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Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of '12: Movies

This spring/summer was a great movie season. There were so many that I wanted to see! I didn't end up going to the theaters for all of them, though. I waited for them to come out on Redbox. ;)

A lot of the movies I picked as my favorites are newer ones, but I put some oldies on the list, too.

We'll probably be doing a lot of movie watching tonight, since we have so much time on our hands. We'll probably watch Christmas With the Kranks and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. At least, I hope we get around to watching Harry Potter.

1. The Avengers
Best. Movie. Ever. All my favorite super-heroes in one epic movie=totally awesome.

2. The Amazing Spider-Man
And this is another one of my favorite super-heroes, but, unfortunately, he is not in the Avengers. :( The acting in this is superb and (I think I've mentioned this before) is much better than the original.

3. Hunger Games
After waiting for this movie to come out for several months I was very happy with the movie. Gary Ross did an excellent job and the cast was great. I liked Clove a lot, because her personality was just like I imagined the character's in the book to be. Deranged and violent. Rue was great, too, and so were Cato, Glimmer, Thresh, Effie, and Haymitch. And, of course, Katniss and Peeta.

4. The Sound of Music
This is one of my favorite "feel good" movies. I can basically sing almost every song in the movie. I love Julie Andrew's voice and her acting.

5. The Help
The kind of movies I like varies a lot. It just depends on what mood I'm in. And, occasionally, I'll want a drama with a bit of humor added to it. The Help does exactly that. Hilly, the prejudice annoying character, is one of those villains that you just love to hate. Kind of like Professor Umbridge is in Harry Potter.

6. Brave
This is such a cute movie. Disney and Pixar came together once again to give us a perfect entertaining family-friendly movie.

7. Nanny McPhee
Another movie with Emma Thompson in it, but this time she's dressed as an overweight nanny with a bulbous nose and warts. Another great family movie where everyone will be laughing.

8. Elf 
Will Ferrel does an epic job playing Buddy the Elf. It has lots of humor and is another one of my favorite feel good movies.

9. Snow White and the Huntsman
I was pleasantly surprised when I watched this. With the fact that Bella Swan is Snow White put aside, this was actually a good movie. The special effects were awesome and it had Chris Hemsworth in it. For those of you that don't know, he played Thor in, well, Thor. I'm not a fan of Kristen Stewart's acting, but overall it was a great movie.

10. The Hobbit
I like the Lord of the Rings movies a little bit better, but how could a movie with Gandalf in it be bad? Answer that for me. The actor who played Bilbo Baggins was a great Bilbo. And the dwarves are funny. It occurred to me while watching that all dwarves in general, no matter what movie or book they're from, don't get along with anyone. And they sing a lot.

Inquiry of the Day:

What are some of your favorite movies?

I could probably add some more to the list, but I'll stop it 10 so I don't overwhelm you. ;)
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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best of '12: Actors/Actresses

Most of my favorite actors are in my favorite movies, so that'll be tomorrow's post. Then I'll end with books. Hmm... I better start thinking about what books I'd like to mention, because, again, I have so many favorites!

So, this is going to be a short post. Honestly, I don't have much to say today. I'm wiped out from all the sledding we did this morning. I feel like I need a nap. Desperately.

And now, onto the actors:

1. Andrew Garfield
I was amazed how well he played Spider-Man. He's way better than Tobey Maguire. Way better. To tell you the truth, though, I never really liked Tobey Maguire, because he was just to geeky for me. But the movies- epic. My favorite parts were the Stan Lee cameos. ;)

2. Emma Stone
And to follow up, Emma Stone did an epic job in both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Help. I like Gwen Stacy much better than Mary Jane. Not just because of the actors, though. I like Gwen's character much better. On note of The Help, did you know that Bryce Dallas Howard, who played Hilly in The Help, was Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3? Oh gosh, I'm such a nerd.

