Thursday, December 31, 2009

Quick New Year's Appetizers

Off to a New Year's party tonight? Here are two quick recipes you can whip up using anything you have in your fridge. I just did! I whipped up some herb aioli to put a gourmet touch on simple appetizers.

Herb Aioli
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Herbs from your spice cabinet (I used Cilantro, Thyme and Rosemary)
1 tsp Minced Garlic
A dash of lime juice (about 1-2 tsp)

Mix together in a bowl and refrigerate until use.

Slider BLT
Pancetta or Bacon
Dinner Rolls
Herb Aioli

Broil the pancetta or bacon for about 10-15 minutes on a cookie sheet until nice and crispy. Slice the dinner rolls, and spread a nice amount of aioli on each side. On the bottom half, place a small piece of lettuce, next the crispy pancetta/bacon, a chunky slice of tomato, and then top with the other half of the roll. Use of a toothpick can hold it all together for transport, and makes it easy for party-goers to pick up!

Turkey Rolls
Tortilla wraps (I used a spinach tortilla)
Turkey Deli Meat
Sliced Red Onion
Herb Aioli

Lay a tortilla wrap on a flat surface and spread a thin layer of the herb aioli on the entire wrap. On the half of the wrap closest to you, layer thin slices of turkey, tomatoes, onions, avocados, an lettuce. Take the edge closest to you and begin to roll the tortilla as tightly as you can, keeping the contents in place. You will notice some of the contents sliding toward the empty half... this is ok, as long as the last edge of the tortilla is bare. Make sure the herb aioli is spread all the way to the edge, because this serves as the "glue" to keep the wrap together. Next, place toothpicks about 1" apart through the roll, and slice evenly between them. Set on a platter, and you're ready to go to the party, appetizer in hand!
Make any substitutions you please, its all about what you have available. Be sure to get some good food in your tummy before all the toasts and drinking at midnight. Remember to be safe, get a designated driver (or walk to your party like we do!), and have a FUN New Year's Eve!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Spanish New Year's Toast

A Spanish tradition we adopted for a New Year's toast is simple and fun. Fill a glass with good champagne, about 2/3 of the way up. Next, using wood skewers about 10"-12" long, stack 12 grapes, and add to the glass. Red or green seedless grapes are best. Pass out the glasses to your guests for the stroke of midnight.

According to tradition, the guests eat all 12 grapes before drinking their champagne at the stroke of midnight. Each grape represents a month in the year, and each grape is a predictor of the month to come. The sweet grapes represent a good month, and sour grapes a not-so-lucky month.

Hope your year is filled with a bunch of sweet months!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New to the Blog!

Santa was very good to me this year. Check out my big present:

So, I have loved using my husband's Cannon PowerShot, but it was certainly time for an upgrade. That means that I will be bringing you even more delicious recipes this year, and now the pictures will be even better! However, if you don't see any improvement in the first couple posts, it is probably because I will still be consumed with my husband's gift:
Wish me luck, and check back often for all new updates!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Today Is The Day...


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Loves Dogs Too

Christmas in our house is not complete without presents or treats for the dogs. I found a healthy dog treat recipe on-line, and made lots of treats for my pup, as well as others in our family.

Peanut Butter Dog Treats
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup Healthy Peanut Butter (I like low sugar, all-natural)
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 Cup Skim Milk

Beat all ingredients together and roll into a log. Refrigerate up to 2 hours. Roll out on floured surface and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. I used star and bone shapes for my Christmas treats! Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake in 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Let cool and transfer to wire baking racks. Add them to small bags and share with your family and furry friends!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Cookies

My mother and I have a tradition that every year, usually the weekend before Christmas, we bake cookies together. Most years, it is around 80 degrees here in sunny Florida, and we are constantly having to adjust cooking times for the heat outside the oven. This year, it was a cool 60 degree day, perfect for baking. We turned on the Christmas tree, some classic holiday tunes, and got to work!

Every year, we try new recipes, but there are some that are staples. The peanut butter cookies with Hershey Kisses are certainly my brother's favorite (and my husband's too!). The cinnamon swirls are my favorite, especially when warm right out of the oven! My mom is a fan of the classic sugar cookies with sanding sugar on top, and my dad usually samples them all.

Here are the recipes for our favorites:
Peanut Butter Cookies with Hershey Kisses
2 Cups Peanut Butter
1 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
20-30 Hershey Kisses, unwrapped

Combine ingredients and in floured hands, roll into 1" round balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees, until a little golden. Remove from oven and immediately press unwrapped Hershey Kisses into the center of each cookie. Let cool and then remove to baking racks.

