Sunday, December 2, 2012

Frosted Ricotta Cheese Cookies and Christmas Treats

Around the holidays I like to give homemade treats and gifts that people can really use.  My favorite cookies to share are my friend, Leigh's, family recipe for ricotta cheese cookies.  She brought them to a Christmas party years ago, and I simply could not stop eating them.  I know my cookies, and these are the best!  The other items I've noted are some of my favorite goodies that would make great gifts.  Tis the season for giving!

Frosted Ricotta Cheese Cookies



Plenty to share with friends!

2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
1 15 ounce container of ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Blend butter, sugar and cheese.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix in salt and baking soda and flour (1 cup at a time).  Drop on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, 12-15 minutes or until golden.


Frosting

1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons milk

Directions:

Beat ingredients together.  Add more milk if needed for spreading consistency.  Frost cooled cookies. 

Makes 6 dozen cookies.






Great Goodies and Gifts to Share





These are addictive!

Buy them here: www.bequetconfections.com


They are amazing and come in several delicious flavors.  They are the perfect "little something" for a friend this Christmas.







Angelo's Beef Jerky

Buy it here: www.angelossmokehouse.com


My husband and I went to the California wine country for our honeymoon about 8 years ago.  On our trip we found this little meat shop and picked up some of Angelo's delicious beef jerky as we cruised around in our convertible hopping from vineyard to vineyard.  My husband still talks about this jerky, and I think Santa will put some in his stocking this year! 







Comes in your favorite wine or cocktail scent!

Buy it here: www.rewinedcandles.com


My sweet sister-in-law, Laney, gave me this candle for my birthday this year.  It has an amazing smell and comes in several yummy wine and seasonal cocktail scents.  The best part is their candles are packaged in recycled wine bottles and are made of natural soy wax.  They make a lovely gift!







Chewbeads!

Buy it here: www.chewbeads.com


Chewbeads make a great gift for chic moms with teething babies.  The beads add a pop of color to any outfit and give little ones something to nibble on while you go about your day.  Throw the beads in the dishwasher at the end of the night.  Function + Fashion = A mom's Christmas wish! 






























Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Sweet and Simple

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I wanted to share a few last minute ideas to inspire a fun and relaxing holiday.  Here you go...



First Stop, What to Wear?

Last night at dinner one of my girlfriends wore an adorable hot pink top.  It was fun, elegant and versatile.  Pair it with skinny jeans and heels or whatever you like.  Such a great look for this holiday season!


Chiffon Top

Buy it here: www.jcrew.com











Bring a Side

Everyone loves green beans at Thanksgiving.  If you are looking for something light and refreshing amongst all the heavy foods on your table, try this dish. 

Lemon Thyme Green Beans





Ingredients:

1 Pound Green beans
3 Shallots
1 Lemon juiced
1/2 Tablespoon Fresh thyme chopped
1 Tablespoon Chopped Italian parsley
1/4 Stick butter
Salt and Pepper

Stem green beans.  Blanche in a pot of boiling water about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.  Green beans should still be bright green and only slightly softened.



Thinly slice the shallots.  Saute in butter with salt and pepper until beginning to brown over medium heat for about 3 minutes.  Add green beans and saute for 5 minutes.  Add lemon juice, thyme and cook for 3 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with fresh parsley.     








For the Host...

Bring your host a homemade loaf of chocolate chip pumpkin bread.  They'll be grateful to have a yummy treat with their morning coffee after a busy night of entertaining.  The recipe makes 2 large loaves (just in case you have multiple stops on Thanksgiving) and an additional mini loaf for you!



Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread


Yum!





Ingredients:

4 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup cold water
1 (15 oz can pumpkin)
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
Half bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Beat eggs and stir in next 4 ingredients.  Sift dry ingredients together and add to pumpkin mixture.  Mix well.  Divide into 2 large and 1 mini sized loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees, large loafs 60-75 minutes, mini loaf 30-45 minutes until done.





For the Kids...

When you're a kid, waiting for your Thanksgiving meal can feel like an eternity.  Keep the kids busy with place mat chalkboards by Annabelle Noel Home and Garden.



Decorate your own Place mat
Buy it here: www.annabellenoel.com







Monday, November 12, 2012

Mom's Apple Pie


I absolutely love pie, especially my mom's apple pie. Her pie has a tart Granny Smith apple filling and a yummy cookie crust. My sister, Molly, is known for requesting one of these pies entirely for herself. It is that good! Lucky for us, it is super simple to make. Perfect for your Thanksgiving dessert!

Thanksgiving tradition idea...

In our family we run a 5k for charity the morning of Thanksgiving. It's a nice way to give back and to get ready to chow down the rest of the day!