3. Johnny Depp
I love this guy. He's so hilarious! He does a great job in Pirates of the Caribbean and I can't wait to see The Lone Ranger

4. Robert Downey Jr.
He's great in The Avengers, Sherlock Holmes, and all the Iron Mans. I've noticed that whatever character he plays, he's always charismatic, sarcastic, and a little snobby. Which adds to the humor he brings to the characters he plays.

5. Scarlett Johansson
I'm not really sure what I like about her, but somehow I'm just drawn to her acting. Maybe it's because she did such a good job playing Black Widow.

6. Jennifer Lawrence
She was the perfect Katniss. She was solemn, kept to herself, and acted just like I imagined Katniss would act. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least, after watching The Hunger Games.

7. Josh Hutcherson
Okay, you probably knew this was coming. He was a great actor when he was a kid and he still is. Not only was Jennifer Lawrence a perfect Katniss, but Josh Hutcherson was a perfect Peeta. Sweet, charming, and funny.

Inquiry of the Day:

Who are some of your favorite actors?

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of '12: Songs

This is a hard one, because I have so many favorite songs! It's hard for me to choose just one. With that said, I've picked out a variety of songs from different genres that have a special meaning to me.

Growing up, I was introduced to a whole array of genres: christian rock, classic rock, pop, and some other strange music my dad listened to. Oh, and the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack. *shiver* I still hate it. But, that's besides the point. Because I've listened to a lot of different genres, my tastes are pretty random.

Well, nothing left to say, but enjoy the music! :)

1. Home by Phillip Phillips
I was Phillip Phillips fan from when he first auditioned on American Idol. Of course, it would've been nice to have a girl winner..... but Phillip is good too. As soon as he released "Home", his first song, on Amazon I immediately bought it. It's such an uplifting song and always puts me in a good mood.

2. Part of Me by Katy Perry
In my opinion, this is one of the better Katy Perry songs. It shows that you can't let other people drag you down and have to rise up out of bad situations. Plus, it's got a catchy beat. ;)

3. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift
Normally I'm not much of a Swift fan, but this is one of the few songs she's written that I like. It's kinda funny in a way, and very upbeat.

4. 50 Ways to Say Goodbye by Train
Okay, this song is just plain hilarious. You really have to listen to the lyrics, but there are some pretty funny lines in there. Again, another upbeat songs that always makes me happy. It's also got a little Mexican flare to it.

5. Manifesto by City Harmonic
I first heard this song when I went to a church retreat over the weekend in April. I've loved it ever since. The lyrics basically describe who we are as Christians and make me smile every time I hear them. It also makes me think of the good time I had last spring with my youth group. ;)

6. Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson
An extremely motivational song. I've been through a lot this past year or so and this song always gets me through the gray days. I know this illness I'm struggling with is only temporary and will make me stronger when it's gone and that theme resonates perfectly with the main idea of the song.

7. Some Nights by Fun.
Love. This. Song. All that's to be said.

8. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
I didn't just hear this song this year, but it's always worth mentioning. Queen is awesome and this song just proves it even more.

9. Someone Like You by Adele
Oh, Adele. I love her voice. It's so beautiful in it's own unique way. This is one of my favorite songs, because a) the only instrument playing in it is a piano ( I play piano) b) it shows off her vocal talents beautifully and c) it's such an emotional and powerful song that it's kind of hard to explain how I feel while listening to it.

10. Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses
What would the Best of 2012: Songs be without a Christmas song in the mix? Nothing, I tell you. Nothing. Christmas music is one of my favorite types, and this is one of my favorite songs. I first heard it in the movie Fred Claus and I was hooked.

Inquiry of the Day:

What are some of your favorite songs? Or if you can't choose a song, how about artists or genres?
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best of '12: Food

In honor of the end of 2012, I've decided to create a bunch of "Best of 2012" posts. I'm thinking of doing food from the blogosphere, music, movies, actors, and books. Just because they're the "Best of 2012", it doesn't mean it has to be made in 2012. For example, some of the recipes I'm going to post today aren't from this year, but I made them this year. Sound good?

