minced
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, toasted (I used GF bread)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 cup pecans, toasted (optional) 
1 1/4 cups coarsely grated cheddar cheese 

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 8 x8 inch baking dish or 2-quart casserole.

2. Place water in a large stockpot (about 2/3 full ) and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the squash to the water, return to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Add spinach to squash and boil one more minute. Drain squash and spinach and set aside.

3. Melt the butter in the stockpot and add the oil. Add the onions and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent and soft, about 8 minutes, stirring to prevent browning. Add the warm squash/spinach and the milk, egg, thyme, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp coarsely chopped pecans and 1 cup cheese. Blend with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients are well combined.

4. Spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp pecans and 1/4 cup cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sweet and Sour Pork and Vegetable Stir Fry

If you're in the mood for Chinese take out try this recipe. This meal will probably get on your table faster and is significantly healthier for you. The original recipe comes from the cookbook Cook Yourself Thin. I have added a few ingredients, I will include them as options in the recipe below.

Serve this stir fry with brown rice. One serving without rice is 290 calories and 1 serving with rice brings it to 465 calories. Enjoy!!

Sweet and Sour Pork and Vegetable Stir Fry 
Serves 4

1 tbsp dry sherry
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce (or GF soy sauce)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 lb boneless pork chops-cut into 1" cubes
1 small can of diced pineapple
1 tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp white vinegar
2 tbsp canola oil
1 red onion-cut into 1" cubes
2 peppers (red or green)-cut into 1" cubes
1 cup snap peas- cut in half or thirds (I added in this ingredient)

Brown Rice:
1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 cups chicken stock

1. Combine sherry, pepper, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar in a medium bowl. Add the cubes of pork and toss to coat. Let marinate in the refrigerator.

2. Stir together 2 tbsp of pineapple juice from can, ketchup, vinegar, remaining 1 tbsp of soy sauce and remaining 1 tsp of sugar in a small bowl.

3. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add in onion and cook until slightly soft;3-5 minutes (stirring to prevent burning).  Transfer too a dish and set aside.

4. Add another 1 tbsp of oil and in the peppers and snap peas; cook stirring occansionally until slightly soft and browned; about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to same dish as onions.

5. Heat remaining tbsp of oil over med-high heat. Add in pork cubes, arranging in single layer. Cook until browned on all sides; about 3-5 minutes. Add the vegetables back to the pan.

6. Add in the diced pineapple from the can (discard any remaining liquid) to the pork and vegetables. Add the sauce to the pan and stir to coat everything. Cook 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened.

7. Divide rice among dishes and add the pork and vegetables on top. Drizzle with extra sauce and serve immediately.

To make rice: Bring chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan and add rice. Cover with lid and let simmer for 20-30 mins. Using a fork, fluff the rice and serve.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to make different Christmas bows

This really has nothing to do with food or cooking but I thought I would share this tutorial on making different types of Christmas bows to use on wreaths, garland or gift. Enjoy!!

How to make bows for a Christmas wreath

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis

Comfort food can mean different things to different people. To me, it is all american meals that I grew up eating. Meatloaf, although I don't love it's name, is one of those comfort foods to me.

This recipe is very family friendly, your toddler or kids will definitely gobble this one up. It's super moist and filled with fresh herbs and melted cheddar cheese. Although meatloaf may not be considered the healthiest, this recipe comes from Cooking Light and they have lightened up this classic dish. Another great thing about this recipe is that it takes only 25-30 minutes to cook. By making these into "mini" meat loaves you cut the cooking time down in half. Serving this with potatoes is a must.

**I love to use my food processor to prepare most of this meal. You can make the fresh bread crumbs, dice the onion and garlic, grate the Parmesan cheese and chop the parsley and only have to clean up one item. Just make sure to chop each item separately (with an exception of onion and garlic which can be chopped together)

Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis (adapted from cooking light)
Serves 6 (serving size one meat loaf) If you have big eaters in the family, I would serve 2 per person.

Layla's Plate :) 

1/2 cup (1 oz) fresh breadcrumbs
Cooking spray
1 cup onion-chopped
2 garlic cloves-minced (Optional)
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp fresh parsley-chopped
2 tbsp fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp prepared horse radish
1 tbsp dijon mustard
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 oz white cheddar cheese, diced
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large egg, slightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Heat a skillet over med-high heat. Add bread crumbs and cook 3 minutes until toasted, stirring frequently. Set aside in a large bowl.

3. To the same skillet, coat with cooking spray. Add onion and garlic, saute 3 minutes or until slightly tender. Add onion mixture to bread crumbs.

4. Add to breadcrumb/onion mixture 1/8 cup ketchup. 1/8 cup tomato sauce, and all remaining ingredients. Mix well.

5. Shape 6 (4" x 2") loaves on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray (if you don't have a broiler pan, coat a wire cooling rack with spray and use that) Combine the remaining ketchup and tomato sauce and distribute evenly, spreading over each mini.

6. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes, or until down. The sauce on top should be slightly browned.