Fall Bucket List 2013 Final Wrap-Up

Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

When I looked at my phone this morning and saw “December 23” I couldn’t believe it. Not only is it in the upper 70’s here in Charleston, but I’m working today and tomorrow. So it doesn’t quite feel like Christmas yet. Although, Greg and were super productive and in the holiday spirit this weekend. We finished our Christmas shopping, wrapped all of the presents, and I cleaned almost the entire house in preparation to go out of town for several days.

Side note: When I was younger, I never understood why my mom spent so much time cleaning right before we left for vacation. What was the point?! I get it now!! I absolutely hate coming back home to a messy house when I already have a suitcase full of dirty laundry and am too exhausted from the travel to even think about cleaning. Nowadays I make a point to wash as much laundry, clean as many dishes, and vacum as many floors as possible before leaving town. Like mother like daughter! …almost. I’m not quite as clean as my mom.

Okay so enough with that. Now that it is officially WINTER, I want to do a final wrap-up of my Fall Bucket List. Remember this?:

I already went over #1, #3, and #6 here.  
So how did I do on the rest?
#2. I made pumpkin donuts and double chocolate pumpkin cupcakes. No pumpkin muffins this year, but I can’t complain. 
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#4. Greg and I fulfilled this dream of going to a Panther’s game last weekend when they beat the Jets! It was so much fun spending the day in Charlotte and seeing my our boyfriend Cam in real live action.
#5. We did roast marshmallows and make s’mores, but not over our own fire pit. Our backyard/patio is currently a much delayed work in progress as we wait for our patio stones to be delivered. 
#7. I made it to the Farmer’s Market once or twice this fall. It’s losing my interest though, unless I have a specific gift to buy or have out of town visitor’s. I have found the The Vegetable Bin (which I previously posted about here) has the same produce for much cheaper! 
#8. We took Zoey to the beach on Thanksgiving Day. Oh my goodness, she LOVED it. The beach that is, not the water. So you can imagine her fear when she accidentally chased another dog into some standing water and refused to move for 10 minutes. It was in the low 30’s outside, so the water was freezing as well. What a little baby!! Gotta love her. 
#9. Okay so how terrible is it that the one thing I did NOT do on my list was volunteer? Ugh. #ImNotABadPersonIPromise!
Skipping right ahead…
#10. Although I love dates of all kinds, breakfast dates always feel so special to me. It’s nice to spend a lazy Saturday morning sipping coffee and eating a pastry with Greg by my side. With the hustle and bustle of our lives right now, it doesn’t get to happen often. I am happy to say we got to do this a few times this fall.
And that’s it! Fall 2013 is history. Bring it on, Winter! (just as long as temperatures remain in the 60’s/70’s, even though I know that’s not happening). 
On another note, you may have noticed my serious decline in posting recently. To be honest, I don’t anticipate that changing for a few more weeks. Part of it has been due to the fact our wireless internet modem broke last week, so we’ve been disconnected whether we like it or not. And the other part of it is simply due to the extreme craziness of the holiday season. 
I’ll re-evaluate when we get back from visiting family in North Carolina and Ohio this week and next. Until then, MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY NEW YEAR, AND VERY SAFE TRAVELS!!!!
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Baked Pumpkin Donuts

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Confession: I think I’m over pumpkin. I realize that may not be the best way to introduce you to these Baked Pumpkin Donuts, but it’s the truth.