This first post is about food. And especially good food, too! They're the top six recipes I've encountered this year. Three of them are dessert, but the other three are not. At any rate, I hope you try at least one, because they really are darn good!

I love, love, love these! In my opinion, they're much better than the ones made with marshmallows. Since I don't eat peanuts, I used cashew butter instead and they turned out just as good. 
Photo taken by Chocolate Covered Katie

2.Pecan Pie from
I've never had pecan pie until this past Thanksgiving. And, I'm not quite sure what the sugar-laden stuff tastes like, but this probably tastes tons better. It's one of my favorite desserts! It's pretty, too!

3. Vanilla Cupcakes from Ginger Lemon Girl
I like these cupcakes because they weren't crumbly at all. Which really surprised me considering I didn't put any xantham gum in them. The original recipe contains xantham gum, eggs, and a whole teaspoon of baking powder (which has corn starch). To seem my modifications, visit this post.

This is almost better than regular tomato sauce. It's great for spaghetti and would make a wonderful chicken Parmesan. Instead of using red wine, I doctored it up with balsamic vinegar, which gives it the acidic flavor it would otherwise lack. 
Photo taken by the Urban Poser

I've mentioned these before and I'll mention them again. One of my favorite foods ever! Especially with TJ's Mango Ginger Chutney. Oh, my mouth is watering. 
Photo taken by the Comfy Belly

This is awfully reminiscent of my mom's meatloaf, which is made of ground beef and pork. For the time being, I don't eat red meat, so this is a perfect replacement for the comfort food I've missed so much. 
Photo taken by Angela Liddon from Oh She Glows

So there you have it, my favorite foods from 2012! 

Inquiry of the Day:

What have been some favorite foods you've encountered this year?

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Recipe Round-Up

I love doing these recipe round-ups, because instead of adding new recipes to my conglomeration I get to highlight some of the old ones. You know what they say, oldies, but goodies. ;)

I was so excited for Christmas I can hardly keep from jumping up and down. I get to see my grandparents today, my cousin, aunt, and uncle. That all adds up for a grand total of 11 people, including my family. We're having everyone over for brunch tomorrow and I'm not sure if we'll have enough chairs.

To bring to Christmas Eve dinner at my grandma's house, my mom made gluten-free meatballs and if they're any good I'll post them on the blog. I bet they are. Basically anything my mom makes is good. ;)

I'd have to say my favorite part of Christmas is seeing other people's faces as they open their gifts. It makes me feel all warm and bubbly inside. I can't say what I gave my family members, because my mom reads my blog, though.

I've procrastinated enough. Onto the recipes!

These are perfect for brunch on Christmas morning. They're a snap to make and bursting with blueberries. 

If you're not serving any blueberry fans, or aren't one yourself, these are the perfect substitution. Who could pass up a muffin full of chocolate chips and almond flavoring? I also like to call them Panera Muffie copycats. 

Chewy, delicious, molasses-y cookies. To me these scream Christmas. 

I'm not a fan of fruit cake, but I love spice cake. It's perfect with chopped up dates and a creamy vanilla frosting. 

Of course, these are a personal favorite of mine. Nothing is better than Pop-Tarts early Christmas morning. ;)

Again, this just screams Christmas. And ginger is one of my favorite spices, so I adore this moist little loaf. 

A fun dessert to make and I promise your guests will love it. But be warned, you might not want to share.

Very peppermint-y and with a layer of dark chocolate on the bottom, you can't go wrong.

The perfect vehicle for salmon, cream cheese, or any other spread/dip. 

This is a great replacement for mashed potatoes or any other carb dish of the like. The perfect mixture of beets, potatoes, turnips, and sweet potatoes/squash make this a healthy, yet absolutely addictive side dish. 

