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Welcome everyone! I hope you all enjoy my blog, and learn along with me as i begin my life in the Culinary Arts. Click the tab “A Little About Me” on the menu below to see all that i will be documenting

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Mint Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cookies

There are many flavors that were destined to be together, jelly and peanut butter, bacon and eggs, banana and strawberry. But one of my favorites is Chocolate and Mint. Whether it’s Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies or a York Peppermint, I can not resist it. This past visit to the grocery store I came across some dark chocolate mint chips. Well i had to buy them, and immediately went home and began brain storming. Using a modified brownie recipe, i mixed 1 cup flour, 1 cup Bisquick, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 3 eggs, 1 tsp baking powder, half a cup melted butter and 3/4 cup melted semi sweet chocolate morsels. To the dough I poured in the entire bag of mint chips (2 cups) I rolled them into 1.5 in balls and placed them on a cookie sheet to bake at 350 for 10 min. Let me tell you they smelled fantastic. The Bisquick made them rise like a muffin so they were super light and fluffy. Another successful baking day.

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The Absolute Best Roasted Vegetables

This post will be short and to the point. I have made many vegetables a number of ways, but this way has surpassed all the others. First choose a vegetable or two, yielding about four -five cups, mine were cauliflower and Brussel sprouts. Place them in a zip lock bag along with 2 Tbsps. Olive Oil, 2 Tbsps. Balsamic Vinegar, 2 Tbsps. garlic powder, 1 Tbsps. Salt, 1/2 Tbsps. pepper and 2 Tbsps. Onion Flakes. Seal the bag and shake until all the veggies are evenly coated. Dump them all onto a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake at 425 for 15min, remove and stir, then bake for another 15 or until the veggies are caramelized. I made this for a Dinner for Two and there were zero left overs.

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Oreo Crunch Cereal Bars

This snack is another one of my “Lets see what I can make with what’s in the house” recipe. This afternoon I used half a package of Oreos, mixed them with about four cups of Corn Chex Mix cereal, two heaping Tbsps. peanut butter, and two melted Hershey’s Chocolate bars. I then dumped this mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Using my hands i pressed it out over the sheet until it reached every corner and was evenly spread. Then i baked it at 200 degrees for about 10min. When i took it out of the oven i let it sit for another ten to harden. Just like any bar cookie or granola, they need to cool before handling or you will have a mess. I cut then into 2 by 3 in bars and drizzled them with a glaze made of powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. They were satisfinly crunchy with just a hint of sweetness. Perfect to take in a school lunch or just to snack on at home!

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Quick and Easy Baked Chicken with Asiago Spinach Sauce

This Quick and Easy chicken dinner is one of my favorites for a week night. For the chicken all you need to do is preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Next brush each 4 oz chicken breast with olive oil, then sprinkle both sides generously with salt, pepper and garlic salt. bake for 5 min each side, or until meat is 165 internal temp.

For the sauce, roast two bell peppers over an open flame, Or roast in an oven. peel off any blackened skin, remove seeds and place in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients: 4oz artichoke hearts, 2 cup raw spinach, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup asiago cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese 3 Tblsp cream cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth, then heat in a pot over low heat until the cheese has melted. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve, or pour the sauce into a stone ware container and place chicken on top. Either way the flavors combine for a delicious meal =) But if you don’t have time to make sauce, simply serve the chicken plain with BBQ or a different sauce of choice!

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Valentines Day Sugar Sprinkle Cookies

Valentines Day is a holiday filled with an array of sweets for your sweetheart. From candy hearts, to strawberries, and just about anything covered in chocolate. But I’m a firm believer in the gift of a cookie. You can never go wrong with soft delicious treat made with love. These mashed sugar cookies are just the ticket to please your valentine. The recipe is simple.

Mix together, 1 1/2 cup flour, 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup shortening, and a dash of salt. Scoop the dough out in 1 in balls onto a cookie sheet. Take a clean glass cup and press it into a bowl of red sugar sprinkles. Gently press the cup on top of the dough ball. You can stop here and bake them for 6 min at 350 degrees OR you can take it a step further. If you wish to make them into a heart, take a mini heart shaped cookie cutter, about 1 in in diameter, press it into the flatted cookie, trim the access dough back into the bowl and repeat. This recipe makes 30 mini cookies, about 1.5 in across. Double the recipe to make 2-3 in cookies. Happy Valentines Day!