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As usual, I got really excited about pumpkin at the beginning of fall. Our culture builds so much hype for the big orange squash and all of the flavor it brings to everything from baked goods to savory sides to espresso drinks. I get sucked in and dream about all of the pumpkin things I will consume. Then I take a bite or a sip of the pumpkin _______ (fill in the blank) and it hits me. Pumpkin isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Don’t hate me :/
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And don’t get me wrong. Pumpkin is not bad, but I couldn’t eat it every day. I’ve always been a vanilla girl, but that doesn’t mean I don’t go coo-coo for cocoa puffs chocolate too. Those are flavors I go crazy about, as boring as that may be. 
I also recognize the value pumpkin brings to baked goods in order to make them super moist. I will be posting a cupcake recipe soon which uses pumpkin, but contributes more to the texture than the flavor. In that sense, I probably could eat it every day in some form or another.
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Now that I’ve vented a little about pumpkin, I have another bone to pick with you. (I don’t think I like that phrase, but what’s done is done…what’s said is said….what’s written is written). 
Issue #2 for the day: Baked donuts. Not the item itself, but the name. 
This isn’t the first baked donut recipe I’ve made, but I’m growing more and more dissatisfied with them. Again, I realize I’m not giving much credit to how tasty these really are. But calling them donuts is so misconceiving. 
Greg says they should be called “Baked Bread Circles.” He’s right. These are essentially a quick bread or muffin in a donut shape. 
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Sure, they have the shape of a donut, but they should not be mistaken for a real, true DOUGHNUT. I’m talking light, airy, yeasty, fried dough heaven. Even cake doughnuts (vs. yeast doughnuts) are on a different level than baked donuts. 
(Notice my intentional inconsistent spelling of the word. I’m using doughnut to refer to the real thing, while donut is the wanna be.) 
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Despite everything I’ve just said, I hope I’m not contradicting myself too much when I say these baked donuts are a perfect match to your hot cup of coffee on a crisp fall morning. They are slightly sweet, perfectly soft, and have the pumpkin flavor we all get worked up about. 
Just don’t expect a bakery style doughnut by any means. If you want one of those doughnuts, come with me to Krispy Kreme. 

Baked Cinnamon Pumpkin Donuts
(Adapted from Taste and Tell)

Makes 6 donuts

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cinnamon for coating

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray donut pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon.
3. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, pumpkin and butter. Cream together then add the egg. Mix well to combine. Add milk and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
4. Pour batter into a ziplock bag. Cut off one tip of the bag and squeeze into donut pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a couple of minutes before removing from pan. Let cool completely. Pour 1/4 cup cinnamon into a ziplock bag. Add one donut at a time to the bad and gently shake to coat in the cinnamon.

*Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week. 

Doughnuts, Pancakes and PB&J

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I know I’m not the only one who can’t live without doughnuts. I don’t eat them often, but they are an extremely welcomed indulgence whenever I feel like really treating myself. For all of you doughnut lovers out there, have you ever heard of Spudnuts, or any other doughnuts made with potato flour for that matter? Spudnuts is a doughnut shop in Panama City Beach (along with many other cities across the country) that I discovered thanks to Greg and his family on one of my first trips to the city a few years ago. Oh my word, they are heavenly. 
This past weekend, we were in PCB and I couldn’t wait to get my Spudnuts fix. The cream-filled (NOT CUSTARD!!) long johns are my absolute favorite. I also split a cinnamon sugar twist with Greg. 
Love, love, love.
Spudnuts Donuts on Urbanspoon
Pancakes are another welcomed treat for me. I have pancakes much more often than doughnuts, but I still have to have an excuse to opt for pancakes rather than a more nutritious meal. Last week, I met with my good friend Hannah at The Village Bakery for breakfast and some good spiritual talk. As my first time at the restaurant for a sit-down meal, I knew I had to do it right. Pancakes it was! 

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It was so worth it. The fruit on the side cancelled out any negatives, right? These pancakes, and my time with Hannah of course 😉 , were the highlight of my day. 
Village Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon
Doughnuts and pancakes are great, but you know what never gets old? Good old fashioned PB&J.
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Eating a PB&J sandwich while driving is optional. Driving or not, it only takes one bite to realize it’s a classic for a reason. If you use whole wheat bread, all-natural peanut butter and all-natural jelly or preserves, there’s no reason to feel guilty either. Paired with an apple or some baby carrots and you’ve got a perfectly simple and satisfying lunch. 
You + PB&J…make it happen. You know you want to. 

