Sweet Treats & Summer Fun

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareFunshine #CollectiveBias Snickers Ice Cream Bars and Summertime Fun {Brittany's Pantry}There are few things in this world as satisfying as ice cream on a hot day.

This seems to be a universal joy across all age groups and now that I live in South Carolina, I take my position as hostess on 100 degree days very seriously.  At this point in time in my life, there are always kids at my house and that is often my focus when entertaining.  When kids are happy, the parents are happy, and then everyone can relax.  And isn’t that what we all want out of our get togethers?  To have fun, laugh, chill, and really connect with our family and friends?  That is how memories are made and where relationships flourish.  If I can accomplish all of that and enjoy my time as well, I call that being a successful hostess.

I used to do everything from scratch and while it was exhausting, I really loved it.  The older I get, the more I realize that it isn’t the food that is served, but the time spent with each other that is remembered.  I have found an easy way to serve the ever popular ice cream in a fun and festive way!  Not only is it something I can do ahead (score!) but it is incredibly easy with maximum impact.

That happens with these Snickers® Ice Cream Bars and right now they are starting of the summer with some fun!! Do YOU want to get in on the action?  You can learn all about how to enter the sweepstakes to Share A Little Funshine by clicking here.

Share a Little Funshine Sweepstakes

Snickers® Ice Cream Bars are pretty incredible all on their own.  I am actually pretty choosy with my ice cream and these are one of the lucky few that make their way into my freezer from time to time.  Why?  Because with chocolate, caramel, peanuts, and ice cream all combined in one bite, it is pretty hard to resist.  I have always loved these treats and with kids, I wanted an easier way to serve them.
Snickers Ice Cream Bars and Summertime Fun {Brittany's Pantry}Enter these frozen pops!  This is so easy, its shameful!  Unwrap a Snickers® Ice Cream Bar and OH so very carefully, insert a wooden popsicle stick into one end, going about halfway up the stick.  Immediately place the ice cream back in the freezer (we want them to stay really frozen) and continue with as many as you would like to make. Snickers Ice Cream Bars and Summertime Fun {Brittany's Pantry}See the cute little ribbons in the pic above?  So easy.  Just knot on any kind of ribbon you like, although the 1/4 inch wide seems to work the best for this.  Customize your colors to a birthday party, bbq theme, Memorial Day celebration, July 4th, or use whatever you have on hand.  This is a great way to get kids involved with prepping for a get together and you can make as many or as few as you need.  Since they are stored in the freezer, simply set them on a decorative plate and serve.  No messy fingers, and even adults can walk and chat and munch on their ice cream.  Even better if you have a bonfire going and you can simply toss the sticks into the flames.  No clean up!Snickers Ice Cream Bars and Summertime Fun {Brittany's Pantry}Did you know that these come in a value box too?  So much easier when feeding a crowd!  I picked these up at Walmart and they couldn’t be easier to locate!  Follow the ICE CREAM sign and voila!
IMG_6509There are so many ways to enjoy time with friends and family this summer and it doesn’t stop with ice cream!  Having a few extras on hand can be a great way to celebrate warmer days and enjoy that occasional treat!  In addition you can download the Blippar app from your Apple or Android store to scan your package and receive exclusive content.Snickers Ice Cream Bars and Summertime Fun {Brittany's Pantry}Peanut M&M’s® are my go to treat when I want something chocolatey.

Which are your favorite to share with friends and family?  Are you a Plain M&M® kind of person?  Or a chewy Skittles® fan?

Sweet Citrus Sun Tea

Sweet Citrus Sun Tea is super easy and a fun summer tradition! {Brittany's Pantry}Whenever someone mentions sun tea, I immediately think of pickle jars.  Well, pickle jars and the black, well used grill we had when I was a kid.

Gigantic, gallon pickle jars were not scarce in a family with 6 kids and we had several in rotation to make sun tea.  Eight little tea bag strings hanging out under the lid and sitting on top of our grill.  That is what I see in my head.  :) As a child, I used to love to sit and watch the water slowly warm up, the copper stain of the tea spreading down and darkening the liquid.  That jar was toasty warm after a few hours!

I know it isn’t the most convenient or speedy way to make tea, but it is economical, fun, and I swear it tastes better!  I mean, sweet tea made with solar power? Can it get much cooler?

Actually it can.  While I used to be a kind of sweet tea purist (yes, even Minnesotans drink sweet tea) I have recently been kind of addicted to excessive amounts of citrus in my drinks.  I really love Arnold Palmers (50/50 sweet tea and lemonade) and I just decided top stop messing around and give my tea the lemon kick from the beginning.  Hence, this citrus sweet tea.  Easy, thirst quenching, and totally customizable to your tastes.  Now that summer is just around the corner, embrace the 90 degree days and be prepared! Sweet Citrus Sun Tea is super easy and so much fun for summertime! {Brittany's Pantry}Sweet Citrus Sun Tea is super easy and so much fun for summertime! {Brittany's Pantry}Sweet Citrus Sun Tea is super easy and so much fun for summertime! {Brittany's Pantry}Sweet Citrus Sun Tea

Citrus Tea: Fill a glass, gallon sized container (like a pickle jar) with water and float 8 black tea bags on the top.  Slice one lemon and one orange (or two lemons or two oranges or two limes etc) and add to the water.  Seal with the lid and let steep outside, in the sunshine (duh) and until the tea is dark and warm.  This will take a few hours, but don’t let it steep all day or it will get kind of bitter.  And no, cloudy days don’t really work for this, for obvious reasons! :)  When it is finished, remove and discard the tea bags and the citrus slices.  Pour the tea into a pitcher, sweeten if desired (see below), and add fresh slices of citrus just before serving. Enjoy!

