Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Very Puppy Christmas

As many of you know we decided to stay in Daphne this year for Christmas. I missed seeing everyone in Indiana but it was nice to come home. It has been over a year since I had make it home, which is way too long. The holiday itself self was really relaxed, some friends came over for dinner and we all just kind of hung out. One of the best parts was all the puppies. My parents have three: Payton the Great Dane, Boo the black lab, Hali the min-pin; my sister just inherited their newest boxer mix rescue Layla and I brought hope. So in total we have five dogs ranging from about 5lbs-135lbs. So needless to say it was a very puppy Christmas. I had to post a few pics because they are all just so cute.

Other than laying around and eating amazing food all day I have been able to spend some time with good friends and see some long lost high school classmates. All in all, a pretty great and relaxing vacation. Tomorrow is New Years Eve, then Saturday I start my trek back to VA. But until then, I’ll enjoy a few more hours on the being lazy with the pups, and maybe another amazing sunset before I head home.

Christmas gifts 2010

This year I decided to make presents. It started because of my tight budget but also because I enjoy doing it. This year I made a couple things. For my dad’s side of the family I made ornaments and garlands out of an old book my dad’s grandmother had given me years ago. The binding was broken and I thought it would be fun to share. I started by buying a circle cutter (about $15 and can be found in the scrap booking isle of your local Wal-Mart) and cutting 3” circles. I also mutilated one of my antrhopologie catalogs to give it a bit of color. I love their ads and use of color and patterns so I thought it was a good choice. After you have a stack of circles cut group them into stacks of about 4-6 circles each. Then begin to sew a strip together skipping about 2” in-between each. To make ornaments just sew one stack together. I think these came out well and slipped nicely into a card.

With the cards I included a stack of my homemade photo cards showcasing my trip to the UK this September… post to follow soon. I hope to start selling these on Etsy.

Also inside the cards was a cd with a .pdf of a book I put together of all the recipes I tried this year, with lessons learned for each. I will start posting them one at a time after the New Year, so keep checking back for updates.

On the baking front I made the white chocolate macadamia tart from thanksgiving, the spiced cake balls and homemade peppermint patties, see below

Peppermint Patties:


3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract

4 cups confectioners' sugar

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

2 teaspoons shortening


-In a large mixing bowl, combine condensed milk and peppermint extract.

-Beat in enough confectioners' sugar, a little at a time, to form a stiff dough that is no longer sticky.

-Form into 1 inch balls, then place on waxed paper and flatten with fingers to form patties. Let patties dry at room temperature two hours, turning once. Or put in freezer for about 15 min

-In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate with shortening, stirring often. (This also works in the microwave stirring every 30 sec.)

-Remove from heat. Dip patties, one at a time, into chocolate by laying them on the tines of a fork and lowering the fork into the liquid. Let cool on waxed paper until set. (Make sure to use fresh wax paper so you don’t get the excess sugar mixture stuck to the outside of the chocolates)

original recipe:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Amazing weekend...the fun part!

Good things that happened this weekend:

-got to see M2, who i miss terribly
-got to eat creme brule donuts
-got to see Betsy for a few min and hear about all the wedding plans
-got to see our thesis project featured at MOMA
-bought the book for the exhibit
-saw my favorite painting in the entire world first hand
-ate an amazing 3 course greek meal with my favorite greek
-saw a really big christmas tree and amazing window displays
-hung out in a really cool loft with nice people and danced in a beauty shop
-nice french boys to dance with
-brunch with old friends, 2 years is too long, but it was like we all never left
-wondering aimlessly through central park and finding Madonna's bench
-peppermint hot chocolate

