Sunday, November 30, 2014

12 Days of Holiday! Day 7: Festive Chicken Thighs, just right for easy Entertaining

It's Sunday & Day 7 of '12 Days of Holiday!' & on this beautiful day, I'm sharing a recipe perfect for a meal with friends & family that will help get everyone into the holiday spirit.  Chicken Thighs with Pomegranate Seeds, Seasonal Veggies & Challah bread.  It screams festive, is easy to put together & is mighty tasty.

This pretty dish is actually a take on a recipe that I told you about a few months ago when I was spending a month reviewing a cookbook from one of my favorite Cooking Channel personalities, Kelsey Nixon.  Her wonderful version featured red potatoes, carrots & baguette.  It's delicious & makes a wonderful Sunday supper.  You can see what I thought of the her book, Kitchen Confidence & the recipe for her Lemon Scented Chicken Thighs here.

Pomegranate & Roasted Fall Veggie Chicken Thighs 

with Challah Croutons

Adapted from Kelsey Nixon's Lemon-Scented Chicken Thighs recipe from “Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything” by Kelsey Nixon (Clarkson Potter, $19.99) 

1/2 challah loaf, torn into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 lbs. fingeling potatoes, halved
1 small butternut squash, cubed
Avocado Oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1.5lbs. total)
Sea salt & cracked black pepper
2 small onions, diced
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Small bunch thyme sprigs, 1 sprig rosemary
1/4 c. pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Put the torn challah loaf on a parchment lined baking sheet & toast in the oven until slightly golden,   about 10 minutes.  Remove the bread cubes & let cool.  Leave the oven on & increase the temp to 425 degrees.

Place the potatoes & butternut squash in a dutch oven, cover with salted water & just bring to a boil.  Cook until just fork-tender, 10 minutes.  Drain the veggies & put back into the dutch oven to cool.

Set a large, heavy oven-proof skillet on the stovetop, set to high setting & coat pan with a tablespoon or two of avocado oil.  Sprinkle both sides of the chicken thighs with sea salt & freshly ground pepper.  Sear the chicken, skin side down, 4 to 5 minutes.  Turn the thighs & cook the other side for 2 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pan & onto a separate plate.

Adding in more oil if needed, cook the onion until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic & cook for 1 minute.  Add potatoes & butternut squash, challah pieces, rosemary & thyme & lemon wedges.   Re-season everything with sea salt & cracked pepper.  Make sure that all of the veggies & bread cubes are tossed in the oil.  Nestle the chicken thighs back into the pan among the bread & veggies.

Roast the chicken, veggies & bread until the thighs are cooked through & reach 160 degrees, 20 - 25 minutes.  5 - 10 minutes before the cooking time has ended, sprinkle pomegranate seeds into the mixture.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

12 Days of Holiday! Day 6: Home Made Chocolate Latte

Happy Saturday & welcome to Day 6 of '12 Days of Holidays'!  We're halfway through folks!  I hope you're enjoying reading these as much as I've enjoyed coming up with ideas & sharing them!

Today, I'm sharing a cozy drink recipe that I came up with after our recent trip to New Orleans.

On the last day of our vacation, we had breakfast at a fun little donut shop on Magazine Street named District Donuts.  If you visit NOLA, you have to check this breakfast wonder out.  They have a unique mix of donuts that are different every day & they are absolutely delicious.  I had the raspberry chocolate & I am still craving it.  It was a perfectly cooked donut that tasted like it had raspberry truffle on top.  It was divine.

One of my favorite parts of our breakfast experience was the chocolate latte I had with my donut.  It was really rich, with just enough chocolate flavor & it wasn't overly sweet.  I fell hard for this cup o' joe.  After talking to the barista, he told me that they used chocolate milk instead of syrup.

Genius!  I just had to try this out for myself & I have to say, it's a pretty tasty at-home latte that I'll be making again & again, especially this holiday season!  It's enough of a treat to make you feel special, but quick enough to make on any morning.  A heads up that it works best with a milk frother.  They're pretty inexpensive but make a huge difference when trying to achieve that foamy latte.  I've found them for a few dollars at IKEA & World Market.

At-Home Chocolate Latte

1/4 cup chocolate milk
1/4 cup half & half
Strong coffee or espresso

Heat the chocolate milk & half & half in the microwave for 30 - 45 seconds in an extra tall glass or glass measuring cup.  While milk is still hot, froth with your milk frothed for 20 -30 seconds, being careful not to spill the hot liquid.  Divide mixture between two coffee cups & top off with coffee.  Froth each cup for a few moments to gain some extra foam.  Sprinkle with cocoa powder if desired & enjoy!


