December 2011

Sometimes the Christmas season makes people do unusual things.

Today I saw a lady take a taxi…… to a Michael’s.

This struck me as humorously odd because (a) Jackson isn’t the most, uh, metropolitan of areas, and (b) its a craft store.

As I was walking from my car, I saw the cab wheel up right.infront of the door and let out a hastily demeanored woman with a slick long ponytail and all-black garb.

Approaching closer, she appeared to be giving the cab driver strict instructions, and the repetitive pointing of fingers made me assume she was telling him to stay put while she went inside.

Done and done: my interest was piqued.  I had to see what this intensity was all about.

I shopped around, waiting for some sort of unusuality to unfold.  Instead the only excitement I came across was an adorable school-uniformed child unraveling 1000-feet of gold lamé ribbon behind the turned back of her mother.

I gathered my miscellanies and got in line to checkout, when who else but cab lady came furiously sashaying up behind me.  I couldn’t help myself… I had to nonchalantly turn around to see what she was buying that merited being chauffeured to the most un-cabbyish place on earth.

There it was, in her “Cajun Shrimp” manicured fingers: a minuscule 0.75 ounce vial of silver glitter.  SERIOUSLY?! GLITTER?? And in the smallest container known to man? #disappointed

Her impatient huffs and high-heeled taps prompted me to turn around and, with a sweet smile, offer her a place ahead of me in line.  With a responsive nod, she scooted ahead, threw down a few dolla dolla bills and whisked her unbagged vial out the door.

I saw her taxi dart away just as I exited the store.  So glad that glitter was in stock.  The next step would have been a helicopter.  Crafting is serious business.

If you aren’t busy chartering cabs tonight, why not make some truffles?  I made these for one of the first Christmas parties of the season and plan to make another batch for Christmas Eve festivities… After a big meal, sometimes all you want is just.a.taste of something rich and sweet and these seriously tasted just like the holidays in a bite.

You only need a few ingredients, and if your pantry is empty and your car is out of gas…….. well, now you know what to do.

Gingerbread Truffles

– 1 box Gingersnap cookies (about 50 cookies)
– 1 8-ounce brick cream cheese, softened
– 1 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 16 ounces white melting chocolate

Grind the Gingersnap cookies into crumbs using a food processor. Reserve 1/4 cup cookie crumbs for decoration.  Stir the ginger and cinnamon into the remaining cookie crumbs. Using an electric mixer, combine the cookie crumb mixture with the cream cheese, beating until a thick dough forms. Refrigerate for an hour, then shape into 24 uniform-sized truffles.  Return truffles to the refrigerator until ready to coat in chocolate.

Melt white chocolate according to package instructions.  Dip each truffle individually, using a fork or skewer, letting the excess chocolate drip off.  Place on a wire rack or parchment paper to dry completely.

To decorate, place remaining melted chocolate into a piping bag or ziploc bag with the corner cut.  Drizzle chocolate over the truffle and sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.  Once completely dry, place truffles in the fridge until ready to serve.

{makes 24 truffles}

Today I started my Christmas shopping.  Not the gift-getting, per say, but the actual shopping.  The a million-people, no parking spaces, empty shelves kind of shopping.

And what a day it was indeed…

After waiting in line 36 minutes to buy a $3 powdered sugar sifter, I walked to the parking lot, searching like an aimless lunatic for my car, forgetting I was in my sister’s car, and getting completely drenched by the stormy grays above.  After shoveling my stuff hurriedly in the back and fiddling with unfamiliar keys, I finally turned the lock hoping to hear the soft purr of an engine ready to get me the heck out of dodge.  What I heard instead was Eartha Kitt, blaring “Santa Baby” in a way that made me feel like I was in a Lifetime Christmas movie.  A bad, bad Christmas movie.