Pictures are up on fb

Amazing weekend of Food and Fun…First the food

I arrived in NYC at 6:30 am Saturday morning. After a long bus ride the only thing on my mind was the promises of Donuts that had been made to me by M2. He had taken me to this place a few months before and I had been dreaming of it ever since. If you want your mind blown by sugary amazingness then make your way to China town. Get off at the Grand street stop and walk about 4 blocks east. It will be on your right after Norfolk St. (how ironic). This hole in the wall donut shop is becoming one of my favorite little secrets (well I guess it’s not a real secret if I’m sharing it with you, but I’ve never been very good at keeping secrets). Anyway, I would highly recommend it. I also recommend the Crème Brule donuts. They are small, but amazing. If trying an assortment make sure to at least get one of these little guys.
So that night was an amazing night of Gluttony. M2’s roommate is a manager at a small Greek restaurant called Kefi.
I felt this was exactly the dining experience I was looking for on my one night in the city. Make sure to make reservations, but the staff was super nice and understanding when we were unable to get a taxi and were about 15 min late. We had heard about their dinner special of 3 courses for $16.95. With Christmas coming up and trying to stay true to my meager budget, this immediately sparked my attention. For this meal I chose the:
Kefi Salad: Shredded Lettuce & Fennel, Tomato, Cucumber, Olives, Peppers, Onions, Feta†
Pork Medallions, Spicy Peppers, Capers, Lemon
Walnut Cake, Walnut Ice Cream
M2 decided on the
Meatballs, Roasted Garlic, Olives, Tomato
Tubular Pasta, Greek Sausage, Peppers, Onions, Tomato, Feta
Walnut Cake, Walnut Ice Cream
And we were lucky enough to get to try the Sheep’s Milk Dumplings, Tomato, Pine Nuts, and Spicy Lamb Sausage
To start off with, my salad was a spot on Greek salad with small cut lettuce an appropriate house dressing, just the right amount of Feta cheese and the amazingly flavorful olives you would expect. I also enjoyed how the olives were pitted. I always hate spitting out the seeds while sitting at a nice dinner.
I also got to reach over and try one of M2s meat balls. They were great and a perfect choice after wondering the city in the cold. They just gave you the warm and cozy feeling we were looking for.
Next we were surprised by a complementary order of the sheep’s milk dumplings, perks of knowing the manager I guessJ. The sauce was thick and amazing. Big chunks of tomatoes, spinach, small pieces of spicy sausage, and of amazingly tender dumplings. This is a dish I would definitely get again.
So on the main course. This pork dish was much different than anything I had expected. The dish was much lighter than I had envisioned but that is one thing I love about it. There is a very interesting combination of flavors: capers, lintels, lemon, mandarin oranges, and leaks. They came together very well and is a dish I just had to make myself finish.
After indulging ourselves in the amazing amount of food before us we were treated to dessert. This walnut cake was barely a cake, but more of a mound of walnuts held together by pure goodness. The best part was a walnut ice cream that paired perfectly with the cake. Who doesn’t love ice cream with their cake?
So all in all an amazing experience in a quaint little Greek restaurant that I will definitely be visiting again! If you find yourself in the city and looking for a moderately priced but full meal experience make your way to Kefi, I don’ t think you will regret it.

Chocolate Hazelnut Pinwheels.

These cookies are super easy and fun to make and eat. I’m not sure I would recommend making them in large quantities though. I made these as my contribution to the office cookie exchange and it took almost 6 hours to finish all 6 dozen (including two trips to the store and a few lost batches to our temperamental oven). But for 2 or so dozen these are great!
Because of the large quantities and time restraints I did kind of cheat and use the Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix. I think they still came out just fine, but keep in mind that even though it says you will get 3 dozen out of one bag of mix you will only get about half that because of the size of these cookies. If you are using mix follow the directions on the bag then skip down to the 3rd step. Also feel free to substitute another sugar cookie recipe if you have a favorite.

Chocolate Hazelnut Pinwheels
1 3/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon(s) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
1/2 cup(s) sugar
6 tablespoon(s) butter or margarine, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
1/4 cup(s) prepared chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella)
-On a sheet of waxed paper, stir flour, baking powder, and salt. In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat sugar with butter until creamy. At low speed, beat in egg and vanilla until mixed. -Gradually beat in flour mixture just until combined.
-Divide dough in half; shape each half into a disk. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 1 hour or until firm enough to roll. (Or, place dough in freezer 30 minutes.)
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll 1 disk of dough into 10-inch by 7 1/2-inch rectangle. With pastry wheel or knife, cut rectangle lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 3 squares. (I just rolled out the dough on my fondant matt and cut it into 3” x 3” squares) Place squares, 1 inch apart, on ungreased large cookie sheet. With knife, make 1 1/2-inch cut from each corner toward center (do not cut all the way to center). Spoon 1/2 teaspoon (or a little more if you would like) chocolate-hazelnut spread in center of each square. Fold every other tip in to center to form pinwheel. Repeat with remaining squares.
-Bake cookies 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. WATCH CAREFULLY THE ENDS WILL BURN EASILY! Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.
-Repeat with remaining dough. Store cookies in tightly covered container up to 2 weeks.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas happenings to come

Although I am spending every day after work, working on homemade gifts. I won't be able to post anything until after I have given them out. More to come I promise!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holly Garland

So when I got home last night I was faced with the same internal confrontation I face every night. To go to the gym, or not to go to the gym. In my usual manner I change my mind about 3 to 4 times and finally decide that the best excuse I have is that if I don’t go to the gym I will at least do something productive. And being that I feel like I’m not quite in the Christmas spirit, I decided that we needed a Christmas garland for the mantel. So I lit my apple cider candle, put on my slippers, and went outside to proceed to rape our holly bush. I was careful not to take too much from one spot but simply gave it the “trimming“ it needed. I got a bunch of little branches and just started twisting thread around them, adding new branches as I went. So after about 20 min and another trip outside I was done. My hands were pretty cut up and sore but I thought it was worth it.
I began to tape it up to the mantel but felt it needed a little something extra. I remembered that I had some purple feathers I hadn’t used for my Halloween costume so I added them for effect. And Because I did not have any red ribbon for the center bow, I took off the necklace I had been wearing that day and placed it in the middle. All in all, I think it came out nicely, and now are house is just a little more festive.