Mom's Apple Pie

Ingredients:

Apple Core Peeler
6 Granny Smith Apples
One stick melted butter
One large egg
One cup flour
One cup sugar
One tablespoon cinnamon


Directions:

Cut and peel apples and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together. They will be like a thick paste. Spread over apples and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Enjoy!







Saturday, November 10, 2012

Andy's Charcoal Roasted Turkey

Want a twist on your Thanksgiving turkey?  Try charcoal roasting it!  My husband, Andy, is in love with his charcoal grill.  It came as no surprise that the first time we hosted Thanksgiving dinner, he insisted on taking our turkey to the grill.  It was a huge hit and has since become a staple at our Thanksgiving table.  Cooking your turkey on the grill will also free up your oven, a huge bonus.  We hope you'll try it!


Roast turkey here...

Andy's Charcoal Roasted Turkey

Turkey
Salt
Pepper
Butter
3 carrots, rough chopped
4 celery stalks, rough chopped
1 large onion, rough chopped
Handful Italian parsley
Handful fresh sage
Handful fresh thyme
Wood chips (hickory preferred)

A full bag of charcoal
Large aluminum foil pan
Tin foil
Oven thermometer (optional)
Instant read thermometer


This is similar to roasting a turkey in your oven, but you are imparting smokey charcoal flavor. Pick a bird that fits on your grill with the lid on. Last thing you want is to go to put the lid on the grill and it doesn't close.

Prep the turkey by removing the neck and gizzard. Stuff the cavity with carrots, celery, onions and parsley, sage, and thyme. Generously, salt and pepper the bird all over and under the skin and in the cavities. Place the bird in the foil pan.

Prepare a charcoal grill for indirect grilling. Two piles of red hot brickets on either side of the grill (around 30 or so brickets per side). Situate the grate so the handles where there is a gap is above the coals. This will allow you to add charcoal easily. The foil pan should be able sit in the middle without getting direct heat from the charcoal. Soak a large bowl of hickory wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes.

Place the pan on the middle of the grill. Add several large handfuls of the moist wood chips to the charcoal. Place the lid on the grill with vents open on the lid and underneath the grill.

Every 20-30 minutes add a couple handfuls of charcoal and moist wood chips. Your goal is to maintain a temperature of about 350 degrees. Use an oven thermometer to check. The less you take the lid off the better.

After 1.5 - 2 hours stop adding wood chips when it has a nice golden smokey brown color and occasionally start adding a few pats of butter to the top of the bird. After a stick of butter, continue to baste the bird with the juices. Also lightly tent the breast with tin foil at this point.

Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh and breast. Depending on the size of the bird this might be 3-4 hours total cooking time. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes before carving. Make gravy with the drippings.

Link to Weber grill
http://www.target.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/p/weber-one-touch-silver-kettle-grill-black-22-5/-/A-13034658


 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mystery Bags



Every Halloween I give little treats to Jack's classmates and friends. This year I decided to disguise them as "Mystery Bags." I'm not really a crafter, but these bags put big smiles on little kids faces.

Contents of bags: Sweet and salty pretzels, a witch's cauldron cup w/ straw, and a Halloween note decorated by Jack


Friday, October 19, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

My friend made these cookies for me on a chilly fall day years ago. I've made them every year since. Try them. They are a slice of heaven.




Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chocolate semi sweet chips

Directions:

Cream butter, sugar and egg together. Add vanilla and pumpkin then mix. Put baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in another bowl and mix together. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture. Add flour. Add half a bag of chocolate chips, or more if you like. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-13 minutes until no longer doughy inside. I have to say it, enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Alphabet Memory Book

Here is a fun way to create a collection of memories for your child while making a real world connection to the alphabet.



How to:

1. Take pics of your kid in costumes, with their favorite toys, books, people, or locations that represent each letter of the alphabet. See my examples.

2. Then write or type a page for each letter of the alphabet with room for your child's picture and the word that describes the picture. You can use markers, glue and construction paper, or you can create a professionally printed book online.

You can't mess this up. Enjoy and have fun with it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bag Lady

When I was little my mom used to call me a bag lady.  I wouldn't leave the house without my stuff.  Not much has changed, except now I have to fit a whole family's worth of stuff in my bag.  I don't mess around with comfort, durability and versatility.  Check out these bags that are all that and more...




Sunday Bag





Goods





Clutch * Wallet * Pencil Case
www.blueq.com











Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Full Moon Party

Last year we started a tradition to throw a "Full Moon Party" with our family and neighbors. My son and I tracked the moon phases and planned our party for the last full moon of the summer.

We made the invitations ourselves using blank postcards. He was 2 1/2 at the time, so he basically scribbled all over, and I wrote the words to describe his drawings.

We also planned the menu together. Hot dogs on a stick, hamburgers, chips, and banana melts (recipe to come!).

We set up our camping tent, the fire pit with a rack for grilling, brought out the flashlights and got cooking.