Friday, November 28, 2014

12 Days of Holiday! Day 5: Ornament Swap

Hopefully today you're taking it easy after a holiday of turkey, football & pumpkin pie!  It's also now officially time to start thinking about Christmas!

It's Day 5 of '12 Days of Holiday' & today we're talking about ornament swaps!  Have you ever participated in one?  This year was my first time & it was so fun.  I signed up through instagram & was paired with a crafter in Canada.  It was such a great experience getting to know someone through social media & email & then creating some unique ornaments to adorn her tree.

And in return, she sent the most adorable cross-stitch baubles for our tree.  And Canadian candy!  I had no idea, but there are a ton of tasty candies that you can only get North of the border.  I haven't had a chance to put our tree up, but I cannot wait to a front & center spot for her creations!  

So for my new Canadian friend Amanda, I created two gingerbread men in the spirit of Dia de los Muertos.  Amanda loves Tim Burton & his movies, but said that she already owned a lot of things in that style.  So, on a hunch, I painted a couple of paper mache gingerbread figures & adorned them with spooky, but bright & fun adornments.

I also made a couple of chalkboard ornaments with holiday 'words' on there anything that isn't adorable in chalk style?  I found these blank ornaments at Michaels, decorated them with a white permanent paint pen & added a little baker's twine.  

I hope that she likes everything!  I added in a few candy treats, but after doing a little research & talking to our good friend who's from Toronto, we realized that there isn't much from America that you can't get in Canada.  Now to see what sweet Amanda sent me.  Aren't these awesome?  Cross-stich is so fun & unique, I'm so psyched to have these handmade beauties.  And all of the Canadian chocolate?  Delicious!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November Crush

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I hope your holiday is filled with lots of family time, amazing food, low stress levels & someone to wash the dishes!

Since Turkey Day is now, love it or leave it, linked with sales & holiday shopping, I figured it would be a good time to start a new series, letting you know about some of the things I'm currently enamored with & totally crushing on.  You know, those items you pin over & over, keep stocked in your kitchen at all times, DVR every week, stop to stare at in the store....those goodies you find yourself daydreaming about.

Hopefully I'll share some finds you haven't discovered yet.  And please tell me about your current loves, I always like hearing about new things to try!  

Here's my current top 10:

1. Mint Chocolate Anything.  Forget pumpkin spice...that combo does nothing for me.  When there's a chill in the air, load me up with peppermint infused chocolate goodness.  Andes mints, cookies, desserts.  All of it chocolate.  With some mint!  I'm dying to try Cooking Classy's Peppermint Bark Popcorn.

Cooking Classy's Peppermint Bark Popcorn.  Recipe can be found here.

2. Adorable vintage-look recipe boxes.  I love keeping recipes online for convenience & organization, but there's something magical about writing down a recipe in your own handwriting that makes it much more special.  It might even make it taste better too!    

Rifle Paper Company Recipe Box available here

3. Anthropologie's new line of beautiful pieces featuring the work of incredibly talented, Austin artist Starla Michelle.  I have fallen hard over all of the items in this line, but I especially love these sweet dessert plates.  Swoon. 

Starla Michelle Dessert Plates available here

4. Once Upon A Time.  This show is my current go-to marathon on Netflix.  Lots of action, fairy tales, twists & one of my favorites, Gennifer Goodwin.  It's wonderfully suspenseful & so addicting!  I'm just about finished with the episodes on Netflix & have all of the current season waiting on my DVR.  No spoilers, please!

Once Upon A Time, information/new episodes here

5. Another fabulous find from a local artisan.  Hand embroidered necklaces from Poppy and Fern have me hankering for a new babble.  Each one is individual & gorgeous.  One of these is going on my Christmas wish list.  I'm just not sure which one.

Hand embroidered Necklace from Poppy and Fern, etsy shop here

6.  Snowflakes.  All of the snowflakes.  Since seeing the amazingly intricate snowflake ornaments at HomeGoods, I have been hooked.  I picked up these two the first time I popped in, but I think I'll be going back for a few more.  They bring sophisticated sparkle & I can't wait to hang them up.

I found these snowflake ornaments at HomeGoods.

7.  It's been out for a few months, but I still have Ryan Adams' latest, a self-title CD, playing at least once, just about every day.  Anything Ryan Adams puts out is awesome in my book, but this album is really, really good.

Ryan Adam's newest record, available here

8. Adorable 'taxidermy' crocheted cuties from another local find, Nothing But A Pigeon.  I am working on justifying an entire wall of these, but the jellyfish are my favorite.  I think at least one  will find their way to my home soon.

