The Twelve Dates of Christmas: Date 2, A Winter Wonderland Drive

I love nothing more than looking at Christmas lights. Seriously, I wish those little sparklies could be up all year round. There is something so magical and beautiful about how they glow on the fresh snow, during the cold northern nights…see, they even make me more poetic than usual. Sigh. But I digress.

My second idea for a winter date night is inexpensive, memorable, and fun!

Date Night 2: Winter Wonderland Drive

Christmas lights always make everywhere look amd feel more special. They are deffinitely the ultimate Christmas decoration that you MUST have!!!

I would start the night with a yummy warm homemade dinner (crockpot soup? Grilled cheese and tomato basil bisque? It’s all good!) After dinner, it’s time to pile in the car and head to Starbucks, or another favorite local coffee shop, and indulge in a sweet and warm drink to ward off the chill inside the car. Even less expensive? Try one of these inexpensive hot cocoa recipes from Refinery29.

Peppermint hot chocolate is the perfect treat for a December morning.

Map out the best-lighted neighborhoods around (usually the ritzier, the better), put some Christmas classics on the radio, and drive around for a few hours. Here are a few must do’s:

  • Pick your favorite house. Special awards can be awarded to Highest Energy Bill, Most Creative, Dream Home, Most Blinding, etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to get out of the car! Last year, my friend and I actually went on this “date,” and my favorite moment was jumping out of the car to swing at a park for a few chilly, exhilerating minutes.
  • Take the paths less traveled: it can be fun to get lost and all turned around
  • Bring a camera to document your favorite houses, and any special moments. There could be a great holiday photo for next year’s Christmas cards in there somewhere!

Christmas Tree Lights on our dogwood in the front yard ~ yes please!

 

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Cooking Basics from Refinery29

Have you heard of Refinery29? If not, I encourage you to sign up for their newsletter. It’s full of little tips and tricks edited in fun, modern style. Exactly the kind of publication I’d love to work for! 

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The post that caught my eye today was on the most basic principles of cooking: boiling an egg, how to make French toast, the appropriate way to bake a potato…all the little things you feel like you should know, until you step up to the counter to cook. This came at the perfect time; just last night, I found myself craving deviled eggs…and wondering what the process for boiling was. It’s fun little things like this that remind you you’re still a child, after all 🙂

Hope everyone is having a lovely start to the week!

 

Fall Back…

It’s most definitely November. The wind has grown chillier and more insistent; evening comes on sooner. I find myself reaching for an extra scarf or heavier jacket most mornings, because I can’t believe how quickly this month has arrived!

I absolutely love the fall. The period between my birthday and New Year’s is my absolute favorite: a whirlwind of coziness, family and friends, decorations, Christmas music, and (best of all?) delicious food!

In my quest for a happy mind and healthy body, I’ve wracked up quite a few dessert recipes I’d love to try. Here are the ones currently at the top of my wish list.

White Chocolate Espresso Cake by pastryaffair

White Chocolate Frosted Espresso Cake from Pastry Affair…all of my favorites in one beautiful, pastry package.

White Chocolate-Topped Cinnamon Chip Cinnamon Bars

White chocolate topped cinnamon chip bars from Averie Cooks…the only thing better than cinnamon? Cinnamon paired with chocolate.

Apple-Gingerbread Cobbler | MyRecipes.com

Apple gingerbread cobbler from My Recipes. Everything that is good and right about the holiday season.

I probably won’t have time to make any of these delicacies for a couple of weeks, since my show opens this coming weekend. Cue excitement. Cue panic. Cue growing to-do list. But just putting them up here motivates me to get back in the kitchen and enjoy delicious food! There is much truth to the saying that desserts like these are good for your soul.

Another Year Older

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I turned 21 on Monday! I’ve been having to remind myself that I am, in fact, now 21 ever since. I love that feeling of birthdays: you always expect to wake up and the world will have shifted, something will be illuminated. You’ll be another year older, and another year wiser. Usually, that doesn’t happen. But with 21, I have to admit, I do feel a little different.

As a society, we build up this birthday so much. Visions of drunken debauchery danced in my head as I planned my quiet, small gatherings with friends.  I even had the thought: am I doing this wrong?  Wow. That is how permeated we’ve become with the idea of a crazy, wild 21st. My friends, thankfully, reminded me that it was my birthday. I could spend it in any way that I saw fit.

So we had a fall celebration, complete with popcorn, candy corn, orange dark chocolate, and homemade dark chocolate yogurt brownies. There might even have been some hot cocoa with Baileys.

I am excited for this year. 20 brought challenges in many forms. 21 is sure to bring more. But I feel like I’m finally beginning to know myself. Even when I don’t know exactly what I want, I can recognize that I’m on a journey, and the present moment is just as important as the coming ones.

I’ll be posting my Bucketlist for Age 21 soon!

