Friday, December 31, 2010

Foodie Friday: Champagne Cocktails

If I had to choose a favorite type of white wine, champagne and sparkling wine would be far above all the rest.  It all started when Husband and I were engaged.  Seriously...is there any other extended period of time when you drink so much champagne?!  My favorite champagne is made by G.H. Martel...but sometimes I just want something a little bit more fun.  So just in time for New Year’s Eve...I’m bringing you a line up of champagne cocktails to help ring in 2011!  

Classic Champagne Cocktail

 
Image via MarthaStewart.com
Sometimes I’m just an old-fashioned gal.  The basic Champagne cocktail has been popular ever since the mid-1800s, and I just love it!  Here’s the classic recipe, as listed on MarthaStewart.com:

3 drops bitters
1 sugar cube
1 oz Cognac
4 oz chilled Champagne

Drop bitters on sugar cube; let soak in.  Place sugar cube in a Champagne flute. Add Cognac and top with Champagne.

Kir Royale
 
Image via wine-tasting-reviews.com
I don’t think there is a simpler recipe out there than the Kir Royale.  You can make it sweet or strong, depending on the proportions.  All you need is Creme de Cassis and dry Champagne or Sparkling wine.  Make sure to put the Creme de Cassis in the glass first and your drink will mix itself.

French 75
Image via SeriousEats.com
If you’re looking for a strong drink - look no further.  According to wikipedia, this recipes was said “to have such a kick that it felt like being shelled with the powerful French 75mm howitzer artillery piece”.  Here’s the recipe as cited on SeriousEats.com:

1 T cold gin
1 T lemon juice
1 or 2 sugar cubes
Champagne, chilled
Lemon twists, for garnish

Pour the cold gin and lemon juice in a champagne flute. Top with cold champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.  As you serve the cocktail, drop a sugar cube to the bottom of the glass and watch the cocktail come to life as it fizzes and pops.

Black Velvet
 
Image via BBCgoodfood.com
Are you more of a beer drinker?  Try a 4:1 ratio of sparkling wine to black irish stout for a bubbly way to enjoy your celebration. (Recipe from FoodNetwork.com)

If you want to experiment some more, here are a few websites with more recipes. Yum!
AvalonWine.com (The geek in me loves the little bit of history also offered at this page!)
Martha Stewart
Food Network

Don’t forget to keep it safe...and have a happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Eve - A quick Roundup!

We're up in the mile-high city right now, enjoying the biggest snow flakes I've seen in a while.  In the meantime, I've taken a few minutes to pull together a few things to help you pull together a fabulous New Year's Eve bash!

New Year's Eve Tablescapes

The best thing about decorating for a New Year's Eve party is that you don't have to feel limited by anything.  Although black, silver and gold are very popular, colorful parties are just as much fun!
             2 - Simply Creative Insanity
             3 - Celebrations at Home Silver Gold
             4 - Bird Crafts 2
             5 - Hello Naomi (via Birthday Girl)
             6 - Elizabeth Ann Designs (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)
             7 - This Blessed Nest (via Birthday Girl)
             8 - Party Roundup at JC’s Loft (image ℅ Social Couture)
            10 - Southern Belle’s Charm (via Kara’s Party Ideas)
            11 - Celebrations at Home Bar
New Year's Eve Printables

Here are some fabulous printables for your New Year's Eve parties.  I'm loving the use of grey instead of black and the infusion of bright colors like red, blue and pink!
    1 - Celebrations at Home
    2 - Simply Creative Insanity Printables
    3 - Simply Creative Insanity Printables 2
    4 - The Giving Madam Printables

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mama Monday - Christmas Recap

I have to admit, I was dreading Christmas this year.  Dreading it because December has been so busy, that I wasn’t able to do any of my Christmas traditions.  The only decorations in our house were those left over from the Cookies & Milk party.  We had purchased a small tree to decorate, only to find that it did not actually include the promised stand.  I wasn’t able to get gifts wrapped until the 23rd, and I never got my annual platter to the office.  It made me so sad.  

To top it all off, I was dreading the trip to see my family in Richmond.  I love my family, but it’s total chaos.  We have a pretty large family, and the partying starts on Christmas Eve and goes until late on Christmas night. Christmas with my family includes late night dinner out on Christmas Eve, a breakfast buffet at my sister’s house and then a large dinner buffet at my parent’s house.  

In the end, we all had a wonderful time.  It’s true, T was totally thrown by the insanity.  She was so tired that she passed out on multiple occasions.  But, then again, she had a total blast, too.  She was beside herself with excitement when she got to see my sister’s Shih Tzu, screaming “Goggie! Goggie! Goggieeeeeeeee!” (it’s a good thing the dog is pretty much deaf).  Her cousins couldn’t be more loving, and she handled the late nights really really well.  To top it all off, the snow started falling, so that we ended up with a good six inches of snow by Sunday night.  It truly was a very merry and magical Christmas.  

Later this week, we’re off to Denver to visit my mother and stepfather for New Year’s Eve.  I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and will be back next week to share photos of our holiday season!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.


