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December 18, 2014

Hosting Heartfelt Holiday Parties

As you all know, each month I write an article for My  This month I shared my ideas for Hosting Heartfelt Holiday Parties.  It is not too late to try some of these ideas this year - most are very simple and require minimal planning.  Enjoy this excerpt, read the entire article, here.

"Each Holiday season I make our family entertaining plan.  We don't host a large fancy open house or a cocktail party for a hundred people, but we host many small gatherings for our friends and family.  When I make this plan and schedule, we talk about what we really want to experience during the Holiday season - memorable moments with our family, magical experiences with our daughter, festive celebrations with friends and traditions of giving to others.  We do our best to plan our entire month of December around these goals of truly experiencing the warmth, peace and love that the Holidays can bring....
Caroling Party, Cookie Decorating Party, Candlelight Dinner, Stocking Stuffing Party..."
Keep reading and get more details about each of these parties ideas, here.  Happy Holiday Hosting!

December 17, 2014

Metallic Gold Celebration Candles & Chocolate Souffles for New Years | Last Day for Orders!

Today is the day - the last day to order and receive by Christmas Eve!  We've been counting and re-counting inventory to make sure our numbers are correct and there are a couple of things that we "found" and have been restocked.  If you need some last minute gifts, my Gift Cards make great stocking stuffers and come in a beautiful box ready for giving : )  And, of course $5 shipping on all orders continues!

I'm thinking a little about New Years Eve today, and have stocked up on these Celebration Candles ($9-18.50) to ring in the New Year.  I love at home celebrations for NYE - cozy dinner by the fire, then something fun and spectacular for dessert.

I carry the Creative Candles Celebration Candles in 6" and 15" - in 8 colors.  These Metallic Gold would be the perfect way to make your at home celebration special and festive for midnight.

Here is a photo that shows the scale of the 15" - they really are super tall.  I was going to try to get around to making a decadent chocolate cake layered with whipped cream and raspberries, but after making a birthday cake for Mike last week and a birthday cake for Emma on Monday, I am a little caked out!  So, you'll have to use your imagination : )

In general, the 6" candles look super on cupcakes, and the 15" are great for cakes, or larger desserts.

Here are the gold in 15" - so fun!  I'm going to be giving some as hostess gifts this weekend, too.  I find they are always met with oohs and aahhs, even before lighting.

I have one last product to add before this Holiday season is over - these Paper Souffle Cups, $8 for 20.  I mentioned them a couple of days ago, but haven't had a chance to actually use them yet - again, you'll have to use your imagination : )  They are great when you are having  a big group and don't have enough ramekins, or don't want to deal with the last minute stress of flipping my Chocolate Molten cakes from the cupcake pan with your fingers crossed.

Emma is at home with me today and we are going to try our hand at turning this recipe for my Chocolate Molten Cakes into an easy Chocolate Souffle.  Since this is the last day of ordering, I wanted to give you a chance to buy even before I share the recipe, in case you have plans for a party and need a great dessert.

I also have hopes of trying a Blue Cheese or Cheddar/Spinach Souffle, ala the Barefoot Contessa, in these, too!  Would be a great accompaniment to the Slow Roasted Beef Tenderloin for Christmas or New Years Eve.  I am planning to use Ina's recipes, but in these cups for an individual size - which always works great for parties.

Chocolate Souffle inspiration, via America's Test Kitchen.  I'll let you know how it goes... hopefully tomorrow!

Blue Cheese Souffle, Barefoot Contessa

Spinach & Cheddar Souffle, Barefoot Contessa via House Beautiful.

December 16, 2014

Christmas Brunch Menu

Last week I shared my all time favorite Christmas Dinner Menu (Crab Cakes, Beef Tenderloin, Chocolate Molten Cakes, etc.) and today I am sharing my favorite Brunch menu.  It is hard to narrow down, because I share a lot of brunch recipes here, so choosing amongst my favorite can be a challenge.  However, for Christmas Brunch I have my favorites that my Mom has fixed year after year.  

Bloody Marys
Shrimp Cocktail

Fruit Platter
Orange & Peach Smoothies topped with Champagne

This was a photo from a couple of years ago at our Christmas brunch right after Emma was born.  

I don't know what it is about Christmas, but I could have good old fashioned Shrimp Cocktail for every meal. I serve it on ice in a shallow platter like this with an empty bowl for tails.

Lox & Bagel Platter

This is a new addition for us - something that was always served at my favorite brunch spot.

Crab Quiche

We love seafood at our house, and making this a crab quiche with lump crab meat makes it feel like a special brunch.  My mom usually makes a sausage and mushroom quiche, too.