Sunday Blessings – Bachelorette Weekend with My Best Friends

This weekend my best friends and I gathered in Charleston for my bachelorette party. I put together a little welcome gift for the girls including a bottle of wine with a custom label (from Etsy and I’m totally in love) and a praline. 
wine bottles
Everyone got into town super late on Friday night, so we just chatted for a bit then went to bed in order to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for a long day on Saturday. 
I knew I wanted to show off all of Charleston’s amazing food. We started off on the sweet side with donuts from Glazed.
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We got a Cinnamon Twist, Chocolate with Sprinkles, Maple Bacon, and the star of the show: Berry Mascarpone. 
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We ended up having to go back and get a second Berry Mascarpone donut. It was unreal. 
After strolling through the Farmers’ Market (it was the first weekend they were back up and running for the year and it was packed!), we continued to stroll down King Street for some shopping. We worked up an appetite and grabbed lunch from Verde before calling it a day downtown. 
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Time for the beach!
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We got a little bit of sun, but since it was already late in the afternoon, it was cooling down outside and we didn’t last too long. We headed home to get dressed up for dinner at Crave
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I’m do a full review of the meal tomorrow, so I’ll spare you more pictures now. I will tell you this – it was one of the best meals I’ve had in awhile. We were all raving over our different dishes. Love this place! Love it so much in fact that I’m going back this week with Christina and Erica! (I hope our plans are still on girls!)
We went out for some drinks on Market Street downtown, but we didn’t get too crazy…not really my style 😉 But we had a great time talking about life. I could tell you that we went around the table and shared our five-year plans, but then you’d think I’m a loser. Whoops. Too late now! But that’s exactly what we did. 
I loved talking with my best girlfriends about our lives…where we are and where we’re headed. For some of them, it was their first time meeting. So I thought it’d be nice to get to know each other better. Plus, since I don’t get to see or talk to my out of town friends as much anymore, even I felt like I didn’t really know their current wants and desires in life. 
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After all the girl talk, we went back to my place where my friends had surprise gifts for me to open. They really are the best friends in the world. 
One by one, the girls started to make their way out of town, back to their homes. By late morning, it was down to my sister, mom, and cousin. We went to church, then brunch at Charleston’s Cafe, where I had the most amazing whole wheat blueberry pancakes EVER. 
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Going, going, gone!
Finally it was time to say goodbye to the last of them. As expected, this weekend went way too quickly, but we really did squeeze in just about as much fun as we could have asked for. I am so grateful for all of them making the trip to celebrate this weekend – coming from Indiana, Ohio and Florida, I know it wasn’t easy. 
God has blessed me with the best group of girls in my life and I can’t wait until we’re together again for the big day in just over a month!

Chocolate Peppermint Donuts

How festive am I today?

Very. Very festive, would be the answer to my question. 

I may or may not even be wearing a tacky Christmas sweater t-shirt all day. Maybe it’s because I live in the South, but I was very surprised to find Walmart didn’t have any Christmas sweaters. Only t-shirts…in case your were curious.
I have never been to a Tacky Christmas Sweater party and honestly was never one to be too amused by the whole thing anyway. 
But you know what? Things change. People change. And when your office is throwing a potluck holiday breakfast and asks people to show their spirit by wearing a holiday sweater (or t-shirt), you do it for goodness sakes. 

Ha! Now I’m just being weird. I think I might be a little slap-happy right now. Or maybe you call it ate-too-much-peppermint-frosting-happy. 

These are hands down the best baked donuts I have made so far. The cake is moist, but not too moist. The frosting is the star of the show though. The thickness of the frosting helps it not to absorb right into the donut overnight, as I have experienced with other donuts in my day. Then, they are topped with crushed White Chocolate Peppermint M&Ms.

Yup. I need to go for a walk now.
 