Baking is Magic

Whenever I get super stressed out/overwhelmed, I get this paradoxical urge to drop everything I am doing and bake. Not neccesarily so I can eat the results–I’d weigh a thousand pounds.  Something about the simple gestures of baking, of adding the appropriate mixture of ingredients at levels A, B and C to get to result X, calms me down. It’s like everything makes sense in the universe, as long as you add the appropriate amount of baking soda.  

Some baking might occur this weekend, considering I am going mad with deadlines and to do lists. I’m looking forward to trying a pumpkin recipe or two, mostly for my friends, as pumpkin is not one of my absolute favorite flavors. If it brings a smile to someone’s face, it’s worth it!

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Ode to the Honeycrisp Apple

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I am not sure that I can express my delight upon seeing that honeycrisp apples are now in season. I almost keeled over in Walmart when I saw them nestled, gleaming in their sunset-pink glory, amongst the granny smiths and red delicious.

And then I almost keeled over again when I saw the price tag. At $2.00 a pound, these guys are a little outside of my price range, considering I go through about 9 apples a week. (I feel a bit like an addict: “I can do that, I can make that work! I just won’t buy bread this week; yea, that’s a solid trade off, just give me the apples!!!”)

I forewent them for a few days, rationalizing that it’s early in the season and I can always buy more. But upon visiting our local natural grocery the other day (in search of fresh basil. Which no one has. Sigh.), I saw my favorite natural wonder again, sitting in prominent end cap display. And I caved.

The amount that I savor these guys cannot be compared. It’s almost like dessert: I try and enjoy every single bite, relishing the sweetness and crispness that reminds me, yes, autumn is actually here. And I am in love with it.

Here are a I’m excited to try. The common wisdom is to go with cheaper apples when you’re cooking, but I’m interested in trying some desserts with my favorite variety and seeing if I can taste the difference. Now please excuse me while I go delight in my lunch, in which a Honeycrisp features prominently. Happy fall, everyone!

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Salted Caramel Apple Handpies from Just a Taste

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Crockpot Baked Apples by Skinny Chef

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Upside Down Apple Cinnamon Cake by Behind the Curtain (this looks hard, but is made with Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. Life hacks are beautiful.)

Friday Fancies

Here’s a short and sweet list of things I’m crushing on this Friday. I hope you are having a lovely day!

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1. Beyond the Pencil (Skirt) Interviews from the Levo League. I’m obsessed with seeing into the inspiring lives of working women who are absolutely passionate about what they do, in all kinds of creative fields.  Today’s interview with Samira DeAmdrade was particularly inspiring.

2. These apple cider muffins are happening. I’ve been craving fall flavors, even though the heat won’t seem to cooperate.

3. I’m so excited about attending the state fair! I don’t know why, but I have been determined to go since freshman year and haven’t made it yet. But this year will be different. This year, I will drag my friends if I have to.

4. Date night! The Boyfriend and I will be watching Hot Fuzz while sipping on some brews…not going to lie, it will probably be warm apple cider for me. Or I might go for the Arctic Zero ice cream I’ve been craving for awhile. And speaking of Arctic Zero and healthy options…

5. I’m heading to Whole Foods for my first real shopping adventure tonight! I can’t really afford to get all my food there on a college kid budget, but I have some specialty items to pick up that you just can’t get at the regular store (for the record: spaghetti squash, PB2, and Arctic Zero are on the list. I’m going to try very, very hard not to impulse buy but. We shall see how that goes.) I feel like Whole Foods is a shopping experience in and of itself. I love wandering around and looking at all the delicious healthy options that I could be eating! Someday, someway.

6. I’m living for this article on College Prepster about the Kate Spade Beau bag. Beau, indeed; I want one in every colour! It’s hard for me to imagine spending a lot of money on a purse, but this one might be worth the sacrfice. It’s gorgeous, luxuriant, comes in colors to suit every look, and it has a HUGE BOW. What more do you need? Be still, my little preppy heart.

7. I’m heading to Waffle Champion this weekend, after weeks of lusting after them.  This cute little eatery started out of a food truck, and grew to such heights of popularity that they’ve opened up a sit-down restaurant. Basically, you start with a delicious buttermilk waffle, and add whatever you like to make it the waffle sandwich of your dreams. They have savory options, but I think I’ll be heading more towards the sweet side. Lemon curd, fresh berries and whipped cream, anyone?

I Wish You Joy: the gift of good food

Picture courtesy of SugarHero.  The pot de crème recipe I used can be found here.

My friend Liz has the most perfect anecdote that describes her wonderful father in a few words.  She was once sitting in front of her laptop after a very bad day, barely typing, worrying about life in general.  Her father had been sitting in the next room.  He didn’t say anything to her; for all she knew, he didn’t realize she was upset.