Orange Cranberry Scones

Citrus and Cranberry = Holiday even though we love these all year long.

The bacon getting ready to be baked in the oven - 325 degrees for 18-22 minutes.  The BEST way to fix bacon.

Bountiful fruit platter keeps us from being too indulgent.

Monkey Bread - very indulgent, but the fruit balances it out, right?

Orange & Peach Smoothies topped with Champagne

You can follow the recipe, or just use frozen peaches in a blender with orange juice - easy!  I love the taste of fresh peaches on Christmas morning.  Granny used to bring her summer peaches that she had frozen over for Christmas brunch every year and they were such a treat!

I'd love to hear about your favorite Christmas Brunch recipes and traditions, too.  I hope everyone is enjoying this last week before Christmas.  Emma's birthday was yesterday, so I stepped out of the Holiday limelight for a couple of days to celebrate with her.  I feel like we have sort of checked all of our Christmas must-dos off of the list and now we can just relax and enjoy the season... that's the goal anyway.  I'm sure Christmas Eve will get here before we know it and I will be scrambling for something!  Always.

December 12, 2014

Christmas in the Kitchen Blog Tour

Since this original post was written a couple of years ago, we have since moved into our "dream kitchen."  Take the tour of our new kitchen (and home) that were inspired by the post below, here.  Thanks for stopping by : )


Welcome to my Christmas Kitchen!

Actually, this post is about the Christmas Kitchen of my dreams :)  Today I'm joining a group of Bloggers for a Christmas in the Kitchen tour (good morning, Kelly, Tessa and Jill!).  The only slight problem is that my kitchen is made of studs and subfloor right now, so I'm sharing my favorite dreamy, warm and cozy Christmas Kitchens in the form of inspiration photos, and a couple from our old house at the end, for old times sake.  

I have been able to live vicariously though all of you with all of the Christmas decorating and Holiday baking goodies in my store, but I'm still dreaming of being in my own cozy Christmas kitchen this morning, so compiling these photos has helped me pretend a little - I hope you enjoy it, too.   Welcome new visitors and old friends!

Isn't this door great?  I am picking out the millwork around our front door today, and this is the photo I'm sending our contractor.  We don't have the ceiling height for the transom above, but everything else we can manage.  We are painting the house a creamy, tone on tone off-white (Navajo White) and will also have a black door and brass hardware.  Feels good to find exactly what I'm looking for in the form of an inspiration photo!

The good news is that the house is moving right along - it has been a big week.  We got our windows - and a roof!  Oh how I've been waiting for this day!  I'm really in love with the back of the house... which just started as a sketch on my computer, so I'm glad it went together even better than I had hoped.  We went with Andersen Windows and I couldn't be more pleased.

Here is the front - much like it was before, but with a two car garage added onto the side.  There is also a huge mudroom that runs along the back of the garage that I've been dreaming about.  If you're just a visitor, you can read more about the plans for our addition, here.  We still have 3+ months to go, but now we're in the middle of picking out fun finishes and fixtures - much more fun than mud and concrete.

Ok, here we go.  Please come right through my mudroom into my kitchen.  Tessa (Nine & Sixteen) this reminds me of your garland decked door in your kitchen.  Love it as a spot for the Christmas cards.

There are many things I love about this kitchen - mostly its clean, classic and simple style.  The addition of the antique table and chairs is right up my alley, as well as the paperwhites on the window sill - a must in my Christmas Kitchen.

While our kitchen will be drastically different than this, I just love it.  It is casual, farmy and clean and modern. I hope to at least incorporate some of this feel in our kitchen.  And, of course I love the brass fixtures, and the potted amaryllis.  Isn't that island amazing?

I'm such a fool for warm and cozy, especially at Christmas.  When I dream about a kitchen at Christmas, I always dream about a snuggly Christmas brunch.  At our house when we were young, that was the main event.  It was always the fanciest meal we had at home all year - Christmas china, linens, the works, all enjoyed in our PJs.  The menu was almost the same every year, but the star of the show was Monkey Bread, recipe later in the post.

Aren't the touches of red so festive, but definitely livable for all year.  

Remember the mudroom I was talking about?  Would love a dutch door like this at the transition.  With a wreath, of course.

Garland and potted paper whites get me every time.  We don't have a staircase in our kitchen, but I would have one in my dream kitchen.  Maybe next time you stop by, I'll be taking you on a tour of our upstairs... maybe an Easter home tour! 

Now for a flashback to our house last year :

Ahhh, it feels good to be home again!

Here is our Christmas brunch table from last year.

