Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quick Thanksgiving Craft!

I know you have extra glitter hanging around. Don't lie. You went out (just like me) and bought that Martha Stewart glitter in orange, or brown or red. Or all three. You glitterized a bunch of pumpkins and gourds and now, you have a ton of glitter left over... So, use it!! This is the perfect craft to use up that glitter and it might even get you to head out and buy some green, silver or white glitter for Christmas :).

Here is what you need:

To make the votive holders, paint the outside with glue, apply glitter liberally (you can shake off excess and return to the container afterwards) and let dry. Don't make the glue too thick or else it may dry more white than clear and you will be able to see on the inside. You can make designs in the glue (sort of like mine, and although that wasn't on purpose, I like the end result) or just paint it on more evenly. Make sure you only do the sides - leave the bottom without glue/glitter so you have an area to hold on while applying the glue.

I thought a couple of these would even be a nice hostess gift with a set of candles. Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm also going to send these over to Sandi @ WhistleStop Cafe for the November Centerpiece-of-the-Month (COTM). While these could be a centerpiece all on their own - they would be great paired with some fresh flowers or fruits (pears or apples?) as part of a holiday table!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cookie 2: Cranberry-Apple Butter Bars

These are so good! And they actually taste like cranberries, not some over-sweetened-fake-almost-tasting-like-strawberries or raspberries cookies. Don't you hate that?

I tend to like things on the tart side (these are not super tart, but not super-super sweet either), so if you are on the sweeter side, maybe make a half-batch and decide whether you prefer more sugar, but I tested these on my husband and colleagues and they went over with high marks. Give them a whirl - they would be perfect for Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Cranberry-Apple Butter Bars (adapted from Pillsbury Fall Baking Booklet, recipe found here)
1 bag (12 oz) fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange peel, grated
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup apple butter or cranberry-apple butter
2 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 13 x 9-inch pan with cooking spray.

2. In a saucepan, mix cranberries, white sugar, orange zest and juice. Boil and cook for approximately 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until cranberries pop and mixture thickens. Stir in apple butter and 2 tablespoons butter; remove from heat.

3. Beat 3/4 cup butter and the brown sugar in a separate bowl, scraping bowl occasionally, until fluffy. Stir in flour, salt, baking soda and oats. Press approximately 3 cups oat mixture in pan. I ended up using a bit less than that for the base in order to have enough for the topping. While you are pressing the base, keep an eye on how much you have left for the topping, if you are running out, use a bit less for the base.

4. Spread cranberry filling over base. Crumble remaining 2 cups oat mixture over filling and press lightly.

5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting.

Last year, I made homemade apple butter as part of my gift baskets. If you are doing that, these bar cookies would make a great gift basket paired with the apple butter and cute recipe card!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cookie 1: Black & White Swirls

These are the first cookies in my new series for holiday baking this year. I'm going to try to get to at least a cookie per week from now until Christmas so we'll have a nice variety for all your parties, to give as gifts, or just to enjoy on a random day :).

More on the series later, but for now, here is Cookie 1: black & white swirls. These are from Martha Stewart's Cookie book. To be honest, do NOT make these at 11pm on a weekday and expect them to be super easy. Yeah. That was me and I was not happy. Its not that these take a super long time or have a ton of instructions, but they did take a bit of extra time compared to other cookies. But - the result was worth it. Really nice buttery cookie that holds up well, stays fresh for quite a few days and looks totally cute on your platters or to give as gifts.

One note before the recipe - Martha does actually provide instructions for 2 shapes (you can see the "bull's eye" shape in the background of the 2nd photo); however, I found mine to look not like bull's eyes but more like bone marrow or dog treats (which = nasty). It it super difficult to get the center to stay round and I spent way too much time on it. The spirals are so much cuter! If you'd like to try it, go for it (I'm sure its just my inept rolling skills), but I'm sticking to the spirals :).

Black & White Spirals ("Icebox Spirals" from MS's Cookies, page 117)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter @ room temperature (3 sticks)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs plus 1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 cups AP flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)

1. Make dough by combining butter and sugar until creamy. Add 2 eggs and salt, mix until combined. Then mix in the milk and vanilla until uniform. Reduce speed and add flour slowly, mixing until just combined.

