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.