Note: This is the BEST sweetener of iced tea.  I used it all summer in various drinks and it will keep almost indefinitely in the fridge!

Simple Syrup: Equal parts water and sugar, heated together until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Cool to room temp and then store in the fridge in an sealed container!  Use as much or as little as you like! Enjoy!

Creamy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip via Brittany's PantryWhen my kids bust through the door when they get home from school, the inevitable question is, “Can I have a snack?”

My answer is always an predictable, sure! Then I precede to tell them what they are allowed to have.  The list usually encompasses all things they can get themselves that take no prep work. Carrots and hummus, an apple or banana, crackers and pimento cheese, applesauce, a granola bar, etc. Every once in awhile though, I like to  totally surprise them with something special, and since our lives are a bit stressful right now with building and moving, they TOTALLY deserved something out of the ordinary.

Enter, Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Dip.  I have made this before, but it was so long ago, none of my kids remembered it. I figured that was a good excuse to make it again, no?  It is a bit like cookie dough, but I am kind of a purist when it comes to snacking on it and generally like to eat the real thing-eggs and all-right out of the bowl.

I’m a rebel that way.

But this dish is different.  While it has all the flavors or cookie dough, it isn’t trying to imitate it, but rather pay homage to it.  If a dessert dip can really do that…

Make it ahead and add a scoop to your kids lunches, enjoy when the day is done, or take a batch to the office.  Who can resist mini chocolate chips and cream cheese? Who would want to, for that matter.  With the graham crackers, it really does taste like cheesecake! A little bit goes a long way so be sure to share. Oh! What the heck am I saying.  Keep it all to yourself if you like.  I won’t tell.
Creamy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip via Brittany's PantryCreamy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip via Brittany's PantryCreamy Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Dip
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 stick (1/2 c) butter
1/3 c brown sugar
1-8 oz-package cream cheese, softened
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c mini chocolate chips
graham crackers, pretzels, vanilla wafers, etc for serving

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together over low heat, stirring frequently.  Once the sugar is dissolved, set it aside to cool.  In the meantime, add the cream cheese and powdered sugar to a medium bowl and combine with a hand mixer until smooth.  Add vanilla, and beat together.  Pour in the cooled brown sugar and butter mixture, and beat until smooth.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Dip can be made up to a day ahead, sealed in an airtight container in the fridge.  Serve with whatever dippers sound good to you!  I love graham crackers and pretzels but feel free to experiment!

Goat Cheese Deviled Eggs

Goat Cheese Deviled Eggs are a fantastic twist on a classic appetizer! (Brittany's Pantry)Spring is here (FINALLY!) and now that Easter is over, you can put away the pastel colors, cheap chocolate, and large white bunnies.

This is going to sound odd, but do you know what one of my favorite parts about Easter is?

Eggs.

I’m not talking about the boiling and dyeing and hiding and searching phase. I’m talking about the crack and peel and slice and devour phase. Using up those leftovers to make snacks. I. Love. Deviled. Eggs.

When I was little, we stored our freshly colored Easter eggs in the fridge, making sure not to waste a single one. My parents made a killer potato salad and like a true 70’s and 80’s family, we sliced hard boiled eggs on the top for garnish and sprinkled the whole she-bang with paprika. I can pretty much guarantee we were wearing polyester as well. And while we are on the subject, what was with all the hard boiled eggs during those years? Egg salad, potato salad, or deviled eggs — it was all there.

While deviled eggs may be a food fad from decades ago, they are still the first thing to go at a party. Like cornflakes and mini skirts, they seem to have withstood the test of time. And I know why! It is because they are good (duh) and the endless varieties of flavor combinations ensure that you will never get bored. Eggs are inexpensive to make, easy to peel and they will taste great no matter how artfully they are put together so don’t hesitate to let your kids help. My little ones — including the three year old — always feel SO important when I give them a kitchen task and peeling eggs keeps them busy for quite awhile. Score!

Click here to get the recipe over at the Columbia City Moms Blog!

Do you like deviled eggs as much as I do??

Honey Peanut Cereal Bars

Honey Peanut Cereal Bars via Brittany's Pantry-A no-bake snack or treat!I have kids.

Ere go, I have purchased an alarming number of boxes of little ‘0’ cereal made of oats, such as Cheerios or something similar.  Cereal that shows up in my couch cushions, on the bottom of my purse, and in my laundry.  This kind of cereal is always around so anytime I can quickly throw together a fun snack or treat with items already in my kitchen, I consider it a good thing.  If they are so scrumptious even my husband and I can’t stop eating them and we end up trying to hide them from our kids, well then that is a VERY good thing.  I mean, you know.  In a joking, I’m-not-really-hiding-food-from-my-kids-sorry-not-sorry-kind of way.

I have had bars like these before but I haven’t actually made them myself since God was a boy.  I couldn’t remember the exact method or ingredients to make them stick so I turned to that necessary evil (I speak of Pinterest) and searched out some good ones.  I settled on this version here from a blog called Chew Out Loud and they were exactly perfect.  Just as I remember them.  Better actually.

