Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

It's New Year's Eve!

I have so many fond New Year's Eve memories. My best memories were spending each New Year's night with my best friends at the Holmes' house. Now that I look back, where were the adults?! I just remember playing Nintendo 64 in the bonus room for several hours and then running crazy in the yard with sparklers.

As I got older, there was the lobster dinner, marshmallow roasting, and my first New Year's kiss.

There was a crazy night out in Chapel Hill with two of my best friends, Mark and Sierra.

And then there was one New Year's Eve that I spent with my sister. We ate pizza, talked, laughed, and wrote down our New Year's Resolutions together. I still have that very detailed and lengthy list of goals!

This year will mark the third New Year's Eve spent celebrating with Brian and our best friends.

When I look back at last year's pictures, I'm thinking to myself "THAT WAS JUST YESTERDAY!"

Hard to believe it's been an entire year!

I have a whole album of photos from last year's party that I was never able to share because I had resolved to give up Facebook.

I will have my camera in tow at tonight's party. I hate being the annoying camera lady that's forcing everyone to pose, but somebody has to do it!

Today I'll be polishing up my 2012 resolutions.

I'll be in a jello-shot making frenzy.

And I may have a few baking endeavors up my sleeve.

Happy New Year's Eve! Be safe out there.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Reflection

Yesterday, I looked back at last year's post regarding my 2011 New Year's Resolutions because I wanted to do a self-inventory to evaluate my accomplishments (or lack thereof).

I decided to write them all down on a napkin to share with you.
And by "write" I mean I used my computer editing program to design a digital napkin of doodles.
See napkin below.

Then I said to myself, "Hmmm...Perhaps I should use a flip chart to summarize this data."

So I did.

There you have it.

Per usual, my goals fell by the wayside.

My #1 resolution to give up Facebook for a year ended circa March.

The most adventurous thing I did all year was take a pole dancing class. Highly recommended. It may be a little outside of your comfort zone, as it was mine, but it was well worth the Groupon purchase.

Speaking of adventurous activities outside of my comfort zone, just yesterday I broke down and bought a Groupon coupon for a Brazilian wax.

(Dad, don't Google that).

If you're a female and you haven't done this, admit you're just a little curious. If you have done this, please comment below and rate the pain level on a scale of 1-10 (10 being Death).

Death by Brazilian.

2012 is a whole new year. Thank God.

I have a long list of resolutions in the making. I'm still fine-tuning these goals, but hopefully they will be ready to share with you before January 1st.

What's your resolution? If it's weight-loss related, and I'm about 95% positive that it is weight-loss related, you may want to read this first: The Truth About Weight Loss.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

You'll be spending the majority of that Christmas money on smaller bras.

Now, go forth and make some new New Year's Resolutions.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

First Annual 2011 Blogger Awards

Each year, the blogging community has several award ceremonies honoring the various bloggers in different categories.

The Sweet Tooth, to my surprise, wasn't nominated for any national awards this year; hence, my first ever "The Sweet Tooth Blogger Awards," in honor of myself and my blog.

I have worked hard this year on The Sweet Tooth in order to bring a little entertainment to your life, or perhaps a little distraction from your normal workday.

I have made some changes this year to the blog and I will continue to work hard on making improvements in 2012. Though my blog is truly a hodge-podge of everything, I've tried to narrow my focus to three things: Recipes, Relationships, and Reality. As always, your feedback is much appreciated.

If you have just recently began to follow my blog, I am so glad you have jumped aboard The Sweet Tooth bandwagon.
I have personally hand-picked all of the award categories, the nominees, the winners, and the runner-ups, except for the most popular post category (chosen by Blogger Stats).

The Sweet Tooth Presents....

Most Memorable Post
Winner: Mountain Weekend, Maturity, and Testosterone Poisoning
Runner Up: Five Ways to Render Him Speechless

Most Popular Post
Winner: Baby Shower Oreo Pops
Runner Up: Sure to be a Mouthful

Best Recipe
Winner: Oven Roasted Corn on the Cob
Runner Up: Pulled Pork for a Blustery Day

Best Poetry
Winner: Ode to my Macbook
Runner Up: Ode to the Urchin

Personal Favorite
Winner: Upgrading (But Not Updating) My Status
Runner Up: The other 266 posts that I've written

Thank you all for your continued support! It's been an awesome year.