An easy, quick entree to prepare for guests. I love it served with mashed potatoes, peas, and topped with gravy. 

Even though this isn't my own recipe, it is one of my very favorites and worth sharing. While everyone else is having some breaded appetizer, you can have homemade chicken nuggets. We all know who will be jealous. Actually, I'm bringing these to dinner tonight. ;)

From the Comfy Belly

Inquiry of the Day:

How are you spending Christmas? With a bunch of people or just a few? 

Christmas at my house always means tons of people. We're never really sure who to expect. ;)

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Peppermint Bark

At first I thought this recipe wouldn't work out. Like, at all.

But to my surprise, it did! Which is a good thing, because cacao butter is really expensive. Be warned, though. This isn't like the white chocolate you buy in bags at the store. This is the real stuff. And, in my opinion, it taste just as good in its own way. I think what makes it better is the layer of dark chocolate on the bottom. ;)

The crushed peppermint candies are from Trader Joe's. I discovered they had peppermint candies without dyes, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, and corn syrup. They had me hooked by "no dyes". Personally, I like them better than the kind with corn syrup, but they cost a tad more. If you can find them, though, I do recommend buying some.

This recipe doesn't really take much to make. Most of the time is spent freezing the chocolate. And the results are absolutely delicious! However, I don't recommend serving this to people who aren't used to healthy desserts. The bark isn't very sweet and slightly bitter. I like dark chocolate, though, so it tastes great to me!

Dark chocolate layer:

2 T. cocoa powder
2 T. coconut oil, melted
2 T. agave

White Chocolate layer:

2 in. rectangle of cacao butter, melted
1/2 tsp.vanilla
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
pinch of salt
3 T. agave or sweetener to taste
crushed candy canes or other peppermint candies

1. First make the dark chocolate layer in a small bowl. Line two mini-loaf pans with wax paper. Or you can use cupcake liners or candy molds.
2. Pour a very thin layer of chocolate in the pans.
3. Freeze for about 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, melt the cacao butter on the stove top. It will turn a golden color.
5. Once it's melted stir in vanilla, peppermint extract, salt, and agave. Remove from heat.
6. Crush the peppermint candies.
7. Take the dark chocolate out of the freezer and pour white chocolate on the top. Sprinkle the crushed candies on the top.
8. Freeze for about 20 minutes. These are best stored in the freezer, so the chocolate doesn't melt.

Inquiry of the Day:

What's one of your favorite Christmas candies?

I love candy canes, peppermint bark, truffles, basically anything with chocolate or peppermint. 
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Friday, December 21, 2012

Molasses Cookies

I told you I would post a molasses cookie recipe and now I finally am.

These are slightly chewy, soft, and 100% delicious. Of course, they aren't completely sugar-free. They do have real molasses in them, and if you must make them refined sugar-free I would recommend either using yacon syrup or maple syrup in place of the molasses.

One of my favorite holiday cookies are molasses cookies. My grandma used to make them from scratch. We would mix up the dough together, cut out shapes with cookie cutters, and frost them. Of course, we haven't made the cookies for some time, but I still have fond memories of them.

This recipe doesn't make cut-out cookies, just drop cookies. If someone wants to try to make them pliable enough to cut into shapes, be my guest and please report back!
The texture of the cookies is definitely different from the ones I remember my grandma making, but the taste is the same. One thing I do recommend though, is increasing the molasses to a 1/3 cup and decreasing the honey to a 1/3 cup if you want a stronger molasses-y taste. I might do that next time. Hmmm.......

Well 4 days to Christmas everyone! I can't wait! So make some cookies, spend time with family and/or friends, and enjoy the holiday season. :)

2 1/2 c. almond flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 c. grape seed oil
1/4 c. molasses
1/2 c. honey or agave

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and set aside two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
2. Mix together almond flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium sized bowl.
3. Add the wet ingredients.
4. Scoop out a tablespoonful of dough onto the baking sheet. I got 4 rows with 4 cookies in each row on my trays. Remember, the dough spreads out quite a bit so give them space, at least an inch apart.
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes. I wouldn't recommend going any longer than that, because the bottoms will burn.
6. Let cool for about 15 minutes and frost if desired.

