Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Have a wonderful weekend, and be sure to indulge in some Hoppin' John and collard greens to ensure a prosperous 2010!

Elephants and Elegance

While Christmas shopping online, I ordered the necklaces pictured above for two of my favorite people. The pieces were made by Rachel of elephantine, the inspiring blogger, gorgeous object finder, and jewelry designer extraordinaire. Her necklaces are so delicate and lovely and arrive in the sweetest packaging. The lucky recipients were thrilled. Now all I need to do is order one for myself.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Elf on a Shelf

Christmas is over, but I can't stop looking at decorations, and since most of the goods are on sale, I think it's allowed. These elf candle holders from CB2 are killing me with their cuteness. I just love the idea of these little guys clustered together on a book shelf. They're on sale for $2.95 each, so I'll happily hide them away until next year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

O Christmas Treats

If you didn't reach your sugar intake quota over Christmas, this ought to do it. I spent the long weekend in a sweet-tooth cycle of baking and eating. My favorite results of the culinary efforts were a rich and delicious panettone bread pudding and some craveable peppermint bark.

This panettone bread pudding is being permanently added to my holiday dessert repertoire. I liked it the first day and loved it the second, and the amaretto sauce is pure heaven.

Panettone Bread Pudding with Amaretto Sauce
Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup amaretto liqueur
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Bread Pudding:
1 (1-pound) loaf panettone bread, crusts trimmed, bread cut into 1-inch cubes
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds

To make the sauce: Bring the cream, milk, and sugar to a boil in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. In a small bowl, mix the amaretto and cornstarch to blend and then whisk into the cream mixture. Simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Set aside and keep warm. (The amaretto sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm before serving.)

To make the bread pudding: Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange the bread cubes in the prepared dish. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, milk, and sugar to blend. Pour the custard over the bread cubes, and press the bread cubes gently to submerge. Let stand for 30 minutes, occasionally pressing the bread cubes into the custard mixture. (Recipe can be prepared up to this point 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Sprinkle sliced almonds over the top. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until the pudding puffs and is set in the center, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. Spoon the bread pudding into bowls, drizzle with the warm amaretto sauce, and serve.

The peppermint bark was surprisingly fun to make -- sign me up for any recipes involving a hammer. It's just the most simple, pleasant, Christmas-y candy and would make a great gift (next year). I've been eating my batch piece by piece all weekend.

Peppermint Bark

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen

Crushed candy canes, to yield 1 cup
2 pounds white chocolate
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, optional
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Add peppermint extract to the white chocolate if desired. Pour white chocolate onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper. Spread evenly with spatula. Melt 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and drizzle over the white chocolate. Sprinkle crushed candy canes over melted chocolate. Place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle.)

Hope your holiday was as sweet as mine!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Here's a little holiday cheer courtesy of the fabulous Nora. Merry Christmas! Hope your holiday is filled with joy and peace!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Cookies

These chocolate-espresso snowcaps are my idea of the perfect holiday cookie: cute, bite-size, and covered in powdered sugar. I will say the dough is kind of a pain to work with. It melts pretty quickly in your hands, but there are worse things than being covered in chocolate dough. Aside from that, these cookies are simple and delicious. They're even good enough to leave out for Santa, and I’m sure he'd appreciate the jolt of caffeine.

Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps
Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons instant espresso
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, for coating

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients; beat in milk just until combined. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place confectioners' sugar into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar twice. Place balls on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 18 cookies.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cocoa Mojo

When I was a little girl, my mom would bring a mug of hot cocoa to my bedside table every morning. I would sit in bed, watch cartoons, and sip that hot chocolate for a good thirty minutes. I had no idea how good I had it. These versions of cocoa give me the same warm, cozy feelings, and I'd pay cash money for an early morning delivery of any of them.

[CB2; not martha; Giver's Log]

Monday, December 21, 2009

Not a Creature was Stirring...

How cute are these handmade felt mice from The House of Mouse? I'm torn between Rudolph Mouse and Anna Wintour Mouse. This might call for a rodent-themed Christmas tree next year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pasta Night

I love dishes like this baked pasta on busy weeknights. You get your meat, veggie, and carbs in one serving. It's easy and yummy, and nothing beats warm gooey cheese on a cold winter night.

Sausage, Mozzarella and Broccoli Rabe with Shells
Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 sprigs thyme
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 links spicy Italian sausage (3/4 pound total), casings removed
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
8 ounces medium shell pasta
1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 pound), trimmed and coarsely chopped
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden brown, about 15 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly). Add garlic and sausage. Cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with spoon. Cook sauce until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes less than package instructions. Add broccoli rabe to pot and cook 15 seconds. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to pot. Stir in sausage mixture. Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish or divide among four 16-ounce gratin dishes. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until cheese has melted and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday Giveaway!

Update: Cherry Blossoms is the winner!

I've got a giveaway for you from Etsy shop citylight. Fabulous blogger and photographer Diana captures the sweetest images of simple and beautiful objects. Wouldn't you just love one of her prints under the Christmas tree?

Check out citylight and leave a comment below before midnight on Saturday, December 19th. You could win a 5x7 print of your choice. One lucky recipient will be chosen at random.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Even Better Than Candy Canes

Can you believe Christmas is in 10 days? I'm doing my best to cram in all the holiday festivities (and eating) I can, including peppermint in every possible form. Williams-Sonoma seems to be the go-to shop for fans of the minty treat. Cookies, cupcakes, marshmallows, bark, I don't know where to begin.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And We're Back

I'm home again after a wonderful vacation spent visiting friends and family. Lots of laughing, hot chocolate, Wii battles, homemade soup, Christmas trees, and pajamas for the majority of the day. I don't wanna go back to work!

Friday, December 4, 2009

East Coast Adventure

I'm off to New York and then Savannah for a little pre-Christmas visit with friends and family and to see how the decorations at Rockefeller compare with those at my parents' house. I'll try and drop in while I'm on vacation, but have a wonderful week and enter the giveaway if you haven't yet!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday Giveaway!

Update: i heart kiwi is the winner!

I have a giveaway for you this week courtesy of joom. This Etsy shop is filled with beautiful pillows, bags, art, cards, and more. All of the designs feature bold colors and the sweetest silhouettes.

Check out the shop, then leave a comment below before midnight on Sunday, December 13th. You could win one of joom's fabulous pouches! The pouches are made from cotton, feature floral lining, and are perfect for carrying a camera, cell phone or sunglasses. One lucky recipient will be chosen at random.


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