Vegan Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened, original almond milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 head roasted garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of ground sage
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (for thickening)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring coconut milk and almond milk to a simmer.
  2. Whisk in your pumpkin and roasted garlic until smooth. If sauce is too thin, mix 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder with 1 tablespoon cold water and slowly whisk into sauce (continue step until sauce reaches desired thickness).
  3. Add sage, basil, salt and pepper. Serve over pasta, vegetables, or whatever your heart desires!

Affordable Fashion

Fashion 1

Lantern Sleeve Top | Jeans | JustFab Booties (old, but similar here & here)

 

Fashion 2

Plaid Vest | Leggings | Long Sleeve | Boots

 

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Black Pocket Tee | Faux Leather Leggings | Leopard Loafers (similar here & here)

 

Fashion 7

Red Turtle Neck Sweater (similar here) | Leggings | Leopard Loafers

Fashion 4

Waterfall Blazer (OLD, similar here) |Tank | Leggings | JustFab Booties (old, but similar here & here)

Fashion 5

Chenille Sweater (OLD, similar here) | White Jeans | Loafers on REPEAT

Fashion 6

Button Sweater | Jeans | Bow Flats

Fashion 8

Dot Sweater (OLD, similar here , here and here) | Black Jeggings | Bow Flats

Fashion 9

Fringe Sweater | Jeans 

 

 

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New Years Chit-Chat

Happy New Year, Everyone! Christmas decorations are stored away and I’ve eaten my last cookie (wishful thinking.) I hope each and every one of you had a magical holiday season spent with family and friends. I took a much needed hiatus from all aspects of work and soaked in each second of the past twelve days off. Working 40 hours a week, being a new mom & wife, keeping up with blogging, maintaining a social life and taking care of two crazy dogs; It has become so hard to take time for myself or my family. I definitely needed a break, but I am back now and so ready to tackle 2019.

‘Tis the season for resolutions! 2018 was such an amazing year for my family. From bringing my daughter into this world, traveling with family, balancing careers; I felt an exceptional amount of personal growth this year. With this growth I found things I wanted to work on, goals I want to set and dreams I strive to reach in 2019.

Of course, just like most, I hope to live a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle this year. Although I am an omnivore through and through, I definitely could use some additional plant-based dishes in my life. Which is perfect because another one of my goals for this year is to experiment more in the kitchen and really step outside my comfort zone. I hope to get extra creative with some fun vegan/vegetarian options and try tons of new things. Eating healthy can be so, so delicious (and easy!) I would love to create some basic recipes that are attainable AND healthy.  To achieve a more sustainable life, other than just eating more plant-based meals, I hope to take better initiative towards recycling and to cut out the non-recyclable plastics in our home (it’s so easy to ditch these items and replace them with reusable ones!) I’m going to plant more fruits, vegetables, and herbs this spring and summer and eat more locally.

I hope to expand this platform from more than just recipes. I want to bring you into my life and give you a little glimpse here and there of affordable fashion, DIY projects, parenting, health & fitness, etc. To be completely honest, I do not make notable recipes every single day. I would be burnt out if I did. I can share with you all what we do for meals when we’re just too busy/tired to cook. I want this blog to be fun and relatable, and that’s not going to happen if I let you think I’m Susie Homemaker. I think that by letting you into my life and sharing other aspects of it with you, it can become a community; Where you can just grab a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and hang out with me.

Blogging has been something I dreamt about doing for years. In fact, I’m pretty sure my last four New Year’s Resolutions have been to launch one. I’ll never forget spending my tax refund on a fancy camera four years ago and saying, “Okay! This is it. I’m going to do it.” And then, something deep inside myself telling me not to. Fun Fact: I still have never used that dang camera (accepting all and any help on how the heck to use it!!) It has been so eye opening coming to the realization that I was the only one holding me back from my dreams. To think, “Where could I be now if I had just let go of my fears?” When I started this blog back in September, I promised myself I would never again be my own worst enemy. From that point forward I would put my demons to rest. I would cheer myself on, just like my friends and family had been doing for me since day one. I am so excited for this year of sharing my recipes and bits & pieces of my life on this platform. I encourage all of you to find that thing that sets your soul on fire. Find it and do whatever it takes to make it happen. You can do anything (and everything) you set your mind to. You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.

