December 30, 2011

Bonus!

My husband moonlights as a tutor for a few middle school students who attend a private school in the area. One of the boys and his family have been exceptionally generous to us this year. Their gifts never fail to surprise and delight us.

For our honeymoon trip to Florida we were fortunate enough to get to stay in their lovely home in Seaside, Florida for ten days. It was amazing in many ways, but what we fell in love with most was the kitchen and, in specific, the two Le Creuset pans on the shelves. We adored them and cooked in the braiser nearly every single night. So, when I got a text message from my husband a few weeks ago it is nearly an understatement to say that he was elated to show me a picture of his Christmas bonus - our very own braiser!!


This Christmas day was low-key for us. We lingered over a large french press of coffee in the morning and then mozied over to my parent's house to share a late brunch with both them and Justin's parents. It was delightful. We found ourselves at home and relaxing on the sofa with nothing to do by early afternoon. It wasn't until our stomachs reminded us that it was dinnertime that I realized I'd been so intent on planning a great week leading up to the Christmas celebrations that I'd completely left anything for Christmas dinner off my shopping list. Oops.

But, never fear, imagination is your friend, especially if you are lucky enough to have a Le Creuset and a decently stocked pantry at your disposal. Serve up a warm bowl of fresh risotto and pour a glass of wine. Life is good.


Off the Cuff Spinach Risotto

2 T lemon e.v.o.o. (regular works great, too)*
1 T butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 c arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (or whatever you have)
4 c (1 carton) chicken broth
1 c Romano cheese (Parmesan or any other hard cheese would work just fine)
5 oz (1/2 bag) fresh spinach
Goat cheese for garnish (and deliciousness)

Heat lemon oil and butter over medium heat in a Le Creuset braiser. Add in onion and garlic and cook until onions are tender and starting to brown. Lower the heat to medium-low and add rice to the pan and toast for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Add in the white wine and stir gently until nearly all of the moisture is absorbed by the rice. Add in one cup of the chicken broth and do the same, repeating until all of the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender. Mix in the cheese and spinach. Serve right away with goat cheese crumbled and an extra drizzle of lemon olive oil for garnish. Bon App├ętit!

* Big thanks to my fabulous brother and sister-in-law who gifted us the sweet lemon olive oil - So yummy!

December 21, 2011

Christmas Date

Open a bottle of wine....good wine.

Put on the Carpenter's Christmas album....loud.

Wrap presents. Perfect evening.


December 16, 2011

Deck the Walls

Let me tell you a story about my friend, Beth. She is the best. We were roommates (along with three other girls) during my senior year at college. She was in her final semester and only had one class! (one class!) But that's ok. It worked out well for the rest of us. She would bake us cookies and talk to us when we came home from school. She was the momma of the house and we loved he


Momma Beth is still one of my favorite people on the planet and, even though she lives far, far away, I've gotten the chance to visit her a couple times over the last year. Last time I was in Tulsa she introduced me to my favorite coffee of all time (Topeca Coffee). This time, we met up again at Topeca, husbands in tow, to share a giant french press of perfectly roasted coffee and catch up.


She also surprised us with a really fabulous wedding gift. She found an old St. Louis penant in an antique store and had it framed. It's just perfect! We just hung it up over our sofa in the living room (along with some still-empty frames). I love the way it turned out! Thank you so much, Beth and Ben!

December 14, 2011

Angel Food Cake with Hot Fudge Sauce

For our wedding we received the most awesome cook book ever - America's Test Kitchen. We love to cook. I love to bake. We aren't novices in the kitchen and even though this cook book is mostly basics, it's already become a favorite. There are techniques for everything from frying an egg to flipping a crepe. There are reviews on hundreds of products. So, if you're looking for the perfect gift for someone who loves to cook or is new to the kitchen - this is it!

This weekend was a big in the kitchen weekend for us. We were having both of our parents over for a fancy dinner and the pressure was on! I had decided to make an Angel Food cake because it's Justin's dad's favorite. I found several recipes online that looked pretty darn good and was all set to make this one from Joy the Baker when the America's cookbook arrived. I scrapped my previous plan and went with their instructions for both the cake and the fudge sauce. (If you can't get the cookbook though, give Joy's recipe a try. It's very similar to the one I followed and her recipes have never let me down).