Cinnamon Swirls
Package of two Refrigerated Pie Crusts
Melted butter or Smart Balance

In a shallow pan, roll out a pie crust and cut in half, setting one half to the side. Brush on some melted butter or spread, and then sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top (as much or as little as you like). Roll the pie crust until it makes a roll, and slice vertically. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until cinnamon and sugar are bubbling and pie crust is flaky. Remove from oven and cool on baking racks. Repeat with the remaining pie crust halves. Even enjoy a few while they are warm out of the oven with a cold glass of milk!

For our classic sugar cookies, we use the go-to recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. You can find it here.

And this year, we tried a new one, McCormick's EggNog Truffles, that will definitely be made again next year! They were to die for!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Favors

Remember this post??? Well, I decided to use the jars to make these holiday favors, recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart. The recipe is very simple... you get a box of Kosher Salt and several sprigs of fresh rosemary. You put half the sprigs of rosemary and the entire box of salt into a deep saucepan, and heat over medium for about 10-15 minutes, or until all the salt is warmed through. Stir frequently so that all the salt can soak up the rosemary oils. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Before pouring into containers, cut off small pieces from the remaining rosemary sprigs and put into the small containers. The fill each with the infused salt. The smell alone should make you want to cook something with it!!!

Then I added the darling red labels (they come with the Favor Affair jars) that say "Rosemary Sea Salts, 12-25-09" to the top, and I adorned them with some green raffia.
I also added a mini whisk and a homemade recipe card that states uses for the sea salts.
I really love how they turned out! I only have 12, so will you be lucky enough to get one for Christmas???

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hot Apple Pie Dip

I was given this recipe by a good family friend, and boy, it is good! I made it Thanksgiving weekend and I am going to make it again for a dinner tomorrow night. I did add my own touch to the original, which I actually think makes it even more delicious! Here's the recipe:

8oz Low Fat (or Fat Free) Cream Cheese, softened
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 Green Apple, chopped and divided in half
1/4 cup Low Fat Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Chopped Pecans
Ground Graham Crackers (my addition!)
2 Tbsp Smart Balance Butter (or real butter)

First, combine the graham cracker mix to the melted butter, and line the bottom of a 9"x9" pan with the graham cracker crust. Next, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, and spice until well blended. Then mix in half of the chopped apples. Spread over the graham cracker crust. Top with the remaining apples, then sprinkle with cheddar cheese and chopped pecans. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes, or until warmed through. Serve with Wheat Thins (reduced fat) and enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Historic Old Northeast Candlelight Tour of Homes

In our town, St. Petersburg, Florida, there is a section of town called Historic Old Northeast. With homes perched along Tampa Bay, and some of the oldest streets in the city, this neighborhood association hosts an annual tour of selected homes decorated for the holidays. It gives neighbors and visitors from within the city and state to tour the insides of some of the oldest and most unique homes the area has to offer.

My in-laws submitted their beautiful home this year, and after they were selected, they asked us for help in getting their home ready for the tour. Since presentation is EVERYTHING, I helped them "stage and style" their home, decorating a little differently than they usually do for Christmas. Check out the photos below for some of the rooms featured on the tour:

The Angel collection above the fire place. Also notice some of the Three Kings collection as well.

The beautiful tree!
The Santa collection
Lots more Three Kings in the Dining Room (they're a little hard to find in the picture!)
After 5 long hours of escorting over 1000 people through their beautifully decorated Christmas house, we were all exhausted! But in the end, it was worth all the hard work these past couple of weeks, as I've never seen it look better!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!


I apologize. The blog has been asleep. We have been working on many projects, which include a day-job office move, renovations to our house, and the topic of my next post, the Candlelight Tour Of Homes. We have barely had time to get our Christmas tree decorated and presents wrapped, and Christmas is only 11 days away! There is still much to do, but I promise to post some good ideas between now and then.

If you are looking for good, easy gifts (i.e. wine), be sure to check out Wino Wednesday for great bottles under $20.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day After Thanksgiving

The day after Thanksgiving, you always wander into the kitchen with a food hangover, and open the refrigerator to find leftovers. So what do you make with that delicious turkey???
While sitting around the Thanksgiving table, I heard a story from my aunt about a tradition I never knew about. When she and my uncle were in high school, every Thanksgiving weekend there was a football game on Friday between two home town rival schools. Since everyone was still recovering from the day before, there was little time to make a full dinner before the big game. So for years, my grandmother would whip up BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) sandwiches and add the left over turkey pieces, and the kids would devour them before they ran out the door to the big game. It not only sounds like heaven, but a tradition I will have to adopt!
One tradition we do have is a family cook-off with different recipes on the day after Thanksgiving. This year it is Macaroni and Cheese.... be sure to check back soon for the winning recipe!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I am thankful...

