Category: holiday

Merry Merry.

Vintage SHINYBRITE Christmas greetings ornament.

It being the holidays, I thought it was only appropriate for me to reach out to all of you who make this blog worthwhile. Thank you for being a part of my life, and my blog, and thank you all for being so kind to me over the past year (and of course, long before that- but this past year I really needed it).

So much has happened in the past year. From me being so sick to getting married. And you’ve all been so supportive and sweet! While 2014 ended on a bad note and 2015 started out rough, it got better, and its ending on a great note. But I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.

No matter what holidays you celebrate or don’t, I wish you all the best in the upcoming year, and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. Merry merry.

Christmas jam, Amish style.

We’re getting so close to Christmas! Have you gotten all of your shopping done yet? Do you know what you’re giving every single person? If not, I have a suggestion- Amish Christmas jam.

Amish Christmas jam!

Before I say anything else, let me say this: this jam, when cooking, smells like the realistic, better, fresher version of a Christmas candle. You know, those candles that are called, like, “Home for the Holidays” or “Christmas berry wreath.” The scent of sweetness, cranberry, orange, and cinnamon… mixed with something else. Something sweet, juicy and berry-like. You know what that is?

Strawberry.

Yep. Strawberry. Wait, what’s that? Everyone’s favorite spring berry, making an appearance in this Christmas jam? Yes! And you wouldn’t believe how good it smells!

There are a lot of variations of Amish Christmas jam. Some have raspberries and blackberries with cranberries. Some have strawberries, like this one. Some even have pineapple or regular apples. I don’t know the origins of it, or if it’s really an Amish thing (I mean, beyond the fact it’s always being sold at Amish country gift shops), but it certainly is delicious.

Amish Christmas jam.

This particular recipe is low-sugar. The entire thing only requires 2 cups of it! Most Amish Christmas jam recipes require twice as much (or more). In this recipe, the fruit itself takes center stage. However, because it’s low-sugar, it uses Pomona’s Pectin, which is a two-step pectin specifically used in low/no-sugar canning recipes that can be intimidating to some people. Don’t be intimidated! It’s very, very easy.

And I would even venture to say a canning newbie could make this recipe very easily.

Amish Christmas jam.

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Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with brandy icing and sugared cranberries.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

So, hey guys… I made some mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. Cutest little things. And add to them some cute little sparkly sugared cranberries. Ugh. Forget it. Are visions of sugarplums- or sugared cranberries- dancing in your head? It’s Christmastime, folks! I know! So exciting. It’s such a busy time of year, I know, but I hope you all take some time to spend with your families and friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget that not only are we all human- but what’s important.

Beautiful things don’t always have to be complicated. Simple is beautiful too. And I promise you that these little mini gingerbread bundts are simple. Don’t be scared by the sugared cranberries!

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

Gingerbread is so Christmas, it’s practically mandatory. If you let a holiday season go by without making gingerbread, it’s almost sacrilegious. I decided to up the ante and add another holiday favorite: cranberries. And let’s not forget brandy, another holiday staple.

So yeah. Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. They’re so beautiful… and also just plain adorable. But SIMPLE. Just a few ingredients, a little bit of mixing and tossing and whisking and voila. Gorgeous little cakes to serve after a holiday meal. And they’ll make you feel all Martha Stewart-y.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

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All I want for Christmas, the 2015 blogger version.

Every year I know some of you are struggling to find the perfect gift for someone. So I thought I’d take a break from the baking to ask some blogger friends- with varied interests- to make lists of what they’re wishing for this year, to give you some ideas. From foodies to photographers, to people who love to sew and folks who love to travel and back again, there’s something unique on one of their lists to help you out, for sure. And of course, I added some of my own.

Yes, there’s like, barely 2 weeks to go and Hanukkah is over. But Kwanzaa doesn’t start until the 26th, and for the rest, you’re still better late than never!

Marilla, Cupcake Rehab

Hey Santa! Or whoever is looking to buy me gifts…

This year, I want an Eyefi Mobi, so that I don’t have to remove and re-plug my SD card into my Macbook every time I want to edit my Canon T4i photos. Which is A LOT- hello? I’m a blogger! This way, I can use the Eyefi Cloud and transfer my photos wirelessly onto both my iPhone and Macbook.

I totally love online shopping- but I especially love shopping on Etsy. It’s the best ever! I think I purchased 80-90% of my wedding stuff online, and out of that, probably 60% of it was from Etsy! Lately, I’m especially loving ParlorTattooPrints– most especially the Johnny Cash and Beetlejuice prints. Great for fans of art, movies, and music alike, as well as people who are just fans of old school tattoo flash.

If we wanna get really crazy, and talk about my dream wishlist, then I have to add Smeg to it. Smeg refrigerators, stand mixers, kettles, you name it.

While it will never replace the fun of making jam and jelly the old-fashioned way, I’m itching to try the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker. I can imagine taking the guesswork out of the timing of tricky homemade jellies might be pretty cool. Jams are fairly easy on their own, but for low sugar jam that has to cook a bit longer or requires added pectin, and for jelly, I’d definitely use it!

