Hello 2013!

Mirror Ball

Another new year… everyone make it through the holidays OK?   Anyone else relieved that they’re finally over?  I know I’m not the most festive person – I kind of roll my eyes when people tell me this is their favorite time of year, but I’d be lying if I didn’t always experience something of post-holiday melancholy every year around now.  I also kind of feel excited, though, to just get back into the normal grind.  The holidays are exhausting!

I can’t say that I’m too big on New Year’s resolutions, but it’s hard not to spend some time reflecting on the past year and thinking about what you’ve accomplished and what you might want to accomplish or do differently in the coming months.  I think I tend to keep my expectations pretty low compared to others.  The other night we were out with some friends, who I thought had a pretty big 2012, but they were kind of “meh” about it.  I related that I just caught up on a few doctors appointments and organized some of my finances and was calling it a banner year!  Oh well…

All in all, I think 2012 was a pretty great year for me.  Here are a few things I accomplished:

1.  As stated above, I finally caught up on a bunch of long overdue doctor’s appointments.  This was huge and I felt a major weight lifted off my shoulders just by doing this.

2. Spent some time organizing my finances – not that they were in horrible shape or anything, but there were a few things that needed to be taken care of and I feel a lot better now that they’re done.

3.  Reorganized and decorated my home office.  When you work from home as much as I do, it’s nice to have a clean, happy place to work.

4. Lost another 10 lbs! This has been a slow steady battle – like really slow.  Overall, I’m down about 40 lbs from my all time high reached back in 2006.  It’s mainly been accomplished through an emphasis on regular physical activity, watching my mid-week drinking habits, portion control and just not eating garbage.  These days, my snacks are usually fruit or trail mix.  Eat real food – mostly plants.  It’s actually not that complicated once you get started.

5. I feel like it was a pretty good year for socializing.  I met some new people and got out and did some fun things.  Good times.  In recent years, Kevin and I have fallen into a bit of a rut where we hang out with the same few people all the time, and obviously they’re awesome or we wouldn’t spend so much time with them, but it’s just nice to branch out a bit.  Definitely something I want to continue in the new year.  There really is a social butterfly hidden deep within me!

Some Goals for 2013:

1.  Travel more.  Travelling is one of my favorite things – right up there with eating and drinking – and we really didn’t go anywhere in 2012.  The last few years have actually been a little lame as far as travel goes, because of Kevin’s school schedule, but we usually at least get one or two long weekends away.  We didn’t do any of that in 2012.  He should have a bit more free time though this year, so hopefully we can get out a bit!  2013 is already proving to be better since we’re only 4 days in and we’re heading up to Boston for the weekend!

2.  Maintain fitness.  I’m at a point now where I’m pretty happy.  As always, the holidays have taken a bit of a toll, but if I can just get back into swing of things now that they’re over, and maintain my weight and general fitness, I’ll feel pretty good about myself.

3.  In 2012, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up (yes, I know I’m 30), and I made some real progress narrowing things down, but now it’s time to figure out what steps I need to take and work out the logistics of it all, so I can actually get there.

4. Finally, I want to blog more.  My blog was mostly neglected in 2012, but I’m determined that this year, there will be more posting.  I don’t know that they’ll all be food related – recipes and restaurant reviews can be really time consuming.  You may see a lot more shorter posts, perhaps even posts that are mostly just pictures.  It helps that my smart phone takes fairly decent pictures now (or at least better than my old one), so I don’t always feel that I need to lug around the dSLR.

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone!  I hope it’s a great one.  Anyone else have any big plans for the year?

Salted Caramel Pecan Bars

This is another recipe that we made during our epic Christmas cookie baking extravaganza a few weeks ago.  We found the recipe last year in Southern Living Magazine, and it is definitely a keeper!  These are so awesome  – love that sweet and salty combo.  Plus. they’re really easy to make!

The picture below is with the optional chocolate topping, because duh, if chocolate is an option we’re going with it!  It was also taken before my dad and I cut them into tons of little triangular pieces…  I had a hard time with this particular task, but my dad did a really spectacular job.  I think we may have found him a new holiday chore…

salted caramel pecan bars

1 cup chopped pecans

12 whole graham crackers

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup butter

2 tablespoons whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup dark chocolate morsels (optional)

 

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 10 to 12 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

2. Line a 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil; lightly grease foil. Arrange graham crackers in a single layer in prepared pan, slightly overlapping edges.

3. Combine sugar, butter, and cream in a medium-size heavy saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla and pecans. Pour butter mixture over crackers, spreading to coat.

4. Bake at 350° for 10 to 11 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

5. If desired, sprinkle with dark chocolate morsels, let stand a few minutes, and spread with spatula.

6. Immediately sprinkle with salt, and slide foil from pan onto a wire rack. Cool completely (about 30 minutes). Break into bars.

 

Ginger Cookies

This is one of the many types of cookies I made during my great cookie baking extravaganza with my mom last weekend.  They are fantastic!  I’ve actually made them three times now – once just to test them out, once for Andrea’s Party and then finally for all the cookie trays that my mom and I put together.

The recipe comes from my friend Jenn, who you may remember from past posts, who got the recipe years ago from an old coworker.  In my opinion, these are the very best recipes – those that get passed on and on from one friend to another.

They’re sort of a spicy, molassesey type cookie, but extra spicy – like a lumberjack cookie on steroids – with a ton of ground ginger and added lemon zest for freshness.  They’re pretty wonderful if I do say so myself.


Ginger Cookies

 

5 Cups All Purpose Flour

4 tsp Baking Soda

 1 tsp Salt

 4 tsp Ground Cinnamon

 10 tsp Ground Ginger

 3 Sticks Unsalted Butter (at room temp)

 2 Cups Firmly Packed Dark Brown Sugar

 2 Large Eggs (at room temp)

 ½ Cup Molasses

 1 Tbsp Lemon Zest

 ½ Cup Granulated Sugar

  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets.

  2. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger and set aside.

  3. Using an electric mixer on med-high speed, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, stopping twice to scrape the bowl with a spatula.

  4. Add eggs and beat on medium until blended.

  5. Add the molasses and lemon zest and beat until blended.

  6. Fold in half the dry ingredients using spatula and then fold in remaining half. Mix on low until blended.

  7. Measure out rounded tablespoons of dough and roll into balls.

  8. Roll in granulated sugar and place two inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.

  9. Bake cookies until edges are slightly golden and center is puffy, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove cookies and place on rack to cool.

***Makes 5 Dozen**