I do believe that it is the combo of the crunchy cereal with the chewy cranberries that really keeps me hooked.  Also, is it weird that I think these bars just look friendly?  I want to make huge batches of them and wrap them up individually and tuck them in everyone’s pockets.  Then when they discover them later they have a snack that makes them smile.  Corny, yes.  But still a good idea.  Such a good idea, I bet it will make you run out and buy cereal to make these, wether you have kids to throw them onto the floor of your car or not.
Honey Peanut Cereal Bars via Brittany's Pantry-A no-bake snack or treat! Honey Peanut Cereal Bars
Recipe from the blog Chew Out Loud

4 c oat ‘o’ cereal
1 c dried fruit, such as cranberries, raisins, or a mix of both
1/2 c dry roasted peanuts
1/2 c honey, preferably raw
1/2 c creamy peanut butter

Spray an 8 inch square pan or line it with parchment paper or wax paper.  In a small microwave bowl, heat the honey and peanut butter together until melted together.  Stir until smooth and runny.  Meanwhile, mix the first three ingredients together in a large bowl.  Pour the melted honey mixture over the cereal mixture and mix will with a large rubber scraper.  When it is all coated evenly, pour into the prepared pan and press evenly to compact the cereal a bit.  Press firmly so that the gaps are filled.  This ensures the bars will hold together once they are cool.  Let set completely, cooling at room temp or in the fridge.  Cut into bars.  These will keep for up to three days, sealed tightly.  Enjoy!!

Mini Corn Muffins W/Bacon, Chives, & Spicy Whipped Cream CheeseSometimes, inspiration just strikes.  Like lightening.  Or in my case, like cream cheese and bacon.

A few years ago I started adding bacon and chives to my regular Mini Corn Muffins.  I still make them plain all the time and usually serve them with chili, salads, or just as a snack to munch on. But filled with extras, they make the perfect addition to a brunch buffet or breakfast.  With the green of the chives and the chunks of bacon, they are more than a little tempting all piled up in a big basket.  A nice, savory change of pace.  And bite sized!  How cool is that?!  I decided to make them for a little get together I was at recently, but couldn’t shake the fact that they looked like they needed something extra.  Hats of cream cheese?  Yuppers.  Perfect.  All dressed up and ready for a party.  It was my husbands idea to top them with bacon.  I wanted to add some chives to the top for color, but bacon won out due to the enthusiastic and threatening insistent cries of my family.  Ultimately, you decide which you want to top them with!

These are so easy to bake up and top that you are going to want to make them for everything.  Parties are an obvious choice, but set out with a spread for a bridal shower or baby shower, these are a fantastic, non-sugary appetizer that are irresistibly pop-able.  They are also the perfect size for little fingers so try adding them to a table at a kids party, with or without the topping.  Bursting with flavor and fantastic textures, these little bites of wonderfulness are definitely ready for their close-up.
Mini Corn Muffins W/Bacon, Chives, & Spicy Whipped Cream CheeseMini Corn Muffins W/Bacon, Chives, & Spicy Whipped Cream CheeseMini Corn Muffins W/Bacon, Chives, & Spicy Cream Cheese Whip
Top the mini muffins no more than an hour or two ahead of time.  You can bake them up a day ahead and store them in an airtight container.  Mix up the topping and chill it in the fridge until you are ready to use it and everything will be ready when you are.

Cook 1/2 lb of bacon and chop.  Set aside several pieces for garnish.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly spray a mini muffin tin.

Muffins:

Mix together in a medium bowl:
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c buttermilk
2 eggs
1/4 c canola oil or grape seed oil
Add:
1 c white whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
1/3 c cornmeal
2 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients just until combined. Do not over mix.
Fold in 1 c frozen corn, thawed
2 T chopped fresh chives
Add most of the bacon, still reserving a bit for garnish on the tops.

Divide batter among the mini muffin cups and bake until puffed and golden, 9-11 minutes.  This makes about 40 mini muffins so it may take two passes through the oven.  Remove to a cooling rack.

Topping:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T sour cream
1 tsp bottled hot sauce
1 T honey
1 tsp milk

Whip all ingredients together until smooth.  Pipe, spread, or dollop whip on the cooled mini muffins and garnish with reserved bacon, more chopped chives, or both!  Can be made and assembled an hour ahead.

Pork Carnita Nachos W/Chipotle-Lime Crema via Brittany's PantrySo.  There is this big game coming up.  Maybe you have heard of it.  Its called the Super Bowl.

I only mention it because I happened to be visiting some hardcore football fans the weekend the competing teams were selected and I actually witnessed the games.   Not being a huge sports fan, it may come as no surprise that this is the first time I have ever done that.  And I must admit, it was seriously cool.  I have no official affiliation with any team so I will be cheering for the Seahawks because my sister lives in Seattle, and because I thought their crazy comeback in the last game was pretty darn awesome.  Those are good reasons, right?

I might as well and just show my true colors.  My favorite part of Super Bowl Sunday (like this isn’t a teensy bit obvious) is the food.  Don’t judge.  The dips, the cheesy foods, the salsas and chips, the burgers and hot dogs…all winners.  This is the first year in awhile that I am not sick and pregnant, taking care of a baby, or alone with small children because my husband is working.  We are going to an actual, official, bonafide Superbowl party!!  I realize how pathetic that sounds and, no, I don’t get out much.