Soaking wet and lambasting crowds, I drove away plaintively intending to retreat to a hot cup of coffee and… Driving down the road, I let my mind wander; wander to gifts I can’t wait to give, people I can’t wait to see, and, obvi, treats I can’t wait to bake.  The next thing I know I am singing along with my girl Eartha, begging Santa to slip a sable under the tree.  I’m such a pushover.

Here are: My favorite gift picks for her this Christmas season
Enjoy Perusing With: Pandora Christmas and a ceramic boot of eggnog

1. Original Wellies by Hunter; $125

2. Suede Invitation Clutch by J.Crew; $118

3. Layton Large Chronograph Watch by Michael Kors; $250

4. Acrylic Monogram Necklace by Poppy’s Closet; $58

5. Tortoise Sunglasses by Marc Jacobs; $98

6. Tweed Throw by Nordstrom; $58

7. Classic Trifold Wallet by Marc Jacobs; $198

8. Large Logo Studs by Tory Burch; $68

9. Lulu Frost Bangles by J.Crew; $68

10. Monogram iPhone Cover by daninotes; $55

11. Leopard Fringe Scarf by Michael Kors; $50

Welcome to my breakfast routine.  Fast, predictable, and the same thing

I started the granola bar thing in junior high prompted by my perpetual lateness to school and 12 (seriously twelve?!) years later it is still going strong.

Oh…and coffee.  There must be coffee.

I needed a change, an upgrade, if you will.  Enter these beauties.  Breakfast just got a whole lot more interesting.

To better your own breakfast, start by browning some butter.  Begin this process by melting butter as you normally would, on the stove over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, take it to the next deliciously “browned” phase by allowing it to continue cooking while not stirring, but rather swirling the pan without a utensil.  {the butter will foam and hiss a bit during this stage!}  Stay with the butter at the stove because browned butter can go to burnt butter very quickly.

This process will take just a few minutes; you’ll know the butter is “done” when you start to smell a nutty aroma and see brown deposits in the bottom of your pan.  The browned bits are actually the solids in the butter, and cooking them this way enhances the flavor so much.

{here is a great tutorial for more tips on browning butter}

Let the butter cool while you prepare the fruit.  Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the fruit from the outer rind then cut between the individual segments.

Combine the butter with some cinnamon and brown sugar, making a thick “paste” of sweetness.

Place the fruit in a foil-lined baking dish, cutting a slice off the bottom of the grapefruit if it you’re having trouble getting it to stay upright.

Divide the sugary cinnamony loveliness between the fruit and place under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes until the sugar has caramelized and resembles the topping on crème brûlée… DO NOT walk away from the oven during this part, I beg of you… charred grapefruit really doesn’t carry the same allure.

Try this out and see how you like it!  I actually preferred the grapefruit without the crisp sugary coating {which I totally ate on its own after eating the fruit}… I found that the warm juicy sweetness that drenches the fruit under the melting sugar was a perfect match for my taste buds.  Anyway you, eh, slice it- this is addicting.

Good morning to YOU!

Brown Butter Broiled Grapefruit

– 1 large Ruby Red grapefruit, chilled
– 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
– 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
– ½ teaspoon cinnamon

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Once melted, allow the butter to continue cooking for a few minutes, swirling the pan periodically.  The butter will foam and hiss, indicating that the browning process is occurring.  Once you see the solids beginning to brown, pay close attention to avoid overcooking.  Continue swirling the pan until the butter has a fragrant and nutty aroma and the browned bits cover the bottom of the pan.  Set aside to cool.

To prepare the fruit, slice the grapefruit in half and use a sharp paring knife to separate the fruit from the outer rind and also separate the individual segments.  Place the grapefruit halves in a foil lined baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the browned butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Mound this mixture on each grapefruit half and place under a pre-heated broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the sugar is bubbly.  Remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes before enjoying!

{serves 2}

I’ve never been particularly good at keeping gifts a surprise.

It’s not that I intend to be this way, it just sort of, uh, happens.