(card created via Shutterfly.  Click here for more information on Shutterfly's Christmas card collection)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Party Roundup

It seems like there have been a million parties floating around the blogosphere  over the last few weeks.  From photo shoots to real parties, there are so many that  make me wish I was that creative.  So,  instead of forgetting where everything is next year, I’ve pulled together the parties that I have found truly inspiring.  I’m sure there’s something for everyone in this roundup.  I wish that I could have posted more pictures of each party and made each picture a showcase of its own, but there were just too many.  Go ahead and click on each and every link.  You won’t regret it!

 
No one gets more excited about Christmas than kids.  And seriously?  They are just so much fun to see this time of year.  So it’s no surprise that some of the most creative parties are either for kids, or make us feel like kids again.  Bright, fun, full of pattern and joy, these parties are sure to entertain you from age 1 to 92.
    1 - Fresh Chick Design Studio (via The Party Dress)
    2 - Bird Crafts Christmas Candyland
    3 - Celebrations at Home Candy Coated Christmas
    4 - Frog Prince Paperie
    5 - And Babies Make Four (via The TomKat Studio)
    6 - Glorious Treats  Gingerbread Party
    7 - Anders Ruff Vintage Holiday
    8 - Design Editor (via Amy Atlas)
    9 - Mom’s Guide (via The Party Dress)
    10 - Shindig Parties to Go (via Kara’s Party Ideas)
    11 - Wants and Wishes Design (via HWTM)


You can never go wrong with the traditional colors of red, gold and green at Christmas.  There is something comforting and reassuring about a party that celebrates Christmas in a familiar way.  All of these parties infuse traditional elements, but have something special and spectacular that sets them apart from all the rest.     1 - Pizzazzerie     2 - Celebrations at Home Cocktails & Cheers     3 - Celebrations at Home Red & White Christmas     4 - The Candy Buffet Company (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)     5 - Tracy Lau (via Swanky::Chic::Fete)     6 - Green Apple Paperie (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)     7 - Sweet Little Parties (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)     8 - Two Sugar Babies (via The Party Dress)     9 - Anders Ruff  Classic Holiday Printables

 
Red, Gold and Green may be classic; but who says that you have to use those colors to celebrate the season?  There has been an abundance of parties this year that have infused non-traditional color palettes and themes such as pastels, teals, aquas - and even a Moroccan themed party!
    1 - Bonito Designs (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)
    2 - Cake Ink (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)
    3 - Glorious Treats
    4 - Tradewind Tiaras (via The TomKat Studio)
    5 - Sweet Girly Mommy (via Bird Crafts)
    6 - Anders Ruff Snowflake
    7 - Save the Date for Cupcakes (via HWTM)
    8 - CupKate’s Events
    9 - Pepper Design Studio (via The Party Dress)
    10 - Save the Date for Cupcakes/TomKat Studio
    11 - Marie Claire Idees (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)
    12 - Dough a Deer (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)
    13 - Kate Landers Events
    14 - Sweet Tooth: Dessert Meets Design
    15 - Sweet Tooth: Dessert Meets Design Pink
    16 - Green Apple Paperie (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)
    17 - Beth Beattie Branding (via The Party Dress)


Not everything needs to be shiny and bright.  These  parties infuse rustic and earthy elements that showcase just how beautiful nature is during the wintertime.  
    1 - Be Inspired PR (via HWTM)
    2 - Celebrations at Home
    3 - Sandra Downie Events (via Pizzazzerie)

 

Christmas is so vibrant and colorful; but there is just something to be said for  an all  (or mostly) white party. These parties are the perfect example of how  this theme can be  classic and modern at the same time.  
    1 - Alchemy Blog (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)
    2 - Anders Ruff
    3 - Frog Prince Paperie (via Swanky::Chic::Fete)
    4 - Candy Buffet Company (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)
    5 - Call Me Cupcake (via Save the Date for Cupcakes)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sparkly Letter DIY

I know I promised a round up of Christmas parties today, but there are so many (over 50!) that I’m working on getting everything organized.  In the meantime, I want to share with you one of my favorite crafts for the Christmas Milk & Cookies party:  the letter holders for the buffet labels.  The pictures from the party really don’t show the depth of color, or just how sparkly and fun they are.  The best part?  They are totally reuseable.  Seriously, we’ve moved them over from the buffet on top of our TV cabinet to hold Christmas cards from family and friends (we don’t have a fireplace, so we have no mantle).

Typically our Christmas cards become a total mess, but these are a great way to display them without worrying about cards fluttering to the ground from either the air vents or my toddler running around all over the place.

Honestly, I got the idea for these letters from a display of 1.5 inch cookie photo holders at Kohl’s.  At $4 a piece on sale, I knew I could do something just as fun for less.  Not to mention, they didn’t have all the letters I was looking for.  Now, I really wanted to make letters that looked like baked sugar cookies, but I’m just not that talented, so I switched to plain old glitter; which I think turned out to be better for the display in the long run.  The hardest parts were finding letters that would stand on their own (I wanted smaller, but these letters from Michael’s were the best I could find at the time), and something to use to hold cards.