Monkey Bread has been a Christmas brunch tradition of ours since, well... my entire life.  On Christmas Eve, we would come home from Granny's house and make the Monkey Bread for the next morning (as you'll see from the instructions, it only takes minutes to make).  Waking up on Christmas morning to the smell of yeast bread rising is such a good memory.  Even now as 30-year-old+ adults, Monkey Bread is still a Christmas tradition.

My Mom made Monkey Bread from frozen Rhodes Dinner Rolls.  She rolled them in butter, cinnamon and sugar, put them in a bundt pan and let them thaw and rise over night.  When we woke up in the morning it went into the oven for 30 minutes.  The gooey, warm rolls were too much to resist... we were licking cinnamon and sugar off of our fingers before we were done opening presents!  They are our annual Pre-Christmas morning Brunch snack... an appetizer.    

I carry the Disposable Bundt Pans in my store (6 for $12 today!) that make a great treat for friends and neighbors as a gift.

Monkey Bread
a christmas morning tradition

1 package of frozen uncooked yeast rolls (Rhodes brand)
1 stick of butter, melted
1 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of cinnamon

Spray a bundt pan (you can buy my disposable kraft paper bundt pans, here) with non-stick spray.  Melt the butter in the microwave.  In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Roll the frozen rolls in the butter, then in the sugar mixture.  Place all of the coated rolls in the bundt pan.  Place a piece of plastic sprayed with non-stick over the pan of rolls and place it in a warm spot over night to rise.

Rolls should have doubled in size in the morning.  Bake them at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Hey there, Chippy!

And, our tiny kitchen.  I'm so glad I'm in my Mother-in-Laws beautiful big kitchen this morning... I really don't miss this tiny kitchen, but I do miss those paperwhites!

That little tiny kitchen produced a lot of goodies - a tiny, but efficient space.  Here it is decked out with my favorite baking tools from my store - wooden baking baskets, copper cookie cutters, cookie boxes, festive tags and ribbons.
Ok, time to head outside...

And a little pick-a-boo from my Emma, who looks like a baby here of the big girl sitting next to me this morning.  Happy Christmas!

Be sure to stop by all of the Christmas Kitchen tours today!  They have actual kitchens to tour ; )

December 11, 2014

My Favorite Holiday Dinner Menu | Crab Cakes, Beef Tenderloin, Truffled Mashed Potatoes & Cabernet Mushrooms

My Favorite Holiday Menu

Four years ago, I would have been in full catering mode - sometimes I miss spending nights at really festive, warm homes, but I don't miss schlepping food around town and my car always smelling a bit like crab cakes and blue cheese : )

At this point, I would have roasted 20 Beef Tenderloins, and formed 200 Crab Cakes and served a hundred Chocolate Molten Cakes.    I found that I always recommended pretty much the same menu for every holiday party I catered - it always got such rave reviews, and many of my clients requested the same menu year after year because they loved it so much.  The good part for me was that I could prepare this menu in my sleep.  I did it so often that I came up with great shortcuts, and methods for making almost everything in advance... because that's what I had to do when I had back to back holiday parties for 3 weeks straight.

Here it is my "go-to" favorite holiday menu - I never tire of it.  It is special, festive and a treat of a meal.  It can be fancy, or served family style for a more laid back group.






While I like to serve the Crab Cakes passed, warm from the oven, I like to have something that everyone can graze on and gather around - isn't that what the Holidays are all about?!  Then, whenever I bring the crab cakes around everyone oohs and ahhs.

Lobster Bisque

A soup course isn't necessary, but really makes the meal so special.   It is so creamy and luxurious - your family will love it and feel so treated!  It is easy to make ahead of time and you can use a combination of shrimp and lobster, to stretch it.  

Slow Roasted Beef Tenderloin

I talk at length about how much I love slow roasting beef tenderloin.  Do not be scared by it - it is sooo easy to do.  It can seem expensive, but you don't have too splurge on too much else for this dinner so it can be the star.

You can serve it with this Blue Cheese Cream Sauce or a classic Horseradish.

Slow-Simmered Cabernet & Thyme Mushrooms

This is a new dish to my repertoire, but I would've loved serving this to my clients.  I would've made a huge batch, then used them all week long for each party.  

Roasted Carrots

Carrots are my favorite way to add brightness to a meal.  They are easy and roast right along with the beef.

Truffled Mashed Potatoes

I don't think I need to even say anything about these - right?  Such a treat!

I have a little something special in store for these Chocolate Molten Cakes.  I'll be using the same recipe, but have found some great individual paper souffle cups to make them in.  I'm experimenting with them tomorrow morning, so I'll let you know how it goes!

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