I mean, I guess there were signs: rewind to 4-year-old Alice, begging my mom to tell me the contents of all the gifts under the tree. Knowing just.exactly what I was going to do, she would whisper secretively in my ear “It’s a purse, but don’t tell.” You can obviously tell where this is going- before she could even turn around, my curly-headed self would belt to the top of my lungs: “EMILY, YOU’RE GETTING A PURSE!”  She got a “purse” for 7 years straight.

Rewind to more recent times, like say, last year, when someone left the receipt for Bryan’s gifts at his house. Let me tell you, I did a great job explaining why I needed an 85″ projector screen. Guess not much has changed.

I am happy to report that this year no secrets have been leaked…. yet.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

To propel your inability to keep surprises, over the next few weeks I am going to be featuring a bevy of gift ideas for your perusing.  Because we all know boys/guys/men are the easiest to shop for, they’re up first… I had so much fun preparing this list, for when shopping for a gender that views gifts of cashmere and cheeseburgers with analogous excitement, the possibilities are endless.

Here are some ideas the sisters and I have had success with in the past and a few that our fellas will be surprised with this season:

1. Leather iPhone case by J.Crew; $38

2. Polarized Wayfarer by RayBan; $165

3. Howland Penny Loafer by Cole Haan; $148

4. Event Tickets by Ticketmaster; prices will vary

5. Watch by Luminox; $235

6. Home Theater Projector by Sony; $950

7. Vintage Handstamped Cufflinks by Cuffart; $95

8. Better Sweater Vest by Patagonia; $89

This weekend I went to the ballet with the sweetest almost-5-year-old in the world.

In paler news, I also washed {i.e. let a machine wash} my car and made brownies.

Eh, brownies?  I know what your thinking: the car wash sounds more exciting.

Well, what if I told you these brownies had a gooey and impossibly delicious from-scratch peanut butter caramel swirled through every bite?

What about two types of chocolate and some coffee-ish love thrown in?

How about adding more chocolate, you know, just for good measure?  And don’t forget about a double layer swirl of that half-eaten-straight-from-the-pot-by-now caramel!

Have you been convinced??

You don’t have to admit it, your drivel is confirmatory.  It’s ok to be excited: BROWNIES!!

Make these at least 12 hours before you plan to serve them.  Being a tad underbaked is the secret to their addictive dense and fudgy texture: without time to come to room temp then spend a few hours in the fridge, you will likely end up arriving to a dessert party empty handed because your brownies are the consistency of jelly.

…not that I know from experience or anything.

Really.  Try these.

Peanut Butter Caramel Swirl Brownies

for the peanut butter caramel
– ½ cup heavy cream
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup water
– ½ cup creamy peanut butter
– 1 Tablespoon corn syrup
– 1 pinch salt
– 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the brownies
– 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks
– 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
– 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, + 4 ounces
– 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
– 4 large eggs
– 1½ cups sugar
– ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over low heat. In another medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and heat over high heat without stirring until amber brown (about 7 minutes). Once the sugar mixture has reached the amber color, slowly whisk in the heavy cream and cook for 1 additional minute. (This mixture will bubble and boil, so make sure to add the cream slowly). Remove from the heat and whisk in the peanut butter, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla extract.  Transfer caramel to a small bowl and let cool until thickened and room temperature, 30 minutes or so.

While the caramel is cooling, prepare the brownie batter.  Preheat oven to 325°.  Line a 9×13 baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to overhang on the short sides.  Spray well with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine the unsweetened chocolate, 2 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate, butter, and coffee granules.  Stir the mixture over low heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Whisk in the chocolate mixture, scraping down the sides to incorporate evenly.  In 2 additions beat in the flour using a wooden spoon (the batter will be very thick at this point).  Stir in the remaining 4 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan.  Using a spoon, drop half the caramel over the batter spacing scoops approximately 2 inches apart.  Gently spread the remaining batter over the top.  Again using a spoon, drop the remaining caramel over the brownie batter (for the photos above, the caramel was placed in a ziploc bag and drizzled over the batter) and use a knife to gently swirl the batter.