I am thankful for all the family and friends in my life. I hope you can also spend this day with the people you are thankful for.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Wines

Thanksgiving is just not complete without good wines. My feeling is, if you are going to spend all that time on making a turkey, 10 sides, and 5 desserts, not to mention chaos with your family all being in one house, you'd better have some good wine around.

Here are a few of my favorites:

They are La Crema, Chalk Hill, and Carmel Road, and coincidentally, they are all Chardonnay. I think these buttery chardonnays are your best bet for really engaging the palate in all the flavors of white turkey meat, mashed potatoes, and green beans.

Some other favorites are Bogle Phantom, a red wine, Layer Cake Malbec, and Charles Smith Cabernet Sauvignon. These rich and delicious reds would be decadent with dark turkey meat, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie.

No matter what you pick, just make sure that like the mashed potatoes and gravy, there is plenty to go around!

For more wines, you can always check out Wino Wednesday.

70 Minute Turkey!!!

I thought that the Safeway recipe for 2 Hour Turkey was fantastic, but of course, the amazing Martha Stewart came up with one better! Although it is a little unconventional, it does save you time, and in the end, you are going to cut the turkey up anyway.

Go to the Martha Stewart website here for the how-to on this quick cook turkey.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2 Hour Turkey

I have to admit: I have never cooked a turkey in my life. There are much wiser and more experienced women in my family who are really good at handling that year after year. For hours upon hours, they thaw the turkey, season the turkey, cook the turkey, and baste the turkey, until it is perfectly browned and delicious. I just don't have that kind of time.

After lots of research on-line, I did come across a recipe that seems to be quick and easy. Even the Washington Post did a trial run and found it to be worthwhile. Safeway's Exclusive 2 Hour Turkey Recipe here.

Maybe one day, I will find two hours to try this out. Best of luck with your turkey this year!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Place Cards

Setting the table for Thanksgiving does not have to be overly dramatic or time consuming... after all, you have more important things to do, like cook a turkey! You simply need to let your guests know that they are welcome there. Simple place cards add that finishing, and personal touch any Thanksgiving Day tables. Here are a couple of my favorite place cards available, all you need to do is download and print!Download these fun and vintage place cards here, courtesy of LollyChops.

Also from the lovely world of Martha Stewart:Download these more traditional turkey place cards here.

And lastly, my FAVORITE! I love this because it is beautiful, simple, and also a favor your guests can take home with them!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Family recipes

Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for everything you have been given in life. I am most thankful for the family and friends I have been given, who keep me grounded, while keeping me constantly entertained. Here, I have shared some of my family's secret recipes that have been made for generations, and NEVER disappoint. I hope you enjoy as much as I do every year at Thanksgiving!

Bob's (Grandpa's) Stuffing
3 Lbs. Ground Meat
1 Lb. Pork Sausage
1/2 Stick Butter or Margarine
1 Clove Garlic
2 Large Onions, chopped
2 Loaves of Stale Bread
1 Can French Onion Soup
Poultry Seasoning, to taste
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1 Bunch Celery (optional)
Sliced Mushrooms (optional)
Red Wine or Beef Broth (optional)

In a large saucepan, lightly brown the onions and garlic in butter. Add sausage, cook until browned, then add ground meat. Cook well. Cut up loaves of stale bread into cubes. In a large bowl, mix bread with meat mixture, onion soup, and celery and mushrooms (if desired). If dressing is a little dry, add a little beef broth or red wine to moisten. Season with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Place in a large baking dish (or two!) and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes.

Margaret's (Grammy's) Green Beans
2 Lbs Pole Beans
1 Jar Bacon Fat
Onion Salt
Pepper to taste

Clean Pole Beans, put in a stew pot and cover with water. Add bacon fat (1/2 jar or more as desired), onion salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 4-5 hours. Drain and serve.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Menu

Thanksgiving is almost here (can you believe it?!), and whether your day is full of family, or a few people, there are some great ways to spruce up your table.

One of my favorite bloggers, Mrs. Limestone, is a fabulous graphic designer when she is not at her day job or renovating her amazing Brooklyn home. She has created some awesome (and free!) Menu templates you can use for your Thanksgiving dinner found here for downloading.

I think I am going to blow one up to Legal Size and place on a picture stand at the beginning of the buffet, instead of one for each place setting. Thanks Mrs. Limestone!

Beginning this weekend, there will be a recipe or Thanksgiving Day idea here EVERYDAY up until the big day, so check back soon!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'm a Winner!

