Earl Grey caramel.

(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.)

 

Earl Grey caramel.

Don’t hate me. This wasn’t my idea. I mean, it was. But I first saw it on Saveur, so blame them. However, their version was a lavender Earl Grey caramel, which sounds lovely. It really does. It just doesn’t appeal to me, personally.

I don’t like lavender much. Especially not on my food.

I LOVE caramel, though. LOVE it. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. And I also love Earl Grey tea! So I knew this would be a home run for me. I just tweaked it a bit to suit my tastes and voila. A jar of delicious, soft, Earl Grey caramel. Perfect over ice cream. Delightful with pound cake.

Earl Grey caramel.

I’m always reminded of my Nana when I make anything involving tea. She would’ve loved this, too.

So many people are afraid of trying to make caramel. They think of boiling sugar and candy thermometers and “hard crack” and “soft ball” stages and get terrified. No need. It isn’t all that hard and you don’t need a thermometer. I promise. Just common sense. Its HOT sugar. Don’t touch it. There. End of story.

Earl Grey caramel.

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2016.

Brown eggs. Eggs symbolize new life. New life, new year.

Well, it’s a new year! Happy 2016. I hope you’re all enjoying the new year so far. And if not, don’t worry- there’s more than 11 1/2 months left to make it better.

I don’t do resolutions. But being that I sit here, sick with a deep chest infection (hence the absence of posts recently), I have to say seriously that one of the things I have to start doing in ’16 is take my health seriously. After the mess of last year, I’ve conscientiously went and had my physicals and blood work done almost every 6 weeks for my thyroid, but I tend to ignore “small” symptoms of cold/flu and let it go too long. I have to stop doing that.

But otherwise, I don’t do that new year, new me kind of thing. However, I do have a few things blog-related/food related that I hope to continue and keep up with.

  • Posting at least once a week. Sometimes life gets hectic. Especially around the holidays, or if I get sick. But I promise I won’t ever leave like I did last year without at least explaining why- before, not after. I love this as much as anyone, it’s my baby. I want to keep doing it! However, I have to be realistic. Life will probably only get busier. Once a week minimum sounds perfectly doable, and I’ll probably do far more than that.
  • Try new things. I used to be involved in the Daring Baker’s Challenge and it introduced me to so many new things. I got too busy to keep doing it, but I think I should keep trying to create new recipes. Or “new to me” recipes. Cupcakes are great and I love them, and they aren’t going anywhere. Neither are cookies or pickles or jams. But I remember making lavash crackers and an opera cake… I need to get back there again.
  • Keep sharing recipes that mean something. On the other hand, I have a bunch of recipes I want to share that are either family recipes or ones that mean something to us. That won’t- or shouldn’t- stop.

Is there anything you want me to do in 2016? A certain kind of recipe, certain foods, maybe another Q&A? Let me know.

I’ll see you very soon with a new(ish) recipe.

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Cranberry “sangria”- alcohol optional.

Nana & gramps, Christmas.

Did you all have a wonderful holiday? We definitely did. I’m a lucky girl, I’ll say that. I have my family, my friends, my husband, my pets. I’m healthy, happy. I have a beautiful home. I’m lucky! I do miss my family who isn’t with us anymore. But life goes on, no? And I’m still here. And the holidays were beautiful.

Speaking of holidays, do you still have guests stopping by? Do you have guests who still haven’t left yet? Or maybe you’re just looking for something fun to drink on your Christmas vacation. I hear you. I have just the thing.

Cranberry sangria with orange & lemon slices, cranberries and cinnamon. Alcohol optional.

Cranberry “sangria.” It’s really just cranberry juice- or apple cranberry, or cherry cranberry, or whatever you like. Then you just add sliced fruits like citrus (oranges, lemons and limes work) and apples, and cranberries. Add a cinnamon stick or two and you’re good to go!

You don’t have to add anything else, but if you want to you can add sparkling water or seltzer to make it a little bit bubbly.

Cranberry sangria with orange & lemon slices, cranberries and cinnamon. Alcohol optional.

There’s no alcohol necessary, either… however…

Should you want to add some, you totally can. I suggest vodka, spiced rum, red wine, or bourbon/whiskey. Be sure to add it in small increments, maybe a shot at a time, and taste frequently- particularly when it comes to the hard liquors. The red wine is something you can basically add a pretty decent amount of without much guesswork.

This is “sangria” after all. But I’d still taste as I went to be sure.

Cranberry sangria with orange & lemon slices, cranberries and cinnamon. Alcohol optional.

The best thing is that if you have kids, you don’t have to add any alcohol at all, and this way they’ll feel included in the “drinking.” I know when I was small, every time my parents or my nana had a cocktail or a fancy drink, I was a little jealous. That makes it especially great for New Year’s Eve!

Some ideas (you can mix and match any of these you want!):

  • cranberry juice
  • cran-apple juice
  • pomegranate juuce
  • cherry juice
  • sparkling water
  • seltzer
  • red wine
  • sliced oranges
  • sliced lemons
  • sliced limes
  • cranberries
  • cherries
  • spiced rum
  • vodka
  • bourbon/whiskey

The only limit is your imagination… or taste buds.

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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.

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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!

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