Bake the brownies for 45 to 50 minutes, or the top is just set and the edges are pulling away from the sides of the sides of the pan.  The middle will still be “wobbly” and an inserted toothpick will not come out clean.  Slight underbaking is a secret of these brownies- be brave!

Transfer brownies to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.  Before serving, place brownies in the fridge for at least an hour.  When ready to cut, lift the tin foil from the pan and carefully peel away the sides.  With a large knife, slice the brownies into 48 squares. (I like the remove a small margin from the edges to make all the brownies uniform).  Store the brownies at room temp or in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

{makes 48 bite-sized or 24 regular-sized brownies}

Source: adapted from Bobby Flay via Food Network

I love cranberries.  I love apples.  I love oatmeal cookies {which happen to be exactly what the top of this conglomerate of yum tastes like}

What is that?  You do too??

You know what else I love?

Trivial thoughts.  Fortuitous facts.  Purportless pondering.

{…and apparently alliteration.}

For example:  Did you know that the name “cranberry” was derived from the original spelling “craneberry”,  dubbed so by some of the first settlers to America who thought the flowering part of this plant resembled the neck and bill of a crane?

Seriously.  I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Did you also know that a riot broke out over those $2 waffle makers I told you about on Black Friday?  I’m so glad someone was able to get this on video.  Definitely a memory I want to hold on to.  Look for me, I’m the one in the hot pink windsuit.

{maybe I could make this up if I tried…}

Here’s to a wonderfully homey recipe and cuddling with my waffle maker.  #enjoy

Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Crisp

– 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
– 3 Granny Smith apples, diced
– 1 cup white sugar
– 3 Tablespoons flour
– juice & zest of 1 orange

for the topping
– 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
– 1/2 cup flour
– 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
– 1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the cranberries, apples, and orange juice, and set aside. In another small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and orange zest. Stir the sugar mixture into the fruit, coating well, then pour into a deep baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

For the crisp topping, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, and butter in a small bowl. Spread the topping mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake uncovered for 1 hour. After baking, allow the crisp to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

{serves 8}

Source: Food Family Finds

Festive decorating, to me, is one of the most fun parts of the holiday season.  I love to see personalities come out through the decorating styles of my friends and family: rustic, whimsical, nostalgic, chic… I seem to learn a little something about my loved ones each year through these uniquely personal touches.

Rather than sticking to one distinct holiday “style”, I like to mix a variety of pieces in coordinating tones, creating a look that is both put-together and inviting.  Metallics instantly add specialness to room without over-powering your year-round decor, making them the perfect {not so} neutrals for decorating your home.

Here are my favorite ways to get the look:

    • {1} Metallic glassware adds an instant touch of cheer to December dinners- no matter how low-key the menu.
    • {2} A simple mercury glass bowl filled with sparkly ornaments lends effortless charm to more formally decorated spaces, such as your living or dining rooms.
    • {3} A grouping of antique candle glasses brings warmth and dimension to small spaces without the stiffness of tall taper candles.
    • {4} Mixing unexpected textures- such as canvas and sequins- lends versatility to holiday entertaining without seeming stuffy.
    • {5} For those with limited space or time, a simple tree with white lights and glittery monochromatic ornaments can make a big impact with minimal effort.
    • {6} Make spontaneous holiday entertaining easy by serving store-bought hor dourves on pretty metallic cocktail napkins.
    • {7} Porcelain plates in whimsical patterns make dinner party decor as simple as setting the table.

1. Gold Chisel Glassware by Z Gallerie; $35

2. Mercury Glass Equinox Bowl by Z Gallerie; $36

3. Antique Glass Candle Holder by Crate&Barrel; $6

4. Sequined Pillow Cover by West Elm; $44

5. Glittered Silver Ornament by Pier 1; $6

6. Gold Cocktail Napkins by Plum Party; $5

7. Tinsel and Confetti Plates by Crate&Barrel; $8


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