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December 12, 2017

Help Me Give Back Today | 20% of Sales to The Children's Place

This year I've joined the Angels Board of The Children's Place, a nurturing, caring place for the very youngest survivors of abuse, neglect and other childhood traumas.   Their only goal is helping these kids heal and give them new hope for the future.  The work they do at the Children's Place is indeed the work of Angels.

The Children's Place Mission: Nurturing and promoting the healthy development of young children who have experienced abuse, neglect, and trauma by providing specialized services and family support, within a safe and caring environment.
Please learn more about The Children's Place, here >

The Angels Board's mission is help fund this wonderful organization through events and our networks of friends and family.  I thought it would be so fun to bring you all into this mission with me.  I know we are all looking for worthy ways to give back for the Holidays. 
Today, 20% of all sales will be donated to The Children's Place.  So, today is your day to stock up on those linens for your Holiday table, gift tags, velvet ribbons, unique packaging for homemade gifts and kitchen essentials for Holiday baking, all the while helping the most worthy of organizations.  

My Holiday Sale continues (in addition to the donation!) with up to 50% off many items and 15-30% off all orders + Free Shipping on orders $100+.  

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December 09, 2017

Chocolate Buttercream Christmas Tree Cake

Emma and I made a Chocolate Buttercream cake for Mike's birthday.   Mike is a fan of the classics - chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies and brownies - so for his birthday, we thought a classic chocolate cake with homemade buttercream would be perfect.

We've become fascinated by Culinary Dots cakes - I've never seen anything quite like them.   She recently made a cake with a Christmas Tree in the center that Emma thought would be fun to try.  I made the cake and frosted it with the buttercream (recipe below), and she made the Tree 100% by herself.

 She started with an ice cream cone as the base, then added green buttercream.

While Culinary Dots makes vegan treats... we used a boxed cake mix and this wonderful Homemade Chocolate Buttercream.  I made the cakes in these 8" cake pans.

8" x 3" Cake Pans, $8

Chocolate Buttercream

1 stick of butter, melted
1 1/2 cups of cocoa
1/2 cup of milk (plus more)
2 sticks of butter, softened
5-6 cups of powdered sugar (plus maybe more)
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a glass bowl, melt 1 stick of butter in the microwave.  Add cocoa and milk and microwave for 1 more minute, stir to mix.

In a mixer, cream 2 sticks of butter and powdered sugar.  Add cocoa mixture slowly.  Add vanilla.   Mix on high for 2 minutes.  Add more milk or powdered sugar until the desired consistency.

We made a simple butter frosting for the green frosting and decorations.

1 stick of softened butter
2 cups of powdered sugar

Creamed together until smooth.

We topped the entire cake with a sprinkling of powdered sugar snow.

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Brown Sugar & Cinnamon "Homemade" Bread | Holiday Gifts

I've told the story before - before Mike and I were even dating, I served warm "homemade" bread at a dinner party at my house, and he raved about it for weeks.  Did that lead to him finally asking me out?  I guess we'll never know...  The Barefoot Contessa has her "Engagement Roasted Chicken" and I have my "homemade" bread.  

You can make a loaf size as in the first photo, or you can cut the log into cinnamon rolls and bake them in the Medium Size Basket instead.

 My secret weapon to "homemade" bread is Rhodes frozen bread dough.  (This is not paid, by the way.)  It is found in almost every grocery store in the freezer department.  Over the years I have transformed the simple dough into Cinnamon Rolls, Monkey Bread, Pecan Rolls, Pizza Bread, etc. 

When I saw these Wooden Bread Baking Baskets I knew they would be just the thing to take my "homemade" bread to the next level.  I've seen them many times in Martha Stewart used to package gifts and treats, too.  I love the rustic element that compliments to the already rustic bread.

This Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Bread is soooo good.  I may have eaten half of it warm out of the oven.  I'll be giving it to all of our neighbors, teachers and friends this year as gifts.  During the holidays it is always nice to have something around the house like this for breakfast, or an afternoon snack with coffee for those last minute pop-ins of friends.

Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Bread

Get my Printable Recipes, here.

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 loaf of frozen bread dough (Rhodes brand)
3 tablespoons of butter, softened
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
Egg Wash :
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons of butter melted
1 cup of powdered sugar
milk, to thin, if necessary

Let the dough thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  You can also use your defrost setting the in microwave if you're in a pinch.  Each log of dough will make one loaf.  I put a little oil in the bowl, then put in the dough.  I flip the dough around a couple of times to coat it with the oil, so as it rises it doesn't stick to the bowl.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap.

I set my oven at 120 degrees, put in a pan of warm water, and let it rise in the oven.  

