Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas was here

It sure was.
And it passed much too quickly.

It brought with it a magical eve full of excitement and anticipation. 
Full of cooking and cooking and cooking. 
Eating a feast of roast beast, stuffing ourselves and unbuttoning of all-the-sudden-too-tight-pants.
A little nativity with a little Joseph and a little Mary, holding a baby Jesus, while scriptures were read.
Children in matching jammies (my children will still be receiving matching Christmas jammies when they are 50 years old), peeking out the window in hopes to spot a little red nose. 
Tucked into beds while sugar plums did their dances in sleepy little heads.
Parents-a-giggling as they stayed up much too late helping santa.

Christmas morning came, "did he come?"
He did. 
Cookies were gone, stockings were full.
Children were smitten.
"Angles We Have Heard on High" was belted by two Littles from a church pew in the back.
Movies. Snuggling. Naps. Too many sweets. 
And more naps. 
Papers, boxes, bows, scattered about. 
Legos, new paints, socks and undies (all new of course) in the mix.
Wishes that the day would never end.
Memories made, and saved until next year, 
when we can do it all again. 

I didn't do a Christmas card this year 
(aahahah....I say that like I have done a Christmas card lately.....I think it's been 6 years). 
So here is my two minute blog version complete with awesome graphics....just for you.

after Christmas Eve festivities.

and I am so so SO sorry to do this to you. 
If you are anything like me right now, the very thought of sugar makes you gag.
or is that just me? 
am I the only one who over over over ate?
If you need one more treat to round off your year, before you hit those New Years resolutions.....let me offer you this.
(and then I promise this blog is back to being good!)
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Chocolate and Orange Layer Cake
this is basically the same cake as I made here (even identical pictures!). 
I just swapped out the raspberries for orange. 

Chocolate Cake
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup boiling water
6 TBS butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line bottom of two 8" pans with a round of parchment paper. Butter paper, and sides of pan.
(I don't have 4 pans, so I did two 8" pans, twice for my four layers)

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with boiling water and cocoa powder. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

In a bowl add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and sugar until combined. Add eggs (adding one at a time) until thickened slightly and light colored (about 3 minutes). Slowly add buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture, beating until combined well. Add flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.

Spoon batter into pans (batter will divide into about 1 1/4c for each of four pans), and bake two at a time until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 12-15 minutes.

Repeat with two more cakes.

Cool cakes completely before frosting.

Whipped Orange Cream
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp pure orange extract
zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whip cream on high speed for a few minutes until soft peaks start to form. Add powder sugar, orange and vanilla extract, and whip a little bit longer until you have reached a light and fluffy, whip creamy consistency.
Fold in orange zest.

Chocolate Buttercream
8 TBS butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp pure orange extract
A few TBS milk

Beat butter, cocoa, and powdered sugar, and orange extract.  Add milk a little at a time until you reach a consistency you like.

Candied Orange Peel
from martha stewart
1 orange
1/2 cup sugar

Using a citrus zester or vegetable peeler, shred long strips of orange peel.
Place strips in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Drain; repeat two more times with fresh water. This will take the bitterness out of the peel.
Place sugar in a clean saucepan with 1 cup water; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add the citrus strips to the boiling syrup; reduce heat, and simmer until strips are translucent, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat; let strips cool in syrup, at least 1 hour. Remove from syrup when ready to use.

Spread first layer of cake with whipped cream. Place another cake layer on whipped cream, and repeat with remaining layers. Spread the chocolate buttercream on the top layer and top with candied orange peel.

Now, hurry and eat it before the new year hits and you have to be good again.

Happy New Year to you!

Friday, December 23, 2011

this christmas

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It started out as flour. molasses. 
cinnamon, and ginger.
It was rolled and shaped and baked.
pieces. of a house.
It's walls went up--a bit crooked.
Its roof was placed on top--leaning just a little to the right.
Icing was dripped, candy was dropped.
A little bit funny, a lot imperfect, but a happy, happy house.
Made with all of the best intentions,
and a whole lot of sugar.
Is it perfect? Contest worthy?
Oh golly no.
But it wasn't about the end result.....it was about the fun that was had building it, together.

It reminded me of our own little house.
Wood. Shingles. Bricks. Bricks. Bricks.
Old. Small. Drafty. 
A little bit funny, many imperfections, a bathroom light switch in the hall.....
Is it perfect?
oh no.
But that's not what matters....is it?
It isn't about what it looks like, or the contents inside.....but the memories that are made within it's walls.

Our Christmas is simple.
It is small.
A silly little family. In a silly little house.
It may not look like much from the outside, but,
that's not what matters, is it?

Let us all remember that Christmas isn't about extravagance and perfection.
It isn't about how big the gift, or how perfect the bow that tops it.

On the first Christmas, our Savoir was born in the simplest of circumstances.  
Let us remember that HE is the reason for Christmas.
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
-Luke 2:11
painting by Carl Bloch
Screen shot 2011-12-23 at 12.05.26 AM
From our home, to yours,
Merry Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I am excited.
I have had this little idea brewing in my head for a while now, and was waiting until the new year to begin....but I just couldn't wait.