I want to give a special "Congratulations!" to the author of the winning posts in each category:

Congratulations to me!

I'll skip my acceptance speech and just say....

Thank You!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Days 9-12 of Christmas Baking

The 12 Days of Christmas Baking sorta fell apart there at the end.

Surprisingly, I was still baking all of my goodies and delivering them to some of my favorite people, but I was too busy to blog.

I made No-Bake Cookies for my dear friend Brandon using this recipe here. (Love you Brando!)

These cookies are always a hit. 

I took some to over to my least  favorite bar, Sharky's Place, to share with the bartenders and the devoted Sharky's crew. They were all devoured by the end of the night!

I also tried a new Cake Batter Cookie recipe, which turned out really good.

One Box Cake Mix (Duncan Hines Classic White)
One tub of Cool Whip
One egg

Mix, roll balls in powdered sugar, and bake at 350 for 12 minutes. 

I gave these cookies out to Brian's crazy neighbors.

After eating the cookies in five minutes flat, one neighbor came over to the house, thanked me for the cookies, and offered a marriage proposal. 

I'm not entirely convinced he was joking.

Though I didn't get to bake everything I had originally intended, I would say the 12 Days of Baking were semi-successful. Next year, perhaps I will actually follow through with the entire 12 days. (And maybe I'll start sending some goodies through the mail for my out-of-state readers).

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! Brian and I had a nice dinner at my parents' house on Friday before heading to Annapolis for the weekend. We had a wonderful holiday relaxing, eating, and opening presents. 

Here are my pictures:

The Christmas Tree

The Fox

The Hyena

Me and the Hyena

Yes, these are the only pictures documenting Christmas 2011. 

Poor quality photos taken with my iPhone. 


Now back to "work." 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 8: Candied Pecans

It's Day 8 of baking.

I've gained about 5 pounds already this holiday season.....and it's not even Christmas yet!

At least I can feel a little better about myself because this next recipe features the "good fat" found in nuts.

Lots and lots of the "good fat."

I just ate half a pan of "good fat."

Candied Pecans
Preheat oven to 275.
In a small bowl, mix one egg white with one tbsp water.
Mix in a bag of pecans, 1/4 cup sugar, lots of cinnamon, and a tsp of salt.
Stir and spread out onto a coated baking sheet. Roast in the oven for an hour, stirring occasionally.

They are so addicting. Be warned.

I ate one million.

And the ones I didn't eat, I'm giving away.

Linda, thanks for being a huge help to me this season. Not only do I have you and Bobby to thank for making cornhole boards for my family, but you have allowed me to be your cake decorating apprentice as well. You are so creative, and your artwork is amazing! I have so many great memories playing at the Deaton house, jumping on the trampoline, and laughing until the wee hours of the morning. Thank you for always encouraging us to make those home videos, to act, and to entertain. Those were the best days!

El Gato Presents..."A Final Word Of Advice"

So, lets say you have utilized one of my previous methods and have gotten the perfect gift.

You're on cloud nine.

You can't wait for the receiver to open your awesome gift.

But hang on one minute, it can get even better.

I have two words: Gift Presentation.

Yes, this is important and it should not be overlooked. Sure they will love the front row concert tickets you got them, but you lose the pop if you present them in a standard envelope, not to mention the huge disservice you're doing to yourself and all the time, stress and sweat put into thinking of the gift. Its like picking the perfect outfit and then pairing it with sub par shoes. So put some thought into this, get creative, spend the extra $5 or $10 on a trinket that would add to gift presentation.

Use the appropriate amount of tissue paper and don't discount the power of ribbon.

People judge a book by the cover and they will judge your present by the presentation. Believe me, the extra effort will pay off and it will complete the gift.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On the Seventh Day of Christmas Baking....

I'm really tired of baking. And I've managed to get a day behind, which means I'll be doing two posts today.

Today was supposed to be Day 8.

By the end of the 12 Days of Baking, I'll probably be showcasing store-bought food.

I had every intention of making homemade sugar cookies, using my Christmas cookie cutters, and beautifully decorating them with Royal Icing.

I finally moved off the couch at 9pm last night and unwrapped some Pillsbury Slice-and-Bake sugar cookie dough and made those instead.

Brian ate a cookie and said they were delicious.

He told me it was a million-dollar recipe.