In the spirit of the upcoming game, I wanted to bring to the event something new.  Something outrageous.  And something goooood.  I recently discovered pork carnitas at our local Mexican restaurant and I cannot. get. enough.  How have I been missing these my whole life and why has no one told me about them before?  If you are unfamiliar with them, carnitas are usually pork braised in orange or lime, and then crisped up before nestled in a warm tortilla and slathered with toppings of choice.  I know.  Amazing, right?  No matter how many times I eat them, I still want more.  So I decided to experiment and make them myself.  Research shows very little continuity in recipes so I created my own based on the flavors I noticed when taste testing them at every Mexican place I could find.  Phew!  It was tough.
Pork Carnita Nachos W/Chipotle-Lime Crema via Brittany's PantryIn order to make them more party friendly, I decided to shred the meat over chips and turn them into nachos.  The mix of textures is incredibly satisfying.  Cunchy, creamy, tangy, meaty, cheesy-hard to resist, right?  I solve that problem by choosing NOT to resist them.

I love to squeeze a lime over my carnitas just before I inhale delicately enjoy them for a meal, but a cool dollop of sour cream is my favorite part.  I decided to combine the two (using plain yogurt instead as a healthy substitute) and just drizzle it over the whole darn thing.  Fresh lime + creamy yogurt = addictive sauce on every bite!  So much easier to munch on with a crowd!  Crema is just a fancy word for a Mexican sour cream, so my version is a very loose interpretation of that!  But tasty.  Very tasty.  These are just so darn good, you may be too distracted to watch the game.
Pork Carnita Nachos W/Chipotle-Lime Crema via Brittany's PantryThis picture is actually a different batch from the photos above.  Notice the crazy amount of cheese.  Ooey, gooey, goodness.

Carnita Nachos W/Chipotle-Lime ‘Crema’
You can easily make the pork on a weekend and either chill it for later in the week, or freeze it for later in the month.  Either way, it makes for a speedy meal to throw together.  Make sure to serve any extra crema on the side.  Its spicy and tangy and incredibly awesome with these nachos.  Feel free to slather it on anything else that sounds good too!

For the pork:
4-5 pounds pork butt, boston butt, or pork shoulder, trimmed of its large fat cap and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 c orange juice
1 c chicken broth, homemade or canned
1/4 c lime juice

Don’t trim the meat too much!  All that fat is flavor, baby!  Put all ingredients in a large slow cooker and turn on high for 4-5 hours, or low for 6-7 hours, or just until the meat holds it shape, but is tender and easily pulls apart with a fork.  Remove the meat with a large, slotted spoon and discard the cooking liquid.  Freeze, chill, or make nachos!!

For the crema:
1 c plain, fat free greek yogurt, such as Chobani
2 T fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
large pinch of salt
black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and set aside.

For the nachos:
large corn tortilla chips (the hint of lime ones are stellar here)
shredded pork
1 c canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large tomato, chopped, or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 green onions, chopped
2 c shredded cheese, jack, cheddar, or a mix of both
quartered limes for garnish
Chipotle Lime Crema

Layer the nachos in a cast-iron pan or another oven proof pan or platter.  Start with a generous layer of chips, then break up the chunks of pork, covering it with as much as you like.  Note: you will only use about half of the amount from the recipe above.  Next, sprinkle with the black beans, then the onions and tomatoes, and lastly the cheese.  Tuck the whole she-bang under the broiler until the cheese melts, remove (with hot pads!!) and drizzle generously with the crema.  Serve with lime wedges to squeeze on the nachos and any extra crema.  Enjoy!

Easy Veggie Spread

Easy Veggie Spread is gluten free, vegetarian, and super fast to mix together for a party or weekday snack! {Brittany's Pantry}I feel as though I would be remiss in my duties as a blogger if I didn’t share this recipe with you.  Is there some kind of foodie law enforcement that makes sure bloggers share the good stuff instead of keeping it to themselves?  Just to be safe, I will disclose all here.  I have been living off of it for several weeks now and I still can’t get enough. *phew*  Glad I got that off my chest.  I figured I could’t hoard the recipe forever… So simple.  And sometimes the best things are the simple things, right?

I always see veggie spreads in the store and just kind of skip over them.  I guess I like stuff either sweet, or at least dip-able.  I like to dunk and scoop my crackers and veggies.  But I have been on this kind of color kick with my cooking lately and I decided to experiment and come up with a pretty, veggie flecked spread that I loved equally on a cracker or a bagel.  A recipe that I could just throw together when I had company coming and not even give it a second thought.  A reliable, go-to version with minimal ingredients.  Min-i-mal.  This was actually a tall order and a bit of a challenge for myself as generally I like things like jam, honey, jelly, sweet butter, flavored cream cheese, or cinnamon-sugar on my bagels.  You may notice the sweet trend there.  What can I say?  I’m a ‘sweet’ kind of gal.  Heh heh.