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No Bake, Chocolate Peanut Butter Enery Bites

To bake or not to bake, that is the question. This cookie is different than my usual baking endeavors. My mother brought home a recipe for a kind of “Healthy” cookie and wanted me to try it. I’m not sure yet if I like them as much as the normal, soft, warm, melt in your mouth cookie, but they’re still good. The peanut butter and honey combo never fails to please.  I’ve copied the recipe below for you to try on your own. Let me know what you think!

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Ingredients

2/3 c peanut butter

1/2 c honey

1 c oats

1/4 c coco powder

1/2 c chopped nuts

1/2 c dried cranberries (or raisins)

1/2 mini chocolate chips

1 c toasted coconut

Mix al together and roll into balls or flatten. Sit on wax paper for half an hour then place in air tight container. Refrigerate for longer lasting

 

 

“Im Watching You” Cookies

This is what happens when you have a hodge podge of ingredients and want something sweet. These cookies are the result of half a box of cake mix, a cup of Bisquick, 1/4 stick of cream cheese, a little milk (about 1/4 cup) and creativity. I mixed them together and had myself a nice looking dough. Very similar to a thick brownie batter. Being a chef you must sample to insure the product is good. Well I could have eaten the entire bowl, it was amazing. I scooped them out in medium spoonful’s (about 1 1/2 Tbsps.) and plopped them onto a baking sheet for 10min at 350 degrees. Because of the Bisquick they rose quickly, and had a light fluffy texture. Each bite was soft and slightly moist from the addition of cream cheese.

These cookies didn’t need anything else, they taste alone was enough to please, however I felt like they needed an extra touch. Something to make them pop. Returning to the refrigerator I remembered I had some leftover cake icing. using my decorator I squeezed out two eyes for each cookie, and topped them with a chocolate chip. Now I looked down to meet two dozen chocolatey faces staring up at me. A bit  like cookie monster, oh well, who said food can’t be fun?

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Hedwig Owl Cake

In light of recent events, I would like to share with you my Snow Owl Cake. This past week the film industry lost a wonderful member. Alan Rickman graced the big screen with his talents throughout the years. One of his biggest roles being professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. Some may know that Harry Potter is very near to my heart, and of course I was sad to see Rickman go.

For my birthday every year my mother makes a from scratch snowman confetti cake . This year however I made a Snow Owl to look like Hedwig, Harrys Pet throughout the books. I started with a basic yellow cake recipe, but instead of butter I used equal parts butter and cream cheese (1/2 c and 1/2 c). For the confetti I carefully folded in 2/3 cup sprinkles. To make it look like an owl I used two different baking dishes. One was an oblong stone, the other a small soufflé cup. The batter was enough to fill two of each, so when the cakes were done I stacked them, making a kind of layer. For the decoration, I first iced a base (or crumb) coat to make sure the cake was sealed all around. Switching to a leaf tip on my decorator I made featherlike patterns al around the torso and the head. The eyes consisted of Cookie Crisp Cereal piece with a single chocolate chip. A triangle fudge made the beak, and mini pretzel sticks doubled as talons and eyebrows. Upon completion I was very pleased with my Hedwig Owl Cake. It wasn’t the traditional snowman, but it was just as delicious. Please message me for a full recipe.

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2015- My Biggest Year Yet

Every December 31st we look back on the previous 12 months and reflect on all that took place. There are times we could gladly re-live again and again, then there are those we would rather forget. For me, the year of 2015 proved to be the most influential year of my life. I learned numerous life lessons, while growing substantially as an individual. But with any great accomplishment, there are first obstacles to overcome, and even though most of my experiences were positive ones, there were a few  times I saw a cloud with no silver lining. But we’ll visit those later. To start off, I fulfilled my dream of seeing the Hogwarts Castle. True, it was only in Universal Studios, but the Harry Potter nerd inside me was so overjoyed, I could have powered  100 patronesses (only some will get this reference.)  Not only did I taste my first chocolate frog, but I got a tour of Gringotts Bank, visited Weasleys Wizard Wheezes, ate breakfast at the Three Broomsticks, AND of course brought home a wand (the second in my collection.) I know to some the wizarding world holds no interest, but for me and thousands of others it is a truly magical place. A realm of literature I knew only through the works of J.K. Rowling was brought to life. It was as if the products of my imagination had leapt from my mind, turning into tangible people places and objects of all sorts. This was by far a number one vacation. One I look forward to repeating.