I decided to throw another log of dough in after I took the first photos.  This is what they looked like after rising for an hour and a half.

I separated the two, then rolled each out on a floured surface.  I had the wooden baking basket out to make sure I was rolling it out to the correct size.

Butter generously.

Top with brown sugar and cinnamon.  You could also add raisins and nuts.

 Roll it up.

And place it, seam down, into the basket.  They come with paper liners, but you don't have to use them.  The flour on the dough will help them release from the pan naturally... just like authentic bread baking baskets.

I brushed the loaf with a little oil, then let them rise for another hour and a half.  Before they go into the oven, brush with an egg wash.

They bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes - or until golden. 

 Another way to check to see if it is done is to "thump" the bread.  If it sounds hollow it is done!

I drizzled it with a simple mixture of melted butter, powdered sugar and milk to make a quick glaze.  I let it harden, then packed them up.

Products Used :

Large Wooden Baking Basket
Large Cello Bag

December 08, 2017

Holiday Hostess Gift | Wine "Wrapped" in a Wrap

Wine is always the best Hostess Gift.  I like to dress up the bottles with wrapping to make it more of a special gift.  Sometimes we'll write right on the bottle with a gold sharpie - I especially like to do this for special bottles we give for birthdays or anniversaries.  And sometimes I tie a bow around with a tag to dress it up a little bit.  Recently, I wrapped a Wrap around the bottle to make a package that is a gift in itself.  

I've added a new Deep Red Wrap to my collection.  This has been my go-to this season.  I don't own many (any!?) red blouses or sweaters, so this wrap instantly gives my wardrobe a festive flair.  I've worn it dressed up with a dark brown faux fir vest, my black wool coat and super casual with my olive and navy puffer vests.  

For the Wine Wrapped Gift, I tied the bottle with Brown Velvet Ribbon and a Berry Tag.


December 07, 2017

Holiday Cocktail Party Favorite Recipes | Easy Appetizers

'Tis the season for cocktail parties.  While Thanksgiving is all about the big sit-down dinner, Christmas seems to be more about the cocktail parties.  I put together this list of my favorite appetizers from years past.  Some are from my catering days, when December was my craziest time of the year and the parties were sort of fancy and refined.  Some are new recipes that we've become fond of now that we're in that kid-friendly entertaining phase of our lives where cocktail parties are really Open Houses with kids running around.

The filling is like the center of a crab rangoon - so yummy.

Sometimes this is the only thing I make for a party!

This is how to turn appetizers into a meal.  Everyone will oh-and-ah.  Such a treat.

Again, a little bit-sized luxury that everyone will go crazy for and feel completely spoiled.

This is a Barefoot Contessa Recipe that is so-so goey and good.  You cube up cheese with garlic and herbs then bake it in the oven for 10 minutes.  It comes out goey and delicious.  Great with bread and apples.

These were a staple in my catering days - ladies and gents love.

I LOVE this.  It is great to serve before dinner, too.

This was my top-secret, easiest ever sweet bite for cocktail parties... they start with store-bought frozen cream puffs ; )

November 30, 2017

The Holiday Sale | 15-30% Off + Free Shipping Orders $100

15% off orders over $50, code : Holiday15
20% off orders over $100, code : Holiday25
30% off orders over $150, code : Holiday30

November 29, 2017

The Best $10-20 Gifts

'Tis the time of year to always have a selection of easy gifts to grab as you're running out the door.  I've put together my favorite one-size-fits-all, budget friendly gifts for $10-20.  They are just the thing for teachers, neighbors, birthdays, friends, & hostesses. 

Quite often, I wrap a pretty set of Taper Candles up in a bow and present that to our Hostess as a gift.  They always get rave reviews if they've never seen such beautiful candles in these gorgeous colors.

The 15" Celebration Candles in Gold are always a favorite to give for a birthday or anniversary.

I love giving Tablets to friends and teachers, too.  Because these are so classically simple in design, they will suit anyone's aesthetic.  They are also seasonless.  They come prepackaged in a cellophane bag with a logo sticker, ready for giving.

LePens are such a treat for anyone.  They are a perfect gift to a teacher.

For Hostess Gifts, I'll fill these Amber Kitchen Bottles with my favorite Dish Soap + Counter Spray.  Tip : For the Counter Spray, I often just put a touch of the dish soap in water.  It adds a subtle scent to the water.


My Copper Cookie Cutters ($15.50) come packaged in a Cellophane Bag with my Sugar Cookie Recipe and are tied with a ribbon.  It is the perfect, special gift.  Even if your recipient isn't a baker, I love to line mine up on the windowsill or mantle.

I've put all of my favorite gift ideas in my new Gifts & Favorites Page, Shop here >

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