I got up at 6:30 this morning and iced the cookies, which explains the poor lighting in the photos.

It was still dark outside.

See? I'm still somewhat dedicated to my 12 Days of Baking.
I've made these for my wonderful book club members. They deserve something much more special than sugar cookies, that's for sure. They've put up with my last-minute changes, and some of you even skim the entire book the night before the meeting to prepare for our discussion (ha!). It's been so much fun hanging out with you all once a month, and I can't believe it's already been a year! Thank you  for your flexibility, your participation, and your enthusiasm! Love you all!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 6: Cinnamon Twists

I made these cinnamon twists yesterday, but my Macbook died and I couldn't post them.

The idea came from Real Simple magazine and the recipe was, well, really simple.

Puff pastry dough cut into strips, brushed with an egg, and then coated with cinnamon and sugar. Pop 'em in the oven, bake for 20 minutes, and voila!

Amy, I saved you the ones that I didn't eat. Not the best ones, just the leftovers. Some may have a bite or two missing. Although I know there's currently no shortage of Christmas cookies at our house, hopefully you will indulge in these treats. Always remember, "Diet starts tomorrow." Thanks for being a great sister and my voice of reason. If you had only made a few bad grades, or maybe upped your alcohol usage, I might have had a chance at being the favorite. Regardless, I still love you!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day 5: Tie-Dye Birthday Cake

I was asked to bake a tie-dye birthday cake for one of the coolest kids I know.

I babysat for Holland (and siblings) during my four years at Elon. It was a wonderful gig. I was actually getting paid to be entertained by these children!

And let me tell ya, they were the most entertaining kids in the world! I have fond memories of hermit crab funerals, musical performances, and cooking experiments.

Happy Birthday Holland! Hope you have an awesome birthday!!!

The cake batter:

The cake (one of two layers):

 The finished product:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Day 4: Brown Sugar Cheesecake Bars

I finally finished frosting my caramel cake last night. I swear you'll gain ten pounds just by looking at the picture.

It's sinfully good.

For the record, I think it's the best tasting cake I've ever had.

Caramel Cake Recipe: I used my good ol' No-Fail Cake Recipe, adding a half box of instant vanilla pudding like always. I baked it in two 8" cake pans, leveled the cakes, and froze overnight.

For the frosting, you'll need the following ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Melt the butter completely in a saucepan over low heat. Once melted, add brown sugar and milk. Stirring the mixture, bring to a rolling boil and then remove from heat. Let cool approximately 3-5 mins. Pour butter mixture into sifted confectioner's sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Immediately frost cake, because it will begin to get very thick, very fast!

But I didn't stop there.....

I also made Brown Sugar Cheesecake Bars.

I used Paula Deen's recipe for Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars, only I omitted the apples.

If I've decided to eat cheesecake, I'm no longer concerned about my fruit intake.

So I left out the apples, and re-named the cheesecake bars.

I may or may not have eaten three teeny, tiny pieces.

And then eaten three more teeny, tiny pieces.

And then I ate three more teeny, tiny pieces.

You know what they say.

"Nine cheesecakes a day..."

Or so I've heard.
Amy, I hope you enjoy these (and Mike and David, too!). It was such a blessing to have you as a boss, and to always have you as a friend. There are few people I've ever met in my life that are as genuinely nice as you are. I miss seeing you each day, venting about my life, and seeking your advice. I'm forever thankful for the times you let me break down and cry at work. For all the times you let me hide in the breakroom from my various stalkers. And especially for the time when you took it upon yourself to call Jared's during the "Engagement Ring Saga!" You are simply the best.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On the Third Day of Christmas Baking.....

Day 3: Caramel Cake

I baked yesterday. I've baked everyday since Saturday. I'll be baking everyday for the next week.
It's no surprise that my favorite room of the house is the kitchen.

Unfortunately I am "homeless" and I don't have a kitchen to call my own. I avoid paying any bills by balancing my time between Brian's house and my parents' house, and mostly living out of my car.

It's a hard-knock life.

Last night at my parents' house, I was lacking the groceries I had left at Brian's house, so I did not get to make the caramel frosting for this next cake. After another trip to the grocery store today, I'll finally get to finish my cake and I'll showcase it for you tomorrow.

This cake goes out to my two best friends, Erin and Ame.
(I'll just leave it at that for now, or else I'll get carried away and write an entire book.)