2. Remove half the dough and set aside (this will be the vanilla portion of the dough). Add cocoa powder to remaining dough. Mix until combined.

3. To make spirals: roll out rectangle of vanilla dough on floured board (approximately 1/4 inch thick). Note: the floured board is super important. My dough was annoyingly sticky. I ended up adding a decent amount of flour in order to roll it out and the cookies turned out fine, so don't feel like you are adding too much flour - they should end up fine. Roll out same size rectangle of chocolate dough. Trim rectangles to approximately same size and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until cool. I put each rectangle on piece of parchment paper and put them on top of one another in the refrigerator.

4. After they cool off, brush each rectangle with egg white and place on top of one another. Starting with the longer side, roll up the dough into a spiral shape, pinching and tucking to keep it tight as you roll. Seal the end of the roll (you can brush additional egg white if not sticking properly). This seems really easy at first, but I had a few issues keeping the doughs together while rolling. But, if you keep the roll tight and keep tucking it in, it will end up holding together really well in the end. You can also squeeze the resultant log a bit when you finish rolling it to make sure its nice and tight. Refrigerate again.

5. Ok, now you are ready to cut. This is the easy part!! Preheat the oven @ 350 degrees. Take out the roll. I chopped off the end and discarded it. Now, slice 1/4-inch piece of dough crosswise to create beautiful spirals (cut slow and with a sharp knife) and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart. They will fluff up slightly but not grow too much. Bake until set, but not browned, approximately 12-15 minutes. Let cool and store in airtight containers.

Enjoy! I have some really delicious fruit bar cookies coming up next!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Motivation to...

Clean & Organize! Thanks Katie!

I have really been wanting to get on track with organizing our apartment - so I was so excited when Katie decided to create this challenge. I got a bit of a late start this week because of my obsession with the election coverage and a few meetings after work, but I'm on track now!.

Our apartment is definitely a temporary housing arrangement, so we have not done much of anything to the place, but the bathroom looks so nice and clean and organized after I finished today's tasks. I even spruced up our seriously ugly medicine cabinet with some cool paper :) You can check out a few after photos here - nothing groundbreaking, but better than before!

Back with a good fall dessert recipe this weekend!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ice cream, Elections & Updates :)

In the few weeks that I have been a non-blogger, I have been collecting a few random thoughts/photos that warrant posting, but maybe not their own post...so here we go!

First - I'm on the east coast - we have only just been exposed to the amazingness that is Pinkberry! Green tea frozen yogurt + fresh mango = amazing. Forget Cold Stone Creamery and get your $5 out to get some. You won't be sorry :).

Tim and I bought some of the super-expensive, elusive, on the "omnivore-100" list :) Jamaican Blue Moutain coffee randomly one day at Citarella. I don't drink coffee, but Tim LOVES coffee, so we bought enough to try it out. Some quick thoughts from Tim:

  • Needs to be brewed properly to reach full potential. The first pot he made was a little weak. Ended up reading some of the proper brewing methods for this type of coffee and it came out substantially better, but we're still working on it.
  • Overall opinion - super delicious coffee, but not really mind blowing yet (remember, this coffee is $50/lb!)
  • Not sure if the home brew really brought out the full potential of the coffee. We bought 1/4 lb. and Tim only brews on special occasions :).

I photographed a 1st birthday party a few weeks ago and they had the cutest cupcakes!! Check them out - turns out they were from Sam's Club. I think they are easily done at home - the flowers were plastic, but you could also make them out of chocolate. So cute.

I'm definitely back to putting my glitterati pumpkins around the house! I did a post on them last year and they are super cute for fall decorating (not just Halloween). I like doing other colors - not just orange, but reds and browns too. Here is a pic from last year, I'll post some updated fall decorating pics soon.

And finally, Happy Election day! I hope everyone voted. I did and it felt great. I'm ecstatic over the outcome and I think it was my cookies that did the trick (what's more American than chocolate-chip cookies, right?:)! I hope this country can come together now, look past the election and transition into something better together.