Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hopefully everyone had a fun day whether coupled up or single — I always liked Valentine’s Day because it encourages people to express love (something everyone should do everyday, but this is a good place to start) and it’s probably the best aesthetic holiday… ever? I spent most of my day baking (these amazing linzer cookies above!) and wrapping gifts, but I had time to make a few homemade Valentine’s cards for some neighbors, relatives, and friends.

Ok… maybe they’re more like anti-Valentines, but you get the picture. We’ve all got a good sense of humor around here 🙂 I use very simple, accessible supplies when crafting cards such as these. All you need is:

  • Card stock
  • Scissors and x-acto knife
  • Patterned paper
  • Mini doilies
  • Glue stick
  • Stamps & Ink Pad, if desired
  • Magazines (I love & always use vintage magazines — I tend to find them in antique stores or library magazine exchange racks)

 

Now for the cookies…. these Raspberry Linzer cookies are some of my favorite cookies of all time. I usually reserve them only for Christmas, but since Valentine’s Day calls for some special treats I dug out some heart-shaped cookie cutters and went to town. These are gooey in the center, tart and sweet, and so so pretty dusted with powdered sugar & glistening with jam! While they’re pretty easy to make, I don’t know why I don’t do it more often.

  • 3 sticks of butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam or good raspberry preserves

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer and add the vanilla
  3. Sift together flour and salt in a large bowl and add it to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing until a dough forms
  4. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes
  5. Roll the dough out and begin cutting rounds or hearts (whichever shape you desire). For the bottoms, just press your cookie cutter into the dough as usual. For the tops, you may need to double up on cutters — using a smaller one in the center in order to form a hole for the jam.
  6. Place all of your cookies on a baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes
  7. Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges turn golden
  8. Allow cookies to cool
  9. Spread your jam or preserves on the flat side of each bottom half
  10. Sift confectioner’s sugar over each top half, then press your cookies together to form a little jam-cookie sandwich

Voilà! A simple but delightful treat. You may use any kind of jam or preserves you prefer, but I always stick with raspberry because I think it really complements the simple, buttery flavor of the cookie dough. Enjoy!

Easy Tweaks for a Healthier Diet

It can be way easier said than done to commit to a healthy lifestyle — I’ll let you know when I’m ready to give up pizza & beer nights, or treating myself to baked goods and sweet wine, or to forego sleeping in for a trip to the gym (never). I try to never banish anything from my diet, simply try to be healthy most of the time so that indulging is always guilt-free. How can you really enjoy life if you’re constantly cutting out happy things?! I’m a firm believe you can still eat what you want, enjoy life, and be a little healthier overall with some simple habits.

 

You don’t have to swear off carbs forever. Just swap out your white bread for a delicious whole grain loaf, rich in fiber and protein that will keep you feeling full and also acts as an aid for digestion. Since white bread is made from refined grains, the bran and germ in the bread is eliminated in the process — meaning you’re losing vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber when you opt for white bread instead of whole grain.

Obviously, you won’t be able to substitute oil for butter every single time you need it, but it’s definitely a healthier option for everyday use. Olive oil is full of essential fatty acids and antioxidants, some of which can help to fight off disease and prove to be beneficial to your hair and skin. It’s also highly resistant to heat, meaning it’s perfect to cook with.

OK, I’m aware that I did say “everything in moderation,” but I’m also super anti-soda, so I think it’s for the best. Soda is terrible for our bodies: loaded with sugar and empty calories, terrible for our teeth, complexions, and waistlines.  I actually recently read that Mountain Dew has a higher pH than battery acid. You can’t possibly desire a better diet for yourself if you refuse to cut back on soda consumption. There are numerous better ways to get a sugar fix, and if it’s the caffeine you’re after, reach for something with real antioxidants and way less calories, like a hot cup of black coffee or some freshly steeped green tea.

The more you cook at home, the more mindful you are when preparing what goes into your body. At restaurants we don’t know the whole process, meaning we will probably turn a blind eye to what goes into each meal and hope for the best. The truth is that it’s not always the best ingredients used or prepared in the healthiest way. Even if you don’t know how to cook, buying groceries and cooking for yourself will pay off in the long run, and it’s so fun to discover your personal cooking style and create some signature dishes!

 

A lot of store-bought dips or dressings are loaded with sneaky saturated fats… meaning even if you’re eating veggies, that dip you’re indulging in isn’t necessarily healthy. But you don’t need to nix dips forever, just be cautious as to which ones you’re choosing. Try a homemade hummus in place of sour-cream based dips or store-bought chile con queso. If you think creatively, there’s always a healthier substitute!

 

I love fried chicken as much as the next guy, but we all know it’s pretty bad. Whether you’re preparing a meal at home or ordering out at a restaurant, pretty much anything is better than fried. Look for things on the menu that are steamed, sautéed, grilled — even roasted! Fried food is dipped in hot oil containing multitudes of fat that gets absorbed into whatever you’re cooking. It might be delicious (despite how it’s done) but in the long run, steering clear of the fried foods most of the time will be much better for you overall.

 

Just because power-foods are good for you doesn’t mean they aren’t delicious too. Foods like lentils, kale, berries, broccoli, and dark chocolate have various health benefits and taste fantastic. Incorporating foods like these into your everyday diet can introduce multiple advantages over time, leaving you feeling and looking better.

 

Speaking of power foods, I’m pretty sure that eggs will win all of the awards, hands down. Delicious and nutritious, packed with protein and flavor, eggs are highly versatile and never go out of style for good reason. Make an omelet with your favorite veggies and some fresh cracked pepper, or fry them up and eat them with a hearty toast, or boil them or scramble! Whichever your preferred method, eating eggs more often will keep you in good health.

Which of these are your favorites? Let me know your personal tweaks!

 

 

Homemade Cinnamon Bread

Perfect for a Sunday brunch or a quick and comforting snack, this homemade cinnamon loaf will make you and your guests mad with perfectly balanced sugar & spice! It’s super easy to make, and the process is pretty fast as well (no yeast! yay!) coming together in about an hour and half or a little less.

Eat it warm out of the oven, slice it and make french toast, or slather a toasted slice with butter or cream cheese — whichever method you choose for your madness, this bread will not disappoint.

 

For the batter:

  • 1 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

For the cinnamon swirl:

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 350° and greasing two 9×5 inch loaf pans
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, and eggs together in an electric mixer
  3. Gradually add the milk, then the flour and baking soda and mix until incorporated
  4. Whisk together the sugar & cinnamon in a separate bowl
  5. Pour a small amount of batter into each pan, filling it up about a third of the way and smoothing it out into the corners
  6. Follow up with a layer of cinnamon sugar on top of the batter
  7. Pour the remaining batter into each of the pans, smoothing it as you go
  8. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top of the batter, using the rest of the cinnamon sugar or however much you desire
  9. Swirl slowly with a knife
  10. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean

 

Honestly, it’s so delicious out of the oven — crumbly with a thin sugar-coated topping and soft inside. Let them rest in the pans for about 10 minutes, then let them cool for just a bit on a rack before slicing and digging in. Enjoy!