I would love to hear what all of your New Year’s Resolutions are! What are your goals? What do you hope to improve on in this new year? The pages are blank, so let’s fill them in together! Also, I would love to know some things you would like to see on here and my other social platforms!

I hope your 2019 is AMAZING and that you don’t forget about all these hopes and dreams come February. Imagine what it would feel like this time next year, to look back and say, “WOW, I did it!” Wishing you all health and happiness.

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Peanut Butter Cookies Dipped in Milk Chocolate & Peanuts

Your traditional peanut butter cookie with a twist. Not only do they taste good, but they plate beautifully as well. This is the cookie you want on that platter of holiday treats you bring to the family gathering or the office party.

Peanut Butter Dipped Cookies

*Note: I always refrigerate my cookie dough overnight for best results. It actually breaks the process down and makes it easier, too. I spend about an hour one night making all my dough and then will bake the next night 🙂 

Ingredients:
yields 24 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips, melted
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, crushed (I recommend using salted peanuts for that salty/sweet combination that to die for)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350º. In a stand mixer, combine peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined.
  2. Sift together your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. With your stand mixer set to low, slowly begin incorporating your dry ingredients just until combined. Refrigerate cookie dough overnight.
  4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll your dough into 1 – 1 1/2 inch balls and carefully press down with a fork to flatten. Bake for about 9 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack immediately.
  5. Once cookies are cooled, dip half of the cookie in milk chocolate and lay on parchment paper. Immediately sprinkle crushed peanuts to melted chocolate. Repeat until all cookies have taken a dip in your chocolate 🙂

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Salted Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies

These babies are my all time favorite. The classic chocolate chip cookie with a little sea salt incorporated to hit every single one of those taste buds. Throw a pack of instant vanilla pudding in these give for an absolutely decadent texture. Refrigerating these cookies over night is a MUST! This will ensure they are thick, soft & chewy perfection. Make extra for Santa, because he’ll be knocking on your bedroom door for more.

Stack of Cookies

*Note: I always refrigerate my cookie dough overnight for best results. It actually breaks the process down and makes it easier, too. I spend about an hour one night making all my dough and then will bake the next night 🙂 

Ingredients:
yields 24 cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 packet of instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 cups milk  or dark chocolate chips (I prefer milk)
  1. Preheat your oven to 375º. In a stand mixer, combine butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined.
  2. Sift together your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and instant pudding mix.
  3. With your stand mixer set to low, slowly begin incorporating your dry ingredients just until combined – do not over mix!
  4. Refrigerate cookie dough overnight.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto your sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and slightly under cooked in the middle.
  6. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; transfer to cooling racks.

Salted Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies 2

 

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White Chocolate & Almond Oatmeal Cookies

My husbands personal favorite, although I have to leave the white chocolate out of his because he’s some sort of chocolate-hating monster. This is the cookie you can have for breakfast and you cannot/ should not be judged. It’s oatmeal, people.

*Note: I always refrigerate my cookie dough overnight for best results. It actually breaks the process down and makes it easier, too. I spend about an hour one night making all my dough and then will bake the next night 🙂 

Ingredients:
yields 24 cookies

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted but cooled
  • 3/4 dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  1. Preheat your oven to 350º. In a stand mixer, combine butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined.
  2. Sift together your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. With your stand mixer set to low, slowly begin incorporating your dry ingredients just until combined.
  4. Remove bowl from stand mixer. With a wooden spoon, stir in your oats, chocolate chips, and sliced almonds just until incorporated. Refrigerate cookie dough overnight.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop 1 tablespoon dollops of dough onto your sheet. Bake for about 9 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack immediately.

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Cookie Butter Cookies

Is there a more “cookie” cookie than a cookie made with cookie butter? What’s better than a cookie made of cookies? In my opinion, you can never have too much cookie and this is a way to finally, officially eat two cookies at once (well, sorta.) This is the kind of cookie Cookie Monster would approve of, so before I use the word cookie one more time, let’s move onto the cookie recipe.