But seriously.  Friends.  I haven’t even touched the sugary crap since I started making this.  Who knew so few ingredients could taste so glorious?  Love love love it.  And here it is, just in time for you to put out on New Years Eve.  A great snack to munch on while playing Scattergories, working on a puzzle, watching movies, or whatever it is that you do when you party down.  Just be sure to make another batch for latter, too.  Because who knows what the new year may bring!  Veggie spread instead of jam on my bagel is a good start.
Easy Veggie Spread is gluten free, vegetarian, and super fast to mix together for a party or weekday snack! {Brittany's Pantry}Easy Veggie Spread is gluten free, vegetarian, and super fast to mix together for a party or weekday snack! {Brittany's Pantry}Easy Veggie Spread is gluten free, vegetarian, and super fast to mix together for a party or weekday snack! {Brittany's Pantry}Easy Veggie Spread
The good things you can do with this stuff is endless.  It is down right awesome on a whole grain cracker, pretzels, or bagel.  But it is great spread on toast, layered thin on a tortilla with fresh cucumbers then rolled up, dolloped on top of an omelette just before serving, spread on a roast beef sandwich, filled into celery sticks, and OH so much more!  Be sure to share in the comments below how YOU are enjoying this recipe!  As for the hot sauce, my test subjects were split 50/50 on wether or not to leave it in.  Everyone love the tiny bit of kick though, so you be the judge.

1 (8 oz) block  softened cream cheese (I use Neufchatel)
4 T (1/2 stick) room temperature butter
1 T freshly snipped chives
1 medium carrot, scrapped and grated
1 heaping T freshly chopped parsley
big pinch of salt and lots of black pepper, or to taste
1 tsp hot sauce, optional

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, adding hot sauce if desired and tasting for seasoning.  Let the flavors sit together to meld for an hour or so if possible.  Taste again and add more salt, pepper, or hot sauce if needed.

Spiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread

Spiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread from Brittany's PantryNo doubt, the title of this post has you intrigued.  Or at least has you drooling.

I never get sick of quick bread recipes and this time of year is the perfect opportunity to branch out.  Bloggers go bananas trying new things and showcasing special recipes.  The list of recipes I had to share with you was epic.  I am talking EPIC here people!!  Alas, life gets in the way.  So does bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections, fevers, and all the other fun stuff that comes with three kids who obviously need to be washing their hands more.  Our whole family has been sick and in the moments of health, concentrating on the continuing construction of our new home.  I have not been in the kitchen nearly as much as I have liked and am sadly, setting aside cookie and holiday treat recipes for another year.

But.  I have rallied for one last hurrah-er, recipe.  We have been quite addicted to this bread, which you may have noticed on Instagram.  It is so darn easy to mix up, my kids have been doing it for me.  Which is why there are twice as many cinnamon chips in this batch than normal… It is definitely a snack bread and lacks the really super sweet taste of a dessert.  But the flavors are so special, you can serve it either way.  It will make anything it touches smell good.  Wrapped tightly, I store it in my fridge for a day or two and the whole thing smells like rum eggnog.  It is heavenly.  And just in time for Christmas.Spiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread from Brittany's PantrySpiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread
Recipe adapted from UniHomemaker
This bread is even better the next day so make plans to whip it up before you actually need it.  Your house will smell ah-MAY-zing.

1/3 c canola or grape seed oil
1 c eggnog
1/4 c spiced or dark rum (both are good)
1 egg
2/3 c sugar
1 c white flour
1 c white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 c cinnamon chips

Preheat oven to 350 and spray an 8 or 9 inch bread pan.  Whisk first five ingredients together until smooth.  Fold dry ingredients into the wet until just incorporated.  Gently fold in cinnamon chips and pour into greased pan.  Bake 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with just a crumb or two attached.  Cool 10 minutes in pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.  Store, wrapped well, at room temp for a day or two, or in the fridge for up to three days.

Chocolate Cherry Cream Dip

Chocolate Cherry Cream Dip from Brittany's Pantry is a sweet, make-ahead, holiday treat!  Perfect for a girl's birthday party too!My husband just walked by the computer and glanced at this photograph.  He stopped, looked closer, and stated. “Wow, Babe.  That photo is amazing.”  As he strolled away, I growled under my breath, “I want to eat it…”

The truth is, I did eat it.  Last week.  I snacked, dipped, nibbled, and devoured with gusto.  And it was good.  But I look at this and I want more.

Who can resist the classic combination of chocolate and cherries?  I blame my addiction on my Dad.  For as long as I can remember, he has received a box or two of Queen Anne Cherries at Christmas, wrapped and tucked under the tree at the last minute by the enthusiastic hands of his children.  He somehow managed to convince us that he was surprised to open them each year.  Christmas makes us gullible I guess… We aren’t often able to be together for Christmas these days but the tradition lives on.  I have never told him this, but I still buy a box every year and break into it on Christmas Eve, handing one to each of my kids just as he did to my siblings and I all those years ago.  One bite and I could be sitting Indian style on the living room floor of my childhood home, waiting for gifts to be passed out.

I feel as though I should mention that I am listening to Francesca Battistelli’s Christmas Album as I type this.  One of my most favorite holiday albums ever.  Beautiful music, coupled with writing the memory above is making my heart positively ache with missing my family this holiday season.  Who knew chocolate covered cherries could make this momma weep with nostalgia?