These 'taxidermy' cuties from local Austin artisan Nothing But A Pigeon.  Visit her etsy shop here.

9. Feathers & Gold.  My eye has been immediately drawn to any holiday/home item that is gold or has feathers lately.  I have dreams of draping my tree in white feathers and gold ornaments.  It might not happen this year....but I am still obsessed. 

Glitter Feather Trim available here.

10.  Record players.  I'm not sure why I suddenly want to buy a player & hunt for vintage records, but I desperately do.  I love the sound a song takes on when played from a record.  This vintage inspired number looks lovely.

Crosley Portable Vinyl Record Player available here.

12 Days of Holiday! Day 4: Dollar Tree JOY Wreath

Items in this post were provided courtesy of Dollar Tree, though all thoughts & opinions are honest & my own.

My obsession with chalkboard decor has been going strong for a few years now.  I love real chalkboard because you can change messages often, but I also have a warm affinity for things that just 'look' like they're a chalkboard.  The look is just so cheerful & I think a black & white color combo always looks chic.  I also have a huge crush on decor with quotes or words; they just make my heart happy!

Which brings me to day number 4(!) of 12 Days of Holiday: This super cute, fun, sparkly without getting glitter EVERYWHERE chalkboard wreath.  This idea could be adapted to make a last name or any word you want.  It just takes a few minutes to put together....And as an big 'ol bonus, everything I used for this wreath is from Dollar Tree!  So, grand total for this impactful door decor?  5 smackaroos!  That'll put a smile on your face.

To start, gather up your pieces: 3 wreaths (or however many letters for the word you're making), a piece of black poster board, a couple of pipe cleaners (I used gold), a little bit of white paint, a paintbrush & a bit of hot glue.

Take your wreaths, flip them over & arrange them in the order they'll be hanging.  Cut a couple of pipe cleaners into thirds & using two pieces attach two of the wreaths together.  Twist until tight & tuck the ends under.  Repeat until all wreaths are connected.

For the letters, I suggesting using your favorite computer font as a guide.  Type out each letter, making it about as big as an 8.5x11 piece of paper, print it, cut it out & use it as a guide to trace onto your piece of black poster board.  Then cut each letter out.  I decided not to cut out the inside of the 'O' so that it would be more sturdy.

Once you've cut everything out, take a little bit of white paint & a small paintbrush & make 'chalk' marks.  You want the letters to have a hand drawn feel to them, so don't concentrate on perfect.

After allowing the white paint to dry, dab a few drops of hot glue onto the back of each letter & affix to the wreaths.  Let the glue dry for a couple of minutes & you're ready to hang it up!

For more creative holiday Dollar Tree crafting & decor ideas, be sure to visit:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

12 Days of Holiday! Day 3: Chocolate Peppermint Cereal Treats

It's another festive 12 Days of Holiday!  I offer you a fun new take on everyone's favorite today, cereal treats!  All the stops were pulled out for this tasty snack that's made with both regular AND chocolate crispy cereal, & have a touch of peppermint thanks to a few minty marshmallows.  But, it doesn't stop there.  These bad boys are dipped in chocolate & topped off with m&m candy bits.

Mmm, peppermint, mashmallows & chocolate.  With a little more chocolate.  Nothing better, right?

It's alotta of goodness in one bite.  This is a wonderful, quick goodie to bring a little extra cheer to work, or a fun winter dessert the kiddos can help make.  It's a win, win for lots of occasions.

Double-Chocolate Peppermint Cereal Treats

5 c. regular crispy cereal
3 c. chocolate crispy cereal
1 bag marshmallows
2c. peppermint marshmallows
4 T butter

melting chocolate
m&ms candy bits

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt both kinds of marshmallows & the butter, in 30 second   intervals, stirring in between to combine.  Repeat until marshmallows are completely melted.  Add in all cereal & pour out into a greased 9x13 pan.  Allow treats to set up.  I put the 9x13 in the freezer for a few minutes to allow them to become 'harder' and therefore easier to cut & dip, but it's not necessary.  

Cut cereal treats into equal pieces.  I was able to get 12 extra large or 24 regular sized treats.  Following instructions on your chocolate melting discs, melt chocolate.  Dip the top half of each piece, turn chocolate side up on parchment or wax paper & immediately top with m&ms.  After dipping all treats, allow the chocolate to set up & harden.  Store in a cool dry place.

Monday, November 24, 2014

12 Days of Holiday! Day 2: Dollar Tree Holiday Artwork

Items in this post were provided courtesy of Dollar Tree, though all thoughts & opinions are honest & my own.