*Note: I always refrigerate my cookie dough overnight for best results. It actually breaks the process down and makes it easier, too. I spend about an hour one night making all my dough and then will bake the next night 🙂 

Ingredients:
yields 24 cookies

  • 1 cup cookie butter (Biscoff, Trader Joe’s, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  1. Preheat your oven to 350º. In a stand mixer, combine cookie butter, butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined.
  2. Sift together your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. With your stand mixer set to low, slowly begin incorporating your dry ingredients just until combined. Refrigerate cookie dough overnight.
  4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll your dough into 1 – 1 1/2 inch balls and carefully press down with a fork to flatten. Bake for about 9 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack immediately.cropped-jackie-drift-signature-1.png

 

Peppermint Bark

One of my favorite holiday treats (that I indulge in all year long.) Not just for the flavor, but for it’s festivity! It’s also probably the easiest to prepare of all the Christmas treats.

I find that using the mint flavored chocolate chips instead of peppermint extract gives it a more delicate flavor of mint, rather than that pungent “just brushed your teeth” zing. It’s perfect for topping your bowl of ice cream or decorating a cheesecake – ’tis the season to drizzle everything with peppermint bark! Enjoy!

Peppermint Bark 1

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. mint chocolate chips
  • 12 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 4 candy canes, crushed
  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Pour your mint chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat in the microwave in increments of 20 seconds, stirring in between until completely melted.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, carefully spread the melted mint chocolate across the parchment paper in a thin layer. Put in the freezer until it’s completely set, about 25 minutes.
  4. Repeat step #3 with the white chocolate chips. Spread the melted white chocolate in a thin layer on top of the mint chocolate. While still melted, generously sprinkle your crushed candy canes over the entire surface of bark.
  5. Place your bark back in freezer until hard, about 25 minutes. Break into a variety different sizes and enjoy!

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Oven Roasted Prime Rib

Sorry all vegans and vegetarians, but this is the meal I wait all year long for. Almost as far back as I can remember, my mom has been hosting Christmas dinner. Along with the perfect charcuterie board and some bacon wrapped shrimp to start the evening, she followed with the big boy; A prime rib the size of a linebackers thigh. To this day, I sneak in the kitchen while the rib is resting and pick at the perfectly seasoned & crisp outer  crust.

As I learned from my mom, roasting a prime rib is fairly easy. The key is to have a good meat thermometer and to take it out a little early, since it will continue to cook while it’s resting under an aluminum foil tent. Remove your rib from the oven when it reaches an internal temperature of 120°, let it rest under a tent for about 20 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 130°. If this is “under-cooked” for some of your guests, serve some piping hot aus jus on the side – pouring this over your meat will cook it a little more!

Helpful hints:

  1. Put your order in to your butcher a week in advance (at least!) A lot of people are cooking prime ribs this time of year, so you want to make sure you have one ready for you. Order it cut & tied (cut off the bone, but tied back on) with the fat left on. The bone and the fat – that’s where you get all that juicy flavor. Rule of thumb is one rib per 2 people, so if you’re feeding 6 people order a “three rib Prime Rib, cut & tied, with the fat on.”
  2. Take your rib out of the refrigerator an hour (at least, depending on the size of meat) before cooking so it reaches room temperature.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 Prime Rib (mine was 3 rib, about 12 lbs.)
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • kosher salt
  • coarse ground black pepper
  • fresh rosemary

Homemade Horseradish Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of mayo
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons roasted garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated horseradish (I use Gold’s)
  • salt & pepper

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Preheat your oven to 450° and place your prime rib, fat side up, in a deep roasting pan or baking dish. Coat the entire outside of your rib in softened butter and roasted garlic. Generously season with kosher salt, black pepper, and 3 fresh sprigs rosemary.

With your oven rack on the lower third of your oven, put your prime rib in and cook for 30 minutes. Reduce your temperature to 350° and continue to cook for about an hour and 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 120°.

 

Remove the prime rib from the oven and immediately cover under a tent of aluminum foil. Let rest for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 130° (perfectly medium-rare on the ends and rare directly in the middle.)

Cut the ties, remove from the bone, and slice into generous slabs of beautiful meat for your oh so happy dinner guests. Serve with homemade horseradish sauce and piping hot aus jus.

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Holiday Dinner Party

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This past Sunday was spent scurrying around a kitchen with one of my sweet friends, Allie (take a look.) With cocktails in hand, together we executed a pretty-damn-flawless dinner party for our significant others and a few friends. I handled the cooking and Allie managed the bar, charcuterie and somehow accomplished to set a tablescape that I swear I’ve seen in a magazine. The girl has an eye for design and let me tell you, I’m a little (a LOT) envious. You’re going to wonder where she’s been for every event you ever hosted (I’m considering renewing my vows so she can plan my second wedding), but not to worry! She has a blog where you can access all of  her wonderful thoughts that are brought to life. Better yet, let her come paint your dream party for you.