Anyway.  Enough with the sappy stuff.  Back to this dip.  It is officially my go-to, bring along treat of the Holiday 2014 season.  Its beautiful, simple, fun, and just kind of screams the word ‘party’, don’t ya think?  It is basically a low effort, less messy way to serve these familiar flavors.  I realize that there are a bazillion versions of this recipe out on Pinterest right now, but I felt the need to make it come together a bit faster and with less fuss.  I have enough things to do these next few weeks without wasting time on unnecessary steps in a recipe.  I would much rather channel that energy into something useful.  Like eating that recipe.
Chocolate Cherry Cream Dip from Brittany's Pantry is a sweet, make-ahead, holiday treat!  Perfect for a girl's birthday party too!Chocolate Cherry Cream Dip from Brittany's Pantry is a sweet, make-ahead, holiday treat!  Perfect for a girl's birthday party too!Chocolate Cherry Cream Dip
Adapted from Shugary Sweets
This can be made a day ahead and wrapped tightly in the fridge.  Keep cold while serving and dip whatever sounds good in it.  I am partial to pretzels.  The sweet and salty combo is stellar.

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, slightly softened
1/4 c (4 T) soft butter
1/2 chopped maraschino cherries
1/4 c maraschino cherry juice, right from the jar
1/2 c mini chocolate chips

Combine the cream cheese, butter, and cherry juice until combined and smooth.  Fold in the chopped cherries and mini chocolate chips.  Serve with pretzels, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or anything else you can think of!

*This post contains affiliate links that may result in compensation for the author.

How To: DIY Sugared Almonds

How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's PantryI once asked a foodie friend of mine what her favorite part of a salad was.  Her response?  “The candy.”  I busted out laughing.

Of course, what she really meant was the toasted, sugar coated walnuts, almonds, or pecans that seem to crown so many restaurant salads.  While I am a fan of sugar (and nuts, for that matter) I never really liked them on my salad.  They were a hunk of sweetness when what I wanted to eat was supposed to be light, fresh, and wholesome.  Salad=guilt-free health food.  Yes?  Yes.

Enter the Savannah Chopped Salad at McAlister’s Deli.  I luuuuuuuurve it.  I have yet to tire of eating it and just writing about it now is making my mouth water.  I have been completely converted to a ‘nuts on my salad’ person.  My favorite part?  When I am almost done with it and the last bites are of cranberries, cheese, and the honey roasted almonds.  It is tangy and tart, creamy and sweet, and crunchy and chewy.  The best combo of textures and flavors from three little ingredients.  When I was at a food conference in Virginia a few weeks ago (Read: Mixed Conference. Best time ever!),  I had a salad with those exact same elements to it and thought to myself, “Self?  Why have you not made this before?”  So I did!  I started making it myself.  The salad I will post later, but the sugared almonds above are my nut of choice when it comes to topping my greens.  Sliced, to be exact, as they look pretty and add texture and crunch without sticking a whole nut in your mouth.

So how do you make these delectable slivers of deliciousness?  Ha! Say that three times fast…  It is ridiculously easy.  And fast.  And did I mention easy?  Wait, what?  I meant the recipe was easy, not repeating that three times fast.  Was that clear?  I’m so tired…

Sugared Almonds
The possibilities with these babies are endless.  Top a salad (duh) or ice cream (be still my heart) or a no-bake pie (MOMMY!) for a little crunch.  Or you could just eat them.  Add them to yogurt, pudding parfaits, trail mix, or garnish a smoothie!  Or just eat them.  Sprinkle these beauties over a bowl of fresh fruit to give it a bit of texture or crumble them over a dessert pizza just before serving.  Oh! And you know what?!  You could just eat them…

1 c sliced almonds
1/3 c granulated sugar
pinch of salt
How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's Pantry Place all ingredients in a small sauté pan and place over medium-medium high heat.
How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's Pantry Let warm and melt while stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  The sugar will start to melt and stick to the nuts.  If some of it never melts, that is ok.
How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's Pantry Keep going for another 5 minutes or so, or until the nuts are coated and toasted.  Spread out in a single layer on a wax paper or parchment lined baking sheet to cool.
How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's Pantry Once cool, crumble into smaller pieces of needed.  Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  Be ready to make more than one batch due to snacking.  :)
How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's Pantry

Spinach & Feta Artichoke Dip is tangy and wonderful for holiday parties!I owe my love of artichokes to my good friend, Dede.

Actually, I owe quite a bit to her.  Not the least of which is the fact that she taught me how to devein shrimp, sneak food into a movie theater, and even hosted our wedding at her farm.  Years ago, when I was younger, thinner, and less wise, she introduced me to the cheesy, gooey artichoke dip and I was hooked.  It was never something my parents prepared and we rarely ate out so I made it all the way to my teens before having my first artichoke surrounded by melty goodness.  I inhaled it; scooped with crispy chips and enjoyed with plenty of laughter.  Dede also taught me how to make it myself and it is on those experiences which my classic recipe is based.  Don’t you love it when certain foods make you think of someone or something that brings a smile to your face?  I do too.

This version is surprisingly different.  The flavor is light and tangy-a welcome difference from many of the heavy appetizers and snacks that can be served this time of year.  It is still creamy?  Oh yes.  But it has a much fresher taste.  Be prepared to stave off the praise, pats on the back, and the marriage proposals when you serve this.  It is just that scrumptious.