Next, mix together 3/4 c sugar, 1 tsp cream of tarter, and 1/4 tsp salt. Turn your mixer speed up a couple notches and beat this in 1 tbsp at a time until the eggs form shiny, soft peaks.

While my cake was cooling I whipped up my fudge sauce which took no time at all and I don't think I will ever purchase it again.
Bring 1 c heavy cream, 1 stick butter, and 1/3 c light karo syrup to a boil in a small sauce pan. Remove from heat and stir in chopped chocolate. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt.





December 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Balls

My friend Kim has a tradition of making Peanut Butter balls for Christmas every year. We work together and for the past two years she's invited some of the office ladies over to her house for an afternoon of Christmas cheer, martinis, and, inevitably, inappropriate ball jokes. It's always a good time and there's nothing better than going home with a bag of peanut butter balls for the holidays!

PS. You should also know that this was the day I discovered instagram....


I wish I could tell you the Peanut Butter Balls recipe, but I was too busy mixing martinis to pay attention.

December 9, 2011

Blueberry Crumb Bars

I love blueberries and I'm always sad when their season is over. Luckily, they sell bags of frozen blueberries at Aldi for a pretty reasonable price. I had to make a dish for a potluck brunch after church recently and had a hankering for something blueberry-y and lemon-y.


As per usual, I checked out my sister-in-law's blog - The Sweets Life - for inspiration and found her post on Blueberry Crumb Bars adapted from The Smitten Kitchen and I was sold. This was quick and easy to throw together and stick in the oven while I was getting ready for church. It travelled well and, if the empty dish we brought home was any indicator, a big hit.

Recipe Notes: I made a double batch from Natalie's instructions (single batch according to the Smitten Kitchen). I subbed two small bags of Aldi frozen blueberries for the fresh ones and was generous with the cornstarch since the frozen berries are a little waterier than fresh.

December 5, 2011

Christmas Wreaths


This weekend my friend, Kara, had a wreath-making party! It was a great idea and I hope it becomes a holiday tradition. A group of ladies gathered in her dining room over mimosas and coffee, armed with glue guns, burlap, and felt and got crafty.

We started with blank wreath forms. Some people covered theirs with fabric, flowers, you name it - we used it. I covered mine with strips of green and red felt and then attached a few holiday bells. Simple and, hopefully, classy.








I love they way my wreath turned out. It brings a bright spot of Christmas cheer to our front door.

December 3, 2011

On the Menu: This Week

Every weekend I sit down with my calendar and do my best to plan out our menu for the week. It helps us to eat better, more balanced meals at home. It also helps us to cut down our spending - less eating out and fewer trips to the grocery store.

I have a great notepad that hangs on our fridge in that is just perfect for meal-planning. I got mine as a prize at my cousin's wedding shower, but I'm sure you could find one at Target or make one up yourself pretty easily. I love that it's always on hand for easy reference.

Here's what's on the menu this week:


December 1, 2011

Old Lady Hands

Good news: St. Louis Police Officers are really nice.

Bad news: We got robbed.

Having someone break into your home really sucks. I don't like thinking that some punk has been walking around my house. Standing on my floors. Touching my stuff. Ew. Jerks.

Good news: The police came really quickly once we realized that we'd had unwanted visitors. They listened to our story and took note of the missing TV and cameras. The commiserated with us over the dumped out drawers and tangled jewelry box.

Bad news: Even though they dusted for prints, they didn't find any. The little jerks must have worn gloves. Sneaky punks.

While officer Katie was working away trying to find finger prints that didn't exist, her partner, our pal, Officer Doug, offered to take our finger prints in case, God forbid, something bad happen to either of us and we need to be identified. Well, we had nothing better to do while the Crime Lab was touring our house so why not?

Ten finger tips inked and two palms rolled. Officer Doug looks at my prints and then back at me.

Officer Doug: Can I ask you a personal question?

Me: Sure.

Officer Doug: How old are you?

Me: Thirty.

Officer Doug: Hmm...

{Pause}

He continues: Well, it's just that we don't usually see age crinkles like this in women until they are at least 50 or 60 years old.

Officer Doug (trying to recover): I mean, you look great for your age.

What?? I look great for my age? What age is that? Did you really think I could have possibly been in my fifties? Thanks mister.