The party was so simple really, but everyone had a complete blast. This party idea is great for any age, but if you do have children, let them help you every step of the way. Especially over the summer when they always need something to do!

Banana Melt Recipe

Bananas
Chocolate Bars
Peanut butter chips
Marshmallows
Graham crackers
Chopped walnuts

Slice the bananas lengthwise. Fill with chocolate pieces, peanut butter chips and marshmallows, etc. Wrap in tinfoil and grill until the contents melt slightly. Open tinfoil and crumble graham cracker crumbs on top. Grab a fork and dig in!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Heart Shaped Chocolate Chip Muffins

Today all of my children decided to nap at the same time, sigh. While they were napping, I threw together the ingredients for these yummy chocolate chip muffins. They are super simple and surprisingly moist, probably because of the added yogurt. If your kids eat yogurt, the little 4oz vanilla YoBaby packs work great. The recipe makes a bunch, so you'll have plenty to share!



Yum, chocolate chip muffins ready to serve!




Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 egg
1 stick of butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
6 oz pkg chocolate chips


Beat together egg, butter, milk and vanilla yogurt.  Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugars together in a separate bowl.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Bake at 350 degrees in greased muffin cups or heart shaped baking pans for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven.


Heart Shaped Baking Pans
by Chef Philippe


Monday, February 6, 2012

A Kind Gesture


"On the road between the houses of friends grass does not grow."
                                                         - Unknown

     To show a friend she is appreciated, try delivering a potted plant in a decorative planter to her doorstep. Your flowering plant will outlast cut flowers, and it will cost you less!

How to?

1. Pick-up a cute planter.  I chose a $6 chocolate colored planter from my local flower shop.
2. Select a seasonal flowering plant from your favorite grocery store.  My picture features a primrose purchased for only $2.50 at the Whole Foods Market.  Any flowering plant or herb will do!
3. Add a quick note of appreciation and deliver to a deserving friend!

     Please post pics of your ideas to share.  Maybe some herbs with a recipe?  Or other simple gestures to inspire us.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Valentine's Day Sweet and Salty Pretzels

These are the perfect treats to give your friends and family this Valentine's Day. They are salty, sweet and super easy. If you are short on time and energy, this is the recipe for you!

Ingredients
Packaging

Sweet and Salty Pretzels

Bag of small salted pretzels
Bag of vanilla wafers
Bag of Valentine m&m's

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Arrange pretzels onto a nonstick metal pan. Place a vanilla wafer on each pretzel. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes depending on your oven. The wafers should soften but not completely melt or lose shape. When ready, remove from oven. Quickly place 2 m&m's on each pretzel/ wafer combo. Let cool on rack.

Place Sweet and Salty Pretzels in a clear cellophane bag and tie with ribbon. Give to friends and family as a special Valentine's Day treat!

Entertaining tip: Change the color of the m&m's and the ribbon to match your next themed party. They make the perfect favor!



You won't need Jedi mind tricks to enjoy these treats!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Snap a Pic of Your Kid's Lovey



 


This is Greenie, my son's lovey.  I took a pic of him when it was clear my son favored him above all other stuffed animals.  Greenie has been with us for 3 years now, and it is fun to look back at this pic when he wasn't quite so "loved!" 

How to: Pose your child's lovey (or whatever you affectionately call it), and snap a pic.  Stick it with your kid's baby book or frame it for the family photo wall.  Enjoy for years to come!



  

Chicken and White Bean Chili

My husband and I used to hold an annual chili cook-off back in the day.  This Chicken and White Bean Chili was our "2006 Most Original Chili" winner.  It's the perfect meal for a casual winter get together.  The recipe makes a ton, so you can serve a large crowd or freeze the chili in mini portions for the nights you don't feel like cooking!

Chicken and White Bean Chili

3 cans great northern beans
1-2 cans green chilies
1/4 cup butter
2 lg onions, chopped
1/3 cup flour
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups half and half
4 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs hot pepper sauce
1 Tbs ground cumin
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper

1 1/2 cups grated Monterrey Jack cheese
1 cup sour creme
chopped fresh cilantro
green chili salsa


Melt butter in large pot over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add flour and stir 5 minutes.  (do not brown).  Gradually whisk in chicken broth and half and half.  Simmer gently until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Add white beans and green chilies, shredded chicken and next 5 ingredients.  Simmer gently to blend flavors, about 20 minutes.

Add grated cheese and sour creme to chili; stir just until chili is heated through and cheese melts (do not boil).  Ladle chili into bowls and garnish with cilantro and green salsa.  Serve over rice or with tostitos.   Enjoy!

Entertaining tip: For easy clean up and a casual vibe, pile soup bowls, spoons, napkins and toppings next to stove alongside chili.  I used these bowls from Anthropology...