Bonus: It is not as unhealthy as you might think.  Artichokes come packed in water, and the spinach as well.  Did you hear that?  Spinach.  We are talking major health food here.  As for the dairy that gets mixed in, I generally purchase Neufchatel cheese, which is a lighter version of cream cheese with the same flavor.  The taste of Canola based mayo is the same as classic, but much more heart healthy.  Low fat sour cream works great in this recipe, so feel free to sub that out.  Just please do not use fat free versions of any of these products.  *shudder*  The chemicals involved give me the heebie geebies.

So.  The details?  This dip can easily be mixed up a day in advance and chilled, unbaked and covered until you need it, making it a time saving dish.  It also travels well so be sure to keep this recipe in mind when you need to bring something to a party.  Much easier to transport due to low risk of spillage.  :)  It tastes great with gluten-free rice crackers, tortilla chips, or just classic pita chips.  If you want to throw a veggie on with with, thinly cut celery sticks are especially good and look very nice on the plate.  It also makes a particularly good snack to share with that a good friend that brings a smile to your face.Spinach & Feta Artichoke Dip is tangy and wonderful for holiday parties! Spinach & Feta Artichoke Dip is tangy and wonderful for holiday parties!Spinach & Feta Artichoke Dip is tangy and wonderful for holiday parties!Spinach & Feta Artichoke Dip
Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

1 pkg (8 oz or so) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts or quarters, drained of liquid and roughly chopped
1 pkg (8 oz) oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 c sour cream
1/2 c mayonnaise
6 oz crumbled feta cheese, divided

Preheat the oven to 350.
In a medium bowl, combine all the above ingredients, saving a small handful (about 2 T) of the crumbled feta.  Pour the dip into a small casserole dish, sprinkle with reserved cheese, and bake until cheese is golden brown on top and dip is starting to bubble, about 20 minutes.  Serve with tortilla chips, pita, chips, celery, or crackers.

Cheesy Bread

Easy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryMmm.  Cheesy Bread.  Just absorb that thought for a second.

It is spectacularly comforting which is why I am posting my favorite, easy version of this now.  It is the perfect food for the cozy theme I am following during the duration of my Pine Tree Goods Giveaway!  Melted cheese on chewy bread paired with a green salad or bowl of soup?  Yeah baby!!

As you may have guessed from my previous postings of Garlic Toast and Herbed Garlic Bread, I like having a carbohydrate to dip in my food.  I may or may not make noises like a crane on a construction site when I scoop with tools of bread.  One of my favorite hot lunches when I was a kid was the dunkers; big slabs of bread with melted mozzarella on top served with a scoop of spaghetti sauce.  Scrumptious.  Essentially, that is what I make this bread for.  The salad just makes me feel less guilty about eating a dinner centered around bread.

I was reading a recipe by Pioneer Woman recently and she mentioned that she freezes hers.  This never once occurred to me, but you can bet I am going to be doing that from now on!  Smear on the cheese mixture, wrap it up tightly, and pull out to thaw and toast whenever it is needed.  Genius.  And speaking of smart ideas, whoever paired bread and cheese together the first time (probably someone French…) and warmed it up and called it a meal, well they are my forever friend.

Here in South Carolina, I am learning about Southern Caviar (aka Pimento Cheese) and all its versions, uses, and adaptations.  In some ways this recipe is a simpler version of that.  I have been holding out on making my own pimento cheese but since it is everywhere down here, I am sure I won’t be able to resist for long.  Then, of course, I may just have to smear it on bread and toast it up.  That recipe and this recipe can be buddies.  Hehe!

Oy vey…I really shouldn’t blog when I’m tired….
Easy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryEasy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryEasy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's Pantry***Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win some one of a kind accessories from the top rated Etsy Shop, Pine Tree Goods!  FREE STUFF FOR THE WIN!!!  There are still a few days left to get your name in and it is just so darn easy, there is no excuse!!  Want to get your Christmas shopping done early?  Hannah, the artisan behind the goods, is offering a free shipping code just for Brittany’s Pantry readers!  Simple enter BPGIVEAWAY14 to get your items shipped free!  She does special orders too, so be sure to contact her if you want something specific!  Click here to zip over to the post to enter and see official rules.  Good luck!!***

Simple Cheesy Bread

1 large loaf french bread (not baguette-you want it softer than that)
8 oz grated colby-jack cheese
1/2 c good mayonnaise
1 stick (1/2 c) softened butter

Combine the cheese, mayo, and butter in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Cut the bread in half down the side lengthwise and open like a book.  I cut it in half crosswise as well so that the pieces fit on my pan butter, but whatever works for you is fine!  Divide the mixture evenly between the pieces of bread and smear evenly all the way out to the edges! Don’t forget the edges!  **If you are freezing this for later, gently sandwich the bread together, wrap well in plastic wrap, and then again in foil, or place in a zip top freezer bag.  Defrost in the fridge and proceed with recipe.**  Preheat the oven to 375.  Place the bread cheese side up on a parchment or foil lined sheet pan (because burnt cheese is a major bummer to clean off of metal) and toast for 10 minutes.  Check the bread to see how it is melting and proceed at 5 minute intervals until it is toasted to your preference.  Some like their cheese barely melted, other like it to be bubbling and turning brown.  Your choice!  Pull it out and let it set for a minute-if you can wait that long-before slicing and enjoying!