After a few moments, she felt her father’s comforting presence behind her shoulder.  He didn’t say a word, but he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of candy corn, which he then placed on the keys of her laptop.  He kissed her on the head and went back on his way.  In that moment, Liz felt the love and comfort of her father, exmplefied in a handful of Halloween candy.  I think that image is incredibly beautiful, and it made me begin thinking about the gift of food.

I’ve spent a lot of time this summer making more elaborate desserts and breakfast than I would have dreamed of.  Being health-conscious, I usually didn’t eat more than a few bites or a little piece of the sugary delights I made (most of the time. Sometimes, you just gotta indulge). So why did I go on making them?

Probably because of the look on someone’s face when you hand them a package of homemade sugar cookies.  Or my mom’s smile of delight and her compliments when I handed her a slice of beautiful flourless chocolate torte, dappled with homemade whipped crème and beautiful crimson raspberries.  All of these things remind me why we go to the trouble of cooking: to come together.  To reignite the feelings of community that are totally missed when you funnel down McDonalds or Lean Cuisines in front of a TV by yourself.  Cooking intricate meals means that you took the time to think about what those your sharing it with will like.  For me, that meant adding heavy cream when I would have preferred Greek yogurt, or using ground beef when ground turkey is much more my speed.

Giving the gift of food is becoming one of my “love languages,” I think.  When pondering about what I’d like to give my Little (sorority little sister), I immediately began thinking about Reeses desserts, before I thought about anything else.  Nothing shows caring to me more than remembering what someone likes to eat and taking the time to make something special.

With this in mind, I am currently chilling chocolate pot de crèmes in the fridge, which I will top with fresh homemade whipped cream, in honor of my parent’s anniversary. Mom is in love with anything chocolatey, and my stepdad always gets a little sad whenever whipped cream isn’t incorporated somewhere in the dessert.  I’ll probably just chillax with some strawberries and maybe a bite or two of the cream, but seeing the happiness on their faces makes the little bit of extra time in the kitchen a million times worthwhile.

Here are some of my favorite food gift ideas:

Lemon shortbread in a pretty little jar. This recipe is to die for!

Mickey Mouse French Macaroons #Disney #MickeyMouse #macaroons #recipe

Mickey Mouse French Macaroons…these will be gifted to my brother. As soon as I can possibly figure out how to make macaroons…hm.

Truffle Hot Chocolate Balls...makes hot chocolate when dropped in milk. A pile of these individually wrapped mounds with a mug would make for a perfect gift!

Truffle hot chocolate balls. I’m getting excited for Christmas super early, I suppose, but these look good anytime of the year!

The Easiest Summer Dessert in the World, or, Blueberry Raspberry Crisp

Tonight I cooked up a storm. Maybe it was the combination of being out of the kitchen for the weekend while eating delicious food. Or maybe I just was really craving some baking time.  Either way, tonight found me in front of the stove.  I made some stuffed peppers for dinner. Have you ever had the experience of wanting a dish to be amazing, and just getting “eh”? It’s a little sobering.  So I’m happy that dessert turned out perfectly!

We had a ton of leftover blueberries that my mom and I don’t particularly like to eat plain, so I decided to make something with them.  At the last second, I threw in the rest of our raspberries, because they were starting to get gooey level ripe and I didn’t have enough fruit.  Basically, this whole crisp was an improvisation, and it turned out amazing–so I encourage you to play!  (Note: I modified this recipe from a post on The Kitchn, an amazing recipe resource.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, run, don’t walk!).

 

The Fruit:
2 cups blueberries
2 cups raspberries (feel free to play and add other fruits, or switch up the ratio!)
1/8 c sugar (might want more, to taste. Our raspberries were very sweet)
2 tsps lemon juice (also to taste!  I love me some lemon)
2 tablespoons cornstarch, depending on juiciness of fruit (Our raspberries were super juicy!) 

For the Crisp:
 1/2 c  all-purpose flour
1/2 c non-quick oats
1/4 cup (4 ounces) brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/4 heaping teaspoon cinnamon, more to taste
 A pinch of salt 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

I used an 8″ round pie dish and this spread very thinly on the bottom. Be sure to use a glass or ceramic dish!

Heat oven to 375°F.

1. The Fruit: Toss the fruit with sugar, lemon juice, and the cornstarch. Pour into the dish.

2. The Crisp: Whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Break the butter into a few large pieces and toss these in the dry ingredients. Using your whisk, crush the butter into the dry ingredients as you would with a pastry cutter.  I also used a knife to even it out.  You want a crumbly topping. Pour the crisp topping evenly over the fruit, spreading it out gently with a spatula.

3. Bake the crisp for 30-35 minutes, till the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Your kitchen will be smelling like heaven by now!  Let sit for a few minutes before serving so you don’t burn your tongue. Not speaking from experience, or anything.

Best paired with: a glass of milk, or, if we’re feeling adventurous, a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt.

I hope you all enjoy this easy summer dessert!  I know I’ll be making it again soon.