Welcome to Day 2 of 12 Days of Holiday!  For the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing quick & fun ways to help make your holidays pop.  Today is no exception, and to boot, this festive decor only cost $6!!  For 4 stellar frames. That will make any home sparkle.

The reason this pretty little project was so inexpensive is because it's made with goodies from Dollar Tree.  I just love their holiday decor, gift wrap & craft supplies, it's like a one-stop shop to help make things bright & cherry, on the cheap.

I could not get over how cute these little gift bags were & I wanted to do something with them so I could enjoy them, instead of just dropping a gift for someone else inside.  I know it's a little selfish, but I just couldn't resist the chalkboard look.  Or the pair of plaid moose.  And they were two bags for $1!  Those sweet 5x7 frames were also from Dollar Tree.  Score!

I wanted to jazz the frames up with a chalkboard style finish, so I sprayed these with chalkboard paint, but the silver frames, as-is, would be really cute too & would make the entire project so quick!

I started this project by grabbing a few supplies.  In addition to the small gifts bags & 5x7 frames from Dollar Tree, I grabbed some chalkboard paint.  NOTE: I ended up using chalkboard SPRAY PAINT instead of the brush-on, so it would stick better.  I highly recommend spraying them.  When I tried to brush it on, it didn't go on smoothly.  You'll also need some chalk, a pencil & some scissors.  That's it!  

Start by taking apart the frames.  Then use the insert as a guide and using a pencil, trace a border around the image you want to frame.  The trace marks will be faint, but strong enough that you can use them to cut your artwork out of one side of the bag.  Save the second side of the bag, I'll be showing you a fun use for those in a few days!    

See, if you don't want to chalkboard your frames, the silver, as-is, is really pretty!

Spray your frames.  Be sure to wear a mask & gloves & use a drop cloth in a well ventilated area!  Follow the instructions on your can of paint & be sure to wait at least 24 hours for them to completely dry.

The next step is to take a piece of chalk & mark those freshly painted frames up!  You want it to look a little random, like a real chalkboard that's been used, so run your chalk around the edges until you get the look you want.

I LOVE these!  They're so festive & colorful & you can put them just about anywhere.  They'd be great for your home, but would easily add a little holiday cheer to your desk at work, or would be a fun pick-me-up for a friend or family member.

For more creative holiday Dollar Tree crafting ideas, be sure to visit:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

12 Days of Holiday! Day 1: Wonton Pumpkin Pie Bites

Happy Sunday Everyone!  Holiday season is right around the corner...are you freaking out yet?  I hate to admit that I am already worrying about getting everything down before family Christmas gatherings and other holiday activities.  I made a to-do list & then promptly kind of freaked out.  ugh.

But, I have good news.  For the next 12 days, I'll be sharing some fun & easy holiday ideas that you can do with just a few ingredients, or a handful of supplies.  Sounds like a winner, right?

First up, is one of my favorites of all the goodies I'll be showing you.  Wonton pumpkin pie bites.  Oh yes.  I know that pumpkin pie is already a pretty easy go-to dessert for winter gatherings, but these adorable pint-sized treats are so good.  And you don't have to mess with a pie crust!  I also love the crunchiness of the wontons and they were so delicious after a night in the fridge I had not one, but two for breakfast.  Yum.

Wonton Pumpkin Pie Bites

1 can pure pumpkin
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 heaping t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 heaping t. salt
1 small can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
24 wonton wrappers
1 egg with a bit of water, for brushing on wonton wrappers
Pecans, marshmallows, fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish

Preheat oven to 415 degrees.  Arrange wonton wrappers in two regular sized muffin tins, folding edges as you go, so that there is a nice big open area for the pumpkin pie.  The edges will stick up, that's ok.  

In a large bowl, mix can of pumpkin with spices.  Slowly whisk in sweetened condensed milk until combined, then whisk in eggs.  Carefully fill each wonton 'shell' 2/3 of the way full.  I used an ice cream scoop & it made it a little easier.  Brush the exposed pieces of wonton with your egg wash.  

Cook pie bites at 415 degrees for 10 minutes.  Turn the oven down to 350 degrees, and cook for 15 - 20 more minutes until pie filling is done.  In the last 5 - 7 minutes of cooking, top pie bites with toppings if desired.  Our favorites were pomegranate seeds, chopped pecans and marshmallows.  If using marshmallows, place those bites on the top rack to help toast the mallows. 

Let pie bites cool completely on cooling rack.  Store in refrigerator.  Eat within two days.