Chocolate Mint Whoopie Pies

I wasn’t going to bake anything before we left for our Christmas vacation. And then we decided to do Kevin’s birthday tonight, rather than bring his gifts from me to Texas with us. And then I felt bad that he had no birthday dessert, so I was going to make brownies. And then we didn’t have any brownie mix, so I turned to my massive cookie book and searched for a recipe that I had all the ingredients for.

The result: Chocolate Mint Whoopie Pies for Kevin’s birthday.

Happy (early) birthday Kevin!

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Bacon and Gruyere Muffins

The fact of the matter is that a typical package of bacon is more than Kevin and I can eat before it goes bad. Not that we don’t love bacon, but we try to be semi-healthy.  So when I still had half of a package left today (the first half used in the meatloaf and on the turkey burgers we ate earlier this week), I couldn’t bear to throw it out. We are always looking for an excuse to buy more cheese, and this recipe gave me an excuse to pick up some cave-aged Gruyere that was on special this week (our local Kroger has a fromagerie in the store which we are a bit obsessed with).

These were so easy.  Somehow the smell of the bacon cooking didn’t wake Kevin up, but the smell of the muffins baking certainly did. These were a great breakfast treat.

Look at that melty cheese and yummy bacon!

This recipe is from Williams-Sonoma’s Muffins, of course. Have I ever made a muffin recipe not from that book?

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Decking the Halls

If you know me, then you know that I love decorating for Christmas. That is probably an understatement. I absolutely LOVE decorating for Christmas.  I had to exercise a lot of restraint this year, though. I have several boxes worth of Christmas decorations in Connecticut, and Kevin and I decided we only had room to bring back one box worth.  We also are going to be in Texas for a week, so it didn’t make sense to go too overboard.

Our first Christmas tree together

Our Christmas bedding…Kevin puts up with so much.

Kevin's office's much better decorated than mine (of course I do have one too! Just no lights on it)

I just joined pinterest this week, and I’m already gathering so many ideas for next Christmas.  I’m ready for it to be November again so I can start decorating again!

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Banana Cream Pie

Usually Kevin makes banana bread with our lingering brown bananas.  This week I thought I would try something different, and made a banana cream pie.  This was actually the first pie I have ever made, and I even made my own pie crust.

It definitely looks pretty

This pie was a mostly-success.  I really liked how the pie crust came out, and the whipped cream layer has some dark rum mixed in, which complimented the banana flavor perfectly.  Kevin felt that the cream could have been a bit sweeter, but he also enjoyed the rum flavoring.  Custards are not among my favorite dishes, so I wasn’t expecting to love this pie, by any means, but I did enjoy it.  Kevin didn’t seem as happy with it as I had hoped he would be–maybe he is more used to banana cream pies made with instant pudding, so the authentic custard variety wasn’t what he expected?  So basically it was good, but not a recipe we plan to repeat anytime soon.

Blurry picture of our dessert by the tree. We watched "Christmas in Connecticut" while eating this on the first night.

The recipe for this pie came from Williams-Sonoma’s Pie & Tart, available on Amazon.  If any of my blog readers are banana cream pie lovers, feel free to stop by for a slice (or two), since we won’t be able to finish it.

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Menu, week of 12/10-12/16

A new grocery store just opened this past weekend in Dayton, and we braved the crowds to check it out. It really was crowded!  Luckily, our shopping list was pretty short because we are having fish for dinner later in the week (I’ll stop on my way home from work that night to get it, so that it is as fresh as possible).  The new store was nice, with really wide aisles, but we probably won’t go there every week since it was farther away than our normal store.

This week’s menu:
Saturday, 12/10: leftovers
Sunday, 12/11: meatloaf and broccoli
Monday, 12/12: leftover meatloaf
Tuesday, 12/13: Club Turkey Burgers with Avocado Ranch Dressing
Wednesday, 12/14: leftover burgers
Thursday, 12/15: Seared Salmon with Potatoes, Swiss Chard, and Mustard Vinaigrette
Friday, 12/16: leftover salmon

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Vanilla Cheesecake

What happens when your kitchen finally gets one of these and one of these ?

You make one of these:

Maybe not the prettiest cheesecake ever, but not bad for a first effort

For my first cheesecake I used the recipe for a Vanilla Cheesecake from Williams-Sonoma Dessert.  We went back and forth about whether to make vanilla or chocolate, but the price for the chocolate we needed was a bit much, so vanilla won.

I made a raspberry sauce for serving by pureeing together some fresh raspberries, Chambord, sugar, and a bit of lemon juice.  I added some whole raspberries to the puree before serving.  I tried to pour the puree through a sieve to remove the seeds, but apparently the sieve I have was too fine, and none of the puree would go through at all.  So the raspberry sauce is a bit seedy, but it was good enough for just Kevin and myself to eat.

As you can see in the picture, I over-baked the crust a bit before adding the filling, so it had a bit of a toasty flavor.  The top also cracked, but I didn’t really try any tricks to prevent that (most people on the internet think baking the cheesecake in a water bath can help prevent cracking, but since it was just for us I didn’t really care what it came out looking like).  Toasty crust, cheesecake cracks, and seedy sauce aside, this was really delicious!

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Menu, week of 12/3-12/9

Last night we went to Jungle Jim’s, a grocery store halfway to Cincinnati that has over 6.5 acres worth of food.  After hearing so much about this store, I was worried we would be disappointed, but it was totally worth the drive.  The international section had all of the Mexican ingredients we have a hard time finding in Dayton, and two whole aisles of hot sauce for Kevin to browse.  The beer selection was also really impressive, and most of the beers are available as both six-packs and individual bottles, so we were able to put together a nice variety to bring home with us.

This week’s menu:
Saturday, 12/3: Slow-cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken
Sunday, 12/4: first attempt at a homemade pizza with our new pizza stone
Monday, 12/5: Pork Chops with Bay-Rosemary Potatoes au Gratin and asparagus
Tuesday, 12/6: leftovers
Wednesday, 12/7: leftovers
Thursday, 12/8: Mushroom Goulash with Peirogis
Friday, 12/9: leftovers

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