After long months of reading other blogs, and seeing their fabulous giveaways, I actualy WON one! Pepper Design Blog, a fabulous new blog, was holding a giveaway for a gift certificate to Favor Affair, a wonderful website that sells wonderful little favors and centerpiece ideas.

I with my gift certificate, I purchased these:

I cannot disclose what I am going to use these for, but I can tell you that they will be fabulous favors for a party I am hosting! I will show you the finished product in just a few weeks! Be sure to check out Favor Affair and Pepper Design Blog for lots more fun and fabulous ideas! Thanks again!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Pie

Ever since I can remember, my father and I have shared a love for brownies and pumpkin pie. He recently read the latest issue of Food and Wine magazine, and came across a recipe he found intriguing. In honor of his birthday, I made the chocolate swirled pumpkin pie, and it was truly a treat! Here's the recipe:

Pre-made Pie Crust
4 Eggs
3/4 cup Sugar
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
Pinch of Salt
1 Can (15oz) Pumpkin Puree
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
3 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate, melted

Take the pre-made pie crust and spread it out in a 9" greased or floured pie pan. Pinch the edges for a more decorative look (I used a cookie cutter to cut "leaves" out of the second crust to decorate my edges). Poke holes with a fork around the crust, and bake it for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and poke any bubbles that may have formed in the crust.

While the crust is baking, combine eggs, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Whisk until smooth, add heavy cream and pumpkin puree, and whisk again until smooth. Take 1 cup of mixture and set aside in another bowl. After melting chocolate (you can microwave or melt over the stove - be sure not to burn it!), mix into the 1 cup pumpkin mixture and whisk.

Once the pie crust has baked, remove and let it completely cool. Once cool, pour in the plain pumpkin mixture to fill the pie pan evenly. Next, pour the chocolate pumpkin mixture into the center of the pie. Once all the mixture is in, taking a butter knife, swirl the chocolate into the pumpkin mixture. Once you get your desired marble look, cover the edges with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. With about 5 minutes to go, remove the foil so that the edges get a nice golden brown.

Serve warm or cold with a side of whipped cream or cool-whip. The chocolate adds decadence to the classic pumpkin pie, and I just may have found a new staple at Thanksgiving! Enjoy!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Recap

Hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween! We started the night out by passing out candy to kids in our neighborhood, and our dog Maybee was dressed up too! The hat didn't last long, but she was a good 'lil pumpkin the entire time we passed out candy.

We then headed to our brother and sister-in-law's house for a wonderful Halloween party. She used the pumpkin bowl idea to hold her wonderful chili, and we had enough sweets to rot every one's teeth! I made the tower of orange (red) velvet cupcakes, she made Dirt & Worms, and we had a full candy bar too!

Of course, no Halloween party is complete without fun games! There was the traditional Bobbing For Apples, and The Doughnut Game. What are riot!!!

And the costumes! While I can't show all the good ones, I can show you ours (we were THE OTHERS from LOST), and the award for Costumes of The Night went to my in-laws:

Hope you all had a fun and festive Halloween! Check back soon for lots of good ideas and recipes for Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Last Minute Pumpkin Carving Tips

If you are like me and waited until the last minute this year to carve your pumpkin, then I have some last minute tips on things to remember:
1. Take your time with this process.... knife safety is very important. Cut slow and watch where you place your hands.
2. Using a sharp serrated knife, carve a hole in your pumpkin, preferably at the top, making a wide circle around the stem.
3. Next, scoop out the guts of the pumpkin. I find that a grapefruit spoon works best to get the inside nice and smooth.
4. Place the pulp and seeds in a bowl for later (see below).
5. It's design time! Trace your design, or draw one from scratch on the face of the pumpkin with a pencil.
6. Carefully, use the serrated knife to cut along the lines of your design, being sure to cut all the way through your pumpkin, unless the design requires you to do something different.
7. Get a small votive candle in a glass jar, and place it inside your pumpkin. Remember to not leave candles unattended.
8. Place your Jack-o-lantern in a place for all to see and celebrate Halloween!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Take the pulp and seeds left over, and with your hands, pull the seeds off the pulp, and put them into a colander in your sink. With warm water, use your hands to rinse the seeds and remove all the pulp. Next, take wet seeds and lay them out on several paper towels or kitchen towels and pat until dry. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray. Once the seeds are dry, spread them out evenly on the cookie sheet. I like to spray the top of the seeds with a little cooking spray as well, and season with salt and a little pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, and then using a spatula or tongs, flip as many seeds as you can. You just want them all to cook evenly. Continue roasting for another 15 minutes until golden brown.
I sometimes like to spice them up. Instead of salt and pepper, I use Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. You can also make them sweet and savoy by substituting sugar and dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg. Enjoy!