There are so many yummy fruits and veggies out there just waiting to be devoured.....but sometimes, we don't know the best way to go about it. 
Or eat it.
Or even peel it. 
There is some really odd looking and intimidating produce out there, changing from season to season, and I love finding ways to use it.

Pomegranate is no stranger in our house--we eat it's little rubies daily, so I figured that it would be a good place to start. 
Pomegranates are plentiful right now, and their tiny seeds liven up any dish.
They are a very nutrient dense fruit, and are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
They help boost your immune system, have been proven to reduce risks of certain cancerous cells, and help lower cholesterol.

AND, they are adorable and taste tangy and delicious. 

How to Eat a Pomegranate
*you may want to wear an apron....no matter how careful you may be.....these things are messy. 
or maybe it's just me that's messy.

1. Admire your beautiful fruit.
2. Slice in half.  (admiring optional)
3. Quarter and place in a bowl of water, seed side down. 
4. Working UNDER the water, pop the seeds out into the bowl. This keeps them from shooting all over your kitchen and keeps the juice spraying to a minimum. 
Continue to work until all the seeds are out (they will sink to the bottom)
Remove the peel and pulp (the white part) from the bowl. 
5. Strain. Pick out any remaining pulp.
6.  Refrigerate for up to a week....you will eat them before this.
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Aren't they pretty?

I've heard that some people just suck the juice off and then spit the seed out....WHY? 
That tiny seed contains fiber, and I love the little crunch it offers....so eat away. 

We like them in salads (sprinkle on top of a spinach salad with pecans, avocado, and a balsamic vinaigrette)
On Cereal.
Or PLAIN! They are perfect by the handful. 

I have a basket of them as a centerpiece right now, and I'm sure they will somehow make their way onto my Christmas feast table.

How do YOU eat pomegranate? 

*also. I would like to feature a few seasonal fruits/veggies a month. 
If you have any ideas you'd like me to test out--let me know!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

it takes two

surprise surprise.......I'm blogging another treat. what has december done to me?

we made this. 
Robby and I. 
Because he is home now,
on school break.
 and I love it.
(well....home-ish. he's still working of course but no school is the BEST)
we are jumping at every chance we get to play and laugh together. 
because isn't that what marriage is all about? playing and laughing together. 
yes. it is.
we've been doing it for 9 1/2 years.
I highly recommend it.
With his return to school last year, our time together is limited, so we have gotten really good at making the most of our few and precious minutes together. 
We have late (too late sometimes....) movie dates on the couch.
He went to yoga with me last week. 
I sit next to him and pretend I have any interest at all in football.
(hey-I didn't say we were perfect)
Our dates are few and far in between, but Friday night we were able to go to sushi and the new Sherlock Holmes movie.
(which I LOVED)
We help each other out.
I cook, and he whistles like a Disney bird while he helps with the dishes. 
He builds the fire, while I make us our cold care herbal tea, because we are 80, and drink herbal tea together every night.
He likes lots of honey, and I like it plain.
We giggle (his giggle is manly of course), as we wrap up the 
Little's presents and put them under the tree. 
We dream up road trips, and plan out what mountain we'll be climbing next.
(ps we are heading to the Big Basin area soon--anyone been? what should be do?)
He stands behind me with hot water, so when I start to panic and scream "IT'S SEPARATING!!!" He can quickly dump it in the toffee so we can continue on our candy making adventure.
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Toffee isn't hard to make.....the whole process just moves along very quickly and it can get a little  bit intense on your first few tries. 
The most important thing is that you KEEP STIRRING. I recommend having a helping hand in the kitchen with you so when you start to freak out (hey--you might), someone is there to help out.
English Toffee
1 cup salted butter
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (I like to use dark chocolate)
3/4 cup almonds, toasted and finally chopped.

Toast almonds on medium heat, for a few minutes. 
Pulse in a blender or food processor. 
have almonds and chocolate set aside so they are ready as soon as the toffee is done.
Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Melt butter, sugar, 2 tsp cold water, and salt together on LOW heat in a saucepan. 
Once it's melted, turn heat a little above medium and stir CONSTANTLY. don't stop stirring.
The mixture will start to thicken and get sticky. 
Keep stirring.
IF the mixture starts to separate into globs of stickiness (legit culinary term), add 1TBS of hot water and continue to stir until mixture comes back together. (You can do this a few times if you need to, just don't add more than 1/4 cup of water)
Continue to stir until mixture starts to deepen in color, and the temperature on a candy thermometer reads between 300°-310°. 
Once temperature is reached, remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Quickly pour onto parchment lined pan (mixture cools quickly), and spread it out with a rubber spatula.
Sprinkle chocolate chips on top, and let them sit for 1-2 minutes until they begin to melt. 
Spread melted chocolate out evenly on top of toffee.
Sprinkle chopped almonds on top and let toffee cool. 
Break into pieces.
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there you have it.
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enjoy your toffee.....I have a late night couch date.