I love old rings. Old cocktail or engagement rings, old bands, anything. They intrigue me, and I always wonder about who owned it originally or who had it made. As if this isn’t evidenced by my own vintage engagement ring! Anyway, I’d love a “right hand ring” like this one called Upminster from Trumpet & Horn. Circa 1915, with onyx and crazy detail? I’m sold.

Ariana, 3twentysix

No disrespect to those who pray or those that are spiritual but these candles are freaking gold!! I’m not much into praying but the idea of having the characters from Bob’s Burgers on a candle like this cracks me up. I probably won’t ever light them up but the idea of having them would light up my day!

I love my city! I may not have been born in Houston, but it’s raised me to be the proud southern that I am. Having this specific print in blue, my favorite color, showing neighborhoods and streets of my city makes me happy in so many ways. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I have any prints on my wall reppin’ for my city. What kind of aficionado am I? Haha!

I’ve always been a fan of big hoop earrings, but they’re annoying as hell, haha! I’ve been looking for hoops that cup my ear lobe and these look just right for my small lobes. Sterling Silver would definitely be the way to go for me!

I’m not as big as a book worm as I’d like to be but who can say no to this sweet Alice In Wonderland bookmark? I know folks are all into ebooks these days but nothing compares to turning the page on a book. Oh, and the smell of the paper!!

I’ve taken up bike riding with the husband and even though I’ve been majorly slacking (mostly because of the weather), I’ve been srsly thinking of getting myself a fannypack. It might sound a bit cheesy but I like them. I’m not sure when they became nerdy or uncool. I think it would be perfect for my cell, wallet and peanut M&M’s!

Mucho thank yous, Santa!

 Dana, Hot Pink Apron

This holiday season I am all about baking and cocktails. OK, let’s face it, I’m almost always all about baking and cocktails but there’s just something about Bing Crosby crooning and trips to an overpopulated mall that help justify my completely indulgent obsessions.

The biggest ask on my Wish List this year is a new food processor. After a heart breaking tumble off the countertop, my dear old food processor was forced into retirement. Cuisinart seems to have a few well-reviewed options but it’s the Braun 12-Cup Food Processor Ultra Quiet Powerful European that’s topping my list.

I also reeally, REALLY want an authentic ‘made in France’ Silpat silicone baking mat. As a food blogger, there is just something oh so sexy about photographing a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie against a golden threaded Silpat backdrop. Sure, parchment paper works but it is no Silpat… And for my fellow perfectionist, there is a Silpat Perfect Collection with visual guides for cookies, pretzels and scrumptious macarons.

Also, what avid cook would ever complain about getting fancy spices?? I’d love a pantry stocked saffron, dried lavender, gourmet sea salts, rubs, and vanilla pods. Anything to assist in creating luxurious foods but just fancy enough (i.e. costly enough) that I hardly ever buy them myself.

Now, to wash down all of the delicious homemade goodies of my future bakes, let’s talk cocktails. I am currently obsessed with bitters. Angostura bitters is pretty popular thanks to classic cocktails such as the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned but I’ve been exploring the world of concentrated flavourings since buying the book Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All with Cocktails, Recipes and Formulas. A bottle of rye or whiskey paired with an unusual bitters or cordial from Fee Brothers to play with would make a lovely gift.

I recently had a cocktail from New York’s Death & Company that featured a curry bitters, it was indeed unusual… and totally inspiring. The speakeasy styled bar released a cocktail recipe book last year that is absolutely topping my Wish List this year since it’s been classified ‘The definitive guide to the contemporary craft cocktail movement.’ by some pretty respectable amateur and professional bartender.

So, there you have it, Santa. You bring me the baking and boozy goods and I’ll upgrade your milk and cookies. Cheers! xo

 Yoyo, topstitch

I’ve been looking for a point and shoot camera for a while, then I saw this awesome red Canon PowerShot SX610 at Target. Favorite feature is the built in wi-fi connectivity.

I recently used this trimmer while visiting a friend. I instantly fell in love and it’s a must have for every crafter out there.

From recipes to DIY and everything in between. I love reading All You magazine every month.

Scones and coffee for breakfast and cornbread and chill for lunch! How perfect is this Nordicware pan! I love Nordicware.

I love sending postcards, so this Polaroid ZIP mobile printer is perfect for when I travel. I can send postcards right away. Imagine that!

A big thank you to my fellow bloggers who contributed to this little blurb! I hope it helps you get those last minute gifts, or even gives you an idea what to spend all your holiday money or gift cards on.

Now, we shall commence with the foodery!

B-b-b-butterscotch pie.

Uhm. I’m not really great at pie. Seriously.

Butterscotch pie with toasted meringue!

Or at least thats what I always say. I might not be able to get away with that anymore, though. Between the apple bourbon brown butter whatever it was pie and the apple cranberry pie and now this… people are starting to think I’m just full of shit. They’re starting to think I pretend I’m not good at pie so that I can avoid making it.