Sweet Northern Cornbread (Yankee Cornbread)

Sweet Northern Cornbread | Brittany's PantryIf you read my blog with any regularity, you know that my family moved to South Carolina a few months ago.  I am finding it a bit of a trial to keep a balance between my Northern upbringing and wanting to experience and immerse myself in my new region of the south.  Case in point-cornbread.

So why, you may be asking, am I not posting a good southern cornbread recipe where the batter is poured into a cast iron skillet and baked to a perfectly crusty disc?  The kind of cornbread that practically thirsts to be doused in black eyed peas?  Cornbread that is to gravy as Curly is to Moe?

Because I haven’t perfected it yet.  Everyone makes their cornbread a bit different around here and since I have Mississippi ‘family’ that influences me as well, I need to cover all the bases and possibilities.  This requires more testing to come up with the final version and it will be, I assure you, coming soon.  It will even be baked to the perfect state of crustiness in my cast iron skillet.

That said, I am, as you know, from the North.  We Minnesota folk like our cornbread tall, fluffy, and sweet and I am not ashamed of it!  That is how I grew up with it, and, if I may be so bold as to say, it is still my favorite way to eat it.  *gasp*  Its true.  This is a safe place, friends.  We accept fans of all kinds of cornbread here.  No judgement.

Often called Yankee Cornbread, my version has flour in it, as well as cornmeal, to lighten the batter a bit.  Most traditional southern cornbread recipes I have come across, either researched or those served to me by southern women, have little or no flour in them and much less baking powder, if any at all.  The Northern version gets flack for being more cake like, while its counterpart is often criticized for lack of flavor.

Never one to discriminate against food (I am an equal opportunity eater), I like them both.  In turn, I like to eat them in different applications.  Today’s recipe is fantastic served with breakfast or brunch, spread with butter and jam.  Generally though, my kids and I like to eat it plain.  The texture and flavor is enough to warrant only a glass of milk on the side.  It is great baked into muffins as well and is a nice balance between crumbly enough to still be cornbread but firm enough to eat out of hand.  Since cornbread is just so darn easy to mix up, this is SO much tastier-and better for you-than reaching for a box of processed mix.  Occasionally, those come in handy, but for straight up cornbread, there is no substitute.

So below is my staple, straight-up, no messing around, no frills recipe for sweet cornbread.  Use it well and enjoy.  No matter which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you call home.
Sweet Northern Cornbread | Brittany's PantrySweet Northern Cornbread
Equal parts flour and cornmeal have always been my standard for cornbread.  My mom made it that way, so I make it that way.  I add a bit more baking powder to mine because I like it extra fluffy.  The white sugar forms just a bit of a sweet crust on the top that I can’t resist.  Makes great muffins too!!

1 c flour
1 c cornmeal
2/3 c sugar
pinch of salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 c milk
1/3 c grape seed, canola oil, or even melted butter

Preheat oven to 375.
Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl with a whisk.  In a large measuring cup, mix the egg, milk, and oil together with a fork.  Slowly combine the wet and dry ingredients with the whisk, careful not to over mix!  Pour into a greased, 9X9 glass or metal baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed, golden, and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan until just barely warm.  Cut into squares and enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Pumpkin Spice Muffins via Brittany's PantryI should warn you.  I will never have enough pumpkin recipes.  Muffins, quick breads, dip, pie, shakes-everything.  I.  Love.  Pumpkin.

You will probably never find me with a pumpkin spiced latte as the sweetness level is a bit much for me, but other than that, I happily submit to all the pumpkin craziness that ensues from Labor Day to the end of the year.  And beyond, as I make pumpkin muffins and quick breads year round.  These Pumpkin Pie Muffins are my go-to, make ALL the time, never fail, can’t-get-enough-of-them-type of recipe.  So much so that I only ever so briefly stray from my loyalty to them.

Until now.  (Cue dramatic music)

I saw a version of the following recipe on the food network website.  I did my usual changes and tweaked things to make it a bit more streamlined, shave off a few steps, and make it ever so more healthy.   More healthy means I can eat more of them, yes?  But the point here is that I made these up and thought I may have just found my new favorite pumpkin muffin.  Then I made another batch and was sure I had found it.  The tang and chewiness of the cranberries make these extra special and just so darn irresistible.  They have been inducted into the Brittany’s Pantry hall of fame, which may sound prestigious, but actually just means they are a recipe that I make on a regular basis.  High praise for my family.  And since these adorable muffins are a kind of dressed-up, boss is coming to dinner, pumpkin muffin, they make  a great quick bread to give as a gift this season.

Or just do as I do and eat them all yourself.  I won’t judge.Cranberry Orange Pumpkin Spice Muffins via Brittany's Pantry Cranberry-Orange Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Inspired from Food Network

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, whisk together:

1/3 c canola or grape seed oil
zest of one orange
2 eggs
2/3 c sugar
1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/3 c unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c milk
Combine ingredients until smooth.  Add:
1 c all-purpose flour
1 c white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
Gently fold in the dry ingredients.  When nearly combined, add:
2/3 c dried cranberries

Continue to gently fold batter together until JUST COMBINED!  Do not over mix.  Portion the batter evenly amongst 12 sprayed or paper lined muffin cups.  Sprinkle each muffin cup with just a pinch of granulated sugar, raw sugar, or casters sugar, if desired.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a moist crumb  or two.  Let set for a few minutes then remove to a cooling rack.  Enjoy!