I looked up tutorials on how to twist wire, how to embellish plain photo holders and the like, but I wanted something simple - REALLY simple.  I was about to go forward with giant paperclips from Target, but then I ran across these fellas from Dollar Tree:

They’re perfect for this application!  You know it too, because I’m not the first person to think of using these little cuties.  I won’t bore you with all the specifics of adding glitter to letters.  I think it’s pretty self explanatory: paint, glue, glitter, let dry, glue ornament hook to the back.  I used gorilla glue, but a hot glue gun would have probably been faster.



Hope everyone has a happy Wednesday...only a few days left until Chrustmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Foodie Friday: The Annual Cookie Platter

This year has just been crazy.  Absolutely crazy.  Usually by now, our Christmas tree is up and filled with pretty gifts underneath.  The whole house is typically decorated, and I’ve spent a whole weekend-and a couple weeknights-baking our annual cookie platters.  Seriously, I probably bake a good ten dozen cookies each year.  So far, the only tree we’ve managed to ‘put up’ is the 2 foot tree from last week’s Cookies & Milk party - and it only has about four ornaments on it.  None of the Christmas gifts are wrappted, and I’ve only been able to bake a couple of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes.  So, instead of baking cookies this year, I’m going to share with you a few of my absolute favorite Christmas Recipes.  I apologize for not having my own pictures.  You have no idea how much I miss these cookies!

 Buckeyes
Picture via Allrecipes.com
Buckeyes are a midwest, specifically Ohio, tradition.  My family hails from the Buckeye state, so I remember as a kid always waiting for Christmas to come around so we could have Buckeyes.  Seriously, is there much better than the peanut butter/chocolate combination?  I hardly think so.  I honestly don’t use a real ‘recipe’ for this, and my method changes every year, so the following measurements are approximate:

Ingredients:
1 Cup Peanut Butter
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1.5 Cups Powdered Sugar
1 bag chocolate chips (milk or dark to suit your taste)

Directions:
In a stand mixer (I’ve also done this by hand), mix together the peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar.  If the batter is still sticky, add more powdered sugar.  At the very minimum, you want a consistency that cleans itself off the bowl when the mixer is running.  If you put too little sugar in the mixture, the balls will fall off during the dipping process.  Roll the dough into ½ to 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.  Refrigerate for two hours or overnight (I’ve even left them in the fridge a couple of days-no worries).

Prepare a double boiler by putting about an inch of water into a small sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Place a heat-safe bowl (i.e. stainless steel) over the mouth of the sauce pan.  Ensure that your bowl does not touch the water, as the heat will scorch your chocolate.  Once the water heats up, turn the heat down on the burner so your water doesn’t completely evaporate.  Add chocolate chips and melt.  

Using a toothpick, gently dip the peanut butter balls into the chocolate over about ½ way down the ball.  Rock your hand back and forth a couple times to create the peanut butter ‘eye’.  Return ball to wax paper and continue until all are covered in chocolate.  (I have found it best to work in small batches, so the other peanut butter balls don’t soften before you get a chance to dip them.)  Refrigerate until the chocolate has solidified, and enjoy the goodness!


Candied Pecans
Picture via Allrecipes.com
This recipe comes from my mother, and is an instant hit with everyone who has tried it.  Plus, it’s so simple, it’s hard to NOT make them (these will be getting made this year...they’re actually going to be a part of the favor for this weekend’s party!)

Ingredients
4 cups whole pecans
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt
2 egg whites
1 stick butter

Directions
Heat pecans on cookie sheet for 5minutes at 350 degrees.  Whip egg whites until stiff.
Fold in vanilla, salt and sugar. Add pecans to mix.

Melt the butter on cookie sheet. Spread pecan mixture on the cookie sheet over the melted
butter. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring and turning occasionally.

Let cool entirely. Store in airtight container or freezer bag.


Christmas Horns
 Sorry-no picture!  I couldn't find any similar recipes anywhere!

Yet another recipe from my mother. (I love the woman, but she’s not known for cooking...but she can make some killer Christmas Horns! Note: For those who may be a little confused, my stepmom was the caterer, and her cooking is a.ma.zing.)  I’ll fess up and say that I have not yet actually made these horns on my own.  Ever since she killed her hand blender making them, I’m a little nervous.  Listen to the recipe...stand mixer only!  Maybe when we go visit over Christmas, I’ll actually have the time to make some.  If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know!

Ingredients:
Dough:
1 lb butter
1 carton cottage cheese (1 lb.)
3 ½ cups flour

Filling:
2 cups ground walnuts or pecans
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp vanilla extract

Directions
Mix dough together and form into 1” balls. x Dough will be very stiff. (Because dough is very stiff, it is better to use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.) Refrigerate balls for 3 hours or overnight.

Roll balls into an oval shape. Place @ ½ - 1 tsp filling into center of rolled dough and roll into crescent shape. Turn edges over to seal. Bake at 375 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cooled.


(P.S. - All of the pictures link over to the Allrecipes website.  The pictures were chosen only if they provided a fairly accurate representation of what the cookies/candies should look like; although the recipes are slightly different than what I've presented here.)