But in the past I’ve had on and off love/hate relationship with pie. I’m notoriously bad at the crust because I lack patience. And I also never wait for them to cool before cutting so, yeah, they can look messy. Some come out perfect. Others don’t. This one. Meh.

Butterscotch pie with toasted meringue.

This butterscotch pie came out visually okay. Not great. I was a little tired and it was getting late and I rushed it a bit in my anticipation of eating it. But the taste? OH MAN.

The taste alone made everyone crazy.

But did I mention I’m tired? Yeah. This time of year is kicking my ass. Between working & baking & decorating & blogging & family & this annoying cold I’ve been fighting off… let’s stick with pie.

Butterscotch pie with toasted meringue.

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Apple-cranberry pie.

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Apples for apple-cranberry pie.

Peeling apples for apple-cranberry pie.

As a food blogger and someone who just loves to eat in general, there are a few things I hear from people a lot. One is usually something like “How do you stay so skinny?” Now in my mind I am far from skinny, but also do people assume I eat every single thing I make in it’s entirety? And two, which really bothers me: “I don’t have time to do all that!”

Yes, yes you do.

Apple-cranberry pie; like apple pie with cranberry sauce!

I’m busy too. Trust me. I have a lot going on in my life. But it’s a matter of priority. Some people will always choose to drive through a fast food restaurant, others will make homemade hamburgers. That’s just the way it is. Some people won’t ever try to do it, so they won’t realize how it really doesn’t take 6 hours and it isn’t all that difficult. However, if I want something, I want to make sure its the best it can be. Sometimes, yes, I use shortcuts like frozen pie crust, and that’s okay. That is TOTALLY OKAY. But Jay can sniff out a frozen crust from a mile away- and he prefers homemade. So if I know I’m making a pie ahead of time (and not at 3 a.m. when I can’t sleep), I try to put aside extra time to make a homemade pie crust. Especially if it’s for a holiday dinner.

This pie was new for me, and I wanted to share it with you because it’s a great Thanksgiving pie. And Christmas pie, too, really. It’s like cranberry sauce and apple pie rolled into one. It’s dessert and a side dish. It’s totally unexpected. And it’s also adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, which I happen to trust immensely when it comes to recipes.

Apple-cranberry pie.

I hope you’ll try it this year for the holidays. Maybe you’ll come to love it so much, you’ll never buy a frozen crust or store-bought pie ever again. And yes… I continue my tradition of being horrible at folding pie crust.

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Orange rind & apple brandy cranberry sauce, and a remembrance of things past.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

When I think of past Thanksgivings, there’s a blur in my mind. Particularly the childhood ones. I do remember some very clearly- like the year I was probably around 7, and I was making paper dolls on the living room floor after watching the parade. Or the year directly after that when I was creating some kind of model of Plimoth Plantation (purchased the previous summer while on vacation at Plimoth, obviously). Or the year I was about 14 and after dinner, we left the plates on the table & my father drove us in to see the Christmas windows in Manhattan. I even remember the knit hat and the vintage Levi’s I wore. And the year that I was maybe 18 or 19 and we had dinner at my aunt & uncle’s house, and there’s a picture of me floating around somewhere, an actual tangible photograph, of me wearing a lace apron & blue Doc Martens. And of course I remember last year at my in-laws house, when Jay and I cooked everything for both families all by ourselves. And the year before that, and the year before. But other years, they just blur together to create one large Thanksgiving. One large dinner. One pan of lasagna. One turkey. One memory comprised of all the memories.

And I cannot say I remember any one dish, really. I don’t remember any specific stand-out side dishes, except for the one year I made broccoli and cauliflower au gratin (and I’ve been craving it ever since). However this… this is a stand-out side dish if ever there was one.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

Okay. So, Thanksgiving. If there is one thing I can convince you of concerning Thanksgiving, let it be that you DO NOT NEED TO BUY CRANBERRY SAUCE. I know I say a lot of things about how my recipes are “easy” and how you should be making your own pickles or what have you (and that is all 100% true) but cranberry sauce is THE EASIEST THING EVER. I am not lying to you. There is no need to buy stuff chock full of high fructose corn syrup and additives when it’s so easy to make your own. Plus, this time of year cranberries are everywhere, and they’re usually on sale. Stock up and make some homemade cranberry sauce now, enjoy it later.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

It doesn’t have to be “canned” or processed either, I just prefer to do so because I make a couple of half-pints (or pints) and I would rather keep them in a cupboard than in the fridge, open. That way, throughout the entire season I have fresh cranberry sauce. From Thanksgiving to Christmas and throughout the winter. For all those roast chicken Sunday dinners, I can pop open a new jar. Cranberries cook themselves, really. And they have so much natural pectin that they just gel together like a dream. It’s a beginners dream sauce!

I used Black Dirt “Apple Jack” apple brandy in mine, because brandy reminds me of my Nana and apple brandy is the only kind I had on hand. But you could use a regular brandy too. Or bourbon, or whiskey. Or you can leave it out completely.

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