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I’ve hosted my share of dinner parties over the past few years and there’s a few things I’ve managed to pick up along the way. My first tip: Don’t overthink it! Nobody at your party/gathering will be able to relax if you’re not relaxed. My second tip? Take help when it is offered! I am MOST guilty of this. Not only do I sometimes feel awful accepting help when I’m the one who invited people over, but it’s also a controversial topic whether or not I have a serious case of OCD. However, I’ve learned that typically people are offering to help because they want to. Give them an easy task to do! It’s not asking much, but it’s one less thing you have to worry about. My last prequal tip before I get into my real tips is to save the damn dirty dishes for the morning. Yes, five of your friends will offer to do them. Your husband will probably offer, too. The mountain of dishes will irritate the crap out of you. The cure? Pour yourself a glass of wine. Kick off your heels and go enjoy the company you just hosted. Relax, laugh, make memories; The dishes will still be there in the morning, but your friends and family will be leaving soon.

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When it comes to the bar, I like to offer at least one pre-mixed cocktail. Something that’s all ready to pour and people don’t have to think about it (we think all day – it’s time to relax!) Whether it’s sangria, punch, or a big batch of Mimosas, it’s sure to be a hit. There’s no shame in making a party BYOB, either. In the age of IPAs and a plethora of different wines, people actually like to drink the things they prefer. Just make it known, so people aren’t left high and dry.

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Appetizers, antipasta, hors d’oeuvres, the first course. I love charcuterie. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s really true. There’s something on it for everyone (put some nuts on it for the vegans!) and it’s not too much. If you’re planning to follow your first course with a main course, you don’t want to spoil everyones appetite. However, if you’re having a party that starts later in the evening, possibly after people would have eaten dinner or too late to serve dinner, I would go a little heavier on the appetizers or snacks. Especially if there’s alcohol involved.

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The Dinner Plate: Protein, starch, and a veggie. Every party is not Thanksgiving and it can be quite the buzzkill if everyone’s ready to head to bed after dinner. For Christmas my mom always makes Prime Rib and my mouth is seriously watering just thinking about it. With that being said, when planning with Allie what to make for our dinner party, I decided to stick with what works (do not try to fix something that’s not broken.) To go with the Prime Rib (recipe to follow), I decided to stray away from the “been there, done that” mashed potatoes (who AM I!?) Instead I made Creamy Garlic Parmesan Polenta. WOW. I would never mean to cheat on potatoes, but sometimes a girl gets weak. With the Prime Rib and Polenta being so rich, for my vegetable I decided to go with a salad. Don’t worry, it wasn’t just an ordinary salad! This Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad is sure to be your new favorite.

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Lastly, it’s time for dessert. I’m truly not much of a baker. My pies consist of store-bought crust. I don’t play well with yeast or anything that has to rise. I love everything that starts with Phils and ends with Bury. Cheesecake is just about the only thing I can handle, which is fine with me because it’s so versatile. If you can find your perfect cheesecake recipe, it’s pretty easy to make it fit any occasion. For example, for this holiday party I made a “Kris Kringle Cheesecake” (recipe to follow) that consisted of a peppermint bark Oreo crust, my traditional cheesecake recipe, a white chocolate ganache, and crushed candy canes on top. It was heavenly and fit the theme seamlessly.

Throwing a dinner party doesn’t have to be hard, but it should always be fun. If you’re not much of a cook or funds are tight, opt to have a potluck. This way, everyone brings a favorite dish and a whole lot of pressure is taken off of you. You can make it fun by requesting everyone bring recipe cards for their dish too, so it becomes somewhat of a recipe exchange. People are always looking for new recipes and it’s a great conversation starter!

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At the end of the night, what matters is exactly why you had the party in the first place: To pause our crazy, hectic lives for a few hours to spend time with the people who make life so enjoyable. I hope this holiday season you’re all able to have a party or attend one, meet a new friend, try a new dish, and remember everything that makes each of us so blessed. Happy Holidays to you and all those who make your life so special.

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Allie’s Blog: Love Forever

Photography: Daphne Sipes

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