Thursday, December 15, 2011

a homemade holiday

Last year's cookie tins!

To be honest, the husband and I have spent a small fortune on Christmas presents this
And it's ok! Really.
We love to buy presents. There's nothing better than buying someone you love a really great present you know they will enjoy.
But at the same time, these aren't exactly the best of times.
And before you go into a panic about how you haven't even started your Christmas shopping yet, let me remind you that it doesn't have to be synonymous with copious amounts of debt.
For most of my presents, I give away little Christmas cookie bundles.
I make about 5 or 6 different cookies, tuck them neatly into little cookie boxes and tins lined with pretty Christmas tissue paper, make a name tag out of some construction paper (th
ough scrapbook or even wrapping paper can work), and call it a day.
And you know what? Everybody loves them.
Because it came from the heart and you took the time to make them and it's much better than going out and getting some gift card.
Which, ahem, I actually also love to give and receive.
But I digress.
Below I'm listing some homemade gift options that I think are really great. I hope you like them, too.
As for me? This year will hit all the notes: chocolate, coconut, fruit, gooey, chewy, nutty, and delicious.

Cookie Mix in a Jar

The easiest gift to make, and it just looks so pretty! Take your favorite cookie recipe and a mason jar and begin! Layer all of the dry ingredients, leaving out the wet (butter, eggs, extracts). Attach a name tag along with instructions and they may just love you for life.
Just about any recipe will work. I'm partial to the good ol' chocolate chip and peanut butter varieties.

Similarly, you can scratch the cookie mix idea and fill a mason jar with pancake mix. Yes, pancake mix. Homemade pancake mix, mind you. Label a tag with "Christmas morning pancake mix" and pack it up alongside some hot cocoa mix and marshmallows. Talk about one lovely breakfast.

Nigella Lawson's Instant Pancake Mix
Adapted from Nigella Express or Nigella Kitchen. I can't remember..

4 c all-purpose flour
3 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Separate into jars or tins, containing 1 cup of pancake mix each, or pour into one big jar.
2. For each cup of pancake mix, add 1 egg, 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Mix batter and make pancakes. Each cup makes 15 3-inch pancakes.

Optional: you can even add mix-ins to the dry pancake mix like chocolate chips or granola. yum.


Who doesn't love a good holiday liquor?! And this year, why buy one when you can make one. Oh yes, make one.
Limoncello is fantastic. Seriously.
Like the lovechild of tequila and lemonade. Sort of. Ok, maybe not.
Served as a digestif and meant to be sipped, not shot (calm down there frat boys), it's a really smooth, syrupy-sweet, delightful lemon liqueur.
Most recipes you'll find for it, like this one, call for vodka. When we used to make it at the restaurant, we actually used 190-proof Everclear grain alcohol. We covered it up nice and tight and let it sit for about a month in a dark, cool place.
And if you took off the plastic wrap and didn't stand back, you would get one big alcoholic punch in the face.
While letting it sit for 3-4 weeks was great, it's not entirely necessary. You can leave it to sit for as little as 4-5 days and it will be ok.
As for the best storage? The freezer. Limoncello is meant to be served ice cold in a nice, frosty glass.
You could pour the limoncello into a decorative jar and pack it alongside some shot glasses and you, my friend, have become the life of the party.
Similarly, you could omit the lemon and go for orange or grapefruit instead. OR. You could infuse vodka with another flavor altogether.

Possibilities are endless!
Exercise your creativity. Give homemade. And have yourself a merry little wallet.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

it's all greek to me


Up until a couple of days ago, it was still pretty hot.
And while the sun still shines quite bright, there is a nice breeze that has come around and cool air that has come with it.
This is a good thing. This is a great thing.
Cause I don't like sweaty armpits in winter.
Anyway, last week, in the midst of the heat, the husband and I decided to try out our new grill and make a nice grilled lunch.
Some grilled chicken, some grilled zucchini, some grilled broccoli, and some grilled ciabatta - for the Greek bruschetta, of course.


And this should really be called "Greek" bruschetta, because it's really no more Greek than Taco Bell chalupas are "Mexican" or Olive Garden is "Italian".
But moving on!
I found this recipe in a Kraft foods magazine and loved it the second I made it.
The original recipe is a bit different than mine and calls for kalamata olives. I'm actually not a kalamata fan, so just opt for the delicious green spanish olives instead.
You can use day-old or stale bread for this, which is great. I usually find myself with a rock-hard piece of leftover bread and instead of throwing it away, this is a great use.
And on a winter day, this is a little bit of summer sunshine.

Greek Bruschetta
Adapted from

2 tomatoes, diced
1 cup olives, diced (kalamata or any kind, your choice)
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced to a paste
3 stalks scallions, finely diced (optional)
handful parsley, chopped
handful basil, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T olive oil, plus extra for bread
salt, pepper

1 loaf ciabatta, or other bread, split lengthwise

1. Mix all ingredients, minus the bread, in a bowl. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Let sit in fridge for about 5-10 minutes. (This can even be made a day or 2 in advance).
2. Lightly drizzle oil on cut side of bread. Place on grill to get a good char.
3. Top grilled bread with tomato-olive mix. Enjoy.


Friday, December 9, 2011

flashback friday: santa, is that you?

Santa has seen some better days.

circa 1993?

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

pink & black



Glasses: TJMaxx. Top: Ross. Jeans: Old Navy (also seen here).

Oh how I love a good stripe on a (Florida) winter day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011



While the Extreme Couponing ladies are stockpiling mounds of groceries in their garages, bathrooms, and bedrooms, I'm stockpiling clothes.
Yes, clothes.
I don't know why it is and I can't really help it. I'll find myself shopping and purchasing fantastic pieces only to have them sit in my closet for months.
I think, "well it'll come in handy some day!"
And it does. So that's good.
I originally bought this dress and jacket back in June, because I considered using it as a birthday dress.
It did not become a birthday dress, but worked beautifully as a dress for dinner with the husband for his birthday.
And because it was nice and flowy, it allowed for me to stuff my face and not have to suck the tummy in too much.
Always an important feature!



Dress, Jacket, Necklace (turned inside out), Purse (turned clutch): Forever 21.
Sandals: Rampage / DSW

Friday, December 2, 2011

flashback friday: my first

It is officially December! It is officially holiday season!
Up until I met the husband I'd actually never had a real tree. I never even knew about real trees.
Most of my childhood was filled with a 4 foot artificial tree we propped up on side table and filled it with lights, garland, tinsel, and numerous ornaments. It was fantastic.
But I have to say that I'm pretty sure I've become a real tree fan for life.
Everything about it screams holiday fun: picking and choosing, taking it home, opening it up and getting a whiff of that pine smell, watering it, and decorating.
This year we put on Pandora's holiday station while decorating and Sandy puppy watched from her little pillow.
We even got a little fence around it and some fake fluff snow to puppy-proof the tree.
But enough about that tree!
The first time going out to pick a tree was exciting to say the least.


Can you tell??
That cross-body bag was found in the Target clearance section. I loved it cause the color screamed "HELLOO!". I have since grown tired of it, of course, but that sweater?? The best $7 sweater I've ever owned.
Here's to the holiday season.