Chocolate Peppermint Donuts
(Donut recipe adapted from Sutterbean)

Makes 6 donuts

Ingredients:
For the donuts-
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting-
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

For topping-
1/3 cup Peppermint M&Ms, crushed

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray donut pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine.
3. In a separate bowl, combine milk and lemon juice. Stir and let sit about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar, egg and butter and vanilla extract. Whisk well to combine. Add wet mixture to dry mixture. Stir until there are no more lumps.
4. Pour into a large ziplock bag. Cut off one corner at the bottom of the bag and squeeze batter into donut pan.
5. Bake 9-11 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the donuts comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to wire cooling rack to finish cooling completely.

To prepare the frosting and assemble the donuts-
1. Add powdered sugar and butter to the bowl of a stand alone mixer. Beat about 1 minute until combined. Add cream, vanilla and peppermint extracts. Continue to beat until smooth.
2. Use a butter knife to spread frosting onto donuts. Immediately, sprinkle M&M crumbs over the top of the donuts.

Baked Double Mocha Donuts

Did you know this past Saturday was National Coffee Day?? ….Oh yeah, I did too. Duh. 
No, not really. Complete coincidence that I made a batch of Baked Double Mocha Donuts on Saturday. Or maybe it was fate. 

Having never baked anything with coffee, I didn’t know what to expect. I love a cup or two of morning joe as much as the next person, but I have never been inclined to go for coffee flavored treats. Regardless, something about this recipe spoke to me. Plus, I’m always up for using my donut pan! (This is the one I have in case you’re curious: Wilton Six Standard Doughnut Pan)
I ended up with plenty of leftover batter after filling the donut pan wells, so I filled a mini muffin tin for “donut holes”. 

Yes. Yes. And yes. Everything about this. Just, YES. 
Out of all of the donuts I have made, these have won my heart and I’m sure they will win yours too.

Double Mocha Donuts

(Adapted from Crazy for Crust)

Makes about 8 regular donuts (or 6 regular and 8 “donut holes”)

Ingredients:
For the donuts-
1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the frosting-
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons brewed coffee

Chocolate sprinkles, as desired

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray donut pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk, coffee, egg, vanilla and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until combined, but do not overmix.
4. Use a spoon to scoop batter into donut wells. Fill about 3/4 the way. Bake 8-10 minutes or until toothpick inserted in donut comes out clean. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before removing from pan. Place on cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.
5. While donuts are cooling, prepare frosting by combining all ingredients in a medium bowl. Blend with a hand mixer until smooth. Frost and sprinkle donuts as desired.

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts

Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere! In our coffee, in our muffins, in our cakes, even in our enchiladas! It is officially fall and I’m loving every second of it.

I haven’t actually bought any canned pumpkin yet, but I have bought some of this:

Whipped cream sold separately 😉 But after the first bite of this, my taste buds were convinced I was eating pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie requires plenty of whipped cream if you ask me. 
Then some serious thoughts entered my mind. I have baked with pumpkin before.  I have baked with Greek yogurt before. Why not bake with pumpkin Greek yogurt?! Genius. Or just logical. Either way, I’ll take the compliment. Thank you very much. 
The result of my super creative idea? Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts.
Ummmmm…..Do I even need to ask if you want one?

Me likey the pumpkin spice. 
I don’t even want to think about how good these would be paired with a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Ugh. I could die. And at only about 175 calories each, one of these doughnuts alongside a non-fat PSL still wouldn’t bee too much of a splurge. Not very healthy, but still relatively low-cal nonetheless. 

Did I mention how much I love fall??

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts
(Adapted from Dessert for Two)

Makes 6 donuts

Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Greek Yogurt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1/4 cup powdered sugar for topping, if desired

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat donut pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Whisk thoroughly.
3. In a small bowl, whisk yogurt, egg and butter/margarine. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Fold ingredients into each other with a rubber spatula until completely combined (batter will be thick).
4. Spoon batter into the wells of the donut pan. Gently press dough into the pan with your fingers.  Bake 7-8 minutes or until edges become slightly brown. Let cool about 5 minutes before removing from pan. Set on cooling rack for about 10 minutes before dipping topside down into a bowl of powdered sugar.

Check out some of these other pumpkin treats for a festive fall! Deeeelicious mixes for quick and easy baking!

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