What do you like to do with your special someone?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

black and white popcorn

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This is a super easy (and suuuuuuper addictive) substance treat that I quickly whipped up when I realized I only had a few days left to put together something small for all of the amazing  teachers in our lives. 
I thought I'd share in case you were in need of some ideas to handout to friends and neighbors.

Black and White Popcorn
makes about 5-6 cups of popcorn
I made a few batches so we had lots to share

-2 TBS coconut oil
-1 cup popcorn kernels
-6oz dark chocolate
-6oz white chocoalte
-kosher salt

Maybe you are fancy and have  popcorn popper--if so, follow the directions for that fancy machine, get your popcorn popped, and meet me in step two.

If you don't have a popcorn popper, begin here:

1. Add coconut oil to a LARGE stockpot with heat on medium. Add the kernels and give them a good shake in the pan so they are coated in oil. Put the lid on the pan, but leave it ajar so the steam can escape. After a few minutes your corn will start to POP!
Keep a close eye, er....ear on it, and when the popping slows down, take the pot off the heat so it doesn't burn.
2. Spread the popcorn out onto parchment paper.

3. Melt your white chocolate and dark chocolate using a double boiler, or microwaving in 30 second increments. 

4. Drizzle your popcorn with the white and dark chocolate.

5. Sprinkle with salt while the chocolate is still warm.

6. Let chocolate cool and set up. 

7. Package in a quick wrap of cellophane and string, or maybe you do much more adorable things and have your own adorable bags and labels and such.

8. Share with your friends.
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ps. have a little extra time to bake up some easily packable treats?
last year we made our favorite biscotti

pps. holy moly there is a lot of treat action going on on this blog right now.
Luckily most of it is for sharing. 

How are you balancing out your holiday treat eating? 
Our weather has been amazing and I've been getting out on the trails to run these last few weeks and loooooving it!

ppps. two school days left.....I can hardly take it.

a christmas house

a christmas house has children,
bouncing off the walls, 
 hopped up on sugar and anticipation, 

a christmas house has sprinkles on the floor,
snowflakes in every corner,
and a mom with flour on her pants. 
everywhere she goes.

a christmas house has jingle and jangle,
christmas tunes all day long,
and a favorite song sung every night at bedtime.

a christmas house has a place we go. 
sssshhhhh it's a secret place. 
under the tree,
we lay,
always looking up.

a christmas house has little feet that run, 
to the window each morning,
to see if it has snowed. 
teeny tiny flakes.....but it's a start.

a christmas house has joseph, mary, and baby jesus. 
they are sometimes joined in their manger by 
-a lego man
-a my little pony
-other various little dolls who for some reason are always without clothing.

a christmas house has a mom that is waiting,
school is almost out,
for her favorite three.

a christmas house has a fire.
stockings hung.
sparkling tree loaded with lights, garlands, mismatched ornaments from over the years, 
and a crooked star.

a christmas house has a countdown.
christmas is coming.
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we can't wait.

Monday, December 12, 2011

dear blog,

the best view.....from underneath.
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dear blog,
I am neglecting you.
I am sorry. 
Because we are busy Christmasing. 
I hope you are too. 


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Let me start out by saying that Christmas is exactly one bajillion times better with children.
The magic they bring to the season is so tangible you can pluck it out of the air and hang it on the Christmas tree.
Everything--even the simple little parts of our day are so exciting to them this time of year.

As parents, we have loved creating new traditions for our own little family,
but we have also had a lot of fun pulling traditions from our own childhoods.

Growing up, my own mom made lots of cookies.
Lots. Of. Cookies.
In every flavor, shape, and form.
Dipped. Sprinkled. Frosted.
But my favorite cookie out of all of them was
The Snowball.
A perfect little ball of buttery cookie, loaded with chocolate and nuts.

It is not officially the Christmas season until these cookies are baked, eaten, and shared.

And as much as I love to eat them, it's more than that.
I love to bake.
I love taking little bits of nothing, mixing them together in a bowl, and creating something warm and  wonderful.
I love teaching little hands how to measure and shape cookies.
I love watching them sneak a taste when they think I'm not looking.
I love the time we get to spend together-anticipating our creation coming out of the oven.
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I think I have blogged this recipe every year for the past 5 years......it is that important.
I like to double this batch when I make it. 
They freeze well, and are perfect to pull out when you need to put together a quick plate of treats for a friend--just give them a fresh dusting of powdered sugar when you load them up on the plate.

3/4 c butter, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 TBS water
1/8tsp salt
1/3 c sugar
1 1/2 c flour
(this time I added a pinch of cinnamon, just for kicks)
1 c chocolate chips
1 c chopped pecans or walnuts (I like pecans)
Powdered sugar, for dusting.

Cream butter, vanilla, water, sugar and salt. Add flour and mix well. Stir in chocolate and nuts.
 Form into 1” balls. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Cool for a few minutes. Roll in powdered sugar (or "make it snow" on top of them) while still warm.

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We patiently waited for them to cool(ish), and popped them into our mouths.
It tasted just like Christmas.

What are some of your favorite edible Christmas traditions?