On a completely separate note, I came across a WRAL news story a few weeks ago that caught my attention. The story featured Amy Root, a young local woman who was discussing her husband's near-fatal motocross accident and their life after his brain injury. For some reason, this story really touched my heart. As I sat on the couch that Sunday morning, drinking my coffee, reading her story, and then watching the news clip, I cried.

There's only one week out of each month that I get emotional, and this wasn't even that week.

But there I sat, crying for this woman I don't even know. I think it was her devotion as a wife that really got to me.

This holiday season, I wrote Amy Root a Christmas card to let her know how her strength and devotion has been an encouragement to me, a total stranger. Her mailing address is listed on her blog. If you have any interest in following this story, I have posted links for you below.

Just thought I'd share that with you.

Tomorrow I'll be back to my normal baking posts, my witty remarks, and my typical sarcasm.

It's never my intention to tug at your heartstrings.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day Two: Red Velvet Cupcakes

My original 12 Days of Baking did not include Red Velvet Cupcakes, but I had an abundance of cream cheese frosting leftover from the Coconut Cupcakes.

So Red Velvet it is.

And I totally cheated on this one. I used the Duncan Hines box mix.

But here's a cute idea, which I saw on the Hardink Calligraphy website: Layer cupcakes and frosting in a mason jar. Tie with a ribbon and a spoon for gift-giving.

So that's what I did, only mine didn't look nearly as cute as the ones they were originally modeled after.

So I quickly ditched the mason jar idea, because Brian was making fun of my creations. They were weird and confusing, I must agree. So I'll eat the Cupcakes-In-A-Jar myself, and give the prettier ones away.

I've saved some of my prettiest Red Velvet cupcakes for my good friend Sierra! She and I worked together for years at Mill Creek golf course, and it was there that I made some of the greatest memories of my life. I'm pretty sure I hung out with Sierra everyday for two years straight!
Sierra, thanks for letting me be the "third wheel" on every date that you and Mark ever had. Yall's freindship meant the world to me then, and it still means a lot to me now.
...Top of the Hill, Bottom of Linda's!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Barefoot Contessa's Coconut Cupcakes...."How Easy is That!"

Coconut Cupcakes

My role model in life is Ina Garten, otherwise known as The Barefoot Contessa. (Yes, even more so than Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, and The Pioneer Woman). Nobody does simple and elegant entertaining better than Ina.

When I was looking for coconut cupcake recipes, I knew this recipe would be a hit. You can read it here. 

During the holiday season, a great idea would be to dye the coconut red or green before decorating the cupcakes. Unfortunately, I didn't think of this until right now, but dyeing coconut is very quick and simple.

I knew that these cupcakes were best suited for my #1 fan, who asks me "Have you written a blog?" at least ten times per day. Thank you Brian for keeping me on my toes, supporting me in everything, and providing much of the inspiration for what I write. Love you to the moon.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Twelve Days of Baking

Do you know the historical significance of The Twelve Days of Christmas?

Yeah, me neither.

So I went to Wikipedia only to discover that the Twelve Days of Christmas actually begin on Christmas Day and extend until January 5th, representing the days between the birth of the baby Jesus and his baptism in the Jordan River.

But "Contemporary marketing and media tend to espouse the erroneous belief that the Twelve Days end on Christmas and thus begin 14 December." - Source: Wikipedia

Americans are basically doing the whole 12 days thing all wrong.

But "Conformity is the key to popularity." -Source: Kelly Lawrence

Thus, I have decided to begin my Twelve Days of Baking tomorrow and end on Christmas Eve.

I actually won't be baking all twelve days, but maybe three of the twelve days. 

I will, however, feature one baked good per day of the twelve days on The Sweet Tooth blog.

Twelve of my readers will be selected and they will be featured in each of the Twelve Days of Baking posts.

Are you confused yet?

Me too.

("Twelve" is beginning to look misspelled. I hate when that happens.)

To clarify....

**One lucky Sweet Tooth reader will receive the Christmas goodies each of the Twelve Days, personally delivered by yours truly. Read Fine Print Below.**

Winners of the baked goods will not be selected at random. They will be selected by proximity to myself and ease of travel on my part. Also, if we already have plans to get together in the next couple weeks, you're pretty much a shoe in.