By the way, we got our first good snow of the year! Woo hoo! :D

Inquiry of the Day:

Has it snowed where you live?

I just hope the snow will stay on the ground until Christmas morning. If it doesn't, the weather man says it's supposed to snow again the day after, so I guess that's okay.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mini Pop Tarts

Moister, richer, and tastier than regular Pop-Tarts. Yes, they are. And, yes, they do not have any of the following ingredients: enriched wheat flour, soybean and palm oil, corn syrup, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, cracker meal, corn starch, wheat starch, soy lecithin, etc. etc. Instead they are gluten free, grain free, vegan, dairy free, egg free, soy free, corn free and optionally sugar free. Yay! :)

Time for the back story:

Every Christmas, for as long as I can remember, a box of wrapped Pop-Tarts from Santa have been placed above our stockings on the mantel. And each year, I automatically reach for that box and eat a delicious brown sugar and cinnamon or cherry Pop-Tart. It's not a very healthy tradition, I'll admit, but we only got Pop-Tarts once a year, so it was a special treat for my sister and I.

I really wanted to keep the tradition alive this year. Unfortunately, Pop-Tarts are neither healthy or gluten-free. So to the kitchen it was! I used the pie crust recipe from Elana Amsterdam's Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook (love the cookbook!) and mixed together some cinnamon, brown sugar, and almond flour for the filling. Obviously, these are not refined sugar, but I'm working on a recipe for those of you that are.

These truly are better than regular Pop-Tarts. I swear. My dad even thought so. And he's the Sugar King, so that's a huge complement. Next time, I'll probably double the recipe, because this only made 4 baby Pop-Tarts. :(

Pie Crust on page 79 of the Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook:

1 1/2 c. almond flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. grape seed oil
2 T. agave
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Filling:

2 T. brown sugar (maybe try replacing brown sugar for maple syrup as a sugar-free filling?)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. almond flour

1. Mix together dry pie crust ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
2. Add the wet ingredients and mix until combined.
3. Put mixture in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, and almond flour. Make sure to smash all the brown sugar lumps. Cut out two equal sized sheets of wax paper.
5. After 20 minutes is up, form the pie crust into a lump and place it on top of one of the wax paper sheets. Put the other sheet of wax paper on top and smash the ball of dough until it is about 1/4" thick.
6. Using a pizza cutter, trim off the edges to make a square. Put the extra pieces of dough in the bowl and back in the freezer.
7. Then, cut the dough in half  lengthwise. Next, cut the dough into three pieces width-wise so you have six small squares.
8. Generously sprinkle filling on three of the six squares. Don't be skimpy!
9. Carefully lift up the squares without the filling and place it gently on top of one with the filling. Poke holes in the top with a fork and crimp the edges. Sprinkle on some of the leftover brown sugar filling. Repeat steps  5-9 with the leftover dough you put in the freezer.
10. Bake these for about 9-11 minutes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet at 350 degrees F. You'll know they're done when the edges are golden.
11. While they're baking, mix together the glaze recipe at the end of this post.
12. As soon as they come out, drizzle glaze on top of the pop-tarts.
13. Wait for them to cool and then devour!


1 T. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2-1 tsp. almond milk (I use sweetened vanilla)
1/4 tsp. vanilla

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl.

For refined sugar-free glaze, see this post.   

Inquiry of the Day:

What Christmas traditions do you have?

On Christmas Eve, after church, we all go to my grandparents house for dinner and dessert. Afterwards, we open our presents from them, because they can't come over on Christmas morning (they go to service on Christmas morning really early).
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