The wand I spoke of now hangs on my wall for all to admire, and will very soon be joined by my college diploma. This December I graduated from Southwestern Illinois College. I’ve always been a decent student, studying has fortunately never been a challenge for me. But this year saw the last stack of note cards, the final Final if you will (for a while anyway). on Dec 17th I walked out of my Nutrition exam swelling with accomplishment. Everything was now completed for my Degree in the Culinary Arts. All I’m waiting for now is the Diploma to arrive in the mail, making my graduation official. I put many hours of hard work into this program, and am very proud and thankful to all who made it possible. Because of them I have many opportunities in front of me, and can’t wait to see where my career will go. While graduation and grand vacations are great things to check off a bucket list, they are social or cultural, happy occasions. But my year also contained personal milestones. And while self improving, some were very difficult.

Fitness and nutrition have been a large part of my daily routine for the past three years now. Cardio, plyo, carbs, fats, sugars, you name it I was all about it. But too much of a good thing is a bad thing. To make a long story short I developed an eating disorder (not extreme like Anorexia or Bulimia but serious none the less) Internal mental battles became a daily occurrence, I lost entirely too much weight and slowly shut out friends and family. About seven months ago I hit a critical low point that made me realize I had a problem, and began taking the steps to resolve it. I learned that no one expects perfection from me. I’m loved for who I am as a person, not how I look physically. Shutting out loved ones is the worst thing you can do when you’re struggling. But it’s okay to not always like who looks back at you from the mirror, because God gave us friends and family to remind us how beautiful we really are, inside and out.

This leads ne to my next point, on people God places in our path. Most friendships we make are built to last, but there are some we can not hold onto and need to let go. I learned this lesson when I ended the most serious relationship I’ve ever been in. Let me tell you, as a young adult this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I don’t care what anyone says, there is NO easy was to break up with someone, especially if the relationship had no major flaws. We were simply two people going in two different directions. I had gained all I could from our time together and was having to force those feelings that had once come naturally. When you start to not be yourself for the sake of another, you know it’s time to move on. But who says you can’t move on in style?

Coincidently the day I said good bye to him, was the day I bought my first car (the previous one being owned by my parents). I had been searching for a few months and had finally found my perfect match. A 2015 ZO6 Corvette.. Ha! Just Kidding. Sadly that’s still in the garage of my dreams., I actually got a 2013 SCION FR-S. She’s sleek, fast, and sexy in a red coat that gleams in the sun and turns heads on the road. Together we’ve developed a new love of driving and a need for speed. Sometimes I’ll take the long way home just so I can enjoy the ride a little longer. I named her Phoenix, not only because of the color, but phoenixes are a symbol of healing and new beginnings. That first drive was one to remember. As the RPMs climbed so did my pride. I had closed the door on one chapter of my life, but was racing head on into the next.

For the next two months I re-focused. Instead of worrying what other people thought, I got back to my roots, doing the things that made me, ME. Biking, hiking, running, painting, planning visits with friends, hanging out with my cousins again, simply making time for the things that are important. Needless to say I’ve had a pretty fulfilling year, ups and downs of course, yet all worth the while. But before closing this re-cap there’s one more development i’d like to share.

As previously stated , God puts people in out path for a reason, yet not always when we expect it. Then again those usually seem to make the biggest impact. After my break up in the summer I vowed I was going to stay single through the holidays. No boys, no worries right? (Ha. good one Natalie) well come Fall I was at a bonfire/hayride and was introduced to someone who changed my mind. We started to chat, and as small talk turned to conversation I was amazed at how much we had in common. Before I knew it, hours had passed and we had spoken to hardly anyone else. When I went to leave I started to feel that familiar pull, that small desire making me want to stay a little longer. Inside I was yelling “NO! STOP! Remember we said we wouldn’t do this again!” Well funny thing about life is you can’t always control it. My meager attempt at vanquishing the sparks between us proved unsuccessful. Instead it turned into a flame that lit the fuse to what is now that best relationship I’ve ever been in. Granted we’ve only known each other for four months, but the future looks very promising. I can honestly say this is the happiest I’ve been with anyone. I’m confident that 2016 is going to be amazing, and I look forward to sharing it with you through My  virtual Journal. Follow me on my new blog to see what else I do besides food

http://nataliesdailyjournal.com/2016/01/07/2015-my-biggest-year-yet/

Oh did I mention I turned 21?! Hell Yes I did! So Cheers to the New Year =)

Brown Sugar Cookies with Toasted Pecans

Here’s a new take on the Sugar Cookie. Instead of using white sugar and Crisco, I used brown sugar and butter. The result is a richer cookie that’s darker in color. Very tasty and a lot less time to make.